Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Chicago Artists Coalition Receives its First National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Work Grant

Multimedia, News etc., West Loop No Comments »
Installation view of current BOLT exhibition "PREVIEW4," on display at the Chicago Artists Coalition until December 18. Photo courtesy Erik L. Peterson.

Installation view of current BOLT exhibition “PREVIEW4,” on display at the Chicago Artists Coalition until December 18. Photo courtesy Erik L. Peterson.

Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jane Chu announced last week that Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) was one of 919 nonprofit associations (out of 1,474 applicants) nationally to receive an NEA Art Works grant. Says CAC executive director Caroline Older in Newcity’s follow-up interview, “The grant helps the CAC ensure that the Midwest Artist Exchange [an annual initiative that promotes collaboration between BOLT residents and arts communities in adjoining Midwestern cities] can take place.” The core of the MAE is two weekend-long tours in which artists and organizations from Chicago and other Midwestern cities meet up for discussions, presentations and potlucks. Previous exchanges have been with Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Detroit.

The CAC’s 2014-2015 BOLT Residency is the specific focus of the $10,000 in grant support for which the organization has been recommended. The BOLT Residency is a highly competitive, juried, one-year artist studio residency program that gives contemporary emerging artists a chance to engage the Chicago arts community and its public in analytical discourse about contemporary art. “BOLT residents benefit from studio visits with prestigious artists, curators and arts professionals in the Chicago area and from discussions with their peers,” assures CAC director of exhibitions and residencies, Teresa Silva. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Body Doubles/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Wu Tsang. "Mishima in Mexico," video still, 2012 high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation

Wu Tsang. “Mishima in Mexico,” video still, 2012
high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation

RECOMMENDED

Body double: an actor’s stand-in. Whether in a simulated car crash or simulated intercourse, the body double performs as a seamless break in the continuity of the lead—identity is momentarily transposed, often on a faceless agent. “Body Doubles” at the MCA, organized by curatorial fellow Michelle Puetz, opens up the logic of this cinematic trick. The same formal operation that multiplies the body is exhibited alongside embodied multiplicity. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sabina Ott/Chicago Cultural Center

Installation, Loop, Multimedia No Comments »
Installation view of Sabina Ott's “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

Installation view of Sabina Ott’s “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

RECOMMENDED

Sabina Ott’s site-specific installation “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center intersperses highbrow with lowbrow sensibilities as a means of contemplating value. Spanning three rooms, each gallery is named after the levels Dante travels in the epic poem “The Divine Comedy.” Ott visualizes the work of Dante and a bibliography of vetted literary greats in an indulgent paean to manmade synthetics, vulgar taste and a preference for the saccharinely artificial. Conventions of value assignment are reconsidered therein. Each artwork is named after lines from Gertrude Stein’s writing, and the stream-of-consciousness, choppy build-up in Stein’s syntax plays similarly as Ott’s glut of attractive material accumulations.
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Eye Exam: The Freakiest Show

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Grand Finale Installation view, "David Bowie Is," MCA Chicago. September 23, 2014–January 4, 2015.  Photo: Nathan Keay. Courtesy of the MCA Chicago.

Grand Finale Installation view, “David Bowie Is,” MCA Chicago. September 23, 2014–January 4, 2015.
Photo: Nathan Keay. Courtesy of the MCA Chicago.

By Erin Toale

Bowiephiles rejoice: no expense was spared on the Museum of Contemporary Art’s iteration of this appropriately elaborate touring spectacle—a multi-chambered rumination on the many-petaled-flower of the living icon’s magnificence. This pageantry, situated on the virtually unrecognizable fourth floor of the MCA, includes memorabilia, archival materials, breathtaking costumes and some of Bowie’s own “art.” Evidence of the takeover exists throughout the building; nowhere can you escape the waft of his anthems, and even the security guards have been adorned with Bowie shirts. To co-opt the semantic organizational structure of the show, Bowie is… pervasive.

