The Arts Club of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago have invited Jean-Luc Mylayne (French, born 1946) to hold a pair of exhibitions from May until August 2015. These exhibitions, which feature Mylayne’s captivating color photographs of birds, will (re)unite inside and outside, nature and culture, and two Chicago institutions with profound ties to each other in the past and in the present.
At the same time, an original pavilion featuring Mylayne’s photography will be erected in Millennium Park. Based on simple geometry and designed by Wheeler Kearns Architects, the “chapel,” as it has been named by the artist, produces the effect of a brilliant illuminated sky brought inside a contemplative space. It will be open to the public, free of charge, throughout the summer and fall. A variety of collateral events will be held on site—programs available in May.
Mylayne has devoted four decades to working with common birds as actors in an extremely deliberate, philosophically motivated investigation on aesthetics and community. Each of his photographs, typically printed at grand dimensions, is unique, and can take months to prepare. Day after day, Mylayne sets up a view camera, lights, and other equipment in a chosen place, until one or more individual birds that he has previously identified—who recognize him as he recognizes them, each according to his natural abilities—come to occupy the position he had imagined in his picture. A mutual regard animates every composition; every work holds, however, an implicitly negative commentary on the dwindling measure of tolerance and sympathy for others that governs human activity on the planet.
Mylayne and his constant companion and work partner, Mylène Mylayne, have conceived of the exhibition as a collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago and The Arts Club of Chicago. Each institute will host an exhibition of photographs in a space that looks out onto a garden—the modern wing of the Art Institute and the main gallery at The Arts Club. The play of inside and outside is fundamental. In each of the spaces there will be one photograph showing a robin perched on a cubic stone; copies of the stone itself will be placed in the garden spaces that lie directly outside the exhibition halls. Each of the two exhibitions will be manifestly dependent on the other, although each can stand on its own. Just as is true for living creatures generally.
The chapel building, calm and hushed, in which visitors sit and look up to see a suite of photographs showing humble sparrows, perched on the corner of a square roof under an azure sky. These photographs, attached to the chapel ceiling, show birds doing something nearly inconceivable: allowing a potential predator to approach from underneath. The trust implicit in these photographs, and their simple clarity, give much to ponder. Mylayne’s idea and his form here—as always—possess a restrained yet magnificent aesthetic and intellectual impact.
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