Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Portrait of the Artist: Alison Ruttan

Artist Profiles, Ceramics, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Alison Ruttan in her installation "A Line in the Sand," at the Chicago Cultural Center

Alison Ruttan in her installation “A Line in the Sand,” at the Chicago Cultural Center

“My husband says the FBI knows what I’m doing because I have a heat signature constantly going,” chuckles artist Alison Ruttan as she leads me into the basement of her cozy Oak Park home. We pass from her living room lined with artworks by Ruttan’s husband Scott Stack and neighbor Sabina Ott into a series of chamber-like rooms with low ceilings and cement floors, all brimming with remnants of unused pieces from “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” which occupies the Cultural Center’s three Michigan Avenue galleries. Read the rest of this entry »

Web Exclusive Interview: Naomi Beckwith in Conversation about Richard Hunt

Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962 Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962
Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

By Matt Morris

Could you set up your take as the curator on what the Richard Hunt exhibition at the MCA is?
The show from the MCA starts from the premise of our collection. It’s part of what we call our MCA DNA series, and those are dossier shows—small jewel-box shows—that are about highlights from the MCA holdings that most people don’t even know that we have. So for instance we have another beautiful one up right now featuring Alexander Calder; there’s a huge collection of that in Chicago, many of them right here in this building. Another wonderful one that we put up recently was a collection of Dieter Roth art books that I hadn’t even known were in the collection. The DNA series is a chance for us as a museum to really highlight works of significance that most folks don’t know are here.

I found out that Richard Hunt was turning eighty this year. I realized the best way that we could honor him was to do an exhibition and—oh, my goodness—there are these works in the collection. I knew that the museum had a long history of helping organize the inclusion of a work of his at the White House. It’s a work called “Farmer’s Dream” that was exhibited in D.C. during the Clinton administration, and then when it came back from D.C. it went into Seneca Park, which is the park straight across west of the MCA. It was there for many years and then acquired by the MCA. These kinds of stories I knew, but I didn’t know that we had some of his early work from the sixties here, and we have some works on paper in the collection. The show is really compact, and is set to show the breadth of Richard’s work from his earliest days—the earliest work is from ’57 when he was finishing school—to a work made in, I believe, 2012.

Was the MCA show coordinated with the Cultural Center show?
Would you believe that it was a happy coincidence. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: A Hard-Won Hunt for the Means to Fly

Galleries & Museums, Gold Coast/Old Town, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt, photographed by Thomas McCormick

Richard Hunt/Photo: Thomas McCormick

By Matt Morris

Two concurrent exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Cultural Center crown the sculptor Richard Hunt’s eightieth year. To date, Hunt has produced more public sculpture than any other artist in the United States, with 125 currently on view, thirty-five of which are in Chicago. Hunt completed his studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1957 at a time when other black artists were scarce and the approach to welded metal sculpture Hunt had started to pursue wasn’t supported by the school’s studio facilities. Footage playing at the Cultural Center’s exhibition shows a dashingly handsome young Hunt setting up shop in his parents’ basement. By 1971 he had been honored with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and his diligent efforts have been continually rewarded throughout his career. Taken together, the exhibitions offer audiences examples of early investigations, to-scale maquettes for larger outdoor commissions, and a breadth of two- and three-dimensional works that ground flighty abstractions in a gravitas tempered by the struggles and victories of modern life. 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: Sabina Ott/Chicago Cultural Center

Installation, Loop, Multimedia No Comments »
Installation view of Sabina Ott's “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

Installation view of Sabina Ott’s “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

RECOMMENDED

Sabina Ott’s site-specific installation “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center intersperses highbrow with lowbrow sensibilities as a means of contemplating value. Spanning three rooms, each gallery is named after the levels Dante travels in the epic poem “The Divine Comedy.” Ott visualizes the work of Dante and a bibliography of vetted literary greats in an indulgent paean to manmade synthetics, vulgar taste and a preference for the saccharinely artificial. Conventions of value assignment are reconsidered therein. Each artwork is named after lines from Gertrude Stein’s writing, and the stream-of-consciousness, choppy build-up in Stein’s syntax plays similarly as Ott’s glut of attractive material accumulations.
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News: Chicago Cultural Center Inaugural Artist and Curatorial Residencies Announced [UPDATED]

Loop, News etc. No Comments »
Alexandria Eregbu's performance "Father's Heart," 2013. Photo by Noah Krell.

