Zachary Cahill. painting from the installation “USSA 2012 Wellness Center”
Zachary Cahill’s current exhibition, “USSA 2012: Wellness Center,” reflects on the contemporary dilemma of wellness in general and the healing potential of art in particular. Staging a physical retreat for therapeutic refuge in the third-floor enclave of the Museum of Contemporary Art that recalls European sanatoriums of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this highly referential exhibition of painting, sculpture and writing finds itself most cogent on the wall. Paintings often dressed in synthetic palettes and textual epigrams act in Cahill’s institution as optically prescriptive pseudo-pharmaceutical compositions with a desired effect on the viewer, a crooked analogue of the canonical canvases of romanticism they uncannily suggest.
The works center on health, wellness and care, topics as political and provocative as they come, instinctively relevant on a global scale, yet problematic as if by design. Health transcends the everyday, at once at the forefront of our collective consciousness and buried deep within it, a perennial victim of its own ubiquity. The industries of wellness wrestle with sizable points of contention, from intellectual property to the ethics of access. And the spaces of caregiving continue to provide rich ground to consider a question as genuinely human, ageless and pertinent today as any other, one found here, scribed in acrylic: what does it mean to be healthy? Read the rest of this entry »
The Cook County Department of Corrections, sitting on ninety-six acres on the West Side, is one of the nation’s largest single site pre-detention facilities. The independent, grassroots, social justice organization 96ACRES is seeking artistic projects to generate what they call “alternative narratives reflecting on power and responsibility by presenting insightful and informed collective responses for the transformation of a space that occupied 96 acres, but has a much larger social footprint.” Projects may include visual art, audio pieces, performance, new media works, writing, photography, design, prints and installation with particular interest to works at the site of the jail in an allocated space along its north exterior wall. Proposals are due July 28, and approved projects would be realized this fall. Base grants of $2,500 or up to $5,000 are available, funded by the Chicago Community Trust, Special Service Area #25, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Field Foundation of Illinois.
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Simon Starling. “Bird in Space,” imported Romanian steel plate, inflatable jacks, and helium, 2004
In “Metamorphology,” British artist Simon Starling’s survey of photographs, installations and film, you do not mind having to read the accompanying wall texts—you actually look forward to it. This is a testament to the intrinsic inveiglement of Starling’s explorations of the titular phenomena; rarely does work so heavily dependent upon exposition avoid coming off as pedagogic so finely as Starling does here. Read the rest of this entry »
Will Bryant, “Drawings Based on Sculptures Based on Drawings,” 2013, Tan & Loose Press
By Jason Foumberg
In 1970 the Xerox Corporation founded a technology think tank called the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and soon invited artists-in-residence, and gave them free reign to copy machines and computers, spawning the “new media” art boom.
But Xerox’s competitor, RISO, from Japan, planned no such artful scheme. They just wanted to get low-cost copy machines to their customers. But, artists found RISO, and with fervor. They found them on Craigslist, in libraries, at used-office-technology warehouses. The Risograph was designed to spit out thousands of school newsletters and church bulletins at a fraction of Xerox’s cost—in color. Over the past five years, self-publishing has thrived in Chicago thanks to RISO. The machine is seemingly made-to-order for alternative printmaking.
About the size and shape of a copy machine, the RISO is more like a screen-printing machine (but less of a mess) and can churn out color prints quickly using stencil technology. Risograph prints are decidedly lo-fi, inky, small and inexpensive to produce. I’ve seen prints sell from $2 to $50. The image style depends on the artist. I’ve seen Bauhaus-like geometries, psychedelic comics and designer broadsides. Comic artists, graphic designers, conceptual artists, zine producers, illustrators—everyone gets in on RISO, especially artists going the independent or self-published route. RISO is very much part of the “graphic arts” movement we’re currently experiencing in contemporary art. Read the rest of this entry »
The MCA’s lobby/Photo: Cindy Fandl
On Monday, June 2, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosted their first same-sex ceremonies and accompanying receptions. In response to Illinois’ legislation to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples to marry, the MCA partnered with Equality Illinois to host an event called A Celebration of Marriage Equality. Of more than a hundred applications, fourteen couples were chosen to participate in complimentary private wedding ceremonies and accompanying receptions on the museum’s Kern Terrace. An officiant was provided for the ceremony, and the reception included a wedding portrait by Fandl Photography and refreshments by Wolfgang Puck Catering. Read the rest of this entry »
Frida Kahlo. “Arbol de la Esperanza (Tree of Hope),” 1946
Reprising two of the paintings that appeared in Frida Kahlo’s solo exhibition at the MCA in 1978 (her first in the United States), “Unbound” presents Kahlo as a political activist and art world transgressor who laid the foundation for many discourses that continue in the practices of more than thirty contemporary artists in the exhibition. Curators Julie Rodrigues Widholm and Abigail Winograd look beyond Kahlo’s celebrity status and tumultuous personal life to illuminate her artistic output as indicative of a preemptive concern for cultural issues including globalization, feminism and civil rights. Themed around treatments of bodies as both political entities and affective forces, Kahlo is here contextualized by artists of color, women and LGBTQ perspectives who boldly comment on the performance of gender as well as oppressions and injustices such as homophobia, violence against women and the AIDS epidemic. Read the rest of this entry »
“Weltempfänger (World Receiver),” 1988-89
As a visual artist, taught to appreciate form, I have always been wary of people who make too much of narrative. Yet at the heart of Isa Genzken’s MCA retrospective, which, like all career overviews, tends to cultivate a narrative arc, is a startling renunciation of form. It seems almost as startling as Pollock or Guston’s leaps out of representation into abstraction in their day.
