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 »
David Hartt. “Interval V,” 2014
David Hartt’s “Interval” is a visually stunning multimedia installation of photography, video, sculpture and sound that approximates distances—physical, temporal, historical and sonic—to examine uneven development among geographic and economic peripheries and the global forces that centralize capital accumulation. Set to a haunting score and evocatively documented in high-definition video and large-format photographs, Hartt’s camera records everyday moments in Sakhalin Island—a historically contested territory between mainland Russia and Japan—and the city of Whitehorse, the frontier capital of the Yukon Territory in Canada. With an ambivalent stillness that is neither voyeuristic nor detached, the videos and photographs portray these places as simultaneously restless and static as they are caught between an unhappy present and an uncertain future. Read the rest of this entry »
Charles Ray. “Huck and Jim,” 2014.
Installation view at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Charles Ray’s figurative sculptures sparsely populate the second floor of the Modern Wing in this major midcareer retrospective. Walls were removed to give the nineteen works plenty of breathing room. The pieces, cast in white and silver materials, create a cool, calming effect. Combined with the hushed atmosphere, examining the work feels like sneaking up on someone, as in “Sleeping Woman,” where a stainless-steel rendering of a homeless woman naps on a public bench. Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of Liz Larner, on the Bluhm Family Terrace, the Art Institute of Chicago
In Liz Larner’s current exhibition on the Art Institute’s Bluhm Terrace, two freestanding stainless steel sculptures have been placed at a diagonal to each other. While the generous amount of space between the works engenders but a faint conversation between them, the expansive wooden stage upon which they rest unites the pieces together as a pair. The urban lumber platform, constructed by Larner’s hands and held together by countless golden screws, is made from unflashy materials that would typically appear discreet—however, the large expanse of ash-wood boards fitted tightly together boldly contrast the terrace’s industrialized cityscape with a warm, simplistic rawness. Read the rest of this entry »
The recently opened Gallery 2506, located in Logan Square
Last week, longtime friends Kathleen Burnett and Teresa Grammatke opened the doors to Gallery 2506, a commercial gallery in Logan Square. The launch of their “Perception” exhibition, which runs through May 29, marked its grand opening. This show, and those that follow, focuses on beauty—a key component of Gallery 2506’s mission.
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Ken Price. “Green Rock Cup,” 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.
The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) recently announced collector Irving Stenn Jr.’s gift of 105 pivotal contemporary drawings by renowned artists. Considered to be one of the most significant contributions of drawings to have ever been given to the museum, the encompassing and vast body of work heavily focuses on works from the 1960s, to which Stenn was keenly attracted. The gifts were exhibited a couple years ago at AIC but will now be part of their permanent collection, put on display on occasion when their inclusion is appropriate to the exhibitions. When asked in a phone interview about why he decided to donate the drawings now, Stenn says, “The timing seems right, the Art Institute of Chicago is wonderful, and these drawings belong in the public hand.” Read the rest of this entry »
Eldzier Cortor. “L’Abbatoire I,” 1950s,
In recognition of his lifetime achievement, a selection of Eldzier Cortor’s prints are now on display at the Art Institute. The earliest series, “L’abbatoire” (slaughterhouse), 1955-1980, documents the artist’s dismay over the violent politics of Haiti, where he once lived. The “Dance” series, 1978, presents the nubile female form in a kind of decorative pattern that recalls the murals of ancient Crete or Egypt. The “Jewels/Theme” series, 1985, encases those same graceful women in brilliant, sharply cut gemstones. The “Sepia Odalisque” series, 1998, sets them, as sultry pairs, into a Turkish harem. Read the rest of this entry »
Salvador Dalí. “City of Drawers,” 1936.
The first in a series of t-shirt design challenges sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) and the t-shirt company Threadless is quickly drawing to a close, with a March 10 deadline for submissions. When two globally recognized entities like these join forces in the name of art, beautiful things can happen. This is the first in an ongoing series of art-inspired t-shirt design challenges where artists from all over the world have been asked to create a piece of art inspired by the works of the museum and submit their designs. Read the rest of this entry »
This morning the list of 136 artists to be included in the upcoming fifty-sixth Venice Biennale was announced. Two Chicago-based artists are included in this impressive roster: Theaster Gates and Kerry James Marshall (#1 and #4 respectively on Newcity’s 2014 Art 50 list). The Bienniale opens on May 9, 2015 and runs through November 22, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »
Jesús Rafael Soto. “Pénétrable de Chicago,” 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.
By Matt Morris
Friends of mine are used to me bristling against the word “normal,” and many of the art students I teach have opted to avoid it lest they elicit a mini-lecture that questions the production of normalcy as an underlying societal force. At issue is how normative conceptions of being come about in relation to what is deemed abnormal: this could be queer, minority or, as I’m considering here, the production of the category of disability. 2015 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), leaving me with questions of what the art world has done over these decades to not only comply with government-mandated civil rights law but to actively imagine modes of engagement that appreciate differently abled bodies and minds of both art audiences and artists as an opportunity to create new forms of meaningful experience.
In his 2011 essay “Beautiful Progress to Nowhere,” Chicago-based artist, writer and educator Joseph Grigely wonders, “…The arts need disabled people; but it’s not clear what exactly defines this need. Is it because difference is ‘good’? Or is it because the experience disables those who interact with us, thereby rewriting the tacit rules by which we share space together?”
Perhaps innovations in how art can be a place of interaction for low and non-sighted individuals, those who are deaf, people with special needs for mobility and other perhaps difficult to predict differences in bodies stresses the incommensurability of shared experiences in art: it’s not the same for any of us, no matter what shared abilities we might have. I spoke with Dr. Carrie Sandahl, head of the Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities at UIC, “Everybody can get some experience of the artwork with their own history and apparatus, but it doesn’t have to match. Why do we think that it’s ever going to match? Audiences are going to bring different things.” Read the rest of this entry »