Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Art Break: Higher Art Education

Art Schools, Hyde Park No Comments »
Mnourse headshot by Jay Schroeder

Mike Nourse/Photo: Jay Schroeder

Artists must do more than just make art. Teaching, curating exhibitions, negotiating contracts, conducting studio visits and writing press releases are some of the professional practices that career artists can master, yet these skills are largely absent from college-level studio art curriculum.

Hoping to fill this void, the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, in collaboration with the Hyde Park Art Center, is offering a new visual arts certificate program. At twelve months long, the curriculum includes four courses plus a studio component. It is perhaps one of a kind among institutional peers.

“To my knowledge, we are unique,” said Dr. Kineret Jaffe, director of the Graham’s partnership office and a volunteer chair on the Hyde Park Art Center’s board. Jaffe met me, on the vert Schweinfurt carpet of the art center’s downstairs meeting space, to explain the program to me. We were joined by her office’s program coordinator, Nicole Yagoda, and HPAC’s director of education, Mike Nourse. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: What Will Happen to the Evanston Art Center?

Evanston, News etc. 1 Comment »

Evanston_Art_Center_mansion_buildingBy Jason Foumberg

A crumbling old mansion beside the lake seems more befitting of an Edgar Allan Poe tale than a community art center, but it has been the Evanston Art Center’s home for the last four decades. The City of Evanston owns the Harley Clarke Mansion and decided to market the 20,275-square-foot residence, which sits on a large property, in 2012. Last month the city acknowledged a bid from billionaire investor James Pritzker, as reported by Crain’s.

Where does this leave the eighty-three-year-old art institution? For most of its existence the EAC has made do with very little. At one point it occupied a library’s basement, and then an abandoned barbershop, and then leased the lakeside mansion for a token $1 per year.

The EAC’s executive director, Norah Diedrich, considered her options: aggressively fundraise in order to stay in a building that is structurally inadequate for an art center’s needs, or locate a new facility and potentially modernize the art center into a thriving community resource. Diedrich and the EAC’s board of trustees have chosen to relocate. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Epic Something/Hyde Park Art Center

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Heather Mekkelson, “Ends of Other Ages” (detail)


Before the first line, readers of Virgil’s quintessential epic, the Aeneid, know the foundation of the Roman Empire lies at the end of Aeneas’ quest, allowing them to contemplatively shuffle through the labyrinthine narrative and get lost in its lurid, poetic vignettes without losing track of the story arc. Visiting “Epic Something,” then, is like the first reading; and the search for its ultimate empire from within the works of thirteen artists presents something of a challenging journey. Read the rest of this entry »

Art 50: Chicago’s Artists’ Artists

Art 50, Artist Profiles 6 Comments »

Artwork and Photo by Matthew Hoffman ( )
Matthew is a 2006 Newcity Breakout Artist

“A friend recently confessed to me that he secretly ranks the participants in Chicago’s art world according to their importance,” wrote artist Molly Zuckerman-Hartung in this publication. Molly’s friend doesn’t work at Newcity; although we annually rank half-a-hundred scenesters of the stage and page, this is our first line-up of visual artists. But everyone intimately knows Molly’s secret friend—the shuffler of the big rolodex, the line cutter, who maybe crept through a Deb Sokolow conspiracy, who buys all your friends’ artworks but never yours. Guess who? It’s you. You made this list and you ranked it and you live in it. You’re either on this list or you’re a product of this list or you’re on this list’s parallel universe (maybe, the Top Fifty People Who Read Lists list). Congrats!

We agree that a linear fifty names is simplistic. Instead, picture this list as a family tree that’s been trimmed into an MC Escher hedge maze. Or see the names as intersecting circles, a cosmic Venn diagram, or raindrops hitting a lake. There could be a list of fifty (or 500) best painters, or a new list for every week we publish this newspaper. For now, here are fifty people who have made an impression on other peoples’ lives.

Who are these people? They are mentors, magnets, peers, alchemists, art mothers, Chicago-ish, artists’ artists, evangelicals, alive today, polarizing, underrated, retired, workhorses and teachers. Lots of teachers. If you’re an artist in Chicago it’s likely that a handful of these artists trained you, or showed you that art was even a possibility. The bonus of local legends is that we can learn from them, face to face. Many lead by example.

