Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Archibald Motley/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Painting No Comments »
Archibald J. Motley Jr. "Hot Rhythm," 1961 oil on canvas, 40" x 48.375"

Archibald J. Motley Jr. “Hot Rhythm,” 1961
oil on canvas, 40″ x 48.375″

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American life continues to be dominated by friction between its European and African diasporas. Possibly no American artist has been as immersed in that unfolding drama as Archibald Motley (1891-1981), among the first African Americans to address that theme with a thorough training in European pictorial space. As suggested by the thousand-mile-stare in his two self-portraits, wariness is the key to his response. He was too dark for the boardrooms of middle-class America, too well educated for the streets of Bronzeville, and too concerned with African-American identity for trendy galleries of modernist art. So he was probably uncomfortable in every public setting—except the dance halls in Jazz Age Harlem where urban sophisticates of all backgrounds mingled. His visualization of that world is ecstatic. It is also masterful, in both narrative and design, comparing well with the dance halls depicted by Renoir, Lautrec and Picasso, but with a greater emphasis on the congenial interaction between characters. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: If the Lions Aren’t Cowardly, Who Is?

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Charl Landvreugd. "Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe," 2014 archival inkjet print

Charl Landvreugd. “Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe,” 2014
archival inkjet print

By Matt Morris

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) is presently host to a fashion parade poised in lithe contestation of dominant racist portrayals of the contemporary urban black man as a streetwise predator, marked as such by codes of dress that lie between stereotypes of gangster, pimp and deadbeat. Enter the “Dandy Lion,” a cultural phenomenon curator Shantrelle P. Lewis here examines as a counterpoint to the sagging cliché. A fetish for fine tailoring, nostalgic forms of menswear interpreted through the performances and rituals of dress found variously in African cultures, an elegant, highly crafted self-image, and adept showmanship: these are among a dandy lion’s hallmarks. As Lewis notes in her curator’s statement, “[T]he African Diasporan dandy cleverly manipulates clothing and attitude to exert his agency rather than succumb to the limited ideals placed on him by society. He performs identity. Most importantly, an integral part of this rebellion entails posing before a camera.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Irving Stenn Jr. Gifts Personal Collection of 105 Drawings to Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Loop, Michigan Avenue, News etc. No Comments »
Ken Price. "Green Rock Cup," 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.

Ken Price. “Green Rock Cup,” 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.

The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) recently announced collector Irving Stenn Jr.’s gift of 105 pivotal contemporary drawings by renowned artists. Considered to be one of the most significant contributions of drawings to have ever been given to the museum, the encompassing and vast body of work heavily focuses on works from the 1960s, to which Stenn was keenly attracted. The gifts were exhibited a couple years ago at AIC but will now be part of their permanent collection, put on display on occasion when their inclusion is appropriate to the exhibitions. When asked in a phone interview about why he decided to donate the drawings now, Stenn says, “The timing seems right, the Art Institute of Chicago is wonderful, and these drawings belong in the public hand.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Inaugural Lake FX Summit + Expo – April 16-19

Art Fairs, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, News etc. No Comments »
Throughout Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, from 10am-4pm the Lake FX Expo at the Chicago Cultural Center will connect Chicago's creative community to the resources that can advance their career. Participants like Kickstarter, Inventables, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Kartemquin Films, Links Hall, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Fractured Atlas and others will be available in a trade show format for discussion with Expo visitors.

Throughout Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, from 10am-4pm the Lake FX Expo at the Chicago Cultural Center will connect Chicago’s creative community to the resources that can advance their career. Participants like Kickstarter, Inventables, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Kartemquin Films, Links Hall, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Fractured Atlas and others will be available in a trade show format for discussion with Expo visitors.

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), an organization committed to bettering Chicago’s arts and culture, recently announced its full schedule for the inaugural Lake FX Summit + Expo, presented by Google and co-produced by CIMMfest and The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter, along with a host of sponsors. Geared toward artists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs, this free, four-day conference begins on April 16. It will include professional development panels, workshops, keynotes by industry leaders and a resource fair at the Chicago Cultural Center and various locations around the city. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »