Occurences Around the State of the Art Opening
The GPS said we were minutes away from the Crystal Bridges Museum, which was good news after driving 9 hours. We soon realized that we drove 3 hours out of the way because the GPS had problems locating the museum on the map. A few people at the museum told us this was a common occurrence.
After finally arriving I went straight to the museum to attend the artists’ Champagne toast. Before entering the museum grounds we passed the town of Bentonville, which seemed like an idyllic village with tennis courts, a skateboard park and nicely maintained homes.
After following many signs for the museum we entered its grounds, which felt like a forest preserve or small national park.
We came to a concrete wall, which was the entrance to the museum where employees were welcoming visitors. We went straight for the parking lot where I quickly changed into my casual cocktail attire. My family left me to go check into our hotel. They would meet me later.
I was greeted enthusiastically by docents in front and guided to an elevator behind the concrete wall.
As I came out of the elevator it was clear that it was a nice museum. It looked like a futuristic space colony. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was tired from driving but the architecture seemed to blend in with the surrounding nature and it confused me.
I got to the main hall and was given a magnetized pin with my name and the title of “State of the Art Artist”.
At the entrance of the great hall I saw Chad and Don, the curators that visited my home/studio and was greeted warmly by them. In the hall I met a few of the other State of the Art artists and saw a fellow Chicago artist that I knew was in the show.
The curators’ spoke, gave a toast and handed the microphone to Alice Walton. I was impressed by how plainly she was dressed and how commonly she spoke.
Afterwards we were set free to roam the museum and see the exhibition. On my way over a docent asked me my name and directed me to a touch screen kiosk that had all of the State of the Art artists listed by name on it. He touched my name and I was amazed to see an image of me, my work and a description of my process with my quotes.
Before going to look at the work I went outside by a pond and listened to a young female DJ play electronic music while singing. Her performance added to the dreaminess of the night.
While listening I realized that my piece was across the way beautifully placed at a window that overlooked the pond. People were playing it.
Around that time my family joined me and we ate from a huge round table that was stocked with multi ethnic hors d’oeuvres, cheeses, fruit and desserts. We sat with the fellow Chicago artist and her husband and listened to rock music that was being performed live on stage.
Besides serving wine and beer, miniature coke bottles with the State of the Art logo were aplenty and placed everywhere. Each of my kids had at least two bottles.
After we went to see my work and my children played it with some adults they did not know. I was impressed by how perfectly it was installed by the museum in a space between galleries.
We went to the gift shop to look for the toy version of my piece that was supposed to be sold there and found out it was not made yet. I picked up my free catalog of the show, which was a box with a small book and two stacks of cards that had the same information as the touch screen kiosk. The cards had groves, which allowed them interlock with one another for the purpose of stacking and building with them.
The celebration was coming to an end and we were given flip-flops with the coca cola logo as we were leaving the building. We waited in front of the concrete wall to be picked up and taken to our hotel by a shuttle bus that was supplied by the museum.
When we awoke the following day my wife was sick from something she ate or drank and was bed ridden the entire day.
In the morning I walked over with my children to the museum to attend the member’s preview of the exhibition. We crossed the street from the hotel to the entrance of the museum grounds. We walked through the woods on a paved trail, over streams stopping at the James Turrell observatory sculpture.
After arriving to exhibition entrance we were warmly greeted by a docent. When he found out I was one of the artists he took me over to the touch screen kiosk to show me my work and my biography. He was so kind and enthusiastic that I pretended that I did not see it yet. A woman at Mom’s Booth, an interactive piece at the entrance of the show also greeted us and immediately began to interact with my children. She was a mom and made us feel as if we were her own.
Besides Mom’s Booth the works that most held the interest of my children were Water Bar by Works Progress, “Heavy Rotation,” a video by Chris Larson, Daniel Nord’s dead Mickey Mouse sculpture and Lenka Clayton’s video installation The Distance I Can Be From My Son and 63 Objects Taken Out of My Son’s Mouth.
Afterwards we made our way back to the town square to go to the Wal-Mart museum on the advice of the women at Mom’s Booth. The museum is the original five and dime store where Wal-Mart began. In the front is the gift shop that sells vintage items and Wal-Mart souvenirs. Behind the shop is a dark hallway that leads to the museum, which tells the story of Wal-Mart through various ephemera in glass cases. One display was of items people returned to Wal-Mart for outrageous reasons like a fishing pole that someone returned because they said it would not catch fish. Another display was a recreation of Sam Walton’s office with a touch screen monitor that tells stories about him through his personal belongings. At the gift shop I purchased a baseball cap (like the one Sam used to wear), two wooden rubber band guns and a U.S. atlas.
The next day we returned one final time to Crystal Bridges to show our healed mother our favorite pieces. In the galleries we saw Alice Walton who was enthusiastically walking through the exhibit looking at the work and sharing her thoughts with strangers. Because she was so friendly I introduced myself to her. She told me that she will be returning many times in order to take in all of the work in the show. She asked if we wanted a picture with her and I accepted her offer.
As a correspondence to this piece, read a review by Alberto Aguilar’s daughter on the Crystal Bridges blog here.
This text is part of a larger series, State of the Art: A Social Response. To put it in context, please read the other responses here.
About the artist
Alberto Aguilar teaches at Harold Washington College in Chicago where he also coordinates Pedestrian Project, an initiative dedicated to making contemporary art practice more available and accessible to his students. Over time he has been moved to integrate his various life roles with his creative practice and work within his immediate surroundings rather than a studio. Using materials at hand he captures intimate discoveries, fleeting moments and exchange with others in tangible form. Aguilar has presented at the Queens Museum and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. His work has been exhibited at the Elmhurst Art Museum, The MCA Chicago, Steven Zevitas Gallery and the Crystal Bridges Museum. On October 20, 2014 at 9:53 am Alberto wrote this bio in third person with precision using one hundred and thirty words.