Bloomberg News

Forbidden Name in Hats, Lod Mosaic: Chicago Art

March 26, 2012

A detail from the Roman mosaic discovered in Lod, Israel. The ship could be there to indicate that the owner was a rich merchant. Photographer: Lili Rosboch/Bloomberg

A detail from the Roman mosaic discovered in Lod, Israel. The ship could be there to indicate that the owner was a rich merchant. Photographer: Lili Rosboch/Bloomberg

In 1996, road workers in Lod, Israel, unearthed an extraordinary Roman mosaic dating back to about 300 A.D.

A large panel is on view at the Field Museum in Chicago after a stint at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last year. It will go on to the Columbus Museum of Art starting May 18 and eventually will return to Lod, where a permanent home is being constructed.

The 14-by-23-foot panel, part of a bigger floor, probably decorated a rich merchant’s house. It’s the best-conserved chunk from the Lod discovery, made of more than two million tesserae, or tiles.

It features a central square flanked by smaller rectangular sides. The figures depicted include two ships, sea creatures and exotic beasts from Africa and Asia that were sent over to battle in amphitheaters across the Roman Empire. There’s not a human in sight.

The museum reveals that some 50,000 lions were killed during arena entertainments; by comparison, only 25,000 remain today on the African continent.

The mosaic is at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. through April 22. Information: +1-312-922-9410; http://fieldmuseum.org.

Charles James

A hundred years ago, fashion was considered such a dubious trade that when Charles James opened his first hat-making shop in 1926, his father wouldn’t let him use the family name in the business.

James still became a renowned couturier whose creations, photographed by Cecil Beaton and featured in Harper’s Bazaar, inspired Christian Dior.

A show at the Chicago History Museum displays his gowns, suits, coats and hats, and explores the British designer’s techniques, meticulous use of fabrics and a client list featuring many socialites.

A “Please Touch” sign allows visitors to get into James’s world. The “Clover” dress, which looks like the four-leaf plant when viewed from above, recovers its shape after being touched because of a heat-set plastic boning technique.

The singular dress was worn by a Mrs. Howard Linn, a social and fashion leader.

“Charles James: Genius Deconstructed” is at 1601 N. Clark St. through April 16. Information: +1-312-642-4600; http://chicagohistory.org.

Laura Letinsky

Canadian photographer Laura Letinsky plays with real objects and reproductions in a way that distorts our perceptions.

This new body of work in a series titled “Ill Form and Void Full” is at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Quoted on a wall plate, Letinsky says: “Working with pre- existing images, produced by the culture that also consumes them, is a means for me to shift, complicate, implicate, and delight in this process of making meaning.”

The prints all have gentle off-white backgrounds and it’s hard to tell what they’re showing. I distinguished fruit (peach, papaya and cherry pits), pieces of sliced meat (maybe turkey) and an onion, as well as silverware and plates.

Yet while elements in each photo are realistic, some are the actual object and others are secondhand images -- magazine photos, for instance. The juxtaposition challenges, and the overall composition takes on an abstract layer. In a strange way some could be mistaken for fine drawings.

“BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Laura Letinsky” is at 220 E. Chicago Ave. through April 17. Information: +1-312-397-4000; http://www.mcachicago.org.

(Lili Rosboch writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Lili Rosboch in New York erosboch2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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