Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Breaking News: Douglas Druick, Art Institute of Chicago President and Director, to Retire

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Douglas Druick, 2011.

Douglas Druick, 2011.

Douglas Druick, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, announced his intention to retire late Tuesday evening. Druick has been at the helm of the Art Institute since 2011 and has served for a total of thirty years at Chicago’s mainstay art museum. In nearly five years, Druick oversaw the Art Institute through major growth and change, including the acquisition of the largest gift of art in the museum’s history, given by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson earlier this year, record high attendance and recognition as being among the best museums in the world. For these specific achievements and his overall leadership of the institution, Druick topped Newcity’s list of Chicago’s 50 most powerful art figures in 2015.

“It has been my honor to serve as the Art Institute’s president and director,” said Druick. “I have been deeply proud to lead one of the finest museums in the world, and to work for three decades with an exceptional cadre of remarkably talented museum colleagues.” Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Weinstein, RIP

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Photo: Brian Ulrich

Photo: Brian Ulrich

By Brian Hieggelke

I once asked Michael Weinstein—who passed away suddenly after an aortic aneurysm at home last week at the age of seventy-three—why he recommended every photography show he reviewed for us, in nearly every single issue of Newcity beginning in 1990 and up to and including the edition you’re reading right now. He said, in much more eloquent words than my memory offers, that while he enjoyed some shows more than others, he tried to study the work with the intent of understanding it from the artists’ point of view. If he could see it that way, he’d be able to write about it and recommend it.

It’s no surprise then that Michael’s death has affected so many beneficiaries of his gracious intellect so deeply. He mentored on so many levels, and in so many spheres. Our sphere connected most regularly in the arena of photography criticism. When he walked through the door of this then-very-young publication back in 1990, with a freshly written review of an exhibition, he had no way of knowing how much we were waiting for him. Jan and I have an interest in photography as an art form that pre-dates Newcity by several years, and so nothing made me happier than to have Michael find us and establish such a body of work as he would, both remarkable for its longevity and its insight, in the realm of photography.  Read the rest of this entry »

News: African Festival of the Arts Begins Today

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African Festival of the Arts. Photo: Isadore Howard.

African Festival of the Arts/Photo: Isadore Howard

Chicago’s twenty-sixth annual African Festival of the Arts (AFA) is taking place this Labor Day weekend in Washington Park. The AFA, one of the oldest and largest diaspora festivals in America, will convert the park into a “simulated African village” featuring art, music, food and entertainment. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Performance at Daley Plaza to Raise Awareness of Maternal Mortality and Negligent Care

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The sewing machine that Hartney used to sew the gowns was originally owned by Hartney's grandmother. It was passed down through Hartney's mother, who also learned how to sew on this machine.

The sewing machine that Hartney used to sew the gowns was originally owned by Hartney’s grandmother. 2015.

In response to the increasing maternal mortality rate and instances of postpartum PTSD and obstetric abuse in the United States, artist Michelle Hartney has organized a performance entitled “Mother’s Right” to take place on September 7 in Daley Plaza. The performance is a part of a national day of rallies taking place on Labor Day across the nation, organized by the Improving Birth movement to call attention to problems and solutions in maternal health care.

Hartney has sewn 1,200 “hospital gowns,” one for every mother who died in childbirth in America in 2013. Made of fabric that has been silk-screened by artists Erin Chlaghmo, Andrew Reyes, Orr Gidon and Printed Chicago, the design is composed of tiny drawings of plants used to create drugs that have been used on laboring women for the past 150 years.

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News: 2nd Terrain Biennial Sprawls Far Beyond the Suburbs

Architecture, Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, News etc., Oak Park, Performance, Public Art, Sculpture 1 Comment »
"Night Terrain" by artist Kate McQuillen and curated by Claudine Ise for the 2nd Terrain Biennial. Located at 817 South Highland Avenue, Oak Park.

“Night Terrain” by artist Kate McQuillen and curated by Claudine Ise for the 2nd Terrain Biennial. Located at 817 South Highland Avenue, Oak Park.

Playfully eschewing stereotypes of pink flamingos and garden gnomes, the 2nd Terrain Biennial is dedicated to featuring interventions into the conventional landscape of front yards by emerging as well as established artists who have been invited to create site-specific works. Founded in 2011 by Chicago artist Sabina Ott, contributing artists are selected for their ability to challenge the space between public and private, function and decoration and figure and ground.

This year’s biennial takes an international scale, but remains centered in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park across from Longfellow Middle School on Highland Avenue. Unlike many alternative exhibitions, these public artworks will be accessible at all times. According to Ott, one of the goals of the exhibition was to engage pedestrians, visitors, teachers, students and neighbors with myriad forms of contemporary art. Another goal with “Terrain 2.0” was to expand the scope beyond Oak Park. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Janet Dees joins the Block Museum of Art

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Janet Dees. Photo: Kate Russell.

