Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Breaking News: Douglas Druick, Art Institute of Chicago President and Director, to Retire

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Douglas Druick, 2011.

Douglas Druick, 2011.

Douglas Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, announced his intention to retire late Tuesday evening. Druick has been at the helm of the Art Institute since 2011 and has served for a total of thirty years at Chicago’s mainstay art museum. In nearly five years, Druick oversaw the Art Institute through major growth and change, including the acquisition of the largest gift of art in the museum’s history, given by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson earlier this year, record high attendance and recognition as being among the best museums in the world. For these specific achievements and his overall leadership of the institution, Druick topped Newcity’s list of Chicago’s 50 most powerful art figures in 2015.

“It has been my honor to serve as the Art Institute’s president and director,” said Druick. “I have been deeply proud to lead one of the finest museums in the world, and to work for three decades with an exceptional cadre of remarkably talented museum colleagues.” Read the rest of this entry »

Art Leader of the Moment: Naomi Beckwith, Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art

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Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

By Elliot J. Reichert

In this year’s Art 50, we focus on the power players who shape Chicago’s art landscape. Naomi Beckwith, a Hyde Park native, brings an insider’s knowledge of the city to her role as the Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In just over four years, she’s crafted some of the museum’s most timely exhibitions, including a major outdoor sculptural commission by Yinka Shonibare MBE and the MCA’s current headliner, “The Freedom Principle,” which she co-curated with Dieter Roelstraete. I spoke with her about the art of research, what it means to be a nerd in the art world and what’s next for this rising Chicago art star.

Being born and raised in Chicago, how has this city influenced your work as a curator?
Many people know that I had initially considered a career in the sciences. For my first twenty years, I was academically focused on those disciplines, but two signifiant things changed all that. One was the ethos of this city and its commitment to public spaces, which always included art: festivals, programs, art fairs and museums. I am a very proud child of Chicago Public Schools, which has an amazing field trip program that includes these destinations. This early access to both the formal art space of museums and also informal spaces, like the Hyde Park [57th Street] Art Fair or the African Festival of the Arts in Washington Park, left deep imprints on me. Read the rest of this entry »

The Interview Project Interview: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

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Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

By Elliot J. Reichert

Hans Ulrich Obrist is an internationally renowned curator and co-director of the Serpentine Galleries in London. He is the author of The Interview Project, an ongoing collection of interviews with artists and other creatives, and a new book, “Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects.” At EXPO Chicago on September 19, 4pm, Obrist will conduct a live interview with Art Green, Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum, three members of the Hairy Who, an artist collective who began mounting group exhibitions after studying together at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Obrist spoke with us by phone from Johannesburg, South Africa, about his connections to Chicago, his interests in the Hairy Who and the larger group of Chicago Imagists, and the philosophy that inspires his interviews.

What draws your interest to Chicago and the Hairy Who at this moment?
My interest in the Hairy Who began with my interview projects, which are parallel to my curatorial practice. These interviews are an oral history of contemporary art, and they were actually inspired by Chicago. When I was in Chicago for the first time for a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art about fifteen years ago, I met the late Studs Terkel, the great oral historian. From then on, Terkel mentored my whole process of making these oral histories more systematic. He gave me a lot of advice, so it’s wonderful to bring the whole project back to Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

On In-Betweenness: An Interview with Solveig Øvstebø About The Renaissance Society’s Amazing Platform of Freedom on the Occasion of its Centennial

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Solveig Øvstebø at the Renaissance Society, 2015.


By Elliot Reichert

Solveig Øvstebø is the executive director and chief curator of The Renaissance Society, an institution devoted to the creation and presentation of contemporary art. This year, the Renaissance Society is celebrating its hundredth anniversary with exhibitions and events that examine the institution’s legacy and charts its future. Øvstebø spoke with us in her office at the University of Chicago, where she was overseeing the installation of new works by Irena Haiduk, whose exhibition will open the Centennial season.

 In your first two years in Chicago, what have you observed about Chicagos visual arts community, and how do you see the Renaissance Society fitting in to this art ecosystem?

Norway’s entire population is half the number of the population of Chicago, so that gives you an idea of what a different context I came from. Of course, the global art world is small, and Europe works with the American art scene a lot, but when you are a practitioner there are many things that are different between these places. I was eager to understand how things worked here. When I arrived in Chicago, I was so taken by the incredibly strong institutional ecosystem, and the support that these institutions have in the city. And I saw immediately how the universities and schools in Chicago cultivate strong student voices. Finally, I was amazed to find how robust the alternative scene is in Chicago.

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 »

News: Graphic Designer Jason Pickleman Opens Collection-based Gallery Lawrence & Clark

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Pickleman amidst some of his collection.

