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Eye Exam: While You Were Out

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By Jason Foumberg

While you were out for the summer, I took a message. Here’s what you may have missed.

Eleanor Coen, 1916-2010

Deaths in the Family
The West Side gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey reported two deaths via email this summer. Eleanor Coen, wife of artist Max Kahn, experimented with and popularized lithography in Chicago with her contemporaries in the 1930s and 1940s. She graduated from SAIC and later taught there, and continued her printmaking career into the 1950s. She had a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1946. The gallery also announced the passing of James Garrett Faulkner, an artist, teacher and art collector. Faulkner also taught at SAIC and collected the work of Imagist and self-taught artists. Both Coen and Faulkner are represented by the gallery, which sells work by established (and sometimes forgotten) Chicago-based artists. This fall, John Corbett and Jim Dempsey (of the gallery’s namesake) will curate an exhibition about Ray Yoshida’s art legacy in the Chicago community. Yoshida died in January 2009.

“Ground Floor” opened at the Hyde Park Art Center, a group show of work by twenty recent grads from MFA programs in Chicago. “What’s your favorite work in the show?” someone asked me. I didn’t have a favorite. The show was a surprising flop, especially considering it was curated by a committee of eight highly arty people. Do we really need another MFA show in Chicago? By contrast, the MFA show that Susanne Ghez, director of the Renaissance Society, curates each year for the Art Chicago fair, presents innovative art from current or recent MFA grads. Fortunately, though, the HPAC is forward-thinking, and they will host upcoming panel discussions such as the sure-to-be-provocative “What’s an MFA worth?” on October 24.

Gregory Harris

Art curators come and go
In June Joseph Rosa left his position as chief curator of architecture and design at the Art Institute of Chicago to become the University of Michigan Art Museum’s new director. The Museum of Contemporary Art welcomed Michael Darling to its chief curator position, and said goodbye to curator Dominic Molon, who worked there for sixteen years. Gregory Harris was named assistant curator at the DePaul University Art Museum, which is in the midst of new building construction, slated to open September 2011. Harris is co-curating the museum’s inaugural show, titled “Chicago Needs More Famous Artists.” James Connolly was promoted to assistant curator at the Roger Brown Study Collection and house museum.

Welcome back
The Green Lantern Gallery and Press reopened in a temporary location in Ukrainian Village and is reconfigured to welcome new collaborations. Lantern Projects unites with Zach Dodson, Abigail Satinsky and Devin King to create a multi-use art, performance and publishing space. Chicago Urban Art Society reopened their gallery in a new 4,200-square-foot space in Pilsen.

Out with a bang
Summer closed with a bang, with a large group show and music-fest called “Beach Party 3!!” (yes, that sounds like a porno) at The Hills Esthetic Center. This is a fun up-and-coming venue in a strange building across from a juvenile detention center. “Beach Party 3!!” featured a bevy of Chicago-based artists making art inspired by the summer. I didn’t go to this show because I decided instead to go to the real beach and then to have some beers with friends. What better way to celebrate the end of summer?

3 Responses to “Eye Exam: While You Were Out”

  1. dawoudbey Says:


    As you may or may not know I am the chair of the Exhibitions Committee at the Hyde Park Art Center in addition to being a board member. In those capacities I’ve tried to develop ongoing programming that fills some of the perceived needs of the Chicago art community. Open Crit is one such program. And now Ground Floor begins another.

    One of the of the reasons I came up with the idea for an MFA show at the Hyde Park Art Center was so that there would be a regular show that brought together a wide range of recent MFA grads from ALL of the various Chicago academic institutions, not just a hand picked few. The Art Chicago MFA show, curated by my good friend Susanne Ghez, is up for four days and is geared towards situating the selected recent MFA artists within a larger art world context and audience via the art fair. Ground Floor, which will be up for more than four days–and have public programming attached to it as well–has the potential to create a deeper conversation within the Chicago art community than a short term event does. They serve different functions obviously, but we were aiming for a less exclusive type of deal than what happens at Art Chicago, one that reflects the breadth of art production coming out of those institutions and makes that work broadly accessible. The chance for failure always exists, but that’s the nature of publicly presenting ones work. HPAC remains a place where new and untested work can consistently be seen…even when it doesn’t always work. Artists need those kinds of spaces as much as they need the sleek and more exclusive environs of Art Chicago, whose MFA show remains under the curatorial direction of a singular voice. To ask if we “need another” MFA show here in Chicago seems to overlook these clear differences. I don’t think you’d be one to argue that artists in Chicago can have too many outlets for their work.

    Ground Floor continues in two years, and we hope to again be as broadly representative as possible of Chicago’s varied MFA production. There’s always room for improvement, and we certainly appreciate criticism that leads to that.

    -Dawoud Bey

  2. Jason Foumberg Says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Dawoud. There often seems to be something left out or unspoken about the school-to-gallery trajectory. So, the programming (especially the discussion “What’s an MFA worth?”) sounds like an important component.

  3. dawoudbey Says:

    I do hope you’ll attend our “What’s the value of an MFA?” discussion. It will likely be a lively forum for discussion. Also, on September 10th Kerry James Marshall will be my guest critic at Open Crit. It’s from 6-8. All of the fall season shows open that night, but I think we’re as a good a pick as any for that evening. You’re always welcome.


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