Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014
Lucy McKenzie’s largest American exhibition to date unravels like a postmodern mystery novel. The show begins outside of the gallery, where the artist has taken advantage of the floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the Griffin Courtyard of the Modern Wing to construct a window display befitting State Street’s finest stores. A female mannequin in a gymnast suit sits on a glass-topped steel table as mechanized signs whir whimsically beneath a hand-painted title bearing the artist’s signature as if it were a venerable house of fashion. Once inside, the focus becomes painting, though one recalls that Warhol and Rauschenberg dressed department-store windows too. Four floor-to-ceiling panels display massive Tiffany-esque motifs of glowing skies and turbulent clouds drifting behind screens of leafy branches. The pictures within each are oddly cropped to describe the contours of the walls and ceiling of a fictional bar in an imaginary film in which these panels would hang as trompe l’oeil scenery. Indeed, McKenzie has trained in antiquated techniques of decorative painting, which include hyper-realistic depictions of landscape and still life meant to fool the eye in to perceiving representation as reality.
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Installation view of Sabina Ott’s “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center
Sabina Ott’s site-specific installation “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center intersperses highbrow with lowbrow sensibilities as a means of contemplating value. Spanning three rooms, each gallery is named after the levels Dante travels in the epic poem “The Divine Comedy.” Ott visualizes the work of Dante and a bibliography of vetted literary greats in an indulgent paean to manmade synthetics, vulgar taste and a preference for the saccharinely artificial. Conventions of value assignment are reconsidered therein. Each artwork is named after lines from Gertrude Stein’s writing, and the stream-of-consciousness, choppy build-up in Stein’s syntax plays similarly as Ott’s glut of attractive material accumulations.
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Alexandria Eregbu’s performance “Father’s Heart,” 2013/Photo: Noah Krell
Last week the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and The Joyce Foundation announced the two curators and six artists who have been selected for the inaugural year of the DCASE Studio Artist and Curatorial Residency Awards at the Chicago Cultural Center (CCC). For the 2014-2015 year, Allison Glenn and Ross Jordan have been selected as curatorial fellows. The selected artists will be provided three-month residencies. The schedule of artist residencies is as follows: Alexandria Eregbu (October-December 2014); Adebukola Bodunrin, Mahwish Chishty and Faheem Majeed in collaboration with Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford (January-April 2015); Cecil McDonald and Cheryl Pope (May-August 2015).
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Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles,” 1980, printed 2012
The Art Institute of Chicago has embarked on a nine-month celebration titled “Photography Is_________,” commemorating the department of photography’s establishment in 1974. Sarah Charlesworth, who figured among the Pictures Generation of artists, appropriated photos from newspapers that documented people falling from tall buildings. The resulting images meld photojournalistic and fine art photography techniques, creating conceptual documentations of a moment laced with kinetic energy. Measuring over six feet tall, these compositions show mortality tinged with an intense sense of freedom. These are people jumping or falling to their deaths, some showing momentum and violence, while others look serene as these active moments transform into portraits. Read the rest of this entry »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.
The story of Renaissance painting begins with innovations in naturalism that were a welcome liberation from the schematic strictures of the Byzantine style. Or at least, that’s how the leading art historians of the last century, like Ernst Gombrich, told it. Perhaps that’s why this is the first special exhibition devoted exclusively to Byzantine art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 124 years. But as this exhibition proves, the best Byzantine figurative art in painting, sculpture and mosaic was no less fresh, expressive and exciting than subsequent art periods are known to be. Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view with “Publishing Clearing House” by Temporary Services
“A Proximity of Consciousness” inaugurates SAIC’s season of lectures, book releases and a symposium dedicated to the art of affecting social change. The exhibition is curated by Mary Jane Jacob and Kate Zeller and showcases new works by a powerhouse roster including Michael Rakowitz, Pablo Helguera, James Duignan, J. Morgan Puett, Paul Durica, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Dan Peterman, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Temporary Services, Rirkrit Tiravanija and many more collaborators. Read the rest of this entry »
Matthew Haussler at work on his attempt to break the world record for longest hand-drawn maze
“I brought my daughter to this room once and she spent five minutes looking at the ceiling, walking around,” says Matthew Haussler about the Cultural Center lobby. “Those are the things most adults don’t notice.” Haussler brought me here to admire the patterned coffers, not unlike the lines within his own work. Months ago he wouldn’t have believed mazes could provide a source of income, let alone that he would gun for the record of the longest hand-drawn maze. With two books of mazes just published by MindWare, and another collection of Chicago mazes funded on Kickstarter, the Cincinnati native has been busy developing his craft. Read the rest of this entry »
Helen Maurene Cooper. “Untitled #2,” 2014, archival pigment print
Having gained attention for her lush and exquisitely beautiful color studies of nail art, which both document the extravagant and elegant ways in which some people adorn their nails, and place those works of body art against luscious soft and liquid backgrounds, Helen Maurene Cooper now shows herself to be a versatile photographer who is at home in several diverse genres in her exhibition “Raiment in Horto.” Along with two of the nail shots, Cooper’s early survey of her artistic output offers formal color portraits of pit-bull dogs (they are quite cute), diptychs pairing murky miniature tintype portraits of drag queens (who have pulled off looking like young women) and still lifes of rough flowers in vases, and dynamic black-and-white street photos of sidewalk performances. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel,” Los Angeles, 1980, printed 2012, No. 14 of 14 from the series Stills.
Programming across the city set to coincide with Expo Chicago began on Wednesday with rooftop parties, previews and lectures. Speaking to a near-capacity crowd at the Art Institute of Chicago’s stately Fullerton Hall, artists Liz Deschenes, Laurie Simmons and Sara VanDerBeek were joined by activist Kate Linker Wednesday evening for a wide-ranging discussion of the life and work of the late photographer Sarah Charlesworth in conjunction with the opening of “Stills,” the artist’s first solo museum show in fifteen years. Read the rest of this entry »
Ai Weiwei. “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” installed at the Adler Planetarium. Photo Credit: Natalia Salazar / Chicago Park District
The third year of The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art (EXPO) is upon us. There is much to be seen this weekend both on and off the Pier, but no one can do it all. (I had a hard time even getting through the encyclopedic press materials in a timely manner.) So strap on your sensible shoes, paint your face like Ziggy Stardust, and keep your eyes peeled for Shaq; here are my recommendations, must-sees and predictions for what’s most likely to elicit schadenfreude.
Tickets are $20 for a one-day pass or $30 for the weekend. The fair is open 11am-7pm Friday and Saturday and 11am-6pm Sunday. Unless otherwise noted, all events are taking place at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall (600 East Grand). Read the rest of this entry »