It’s not all that surprising that a man whose work takes jabs at power symbols and the concept of reverence would have the chutzpah to bring live horses into the esteemed Hyde Park Art Center.
Though not present when I visited (they will make scheduled appearances during the show’s run), horses clearly influence Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford’s sprawling, ambitious installation. Throughout human history, horses have enabled human movement, from the physical, moving humans across continents, to the ideological, as culture spread as a byproduct of warfare. Horses also mean dominance. Cities around the world are dotted with statues of Great Men sitting astride their noble mounts, usually erected out of some immutable material like bronze or marble because their significance is meant to be permanent and unchanging. The Chicago-based sculptor spent seven months constructing his meditation on what happens to monuments when the unquestionable greatness they represent crumbles in the face of a society that no longer believes in such a thing. “Hall of Khan” is the result, and it doesn’t disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »
On July 4, 1971, Michael Hart uploaded a text version of the United States Declaration of Independence onto the Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer at the University of Illinois Materials Research Lab. By allowing the shared file to be freely downloaded by any user that logged onto that particular Sigma V—one of fifteen node computers that made up ARPANET, later to become the Internet—Hart unknowingly introduced the first electronic book and heralded its immeasurable effect on how media is read. This effect was truly realized two decades later as affordable image scanners catalyzed the digitization of both text and image. A common flatbed scanner—modified by hand and outfitted to resemble a conventional photographic apparatus—allowed artist John Neff to produce a series of unassuming black-and-white images that make up his solo exhibition at the Renaissance Society. The long exposures travel conduits between a do-it-yourself photographic contraption and a personal computer running consumer-grade software before revealing themselves line-by-line with lateral distortion from glitched data and mechanical idiosyncrasies. Read the rest of this entry »
“Fearsome Fable–Tolerable Truth,” the immersive, double-sided mural that lines the Hyde Park Art Center’s Gallery 4 is really two shows in one. Depending on your mood, you might confront either a smog-laden, fossil-fueled wasteland or a verdant, solar-powered paradise, as the painting’s composite sections can be carefully flipped by hand.
Artist Tom Torluemke conjures these contrary worlds with an abbreviated, just-the-facts style of brushwork consistent with the classic WPA murals that inspired this endeavor. The surfaces aren’t highly refined, but they don’t need to be. Like any mural, a respectable viewing distance yields the best results; imperfections vanish and color and form crackle with life. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
One of the distinguishing features of Chinese poetry is its commemorative function. It often celebrates a social occasion rather than expresses an individual state of mind. Along similar lines, R.H. Quaytman’s enigmatic, and possibly hermetic, restrained formalist paintings at the Renaissance Society honor Susanne Ghez’s forty years as director of this important gallery. In what might be an attempt to observe the prohibitions against painting posed by the discourse of contemporary art history and an institution that has deemed most species of painting to be obsolete or undesirable, Quaytman imposes a set of rules on her practice, structuring her oeuvre—past, present and future—as if it were a book. Each Quaytman exhibition is conceived as a chapter, so she can formulate and control spatial resonances and motifs as they accumulate and are repeated among the paintings in this chapter of the “book.” The subtle formal relationships accumulate meaning during an extended viewing in the gallery. Read the rest of this entry »
Heather Mekkelson, “Ends of Other Ages” (detail)
Before the first line, readers of Virgil’s quintessential epic, the Aeneid, know the foundation of the Roman Empire lies at the end of Aeneas’ quest, allowing them to contemplatively shuffle through the labyrinthine narrative and get lost in its lurid, poetic vignettes without losing track of the story arc. Visiting “Epic Something,” then, is like the first reading; and the search for its ultimate empire from within the works of thirteen artists presents something of a challenging journey. Read the rest of this entry »
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “Divan Japonais,” 1892-93
The mutual influence between French and Japanese printmakers comprises a complex, multi-dimensional set of exchanges that go far beyond the Impressionist period. “Awash in Color,” on view at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, includes several graceful Mary Cassatt aquatints whose emphasis on patterning and faded color display Cassatt’s emulation of Japanese woodblock prints coming into France in the late nineteenth-century. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s lithographic posters, whose spatial relationships and compositions break with Western pictorial traditions, and whose subject matter echo the actors and geishas of ukiyo-e, are accompanied by galleries full of stunning work by less-well-known French printmakers (and well-known artists like Degas and Vuillard) from the period in which a taste for things Japanese was referred to as Japonisme. The exchange of ideas and materials went both ways, however, and one notable import to Japan from the West was a color known as Berlin (or Prussian) blue. It was first synthesized in Germany around 1704, and was used in the 1830s in the famous woodblock landscapes of Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, among others. Aniline dyes derived from coal tar made their way to Japan where their vivid colors, like magenta and emerald green, mark the Meiji Period, which also saw a shift from woodblock printing to the imported industrial techniques of photogravure and lithography. Read the rest of this entry »
Yeesookyung, “Translated Vases,” 2007
Like many Chicagoans (myself included), Richard Born was introduced to Korean art in the blockbuster “5000 Years of Korean Art” exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1980. Thirty-two years later, he has curated a more modest but still eye-catching show of artworks collected by the Smart Museum, mostly over the past decade. Unlike the earlier show, these works are all not national treasures. But still, they’re a good selection of work spanning the past 1,400 years, and a very good opportunity to contemplate just what is specifically Korean in a culture that owes so much to China and gave so much to Japan.
Korea’s connection to Japan has been made especially fascinating. A seventh-century Japanese jar is displayed beside a fifth- to sixth-century Korean jar from the eastern kingdom of Silla that borders the Sea of Japan. An ink-brush painting by a Japanese amateur, the colonial official Yamagato Isaburo (1857-1927), is displayed beside the work of his master, the renowned Korean orchid painter Kim Eung-Won (1855-1921). And the show includes a curious Chinese-style landscape by Yun Yeong-Gu (1852-1939) who seemed to be expressing the desolation that Koreans felt during the Japanese occupation. Read the rest of this entry »
Mark Moleski, “I’ll Get You My Pretty,” acrylic and newsprint on canvas
The Contemporary Arts Council selected Tempestt Hazel to curate their annual exhibition invitational. Hazel runs Sixty Inches from Center, a Chicago-based website that highlights underexposed artists. Both critiquing and extending her online project, the group exhibition, titled “The Tipping Point of Me and We,” centers on the idea that in this era of hyper-globalization and constant connectivity, we’re losing sight of that which makes each of us distinctly human.
This is well-trodden territory, and any exhibition dealing with such themes has to understand the importance of underscoring a unique point-of-view. Because by now, I think we all get it: technology erodes empathy, capitalism is soulless, connection is disconnection, and so on, but in the show, these points never quite seem to resonate as strongly as they could. This is because each piece, considered in isolation, makes its own impact, but taken together they feel as numbing as the digitized, monetized, and globalized culture it critiques. But perhaps that’s the point. Read the rest of this entry »
Entering Ani Afshar’s exhibition, “Woven Gardens, Shredded Shadows,” currently on view at the Hyde Park Art Center, it is impossible to escape an acknowledgement of the history of craft. The selection of weavings on view, ranging in date from the 1980s to the present, demonstrate a telescoped view of Afshar’s vocabulary developed in tandem to her commercial line of functional textile décor and jewelry work, though the works have remained off exhibition for the past three decades in a traditional gallery setting. With an aesthetic that adopts stylistic traits of traditional Western weavings, the various hand-woven cloths that compose Afshar’s earthen-toned landscapes, whose elements are stitched, sewn and beaded together on passages of mohair and silk, speak to invention rather than history. Read the rest of this entry »