Allison Smith. “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia,” 2014
Smith is known for lovingly handcrafting Americana—costumes, furniture and artifacts—with which to interrogate the spectacle of historical recreation. In this she is indeed like a theatrical “set dresser,” someone who designs and arranges props.
Many of these recent works are photographs of objects of material culture from American living-history sites. Printed on fabric, the pictures take on a rustic look, akin to the objects they depict. But they contain powerful autobiographical elements, too. The lovely rainbow-colored skeins of yarn seen hanging in “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg,” 2014, is a trenchant feminist statement on several levels while recalling Morris Louis’ stain paintings. Within a large, oval, walnut frame handcrafted by a master Massachusetts artisan, “Mirror,” 2014, shows a field of nubby linen on which a photograph of a mirror’s reflection has been printed. It’s a visual riddle, a twenty-first century version of the modern artist’s abiding fascination with mirrors. Less puzzling perhaps, but no less elegant, two tilt-top tables are covered in silk printed with photos of quilt patterns. Read the rest of this entry »
Kelly Lloyd. “I painted the elevator doors the color of my skin. C1, 21,1—E0,13,0—KX0,22,1—V0,37,0,” 2014, acrylic on elevator doors
by Matt Morris
I had been trying to muster the holiday cheer to write a whimsical column about winter window displays when I read the news that the St. Louis County grand jury tasked with the decision to indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot eighteen-year-old Michael Brown to death in August chose not to pursue justice. Since the announcement, I’ve been in vocal and incredulous discussions over the sadistically intricate ways that political and social suppression, economic disadvantage, the bizarre militarization of police forces and even President Obama’s muted responses to this and other murders of unarmed black people have conspired in a construction of an impossibly powerful systemic racism. I’ve felt the deep urge to run. In my mind I see the text “RUN” Rashid Johnson spray-painted in white across a mirror that was included in “Message to Our Folks,” his survey at the MCA two years ago. This is a run from lynch mobs and paramilitary cops and deplorably violent histories that span centuries of America’s past.
Rashid Johnson. “Run,” 2008,
mirror with spray paint
Our society has been shaped without consideration to the personhood and value of nonwhite lives, therefore their sadness, outrage and even their deaths have not been permitted to have any impact. Confronted with this daunting problem built into the very structure of this country, my conviction that art has the potential to powerfully interject into the thick of restrictive, racist assumptions has been bolstered by several recent projects that investigate how visibility for people of color’s lives is situated into public and institutional spaces. Read the rest of this entry »
Bill Sosin. “Mirage”
Shooting the streets and sidewalks of Chicago in color, at any time of day and night, through the windows of his car when heavy and clinging rains are falling, Bill Sosin captures the miasma in which we are enveloped at those moments. If we are not too drenched and assaulted by the wind and the chill to notice, such scenes can have a rough yet melting beauty for us, with which Sosin is enthralled. Read the rest of this entry »
Participants in panel “The Materiality of the Image.” Panelists Daniel Gordon, Anthony Elms, Barbara Kasten and Shane Huffman being introduced by symposium organizer Laura Letinsky.
Can you trust a picture? This was the preeminent question to emerge from a daylong symposium on contemporary photographic practices hosted on November 21 at the University of Chicago. Organized by artist and UChicago faculty member Laura Letinsky, “Unsuspending Disbelief,” a symposium of three panels and several open discussions, took as its point of trajectory a conflicted ontological viewpoint of the photograph. What is the potential of a photograph to confirm what we want to believe, and to show us what we cannot see on our own? Read the rest of this entry »
Wu Tsang. “Mishima in Mexico,” video still, 2012
high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation
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 »
Sandro Miller. “Annie Leibovitz / John Lennon and Yoko Ono (1980),” 2014
Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich. Take a famous sixty-year-old actor and substitute him for the subjects of well-known, mainly celebrity, photographic portraits, duplicating the original scenarios as precisely as possible in the studio; shoot the setup, and you have Sandro Miller’s conceit in his collaboration with John Malkovich. It is somewhat dizzying to contemplate images that are at three removes from real human beings, who have morphed into images crafted by teams of managers that have been further altered by a gifted photographer, and that have finally been subverted by another celebrity who is simulating the original celebrity-images to humorous effect, whether intentional or not.
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Romare Bearden. “The Block II” (detail), 1972. Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans
The dynamic urban landscapes of America’s three largest cities constitute the focus of “The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980,” a joint venture of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Architecture and Design and Photography departments and the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibition examines two decades of significant political, social and economic upheaval during which each of these cities emerged as barometers of major shifts in public consciousness subsequent to the suburban flight of the 1950s and before the economic boom of the 1980s. History and its discontents dominate the exhibition, but the show gives voice to a broad range of actors through an electric and all-inclusive range of makers and visual materials. Read the rest of this entry »
John Stanmeyer. “Signal”
In its annual competition for the best photojournalistic images, “Pictures of the Year, International” received 52,000 submissions and selected 240 winners, fifty of which are on view here, for its 2014 traveling show. The exhibit shows that, despite the financial problems of newspapers and magazines, photojournalism is thriving: indeed, the quality of work is at least as good as it has ever been. The judges eschewed depictions of the rich and famous, and staged scenes in favor of hard-hitting, emotion-laden and power-packed shots that pull the viewer up short with searing glimpses of world hot spots like Afghanistan, Iraq-Syria and Ukraine; heat-of-the-action sporting moments; refugees and victims of abuse; natural disasters and touching slices of life. Read the rest of this entry »
Carlos Javier Ortiz. “Untitled,” 2009, archival pigment print, 24″ x 36″
The real protagonists of Carlos Javier Ortiz’s black-and-white photo-documentary of the impact of gun violence in American cities today are the neighborhoods where it happens and is felt most directly. “We All We Got” is comprised of images of funerals, vigils, grieving families, commemorative artifacts, detention lock-ups, crime scenes and much more to create a comprehensive visual grasp of the phenomenon; but the places themselves and the sense of the stark realism of everyday life there overtake all the details. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles,” 1980, printed 2012
The Art Institute of Chicago has embarked on a nine-month celebration titled “Photography Is_________,” commemorating the department of photography’s establishment in 1974. Sarah Charlesworth, who figured among the Pictures Generation of artists, appropriated photos from newspapers that documented people falling from tall buildings. The resulting images meld photojournalistic and fine art photography techniques, creating conceptual documentations of a moment laced with kinetic energy. Measuring over six feet tall, these compositions show mortality tinged with an intense sense of freedom. These are people jumping or falling to their deaths, some showing momentum and violence, while others look serene as these active moments transform into portraits. Read the rest of this entry »