Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: What Good is Art?

Activist Art, Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view, "The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now," MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. Give us a Poem, 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. “Give us a Poem,” 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay,  MCA Chicago.

By Elliot J. Reichert

Each time I venture deeper into the tangled economy of art making and its contingent endeavors, I ask myself: What good is art? I am not an artist, but I work with artists and artworks every day. By all accounts, I should believe deeply in art, and yet I routinely question its value. As such, when I go to look at art, I often search in it for signs of doubt, and I am usually comforted to know that I am not alone in my questioning. For if contemporary art can be united under one banner, it would be doubt itself: doubt about politics, about social relations, about economic and class structures, about the very importance of human life. Ironically, this might be why I gravitate toward art in the first place, despite my ambivalence toward its significance. Art turns my fears into forms; it makes real what I cannot, or do not want, to imagine.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney/Roman Susan Gallery

Craft Work, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Performance, Rogers Park No Comments »
Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Installation view, "Havoc and Tumbled, 2015. Courtesy of Roman Susan.

Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Installation view, “Havoc and Tumbled,” 2015.
Courtesy of Roman Susan.


In “Havoc and Tumbled,” collaborators Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney packed Roman Susan’s little room with TVs and plants. Each monitor is different, ranging from 1970s-style sets to slick, hi-def screens. While each video has its own content, bits of scenes and clips bleed into other TVs, establishing them as parts of the same filmic project. Each screen is different, so things shift in quality, creating a fluctuation in visual textures in this glimpse of wildlife in this Rogers Park gallery.

Read the rest of this entry »

News: Out of Site 2015 Begins this Weekend

Art Fairs, Multimedia, Performance, Public Art, Street Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Michal Samama. "Lament of Plastic," performance. Photo by Guy Kremnitzer.

Michal Samama. “Lament of Plastic,” performance/Photo: Guy Kremnitzer

It’s going to get confrontational in Wicker Park/Bucktown, beginning Saturday, July 25. The mission behind Out of Site is “to create unexpected encounters of public performance,” a take-it-to-the-streets art festival embarking on its fifth year of public performance art programming. Artists create whimsical disruptions for people as they go about their daily routines, choosing sites around the neighborhood that resonate with their practice.

The series launches this weekend with three performances in collaboration with the Wicker Park Fest. Sheryl Oring, an artist from North Carolina, will invite the public to write letters to the President of the United States as part of her piece “I Wish to Say,” previously performed at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the Berlin Wall Memorial and other locations. To date, over 2,000 letters have been transcribed on a typewriter and submitted to the White House.

While the details surrounding some performances are clear, the vast majority of performances are only yet known by a date, a time, a location, and an artist’s name. Ballenarca, a troupe from Puerto Rico via Austin, Texas, will take place at the intersection of Milwaukee and Evergreen, near the new 606 walking path. Without giving it away, passersby can expect to behold a large, bespectacled mobile sculpture come to life. “The Wisdom Box” by Duff Norris immediately follows. The public can anticipate this work by looking online for records of a previous performance called “Infinity Box,” but if you really want to know more you’ll just have to show up.

Sheryl Oring. "I Wish to Say," performance. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.

Sheryl Oring. “I Wish to Say,” performance/Photo: Dhanraj Emanuel

Out of Site was founded by artist Carron Little as she was “thinking about how wonderful it would be if people were to come home from a long week in the office and come across a unique surprise,” Little said in an email conversation with Newcity. She continued, “I was also invited onto the WPB Arts Committee to rethink how we fund art locally [after] having written a piece about how all the local funding had gone to a consulting firm. So it was part of a broader initiative to fund performance artists who seemed to be doing a lot of work for free.”

The vision for Out of Site goes beyond the scope of providing simple entertainment to a consumer public. “Public performance is vital for every city landscape; building moments that are out of the ordinary can bring joy and wonder to people,” Little remarked. “This is imperative in our workaholic culture. We need things that take us out of the monotony.  The New Situationists in Paris talk about the city being a new Babylon. Le Corbusier founded the modern city discussing ideas of productivity and circulation to build economy, but if people aren’t happy they bring that sadness to work.”

In previous iterations, curators didn’t tell people where the performances would take place. There are no tickets to purchase with a start and end time. Be there or be square, or better yet, you might be there anyway.

