Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Julie Green/Block Museum of Art

Activist Art, Ceramics, Evanston, Installation No Comments »
Julie Green. "The Last Supper," 2000-ongoing. Installation view of 357 plates in the 2009 exhibition "Counter Intelligence," California State University, Los Angeles.

Julie Green. “The Last Supper,” 2000-ongoing. Installation view of 357 plates in the 2009 exhibition “Counter Intelligence,” California State University, Los Angeles.


From a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, to the sentencing of Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death, our flawed criminal justice system is ever present in our lives. Julie Green’s set of 600 plates illustrating the final meals of U.S. death row inmates helps us remember the human lives behind the news. Read the rest of this entry »

This City of Turmoil: An Interview with Ingrid LaFleur of AFROTOPIA About Her Detroit

Activist Art, Art Books, Installation, Performance No Comments »
Ingrid LaFleur of Afrotopia

Ingrid LaFleur of Afrotopia

By Allison Glenn

Can you talk a bit more about the Detroit you experienced as an adolescent and young adult, and how this Detroit may or may not have shifted?
I call the years of my youth the “Golden Era” of Detroit. Blackness was a norm. No matter where you went, we were the majority and as a result being black was a beautiful enjoyable experience. It was a sort of paradise that I yearn for now.

My parents were collectors of contemporary art. My life growing up was filled with trips to the DIA [Detroit Institute of Arts] for art classes and mystery walks. My father frequently took me to Cranbrook where they showed all the edgy contemporary work. He loved buying work from local Detroit artists; grad shows at the College for Creative Studies and emerging mid-career artists from the African diaspora. Read the rest of this entry »

Point of Origin: Mapping the Arts in Detroit

Architecture, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Performance, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Olayami Dabls, N'Kisi House, 2007, wood, glass, tile, bricks, paint, MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit, MI. Photo credit: Charlene Uresy

Olayami Dabls, N’Kisi House, 2007,
wood, glass, tile, bricks, paint, MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit/Photo: Charlene Uresy

By Allison Glenn

The twenty-first century has brought with it the re-emergence of contemporary conceptual artists engaged with penumbral zones. These artists are interested in site, positing new ideas for usage of once-inhabited homes and urban spaces. Whether the middle of the desert or the center of a blighted neighborhood, these sites exist on the theoretical—albeit times physical—margins of society. Artistic engagement with these interstitial spaces is on a material level, with art and architecture converging to create radical and experimental approaches to living. Positing ideas for architecture, technology, space and the body’s relation to it, artists are projecting utopic ideals for the future of the quotidian urban environment. What emerges from this are hybrid works of art and cultural production. Read the rest of this entry »

Blocks of Art and Stuff: Taking in the Heidelberg Project, East Detroit’s Spectacle of Transformation and Perseverance

Installation, Outsider Art, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Views from Amy Danzer's visit to the Heidelberg Project

Photo: Amy Danzer

When you first pull up to the open-air art installation on Heidelberg Street in East Detroit, you’re struck by the remnants of houses that have recently been set afire by arsonists. Twelve blazes have gutted six installations in the last two years. The devastation and loss are felt at once, never absent throughout the exhibit, and serve as commentary on the plight of Detroit’s inner city. But Tyree Guyton and his volunteers continue to clear the ash and debris, create new works, and transform the space into one that persists in provoking thought, inciting imagination, and drawing in people from all over the country and world. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: David Hartt: Interval/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Photography, Video No Comments »
David Hartt. "Interval V," 2014

David Hartt. “Interval V,” 2014


David Hartt’s “Interval” is a visually stunning multimedia installation of photography, video, sculpture and sound that approximates distances—physical, temporal, historical and sonic—to examine uneven development among geographic and economic peripheries and the global forces that centralize capital accumulation. Set to a haunting score and evocatively documented in high-definition video and large-format photographs, Hartt’s camera records everyday moments in Sakhalin Island—a historically contested territory between mainland Russia and Japan—and the city of Whitehorse, the frontier capital of the Yukon Territory in Canada. With an ambivalent stillness that is neither voyeuristic nor detached, the videos and photographs portray these places as simultaneously restless and static as they are caught between an unhappy present and an uncertain future. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Nancy Lu Rosenheim

Hyde Park, Installation, Painting, Rogers Park, Sculpture No Comments »
Nancy Lu Rosenheim in her installation "Swallow City" at the Hyde Park Art Center. Photo by Paul R. Solomon

