Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

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The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

Reeders Digest: How Two Brothers Curated the School of the Art Institute’s 150th Anniversary Exhibition

Art Fairs, Art Schools, Artist Profiles, Curator Profiles 1 Comment »
Scott Reeder in his Detroit studio

Scott Reeder in his Detroit studio

Tyson Reeder in his Chicago studio

By Brian Hieggelke

In a year of important anniversaries at major visual art entities in Chicago, none is more surprising, or significant, than the 150th birthday of the School of the Art Institute. Surprising, in that unlike so many of the city’s oldest leading cultural organizations which were founded in the 1890s and are thus a mere 125 years old or so, SAIC was founded as the Chicago Academy of Design in 1866, five years before the Great Chicago Fire. And its significance, already noteworthy in evolving into one of the top art educators in the world, is magnified by the fact that it was the school that later gave birth to the Art Institute of Chicago itself.

Among the various celebrations planned for this milestone, one of its centerpieces is an exhibition called “Civilization and Its Discontents: SAIC Alumni Exhibition, Selections from 1985–2015,” which runs September 1-October 24, and hosts its reception on Friday, September 18, 6pm-9pm, at the Sullivan Galleries, 33 South State, Seventh Floor. The exhibition, which features about three dozen artists who’ve graduated in the last thirty years, is curated by the brothers Scott and Tyson Reeder, both faculty members at the School, and both accomplished visual artists in their own right. I discussed their collaboration in person with Tyson and via telephone from Detroit with Scott.

The SAIC show you’re curating is a centerpiece of the school’s 150th anniversary but covers just the last three decades. How did the whole thing come together?
Scott: We wanted to focus on the last thirty years because that is a story that maybe isn’t told as much about the school. I think people know a lot about the Imagists, but then there’s that time after that is lesser known, especially outside of Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Cutting Back, Dropping Out

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Illinois State Museum in Springfield. Photo by Mike Linksvayer.

Illinois State Museum in Springfield/Photo: Mike Linksvayer

By Elliot J. Reichert

Last week, a bipartisan Illinois legislative commission rejected Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposal to close the Illinois State Museum system. The vote of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is a non-binding but weighty gesture against the efforts of the state’s Executive Office to reduce Illinois’ massive budget deficit through severe and uneven cuts in public spending. The Illinois State Museum is a network of five sites that serve distinct but complementary purposes in the preservation and cultivation of Illinois history and culture: a natural history and art museum in Springfield, an on-site archaeological museum of Native American history at Dickson Mounds, a contemporary art museum inside of a repurposed riverfront warehouse in Lockport, a gallery and artisan shop in downtown Chicago, and a museum and gallery in the southern community of Rend Lake. The cuts would reduce the projected $6.29 million annual operating budget of the museum system to $1.5 million, saving Illinois approximately $4.8 million in the next fiscal year. The retained funds would be spent maintaining the facilities and collections of nearly 13.5 million objects housed by the museums during their indefinite closure. Illinois will continue to keep rare and precious artworks and artifacts related to the heritage and history of the state, but the taxpayers who pay for the care of these things will no longer be able to access them. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Humanities Without Walls Announces Global Midwest Grant Awardees

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Lane Relyea of Northwestern University's Art Theory + Practice program, one of five academics awarded the new Humanities Without Walls Global Midwest Grant

Lane Relyea of Northwestern University’s Art Theory + Practice program, one of five academics awarded the new Humanities Without Walls Global Midwest Grant. Photo by Paul Germanos.

The newly initiated Humanities Without Walls Global Midwest Grant has been awarded to the forthcoming There There: A Journal of Global Contemporary Art in the Midwest, a collaboration among Elise Archias from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Kevin Hamilton from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Tung-Hui Hu from the University of Michigan, Lane Relyea from Northwestern University’s Art Theory and Practice program and Kris Paulsen from Ohio State University. The Humanities Without Walls consortium is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign explains Dianne Harris, IPRH director and principal investigator.

Three million dollars in total was awarded to IPRH by the Mellon Foundation so as to fund the first two years of an all-encompassing association of fifteen humanities institutes in and beyond the Midwest. There There was awarded a $27,000 grant, which the collaborators intend to use for the production of an online arts journal. “The first issue of which is slated for October 2015. I am helping the main editor Kris Paulsen, who is assistant professor in the art history department at Ohio State,” briefs Relyea by email. Read the rest of this entry »

News: ThingStead Press Releases New Publication on February 26

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Chris Reeves and Aaron Walker's ThingStead press on view at UIC's Gallery 400 lobby

Chris Reeves and Aaron Walker’s ThingStead press on view at UIC’s Gallery 400 lobby

Next time you’re on or near the UIC campus, stop into Gallery 400 and pick up a copy of ThingStead, PhD art history candidate Chris Reeves and MFA candidate Aaron Walker’s small-press print installation project in the lobby. The two took over the space, which is already bustling with daily foot traffic, and turned it into a checkout lane where patrons can peruse and “take-away” a copy of their latest publication. Each booklet is composed of “reimagined drafts and excerpts” from artists and writers on a specific topic, theme or work to create an amalgamation of ideas or “excursus,” as they like to call it.