Out of Site runs daily at different locations throughout Wicker Park & Bucktown from Saturday, July 25, through Sunday, September 6. (Whitney Richardson)

Eye Exam: Leaving Saturn’s Return

Digital Art, Drawings, Performance No Comments »
James Lee Byars. Pink letter, ca. 1982 Gold crayon on pink Japanese paper Collection of Michael Lowe and Kimberly Klosterman

James Lee Byars. Pink letter, ca. 1982
Gold crayon on pink Japanese paper
Collection of Michael Lowe and Kimberly Klosterman

By Matt Morris

“You’ve gotten so much more mystical this year,” said my twin during a recent phone call. We’d been talking horoscopes and tarot, and more generally about forms of reading that are predicated on alternatives to empirical reason. We’ve turned thirty this year, and now we’re completing a period astrologers call Saturn’s return. It’s the first time Saturn returns to its position at the time of your birth, and it’s said to accompany crisis and questioning—finding out what you’ve built so far, whether it’s strong enough to continue working, and what tumultuous deconstruction will radically reshape your life. 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 »

News: Visual Art Projects Now Open Along the 606

Humboldt Park, Logan Square, News etc., Performance, Public Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
A stampede of horses by Opera-Matic charge the 606 path on opening day

A stampede of horses by Opera-Matic charge the 606 path on opening day

“People were very curious, and they wanted to know what it meant…,” said Rob Lentz, executive director of Project Onward and liaison for artist Louis DeMarco, in an interview with Newcity about the public response to the temporary installation of “Cloud Chart” along the newly opened 606 trail, the 2.8-mile elevated parkway connecting four northwestern Chicago neighborhoods. DeMarco’s artworks are among the new installations that will be on view through June 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival

Performance No Comments »
Chinese performance artists Miao Jiaxin

Chinese performance artists Miao Jiaxin

The horizon for a spectacle of live art, known as Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival, is within eyesight. For the first two weekends in June, performance artists near and far migrate to the Midwest to participate in Chicago’s fourth annual celebration. Scaling between stories of chemical castration (Chicago’s Atom-r) to an “Upgrade You” makeover of normal shoes into expensive ones (China’s Miao Jiaxin), Rapid Pulse thrives on diversity. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Hard to See

Digital Art, Drawings, Installation, Loop, Multimedia, Performance No Comments »
Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

By Matt Morris

Seeing is not a solitary activity, and it’s not simple. Perception is first of all dependent on context, not only because the specificities of an experience are ascertained through contrast, but also due to the ways each of our unique acculturations informs how we see. Comprehending visual information then turns out to be a social activity, evidenced most clearly in the debates that arise when we don’t see things the same way. And of course, these turbulent discourses around what is perceived are at the expense of appreciating just how much goes unseen—through suppression, movement beyond our sensory faculties, or systemically strategic elisions in how the seen social is structured. This then is one of the often tacit but urgent responsibilities of visual culture and art: to pressure and interrogate the boundaries of perception, to render the invisible visible. Changing how we see is first perceptual but actually political work, and it’s being done across viral Internet memes, sharp-witted turns in how organizations understand multicultural diversity, and artistic research into invisibility. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Chicago Collaboration Among 2015 Joyce Awards Recipients

Multimedia, News etc., Performance No Comments »
Sanford Biggers, Sandra Delgado, Nari Ward and Helado Negro, 2015 Joyce Awards Recipients

From left to right; Sanford Biggers (photo credit Alex Freund), Sandra Delgado (photo credit Janna Giacoppo), Nari Ward (courtesy of the artist Lehmann Maupin New York and Hong Kong) and Roberto Carlos Lange (photo credit Molly Donahue).

The Joyce Foundation recently announced the four collaborative teams that are the recipients of the 2015 Joyce Awards, receiving an award in the sum of $50,000 each. The four partnerships are between artists of color and prominent arts and cultural organizations within the Great Lakes region in order to present new work specifically designed to engage with the communities where the projects will take root, while also serving as a model for the rest of the country.

This year’s awardees hail from boisterous art cities and include Helado Negro (moniker for musician and composer Roberto Carlos Lange) pairing with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series from the Twin Cities, Jamaican-born artist Nari Ward and Detroit’s Power House Productions, Colombian-American actress and playwright Sandra Delgado in collaboration with Chicago’s Teatro Vista and interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Read the rest of this entry »