Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Eldzier Cortor/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
Eldzier Cortor. "L’Abbatoire I," 1950s, woodblock print

Eldzier Cortor. “L’Abbatoire I,” 1950s,
woodblock print

RECOMMENDED

In recognition of his lifetime achievement, a selection of Eldzier Cortor’s prints are now on display at the Art Institute. The earliest series, “L’abbatoire” (slaughterhouse), 1955-1980, documents the artist’s dismay over the violent politics of Haiti, where he once lived. The “Dance” series, 1978, presents the nubile female form in a kind of decorative pattern that recalls the murals of ancient Crete or Egypt. The “Jewels/Theme” series, 1985, encases those same graceful women in brilliant, sharply cut gemstones. The “Sepia Odalisque” series, 1998, sets them, as sultry pairs, into a Turkish harem. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Hard to See

Digital Art, Drawings, Installation, Loop, Multimedia, Performance No Comments »
Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

By Matt Morris

Seeing is not a solitary activity, and it’s not simple. Perception is first of all dependent on context, not only because the specificities of an experience are ascertained through contrast, but also due to the ways each of our unique acculturations informs how we see. Comprehending visual information then turns out to be a social activity, evidenced most clearly in the debates that arise when we don’t see things the same way. And of course, these turbulent discourses around what is perceived are at the expense of appreciating just how much goes unseen—through suppression, movement beyond our sensory faculties, or systemically strategic elisions in how the seen social is structured. This then is one of the often tacit but urgent responsibilities of visual culture and art: to pressure and interrogate the boundaries of perception, to render the invisible visible. Changing how we see is first perceptual but actually political work, and it’s being done across viral Internet memes, sharp-witted turns in how organizations understand multicultural diversity, and artistic research into invisibility. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Alison Ruttan

Artist Profiles, Ceramics, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Alison Ruttan in her installation "A Line in the Sand," at the Chicago Cultural Center

Alison Ruttan in her installation “A Line in the Sand,” at the Chicago Cultural Center

“My husband says the FBI knows what I’m doing because I have a heat signature constantly going,” chuckles artist Alison Ruttan as she leads me into the basement of her cozy Oak Park home. We pass from her living room lined with artworks by Ruttan’s husband Scott Stack and neighbor Sabina Ott into a series of chamber-like rooms with low ceilings and cement floors, all brimming with remnants of unused pieces from “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” which occupies the Cultural Center’s three Michigan Avenue galleries. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Generative Bodies and Subverted Norms

Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia No Comments »
Jesús Rafael Soto.  "Pénétrable de Chicago," 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.

Jesús Rafael Soto. “Pénétrable de Chicago,” 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.

By Matt Morris

Friends of mine are used to me bristling against the word “normal,” and many of the art students I teach have opted to avoid it lest they elicit a mini-lecture that questions the production of normalcy as an underlying societal force. At issue is how normative conceptions of being come about in relation to what is deemed abnormal: this could be queer, minority or, as I’m considering here, the production of the category of disability. 2015 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), leaving me with questions of what the art world has done over these decades to not only comply with government-mandated civil rights law but to actively imagine modes of engagement that appreciate differently abled bodies and minds of both art audiences and artists as an opportunity to create new forms of meaningful experience.

In his 2011 essay “Beautiful Progress to Nowhere,” Chicago-based artist, writer and educator Joseph Grigely wonders, “…The arts need disabled people; but it’s not clear what exactly defines this need. Is it because difference is ‘good’? Or is it because the experience disables those who interact with us, thereby rewriting the tacit rules by which we share space together?”

Perhaps innovations in how art can be a place of interaction for low and non-sighted individuals, those who are deaf, people with special needs for mobility and other perhaps difficult to predict differences in bodies stresses the incommensurability of shared experiences in art: it’s not the same for any of us, no matter what shared abilities we might have. I spoke with Dr. Carrie Sandahl, head of the Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities at UIC, “Everybody can get some experience of the artwork with their own history and apparatus, but it doesn’t have to match. Why do we think that it’s ever going to match? Audiences are going to bring different things.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Art Institute Appoints Rebecca Long as Curator of Italian and Spanish Art

Galleries & Museums, Loop, Michigan Avenue, News etc. No Comments »
Rebecca Long, the Art Institute's newly appointed Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan associate curator in the department of medieval to modern European painting and sculpture

Rebecca Long, the Art Institute’s newly appointed Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan associate curator in the department of medieval to modern European painting and sculpture

In early January, The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) announced that Rebecca Long has been appointed as their new Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan associate curator in the department of medieval to modern European painting and sculpture. Long, who was associate curator of European painting and sculpture before 1800 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) for the last six years prior to her new appointment, will be responsible for Italian and Spanish painting and sculpture before 1750 at AIC and will assume her position on February 27.