Janet Dees/Photo: Kate Russell

After completing an international search, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University has announced that Janet Dees will join the museum’s curatorial team. Dees, who is currently finishing her Ph.D. in 18th-20th century American art at the University of Delaware, brings to her appointment extensive knowledge of global contemporary art and museum practices, as well as museum leadership experience, says Kathleen Bickford Berzock, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Block Museum.

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News: Luftwerk to Debut High Tech, Site-Specific Installations at Garfield Park Conservatory

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Rendering of “Florescence," 2015. Luftwerk Studio.

Luftwerk Studio. Rendering of “Florescence,” 2015.

Five technology-infused and site-specific installations will populate the Garfield Park Conservatory in a year-long exhibition titled “solarise: a sea of all colors” debuting in September. Each immersive installation invites viewers to interact with nature, color and light while exploring the Conservatory grounds. “Garfield Park Conservatory has long been known as a Chicago cultural anchor,” remarked Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “and this interactive art installation will underscore the conservatory’s cultural legacy while engaging residents in new ways.”

Created by Luftwerk, an art practice co-founded by Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, the installations respond to the philosophies of Jens Jensen, the landscape architect who designed the conservatory, who believed in the importance of public access to nature in the city. Each of the five installations—“The Beacon,” “Portal,” “Florescence,” “Seed of Light,” and “Prismatic”—emphasize and supplement the conservatory’s natural spaces. With the installations, Luftwerk aims “to instill in visitors an increased sense of wonder, while they roam the gardens and vegetation rooms. [We hope to] inspire visitors to take a closer look at how nature, art, and technology can interact.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Hybrid Gallery Gallerique Opens in Fine Arts Building

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Maria Girgenti and Sam Khan of Gallerique.

Maria Girgenti and Sam Khan of Gallerique

The Fine Arts Building on South Michigan is the new home of Gallerique, a hybrid online and brick-and-mortar marketplace for fine art and designed objects. This new store will be right at home in this downtown architectural masterpiece, which is a work of art in and of itself.

The idea for Gallerique materialized when Sam Khan, founder and CEO, realized a need for an online gallery platform that maintains the high standards and expert curation of fine art galleries while harnessing the ease of online exchanges. Gallerique will offer a market that moves fluidly between an online and physical presence while facilitating multi-directional exchanges between collectors and makers. “Sam wanted to be instrumental in changing the collecting experience from an exclusive to a more inclusive model to accommodate the needs of both new and experienced collectors who are eager to engage with and acquire works in new ways,” explains Maria Girgenti, director of partner relations at Gallerique.

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Eye Exam: Cutting Back, Dropping Out

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Illinois State Museum in Springfield. Photo by Mike Linksvayer.

Illinois State Museum in Springfield/Photo: Mike Linksvayer

By Elliot J. Reichert

Last week, a bipartisan Illinois legislative commission rejected Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposal to close the Illinois State Museum system. The vote of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is a non-binding but weighty gesture against the efforts of the state’s Executive Office to reduce Illinois’ massive budget deficit through severe and uneven cuts in public spending. The Illinois State Museum is a network of five sites that serve distinct but complementary purposes in the preservation and cultivation of Illinois history and culture: a natural history and art museum in Springfield, an on-site archaeological museum of Native American history at Dickson Mounds, a contemporary art museum inside of a repurposed riverfront warehouse in Lockport, a gallery and artisan shop in downtown Chicago, and a museum and gallery in the southern community of Rend Lake. The cuts would reduce the projected $6.29 million annual operating budget of the museum system to $1.5 million, saving Illinois approximately $4.8 million in the next fiscal year. The retained funds would be spent maintaining the facilities and collections of nearly 13.5 million objects housed by the museums during their indefinite closure. Illinois will continue to keep rare and precious artworks and artifacts related to the heritage and history of the state, but the taxpayers who pay for the care of these things will no longer be able to access them. Read the rest of this entry »

News: David Wallace Haskins’ “Skycube” Premieres at the Elmhurst Art Museum

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David Wallace Haskins. Rendering of “Skycube.” Copyright 2015.

David Wallace Haskins. Rendering of “Skycube.” Copyright 2015.

David Wallace Haskins’ “Skycube,” an outdoor installation that reflects and focuses the ever-changing three-dimensional sky, will debut on August 11 outside of the Elmhurst Art Museum. This three-ton cube (eight by eight by eight feet) will include a square aperture that brings the sky to a viewer’s eye level.

Haskins, a Chicago-based artist, works with a team of experts in various fields, including physics, ecology and psychology, to investigate and experiment with sound, time, light and space. Artists such as J.M.W. Turner and René Magritte have grappled with the sky in artwork, Haskins acknowledges in a phone interview, but with “Skycube,” Haskins invites viewers to participate in a phenomenological experience. Read the rest of this entry »