Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Mural in Logan Square Seeks Community Participation

Logan Square, News etc., Public Art, Street Art No Comments »
Rachel Slotnick's Logan Square mural in progress

Rachel Slotnick’s Logan Square mural in progress

There are three “Paint With Us” painting days scheduled this weekend when the community is invited to get involved in the completion of Rachel Slotnick’s mural in progress at Milwaukee and Kedzie in Logan Square. Adjoining the Logan Square Blue Line stop, this is the latest mural project to adopt two-year terms for the prominent wall space in the square. Lindsey Meyers, the director of the neighborhood’s Beauty & Brawn Gallery and longtime Logan Square resident, has coordinated the project with Slotnick after considering the wall’s potential over years. Meyers explains by email, “I pass that wall multiple times a day and it always spoke to me. I continued to see its size and scope and only saw beauty and potential.”

Painting days are scheduled for today, August 29, from 4pm-7pm; Sunday, August 31, from 1pm-3pm; and Monday, September 1, from 1pm-3pm. Interested participants need only show up; the gallery will provide all painting materials. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of a Gallery: Comfort Station

Gallerist profile, Logan Square, Photography, Public Art No Comments »
The Comfort Station in Logan Square

The Comfort Station in Logan Square

My first exposure to Comfort Station coincided with Matthew Hoffman’s 2013 exhibition “Independence.” A mysterious placard was erected in the shadow of the Illinois Centennial Monument. Like most of Hoffman’s work, it was aggressively present on social networks. In the background of some of the photos was a puzzling Tudor-style building that looked comically out of place in trendy Logan Square. The text read: “A motivational sign in a grassy field is nice and all, but it’s not going to do the hard work for you. That’s up to you.”

This wording resonates with the ethos and initiative of Comfort Station. It is a unique architectural landmark that places equal emphasis on both programming and exhibitions. In a recent conversation I had with both of the directors, Jordan Martins characterized their vision as such: “We identify as an ‘art space’ not just due to the exhibitions, but through all of our programs as a totality. The most important thing for us is the plurality, multiplicity and simultaneity of these events and programs and how they activate the space.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jaume Plensa/Millennium Park and Richard Gray Gallery

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
"Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda," polyester resin and marble dust, 2012. Photo by Tom Van Eynde

“Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda,” polyester resin and marble dust, 2012. Photo by Tom Van Eynde


Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa designed his first gigantic head, “Dream,” in 2009 on the site of an abandoned coal mine to help a former mining town, as his website puts it, “fill the void left by the colliery since its closure.” Since then, similar heads have popped up in cities around the world, with four now installed in Millennium Park. All of them are derived from digitally modified 3D photographs of girls on the verge of puberty. All have their eyes closed, as if peacefully looking inward.

The shining white, thirty-nine foot “Looking into my dreams, Awilda” serves well as the Madison Street gateway, inviting the public into what is essentially a contemporary art amusement park. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Hebru Brantley Public Sculptures Vandalized

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clean up after vandalism of Hebru Brantley's "The Watch"

Clean-up after vandalism of Hebru Brantley’s “The Watch”

Last Sunday morning a series of sculptures installed along a sloping lawn near the Field Museum by Pilsen-based artist Hebru Brantley were found vandalized. The artwork titled “The Watch” is a multi-figure homage to the Tuskegee Airmen and features a series of young, black, superheroic characters that Brantley uses in his work. Last weekend, the Chicago Tribune reported that several of the figures had been knocked over, with one beheaded and several others sustaining multiple punctures and elements broken off. In an email, Chicago Park District’s director of communications Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said that the sculptures have been removed to be repaired by the artist. While no definite timeline for the repairs has been determined, the artworks will be returned to the park once they have been repaired. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Johalla Projects Curates Art at Pitchfork Music Festival

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"Geometric Village" being installed earlier this week

“Geometric Village” being installed earlier this week

The West Town gallery Johalla Projects returns to the Pitchfork Music Festival, held in Union Park, this weekend to present “Geometric Village,” an installation by Heather Gabel and Chad Kouri. Two A-frame architectural structures fifteen feet tall and nine feet wide are joined by an additional set of smaller chairs or stools scattered around these forms. The two triangular structures will house smaller works by the two artists that will be available for sale. Gabel will have packs of postcards available for $15 and Kouri will exhibit a set of prints he created with Tan & Loose Press which are available for $15 each. This installation will be accessible to festival attendees; tickets are currently $60 a day, or $110-$130 for a three-day pass. Read the rest of this entry »

