Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014
Lucy McKenzie’s largest American exhibition to date unravels like a postmodern mystery novel. The show begins outside of the gallery, where the artist has taken advantage of the floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the Griffin Courtyard of the Modern Wing to construct a window display befitting State Street’s finest stores. A female mannequin in a gymnast suit sits on a glass-topped steel table as mechanized signs whir whimsically beneath a hand-painted title bearing the artist’s signature as if it were a venerable house of fashion. Once inside, the focus becomes painting, though one recalls that Warhol and Rauschenberg dressed department-store windows too. Four floor-to-ceiling panels display massive Tiffany-esque motifs of glowing skies and turbulent clouds drifting behind screens of leafy branches. The pictures within each are oddly cropped to describe the contours of the walls and ceiling of a fictional bar in an imaginary film in which these panels would hang as trompe l’oeil scenery. Indeed, McKenzie has trained in antiquated techniques of decorative painting, which include hyper-realistic depictions of landscape and still life meant to fool the eye in to perceiving representation as reality.
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Romare Bearden. “The Block II” (detail), 1972. Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans
The dynamic urban landscapes of America’s three largest cities constitute the focus of “The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980,” a joint venture of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Architecture and Design and Photography departments and the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibition examines two decades of significant political, social and economic upheaval during which each of these cities emerged as barometers of major shifts in public consciousness subsequent to the suburban flight of the 1950s and before the economic boom of the 1980s. History and its discontents dominate the exhibition, but the show gives voice to a broad range of actors through an electric and all-inclusive range of makers and visual materials. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles,” 1980, printed 2012
The Art Institute of Chicago has embarked on a nine-month celebration titled “Photography Is_________,” commemorating the department of photography’s establishment in 1974. Sarah Charlesworth, who figured among the Pictures Generation of artists, appropriated photos from newspapers that documented people falling from tall buildings. The resulting images meld photojournalistic and fine art photography techniques, creating conceptual documentations of a moment laced with kinetic energy. Measuring over six feet tall, these compositions show mortality tinged with an intense sense of freedom. These are people jumping or falling to their deaths, some showing momentum and violence, while others look serene as these active moments transform into portraits. Read the rest of this entry »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.
The story of Renaissance painting begins with innovations in naturalism that were a welcome liberation from the schematic strictures of the Byzantine style. Or at least, that’s how the leading art historians of the last century, like Ernst Gombrich, told it. Perhaps that’s why this is the first special exhibition devoted exclusively to Byzantine art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 124 years. But as this exhibition proves, the best Byzantine figurative art in painting, sculpture and mosaic was no less fresh, expressive and exciting than subsequent art periods are known to be. Read the rest of this entry »
Eliza Myrie. “diamond, diamond, graphite,” graphite and paper, dimensions variable
In “go/figure,” Eliza Myrie and Daniel Giles converse over problems with abstraction, distortion and obfuscation of black bodies’ representations. Their respective historical research and process-based practices make manifest obscured features in histories of African mining and the craft objects of black slaves in the American South. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel,” Los Angeles, 1980, printed 2012, No. 14 of 14 from the series Stills.
