Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Archibald Motley/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Painting No Comments »
Archibald J. Motley Jr. "Hot Rhythm," 1961 oil on canvas, 40" x 48.375"

Archibald J. Motley Jr. “Hot Rhythm,” 1961
oil on canvas, 40″ x 48.375″

RECOMMENDED

American life continues to be dominated by friction between its European and African diasporas. Possibly no American artist has been as immersed in that unfolding drama as Archibald Motley (1891-1981), among the first African Americans to address that theme with a thorough training in European pictorial space. As suggested by the thousand-mile-stare in his two self-portraits, wariness is the key to his response. He was too dark for the boardrooms of middle-class America, too well educated for the streets of Bronzeville, and too concerned with African-American identity for trendy galleries of modernist art. So he was probably uncomfortable in every public setting—except the dance halls in Jazz Age Harlem where urban sophisticates of all backgrounds mingled. His visualization of that world is ecstatic. It is also masterful, in both narrative and design, comparing well with the dance halls depicted by Renoir, Lautrec and Picasso, but with a greater emphasis on the congenial interaction between characters. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Artists 2015: Chicago’s Next Generation of Image Makers

Artist Profiles, Breakout Artists 1 Comment »
Cover by Matthew Hoffman, Breakout Artist 2006. Photo: Cheryl Hinman

Cover by Matthew Hoffman, Breakout Artist 2006. Photo: Cheryl Hinman

Breakout Artists is our annual showcase of Chicago artists we think you should know. This is our twelfth edition.

Lists like these always risk reduction, betray biases and can say more about the limits of their host publication’s scope than about the worthiness of artists—those mentioned or not. They persist as conversation starters: their value isn’t solely in what is printed here, but in the excited discussions and debates that proceed from them. Our circulation spikes around these featured lists, and so does the mail we receive. Understanding those contexts is an important part of appreciating what a list like our annual Breakout Artists can and can’t do.

But while many lists of this sort are ranked or correspond to particular forms of prestige, our Breakout Artists have always been determined by a more mysterious (and certainly subjective) calculus. I had to begin by wondering out of what these artists were meant to be breaking. This year, we are celebrating and advocating for ten artists’ practices who have seen breakthroughs in their work and are breaking out into higher stakes, wider visibility, a broader range of media, or expansions of what art can accomplish. Their practices subvert racial and gender stereotypes, crisscross into adjacent fields like illustration and design, enmesh studio work with curating and other socially engaged creative moves, run amuck in traditional mediums like painting and sculpture, while also finding ways to work in new places outside galleries or on the web.

The artists we’ve selected are at different stages of their careers; this is not an emerging artist list, although a couple have recently completed BFAs. If there is a common feature, it is one that shows the continued gravitational pull of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on the arts cultivated in this town. Despite being one of the most expensive college educations in the country (for art or anything else) and in the face of perpetual wondering about the relevance of higher education, each of this year’s Breakout Artists have brushed through SAIC—whether studying there or, like me, teaching there. These artists’ work happens not only in sanctioned art world temples, but in apartment spaces far out on the Green Line, in the neighborhoods surrounding Cook County Jail, from Rogers Park to Washington Park, and sometimes in Canada. Whether in major arts institutions or in the dispersed expanded field of where creative exploration can happen, these are artists worth knowing about and watching out for the great things they are doing. (Matt Morris)

Portrait of the Artist: Faheem Majeed

Artist Profiles, Gold Coast/Old Town No Comments »
Faheem Majeed. Photo by Devin Mays.

Faheem Majeed/Photo: Devin Mays

At the Museum of Contemporary Art, we sit at the large table inside Faheem Majeed’s piece “Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden.” Two museum patrons crash my interview for the chance to speak with the artist. Piece by piece, they share a dialogue about Majeed’s ideas and their impressions of his work. We are, he tells us, in a re-creation of the South Side Community Art Center, a space he ran for seven years. “It oozed into my being. I know everything about that space.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Chicago-based Artist Sabina Ott Receives 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship

Installation, Multimedia, News etc., Painting, Public Art, Sculpture 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

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (GMF) announced earlier this month that they have awarded 173 fellowships (two of which are joint fellowships) to diverse artists, scholars and scientists. In the foundation’s ninety-first competition for the United States and Canada, this year’s recipients were chosen from a pool of over 3,100 applicants. Among that talented group spanning over fifty-one disciplines with recipients ranging in age from twenty-nine to eighty-three is Sabina Ott, a Chicago-based painter and sculptor who is a professor of art at Columbia College Chicago. With the Guggenheim award, Ott intends to expound the scope upon her most recent work “here and there pink melon joy,” a site-oriented installation of paintings and sculptures completed in August of 2014 that was on display at the Chicago Cultural Center until January 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Inaugural Lake FX Summit + Expo – April 16-19

Art Fairs, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, News etc. No Comments »
Throughout Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, from 10am-4pm the Lake FX Expo at the Chicago Cultural Center will connect Chicago's creative community to the resources that can advance their career. Participants like Kickstarter, Inventables, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Kartemquin Films, Links Hall, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Fractured Atlas and others will be available in a trade show format for discussion with Expo visitors.

Throughout Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, from 10am-4pm the Lake FX Expo at the Chicago Cultural Center will connect Chicago’s creative community to the resources that can advance their career. Participants like Kickstarter, Inventables, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Kartemquin Films, Links Hall, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Fractured Atlas and others will be available in a trade show format for discussion with Expo visitors.

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), an organization committed to bettering Chicago’s arts and culture, recently announced its full schedule for the inaugural Lake FX Summit + Expo, presented by Google and co-produced by CIMMfest and The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter, along with a host of sponsors. Geared toward artists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs, this free, four-day conference begins on April 16. It will include professional development panels, workshops, keynotes by industry leaders and a resource fair at the Chicago Cultural Center and various locations around the city. Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »