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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By Jason Foumberg
“That’s what I would call the cheapening of celebrity,” said Catherine Walsh, SVP of global marketing at Coty perfumery, on the hurried release of B-list celebrity perfumes this shopping season, in the New York Times. The artist duo Industry of the Ordinary would likely agree, but might extend the condemnation across the board, to all celebrity products. “Celebrity and the Peculiar” is their room-sized artwork that offers samples of celebrity fetish fragrances in smell tents. By luck, “Celebrity and the Peculiar” is on view concurrently with “The Art of Scent, 1889-2012″ at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan.
Certainly there’s something in the air. But what? I poked my nose in the celebrity smell tents to find out. Here are my reviews of the scents in “Celebrity and the Peculiar.” Read the rest of this entry »
Allen Ruppersberg, “No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R ‘n’ R”
First-generation and L.A. conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg stands apart from his contemporaries for his greater involvement with everyday life and performance. Whereas Ed Ruscha surveyed the Sunset Strip in photographs, Ruppersberg opened “Al’s Grand Hotel” on Sunset Boulevard, a performance hotel that hosted guests in absurdly decorated rooms.
“No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R ‘n’ R,” an expansive new artwork at the Art Institute of Chicago, continues Ruppersberg’s established practice of presenting culture by way of its advertising and visual materials. The installation in the Modern Wing’s photography galleries takes on the history of rock music (the title’s “R ‘n’ R”) from its birth to its death (the “B” and “D”). Ruppersberg selected, scanned and laminated rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia, including musicians’ obituaries, album covers, and snapshots. The mementos hang on brightly colored pegboards, reminiscent of a fan-club headquarters, while a black leather couch and music on the speakers invite viewers to follow the Rolling Stones’ advice to get “lost in your rock ‘n’ roll.” Yet something hinders; visitors behave in typical museum mode, quietly contemplating and plainly observing the presented materials. Read the rest of this entry »
“Home: Public or Private?” at 6018NORTH is an exhibition built on a foundation of familiar dichotomies—public versus private, interior versus exterior, domestic versus social, sterility versus decrepitude, vacancy versus occupation, and bareness versus accumulation. Organized by Tricia Van Eck, the exhibition integrates installation and performance work by twenty-seven artists within an unkempt turn-of-the-century historic Edgewater mansion. Each artist has claimed territory on the property to occupy and respond, broadly, to their own dispositions regarding the home as a space at once private and public. While the prompt yielded divergent projects addressing domesticity, democracy, voyeurism and the history of the site itself, the momentum of this exhibition is found in Van Eck’s unostentatious framing of installations and performances within the remaining architectural idiosyncrasies of the mansion’s interior spaces, and in fleshing out the disrepaired skeletal structure of the mansion. Read the rest of this entry »
Transforming six El cars into interactive art installations, the annual mobile pop-up exhibition “Art on Track” turned the scramble to find a spot on the train into an elaborate game of musical chairs, wherein rushing from car to car was both part of the fun and the project’s prime hazard. This year’s fare included an ambient summer-camp-themed installation starring a giant Lite-Brite sunset, a walk-in cabinet of curiosities complete with palm reader, and a live fashion shoot. More like perambulatory theater-meets-theme-party than site-specific contemporary art, the scenes in each car read like tableaux vivants, plopped into the train without rhyme or reason—not exactly a bad thing, since any imaginative modification to the Blue Line’s scummy, droll interior counts as an improvement. However, given the countless examples of riveting site-reflexive art that, by definition, respond to the specifics of a certain place, exploiting its inherent characteristics rather than taking them for granted, “Art on Track” had a lot of unrealized potential. In fact, some of the most interesting parts of the whole experience, so ripe for further investigation, like the uncanny feeling of traveling to no particular destination, were mere accessories, or even hindrances, to the actual work. Read the rest of this entry »
A white hammock and a black metal bed frame occupy much of the space inside The Franklin, a backyard artist-run gallery in East Garfield Park. Like the diagonal plywood cutouts of the gallery’s walls, and the hanging mini blinds there, the hammock’s netting perforates the space. Inside the hammock lays a chrome ashtray, stacked on an oval mirror, stacked on a framed portrait.
Alberto Aguilar’s site-specific installation, titled “(In) Between Out,” plays with spatial layering and the personal histories of found objects. Mirrors, hanging lights, cacti, a wire shopping basket, a black pineapple, and more—some brought to the space by Aguilar and some pulled from the home of the proprietors of The Franklin, whose backyard houses it. A few feet away, an artificial tree in a concrete planter left by The Franklin’s former resident artist, Rafael Vera, further pushes the inside/outside motif, and emphasizes Aguilar’s interest in personal networks, collaboration and play. Read the rest of this entry »
Cauleen Smith, film still from “Nicolai and Regina Series 01″
Cauleen Smith’s solo show at the MCA is the best contemporary art exhibition in Chicago this summer. While watching her short videos, which feature Chicago cityscapes and local musicians, I easily mistook Smith as a Chicago-based artist. I’m used to seeing only Chicago artists mine the city’s cultural history with such deeply personal insights. In fact Smith lives and teaches in San Diego, and has spent considerable time in Chicago doing research on local music history, facilitated by Threewalls in 2010 and a Black Metropolis Research Consortium grant in 2011. The fruit of her Chicago residency is a series of new videos and a multimedia installation that waken civic pride. Before the MCA exhibition closes in mid-September, Smith will open a solo show at Threewalls, a spot usually reserved for Midwestern artists. Read the rest of this entry »
“Werner Herzog Bear” (photo: Tom Van Eynde)
By Jason Foumberg
With the Chicago Cultural Center’s programming in transition, artists and their audiences mourn some of the disappearing services as the city struggles to redefine its official stance on the visual arts in relation to tourism and commerce. Early on the city evicted a ground-floor gift shop from the Cultural Center, along with most of the respected visual arts staff. With the re-installment of longtime curator Lanny Silverman, the gift shop, too, has undergone some rehabbing into a mock souvenir shop. Named The People’s Palace’s Gift Shop, the life-size diorama created by Zachary Cahill playfully mixes cultural metaphors to draw uncomfortable parallels between capitalist and communist economies. “Yes, we’re open, come in,” announces a pink neon sign at the entrance, but the mock shop is otherwise confrontational and uninviting, having been besieged by economic catastrophe and slash-happy bears. The exhibition team boldly commissioned Cahill to layer confusion upon absurdity as a commentary on the Cultural Center’s mess of affairs, thereby holding up a mirror to its own painful transformation. Read the rest of this entry »