Alexandria Eregbu’s performance “Father’s Heart,” 2013/Photo: Noah Krell

Last week the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and The Joyce Foundation announced the two curators and six artists who have been selected for the inaugural year of the DCASE Studio Artist and Curatorial Residency Awards at the Chicago Cultural Center (CCC). For the 2014-2015 year, Allison Glenn and Ross Jordan have been selected as curatorial fellows. The selected artists will be provided three-month residencies. The schedule of artist residencies is as follows: Alexandria Eregbu (October-December 2014); Adebukola Bodunrin, Mahwish Chishty and Faheem Majeed in collaboration with Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford (January-April 2015); Cecil McDonald and Cheryl Pope (May-August 2015).
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Portrait of the Artist: Matthew Haussler

Drawings, Loop No Comments »
Matthew Haussler at work on his attempt to break the world record for longest hand drawn maze

Matthew Haussler at work on his attempt to break the world record for longest hand-drawn maze

“I brought my daughter to this room once and she spent five minutes looking at the ceiling, walking around,” says Matthew Haussler about the Cultural Center lobby. “Those are the things most adults don’t notice.” Haussler brought me here to admire the patterned coffers, not unlike the lines within his own work. Months ago he wouldn’t have believed mazes could provide a source of income, let alone that he would gun for the record of the longest hand-drawn maze. With two books of mazes just published by MindWare, and another collection of Chicago mazes funded on Kickstarter, the Cincinnati native has been busy developing his craft. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Hebru Brantley/Chicago Cultural Center

Comics, Loop, Painting No Comments »
Hebru Brantley. "O.M.G."

Hebru Brantley. “O.M.G.”

RECOMMENDED

The large-scale canvases in Hebru Brantley’s “Parade Day Rain” document the travails and revelries of his iconic character The Fly-Boy and his accompanying crew of poly-cultural homies: all vibrant, active, bruised and soaring. Here is an incredibly fresh assemblage of a makeshift community of young people who traverse emotional territory and urban landscape with hope and heartbreak.

Based off The Tuskegee Airmen, Brantley’s Fly-Boy is a black comic-book superhero in a landscape where heroes are usually white, and criminals too often depicted as black. Often Brantley renders his characters in profile against dense pastiche backdrops filled with Nike symbols, bootleg Bart Simpsons, and Jack Johnson dropping lead fists on the head of white supremacy. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artists: Miller & Shellabarger

Artist Profiles, Drawings, Installation, Loop No Comments »
Miller & Shellabarger. "Again Gone," installation view

Miller & Shellabarger. “Again Gone,” installation view

“Western Exhibitions shows all three of us,” say Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, meaning the Chicago gallery separately represents Dutes, Stan and S&M, their collaborative practice as Miller & Shellabarger. The two met as undergraduates studying ceramics and organically began to work together on artistic projects. Twenty-one years later, the couple shares an Irving Park home and studio where individual art practices continue to grow alongside joint projects. Teaming up as Miller & Shellabarger periodically dominates their individual practices, while at other times independent work demands a hiatus from the collaborative. They have found an effortless ebb-and-flow, and three is not a crowd in this household.

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Review: Matthew Girson/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Painting No Comments »
Matthew Girson. "The Painter's Other Library," installation view

Matthew Girson. “The Painter’s Other Library,” installation view

RECOMMENDED

A vexatious cloud hangs low over Matthew Girson’s new exhibition “The Painter’s Other Library.” Depicting endless shelves of meticulously placed books, the artist’s many compositions are executed in a brooding, almost impenetrable palette. At first blush, they read simply as black. As the eyes adjust to the paintings’ hushed tones, book after book, arranged to echo the precision and symmetry of modernist geometric abstraction, slowly emerge from the oleaginous mire. The beguiling tension within these works is heightened by the stark white walls and cathedral-like atmosphere of the Chicago Cultural Center. Read the rest of this entry »