“Legend and History,” by Columbus, Ohio-based artist, Ryland Wharton is released today, February 26. Reeves describes the book as “mystical concrete poetry,” as it is a reproduction of passages from M. Caron and S. Hutin’s “The Alchemists.”
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Review: A Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action/Sullivan Galleries

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Installation view with "Publishing Clearing House" by Temporary Services

Installation view with “Publishing Clearing House” by Temporary Services


“A Proximity of Consciousness” inaugurates SAIC’s season of lectures, book releases and a symposium dedicated to the art of affecting social change. The exhibition is curated by Mary Jane Jacob and Kate Zeller and showcases new works by a powerhouse roster including Michael Rakowitz, Pablo Helguera, James Duignan, J. Morgan Puett, Paul Durica, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Dan Peterman, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Temporary Services, Rirkrit Tiravanija and many more collaborators. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Riva Lehrer Chosen for New 3Arts and UIC Artist Fellowship

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"SUSPENSION: RR," charcoal, colored pencil and acupuncture needles on paper, 30" x 44", 2012

Riva Lehrer. “SUSPENSION: RR,” charcoal, colored pencil and acupuncture needles on paper, 30″ x 44″, 2012

On September 3, the nonprofit organization 3Arts announced that visual artist Riva Lehrer was one of the first two recipients of a newly created artist fellowship residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) that will support “the creation of new work by local artists with disabilities who are actively engaged in raising awareness about disability culture on and off campus.” This pilot year of the new residency has been awarded to two past 3Arts Award recipients, Lehrer and theater and performing artist Robert Schleifer. Following their time as residents, the application process will be open to qualifying artists in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Through the duration of their time as residents (varying, but about three months), the two artists will have full access to the resources available on UIC’s campus, support for completing new artistic projects and a wide range of paid opportunities for programming intended for students and faculty (such as critiques and studio visits) and the general public (such as public forums and workshops). Lehrer will be given studio space and Schleifer will have access to theater space. 3Arts has contributed $10,000 for these two fellowships, with funding tailored to the specific artists and their projects. Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond Trend: Fashion Advice from the FRC, Yes Please

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The Fashion Resource Center's Assistant Director Caroline Bellios and Director Gillion Carrera

The Fashion Resource Center’s assistant director Caroline Bellios and director Gillion Carrara

In the words of Gillion Carrara, director of the Fashion Resource Center (FRC) at SAIC, “a fresh face, a posture, a pose and a look of curiosity” never go out of style. Leave the normcore on the internet. In anticipation of the impending fall semester, Newcity checked in with IRL fashionistas Carrara, Caroline Bellios, FRC’s assistant director and SAIC grad and FRC employee, Eric Lengsouthiphong to find out their fashionable expectations for the season. At least we have layering to look forward to.

How would you describe your style? What fall items are you excited to debut this semester?
GC: My personal style is generally minimal in various combinations of black variations and textures. I believe that black illustrates a serious, capable, modern individual. Inspired by a summer trip to Japan, I will wear long Comme des Garçons trousers with a bustle and train combination, a simple black tee and Trippen high heels that recall Japanese geta on the opening day of the FRC. As for the FRC, a selection of new acquisitions are from avant-garde designers Christopher Kane, Comme des Garçons, Marc Le Bihan, Mary Katrantzou, Marios Schwab, Anrealage, Boudicca and a vintage Dior.

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News: SAIC Establishes Vivian Maier Scholarship for Female Artists

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Vivian Maier. Maloof Collection, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

Vivian Maier. Maloof Collection, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

A scholarship named after the photographer Vivian Maier has been established at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Through donations from Ravine Pictures’ John Maloof and Charlie Siskel and the art gallerist Howard Greenberg, the Vivian Maier Scholarship will offer funding to female, need-based students currently enrolled at SAIC. There will be no application process, nor any restrictions on specific degree programs, year of study or form of artwork being produced. This will be an annual award that the School hopes will grow and can be offered to as many students as possible. The first of the scholarships will be awarded in the 2014-2015 academic year.

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News: UIC Hires Laurie Jo Reynolds as Assistant Professor of Public Arts, Social Justice, and Culture

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Laurie Jo Reynolds is the new assistant professor of public arts, social justice and culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Art and Art History. This is a new position within the school that is part of the recently created Social Justice and Human Rights Cluster, an initiative of UIC’s Chancellor. Read the rest of this entry »