Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Shaker in Chicago/Loyola University Museum of Art

Design, Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture 1 Comment »
A Pine "Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840" from New Lebanon, New York.

A Pine “Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840″ from New Lebanon, New York.

RECOMMENDED

Actually three separate exhibitions, this is altogether the most thorough presentation of Shaker culture ever seen in Chicago. More formally the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing,” the Shakers are the longest continually operating religious utopian community in America. At their height they numbered five thousand across twenty-two communities.

Nearly all the objects seen here were first collected in the 1920s and thirties by a passionate young American couple. But modernism itself owes a huge debt to the ornament-less functionality of Shaker design. “Beauty rests on utility,” is their maxim. Most people think furniture when they think Shaker, and visitors will certainly drool over the many fine pieces on display. Their famous ladder-back chairs—highly functional and quickly made—were the Ikea of their day. A cobbler’s bench has an ergonomic seat along with the patina of abundant use. Particularly charming are the dolls, the child’s rocker (originally priced at $3.25), and all the costume and textiles. But there are strange items here, too, such as an oddly humane adult cradle and an early electrostatic medical device (use unknown). Shaker road signs topped with scriptural warnings addressed trespassers, and fascinating “Gift Drawings” were the calligraphic version of speaking in tongues. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Deadline for Art Institute and Threadless T-shirt Competition March 10

Design, Galleries & Museums, News etc. No Comments »
Salvador Dalí. "City of Drawers," 1936.

Salvador Dalí. “City of Drawers,” 1936.

The first in a series of t-shirt design challenges sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) and the t-shirt company Threadless is quickly drawing to a close, with a March 10 deadline for submissions. When two globally recognized entities like these join forces in the name of art, beautiful things can happen. This is the first in an ongoing series of art-inspired t-shirt design challenges where artists from all over the world have been asked to create a piece of art inspired by the works of the museum and submit their designs. 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: Christie’s to Auction Ruth Horwich’s Collection

Design, News etc., Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Ruth Horwich’s collection of Alexander Calder jewelry to be offered at auction. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Ruth Horwich’s collection of Alexander Calder jewelry to be offered at auction. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and John Chamberlain are a few names from Ruth Horwich’s collection featured in the upcoming First Open sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s in New York on March 6, 2015.

Influential leaders and one of Chicago’s resident power couples, Ruth and her late husband Leonard impacted our region’s art scene not only with loaned and gifted artworks to many of our prominent local institutions—including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Smart Museum of Art—but also as two of MCA’s founders and champions for major public artworks such as Jean Dubuffet’s “Monument with Standing Beast” outside the Thompson Center. Leonard died in 1983, and given Ruth’s death in July 2014, twenty-four pieces from their collection will be offered for sale. An exhibition will precede the auction at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries, from February 28 to March 3, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Arts + Public Life Initiative Seeks Furniture Designs and Community Involvement in New Public Space Project

Design, News etc., Public Art No Comments »
Rendering of the Summer Pavilion at the new public space, courtesy of MAS Studio

Rendering of the Summer Pavilion at the new public space, courtesy of MAS Studio

The University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life (APL) initiative’s call for proposals regarding the design and production of an assemblage of outdoor furniture for their new public space will soon be coming to a close on January 18, 2015. Particular that this will be not so much a park as a more open ended, multi-use site for the neighborhood, the new public space will be in the Washington Park neighborhood located at 265 East Garfield Boulevard. The structure, previously known as the Summer Pavilion located in Millennium Park, was secured by the University of Chicago’s (U of C) Office of Civic Engagement in 2014 by donation and according to the press release, is said to be a main feature of the new public space that is to make its debut in May 2015. The pavilion created by MAS Studio was initially envisioned to be used for installation work and was an outpost for the exhibition “Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Chicago, Europe, and the Great War/Newberry Library

Design, Multimedia, Prints No Comments »
"Neutrality Rag," 1915, monographic, Frank K. Root & Co., Chicago

“Neutrality Rag,” 1915, monographic, Frank K. Root & Co., Chicago

With intriguing visual and printed matter documenting the first global war from a Chicago perspective, the Newberry once again demonstrates how world events played out at home. In this centennial year, most Americans still know woefully little about WWI. Visitors learn that more than a hundred thousand American soldiers died—the U.S. entered late in the war—but millions more in the European countries. Battlefield horrors are not emphasized here. Rather, soldiers’ letters and camp photographs, as well as civic organizations’ pamphlets and broadsides, indicate the vastness of the enterprise. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Milton Glaser’s Dying Planet Now Produced by Chicago Button Makers

Activist Art, Design, Logan Square, News etc. No Comments »

glaser1

At the beginning of August, a striking new environmentalist campaign was launched by Milton Glaser, the indelible graphic designer responsible for such iconic works as the I heart NY logo. The stark new design of a black circle shaded a dimming green across its bottom edge connotes the earth’s present environmental changes and is accompanied by the tagline: “IT’S NOT WARMING, IT’S DYING.” Now the Chicago based Busy Beaver Button Co. has partnered with Glaser to create and widely distribute one-inch buttons of the logo through the website itsnotwarming.com. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Medium Cool Book Fair Returns This Weekend

Art Books, Design, News etc., Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Andrew Holmquist.  Ten books in the conXion box set, offset printed books, 2014

Andrew Holmquist.
Ten books in the conXion box set, offset printed books, 2014

Now in its second year, Chicago’s young art book fair has expanded for its latest iteration this weekend, spread across two days, at two sites, with two different focuses. Founded by designer Ria Roberts, Medium Cool is one of the most recent additions to Chicago’s literati culture of fairs, independent presses and book-minded artist projects. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Chicago Design Museum Opens New Home in the Loop

Design, Loop, News etc. No Comments »
Gallery view of a pop-up exhibition by the Chicago Design Museum

Gallery view of a pop-up exhibition by the Chicago Design Museum

The Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM), an organization that began in Phoenix, Arizona, and evolved when co-founder Tanner Woodford relocated to Chicago, is opening a 5,000-square-foot permanent space on the third floor of the Block Thirty Seven building at 108 North State. For the past two years, ChiDM has held annual exhibitions in pop-up locations that have explored themes like dynamic uses of typography in Chicago’s urban landscape, and the ways that work and play are blurred within design as a professional field. With the opening of a permanent space, they also open their first exhibition of 2014, “Starts/Speculations: Graphic Design in Chicago Past and Future,” which runs from June 12 through September 30.

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Review: Chicago’s Bauhaus Legacy/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Design, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Victor Skrebneski

Victor Skrebneski

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Modernism was about fifty-years-old when Laszlo Moholy-Nagy reconvened the Bauhaus school of design on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1937, but he still was promoting a dynamic, fearless, forward-looking “new vision” for the modern age, a vision that continued through the first decade of that institution as it was reconstituted in 1944 as the Institute of Design. But now, nearly seventy years later, it does feel safely buried in the past, especially in this current exhibition. Organized by the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art together with the Bauhaus Chicago Committee, no attempt has been made at an innovative, provocative design for the exhibit itself. The walls are cluttered with furniture, pictures and photographs, while assorted catalogs, magazines, knick-knacks and jewelry are spread out on long folding tables. It feels more like a flea market than an art museum gallery. It also seems that diversity, rather than quality, was the guiding principle in selection. But, as flea markets go, this is a very good one, including some of the very first covers of Playboy magazine, whose first art director, Art Paul, a graduate of I.D., also designed the Playboy rabbit logo. Read the rest of this entry »