Robert Morris. “Untitled (Passageway),” 1961 Photo Courtesy Castelli Gallery, New York
Robert Morris’ sculpture “Untitled (Passageway),” of the MCA’s “S, M, L, XL,” is the epitome of what said exhibition explores: the corporeal relationship between observer and object. In its throttling of the viewer, its fearsome auguring in to compaction, “Passageway” puts the precedence not only on proximity to the audience, but their trepidation and/or courage. It is a self-contained hallway, a sculpture-cum-scorpion tail lit by the custard glow of naked bulbs; as one walks along the ecru curve, the walls quietly come together, their malevolence obfuscated by the gentle approach of the constriction, creeping forward, forcing an awkward step, a hesitation, a turning of the shoulder blades, a looming threat to the chest, until finally it becomes too much and one must turn around—fuck! too tight! slide back warily, as if an injured animal!—with the full intention of tearing through whatever callous museum goer may be blocking freedom as the drowning do the surface of the sea, fast and urgent with the dread animal exegesis to breathe … Read the rest of this entry »
Keren Cytter. “Video Art Manual,” 2011. Video still.
A disorienting yet familiar feeling hovers over Keren Cytter’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Cytter, born in 1977, creates films, though to call her a filmmaker seems inadequate. Nine of Cytter’s films on view at the MCA conjure conventional narratives telling short stories of the human condition—love, heartbreak, murder, revenge.
Often filmed in Cytter’s own small apartment, actors speak in fractured, emotionless yet frank dialogue and rapidly exchange roles, at times switching languages and directly addressing the camera. Scenes repeat and loop back on themselves, masterfully overlaid with kitschy low-budget editing effects which force the viewer’s focus equally on how narrative is assembled as on the plot itself. Read the rest of this entry »
Faheem Majeed/Photo: Devin Mays
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, we sit at the large table inside Faheem Majeed’s piece “Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden.” Two museum patrons crash my interview for the chance to speak with the artist. Piece by piece, they share a dialogue about Majeed’s ideas and their impressions of his work. We are, he tells us, in a re-creation of the South Side Community Art Center, a space he ran for seven years. “It oozed into my being. I know everything about that space.” Read the rest of this entry »
A Pine “Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840” from New Lebanon, New York.
Actually three separate exhibitions, this is altogether the most thorough presentation of Shaker culture ever seen in Chicago. More formally the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing,” the Shakers are the longest continually operating religious utopian community in America. At their height they numbered five thousand across twenty-two communities.
Nearly all the objects seen here were first collected in the 1920s and thirties by a passionate young American couple. But modernism itself owes a huge debt to the ornament-less functionality of Shaker design. “Beauty rests on utility,” is their maxim. Most people think furniture when they think Shaker, and visitors will certainly drool over the many fine pieces on display. Their famous ladder-back chairs—highly functional and quickly made—were the Ikea of their day. A cobbler’s bench has an ergonomic seat along with the patina of abundant use. Particularly charming are the dolls, the child’s rocker (originally priced at $3.25), and all the costume and textiles. But there are strange items here, too, such as an oddly humane adult cradle and an early electrostatic medical device (use unknown). Shaker road signs topped with scriptural warnings addressed trespassers, and fascinating “Gift Drawings” were the calligraphic version of speaking in tongues. Read the rest of this entry »
Doris Salcedo. “Untitled” works, 1989-2008,
wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass
The very first retrospective of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s thirty-year career begins with her recent “Plegaria Muda,” a maze of more than one-hundred upended tables sandwiching a thick layer of dirt between their backs and appearing as coffins. Tiny blades of grass grow out from between the wood planks, a subtle indication of the time poured into the growing and crafting of each blade and table. “Plegaria Muda” is created from Salcedo’s research into gang violence in Los Angeles combined with viewing the mass graves of grieving mothers’ sons in Colombia. The piece is a meditative entrance into Salcedo’s content, an attempt to erase the anonymity of those disappeared in her home country and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »
Vesna Jovanovic. “Spinal Cord Stimulator,” 2014 ink and graphite on polypropylene, 80″ x 60″
There is a baseball-sized gallbladder stone living inside Vesna Jovanovic’s studio. The stone that once violently grew within an unfortunate party’s body now rests peacefully behind a glass display case on the third floor of the Museum of Surgical Science, where Vesna comes each week to work. As the museum’s artist-in-residence since October 2013, Jovanovic is granted daily access to the abundance of tools and historical objects that reside in the exhibition rooms. While the physicality of the artifacts does in part fuel her study and practice, it is the persons, stories and records behind them that really move her. Read the rest of this entry »
Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962
Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt
By Matt Morris
Could you set up your take as the curator on what the Richard Hunt exhibition at the MCA is?
