Leslie Hewitt and Bradford Young. “Untitled Structures,” dual channel video installation, 2012
Sifting through the black-and-white photographs from the Menil Collection, Leslie Hewitt was disarmed by the quiet moments of everyday life found amidst the turbulent marches, violent mobs and impassioned speeches of the Civil Rights Movement. Borrowing a glance, a gesture or a pose, the artist transformed the archive of 230 photographs into a cinematic meditation on memory.
“I was often overwhelmed by the flatness of the photographic image, how its limits—the geometry of it—are often so apparent to me,” Hewitt reflects as we talked late into the afternoon. “From the very beginning, I grappled with the border created by the square or the rectangle of a given image.” In a two-channel video projection “Untitled (Structures)” (2012), the artist attempts to expand the two-dimensional space of the photograph. The quivering light of the projector illuminates architectural ghosts and invites the viewer to step into crumbling urban ruins. From Memphis to Chicago, the dilapidated structures of the Universal Life Insurance Company, the Johnson Publishing headquarters (publisher of Ebony and Jet) and the Rosenwald Apartments flicker across the screen, so haunting one can almost smell the amber and mahogany of age. Read the rest of this entry »
Still from Wu Tsang’s “Mishima in Mexico,” 2012
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago has acquired “Mishima in Mexico,” a high-definition video projection with accompanying programmed LED light installation by the American artist Wu Tsang. This work is added to the museum’s collection on the eve of “Moved by the Motion” a performance work by Wu Tsang and the performance artist boychild that will be presented at the MCA tomorrow, Tuesday August 5, from 6pm-8pm. Read the rest of this entry »
Curt Cloninger, “Twixt The Cup And The Lip #3 (Letting the language speak itself?),” 2011. On view in “glitChicago” at the UIMA.
By Jason Foumberg
A museum survey of Chicago’s innovative glitch art scene opening this month provides a good moment to revisit the city’s deep legacy of media arts. This is where contemporary art intertwines with emergent communications technologies—video, analog and digital computers, and repurposed commercial imaging technology—whatever artists could get their hands on. The local scene is today propelled by many do-it-yourself makers, but heavy academic support in decades past helped media arts flourish here. Some observers have noted that new media art evolved out of Chicago’s experimental music subculture. Curator of “glitChicago,” Paul Hertz says that glitch art, like hacking, is an artist’s answer to Big Media; the movement revives discarded electronics and advocates for open sharing of tools and content. “glitChicago” shows August 1 through September 28 at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2320 West Chicago.
1936: Nathan Lerner, a student at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, stands in traffic medians to photograph the patterns of traffic lights. Lerner later invents the light box.
1947: “Vision in Motion,” Moholy-Nagy’s manifesto, is published in Chicago one year after his death. The book makes a case for the marriage of art and technology, and would inform art and design curriculums for decades at the School of the Art Institute and the Illinois Institute of Technology.
1968: Artists Bill McCabe and Robert Frontier put their penises on a copy machine, creating some of the first copy-machine art in Chicago. By 1970, these alternative printmaking machines become the basis for the Generative Systems program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, spearheaded by Sonia Landy Sheridan. Read the rest of this entry »
“Pearl,” acrylic and nail polish on digitally printed spandex, sequins and velvet
“I was very little when I went as Glinda for Halloween one year, with very patient parents,” recounts artist Vincent Tiley as we met for coffee in Bushwick, the neighborhood in Brooklyn where he resides. Costumed as the good witch of Oz was one of Tiley’s earliest forays into the effervescent world of drag. “I take a lot from my experience coming out in college in Baltimore surrounded by a queer punk scene, making looks and going to a club and feeling all the feels that you get being weird at a place where people want you to be sexy.” For Tiley, bodies contain these tensions between the desire to be desired and a nearly contradictory one to challenge and affront. His first solo exhibition, “New Skin” at elee.mosynary gallery in Pilsen, is populated with heavily adorned bulbous paintings on digitally printed spandex that are “Blob Portraits” of club kids and drag queens that Tiley has befriended.
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Susan Giles. “Untitled (Humayun’s with Cultures),” drawing paper, 2013
In both Susan Giles and Jeroen Nelemans’ practices, video and sculptural works borrow content from tourism and art history as the basis for re-imagining the material representations of place.
Susan Giles’ video “Pulling Out the Words,” 2011, is a series of interviews with five subjects about favorite landscapes in which all of their spoken descriptions have been cut. Landscapes are conveyed only through the speakers’ gestures, stutters and breaths, with Giles’ camera tracking the speakers’ hands, upper body or face.
