Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 62: The Kemper Museum, Central Library

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is basically a gourmet restaurant with an art collection; the restaurant does a bustling business, the galleries have few visitors. R. Crosby Kemper, the art philanthropist who funded this museum, is said to be active in its management; I think he runs it to suit himself. The building is very attractive, and it is decorated by a half-dozen glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.

Entrance to Kemper Museum
with a spider by Louise Bourgeois and chandeliers by Dale Chihuly

Dale Chihuly, b. 1941

Matthew Ritchie, b. 1964
Experienced Time, 2003

We started with lunch. We both had the shrimp caesar salad, which was quite good.

Since most of their gallery space is used for special exhibits, your art experience all depends on that. One year the special exhibit was ridiculous; one year it was mind-blowing. This year it was some very large-scale landscape photographs by Laura McPhee depicting Sawtooth Valley in Central Idaho. They were pretty good, but we were not allowed to photograph the photographs.

The absolute peak of the tour for me was this fabulous work by Janet Fish.

Janet Fish, b. 1938
Still Life with Open Book, 1990

The museum gets credit for featuring excellent works by women artists.

Helen Frankenthaler, b. 1928
Midnight Shore, 2002

The museum also showed an innovative artist who has been receiving increased national attention this year, including a show that we saw at Yale, Red Grooms. Continuing his fascination with the history of art, this piece caricatures a group of post-Impressionists from the 1890s known as The Nabis.

Red Grooms, b. 1937
Nabis, 1998

Having lived near an orange grove in my youth, I appreciated this work by an artist who was new to me.

Christian Vincent, b. 1966
Harvest, 2005

We gave up on the Kemper about 2 p.m. and walked back across the street to our hotel. We were tired and droopy. The morning had started with a thunder storm; by then it was hot and muggy, and heavily overcast. We drooped around the room for awhile, but when the sky started to brighten a bit, we had a second wind, and ventured out into the heat. We headed downtown.

On the way we stopped to photograph a wonderful, large sculpture by Kenneth Snelson.

Kenneth Snelson, b. 1927
Triple Crown, 1991

What we wanted to see was a building that is famous for looking like a shelf of books. The Kansas City Central Library has a parking structure in which one wall has been made to look like the spines of books. The problem is that a double row of trees has been planted in front, making it hard to view the books. We took a couple of photos through the leaves.

Parking Structure for Kansas City Central Library


Then we toured the library itself, from the section in a repurposed bank building to the new building. There were a few interesting works of art. I got into a section with a lot of old reference books on opera. It's great that they take care of all this old stuff.

Interior of new wing of Central Library

Ariel Bowman, b. 1989
Mother Nature, 2008

Our Holiday Inn is near a huge shopping plaza in a generally Spanish/Mediterranean style called Country Club Plaza. This is the sort of fashionable place that generally turns Dan off, but I had expressed interest in looking around a bit, so he proposed that we stop by Starbucks for a latte. The afternoon was lovely and we sat on the deck at a table still wet from the rain.

Country Club Plaza from Starbucks patio

Then we walked around a little, ending up at Brush Creek, a completely controlled waterway that is lined by elegant apartment buildings and hotels, in the old red brick style. Dan spent ages trying to get the perfect shot of a bridge with red silk Chinese hanging lanterns.

       The Sister Cities Bridge over Brush Creek

I was beginning to think of dinner when Dan proposed that we eat at the Raphael Hotel, on the other side of Brush Creek. I was shocked that he would suggest such a fancy place, but I just headed that direction without a word.

Entrance to The Raphael

We dined in the restaurant/lounge called Chaz. I had fried green tomatoes in a bed of spinach with a tangy tomato dressing; it was a novel combination of tastes, but I liked it. I supplemented it with a side of asparagus. Dan had the diver-caught scallops and liked them.

The Hotel Restaurant

There was an excellent jazz duo playing all through dinner, with quite innovative styling of the old classics.

Jazz at Chaz

We enjoyed the mild evening on the way back to our car.

Moon over Brush Creek