The show from the MCA starts from the premise of our collection. It’s part of what we call our MCA DNA series, and those are dossier shows—small jewel-box shows—that are about highlights from the MCA holdings that most people don’t even know that we have. So for instance we have another beautiful one up right now featuring Alexander Calder; there’s a huge collection of that in Chicago, many of them right here in this building. Another wonderful one that we put up recently was a collection of Dieter Roth art books that I hadn’t even known were in the collection. The DNA series is a chance for us as a museum to really highlight works of significance that most folks don’t know are here.
I found out that Richard Hunt was turning eighty this year. I realized the best way that we could honor him was to do an exhibition and—oh, my goodness—there are these works in the collection. I knew that the museum had a long history of helping organize the inclusion of a work of his at the White House. It’s a work called “Farmer’s Dream” that was exhibited in D.C. during the Clinton administration, and then when it came back from D.C. it went into Seneca Park, which is the park straight across west of the MCA. It was there for many years and then acquired by the MCA. These kinds of stories I knew, but I didn’t know that we had some of his early work from the sixties here, and we have some works on paper in the collection. The show is really compact, and is set to show the breadth of Richard’s work from his earliest days—the earliest work is from ’57 when he was finishing school—to a work made in, I believe, 2012.
Was the MCA show coordinated with the Cultural Center show?
Would you believe that it was a happy coincidence. Read the rest of this entry »
Richard Hunt/Photo: Thomas McCormick
By Matt Morris
Two concurrent exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Cultural Center crown the sculptor Richard Hunt’s eightieth year. To date, Hunt has produced more public sculpture than any other artist in the United States, with 125 currently on view, thirty-five of which are in Chicago. Hunt completed his studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1957 at a time when other black artists were scarce and the approach to welded metal sculpture Hunt had started to pursue wasn’t supported by the school’s studio facilities. Footage playing at the Cultural Center’s exhibition shows a dashingly handsome young Hunt setting up shop in his parents’ basement. By 1971 he had been honored with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and his diligent efforts have been continually rewarded throughout his career. Taken together, the exhibitions offer audiences examples of early investigations, to-scale maquettes for larger outdoor commissions, and a breadth of two- and three-dimensional works that ground flighty abstractions in a gravitas tempered by the struggles and victories of modern life. Read the rest of this entry »
Judy Ledgerwood. “Captiva #2”
In conjunction with Expo Chicago, the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, a southwest Florida destination, has worked with Chicago-based painter Judy Ledgerwood to create a monumental set of public artworks that will appear on billboards in downtown Chicago, River North, Gold Coast and along major expressways. These works will debut on September 13, and will remain on view around town for four weeks. In addition, components of this project will be featured on the official Expo Chicago shuttles that will transport visitors along routes from Navy Pier to other cultural and shopping destinations around the city. Read the rest of this entry »
Adam Schreiber. “Untitled,” chromogenic print, 2013
Earlier this month the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts announced its 2014 grant cycle, awarding over $520,000 to sixty-eight projects that further the Graham’s mission of supporting work that expands and reconsiders ideas in architecture through exhibitions, films, publications and research projects across a range of media. Of the many international grantees, nine are based in Chicago, at close range to the Graham, which is housed in the historic Madlener House in our city’s Gold Coast. Read the rest of this entry »