Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Two Rules of Bad Mixtapes

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Installation view of "Pop Art Design" at the MCA Chicago. /Photo: Nathan Keay.

Installation view of “Pop Art Design” at the MCA Chicago/Photo: Nathan Keay

By Ruslana Lichtzier

I enjoy thinking about the structure of the museum as a mixtape. Within an expanded taste, different exhibitions are organized with loose connections in an evolving tempo, hopefully with a mutual understanding regarding the role of the institution. Back in the day, mixtapes were a tool of courting; in making one, the mixtape-maker demonstrated how cool they were, how broad, complex, versatile and surprising was their taste. The danger was, and still is, in them exposing themselves as being…well, not cool.

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Review: The Greeks/Field Museum

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Bust of Alexander the Great. /Photo: Archaeological Museum of Pella.

Bust of Alexander the Great/Photo: Archaeological Museum of Pella


“This exhibition is not your typical art-historical display of pretty vases and statues,” states curator William Parkinson. “It gives the visitor an opportunity to see the evolution of Greek culture, politics and economics over the long-term.” Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: William J. O’Brien

Artist Profiles, Ceramics, Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Lincoln Park, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »

Portrait of William J. O’Brien in his studio, circa, 2013. /Photo: Robert Chase Heishman.

Weaving his way gracefully around shelves brimming with colorful sculptures and past an in-progress colored pencil drawing tacked onto the wall, William J. O’Brien guides me into the ceramics section of his large, ground-floor studio. The room smells of clay and incense, and three large tables are packed with drying clay bodies draped in fogged plastic. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Art and Faith of the Crèche/Loyola Museum of Art

Ceramics, Craft Work, Galleries & Museums, Gold Coast/Old Town, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Photos of the Creche sculptures and/or figurines in the LUMA Creche exhibit. (Photo by Mark Patton)

Rachel Quinn. “Ireland (Sligo),” 2010 /Photo: Loyola University Chicago, Mark Patton


The crèche—a display of figures portraying the Nativity, Christ’s birth—is a common holiday feature across cultures, as “Art and Faith of the Crèche: The Collection of James and Emilia Govan” shows. A LUMA tradition for the past eight years, this year’s exhibition reveals the Govan family’s vast crèche collection from around the world, including a gallery devoted to crèches from Latin America. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Political Clay/Chicago Ceramic Center

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Margaret Israel. Untitled, undated. Earthenware.

Margaret Israel. Untitled, undated. Earthenware.


As one might have predicted, the attitudes promoted in this exhibit are politically correct, projecting an exhausted despair concerning the fate of civilization and the planet. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: John Knight/Art Institute of Chicago

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John Knight, "Plate #28," from "Museotypes" series, 1983.

John Knight, “Plate #28,” from “Museotypes” series, 1983.


To mark the Renaissance Society’s centennial, the Art Institute installed John Knight’s “Museotypes,” a series of sixty commemorative plates ostensibly honoring the museum. Hung in three stacked rows of twenty each, each gold-rimmed bone-china plate (the hue is just warmer than gallery white) sports the silhouetted footprint of a high-caliber museum in black glaze. Altogether, the abstract similarity shared by the graphics condenses art-housing architecture into minimalist logos that are less salable than museum facades, but no worse at making an icon of an institution. Read the rest of this entry »

International Dispatch: Disproving Silence at the 2015 Istanbul Biennial

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Ceramics, Collage, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Public Art, Sculpture, Street Art, Textiles, Video No Comments »
Theaster Gates. "The Anthem of Mu," 2015. Performance on the Bosphorus for "Saltwater: A Theory of Forms." /Photo: Mehmet Girgin.

Theaster Gates. “The Anthem of Mu,” 2015.
Performance on the Bosphorus for “Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms”/Photo: Mehmet Girgin

By Mariam Al Askari

“Guglielmo Marconi said every sound we ever make is still out there. Once generated, it fades but never dies away completely.” This idea not only encapsulates the work by Susan Philipsz for which it was written—the work features sounds of dripping water and underwater beacons—but also the 2015 Istanbul Biennial as a whole, which features countless artists and other collaborators, several of which hail from Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: LUMA at 10: Greatest Hits/Loyola University Museum of Art

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"LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits, "Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and "Paranirvana (Self Portrait)" by Lewis deSoto. / Photo: Loyola University Chicago.

“LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits,” Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and “Paranirvana (Self Portrait)” by Lewis deSoto./Photo: Loyola University Chicago


Religion is often the apparent culprit in today’s war-torn world, so an exhibition with a spiritual undertone may seem unnerving. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rodrigo Lara Zendejas/National Museum of Mexican Art

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Rodrigo Lara Zendejas, "Deportable Aliens," 2015.

Rodrigo Lara Zendejas. “Installation components / componentes de la instalación,” 2015. Ceramic, 24 x12 x12 inches each, photo: Michael Tropea.


This modest exhibition of new, site-specific work by Mexican artist Rodrigo Lara Zendejas brings to light a shameful and little known piece of United States history. From 1929 to 1939, the federal government authorized the repatriation of nearly one million people of Mexican descent because these so-called freeloading, disease-ridden, illiterate people were taking away “American jobs for real Americans,” as President Hoover’s campaign slogan stated. Mexicans, who comprised the largest immigrant population at the time, were understood to be a particularly potent threat during the inordinate economic hardship of the Great Depression. Zendejas’ counter-memorials evoke this time. His sculpted traces of human likeness on thumb-shaped objects and a sculptural interpretation of an identification card help us face this dark past and understand its legacy in the present.

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Review: Cyrus Tang Hall of China/Field Museum of Natural History

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Statue of Wei Tuo/The Field Museum


Museums such as the Field face significant challenges in their efforts to liven up old collections while accounting for significant developments in historical and anthropological scholarship. The 9,000 square feet of exhibition space in the newly opened Cyrus Tang Hall of China is entertaining enough to captivate visitors of all ages, but it can only provide a cursory introduction to 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, though a much more serious and informative story about earth and its creatures might be told online, where there is infinite space for interactive audios, visuals and texts. Read the rest of this entry »