Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Ania Jaworska/Museum of Contemporary Art

Architecture, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville No Comments »
Ania Jaworska. "Saint," 2015. Screen print on folio paper; 30 x 22 inches.

Ania Jaworska. “Saint,” 2015.
Screen print on folio paper; 30 x 22 inches.


Chicago, priapic King-Hell capital of exceptionalist, heaven-penetrating architecture; birthplace of The Reach, there could be no better place—and no better museum—for Ania Jaworska’s exploration of how our monuments commune with ourselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Art 50 2015: Chicago’s Visual Vanguard

Art 50 No Comments »


Long heralded as a mecca for alternative practices, collectivity and socially engaged art, Chicago increasingly finds itself among the most visible international art destinations precisely because of its distinct character and openness to change and growth. What makes this city fertile ground for launching new talent and sustaining confirmed genius? A complex and ever-changing network of curators, collectors, administrators, critics, dealers, educators and other enthusiasts cultivate Chicago’s artistic vitality and diversity. The Art 50 is Newcity’s annual snapshot of Chicago’s art ecosystem. This year, we track the power players who shape the terrain in which we thrive.

The Art 50 was written by Elliot J. Reichert, Maria Girgenti, Abraham Ritchie, Kate Sierzputowski and B. David Zarley.

Cover and interior photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Read the rest of this entry »

Art Leader of the Moment: Naomi Beckwith, Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art

Art 50, Curator Profiles, Galleries & Museums, Streeterville No Comments »
Photo: Joe Mazza/BraveLux

Photo: Joe Mazza/BraveLux

By Elliot J. Reichert

In this year’s Art 50, we focus on the power players who shape Chicago’s art landscape. Naomi Beckwith, a Hyde Park native, brings an insider’s knowledge of the city to her role as the Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In just over four years, she’s crafted some of the museum’s most timely exhibitions, including a major outdoor sculptural commission by Yinka Shonibare MBE and the MCA’s current headliner, “The Freedom Principle,” which she co-curated with Dieter Roelstraete. I spoke with her about the art of research, what it means to be a nerd in the art world and what’s next for this rising Chicago art star.

Being born and raised in Chicago, how has this city influenced your work as a curator?
Many people know that I had initially considered a career in the sciences. For my first twenty years, I was academically focused on those disciplines, but two signifiant things changed all that. One was the ethos of this city and its commitment to public spaces, which always included art: festivals, programs, art fairs and museums. I am a very proud child of Chicago Public Schools, which has an amazing field trip program that includes these destinations. This early access to both the formal art space of museums and also informal spaces, like the Hyde Park [57th Street] Art Fair or the African Festival of the Arts in Washington Park, left deep imprints on me. Read the rest of this entry »

The Interview Project Interview: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

Art Fairs, Curator Profiles No Comments »
Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

By Elliot J. Reichert

Hans Ulrich Obrist is an internationally renowned curator and co-director of the Serpentine Galleries in London. He is the author of The Interview Project, an ongoing collection of interviews with artists and other creatives, and a new book, “Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects.” At EXPO Chicago on September 19, 4pm, Obrist will conduct a live interview with Art Green, Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum, three members of the Hairy Who, an artist collective who began mounting group exhibitions after studying together at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Obrist spoke with us by phone from Johannesburg, South Africa, about his connections to Chicago, his interests in the Hairy Who and the larger group of Chicago Imagists, and the philosophy that inspires his interviews.

What draws your interest to Chicago and the Hairy Who at this moment?
My interest in the Hairy Who began with my interview projects, which are parallel to my curatorial practice. These interviews are an oral history of contemporary art, and they were actually inspired by Chicago. When I was in Chicago for the first time for a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art about fifteen years ago, I met the late Studs Terkel, the great oral historian. From then on, Terkel mentored my whole process of making these oral histories more systematic. He gave me a lot of advice, so it’s wonderful to bring the whole project back to Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Out of Office/Museum of Contemporary Art

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville No Comments »
Hugh Scott-Douglas. "Untitled," 2014. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field's by exchange.

Hugh Scott-Douglas. “Untitled,” 2014.
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field’s by exchange.


“Out of Office” culls five works from the MCA collection to inquire about labor and financial transactions. The show’s title cannily suggests that the office has expanded. We’re always at the office, even while on lunch break.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: S, M, L, XL/Museum of Contemporary Art

Gold Coast/Old Town, Michigan Avenue No Comments »
Robert Morris. "Untitled (Passageway)," 1961 Photo Courtesy Castelli Gallery, New York

Robert Morris. “Untitled (Passageway),” 1961 Photo Courtesy Castelli Gallery, New York


Robert Morris’ sculpture “Untitled (Passageway),” of the MCA’s “S, M, L, XL,” is the epitome of what said exhibition explores: the corporeal relationship between observer and object. In its throttling of the viewer, its fearsome auguring in to compaction, “Passageway” puts the precedence not only on proximity to the audience, but their trepidation and/or courage. It is a self-contained hallway, a sculpture-cum-scorpion tail lit by the custard glow of naked bulbs; as one walks along the ecru curve, the walls quietly come together, their malevolence obfuscated by the gentle approach of the constriction, creeping forward, forcing an awkward step, a hesitation, a turning of the shoulder blades, a looming threat to the chest, until finally it becomes too much and one must turn around—fuck! too tight! slide back warily, as if an injured animal!—with the full intention of tearing through whatever callous museum goer may be blocking freedom as the drowning do the surface of the sea, fast and urgent with the dread animal exegesis to breathe … Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Keren Cytter/Museum of Contemporary Art

Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Video No Comments »
Keren Cytter. "Video Art Manual," 2011. Video still.

Keren Cytter. “Video Art Manual,” 2011. Video still.


A disorienting yet familiar feeling hovers over Keren Cytter’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Cytter, born in 1977, creates films, though to call her a filmmaker seems inadequate. Nine of Cytter’s films on view at the MCA conjure conventional narratives telling short stories of the human condition—love, heartbreak, murder, revenge.

Often filmed in Cytter’s own small apartment, actors speak in fractured, emotionless yet frank dialogue and rapidly exchange roles, at times switching languages and directly addressing the camera. Scenes repeat and loop back on themselves, masterfully overlaid with kitschy low-budget editing effects which force the viewer’s focus equally on how narrative is assembled as on the plot itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Faheem Majeed

Artist Profiles, Gold Coast/Old Town No Comments »
Faheem Majeed. Photo by Devin Mays.

Faheem Majeed/Photo: Devin Mays

At the Museum of Contemporary Art, we sit at the large table inside Faheem Majeed’s piece “Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden.” Two museum patrons crash my interview for the chance to speak with the artist. Piece by piece, they share a dialogue about Majeed’s ideas and their impressions of his work. We are, he tells us, in a re-creation of the South Side Community Art Center, a space he ran for seven years. “It oozed into my being. I know everything about that space.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Gordon Matta-Clark/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Collage, Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Gordon Matta-Clark. "Circus," 1978 silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4" x 73 1/4"

Gordon Matta-Clark. “Circus,” 1978
silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4″ x 73 1/4″


In 1978, the Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned artist Gordon Matta-Clark to execute one of his trademark “building cut” projects in a recently acquired brownstone on Ontario Street. The result, “Circus or The Caribbean Orange,” a series of large-scale circular lacerations that radically altered the structure’s interior, would sadly be the artist’s last major statement before his untimely death at age thirty-five. What remains of the epic scale of this ephemeral project are a series of the artist’s captivating photocollages. Read the rest of this entry »