Pickleman amidst some of his collection.

Graphic designer Jason Pickleman has opened up a gallery at 4755 North Clark that he is calling Lawrence & Clark (L&C). Pickleman is no stranger to the arts, as a practicing artist and a graphic designer who has created iconic logos for Avec, the Wit Hotel and many more. A rare breed in these times, L&C will be a collection-based gallery, showcasing work that Pickleman owns, the majority of which he purchased in Chicago over more than thirty years of living and working here. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Kristin Korolowicz Appointed Curator at Illinois State University Galleries

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Kristin Korolowicz

Kristin Korolowicz, new curator at the University Galleries at Illinois State University

In September, Kristin Korolowicz joined the staff as a new curator for the University Galleries at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. Her appointment coincides with the Galleries’ expansion into a new 8,000-square-foot space located in Uptown Station. She joins director Barry Blinderman and senior curator Kendra Paitz as a curatorial team that has long shown prescient instincts for recognizing major contributors to contemporary art before they rise to the art world’s international stage. Read the rest of this entry »

Profile of a Web Platform: Contemporary Art Daily

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Contemporary Art Daily staff from left to right: Bryce Dwyer, Brook Sinkinson Withrow, Maddie Reyna, Forrest Nash

Contemporary Art Daily staff from left to right: Bryce Dwyer, Brook Sinkinson Withrow, Maddie Reyna, Forrest Nash

Since its premiere in 2008, Contemporary Art Daily (CAD) has become one of the most popular online resources for what’s hot in international exhibitions. Founded by the Chicago based artist/critic Forrest Nash, CAD posts documentation from seven to eleven international exhibitions of contemporary art a week. Nash is joined by InCUBATE’s Bryce Dwyer, Julius Caesar’s Maddie Reyna and Forever and Always’ Brook Sinkinson Withrow.

CAD’s postings notably lack a critical position—free of commentary and support text. This has led to questions as to what degree CAD operates as a journalistic enterprise, providing a survey of international art on a given week, and to what degree its selections are motivated by a curatorial impetus. In a conversation with Newcity Art, managing editor Dwyer elucidated on the group’s process and provided insights as to its mission. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: What It Means for Chicago to be in the Middle

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Curator and artist Christopher K. Ho

Curator and artist Christopher K. Ho

By Christopher K. Ho

Christopher K. Ho was recently curator in residence at the Hyde Park Art Center to co-organize “The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle,” an exhibition and events series that considers the role of the art center in its seventy-fifth anniversary year. Ho is also an artist, art educator and writer, and is based in New York.

Grunt work undergirds a lot of creative industries, including art making, even though its value and importance is often overlooked. The contemporary art world loves outliers and geniuses. But there is a broad swathe in the middle that has been going at it for many years, and it’s the characteristics of this group that I and my co-curators Allison Peters Quinn and Megha Ralapati wanted to highlight in “The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle.”

“The Chicago Effect” proposes civic engagement as an alternative to the ideologically pitched political and activist art that dominated our field after the late 1960s. When I was at Cornell and Columbia, that is what I was taught; “1968” had become institutionalized through participants who later became professors. Today, reexamining the middle is ever more pressing. The exhibition looks at compromise positively. It’s not about taking a politically extreme position, whether left or right, but trying to occupy both your own and your opposite’s viewpoints: a moderate position. Like that swathe of artists who fall between outliers and geniuses, the transformative potential of the socio-political middle ground is underestimated. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Mural Crusader

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By Jason Foumberg

Lauren Pacheco wants to boost Chicago’s street-art scene, but city policy has her up against the wall.

Chicago has a reputation as a Mecca of public art, but official public art campaigns tend to grow only on the new construction of libraries, police stations and senior centers, and rehabbed CTA stations. Meanwhile, long stretches of derelict railroad and viaduct walls cut through communities. People call this blight.

Lauren Pacheco drives around Pilsen looking for heavily tagged walls and studies gang territory heat maps to scout locations for new street murals. “Put a mural up in that area and, in some cases, it immediately stops the gang tags,” says Pacheco. “Most of the time, murals are respected.”

Pacheco is the assistant to Alderman Danny Solis of the 25th Ward, which includes Pilsen, Chinatown, Tri-Taylor, Heart of Chicago, Little Italy and portions of the West Loop and South Loop. With Alderman Solis, Pacheco developed a plan to boost the production of legally sanctioned street art and community murals, called the Art in Public Places Community Arts Initiative (AiPP). Alderman Solis and Pacheco have been very successful, commissioning sixty murals in just two years. Read the rest of this entry »