The perceptual shifts afforded by lacunae continues into the next small room with Nelemans’ Flavin-esque “from the Postcard Series, Untitled #3,” 2012. An enlarged postcard of Dutch tulip fields is sliced vertically and wrapped around slender fluorescent tubes. Colored diagonal lines illuminate the space in between the rows, neatly continuing the image as light spilling onto the wall. Nelemans, Dutch but Chicago-based, is interested in cultural pilfering: tulips originate from Turkey but are a national representation of The Netherlands. Read the rest of this entry »
Ariane Littman. “The Olive Tree,” video (still), 2012
This group exhibition of contemporary artworks from around the globe focuses on the way humans have engaged with the potent longevity of trees to establish borders and identity. The forests in many of the works are both witness and collaborator to mass violent acts; the trees become sinister national monuments.
Andreas Rutkauskas’ “Cutline” photo series shows a straight path through the wilderness between Canada and Vermont. The clear swath cut through the forest evokes an interminable road to nowhere, remote and isolated, yet manicured to perfection. Steven Rowell’s photographs of the Brandenburg forest reveal ruins of Nazi and Soviet camps, mining operations, and nuclear waste storage facilities. Many of the documentary images in “Encounters” expose how the use of trees as natural barriers manufactures the natural and conceals power. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Morris, video still from “Chicago,” 2011
“Chicago,” a 2011 film by Sarah Morris, is the centerpiece of the MCA’s new exhibition, “City Self.” Morris’ flood of telescopic images of our city, accompanied by an electronic score written by her husband Liam Gillick, and projected on a movie screen, presents a seamless digital spectacle of the twenty-first-century city. The camera never lingers on anything or anyone too long; its detachment mirrors our own loss of agency in the phantasmagoric flow. Gallery visitors can screen the entire film or wander in and out.
Grids and infrastructure are foregrounded in Morris’ sixty-eight-minute film, creating the visual implication that the gridded surfaces of Mies’ buildings are truly an expression of the deep structure of the city, and some breathtaking shots of the Lake Shore Drive apartments set Chicago aside from any other global city. Extended sequences of the giant presses where the Tribune and other papers are printed, the still-modernist compositions of pipes that protect the miles of filament and cable at Fermilab and huge mainframe computers (humming electronically like the score) there and other places. Morris and her cinematographer David Daniels reveal the blank material structures and technological non-places that create cyberspace and control the flow of digital images. Read the rest of this entry »
Tony Tasset, “Robert Smithson (Las Vegas),” 1995
By Jason Foumberg
The exhibition begins on the left, and ends nowhere. The MCA’s expansive new group show, “The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology,” bores wormholes through the Rocky Mountains, to Baghdad and Belarus and over the North Pole, through the psyche and into the past. “The past is a foreign country,” wrote L. P. Hartley, and artists are explorers. This is the guiding theme of curator Dieter Roelstraete’s exhibition, which tasks itself with explaining nothing less than the history of the Western world—and who has access to it. The ambitious exhibition with an international roster of artists is “a philosophical speculation,” explained Roelstraete at the media preview. Roelstraete’s show proposes that artists create art, and make meaning, in a new way. That is, artists dig, uncover, exhume, mine, bring to light (and other “digging” synonyms) issues and characters from the past. What artists find (artifacts, secrets, ghosts) is of equal importance to how they found it (research, inquiries, investigations). There are no accidents in this show, only strategies. Read the rest of this entry »
Chelsea Knight’s twenty-three-minute short video, “The Breath We Took,” is a completely absorbing experience. Shot earnestly in documentary style, the work weaves its matriarchal narrative around four generations of Knight’s family, exploring differing views on marriage and motherhood and how those notions—and their attendant trepidations—inevitably affect their relationships with each other. The pastoral New England setting, the intimate, confessional style interviews, and an abiding sense of authenticity envelope the viewer in this vivid, emotionally rich portrait. Read the rest of this entry »
Chris Jordan, from “Midway Message from the Gyre,” 2009–2010
A gamut of environmentalist photography cataloging the depredations that our species has wrought on planet Earth is on display here, ranging from Terry Evans’ series that make destruction look seductively appealing (usually not the shooter ’s intent), through images that aestheticize spoliation with a disturbing undercurrent, to outright assaults on the eye that leave us in no doubt that we are witnessing something awful. Of the seven practiced artists here, working predominantly in color and in different corners of the world, only Chris Jordan dares to lacerate our sensibilities to the max, with his series, from the Pacific Midway Atoll, depicting dead albatrosses, their guts open revealing a mess of plastic garbage that they have snarfed up in their quest for a meal. Read the rest of this entry »