Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Eldzier Cortor/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
Eldzier Cortor. "L’Abbatoire I," 1950s, woodblock print

Eldzier Cortor. “L’Abbatoire I,” 1950s,
woodblock print

RECOMMENDED

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 »

News: Deadline for Art Institute and Threadless T-shirt Competition March 10

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Salvador Dalí. "City of Drawers," 1936.

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 »

News: Chicagoans To Be Included in the 2015 Venice Biennale

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Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates

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 »

Eye Exam: Generative Bodies and Subverted Norms

Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia No Comments »
Jesús Rafael Soto.  "Pénétrable de Chicago," 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.

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 »

The Bomber’s Life: Steppenwolf’s “This Is Modern Art” Looks at the Graffiti Artist

Lincoln Square, Performance, Street Art No Comments »
This Is Modern Art (based on true events), photo by Saverio Truglia

This Is Modern Art (based on true events)/Photo: Saverio Truglia

In 2010, the anonymous graffiti crew Made U Look (MUL) executed a graffiti bombing of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. Under cover of snowfall, they painted a vibrant, text-based fifty-foot mural bookended by the phrases “Modern Art… Made You Look.” This unsanctioned act of institution critique challenged accessibility while calling attention to exclusion of graffiti from the canon of contemporary art. Steppenwolf for Young Adults, the revered ensemble’s teen-focused offshoot, has revisited the event that sparked these debates, concluding its revolution-focused season with “This Is Modern Art (based on true events).”

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News: Christie’s to Auction Ruth Horwich’s Collection

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Ruth Horwich’s collection of Alexander Calder jewelry to be offered at auction. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Ruth Horwich’s collection of Alexander Calder jewelry to be offered at auction. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and John Chamberlain are a few names from Ruth Horwich’s collection featured in the upcoming First Open sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s in New York on March 6, 2015.

Influential leaders and one of Chicago’s resident power couples, Ruth and her late husband Leonard impacted our region’s art scene not only with loaned and gifted artworks to many of our prominent local institutions—including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Smart Museum of Art—but also as two of MCA’s founders and champions for major public artworks such as Jean Dubuffet’s “Monument with Standing Beast” outside the Thompson Center. Leonard died in 1983, and given Ruth’s death in July 2014, twenty-four pieces from their collection will be offered for sale. An exhibition will precede the auction at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries, from February 28 to March 3, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Art Institute Appoints Rebecca Long as Curator of Italian and Spanish Art

Galleries & Museums, Loop, Michigan Avenue, News etc. No Comments »
Rebecca Long, the Art Institute's newly appointed Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan associate curator in the department of medieval to modern European painting and sculpture

Rebecca Long, the Art Institute’s newly appointed Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan associate curator in the department of medieval to modern European painting and sculpture

In early January, The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) announced that Rebecca Long has been appointed as their new Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan associate curator in the department of medieval to modern European painting and sculpture. Long, who was associate curator of European painting and sculpture before 1800 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) for the last six years prior to her new appointment, will be responsible for Italian and Spanish painting and sculpture before 1750 at AIC and will assume her position on February 27.

In the midst of moving to Chicago, Long writes via email, “I’m eagerly looking forward to working with such an amazing collection, to everything from research and gallery installation projects to thinking about creative and meaningful ways to expand the collection in order to broaden and augment its already formidable strengths. I’m also excited about joining the Art Institute’s efforts to reach a broad public and to give visitors a range of possible means of experiencing and learning from collections, exhibitions, and programs.” Long also humbly expresses her gratitude for all that she learned at IMA, articulating that the highlight for her was working with “Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World,” an exhibition she was involved with when she first came to IMA as a research fellow. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Upcoming Free Days at Twenty-one Chicago Museums

Galleries & Museums, News etc. No Comments »
George Bellows. "Love of Winter," 1914.  Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

George Bellows. “Love of Winter,” 1914.
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

Winter can be a dreary month, with all its slushy snow, bitter cold, and flamboyantly merry couples. So if the skating rink in Millennium Park is causing your seasonal affective disorder to spike you and the various coffee shops around the city are filled to capacity, why not warm those frozen paws by taking advantage of the free admission days at our splendid museums? Here is a compilation of free museum days at twenty-one art, cultural and history museums to keep your brain active, eyes mesmerized, and your seasonal affective disorder at bay. (Mahjabeen Syed) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: James Ensor/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
James Ensor. "The Temptation of Saint Anthony," 1887

James Ensor. “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887

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James Ensor’s six-foot-tall drawing “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887, is the exhibition’s thematic and physical centerpiece, set like an altarpiece at the end of a dark, chapel-like corridor. It’s a dense tangle of scary figures and texts, and a teeming universe of references to the artist’s life. The Art Institute wisely bought it in 2006; it hasn’t been shown in sixty years. Composed of fifty-one separate sheets mounted on canvas, it’s a conservation triumph. Stylistically, it’s a cross between Northern Renaissance art and the cramped doodles of underground comics. Indeed, Ensor’s drawing-based art was expressed in almost every two-dimensional media, including the then-new manufactured color pencils. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Art Institute’s Classroom Learning Collaboration with CPS Announces Team of Teachers

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The TEAM program brings selected classes of CPS students into the museum twice a year for tours with specially trained docents.

The TEAM program brings selected classes of CPS students into the museum twice a year for tours with specially trained docents.

On December 12, the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) announced the seventeen schools that will be participating in TEAM: Thinking Experiences in the Art Museum, an educational collaboration between the museum and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that will run from 2014 through 2016. The program is designed to empower CPS fourth and fifth grade teachers and their students to not only use critical and creative thinking skills but also to further develop them with the observation of artwork in both the classroom and the museum.

During this two-year program, a group of twenty-five teachers from the selected seventeen schools will participate in a total of ninety hours of professional development at AIC. The first year is primarily dedicated to educating the teachers about thinking skills and how to use them as well as how to transfer that knowledge onto their students when returning to the classroom. During this time, museum educators visit the TEAM classrooms numerous times, working directly with the fourth and fifth graders after which the teachers receive follow-up emails with tips and thoughts on how they can translate the approaches used when studying the artwork to core subjects like language arts, math, science and social studies. Each class will also visit the museum twice per school year for TEAM tours led by specially trained Art Institute docents who use genuine pieces of art to reinforce the thinking skills previously used in the classrooms. Read the rest of this entry »