Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

News: UIC Announces Free Art School

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From July 6 to August 10, UIC will host a series of free art classes that are open to everyone. These classes emphasize collaboration and democratization of educational resources for the study of art, art history and particularly creative ways that art making can positively impact and augment society. Compare this concept of freely available arts education that in many cases is being taught by artists on faculty at UIC and other programs in Chicago to the current going rate of about $69,000 for a resident of Illinois to earn a four-year BFA from UIC, and it’s clear this is a boldly radical offering.

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The Good and the Bad of SAIC’s MFA Show 2013

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By Pedro Vélez

It’s that time of the year when the School of the Art Institute of Chicago throws its spawn (130 of them) into the wilderness. Judging from the less-than-stellar works on display at the Sullivan Galleries (on view through May 17), most of these artists don’t stand a chance. So, what went wrong? Who should be sent to the lions? How about the curators? Have your pick from this year’s class which was made up of Lisa Dorin, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Williams College Museum of Art, Bad at Sports’ Duncan MacKenzie and Encarnación M. Teruel, Director of Visual Arts, Media, and Multi-Disciplinary Programs at the Illinois Arts Council. Do we really need curators directing a thesis show? Hiring a “middleman” to choke the flow of creative juices from stressed-out students is just not working out. I say, let students make their own choices on their own terms without the shadow of doubt lingering over their heads. Don’t get me wrong, I love SAIC, I’m her son too, but maybe the time has come to take responsibility and start failing those who don’t make the grade. Like my good friend artist and activist Sara Daleiden always says, “Not everyone has to be an artist, those who fail grad school can be reassigned to become cultural producers.”

Here are some of the best, the worst and the mediocre.

Performance art, including mimes devoid of sarcasm and irony, were all the rage during SAIC’s MFA 2013 opening reception.

Performance art, including mimes devoid of sarcasm and irony, were all the rage during SAIC’s MFA 2013 opening reception.

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Art Break: Higher Art Education

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Mnourse headshot by Jay Schroeder

Mike Nourse/Photo: Jay Schroeder

Artists must do more than just make art. Teaching, curating exhibitions, negotiating contracts, conducting studio visits and writing press releases are some of the professional practices that career artists can master, yet these skills are largely absent from college-level studio art curriculum.

Hoping to fill this void, the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, in collaboration with the Hyde Park Art Center, is offering a new visual arts certificate program. At twelve months long, the curriculum includes four courses plus a studio component. It is perhaps one of a kind among institutional peers.

“To my knowledge, we are unique,” said Dr. Kineret Jaffe, director of the Graham’s partnership office and a volunteer chair on the Hyde Park Art Center’s board. Jaffe met me, on the vert Schweinfurt carpet of the art center’s downstairs meeting space, to explain the program to me. We were joined by her office’s program coordinator, Nicole Yagoda, and HPAC’s director of education, Mike Nourse. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Who Will Crit the Crits?

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By Jason Foumberg

After an artist posted his art video on YouTube, he received dozens of comments from strangers: “Nobody in their right mind would do this”; “This is what crack does to you”; “This sucks gay ass”; “You just wasted 15 seconds of my life!” The artist then adapted these crude criticisms and repeated them during finals week at his school’s art studio critiques. “This sucks gay ass,” he mouthed during a classmate’s painting crit, miming the public criticism of his own art. The crit performance received mixed reviews. One classmate was ready to punch his face in.

James Elkins’ newest book, “Art Critiques: A Guide,” contains a chapter on “Tinkering with the Critique Format,” offering tips for disillusioned students who wish to shock their audiences out of lazy responses. Although the above example is not one of his tips, he does suggest a game: “Have someone play your part at the critique, and listen in the background without identifying yourself.” “Critiques are intensely strange,” writes Elkins, and he mentions throughout the book many oddball comments he’s experienced on real crit panels over the years as a professor, visiting critic and artist. Elkins’ correctives are meant to be emotionally benign and thoughtful, and he estimates that 50,000 critiques are conducted annually at art schools in the United States—all of them essentially ruleless. Many veer into boring, insolent, repetitive and pointless territory. Still, crits are essential touchstones in an artist’s education. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ox-Bow Centennial/Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery

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Francis Chapin


The primary function of art in Chicago before mid-century was to get the hell out of the big, grimy, corrupt city and retreat, like Thoreau, to the quiet pleasures of nature. So, Chicago art was mostly about landscape painting, and Chicago artists took their viewers on trips to the Ozarks, Brown County and other locales. One such sylvan location was Saugatuck, Michigan, where, in 1910, two Chicago artists established a summer residency that would become the Ox-Bow school of art, and now Corbett vs. Dempsey celebrates the school’s 100th anniversary with an exhibition of distinguished former residents.

