Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Sarah Charlesworth/Art Institute of Chicago

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Sarah Charlesworth. "Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles," 1980, printed 2012

Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles,” 1980, printed 2012

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Daniel Giles and Eliza Myrie/Roots & Culture

Ceramics, Drawings, Installation, Performance, Video, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Eliza Myrie. "diamond, diamond, graphite," graphite and paper, dimensions variable

Eliza Myrie. “diamond, diamond, graphite,” graphite and paper, dimensions variable

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Expo Dispatches: Sarah Charlesworth and Conceptual Photography Discussed at Art Institute

Art Fairs, Loop, News etc., Photography No Comments »
Sarah Charlesworth. "Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel," Los Angeles, 1980, printed 2012, No. 14 of 14 from the series Stills.

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 »

Eye Exam: What’s the Future of Museums?

Galleries & Museums No Comments »
billboards in the Art Everywhere campaign

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 »

News: Art Institute Begins Publishing Online Digital Catalogues

Galleries & Museums, News etc., Painting No Comments »
views of hidden labels, reverse sides and photomicrograph cross sections are included in the Monet and Renoir catalogues

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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News: Major Arts Supporter Ruth Horwich Has Passed Away

Hyde Park, News etc. No Comments »

ruth horwich

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 »

Review: Ethel Stein/Art Institute of Chicago

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Ethel Stein. "No to Indian Point," 1997

Ethel Stein. “No to Indian Point,” 1997

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: René Magritte/Art Institute of Chicago

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René Magritte. "Clairvoyance (La Clairvoyance)," oil on canvas, 1936

René Magritte. “Clairvoyance (La Clairvoyance),” oil on canvas, 1936

RECOMMENDED

A girl devours a bird; feet morph into shoes; a nude female torso reads as a face. “René Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938,” the Art Institute of Chicago’s summer blockbuster, showcases the most important period of the Surrealist who precisely painted a new and disturbing reality. The exhibition is a collaboration between Houston’s Menil Collection, MoMA and the AIC.

It has a narrow focus—just a dozen years—when Magritte painted his “breakthrough” images. (The floating bowler-hatted men with umbrellas were later.) But many of his most famous pictures are here: ones that defined Surrealism and modern art, such as “The Treachery of Images” (“Ceci n’est-pas une pipe”) and “The Lovers” (a kissing couple with shrouded heads). Even though Magritte’s paintings operate as illustrations—he was a professional illustrator, after all—this show restores their status as paintings rather than as posters or jpegs. The works’ scale may surprise, as will the immaculate strokes and the saturated colors.

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News: Key Early Imagist Painting by Gladys Nilsson Enters Art Institute of Chicago Collection

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Gladys Nilsson. "The Trogens," acrylic on Plexiglas, 1967

Gladys Nilsson. “The Trogens,” acrylic on Plexiglas, 1967

The Art Institute of Chicago’s recently acquired painting “The Trogens” by Imagist Gladys Nilsson has been put on view in the museum’s Modern Wing. While Nilsson has been previously represented in the Institute’s permanent collection with thirteen prints and six other works on paper, this 1967 acrylic painting on Plexiglas is a key addition not only for its use of painting on the reverse side of the acrylic sheet—an oft-employed painting method among the Imagists—but also for its inclusion in one of the founding “Hairy Who?” exhibitions at the Hyde Park Art Center, where Nilsson and her husband Jim Nutt had been teaching art classes. The work was a gift to the museum last year from the artist herself in memory of Whitney Halstead, an art historian who helped promote the Hairy Who artists.

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