Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Portrait of the Artist: Leslie Hewitt

Installation, Video No Comments »
Leslie Hewitt. "Untitled Structures," dual channel video installation, 2012

Leslie Hewitt and Bradford Young. “Untitled Structures,” dual channel video installation, 2012

Sifting through the black-and-white photographs from the Menil Collection, Leslie Hewitt was disarmed by the quiet moments of everyday life found amidst the turbulent marches, violent mobs and impassioned speeches of the Civil Rights Movement. Borrowing a glance, a gesture or a pose, the artist transformed the archive of 230 photographs into a cinematic meditation on memory.

“I was often overwhelmed by the flatness of the photographic image, how its limits—the geometry of it—are often so apparent to me,” Hewitt reflects as we talked late into the afternoon. “From the very beginning, I grappled with the border created by the square or the rectangle of a given image.” In a two-channel video projection “Untitled (Structures)” (2012), the artist attempts to expand the two-dimensional space of the photograph. The quivering light of the projector illuminates architectural ghosts and invites the viewer to step into crumbling urban ruins. From Memphis to Chicago, the dilapidated structures of the Universal Life Insurance Company, the Johnson Publishing headquarters (publisher of Ebony and Jet) and the Rosenwald Apartments flicker across the screen, so haunting one can almost smell the amber and mahogany of age. Read the rest of this entry »

News: MCA Acquires Wu Tsang Video Artwork

News etc., Performance, Video No Comments »
Still from Wu Tsang's "Mishima in Mexico," 2012

Still from Wu Tsang’s “Mishima in Mexico,” 2012

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago has acquired “Mishima in Mexico,” a high-definition video projection with accompanying programmed LED light installation by the American artist Wu Tsang. This work is added to the museum’s collection on the eve of “Moved by the Motion” a performance work by Wu Tsang and the performance artist boychild that will be presented at the MCA tomorrow, Tuesday August 5, from 6pm-8pm. 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 »

Review: Zachary Cahill/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Painting No Comments »
Zachary Cahill. painting from the installation "USSA 2012 Wellness Center"

Zachary Cahill. painting from the installation “USSA 2012 Wellness Center”

RECOMMENDED

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 »

News: 96ACRES Seeks Art Proposals for Cook County Jail

Activist Art, Multimedia, News etc., Public Art No Comments »

TransformingSpace

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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Review: Simon Starling/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture No Comments »
Simon Starling. "Bird in Space," imported Romanian steel plate, inflatable jacks, and helium, 2004

Simon Starling. “Bird in Space,” imported Romanian steel plate, inflatable jacks, and helium, 2004

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Eye Exam: Chicago’s Risograph Revolution

Prints No Comments »
Will Bryant for Tan & Loose Press

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 »

News: Museum of Contemporary Art Celebrates Marriage Equality with Day of Complimentary Weddings

Galleries & Museums, News etc. No Comments »
photo by Cindy Fandl

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 »

Review: Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo/Museum of Contemporary Art

Galleries & Museums, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Frida Kahlo. "Arbol de la Esperanza (Tree of Hope)," 1946

Frida Kahlo. “Arbol de la Esperanza (Tree of Hope),” 1946

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Isa Genzken/Museum of Contemporary Art

Sculpture No Comments »
"Weltempfänger (World Receiver)," 1988-89

“Weltempfänger (World Receiver),” 1988-89

RECOMMENDED

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 »