Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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

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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 »

Eye Exam: A Fresh Look at SoHo in the 1970s

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Gordon Matta-Clark, Suzanne Harris and Tina Girouard

Gordon Matta-Clark, Tina Girouard and Suzanne Harris

By Jason Foumberg

Jessamyn Fiore never met Gordon Matta-Clark, but he has always been part of her life. “I grew up in a loft that my mother and Gordon had converted from a factory building,” in downtown New York City, says Fiore. “We had his art around. His family was like my family. His friends were like my friends.” Matta-Clark died in 1978, and two years later Fiore was born to his widow, Jane Crawford. “Once Gordon passed away, my mother devoted her life to his work and his legacy,” says Fiore.

Although Matta-Clark was just thirty-five when cancer ended his life and his prolific art career, the art world wasn’t ready to sweep him into the dustbin of art history. And we still haven’t—no doubt due, in part, to the hard work of caring for his estate, a tremendous task that Crawford and Fiore now share, as of last year.

As co-director of the estate, Fiore, thirty-two, has not simply inherited the wealth of an important artist; Fiore has what she calls a “creative relationship” with Matta-Clark’s legacy, as if he were her art-father, his ideals about art and community fostering her own belief system.

Fiore’s story is fascinating because it reveals how an artist’s reputation is sustained, in our modern curriculum and imagination. It is not simply that a powerful dealer releases major artworks into the market at strategic moments; the legacy of an artist like Matta-Clark stays alive because an advocate like Fiore works to connect the core values of his artwork with those that are relevant to today’s artists. Fiore identifies a spirit of collaborative artistic empowerment in the work of Matta-Clark and his peers that resonates with today’s artist-centric art world.

“What is the role that friendships play within an artistic community, and within an artist’s practice?” asks Fiore. She has expanded her inquiry beyond Matta-Clark to look at 112 Greene Street, a live-and-work art center in a converted factory building, known by its street address, that incubated New York City’s political, post-minimal, feminist, performance and experimental art in the seventies. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Amy Zahi on Curating

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130417_NinaArtShow_40No one cares about BFA students. Critics and curators want to deal with MFA students. The BFA students get ignored or not taken seriously as professional artists. They’re constantly hearing advice about getting out into the art world, but they don’t know anybody. They‘re afraid of just walking up to someone at an opening and saying hi. They don’t know who Michael Darling is. Someone had to teach me, too. Sabina Ott’s professional practice class [at Columbia College] changed my life. She took us out to see Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Mary Jane Jacobs, Claudine Ise, Michelle Grabner, Natasha Egan, J.C. Steinbrunner, Chicago Artists’ Coalition (Cortney Lederer, Tempestt Hazel, Sara Slawnik), and a slew of practicing on-the-ground artists.

For the exhibition [at the Arcade Gallery], the idea was to match five BFA candidates in their senior year with five professional working artists. Almost all of the BFA students are not going off to grad school after they graduate; they’re going to stay in Chicago and start art practices. What’s next? they ask. Or, I’m scared and I need to find a job. The show was an opportunity for the students to get out into the Chicago art world. They don’t know anybody but their own teachers. I wanted the students to see examples of artists who have graduated and entered the art world, to see artist practices and how they evolve over time. The students had to travel to their studios, research these artists’ works, be involved in choosing the pieces to exhibit (theirs and the artists), get their artwork show-ready, and be present to install. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Changes at the Arts Club of Chicago

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Janine Mileaf

By Janina Ciezadlo

Despite the current belief in most quarters of the miraculous powers of social media, Janine Mileaf, the newly installed director of the Arts Club of Chicago, believes strongly in “bodies in a room together, generating ideas.” Her model is the salon culture of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France, presided over by educated women. Almost a century of wealthy imaginative women—the Arts Club was founded in 1916 by a woman—precede Mileaf as directors of the Arts Club. While Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were cultivating Picasso and the American expats of the early twentieth century, Rue Winterbotham Carpenter, the founder and first president of the Arts Club, brought the first exhibition of Picasso’s drawings to Chicago, and exhibited work by Leger, Rouault and Brancusi, while hosting performances by Martha Graham and Sergei Prokofiev. Chicago was “cultivating deep conversations in the salon tradition,” as Mileaf describes it, about contemporary art among the members of the club a decade before the Museum of Modern Art opened in New York. Many of the works introduced by members of the Arts Club became the foundation for the Art Institute of Chicago’s modern European collection. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of a Curator: Amelia Ishmael

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Amelia Ishmael described the opening reception of “Black Thorns in the White Cube” with the excitement of a teenager recapping her night at a concert. “Before anyone showed up, Scott [Speh] and I were listening to cars drive by and I thought that was really special. And there was this excellent rumble across the sky—never a thunderstorm, just this rumble, and I was like ‘Oh! Odin came!’” Ishmael is a self-described listener, although her curated exhibition of Black Metal genre art did not have any sonic components. Ishmael pronounces the work “black” with an enjoyment that seems to reflect her years of intense concentration on what the word represents. She moves weightlessly, hopping a bit when she gets excited.

“This is work that I want to see in an art gallery,” says Ishmael. “When I started thinking about this exhibition, I started looking around to see if anyone had put together a show like this. There are some people working with metal music, but no one had done an [art] exhibition focusing purely on Black Metal.” Read the rest of this entry »