Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: If the Lions Aren’t Cowardly, Who Is?

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Charl Landvreugd. "Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe," 2014 archival inkjet print

Charl Landvreugd. “Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe,” 2014
archival inkjet print

By Matt Morris

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) is presently host to a fashion parade poised in lithe contestation of dominant racist portrayals of the contemporary urban black man as a streetwise predator, marked as such by codes of dress that lie between stereotypes of gangster, pimp and deadbeat. Enter the “Dandy Lion,” a cultural phenomenon curator Shantrelle P. Lewis here examines as a counterpoint to the sagging cliché. A fetish for fine tailoring, nostalgic forms of menswear interpreted through the performances and rituals of dress found variously in African cultures, an elegant, highly crafted self-image, and adept showmanship: these are among a dandy lion’s hallmarks. As Lewis notes in her curator’s statement, “[T]he African Diasporan dandy cleverly manipulates clothing and attitude to exert his agency rather than succumb to the limited ideals placed on him by society. He performs identity. Most importantly, an integral part of this rebellion entails posing before a camera.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Museum of Contemporary Photography Now Accepting Submissions for Third Year of Snider Prize

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Hyounsang Yoo. "The Celebration," 2013

Hyounsang Yoo. “The Celebration,” 2013

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) has begun accepting submissions for the third iteration of the Snider Prize. Sponsored by MoCP patrons Lawrence K. and Maxine Snider, the Snider Prize is a purchase award given to emerging artists who are on the cusp of leaving graduate school and is open to MFA students who are currently in their final year of study at an accredited program in the US. One artist is awarded a sum of $2,000, the funds of which will be used toward purchasing pieces of work that will be supplemented to MoCP’s permanent collection. Additionally, two honorable mentions will receive $500 each. Submissions for the 2015 Snider Prize will be accepted from January 15 through April 1, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Phantoms in the Dirt/Museum of Contemporary Photography

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Richard Mosse. "Sugar Ray," chromogenic development print, 2012

Richard Mosse. “Sugar Ray,” chromogenic development print, 2012

RECOMMENDED

“Phantoms in the Dirt” at The Museum of Contemporary Photography, guest curated by the MCA’s Karsten Lund, takes a literal approach to the photographic treatment of detritus, while showcasing a number of works with more subtle allusions to dirt, dust, baseness and the essential materiality of the photographic process.

The exhibition is introduced by a number of richly material works. Harold Mendez’s installation “Let the shadows in to play their part” plasters the back wall of the museum’s first floor in eucalyptus bark, fleck’s of black silicone carbide and other pigments. Richard Mosse’s palpable photographs of a surreal cotton-candy landscape are in fact images of the Congolese countryside shot on Kodak Aerochrome, a defunct infrared film which renders vegetation in brilliant pinks and reds. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Hyounsang Yoo Awarded the 2014 Snider Prize

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Hyounsang Yoo. "The Celebration," 2013

Hyounsang Yoo. “The Celebration,” 2013

Each year, the Museum of Contemporary Photography awards the Snider Prize to one MFA candidate in their final year of study at an accredited program in the United States. The entire MoCP staff participates in the selection process, including their graduate and undergraduate interns, part-time employees and research fellows. This year, Hyounsang Yoo has received the award.

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Eye Exam: My Top Art Picks for Chicago and the Midwest 2013

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Cindy Tower's “Nest Egg” (detail) at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis

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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Eye Exam: How Artists Dig

Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Tony Tasset, "Robert Smithson (Las Vegas)," 1995

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 »

Review: Midwest Contemporary/Lillstreet Art Center

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Peter Yankowsky, "Shooting Position A," 2012

Peter Yankowsky, “Shooting Position A,” 2012

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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 »

Review: Spectator Sports/Museum of Contemporary Photography

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Julie Henry, "You'll Never Walk Alone," 1999

Julie Henry, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” 1999

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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 »

Art Break: Dusting Off the Changing Chicago Project

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Marc PoKempner

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 »

Eye Exam: On Happiness and Violence

Performance, Photography 1 Comment »

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 »