Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Artist David Hartt Appointed to MCA Board of Trustees

News etc. No Comments »
David Hartt, artist and new member to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's Board of Trustees. Courtesy of Braxton Black.

David Hartt, artist and new member to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s Board of Trustees/Photo: Braxton Black

In mid-December, chair of the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) King Harris announced the addition of artist David Hartt to the MCA’s Board of Trustees. Hartt is the first artist on the MCA’s board since the new building at 220 East Chicago was constructed, which officially opened to the public in June 1996. Sculptor Richard Hunt, whom the MCA is honoring for his eightieth birthday with a special exhibition currently on view, was the first artist trustee in the 1970s. Joining Hartt as members of the board are current Norway-based telecommunications equipment company, Eltek, ASA board member Dia Weil, director of Graff Diamonds Eve Rogers and board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art and Colgate University in New York, Nancy Crown. Their appointment coincides with Teresa Samala de Guzman’s appointment as the MCA’s chief operating officer, a duty she assumed responsibility of on December 8, 2014.

In an email exchange, MCA director Madeleine Grynsztejn explains that the museum is very much artist-activated and audience-engaged, saying, “Artists are central to everything we do and the artist’s presence assures integrity at the governance level around our artist-activated commitment in particular.” When selecting board members, they take into account the expertise and wisdom each individual can bring to the MCA currently, as well as how their knowledge can work with the MCA’s future aspirations. Read the rest of this entry »

Web Exclusive Interview: Naomi Beckwith in Conversation about Richard Hunt

Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962 Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962
Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

By Matt Morris

Could you set up your take as the curator on what the Richard Hunt exhibition at the MCA is?
The show from the MCA starts from the premise of our collection. It’s part of what we call our MCA DNA series, and those are dossier shows—small jewel-box shows—that are about highlights from the MCA holdings that most people don’t even know that we have. So for instance we have another beautiful one up right now featuring Alexander Calder; there’s a huge collection of that in Chicago, many of them right here in this building. Another wonderful one that we put up recently was a collection of Dieter Roth art books that I hadn’t even known were in the collection. The DNA series is a chance for us as a museum to really highlight works of significance that most folks don’t know are here.

I found out that Richard Hunt was turning eighty this year. I realized the best way that we could honor him was to do an exhibition and—oh, my goodness—there are these works in the collection. I knew that the museum had a long history of helping organize the inclusion of a work of his at the White House. It’s a work called “Farmer’s Dream” that was exhibited in D.C. during the Clinton administration, and then when it came back from D.C. it went into Seneca Park, which is the park straight across west of the MCA. It was there for many years and then acquired by the MCA. These kinds of stories I knew, but I didn’t know that we had some of his early work from the sixties here, and we have some works on paper in the collection. The show is really compact, and is set to show the breadth of Richard’s work from his earliest days—the earliest work is from ’57 when he was finishing school—to a work made in, I believe, 2012.

Was the MCA show coordinated with the Cultural Center show?
Would you believe that it was a happy coincidence. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: A Hard-Won Hunt for the Means to Fly

Galleries & Museums, Gold Coast/Old Town, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt, photographed by Thomas McCormick

Richard Hunt/Photo: Thomas McCormick

By Matt Morris

Two concurrent exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Cultural Center crown the sculptor Richard Hunt’s eightieth year. To date, Hunt has produced more public sculpture than any other artist in the United States, with 125 currently on view, thirty-five of which are in Chicago. Hunt completed his studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1957 at a time when other black artists were scarce and the approach to welded metal sculpture Hunt had started to pursue wasn’t supported by the school’s studio facilities. Footage playing at the Cultural Center’s exhibition shows a dashingly handsome young Hunt setting up shop in his parents’ basement. By 1971 he had been honored with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and his diligent efforts have been continually rewarded throughout his career. Taken together, the exhibitions offer audiences examples of early investigations, to-scale maquettes for larger outdoor commissions, and a breadth of two- and three-dimensional works that ground flighty abstractions in a gravitas tempered by the struggles and victories of modern life. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Upcoming Free Days at Twenty-one Chicago Museums

Galleries & Museums, News etc. No Comments »
George Bellows. "Love of Winter," 1914.  Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

George Bellows. “Love of Winter,” 1914.
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

Winter can be a dreary month, with all its slushy snow, bitter cold, and flamboyantly merry couples. So if the skating rink in Millennium Park is causing your seasonal affective disorder to spike you and the various coffee shops around the city are filled to capacity, why not warm those frozen paws by taking advantage of the free admission days at our splendid museums? Here is a compilation of free museum days at twenty-one art, cultural and history museums to keep your brain active, eyes mesmerized, and your seasonal affective disorder at bay. (Mahjabeen Syed) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Anne Collier/Museum of Contemporary Art

Photography No Comments »
Anne Collier. "Woman With A Camera (The Last Sitting, Bert Stern)," 2009, chromogenic print.

Anne Collier. “Woman With A Camera (The Last Sitting, Bert Stern),” 2009, chromogenic print.

RECOMMENDED

This rather stark exhibit—large-scale framed pieces with lots of white space between—is actually lush with imagery and ideas. For contemporary photographers like Anne Collier, culture is an ocean of images to be dredged and re-presented. A key work here is a photo she found on eBay of a nude woman in the surf, which in her hands becomes a large-scale, seventies-ish surreal landscape.