Many styles of art have come and gone in the past hundred years, but the most charming, at least in this exhibition, is the Regionalism of the 1940s that promoted the quaint notion that there was something about our lives and land that deserved to be celebrated. What could be more worth celebrating than an artist’s colony in a scenic area? Even Miyoko Ito (1918-1983) and Margo Hoff (1910-2008), who would later be distinguished for their abstract painting, left charming views of “My Room in Ox-Bow” (1949) and “Summer Studio” (1945). The guys seem to have been more interested in the town. Edgar Rupprecht (1889-1954), who had studied with Hans Hofmann, the prophet of abstract expressionism, has a view of Saugatuck (1940s), and the W.P.A. artist Max Kahn (1902-2005) did a view of the Ox-Bow lighthouse (1945), while Francis Chapin (1899-1965), who seems to have specialized in recreational activity, is here represented by “Girl in Rowboat” (1948). More recent painters have, understandably, worked with less representational themes, but at the last minute, the gallery got some delicious watercolors by Seymour Rosofsky (1924-1981) of “Ox-Bow” (1967) that almost overcome his habitual neuroses. Overall, it’s a wonderful escape from the hot summer city and the rest of the twentieth-century art world. (Chris Miller)

Through August 21 at Corbett vs. Dempsey, 1120 North Ashland, third floor.

Eye Exam: Career Day

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By Jason Foumberg

Wellington “Duke” Reiter moderated a panel discussion at the School of the Art Institute last Wednesday, April 7, just one day after announcing his resignation as the school’s president, a position in which he served for two years. The panel discussion, titled “Creative Economy: Galleries, Artists, & the Market,” was convened to give post-graduation career advice to art students and alumni. Much advice was prefaced with the phrase, “In this economy…,” reminding everyone that a multi-thousand dollar college degree does not itself fling open the doors of success. The “Creative Economy” panel was one visible manifestation of Reiter’s attempt to introduce concrete and realistic career awareness in an art world where tight-lipped luck often dominates.

The panel consisted of the cast of characters that an artist could expect to encounter among the various stages of a commercial art career. There was Shannon Stratton, founder and director of Three Walls; David Weinberg and Aaron Ott, gallerists from David Weinberg Gallery; Rhona Hoffman, a dealer with thirty-plus years of experience in Chicago; and Larry Fields, collector of contemporary art and museum philanthropist. They represented the several forces, extrinsic to an artist’s talent, that, in the best circumstances, guide an artist to commercial viability, from the experimental art space (Three Walls) to placement in museums and collectors’ homes (Larry Fields). Read the rest of this entry »

Art School Unconfidential: What the city’s burgeoning MFA programs mean for the future of artists in Chicago

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Matthew Metzger, "Re-release: Discourse." Acrylic and Oil on Panel.

Matthew Metzger, "Re-release: Discourse." Acrylic and Oil on Panel.

By Rachel Furnari

I’m a romantic about everything else in my life, but not about art school,” says Erin Chlaghmo, who begins her MFA program in Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) this fall.  Romanticism, though, may be exactly what’s required to assume the burden of debt that comes with a degree that can cost upwards of $40,000 a year for a two- or three-year program. Chlaghmo is one of an increasing number of artists to pursue their graduate degrees in studio-arts without the guarantee of a lucrative career (or even a living wage) to pay off their student loans. Most students have a surprising and unmitigated enthusiasm for their graduate work despite being aware of the low odds for successfully working full-time as an artist—of being chosen out of the 300-plus yearly graduates for a show with one of a few commercial galleries in Chicago—and the attendant financial risks that have been exacerbated by the current economic environment.

In interviews with students from five local studio-art MFA programs—Columbia College, Northwestern, SAIC, the University of Chicago (U of C) and the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC)—descriptions of access to faculty, visiting artists, financial aid, professional development programs and limited material resources reveal how these artists make use of their programs to create art; to think, to network, to teach and, most importantly, to have a stake in an ongoing, critical conversation about contemporary art—though the quality of this conversation was definitely up for debate. While these schools have their differences, their students and graduates make up an undeniable segment of the contemporary art scene in Chicago and in a real way represent its future. Their institutional alignments, then, are crucial in determining how and in what direction the Chicago scene develops. By identifying those alignments it may be possible to better understand how the energy and creativity of these students might be expended in order to transform contemporary art in Chicago. Can the arts community undo the institutional biases in order to acknowledge the means by which art schools shape the Chicago art environment for practitioners, curators, dealers, audiences and critics? Read the rest of this entry »