Grand Finale Installation view, “David Bowie Is,” MCA Chicago. September 23, 2014–January 4, 2015.
Photo: Nathan Keay. Courtesy of the MCA Chicago.
By Erin Toale
Bowiephiles rejoice: no expense was spared on the Museum of Contemporary Art’s iteration of this appropriately elaborate touring spectacle—a multi-chambered rumination on the many-petaled-flower of the living icon’s magnificence. This pageantry, situated on the virtually unrecognizable fourth floor of the MCA, includes memorabilia, archival materials, breathtaking costumes and some of Bowie’s own “art.” Evidence of the takeover exists throughout the building; nowhere can you escape the waft of his anthems, and even the security guards have been adorned with Bowie shirts. To co-opt the semantic organizational structure of the show, Bowie is… pervasive.
Chicago is the only U.S. destination for the show, which was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London. Bowie and his camp granted archive access to the curators, aided with fact-checking, and monitor the condition of objects but otherwise have been very hands-off, says MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, Michael Darling, who oversaw the Chicago installation. The exhibit feels very V&A-meets-MTV, replete with a show-stopping, toe-tapping grand-finale. There are moments when the voices of the MCA and Darling ring clear; the show succeeds in these quieter, more contemplative tableaus.
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Kristin Korolowicz, new curator at the University Galleries at Illinois State University
In September, Kristin Korolowicz joined the staff as a new curator for the University Galleries at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. Her appointment coincides with the Galleries’ expansion into a new 8,000-square-foot space located in Uptown Station. She joins director Barry Blinderman and senior curator Kendra Paitz as a curatorial team that has long shown prescient instincts for recognizing major contributors to contemporary art before they rise to the art world’s international stage. Read the rest of this entry »
Wakeup Makeup With Rahm Emanuel (courtesy of Facebook)
One early morning last week—as I was getting ready to go down to Navy Pier to put the finishing touches on my installation for the “Art Prom” that was at the third annual installment of Chicago’s own Expo Chicago—I woke up to a picture in my Facebook feed, of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in full Ziggy Stardust make up.
It was accompanied by a PROCLAMATION from the Office of the Mayor/City of Chicago with lots of WHERAS’ celebrating David Bowie’s career and the MCA’s accomplishments in securing the show for its only North American venue, and ending in “NOW, THEREFORE, I, RAHM EMANUEL, MAYOR TO THE CITY OF CHICAGO, do hereby proclaim September 23, 2014 to be DAVID BOWIE DAY IN CHICAGO in recognition of the incredible work of David Bowie and urge all Chicagoans to enjoy “David Bowie Is” at the renowned Museum of Contemporary Art.”
It was a first-class prank, of the sort that we have all dreamt of pulling in childhood fantasies of “If I Ruled the World,” and yet it knocked me out, like an NFL player in an elevator. Read the rest of this entry »
Elise Ferguson. “Saree”
Northern Trust announced this afternoon that it will purchase a painting by Elise Ferguson for the organization’s permanent collection. Ferguson’s painting “Saree” appears in Romer Young Gallery’s booth (#736). Ferguson has ties to Chicago although she currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She did her art schooling here, earning her BFA from the SAIC and her MFA from UIC. She presented a solo exhibition of paintings similar to the Northern Trust purchase at Romer Young in San Francisco in April of this year. “Saree” is a complexity of interlocking geometric designs in red against a two-tone green surface. Read the rest of this entry »
Billboards in the Art Everywhere campaign
By Abraham Ritchie
Art museums need people to visit them, but people don’t necessarily need to visit art museums. Museums don’t sell groceries or gas, and they don’t offer all-day childcare, so one really needs never to set foot in a museum. Indeed, many people don’t. When public funding for culture is dwindling from the little there was, the future of art museums is increasingly dependent on an argument that museums need to make: why people should visit them. I have a personal and professional stake in this question since I work in the communications department at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Having famous paintings in your collection helps, but even that may not be enough anymore. You can remind yourself of this fact if you drive north on Interstate 94. At some point during the trip the stream of billboards passing you on the right will be punctuated with one bearing a large image of the lonely diners in Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks.” Next to the famous scene is “#ArtEverywhereUS,” marking it as part of the multi-museum effort to ostensibly bring works of art into public spaces (through billboards and the like), while less altruistically serving as a massive awareness campaign for museums in general. Though Art Everywhere uses both well-known images like Hopper’s and lesser-known works, by displacing the rarified into the common the campaign also executes exact the inverse of its message: art may be everywhere, but as you pass by at sixty miles per hour you’re acutely aware that it’s not really what you’re looking at on a billboard—you’d have to travel to a museum for that. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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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