Chicago is the only U.S. destination for the show, which was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London. Bowie and his camp granted archive access to the curators, aided with fact-checking, and monitor the condition of objects but otherwise have been very hands-off, says MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, Michael Darling, who oversaw the Chicago installation. The exhibit feels very V&A-meets-MTV, replete with a show-stopping, toe-tapping grand-finale. There are moments when the voices of the MCA and Darling ring clear; the show succeeds in these quieter, more contemplative tableaus.
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News: New Season of ART21 Airs Tonight

Artist Profiles, Multimedia, News etc., Video No Comments »
Tania Bruguera. "Museum of Arte Útil," featured in Season 7 of Art21

Tania Bruguera. “Museum of Arte Útil,” featured in Season 7 of Art21

The seventh season of the groundbreaking documentary series that interviews contemporary artists working at the forefront of their field will air on public television station WTTW starting tonight, Friday, October 24, at 10pm. This season will include segments about Tania Bruguera, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Leonardo Drew, Omer Fast, Katharina Grosse, Thomas Hirschhorn, Elliott Hundley, Graciela Iturbide, Joan Jonas, Wolfgang Laib, Trevor Paglen and Arlene Shechet.
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Eye Exam: Mother of Invention

Activist Art, Artist Profiles, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Pilsen No Comments »
Lise Haller Baggesen. "Mothernism," 2013-14, mixed media audio installation

Lise Haller Baggesen. “Mothernism,” 2013-14,
mixed media audio installation

By Matt Morris

I’m the sort of queer person who hangs out in places where you hear the word “breeder” tossed around; this isn’t really a unifying trait of these places, actually, because I’m often the one saying it. I’m dubious about moves to increase visibility for the material conditions of parents and families. I usually remain unconvinced that these agendas to further elucidate the particulars of family life can resist being co-opted by a forceful patriarchy that rigidly orders gender roles to align with the reproductive determinations of our bodies. It’s a particularly fraught conversation within the art world at least in part because advancements to naturalize current norms threatens cultural producers who aim to innovate and imagine more possibilities for how to live than we’ve previously been offered.

Into the midst of these chilly philosophical divides, artist and writer Lise Haller Baggesen strikes with “Mothernism”—a project comprised of both her traveling multimedia tent installation and a new book released this fall from Green Lantern Press and Poor Farm Press. With the excesses (and excessive generosity) of Baggesen’s artwork and book, she loosens the divide that would place motherhood at odds with a pursuit of rebelling against status quo oppression. As she writes in the book’s chapter “Mother of Demolition”: “Beginning with the old feminist premise of the female as ‘the second sex,’ and lesbianism as a third, I suggest that motherhood is a fourth… and hell, who knows? Maybe menopause is a fifth and so on… Because if we can accept motherhood as one sex among many, we can perhaps relieve the inevitable burden of motherhood perceived as a stagnant destination.” Read the rest of this entry »

Lise Haller Baggesen’s Mothernism: Extended Web Exclusive Interview

Activist Art, Installation, Multimedia, Oak Park, Painting, Pilsen 1 Comment »
Lise Haller Baggesen. "Mothernism," 2013-14, mixed media audio installation, during one of the artist's readings at Ordinary Projects

Lise Haller Baggesen. “Mothernism,” 2013-14,
mixed media audio installation,
during one of the artist’s readings at Ordinary Projects


On October 2, I previewed Lise Baggesen’s “Mothernism” installation at Ordinary Projects in the Mana Contemporary building (2233 South Throop in Pilsen). We took off our shoes and climbed into the tent that serves as an interactive centerpiece to the exhibition. What follows is an abridged version of our rich conversation about Mothernism the book and the artwork. (Matt Morris)


Newcity: What compelled you to write Mothernism?

