Loosely organized around formal parameters and an eponymous ink drawing by musician Sun Ra, this exhibition of paintings, prints and sculpture explores materials, space and the myriad permutations they assume in contemporary art. From digital printing to additive sculpture to oil on canvas, this stylistically wide-ranging show shifts direction and tone as boldly as Sun Ra changed directions in music.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was mostly a disaster for its state-funded visual artists, who were thoroughly trained to celebrate a social and aesthetic order whose appeal did not outlive its demise. Fortunately, many of them have landed in the Chicago area, where their skills in heroic, naturalistic narrative were banished from American art for so long that they can now appear fresh. Read the rest of this entry »
The sky is clear and the sun is hot. Two figures stand inside a lift that reaches the top of a two-story parking garage in the South Loop. Dipping and stretching their dripping rollers, they carefully paint around a twenty-four-foot-tall letter “A.” As I get closer, I notice a third figure standing below them. Feet pacing and eyes looking up, he squints into the sun and lights a cigarette.
“Ben?” I ask. The artist turns around quickly, smiles and shakes my hand. Beads of sweat glisten on his forehead, and his hands and face are covered in orange paint. Despite my surprise visit, he is welcoming and good-humored. Motioning upwards, he wastes no time in explaining his current project. “So, seven letters. I wanted it to be positive, I wanted it to be happy—” He is interrupted by a parking attendant who’s asking the status of the lift’s next move. As he walks off to instruct, I make note of his attire: the bold décor of his countless tattoos, Hawaiian print shorts and bright blue sneakers complements the colorful 240-foot long mural-in-progress, which spells out “HARMONY” in swirls of neon paint. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
A unique practitioner of straight photography, Susan Burnstine shoots her black-and-white cityscapes and landscapes using hand-made film cameras and lenses that she crafts out of plastic, parts from old cameras, and “random household objects.” The images made from these devices have some resemblance to those produced by the famous plastic Holga camera—imprecise, shadowed and clouded. They lack the fine gradations of gray scale and are slightly distorted, but they exude a great sense of solidity, belong firmly within the legacy of the Pictorialist tradition of the early twentieth century, which attempted to translate the aesthetics of Impressionist painting into photography. Read the rest of this entry »
Kevin Swallow likes the rooftop water tanks of Chicago, but he likes them less as an urban historian and more as a child who identifies with their willful isolation. With its bursting-proud tank high up on its tall, spindly legs, isn’t an old fashioned tank just like a wobbly two-year old, setting out to explore the world?
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 »
Comfort Station, the Logan Square multidisciplinary art space, will present an unprecedented twenty-three-day “Vernacular Photography Festival,” a rotating show celebrating the art of everyday and commonplace images throughout the month of August. The festival is curated by Ron Slattery, known as one of the three original collectors of the work of the late Vivian Maier. Maier was a noted street photographer who took more than 150,000 photographs of everyday people and architecture in Chicago and New York. Her work was not widely recognized until after her death in 2009, when Slattery and two other collectors began to circulate images from portions of her archive that they had purchased at auction. Read the rest of this entry »
Museums such as the Field face significant challenges in their efforts to liven up old collections while accounting for significant developments in historical and anthropological scholarship. The 9,000 square feet of exhibition space in the newly opened Cyrus Tang Hall of China is entertaining enough to captivate visitors of all ages, but it can only provide a cursory introduction to 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, though a much more serious and informative story about earth and its creatures might be told online, where there is infinite space for interactive audios, visuals and texts. Read the rest of this entry »
The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the Chicago-born kaleidoscope of experimental musicians, had a motto: “Ancient to Future.” That rallying call pervades the MCA’s “Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now.” The show animates the dawn of the black American avant-garde, born out of the Civil Rights era and African anti-colonial movements, and its legacy in contemporary society.