Cindy Tower’s “Nest Egg” (detail) at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis
By Pedro Vélez
1. Cindy Tower, “Nest Egg,” at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis
What does class inequality and the financial meltdown look like through the eyes of the proverbial starving artist? Cindy Tower’s “Nest Egg” had the answer in a gargantuan visual diagram on how the rich have gotten richer. In Tower’s sculptural (and metaphorical) visualization, philanthropy is suspect in the tax-dodging structure that’s indirectly facilitated by art institutions.
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Tony Tasset, “Robert Smithson (Las Vegas),” 1995
By Jason Foumberg
The exhibition begins on the left, and ends nowhere. The MCA’s expansive new group show, “The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology,” bores wormholes through the Rocky Mountains, to Baghdad and Belarus and over the North Pole, through the psyche and into the past. “The past is a foreign country,” wrote L. P. Hartley, and artists are explorers. This is the guiding theme of curator Dieter Roelstraete’s exhibition, which tasks itself with explaining nothing less than the history of the Western world—and who has access to it. The ambitious exhibition with an international roster of artists is “a philosophical speculation,” explained Roelstraete at the media preview. Roelstraete’s show proposes that artists create art, and make meaning, in a new way. That is, artists dig, uncover, exhume, mine, bring to light (and other “digging” synonyms) issues and characters from the past. What artists find (artifacts, secrets, ghosts) is of equal importance to how they found it (research, inquiries, investigations). There are no accidents in this show, only strategies. Read the rest of this entry »
Peter Yankowsky, “Shooting Position A,” 2012
Get a glimpse of what Museum of Contemporary Photography curators Natasha Egan and Karen Irvine see as cutting-edge Midwestern photography today in this lavish juried show. Although there is a range of genres and techniques represented among the twenty-five artists selected by the jurors, social photography rules the roost. You will get the sense of Irvine’s and Egan’s aesthetic best when you see Read the rest of this entry »
Julie Henry, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” 1999
In the world of sports, spectators are fanatics. And fanatics can only grasp the seemingly unexplainable psychical prowess of professional athletes as artful renditions of otherworldly beings. The media, on the other hand, is complicit in the creation of these false idols. Their job is to provoke a calculated emotional response on the spectator and to have them spend their hard-earned cash on trivialities worn or endorsed by their idols.
Canadian artist Brett Kashmere responds sarcastically to the ways in which spectators place their hopes on the shoulders of these false heroes. In “Anything But Us Is Who We Are,” from 2012, a diptych that consists of a burned LeBron James Cavaliers jersey and a flat screen displaying the video game NBA 2K10, we see LeBron’s digital clone acting like a puppet, locked in perpetual practice mode on the center of the court, dribbling the ball while giving his back to his fan base. Perhaps proof that money means much more to professional sports than civic pride and loyalty. Read the rest of this entry »
1987 was a black-and-white Christmas. The tree sparkled with tinsel. They posed, smiling, under a portrait of Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago. Linda, Latrice, and Mario, Cabrini Green, 1987.
The photograph by Marc PoKempner was exhibited in April 1989 in one of the largest documentary photography projects ever organized in an American city: “Changing Chicago.” The Focus/Infinity Fund, founded by former Car-X muffler salesman and self-taught photographer Jack Jaffe, commissioned thirty-three photographers to create a portrait of the dynamic, diverse and divided city of Chicago.
