Sarah and Joseph Belknap. “Deflated Exoskin (1)” (left) and “Deflated Moon Skin (1)” (right), 2014.
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 »
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
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 »
Wu Tsang. “Mishima in Mexico,” video still, 2012
high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation
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 »
Dan Gunn. “Grand Amusement,”
dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire
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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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 »