News: 96ACRES Seeks Art Proposals for Cook County Jail

Activist Art, Multimedia, News etc., Public Art No Comments »


The Cook County Department of Corrections, sitting on ninety-six acres on the West Side, is one of the nation’s largest single site pre-detention facilities. The independent, grassroots, social justice organization 96ACRES is seeking artistic projects to generate what they call “alternative narratives reflecting on power and responsibility by presenting insightful and informed collective responses for the transformation of a space that occupied 96 acres, but has a much larger social footprint.” Projects may include visual art, audio pieces, performance, new media works, writing, photography, design, prints and installation with particular interest to works at the site of the jail in an allocated space along its north exterior wall. Proposals are due July 28, and approved projects would be realized this fall. Base grants of $2,500 or up to $5,000 are available, funded by the Chicago Community Trust, Special Service Area #25, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Field Foundation of Illinois.

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News: Intelligentsia Curates Public Art

News etc., Public Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Antonia Contro's "Scorza" installed on the corner of the 1611 West Division building. Photo by Luke Grimm.

Antonia Contro’s “Scorza” installed on the corner of the 1611 West Division building. Photo: Luke Grimm

Last night was the official unveiling of Antonia Contro’s artwork “Scorza” on the façade of the 1611 West Division condo building at the corner of Division and Ashland. The ninety-two-foot-tall, twenty-seven-foot-wide digital print is the first “art wall” sponsored by Intelligentsia coffee bar, which will be opening a new location in the building on July 17.

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News: First Looks at Plans for Eight New Public Artworks in Red Line Stations

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On Monday, Chicago Transit Authority president Forrest Claypool joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the DuSable Museum to introduce eight plans for new public artworks to be installed as the finishing touches on the $425 million Red Line South reconstruction project. The Federal Transit Administration will be paying $590,400 for these artworks. Last June, a call for artists attracted more than 300 submissions from which these projects were selected. Most of the artists who received these public art contracts are based in Chicago, with one collaboration based in Chicago and Brooklyn, New York. Here are the station assignments and views of the conceptual renderings by each artist for their planned works:

Cermak-Chinatown: Indira F. Johnson (Evanston)

Cermak-Chinatown: Indira F. Johnson (Evanston)

Sox-35th: Paula Henderson (Chicago)

Sox-35th: Paula Henderson (Chicago)

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News: UIC Hires Laurie Jo Reynolds as Assistant Professor of Public Arts, Social Justice, and Culture

Activist Art, Art Schools, News etc., Public Art No Comments »

Laurie Jo Reynolds is the new assistant professor of public arts, social justice and culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Art and Art History. This is a new position within the school that is part of the recently created Social Justice and Human Rights Cluster, an initiative of UIC’s Chancellor. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 35 Years of Public Art/Chicago Cultural Center

Public Art No Comments »
Nick Cave "Garden Plots" (design proposal) for West Chicago Branch Library, 6140 W. North Ave., 2007.

Nick Cave
“Garden Plots” (design proposal) for West Chicago Branch Library, 6140 West North, 2007.

“What are the first three things you think of when you think of Chicago?” asked artist Zack Wirsum, as part of his public art proposal, of one hundred Chicagoans in 2008. The answers averaged out to hot dogs, pigeons, skyscrapers and Old Style beer. Can public art ever relate to civic identity without being utterly banal?

The exhibition “35 Years of Public Art” offers many attempts to thread that needle subsequent to the 1978 “Percent for Art Ordinance” which earmarked 1.33 percent of municipal construction costs be devoted to original public artwork. Most of the pieces on display are the proposals or scale models that the artists submitted for approval, and often it’s difficult to imagine the final results.

The pencil sketch that Irene Siegel submitted for a 1985 mural in the Sulzer Library looks like it might lead to a fresh, intriguing vision of Virgil’s epic “Aeneid,” but immediate public outcry over it in the Chicago Tribune, of “elements of graffiti and horror,” led to a lawsuit and the complaint that “full and complete description of the work” had not been submitted. Read the rest of this entry »