About the selection process: Artists only for this list. (Power curators and other hangers-on get their own list, next year). To rank these artists we surveyed hundreds of local living artists, racked our brains, had conversations, wrote emails, canvassed the streets with art critics, cast votes, then recalls, called important curators in London who promptly hung up on us, drank pumpkin latte, checked emails and then finally wrote it all down. And now, we present to you, the Art 50. (Jason Foumberg)

The Art 50 was written by AJ Aronstein, Janina Ciezadlo, Stephanie Cristello, Alicia Eler, Pat Elifritz, Jason Foumberg, Amelia Ishmael, Anastasia Karpova, Harrison Smith, Bert Stabler, Pedro Velez, Katie Waddell and Monica Westin. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Cauleen Smith/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Michigan Avenue, Video, West Loop No Comments »

Cauleen Smith, film still from “Nicolai and Regina Series 01″


Cauleen Smith’s solo show at the MCA is the best contemporary art exhibition in Chicago this summer. While watching her short videos, which feature Chicago cityscapes and local musicians, I easily mistook Smith as a Chicago-based artist. I’m used to seeing only Chicago artists mine the city’s cultural history with such deeply personal insights. In fact Smith lives and teaches in San Diego, and has spent considerable time in Chicago doing research on local music history, facilitated by Threewalls in 2010 and a Black Metropolis Research Consortium grant in 2011. The fruit of her Chicago residency is a series of new videos and a multimedia installation that waken civic pride. Before the MCA exhibition closes in mid-September, Smith will open a solo show at Threewalls, a spot usually reserved for Midwestern artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ani Afshar/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Textiles No Comments »


Entering Ani Afshar’s exhibition, “Woven Gardens, Shredded Shadows,” currently on view at the Hyde Park Art Center, it is impossible to escape an acknowledgement of the history of craft. The selection of weavings on view, ranging in date from the 1980s to the present, demonstrate a telescoped view of Afshar’s vocabulary developed in tandem to her commercial line of functional textile décor and jewelry work, though the works have remained off exhibition for the past three decades in a traditional gallery setting. With an aesthetic that adopts stylistic traits of traditional Western weavings, the various hand-woven cloths that compose Afshar’s earthen-toned landscapes, whose elements are stitched, sewn and beaded together on passages of mohair and silk, speak to invention rather than history. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Melissa Oresky/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Painting, Video No Comments »

still from "Trail"


Lining the hall of the second level of the Hyde Park Art Center, slices of geometric shapes and paper pieces coated with saturated and muted tones announce the latest exhibition of Melissa Oresky’s work. For almost a decade, Oresky has created mixed-media pieces that explore the body’s interior workings and cognitive processes through scientific and landscape metaphors. This exhibition, titled “Trail,” attempts to guide the viewer through the artist’s dense visual language through new works on paper and the artist’s first work in animation.

The setup of the show, however, does not allow the path toward enlightenment to be an easy one. Larger pieces with assemblages of abstract shapes hang together in the front portion but share no similar point of reference or scheme. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Someone Else’s Dream/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Painting No Comments »

T.L. Solien


As guest curator of “Someone Else’s Dream,” John McKinnon acknowledges the history of the Hyde Park Art Center. Works from Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt and Christina Ramberg—who exhibited at HPAC in the 1960s—make appearances. Situating them next to more recent pictures, McKinnon (who operates The Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago) articulates that he wants to “create new associations of the work outside of a predictable historical analysis.” The nature of these associations in the exhibition is open for interpretation, like a series of dreams. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: David Leggett

Artist Profiles, Hyde Park, West Loop No Comments »

David Leggett paints while listening to the stand-up comedy of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, which serve as kindling for his sometimes cartoonish, playfully rendered mixed media artworks. “In the early 1990s when Def Comedy came along, it was extremely popular, but if you listen now, it was horrible,” Leggett says. “They were doing impersonations of Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor just using the punch lines. Saying ‘dick’ and ‘pussy’ doesn’t make it funny. Those are just words, and that’s kind of how I see some artists—they can say ‘Oh I’m riffing on this,’ but so what?” From his process to his product, Leggett is interested in inauthentic reproductions of 1980s art and hip-hop culture.

Leggett laughed readily, both at himself and his work, discussing his first solo show at Western Exhibitions, titled “It’s getting to the point where nobody respects the dead. Fresh to death.” Leaning back on a small chair in his compact East Garfield Park studio, narrowed further by layers of leaning paintings, Leggett said his work is not a “moral compass.” He treaded lightly on questions of racial or political tension, and when questioned about stamps of men in black face that appear in earlier works, he answered with an incredulous giggle that he bought the stamps on eBay, fascinated by the fact that they existed at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Blaque Lyte and Keith Herzik/Hyde Park Art Center

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Joakim Ojanen


In talking about the “Drunk Vs. Stoned” exhibits that Scott Reeder and the General Store in Milwaukee put on at Gavin Brown’s Passerby space in New York in the mid-oughts, art critic Ken Johnson said that while “drunk art” is “impulsive, active, aggressive,” stoned art, on the other hand, “tends to be introverted, tends to focus on details, tends to be repetitive.” The companion psychedelic shows now at the Hyde Park Art Center, curated by Chris Kerr and Paul Nudd, blow away any such clear symptomatic distinctions. Read the rest of this entry »