In the midst of moving to Chicago, Long writes via email, “I’m eagerly looking forward to working with such an amazing collection, to everything from research and gallery installation projects to thinking about creative and meaningful ways to expand the collection in order to broaden and augment its already formidable strengths. I’m also excited about joining the Art Institute’s efforts to reach a broad public and to give visitors a range of possible means of experiencing and learning from collections, exhibitions, and programs.” Long also humbly expresses her gratitude for all that she learned at IMA, articulating that the highlight for her was working with “Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World,” an exhibition she was involved with when she first came to IMA as a research fellow. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rafael E. Vera/A+D Gallery

Installation, Loop, Sculpture 1 Comment »
Rafael E. Vera. "Hold," 2015 pine, hand truck, glass, ratchet strap, mirror Photo Credit: April Alonso

Rafael E. Vera. “Hold,” 2015
pine, hand truck, glass, ratchet strap, mirror
Photo Credit: April Alonso

RECOMMENDED

In “The Moments Between,” Rafael E. Vera presents new work constructed with industrial materials such as concrete, cinder blocks, rebar, hooks and straps—rough stuffs that are intended for extensive use at the mercy of calloused hands. Taking substances that typically connote durable exteriors, Vera has erected pieces that read as scenes found in a domestic landscape. In a piece entitled “Heavy Conversation,” Vera has fabricated two chairs out of poplar. Their blond wood and lack of stylistic references transcend the several feet between them with an emotionless, blank stare. Sprawled out and stretching over both seats, a large concrete bar snoozes atop two soft pillows—a heavy head finds rest in an unconventional cradle. Next to the chairs rises a wall that is painted a light shade of “office green,” providing a domestic backdrop for an otherwise industrial colored palette. Read the rest of this entry »

News: DCASE Hosts REVIVAL over Four Nights Pritzker Pavilion

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Performance, Public Art No Comments »
Documentation from REVIVAL 2013

Documentation from REVIVAL 2013

Tomorrow night is the start of “REVIVAL 2015: Source Evolution,” four evenings of interactive performance experience at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion Stage at Millennium Park, located at 201 East Randolph as part of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ (DCASE) OnEdge performance series. REVIVAL has received a two-week residency at the Pavilion during which collaborators Eric Hoff and Jesse Young present a line of exploration for their artists and attendees to consider: “We can go back home. Can we go forward home?” 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 »

Review: James Ensor/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
James Ensor. "The Temptation of Saint Anthony," 1887

James Ensor. “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887

RECOMMENDED

James Ensor’s six-foot-tall drawing “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887, is the exhibition’s thematic and physical centerpiece, set like an altarpiece at the end of a dark, chapel-like corridor. It’s a dense tangle of scary figures and texts, and a teeming universe of references to the artist’s life. The Art Institute wisely bought it in 2006; it hasn’t been shown in sixty years. Composed of fifty-one separate sheets mounted on canvas, it’s a conservation triumph. Stylistically, it’s a cross between Northern Renaissance art and the cramped doodles of underground comics. Indeed, Ensor’s drawing-based art was expressed in almost every two-dimensional media, including the then-new manufactured color pencils. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Museum of Contemporary Photography Now Accepting Submissions for Third Year of Snider Prize

Loop, News etc., Photography No Comments »
Hyounsang Yoo. "The Celebration," 2013

Hyounsang Yoo. “The Celebration,” 2013

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) has begun accepting submissions for the third iteration of the Snider Prize. Sponsored by MoCP patrons Lawrence K. and Maxine Snider, the Snider Prize is a purchase award given to emerging artists who are on the cusp of leaving graduate school and is open to MFA students who are currently in their final year of study at an accredited program in the US. One artist is awarded a sum of $2,000, the funds of which will be used toward purchasing pieces of work that will be supplemented to MoCP’s permanent collection. Additionally, two honorable mentions will receive $500 each. Submissions for the 2015 Snider Prize will be accepted from January 15 through April 1, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »