Art Institute of Chicago Mounts “GO” Exhibit Review—Capturing the speed of modern life

Art Institute of Chicago's GO is about speed

Speed is the subject and mechanism of the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition aptly titled Go. The exhibition is stimulating from the get go: the viewer is ushered into a darkened hall in which upbeat jazz provides the soundtrack to a wall of spinning images and a high-speed film. The highly sensory experience of Go echoes the exhibition’s technical and formal subject matter.

This exhibition focuses on artworks and technologies of the 19th and 20th century. Planes, trains, and automobiles are captured in flashing, fuzzy videos. Dizzying patterns capture a sense of motion in two-dimensions. Quotes regarding topics ranging from atoms to coffee stipple the exhibition. At moments, this exhibition is overwhelming, but that’s the point.

Art Institute of Chicago GO
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Take-Off, plate seven from Bunk!, 1972. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hixon Glore Fund in memory of Robert Hixon Glore, Jr.


One of the innovations of photography was its ability to capture and freeze a single instant in time. Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s Take Off (1972) demonstrates such capability by juxtaposing two moments of motion, the taking offs of a plane and an ice skater from the ground. These figures are caught in infinite suspension, forever displaying actions of vigor and dynamism.  While these images are frozen, they promise a tale of speed—we can imagine the plane whizzing off the ground and the ice-skater flying through the air to land back on the ice.

Art Institute of Chicago GO
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Windtunnel Test, plate seven from Bunk!, 1972. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hixon Glore Fund in memory of Robert Hixon Glore, Jr.


Like many moments in this exhibition, these striking photographs offer a moment of levity and insight. Captured testing a wind tunnel, the man’s face distorts under the high velocity of wind. This man cannot escape the effects of technological acceleration.  

Art Institute of Chicago GO
Fernand Léger, The Railway Crossing (Sketch), 1919. Joseph Winterbotham Collection; gift of Mrs. Patrick Hill in memory of Rue Winterbotham.


In The Railway Crossing (Sketch) (1919), Fernand Léger captures the dynamism of trains, a then modern technology, through interlocking cylinders, bold stripes of color, and a mixture of depth and flatness. Caught in this mechanical anarchy, a simple arrow effectively punctuates the dizzying forms and emphasizes the painting’s subject: high-speed motion.

Art Institute of Chicago GO
Ellsworth Kelly. Train Landscape, 1953. Collection of the artist’s estate.


Compared to Leger’s painting and Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s photographs, Ellsworth Kelly’s Train Landscape (1953) is surprising. Characteristic of Kelly’s abstract style, Train Landscape reduces a scene to its minimal colors. We can still gain a sense of a landscape from the vibrant colors and the title offers us the image of racing trains cutting across the site. In their horizontal gesture, these expressive colors reduce speed to its essential “ongoingness.”

This exhibition manages to be both fun and thought-provoking. It mixes modern visual culture, like an old Time Magazine, photographs, films, and playful collages, with fine art. Together, these images paired with sounds and videos come together to capture the dizzying mechanism and experience of speed. In their historicizing nature, these objects also reveal the rapidity at which things change–there are no 21st century technologies in this exhibition. The sense of a high-paced modern life is already old-fashioned.


Top Pick For: Fans of lively exhibitions
Not recommended for: Those who do not like highly sensory exhibitions


On exhibit through June 4, 2017.

Monday: 10:30AM-5PM
Tuesday: 10:30AM-5PM
Wednesday: 10:30AM-5PM
Thursday: 10:30AM-8PM
Friday: 10:30AM-5PM
Saturday: 10:30AM-5PM
Sunday: 10:30AM-5PM


Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60603


$25 for General Admissions Adults

$19 for General Admission Seniors

$19 for General Admission Students

$19 for General Admission Teens

Online at
By phone at (312) 443-3600

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