Nancy Lu Rosenheim in her installation “Swallow City” at the Hyde Park Art Center/Photo: Paul R. Solomon

After welcoming me into her spacious Rogers Park apartment with a warm handshake and shot of espresso, Nancy Lu Rosenheim guides me through a long hallway into her sunny front room studio and toward two stools at a high-topped table. A tall and fully stocked shelving unit rises behind us, brimming with well-worn brushes, tools and paint jars of all sizes. In the corner of the room, a large sculpture sways gently from a hook in the ceiling—made from Polystyrene and splattered boldly with vivid colors, it’s obvious the piece was created in conjunction with “Swallow City,” Rosenheim’s current exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ellen Rothenberg/Sector 2337

Installation, Logan Square, Multimedia No Comments »
Ellen Rothenberg. "elsetime," 2015 installation view, Sector 2337.  Photo by Clare Britt.

Ellen Rothenberg. “elsetime,” 2015 installation view, Sector 2337/Photo: Clare Britt


At the entrance of Ellen Rothenberg’s solo exhibition, “elsetime,” at Sector 2337, is “Listening Station,” a turntable and pile of LPs to sift through on a bench. Of the thirty or so albums (all of them circa 1960-1970) to choose from, another gallery-goer put on an album by Detroit garage rockers Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. What songs were playing escape my memory and perhaps this was the point. Engaging in Rothenberg’s other works (inkjet prints, bag assemblages, photocopies in plastic folders, etc.) relegated the sonic addition to the exhibition as a kind of background noise, something present but easily ignored. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Militant Eroticism: The ART+ Positive Archive/Iceberg Projects

Activist Art, Installation, Photography, Rogers Park No Comments »
Installation view of "Militant Eroticism" at Iceberg Projects

Installation view of “Militant Eroticism” at Iceberg Projects


In 1981, a rare pneumonia identified among five previously healthy gay men began the AIDS crisis. A decade already inundated with political turmoil and dominated by conservative political policy would become marked by great loss, and the gay body politic marked by disease. At the intersection of AIDS and the Bush-era culture wars, there emerged not only a crisis in public health but in representation. Artists and activists responded.

“Militant Eroticism,” curated by John Neff and Dr. Daniel Berger, is focused on the output of one such activist ensemble: ART+ Positive, an ACT-UP affinity group organized in 1989. Assembled from the ART+ Positive archive, “Militant Eroticism” displays a range of content across an implied timeline in the east gallery, including ephemera and signage from the group’s well-attended 1990 demonstration on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum. A work desk and scanner are centered in the space, and the archives are stored in situ. Berger refers to this space as a “lab,” rather than a fixed exhibition scenario, as the archive will be digitized and studied during the run of the exhibition. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Liz Larner/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of Liz Larner,  on the Bluhm Family Terrace, the Art Institute of Chicago

Installation view of Liz Larner, on the Bluhm Family Terrace, the Art Institute of Chicago


In Liz Larner’s current exhibition on the Art Institute’s Bluhm Terrace, two freestanding stainless steel sculptures have been placed at a diagonal to each other. While the generous amount of space between the works engenders but a faint conversation between them, the expansive wooden stage upon which they rest unites the pieces together as a pair. The urban lumber platform, constructed by Larner’s hands and held together by countless golden screws, is made from unflashy materials that would typically appear discreet—however, the large expanse of ash-wood boards fitted tightly together boldly contrast the terrace’s industrialized cityscape with a warm, simplistic rawness. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Gabriel Sierra/The Renaissance Society

Hyde Park, Installation, Sculpture No Comments »
Gabriel Sierra. Installation view at the Renaissance Society, 2015. Photo: Tom Van Eynde

Gabriel Sierra. Installation view at the Renaissance Society, 2015/Photo: Tom Van Eynde


If you are planning to visit the Renaissance Society’s Gabriel Sierra exhibition, the first solo show in the United States for the Bogotá-based artist, you would be well-served to bring a friend, or better yet, four friends. Make sure that they are all American, unless you are visiting in the afternoon, at which time you should be sure that they are non-American and that you are too. If possible, one person in your party should be over thirty years old and another should be precisely twenty-one. Bring your children. In order to gain the fullest experience, make sure to wear a watch and old shoes. Be ready to take a nap or two. Read the rest of this entry »