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Review: Sarah and Joseph Belknap/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Sarah and Joseph Belknap. "Deflated Exoskin (1)" (left) and "Deflated Moon Skin (1)" (right), 2014.

Sarah and Joseph Belknap. “Deflated Exoskin (1)” (left) and “Deflated Moon Skin (1)” (right), 2014.

RECOMMENDED

No longer couched in the intimacy which so defined their exhibition at the Franklin, Sarah and Joseph Belknap’s predominately sculptural cosmological survey finds itself perhaps even more sharply defined in the abyssal expanse of the MCA, wherein it must contest with the terrible scope that has caused our empyreal urges to exsanguinate, lacking the will to continue screaming into the vacuum. Space rhetoric cannot help but be romantic; the gaps are so wide, the voids so vast—and filled, with cruel meagerness, by objects we laughingly named for gods—that the only way it can be comfortably expressed and understood is through either math or poetry, both of which are known for their simple complexity and necessary shattering of the real into vicious abstractions. Blunted by being born into an age where science fiction is a lame pantomime of progress, eyes upcast today cannot even see the moon, and barely alight upon Mars, Mars!, once the most lust-inducing of all heavenly bodies. That with their silicone and “simulated lunar regolith” sculptures the Belknaps drag said bodies down from the heavens and present them to us, in gross textual intimacy, is therefore their eponymous exhibition’s great strength; by forgoing both the admeasurement and aspartame with which we see the universe, they make it possible to engage with it personally, even with the vaginal breadth of the museum’s staircase yawning at our backs. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Races, Places and Art’s Useful Violence

Collage, Hyde Park, Installation, Photography, Public Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Kelly Lloyd. "I painted the elevator doors the color of my skin. C1, 21,1—E0,13,0—KX0,22,1—V0,37,0," 2014 acrylic on elevator doors

Kelly Lloyd. “I painted the elevator doors the color of my skin. C1, 21,1—E0,13,0—KX0,22,1—V0,37,0,” 2014, acrylic on elevator doors

by Matt Morris

I had been trying to muster the holiday cheer to write a whimsical column about winter window displays when I read the news that the St. Louis County grand jury tasked with the decision to indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot eighteen-year-old Michael Brown to death in August chose not to pursue justice. Since the announcement, I’ve been in vocal and incredulous discussions over the sadistically intricate ways that political and social suppression, economic disadvantage, the bizarre militarization of police forces and even President Obama’s muted responses to this and other murders of unarmed black people have conspired in a construction of an impossibly powerful systemic racism. I’ve felt the deep urge to run. In my mind I see the text “RUN” Rashid Johnson spray-painted in white across a mirror that was included in “Message to Our Folks,” his survey at the MCA two years ago. This is a run from lynch mobs and paramilitary cops and deplorably violent histories that span centuries of America’s past.

Rashid Johnson. "Run," 2008,  mirror with spray paint

Rashid Johnson. “Run,” 2008,
mirror with spray paint

Our society has been shaped without consideration to the personhood and value of nonwhite lives, therefore their sadness, outrage and even their deaths have not been permitted to have any impact. Confronted with this daunting problem built into the very structure of this country, my conviction that art has the potential to powerfully interject into the thick of restrictive, racist assumptions has been bolstered by several recent projects that investigate how visibility for people of color’s lives is situated into public and institutional spaces. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Body Doubles/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Wu Tsang. "Mishima in Mexico," video still, 2012 high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation

Wu Tsang. “Mishima in Mexico,” video still, 2012
high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation

RECOMMENDED

Body double: an actor’s stand-in. Whether in a simulated car crash or simulated intercourse, the body double performs as a seamless break in the continuity of the lead—identity is momentarily transposed, often on a faceless agent. “Body Doubles” at the MCA, organized by curatorial fellow Michelle Puetz, opens up the logic of this cinematic trick. The same formal operation that multiplies the body is exhibited alongside embodied multiplicity. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dan Gunn/Monique Meloche

Painting, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »
Dan Gunn. "Grand Amusement," dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire

Dan Gunn. “Grand Amusement,”
dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire

RECOMMENDED

In “Impromptu Airs,” Dan Gunn has crafted delights for the eye, deviating from his earlier projects that mirrored elements of recognizable architecture and design. A group of “Fans” assembled from laser-cut, wooden strips have been stained in a circus-tent palette of red and white. The standard motif in “Fan No. 9” of 2013 gets stretched into comically elongated and shrinking shapes in the works that flank it, fastidiously assembled trompe l’oeil constructions that imitate the ease of computer-manipulated imagery. “To Fan No. 2” winds a swerving pathway painted in lyrical, Paul Klee palettes. Its pensive, musical sensitivity evokes Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars’ collaborative artist book “Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France.” Thicker wood planks drape from two illusory nails in “Grand Amusement,” dyed in hand-mixed yellow, green, blue and pinks that turn its hard structure into gooey taffy pulled in a shop window. Neither fan nor drapery, “Broadway” contains candy-colored dots dancing in between rich navy parquetry panels. The piece calls to mind Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” as well as Michelle Grabner’s colored paper weavings, recently the center of inner art-world hullabaloo.
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Eye Exam: The Freakiest Show

Multimedia No Comments »
Grand Finale Installation view, "David Bowie Is," MCA Chicago. September 23, 2014–January 4, 2015.  Photo: Nathan Keay. Courtesy of the MCA Chicago.

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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