Kara Walker, “Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!” (detail), 2013
If brand identity is crucial to the success of the contemporary artist, few have got one as strong as the MacArthur Fellowship recipient Kara Walker. But, nearly two decades on, Walker’s trademark silhouettes and antebellum grotesqueries are showing their age, and the artist, undoubtedly aware she has cut herself into a stylistic corner, has been making strides to broaden her approach to installation.
In her latest work “Rise Up Ye Mighty Race” commissioned specifically for the Art Institute, Walker anchors the show with several mural-scale drawings and a plethora of small, variously framed studies. The signature silhouettes are still present, though play less large a role in this homage to imaginary race war. Read the rest of this entry »
At The Storefront, Erik Wenzel asks us to literally walk all over the sacred pages of Artforum while picturing ourselves simultaneously in Logan Square and Appenzell, Switzerland. In the artwork titled “Appenzeller Landschaft (Appenzeller Landscape),” the artist places his personal collection of magazines, from 1990-something to the fiftieth-anniversary issue (September, 2012), in an arrangement on the floor, tiled backside-up in a Carl Andre-like grid. All of the Artforum back covers display a quaint scene of traditional Swiss life in Appenzell, the hometown of gallerist Bruno Bischofberger, who has been renting the back cover space since the 1980s to advertise the exhibitions at his blue-chip gallery in Zurich. Read the rest of this entry »
Abigail DeVille wages war upon space with all the multifariousness of Rogers Park in her exhibition, titled “XXXXXX.” The gallery’s location in Rogers Park is a stone’s throw from the original delineation between settlers and Native American tribes, and is set amidst the most heterogeneous neighborhood in a city whose dividing lines shine bright enough to be seen from outer space. “XXXXXX” is culled from the detritus of a disparate place, pieces thrown against one another in a display of beautiful violence that evokes both the fury and haunting pulchritude that is the inevitable result of the gnashing, bloody entropy and fornication of so many moving parts; creation is, by definition, a messy process, and DeVille does not shy away from the gore. Read the rest of this entry »
photo by Soohyun Kim
The brass rods shudder as the wind sweeps through the prairie. Steel grasshoppers click in the tall grass. A small mole cricket snaps its wings. And rain falls metallic on black soil.
In the sound installation “Prairie,” currently on exhibit in the Yates Gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center, artist Shawn Decker composes an abstract symphony of microcontrollers, computers, motors and recycled cellphone speakers. Subtle algorithms echo the dynamic movement and rhythm of the Illinois grasslands.
Decker grew up at the end of a dirt road in Western Pennsylvania. He remembers canoeing down the Susquehanna River, camping in the hills of the Allegheny Plateau, and watching the flutter of cardinals and blue jays in the trees outside his window. His artistic practice involves making meticulous tape and phonograph recordings in order to deconstruct rhythmic and spatial patterns of sound. He says, “The algorithms I compose are derived from natural processes. I often use configurations of Brownian motion of particles or fluctuations of 1/f noise to translate and reimagine the sound of leaves falling on the ground or raindrops hitting a blade of grass.” Read the rest of this entry »
A flash of light. You close your eyes. The bright glow lingers for a moment, no longer there, but not yet vanished. The voices of the ninety-nine percent reverberate in the galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art—an afterimage of the tumultuous demonstrations of 2011. “If you are not angry, you are not paying attention.” “You should be here #OccupytheHood.” “Class war ahead.” “This is a universal revolution.” “Wake up.” The cardboard protest signs hang silently on the wall. A museum plaque announces that, if interested, you may check out a sign for the duration of your visit. Please just notify an attendant.
But few people seem to do so.
The protest-sign archive, titled “Phase I/ Live Archive,” is one part of Jason Lazarus’ multimedia solo show at the MCA. Lazarus began “Phase I/ Live Archive” as an artist-in-residence at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Moved by the revolutionary zeal of Occupy Wall Street, the artist invited students to re-create the handmade protest signs. Collecting images from Facebook and Twitter, the participants traced the activist slogans with black marker and spray paint. Read the rest of this entry »
The center of Andrew Norman Wilson’s newest exhibition—or “town,” as he calls it—is its press release, a masterful cultural critique that is a “play” placing the artist at the center of the narrative of the exhibition’s conception to completion. Visitors to the town are faced with a collection of seemingly incongruous elements (including live Gloster canaries, a cat tree, orchids, FedEx boxes, hot dogs, baseball cards, bottled water, televisions, and two hired interns hawking bootlegged Ashton Kutcher movies in North Face) that parody the chaotic randomness of corporate branding and PR language. Read the rest of this entry »
Chris Jordan, from “Midway Message from the Gyre,” 2009–2010
A gamut of environmentalist photography cataloging the depredations that our species has wrought on planet Earth is on display here, ranging from Terry Evans’ series that make destruction look seductively appealing (usually not the shooter ’s intent), through images that aestheticize spoliation with a disturbing undercurrent, to outright assaults on the eye that leave us in no doubt that we are witnessing something awful. Of the seven practiced artists here, working predominantly in color and in different corners of the world, only Chris Jordan dares to lacerate our sensibilities to the max, with his series, from the Pacific Midway Atoll, depicting dead albatrosses, their guts open revealing a mess of plastic garbage that they have snarfed up in their quest for a meal. Read the rest of this entry »
Do you remember the enormous mural with orange letters on plywood that spelled out “You are beautiful” on State Street? It ran along Block 37, Randolph to Washington, from 2006 to 2009. The installation, along with new pieces displaying the same, now iconic, slogan has moved inside to the Green Exchange. Throughout the month of February, “As you are: A Decade of You Are Beautiful” will imbue the raw spaces of the West Diversey office building with its optimistic mantra in a retrospective collection of works by numerous artists, including Matthew Hoffman, Nick Adam and Chris Silva.
The movement began in 2002 when Matthew Hoffman shared 100 You Are Beautiful stickers among friends. Requests for more stickers started flowing in, and a decade later half a million stickers have traveled around the globe. The message went from stickers to murals, to public installations and exhibitions here and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »
“Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden III,” Faheem Majeed’s contribution to the Industry of the Ordinary’s collaborative exhibition, uncovers a significant artifact of Chicago art history. Majeed presents a striking but deteriorating mural by Bill Walker from the 1960s, titled “Hate and Confrontation,” and contributes a set of bleachers made from repurposed cedar boards from which to survey the work.
Bill Walker worked from the 1960s until the eighties and has murals all over the South Side. Many have been destroyed but several have been restored. Walker was an ordinary man who worked in the post office yet did what we might call extraordinary things. He founded the Organization for Black American Culture and participated in the founding of the Chicago Public Art Group. The wall-sized graphic mural depicts a series of receding black profiles lit by the harsh light of anger, recalling representational work by Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett and Margaret Burroughs. It is a stirring, authentic expression of an African-American artist’s direct, untheorized engagement with the turmoil of race relations in Chicago, a fragment of social and overlooked aesthetic history, which does not seem at all ordinary. Read the rest of this entry »
“Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White” is like a room full of brilliant introverts: the party doesn’t get interesting until each is engaged on its own terms. The premise is simple: all artworks contain black, white or both, in MCA curator Naomi Beckwith’s first thematic exhibition culled from the museum’s permanent collection. It seems the guests at this gathering don’t have much to talk about beyond the black-tie dress code. Segregated are the sociological-minded artists—Adrian Piper and Kerry James Marshall—from the aestheticians—Robert Ryman and Ad Reinhardt.
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