Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Alfred Stieglitz/Art Institute of Chicago

Galleries & Museums, Loop, Media & Genres, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Julia Margaret Cameron. "Thomas Carlyle," 1867, printed 1875. The Art Institute of Chicago. Alfred Stieglitz Collection.

Julia Margaret Cameron. “Thomas Carlyle,” 1867, printed 1875. The Art Institute of Chicago. Alfred Stieglitz Collection.


The Art Institute has one of the world’s finest holdings of photographs by Stieglitz and his circle—a gift from his wife Georgia O’Keeffe no less—and little excuse is needed to bring them out from time to time. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: John Knight/Art Institute of Chicago

Ceramics, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Loop, Media & Genres No Comments »
John Knight, "Plate #28," from "Museotypes" series, 1983.

John Knight, “Plate #28,” from “Museotypes” series, 1983.


To mark the Renaissance Society’s centennial, the Art Institute installed John Knight’s “Museotypes,” a series of sixty commemorative plates ostensibly honoring the museum. Hung in three stacked rows of twenty each, each gold-rimmed bone-china plate (the hue is just warmer than gallery white) sports the silhouetted footprint of a high-caliber museum in black glaze. Altogether, the abstract similarity shared by the graphics condenses art-housing architecture into minimalist logos that are less salable than museum facades, but no worse at making an icon of an institution. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Voyage to South America: Andean Art in the Spanish Empire/Art Institute of Chicago

Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Michigan Avenue, Painting No Comments »
Unidentified Artist?. "Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá with Female Donor," late 17th/early 18th century.

Unidentified Artist. “Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá with Female Donor,” late-seventeeth/early-eighteenth century.

The title of this dossier exhibition is misleading. There is nothing here about voyages: no ships, disembarkations, or conquistadores. It should instead be called: “An Assemblage of Colonial Andean Paintings, Mostly Religious, that Occlude Matters of Racism and Slavery.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kesa: Japanese Buddhist Monks’ Vestments/Art Institute of Chicago

Craft Work, Design, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Michigan Avenue, Textiles No Comments »
Kesa, Edo period (1603–1868), mid-/late 18th century. Japan. Gift of Gaylord Donnelley in memory of Frances Gaylord Smith.

Kesa, Edo period (1603–1868), mid-/late eighteenth century. Japan. Gift of Gaylord Donnelley in memory of Frances Gaylord Smith.


Sometimes, discipline is the basis of freedom. The sonnet is a fourteen-line poem in iambic pentameter. The haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables. The sonata form demands exposition, development and recapitulation. Shakespeare, Basho and Beethoven thrived within these constraints.

The kesa, the outer garment worn by Japanese Buddhist monks, imposes on its maker many restrictions. It must be quadrilateral, composed of cloth or paper (recalling the shreds and patches worn by the historical Buddha), and composed in columns (usually seven), framed by a border with mitered corners. There are often six additional blocks placed here and there, ostensibly to strengthen the garment, but really because another rule creates another opportunity for beauty. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Degas: At the Track, On the Stage/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Edgar Degas. "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen," c. 1879-1881. Private Collection.

Edgar Degas. “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen,” c. 1879-1881. Private Collection.

For a man surrounded his whole life by women and horses, Degas was astonishingly unresponsive to both. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Curator Profiles, Galleries & Museums, Michigan Avenue, News etc. No Comments »
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 »

Review: Gates of the Lord: The Tradition of Krishna Paintings/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
"Dauji II Performing Arati on Sharada Purnima?," First quarter of the 19th century. Nathdwara, Rajasthan, India. Amit Ambalal Collection. / Photo: Anuj Ambalal.

“Dauji II Performing Arati on Sharada Purnima,” First quarter of the nineteenth century. Nathdwara, Rajasthan, India. Amit Ambalal Collection/Photo: Anuj Ambalal


Every encyclopedic collection of world art has at least one depiction of Krishna, the most lovable god of the Hindu pantheon. Read the rest of this entry »

Art 50 2015: Chicago’s Visual Vanguard

Art 50 1 Comment »


Long heralded as a mecca for alternative practices, collectivity and socially engaged art, Chicago increasingly finds itself among the most visible international art destinations precisely because of its distinct character and openness to change and growth. What makes this city fertile ground for launching new talent and sustaining confirmed genius? A complex and ever-changing network of curators, collectors, administrators, critics, dealers, educators and other enthusiasts cultivate Chicago’s artistic vitality and diversity. The Art 50 is Newcity’s annual snapshot of Chicago’s art ecosystem. This year, we track the power players who shape the terrain in which we thrive.

The Art 50 was written by Elliot J. Reichert, Maria Girgenti, Abraham Ritchie, Kate Sierzputowski and B. David Zarley.

Cover and interior photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Cutting Back, Dropping Out

Activist Art, Art Schools, Design, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, News etc., Suburban No Comments »
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 »