Programming across the city set to coincide with Expo Chicago began on Wednesday with rooftop parties, previews and lectures. Speaking to a near-capacity crowd at the Art Institute of Chicago’s stately Fullerton Hall, artists Liz Deschenes, Laurie Simmons and Sara VanDerBeek were joined by activist Kate Linker Wednesday evening for a wide-ranging discussion of the life and work of the late photographer Sarah Charlesworth in conjunction with the opening of “Stills,” the artist’s first solo museum show in fifteen years. Read the rest of this entry »
Billboards in the Art Everywhere campaign
By Abraham Ritchie
Art museums need people to visit them, but people don’t necessarily need to visit art museums. Museums don’t sell groceries or gas, and they don’t offer all-day childcare, so one really needs never to set foot in a museum. Indeed, many people don’t. When public funding for culture is dwindling from the little there was, the future of art museums is increasingly dependent on an argument that museums need to make: why people should visit them. I have a personal and professional stake in this question since I work in the communications department at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Having famous paintings in your collection helps, but even that may not be enough anymore. You can remind yourself of this fact if you drive north on Interstate 94. At some point during the trip the stream of billboards passing you on the right will be punctuated with one bearing a large image of the lonely diners in Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks.” Next to the famous scene is “#ArtEverywhereUS,” marking it as part of the multi-museum effort to ostensibly bring works of art into public spaces (through billboards and the like), while less altruistically serving as a massive awareness campaign for museums in general. Though Art Everywhere uses both well-known images like Hopper’s and lesser-known works, by displacing the rarified into the common the campaign also executes exact the inverse of its message: art may be everywhere, but as you pass by at sixty miles per hour you’re acutely aware that it’s not really what you’re looking at on a billboard—you’d have to travel to a museum for that. Read the rest of this entry »
Views of hidden labels, reverse sides and photomicrograph cross sections are included in the Monet and Renoir catalogues
Last week, the Art Institute of Chicago published the first two of their online scholarly catalogues. Monet: Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago and Renoir: Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago are densely informative, interactive, close studies of the works of the two Impressionists held in the Institute’s permanent collection. Over the past couple of days, I’ve explored the catalogues; certainly the powerfully detailed zoom options allow viewers to observe details at a closeness that would not be available standing before the paintings in the museum, as well as details of how canvases are stretched, views of their reverse sides and photomicrographs that cross section the paintings’ grounds to see exactly how gesso and paint sit on the surface of the weave of the canvas. Entries on each of the two painters’ work in the collection are accompanied by in-depth curatorial essays, as well as technical reports (very compelling stuff not only for conservationists but artists and others interested in exacting accounts of how an artwork was made) as well as exhaustive accounts of provenance and exhibition history. That such detailed information about even one work is now freely available to the public is astonishing, but collected in the two books are forty-seven works by Monet and twenty-five by Renoir—a massive amount of information about some of the most precious holdings in the Institute’s collection.
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Ruth Horwich died on Monday, July 21, at ninety-four years old. She and her late husband Leonard were renowned art collectors and supporters of numerous Chicago art institutions. Since the 1950s, they collected work by Chicago Imagists, European Surrealists, and the works of many unknown, young, self-taught and folk artists. Their collection also includes many notable examples of work by the artists Alexander Calder, Roberto Matta and Jean Dubuffet. In fact, Dubuffet’s “Monument with the Standing Beast,” a large public sculpture that stands outside the Thompson Center was a partial gift of their Leonard J. Horwich Foundation. Ruth Horwich was one of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s founders in 1967, and has been a trustee of the museum since 1984. Their collection of Calder mobiles and stabiles are part of the Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan to the MCA, and happen to be on view currently in “MCA DNA: Alexander Calder” through May 2015. MCA curator Lynne Warren wrote to Newcity with a thoughtful tribute, saying, “She was so generous to MCA; she donated pieces by Roger Brown, Barbara Rossi, Kerig Pope, Frank Piatek, Konstantin Milonadis, Anne Wilson, H.C. Westermann and others, and would be the first to step up to match grants (back in the days when governmental agencies gave purchase grants!) to acquire Chicago-based artists that she didn’t necessarily collect, including Jim Lutes, Frances Whitehead and Laurie Palmer.” (Read Warren’s full tribute below.) In total, the Horwich’s have added twenty-nine pieces to the MCA’s collection, among them Calder’s 1949 “Four Boomerangs,” Marisol’s 1962 “Jazz Wall” and the 1963 H.C. Westermann “Rosebud.” Read the rest of this entry »
Ethel Stein. “No to Indian Point,” 1997
With her mastery of craftsmanship and design, Ethel Stein, born 1917, might now be the master weaver at the Bauhaus had it endured as long she has. This retrospective, spanning 1982 through 2008, suggests that her primary concern in those years was the pictorial potential of work produced on an old-fashioned drawloom, photographs of which are prominently displayed beside her work. Responding to personal, community and art world concerns, she did things with a loom that have more often been done with brush, paint and canvas. Read the rest of this entry »