Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: What It Means for Chicago to be in the Middle

Curator Profiles No Comments »
Curator and artist Christopher K. Ho

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 »

News: Shaquille O’Neal to Curate Booth at Expo Chicago 2014

Art Fairs, News etc. No Comments »
Shaquille O'Neal standing in "SIZE DOES MATTER," an exhibition he curated for the FLAG Art Foundation in 2010

Shaquille O’Neal standing in “SIZE DOES MATTER,” an exhibition he curated for the FLAG Art Foundation in 2010

Yesterday EXPO Chicago announced that Shaquille O’Neal will be curating a booth for the FLAG Art Foundation in this fall’s iteration of the art fair. Entitled “SHAQ LOVES PEOPLE,” the project will consist of portraits produced by emerging and established artists of people across various races, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. This is the second curatorial project at FLAG by the fifteen-time NBA all-star turned entrepreneur whose other cultural work includes rap albums, reality television shows and film acting. In 2010 he curated “SIZE DOES MATTER” at FLAG’s gallery in Chelsea, which included artists such as Fred Wilson, Cathy de Monchaux, Kehinde Wiley, Lisa Yuskavage and Jeff Koons. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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

News etc., Painting No Comments »
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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News: Deadline Alert for Propeller Fund Grants

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The Franklin, an alternative gallery space in East Garfield Park, was a 2012 Propeller Fund recipient

The Franklin, an alternative gallery space in East Garfield Park, was a 2012 Propeller Fund recipient

Now in its fifth year, the Propeller Fund is offering two info sessions in advance of the August 1 deadline for 2014 applications. The first one is June 18 at the Hyde Park Art Center at 6 pm (5020 South Cornell). Grant administrator Abigail Satinsky will give a presentation that provides a basic overview of the application, offer discussion about eligibility for the award, and stick around for a Q&A.

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Portrait of the Artist: John Preus

Sculpture No Comments »

PR rendering image Feb14

John Preus has brought into being a “Beast” at the Hyde Park Art Center; a two-story, wooden construction shaped in the form of a bull and designed to swallow incoming visitors into its large hollow belly. This massive site-specific installation, modeled after the grand interiors of a cathedral structure and composed mostly of old furniture from Chicago Public Schools, is to function as a new platform for public dialogue. The product of a yearlong residency at the center, “The Beast” will host many educational and cultural activities over the coming months. This is Preus’ first solo museum exhibition.

With this project, Preus was firstly and largely influenced by the most unique feature of Hyde Park Art Center’s building: the garage doors located on the side of its main gallery. These shutters, which remain closed for most exhibitions, will be pulled up for the duration of this show and lead directly to the belly of “The Beast,” an interior communal space that will house hanging sculptures, rocking chairs, a ping pong table, a piano and even a porch swing made of old CPS desks. “I like to treat the materials I use as archeological objects and transform them to become useful in a new way, while revealing the history embedded within them,” says Preus. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Bronzeville’s Second Renaissance

Artist Profiles, Bronzeville, Hyde Park No Comments »
Samantha Hill's "Great Migration" installation at the Southside Hub of Production

Samantha Hill’s “Great Migration” installation at the Southside Hub of Production

Samantha Hill claims there is a cultural renaissance occurring in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. “There is palpable new energy circulating here amongst organizers, educators and residents that isn’t yet defined.” Determined to capture and engage in this revival, for her first solo exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center, Hill presents “Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance.”

Originally from Philadelphia, Hill has been naturally drawn toward and deeply involved in the cultural activities of the South Side since her arrival in the city ten years ago. She has organized happenings, held residencies and taught art courses at the South Side Community Art Center and Chicago State University. As a social art practitioner, bringing people together and facilitating conversations is at the heart of heart of what she does, and it is through working in these neighborhoods that Hill has been able to get to know people at the forefront of Bronzeville’s new momentum, record their stories and discover the spirit of the neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: My Top Art Picks for Chicago and the Midwest 2013

News etc. No Comments »
Cindy Tower's “Nest Egg” (detail) at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis

Cindy Tower’s “Nest Egg” (detail) at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis

By Pedro Vélez

1. Cindy Tower, “Nest Egg,” at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis
What does class inequality and the financial meltdown look like through the eyes of the proverbial starving artist? Cindy Tower’s “Nest Egg” had the answer in a gargantuan visual diagram on how the rich have gotten richer. In Tower’s sculptural (and metaphorical) visualization, philanthropy is suspect in the tax-dodging structure that’s indirectly facilitated by art institutions.

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Eye Exam: Midwesterners Do It in Secret

Multimedia No Comments »
Ray Yoshida, "Extraordinary Values," c. 1970.

Ray Yoshida, “Extraordinary Values,” c. 1970.

By Jason Foumberg

Tracing paper might be the biggest art-store seller in the Midwest. Midwestern artists lift, borrow and reuse source material from other artists and cultures so frequently that there is now a handful of current exhibitions dedicated to this topic. The art world calls it appropriation, and it is a ubiquitous creative strategy among contemporary artists, but when the Met canonized this practice in their 2009 show “The Pictures Generation,” they focused only on the coasts. Appropriation, however, is a Midwest tradition, even to the degree that Carl Baratta used to teach a course at SAIC called “How to Steal.”

Artist as Art Collector

When longtime SAIC professor Ray Yoshida died in 2009, the school that he taught at for forty-five years hosted “Touch and Go: Ray Yoshida and his Spheres of Influence,” a sprawling exhibition of artwork and objects that fanned-out Yoshida’s network of sources and peer influences, and explained how the Chicago Imagists pinched from folk artists and from each other. It was an expansive show, but not exhaustive. Completing that task is “Ray Yoshida’s Museum of Extraordinary Values” at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Public Displays of Artistic Affection

Architecture, Textiles No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

As the art world shifts interest away from loner studio practices, it is relationships—long-distance relationships, no-strings-attached relationships, contractual relationships—that make an excellent metaphor for the relevancy of art in our lives. Three exhibitions this week make transparent some interpersonal, artistic relations for all to see.

Messing with Mies

The iconic modernist glass house in Plano, Illinois, could be the banner image for the state of modern privacy. Designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and sited sixty miles southwest of Chicago, the Farnsworth House, a home with glass exterior walls, reveals all of its insides, a fact that the home’s original owner, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, found to be “unbearably oppressive,” wrote architecture historian Joan Ockman. Farnsworth felt like a hamster in a cage or an actor on a stage while she inhabited her second home from 1951-71.

Osvaldo Romberg at the Farnsworth House. Photo: Alia Pergala

Osvaldo Romberg at the Farnsworth House/Photo: Alia Pergala

Farnsworth expressed her anxiety of living in a glass box to House Beautiful magazine, in 1953. The white-steel-and-glass box has a patina of anxiety. It animates its character. Anyone who visits imagines herself living in the raw glass box, with its attendant discomforts.

For the next several weeks, the Farnsworth House has a guest living on its porch: the skeleton of the Melnikov House, an avant-garde Russian house from the 1920s. The floor plan of that Moscow home has been replicated to scale in wood, painted yellow, propped on sawhorses, and now abuts the Farnsworth House’s front yard at a perpendicular angle.

Typically a beacon of serene, solemn contemplation, nestled among cornfields and the Fox River, the Farnsworth House is now interrupted by the Melnikov House. Artist Osvaldo Romberg calls this a “translocation.” He has performed this sort of intervention at iconic architectural sites around the world.

“Forms happen, like love,” said Romberg on the steps of the Farnsworth Read the rest of this entry »