Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Doris Salcedo/Museum of Contemporary Art

Gold Coast/Old Town, Installation, Sculpture No Comments »
Doris Salcedo. “Untitled" works, 1989-2008, wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

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 »

Portrait of the Artist: Vesna Jovanovic

Artist Profiles, Gold Coast/Old Town No Comments »
Vesna Jovanovic. "Spinal Cord Stimulator."

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 »

Web Exclusive Interview: Naomi Beckwith in Conversation about Richard Hunt

Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962 Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

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 »

Eye Exam: A Hard-Won Hunt for the Means to Fly

Galleries & Museums, Gold Coast/Old Town, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt, photographed by Thomas McCormick

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 »

News: Judy Ledgerwood Paintings to Appear on Billboards and Shuttles During Expo

Gold Coast/Old Town, Loop, News etc., Public Art, River North No Comments »
Judy Ledgerwood. "Captiva #2"

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 »

News: Graham Foundation 2014 Grantees Include Nine Chicago Projects

Digital Art, Gold Coast/Old Town, Multimedia, News etc. No Comments »
Adam Schreiber. "Untitled," chromogenic print, 2013

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 »

Review: Meredith Zielke, Yoni Goldstein, Ellen Garvens and Joanne Tilley/International Museum of Surgical Science

Gold Coast/Old Town No Comments »
Meredith Zielke and Yoni Goldstein, from "The Jettisoned"

Meredith Zielke and Yoni Goldstein, from “The Jettisoned”


We all have our visions of medical hell that grow out of traumatic childhood memories that we would rather forget, but that haunt us throughout our lives. Meredith Zielke and Yoni Godstein have unsparingly confronted their painful pasts, merging them in a set of color photographic scenarios taken in a dark and dank derelict Chicago soap factory, that they have combined in a slow-motion video loop, which should not be seen by the faint hearted or overly sensitive. Reminiscent of a latter-day Hieronymus Bosch deploying real people, Zielke and Goldstein populate their tableaux with dense arrays of subjects administering, suffering and observing various disconnected procedures featuring tubes and seeping fluids in decidedly less-than-antiseptic settings. The artists propose to offer the “possibility of abject recognition,” and their work definitely delivers on that promise. They perform the service of alerting us to the underside of life if we are strong enough to tolerate their harsh visual medicine, which is never palliative. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Thomas Demand/Graham Foundation

Gold Coast/Old Town, Photography No Comments »

PH1998_0014_176_DFor nearly two decades, German artist Thomas Demand has explored the divergence of truth and appearance in a provocative series of photographs that depict familiar interior spaces meticulously reconstructed. Simultaneously recalling the unreality of a psychedelic experience and the ersatz nature of a television set, these works directly challenge the hegemony of lens-based media as the supreme authority on the depiction of reality.

The current exhibition at the Graham Foundation signals a change in the artist’s scope but not in practice. In “Model Studies,” Demand still presents his customary large-scale photographs of miniature constructions, but they’re no longer solely his handiwork. The starting point is the preparatory modeling of twentieth-century architect John Lautner, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and proponent of Organic Architecture. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alison Carey/International Museum Of Surgical Science

Gold Coast/Old Town, Photography No Comments »


In what is perhaps a cautionary tale, Alison Carey makes dioramas of future landscapes; populates them with organisms, made out of “flesh-like” materials, that have evolved from humanly engineered life-forms, which have taken over the earth; and shoots the set-ups in color. From the perspective of our species, the creatures that have issued from our experiments and have displaced us are not particularly attractive—sinuous, wormlike beings that are hybrids of plants and body parts, and have decidedly raw and sensuous associations. Although Carey assures us that they are “benign, ” she is “unsettled ” by the prospect of fabricated life reproducing itself with abandon. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Richard Pare/Graham Foundation

Gold Coast/Old Town, Photography No Comments »


One of the great neglected achievements of twentieth-century culture was Soviet modernist architecture, which created an alternative to the German-American modernism that envelops us all. We now get a chance to rectify the inattention with Richard Pare’s comprehensive color photographic documentation of the structures that are still standing in “The Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32,” giving us a sense of what our architectural environment might have been had Communism triumphed. The basics of modernism are all present in its Soviet variant—clean lines, curves when called for, interesting layering effects, and an aversion to the ornate. What is not the same? Read the rest of this entry »