In the early 1980s, Genzken was making extremely refined long ellipsoid shapes of lacquered wood that lean against the wall accompanied by a rigorous series of cold grey and black gouache paintings that trace a diminishing or increasing line of yellow. They look a bit like windows, and she would return to this form in later work. Suddenly, one enters a room full of rough plaster, concrete and epoxy sculptures called things like “My Brain” and “Pile of Rubbish.” Some radios made of concrete on a metal table against the wall (“Weltempfanger” from 1987-89) may hold the answer, or if one pursues the narrative line, foreshadow a representational engagement with the world that unfolds as she evolves. Read the rest of this entry »
William J. O’Brien, untitled, ceramic, 2013
This, these 120-plus works, organized into stanzas and spanning four dimensions, is exhibition as Legion, as Leviathan, as Lil B mixtape; color, form and shape in biblical proportions, driving amphibian rains and sloughed scales and torn shrouds; most all of them are untitled—the impression one gets, wandering about, is that all of them are untitled—named only per annum; a smattering of untitled little drawings splashed against a corner; a long, L-shaped table of untitled ceramic; untitled cosmological/mathematical dreamscapes of tessellation and curvature and human feature, color pencil scored by incandescent glitter. One, “Untitled, 2010,” an ultramarine square of infinitely deep texture, is studded and glistening with brilliant points so deliriously fucking bright that one’s thoughts instantly race to the sidereal, then to the pragmatic; how did he grind the universe into this? Capture the canicular? There are totems, screamingly colored and tumorous, a sort of art brut atavistic minimalism, and paintings the color of cuttlefish ink, which, when viewed—read?—first, as in the order on the docent’s program, serve as stark juxtaposition to what is otherwise a manic chromatic panoply. A word of advice, for the lay observer: wander in, be drowned, flayed alive. (B. David Zarley)
Through May 18 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago.
Sarah Morris, video still from “Chicago,” 2011
“Chicago,” a 2011 film by Sarah Morris, is the centerpiece of the MCA’s new exhibition, “City Self.” Morris’ flood of telescopic images of our city, accompanied by an electronic score written by her husband Liam Gillick, and projected on a movie screen, presents a seamless digital spectacle of the twenty-first-century city. The camera never lingers on anything or anyone too long; its detachment mirrors our own loss of agency in the phantasmagoric flow. Gallery visitors can screen the entire film or wander in and out.
Grids and infrastructure are foregrounded in Morris’ sixty-eight-minute film, creating the visual implication that the gridded surfaces of Mies’ buildings are truly an expression of the deep structure of the city, and some breathtaking shots of the Lake Shore Drive apartments set Chicago aside from any other global city. Extended sequences of the giant presses where the Tribune and other papers are printed, the still-modernist compositions of pipes that protect the miles of filament and cable at Fermilab and huge mainframe computers (humming electronically like the score) there and other places. Morris and her cinematographer David Daniels reveal the blank material structures and technological non-places that create cyberspace and control the flow of digital images. Read the rest of this entry »
Tony Tasset, “Robert Smithson (Las Vegas),” 1995
By Jason Foumberg
The exhibition begins on the left, and ends nowhere. The MCA’s expansive new group show, “The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology,” bores wormholes through the Rocky Mountains, to Baghdad and Belarus and over the North Pole, through the psyche and into the past. “The past is a foreign country,” wrote L. P. Hartley, and artists are explorers. This is the guiding theme of curator Dieter Roelstraete’s exhibition, which tasks itself with explaining nothing less than the history of the Western world—and who has access to it. The ambitious exhibition with an international roster of artists is “a philosophical speculation,” explained Roelstraete at the media preview. Roelstraete’s show proposes that artists create art, and make meaning, in a new way. That is, artists dig, uncover, exhume, mine, bring to light (and other “digging” synonyms) issues and characters from the past. What artists find (artifacts, secrets, ghosts) is of equal importance to how they found it (research, inquiries, investigations). There are no accidents in this show, only strategies. Read the rest of this entry »