Seven photos from each artist in the archive are currently on view in the print study room at the Museum of Contemporary Photography as part of artist Jan Tichy’s introspective intervention of the museum’s entire collection. “Changing Chicago,” itself a sprawling documentary project, captures the glitz of society balls, the red neon of Superdawg’s drive-in, the construction gang raising the steel skeleton of 900 North Michigan, a sidewalk card game on 63rd and Greenwood, and an old woman in her yellow curlers at Barbara’s Beauty Salon, among other scenes of city life. Tichy responded to the legendary project by adding seven videos of contemporary Chicago, documenting his own love for the city of iron and steel. Read the rest of this entry »
Krista Wortendyke, from "Crime Unseen"
By Jason Foumberg
During a typically violent summer in Chicago this year, Tony Fitzpatrick wrote an article for Artnet magazine about Chicago’s legacy of crime and murder—among cops and gangsters alike—and he arrived at the moral that “the city gets just as many killers as it deserves.” Fitzpatrick innately understands, as do many artists, that tragedy makes for great art. Contrary to the common good, some of our greatest art is fueled by conflict. “Reading about the happiness of others is often boring,” writes Charles Baxter in his essay “Regarding Happiness.” Baxter cites Adam and Eve. Before their sin, “they are virtually non-narratable.” It is their sin, and their guilt, that gives their story drive. Following them, we have the Greek tragedies and Shakespeare, George Carlin and Lars von Trier. Two current exhibitions investigate the delicate topics of happiness and violence: “Crime Unseen” at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and “The Happiness Project,” a citywide curatorial initiative organized by Tricia Van Eck. Read the rest of this entry »
Alison Ruttan, "Evered Is Interested (detail from Dean Sequence)," 2009
Taking on the time-honored conundrum of the meaning of human life, curator Allison Grant brings together sixteen photo-artists, each of whom approaches the question from a different angle and distinctive strategy. Some of the contributors are smitten with contemporary science, others with their fantasies about it; some are straight documentarians of the survivals of primeval ages in our world, others set their fancies free in constructions and scenarios. Read the rest of this entry »
Robert Frank, "A Monument to Electricity + Photography," 1976. Photo Lithograph
With a flood of 123 black-and-white and color, and large and small format images by fifty-six photographers (mostly American, with a smattering of Europeans and Asians, some renowned and some less known) covering the last eighty years, this visual torrent of an exhibition that celebrates and criticizes by turns modern industrial infrastructure is in need of one of the dams that pop up here and there on the walls. Given the lack of conceptual focus, viewers are advised to cut through the thickets of telephone poles and powerlines, and to hone in on particular shots, many of which are striking and worthy of long looks, and to pay particular attention to distinctive styles rather than subjects. A photographic eye will put one on an expressway directly to Robert Frank’s multi-photo color collage of those ubiquitous poles (festooned with photos of his dog), the segments of which are out of alignment. Frank’s “Monument to Electricity + Photography” is witty and wise, and is inadvertently a metaphor for the show. (Michael Weinstein)
Through July 17 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 South Michigan.
Lilli Carré: Untitled, 2010, screen print, 8 x 8 inches. Photo by Angee Leonnard.
Top 5 People and Places We’ll Miss
David Weinberg Gallery
Rowley Kennerk Gallery
Green Lantern Gallery
James Garrett Faulkner
Top 5 Solo Exhibitions
Edra Soto/Ebersmoore Gallery
Philip Hanson/Corbett vs. Dempsey
Lilli Carré/Spudnik Press
Gladys Nilsson/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art
Ian Weaver/Packer Schopf Gallery
Top 5 Public Art Projects
Ray Noland’s “Run Blago Run”
Pop-Up galleries in the Loop
Nomadic Studio/DePaul University Art Museum
Hui-min Tsen’s tours of the Chicago Pedway
—Jason Foumberg Read the rest of this entry »
David Hyatt, "El Diario De Anna Frank – Migrant Camp," 2004
In this comprehensive photo-documentary on the migration of Mexicans to the United States—seen from both sides of the border—curator Rod Slemmons succeeds in deconstructing the stereotypes pervading the current immigration debate. Bringing together ten U.S. and Mexican photographers, the exhibition takes us from a Mexican town where only women and children remain to do all the work, through the high-tech border-control apparatus, up the perilous paths taken by those who get through, down to the depths of the drug trade, and finally to destinations like West Liberty, Iowa and Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood where thriving communities take root. The nuance, subtlety, ironies and power of Slemmons’ approach is encapsulated in Michael Hyatt’s black-and-white shot of a Coca-Cola bottle and a dog-eared copy of “The Diary of Anne Frank” abandoned in the desert by an anonymous seeker for a better life. (Michael Weinstein)
Through December 22 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 South Michigan.