Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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)

Portrait of the Artist: Nina Chanel Abney

Artist Profiles, Galleries & Museums, Painting, Public Art, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney stands in front of a large auditorium full of people. It’s 2011, and she’s just been welcomed to the stage of Washington D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, where she’s giving a visiting-artist lecture. “I’m a little nervous, but it’s been very humbling to be a part of the ‘30 Americans’ exhibition,” she begins. “Just four years ago, I was in school and I signed up for an artist studio tour and we went to Kehinde Wiley and Wangechi Mutu’s studios—and now I’m in a show with them and it’s a little bit weird.” With a smiling mouth and quivering voice, she continues. “This is my first lecture, so I hope I do a good job for you guys.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dont Fret/Johalla Projects

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Painting, Public Art, Street Art, West Town No Comments »
Dont Fret. "Saturday Night Fever," 2015. Acrylic on paper.

Dont Fret. “Saturday Night Fever,” 2015.
Acrylic on paper.

RECOMMENDED

“There are only two seasons in Chicago,” reads the poster pasted on a utility box, “Winter and construction.” The last time that I encountered the work of Dont Fret in the wild there was snow on the ground. Summer finds the artist moving from works on the street back into the gallery with little difficulty, but some trepidation.

At Johalla Projects, a group of works on paper cover one wall, each of them functioning individually, but all fitting together as a conceptual whole. Mixed in are purposely ham-fisted, muddy-colored abstractions with phrases like “Hi, I’m an idea based painting” or “I like his early work better.” These are perhaps a nod to the “zombie formalism” debates from last year and including a good bit of the artist’s own anxiety about his place in the art ecosystem. He needn’t worry about the art world silliness. Dont Fret is still at his best in his depictions of Chicago life and Chicagoans. The details and insights in his art can only come from years spent observing the changes to the city and the people, and from those quiet moments of profundity that come from a history of experience. 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 »

Blocks of Art and Stuff: Taking in the Heidelberg Project, East Detroit’s Spectacle of Transformation and Perseverance

Installation, Outsider Art, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Views from Amy Danzer's visit to the Heidelberg Project

Photo: Amy Danzer

When you first pull up to the open-air art installation on Heidelberg Street in East Detroit, you’re struck by the remnants of houses that have recently been set afire by arsonists. Twelve blazes have gutted six installations in the last two years. The devastation and loss are felt at once, never absent throughout the exhibit, and serve as commentary on the plight of Detroit’s inner city. But Tyree Guyton and his volunteers continue to clear the ash and debris, create new works, and transform the space into one that persists in provoking thought, inciting imagination, and drawing in people from all over the country and world. 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 »

Portrait of a Gallery: Trunk Show

Design, Humboldt Park, Public Art No Comments »
Image from Lilli Carré for Trunk Show opening, photo courtesy Jason Lazarus.

Image from Lilli Carré for Trunk Show opening/Photo: Jason Lazarus

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, a few dozen people gathered near the boathouse in Humboldt Park for an opening of new work by Lilli Carré. The work was a bumper sticker reading “I’m for clarity” spelled out in Rebus, pictograms that spell words phonetically, for the mobile gallery Trunk Show. The puzzles-and-games theme of Carré’s project extended to the snacks on hand, “signifier” pasta salad, and the activities, lawn games.

Trunk Show, run by Jesse Malmed and Raven Falquez Munsell, unveils a new sticker each month on the couple’s well-worn 1999 Ford Taurus. They started in 2013, motivated by interests in alternative exhibition spaces and in offering the works as a subscription series. The stickers sell a la carte for five dollars, or collectors can subscribe and receive the whole season’s work. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Chicago-based Artist Sabina Ott Receives 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship

Installation, Multimedia, News etc., Painting, Public Art, Sculpture 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

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (GMF) announced earlier this month that they have awarded 173 fellowships (two of which are joint fellowships) to diverse artists, scholars and scientists. In the foundation’s ninety-first competition for the United States and Canada, this year’s recipients were chosen from a pool of over 3,100 applicants. Among that talented group spanning over fifty-one disciplines with recipients ranging in age from twenty-nine to eighty-three is Sabina Ott, a Chicago-based painter and sculptor who is a professor of art at Columbia College Chicago. With the Guggenheim award, Ott intends to expound the scope upon her most recent work “here and there pink melon joy,” a site-oriented installation of paintings and sculptures completed in August of 2014 that was on display at the Chicago Cultural Center until January 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting Artist: Alberto Aguilar

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia, Public Art No Comments »
Alberto Aguilar. "Forms of Communication," 2015 desks and display sign lettering, photo by Juliet S. Eldred (UofC class of 2017)

Alberto Aguilar. “Forms of Communication,” 2015
desks and display sign lettering, photo by Juliet S. Eldred (UofC class of 2017)

We’re excited to have Alberto Aguilar’s “Crossing Boundaries” text as the eighth in our Visiting Artist column, a recurring feature in which Newcity invites an artist to produce a text in relation to their current art practice. Here Aguilar adds writing into an exploration that brings all aspects of his life into his residency at University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator.

One-thousand words are what I am allotted to write this so I will not waste one and use all. Words have the ability to get one from the top of the page to the bottom and if arranged just right communicate something clearly to the reader.

I am a Crossing Boundaries Resident Artist through the Arts Incubator and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. This began in January and will last for five months. When given this title I could not fully understand what it meant or what boundaries I should cross. Rather than be overtly political I decided I would simply fold all aspects of my life into this residency. During the five months all shows that I am in, my teaching, the visiting artist program that I coordinate, my travels, my family, my new dog, my interaction with others, my curatorial projects, my other residencies are my Crossing Boundaries residency. I figured that by making everything part of the residency some boundaries would inevitably be crossed. Even upon being given the opportunity to write this a few days ago I decided it too would be part of my residency. That every word I write here would be a product of it, proof that boundaries were crossed. In this case the boundary between you and I is being transgressed through the vehicle of this publication and my 1,000 words. Read the rest of this entry »

News: CTA Unveils Hebru Brantley Artwork in New Green Line Station

News etc., Public Art, South Loop 1 Comment »
Hebru Brantley's original artworks installed as two of the eight panels on view at the new green line McCormick Place station

Hebru Brantley’s original artworks installed as two of the eight panels on view at the new CTA Green Line McCormick Place station

Between studio time, gallery shows and public projects, rising Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley is quite the busy fellow. His latest project is in conjunction with the city’s brand new CTA Green Line Station at McCormick Place. Using transit investment funds and tax-increment-financing funds, the fifty-million-dollar new station will include the Motor Row entertainment district, a convention center and hotels, and showcases eight public art panels of Brantley’s work. Read the rest of this entry »