Esau McGhee in his East Garfield Park studio
“My collage work is about this collective experience that we all share with public spaces,” explains Esau McGhee. “It doesn’t matter, you could be a fifty-year-old white Jewish chick or a young Latino male. It’s not my space, it’s not your space, it’s really ours, and it’s going through an evolution as dictated by us and our shared experience with it.”
As an African-American man who grew up as a self-proclaimed “ghetto kid” and ended up a professional artist by way of high-end, private fine art programs at SAIC and Northwestern, McGhee thinks a lot about how people from different races and economic classes relate to one another. He believes that people from different backgrounds can connect with one another through their shared visual experiences. With a studio based in the quintessentially urban East Garfield Park, McGhee’s practice intuitively incorporates the patterns of city landscapes, evoking a mood that city dwellers from all backgrounds could relate to—and with his most recent exhibitions being in the very different Elastic Arts, Union League Club and the Hyde Park Art Center, people from all different backgrounds have had a chance to.
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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)
Hyde Park Art Center – Guida Family Creative Wing Schematic Detail
The new Guida Family Creative Wing at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) will open in fall 2015, thanks to a successful 75th Anniversary Campaign in 2014 and $750,000 gift from John, Julie and Angelina Guida. On Sunday, April 19, celebration of their groundbreaking will coincide with a reception with multiple exhibitions on view, including resident artist Susan Giles’ exhibition, “Scenic Overlook” and Nancy Lu Rosenheim’s “Swallow City.” Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Nuria Montiel. “AgriFarm,” 2014,
monoprint, 25″ x 18″
For some art, a gallery acts less like a space that showcases living creativity and more like a funeral home where you go to stare at dead people. Just as that dead person you see laid-out before you was once bright and living in the world, the art so filled with promise and meaning in its proper context, now hangs lifeless, eviscerated by clean corridors, harsh lights and climate control. Like a lot of socially engaged art, sadly, this is the case with Nuria Montiel’s “Wxnder Wxrds” at the Hyde Park Art Center. Read the rest of this entry »
Kelly Lloyd. “I painted the elevator doors the color of my skin. C1, 21,1—E0,13,0—KX0,22,1—V0,37,0,” 2014, acrylic on elevator doors
by Matt Morris
I had been trying to muster the holiday cheer to write a whimsical column about winter window displays when I read the news that the St. Louis County grand jury tasked with the decision to indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot eighteen-year-old Michael Brown to death in August chose not to pursue justice. Since the announcement, I’ve been in vocal and incredulous discussions over the sadistically intricate ways that political and social suppression, economic disadvantage, the bizarre militarization of police forces and even President Obama’s muted responses to this and other murders of unarmed black people have conspired in a construction of an impossibly powerful systemic racism. I’ve felt the deep urge to run. In my mind I see the text “RUN” Rashid Johnson spray-painted in white across a mirror that was included in “Message to Our Folks,” his survey at the MCA two years ago. This is a run from lynch mobs and paramilitary cops and deplorably violent histories that span centuries of America’s past.
Rashid Johnson. “Run,” 2008,
mirror with spray paint
Our society has been shaped without consideration to the personhood and value of nonwhite lives, therefore their sadness, outrage and even their deaths have not been permitted to have any impact. Confronted with this daunting problem built into the very structure of this country, my conviction that art has the potential to powerfully interject into the thick of restrictive, racist assumptions has been bolstered by several recent projects that investigate how visibility for people of color’s lives is situated into public and institutional spaces. Read the rest of this entry »
Eric May. “Eat in the Streets,” 2011 (Booth #740)
Bag of raw almonds for energy boost, false lashes stowed in my handbag for evening-wear eye-drama boost, press badge and a prayer for stamina: Expo Chicago’s press preview yesterday rolled directly into the Vernissage party that dispersed across town to a boat party, a disco dance and dishes of art world gossip: which gallery’s staff is jumping ship? who’s leaving their long-term gallery representation? who’s been exploring her ‘lesbian side’? who’s pregnant? and so on. Thursday’s kickoff to the fair was over-stimulating and today’s shaping up the same. I stopped for lunch and worked out some thoughts about patterns in the artworks exhibited, highlights and rare occasions for profundity for Expo visitors who are art lovers if not big-time collectors. Read the rest of this entry »
Esau McGee. “Untitled Chicago Ave. Landscape,”2013, mixed medium collage, 24 x 24 inches
Selected from more than 100 nominees, the Hyde Park Art Center has announced the artists to be exhibited in its third biennial exhibition Ground Floor: Evan Baden, Hannah Barco, Greg Browe, Houston Cofield, Maggie Crowley, Barbara Diener, Assaf Evron, Andrew Holmquist, Kelly Lloyd, Jesse Malmed, Esau McGee, Ben Murray, Celeste Rapone, Kyle Schlie, Tina Tahir, Keijaun Thomas, Daniel Tucker, Ramyar Vala, Julie Weber and Nicole Wilson. All of these artists have recently completed their Masters in Fine Arts at five of Chicago’s highly ranked MFA programs: Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »
Karl Wirsum, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Suellen Rocca, Jim Nutt, 1967/Photo: Charles Krejcsi
The Gene Siskel Film Center has announced that in the first week of October it will host a run of Leslie Buchbinder’s first feature-length film, “Hairy Who & the Chicago Imagists,” a documentary that introduces broader audiences to the lively Chicago-based art movement that contested the primacy of Pop Art in the 1960s with wacky and cleverly funny cartoon figurative painting. The documentary will screen daily from Friday, October 3 through Thursday October 9 (full schedule here). Friday’s screening on opening night will feature appearances from director Leslie Buchbinder, producer Brian Ashby and editor Ben Kolak. Then on Sunday, artists Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca and Karl Wirsum will be present at the 5:30pm screening. On the last evening of the run, Thursday, October 9, Ashby returns with screenwriter/music advisor John Corbett and sound designer/engineer Alex Inglizian. Read the rest of this entry »
Curator and artist Christopher K. Ho
By Christopher K. Ho
Christopher K. Ho was recently curator in residence at the Hyde Park Art Center to co-organize “The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle,” an exhibition and events series that considers the role of the art center in its seventy-fifth anniversary year. Ho is also an artist, art educator and writer, and is based in New York.
Grunt work undergirds a lot of creative industries, including art making, even though its value and importance is often overlooked. The contemporary art world loves outliers and geniuses. But there is a broad swathe in the middle that has been going at it for many years, and it’s the characteristics of this group that I and my co-curators Allison Peters Quinn and Megha Ralapati wanted to highlight in “The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle.”
“The Chicago Effect” proposes civic engagement as an alternative to the ideologically pitched political and activist art that dominated our field after the late 1960s. When I was at Cornell and Columbia, that is what I was taught; “1968” had become institutionalized through participants who later became professors. Today, reexamining the middle is ever more pressing. The exhibition looks at compromise positively. It’s not about taking a politically extreme position, whether left or right, but trying to occupy both your own and your opposite’s viewpoints: a moderate position. Like that swathe of artists who fall between outliers and geniuses, the transformative potential of the socio-political middle ground is underestimated. Read the rest of this entry »