Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

The Bomber’s Life: Steppenwolf’s “This Is Modern Art” Looks at the Graffiti Artist

Lincoln Square, Performance, Street Art No Comments »
This Is Modern Art (based on true events), photo by Saverio Truglia

This Is Modern Art (based on true events)/Photo: Saverio Truglia

In 2010, the anonymous graffiti crew Made U Look (MUL) executed a graffiti bombing of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. Under cover of snowfall, they painted a vibrant, text-based fifty-foot mural bookended by the phrases “Modern Art… Made You Look.” This unsanctioned act of institution critique challenged accessibility while calling attention to exclusion of graffiti from the canon of contemporary art. Steppenwolf for Young Adults, the revered ensemble’s teen-focused offshoot, has revisited the event that sparked these debates, concluding its revolution-focused season with “This Is Modern Art (based on true events).”

Read the rest of this entry »

News: Donelle Woolford comes to Logan Center for the Arts [UPDATED]

Hyde Park, News etc., Performance No Comments »
Joe Scanlan (left) and Jennifer Kidwell (right/ Ian Douglas 2012).

Joe Scanlan (left) and Jennifer Kidwell (right/ Ian Douglas 2012).

The University of Chicago’s (UChicago) department of visual arts (DoVA) will bring Joe Scanlan and his controversial fictional character Donelle Woolford, who will be depicted by Jennifer Kidwell, to the Logan Center for the Arts this Thursday, February 19, at 7pm. Scanlan received a lot of heat during and after the 2014 Whitney Biennial for his Donelle Woolford project for which he, a white male Princeton professor, invented a black female artist character to assume responsibility for a body of work he created. Scanlan’s creation raises a multitude of convoluted questions, with words like “white male privilege,” and “conceptual black face” representing just a few of the issues raised in the uproar. In an email to Newcity, Scanlan writes, “Jennifer Kidwell and I let everyone else have their say about this project last year, from the United States to London to Capetown to Aukland. So now we’ll take a turn responding to our critics.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Ten x Ten 2015 Pairs Improvisations by Musicians and Artists

Multimedia, News etc., Performance, Prints 1 Comment »
Ten x Ten Preview 2013

Ten x Ten Preview 2013

The 2015 round of Ten x Ten collaborations between musicians and visual artists will start with a kickoff event this Sunday, February 8. Under the curatorial supervision of three diverse Chicago organizations—Elastic Arts, Homeroom and Spudnik Press—this fourth iteration of Ten x Ten has grown into four events over the next eight months hosted at several venues: Spudnik Press Cooperative, Constellation and Elastic Arts. It’s a definite scaling up from past years, which consisted of only one event. With Elastic Arts Foundation as guest curators—which includes saxophonist Dave Rempis and composer Paul Giallorenzo—the 2015 project highlights jazz and probes how artists working across different media interpret improvisation. The series organizers musician and visual artist Jordan Martins with bassoonist and composer Katherine Young will start this cycle’s inaugural event with a free lecture addressing improvisation and the use of visual symbols outside the boundaries of traditional music notation. About the project, Martins writes on his personal website, “I‘m pleased to be participating in this event, which is a partnership with some of my favorite Chicago powerhouses.” Read the rest of this entry »