Lise Baggesen: The book grew out of my thesis project, and the funny thing was that actually at the time the book was not supposed to have been written, because I was trying to escape making a formal written thesis. Visual and Critical Studies is a part of Art History [at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago], so a lot of the people in it, probably half of the group, went through it in a purely theoretical, academic track, and a lot of them have moved on to PhDs now. The other half of us had studio practices, but I think I was the only one in the group with a really long studio practice before I came to VCS.

At some point I got really frustrated, particularly in the first year there was so much emphasis on the theory. They were still talking about this post-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary way, but they were more talking the talk than walking the walk, I found. And so I did a project in Joseph [Grigely]’s Research and Production class where I started using this alter ego. The first one was Alice B. Ross, and she’s more of a loner than the subsequent Queen Leeba. Leeba is more family-oriented than Alice is. Alice is more of a hermit recluse who will go back to the studio and make love only once, but dream and dream. Her notes to self really became about the studio practice as this space where your voices can live. She dabbles in theories about quantum physics and David Bowie and Doctor Seuss and ‘un-slumping’ yourself and how the studio practice can be that un-slumping’ and how it can also be the slump that you find yourself in.

That project really became an eye opener for me about how writing could become a part of my studio practice rather than just being the writing you do about your studio practice, through writing artist statements and all this stuff. Suddenly it was a point when the writing informed the work while it was being made and dared me to go places where I wouldn’t have done. For instance, Alice made these really big velvet Morris Louis glitter paintings. I was not sure about that, but Alice would totally do it. I was in conversation with this voice I’d put into the world that then became a type of daring.

The first half of writing the thesis in VCS is a lot of group talk, you know, group think—throwing it out there, pulling it apart. Kind of rigorous… I’ve just said ‘kind of rigorous’ which is terrible. What happened was that every time I brought motherhood into this kind of conversation, there were a lot of people among my peers that really wanted to shut the conversation down. They were like, ‘We don’t want to hear about this mothering here. You can’t bring it up as a feminist in art discourse. We don’t want to hear about it, and we don’t want to talk about it.’ 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 »

All The Pretty Things are Going To Hell: A Guest Essay by Lise Haller Baggesen on David Bowie Day in Chicago

Multimedia, News etc. 1 Comment »
Wakeup Makeup With Rahm Emanuel (courtesy of Facebook)

Wakeup Makeup With Rahm Emanuel (courtesy of Facebook)

One early morning last week—as I was getting ready to go down to Navy Pier to put the finishing touches on my installation for the “Art Prom” that was at the third annual installment of Chicago’s own Expo Chicago—I woke up to a picture in my Facebook feed, of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in full Ziggy Stardust make up.

It was accompanied by a PROCLAMATION from the Office of the Mayor/City of Chicago with lots of WHERAS’ celebrating David Bowie’s career and the MCA’s accomplishments in securing the show for its only North American venue, and ending in “NOW, THEREFORE, I, RAHM EMANUEL, MAYOR TO THE CITY OF CHICAGO, do hereby proclaim September 23, 2014 to be DAVID BOWIE DAY IN CHICAGO in recognition of the incredible work of David Bowie and urge all Chicagoans to enjoy “David Bowie Is” at the renowned Museum of Contemporary Art.”

It was a first-class prank, of the sort that we have all dreamt of pulling in childhood fantasies of “If I Ruled the World,” and yet it knocked me out, like an NFL player in an elevator. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: How to Make A Hood/Arts Incubator

Activist Art, Multimedia, Photography, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Amir George. "“The Hood We Live In," 3-channel video installation

Amir George. “The Hood We Live In,” 3-channel video installation

RECOMMENDED

Prompted by unarmed Trayvon Martin being shot to death in 2012, curator La Keisha Leek assembled a cadre of artists that address negative depictions of black experience in the news media while also considering the images that African Americans hold of themselves. The titular “Hood” is a multiplicity for Leek: neighbor-hood, object-hood, person-hood, Negro-hood and woman-hood. Within these multilayered spheres identity is fluid, a stark opposition to the monolithic representation of African Americans culturally generated around Martin and more recently Ferguson, Missouri. Read the rest of this entry »