Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

Review: Lucy McKenzie/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Painting, Video No Comments »
Lucy McKenzie. "Quodlibet XXXII," 2014

Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014

RECOMMENDED

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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Review: Sabina Ott/Chicago Cultural Center

Installation, Loop, Multimedia No Comments »
Installation view of Sabina Ott's “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

Installation view of Sabina Ott’s “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

RECOMMENDED

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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News: Chicago Cultural Center Inaugural Artist and Curatorial Residencies Announced [UPDATED]

Loop, News etc. No Comments »
Alexandria Eregbu's performance "Father's Heart," 2013. Photo by Noah Krell.

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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Review: Sarah Charlesworth/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Photography No Comments »
Sarah Charlesworth. "Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles," 1980, printed 2012

Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles,” 1980, printed 2012

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture 1 Comment »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: A Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action/Sullivan Galleries

Activist Art, Art Schools, Installation, Loop, Performance, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view with "Publishing Clearing House" by Temporary Services

Installation view with “Publishing Clearing House” by Temporary Services

RECOMMENDED

“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 »

Portrait of the Artist: Matthew Haussler

Drawings, Loop No Comments »
Matthew Haussler at work on his attempt to break the world record for longest hand drawn maze

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 »