Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2015: Art

Top 5 Lists 2 Comments »

Top 5 Art Anniversaries
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (150th)
The Renaissance Society (100th)
Arts Club of Chicago (99th)
Smart Museum (40th)
Loyola University Art Museum (10th)
–Elliot Reichert

Top 5 Visiting Artist Talks 
Hito Steyerl
Agnès Varda
Joan Jonas
Jeff Koons
Thomas Hirschhorn
–Elliot Reichert Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Expressionist Impulses/Smart Museum of Art

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Hans Hofmann. "House on the Hill," 1943. Ink and watercolor on wove paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, from the collection of Janice and Henri Lazarof, 2000.35.

Hans Hofmann. “House on the Hill,” 1943.
Ink and watercolor on wove paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, from the collection of Janice and Henri Lazarof, 2000.35.


Raw, emotional and distorted, the Expressionist movement brought a subjective perspective of the world to the surface of the canvas. Although this style of art has historically been seen as a German and Austrian movement, “Expressionist Impulses” surveys the work of artists from surrounding countries such as Poland, Romania and the former Czechoslovakia, which simultaneously critiqued political and social concerns. By exhibiting artists from outside of Germany, the Smart Museum has elevated countries involved in the Expressionist style and tendencies that are often overlooked. Read the rest of this entry »

Opportunity Knocks, and Knocking: The State of the Arts in Hyde Park

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Ebony magazine, August 1967.

Ebony magazine, August 1967.

By Luke A. Fidler, Ph.D. candidate, Art History

In 1967, a group of students from Hyde Park High School performed a musical piece called “Opportunity Please Knock” together with members of the Blackstone Rangers gang. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Smart Museum Director to Step Down

Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park No Comments »
Anthony Hir

Anthony Hirschel, University of Chicago

Anthony Hirschel, who has served as the director of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago for a decade, has announced that he will be stepping down from his position effective October 9. Bill Michel, Executive Director of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and University Arts Advisor, has been appointed interim director.

The news comes at a time of heightened activity in the Chicago visual art community, 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 »

Eye Exam: Trends of the Art Season Opener Weekend

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A painting by Heimo Zobernig in "The Program" at Gallery 400

A painting by Heimo Zobernig in “The Program” at Gallery 400

By Jason Foumberg

As the fall art season opens this weekend, Newcity is tracking some trends in the local art scene.

Chit-Chat: Artists Want to Talk with You

Matt Austin
A visit to the Smart Museum of Art typically begins at the visitor information desk, and twice a month, through June 2014, visitors may find themselves at another sort of information desk. Exit the contemporary art galleries and you might find Matt Austin, a photographer and bookmaker, sitting in a cubicle, waiting for you. The conversationalist wants to talk with you about “your unique qualities as a person,” which he’ll jot down in a book-in-progress about his year-long run as the museum’s Interpreter in Residence. In return, he asks that you grab a sharp knife and carve something, anything into his wood desk. September 5, 10am-5 pm. Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 5550 South Greenwood. Read the rest of this entry »

Art 50: Chicago’s Artists’ Artists

Art 50, Artist Profiles 6 Comments »

Artwork and Photo by Matthew Hoffman ( )
Matthew is a 2006 Newcity Breakout Artist

“A friend recently confessed to me that he secretly ranks the participants in Chicago’s art world according to their importance,” wrote artist Molly Zuckerman-Hartung in this publication. Molly’s friend doesn’t work at Newcity; although we annually rank half-a-hundred scenesters of the stage and page, this is our first line-up of visual artists. But everyone intimately knows Molly’s secret friend—the shuffler of the big rolodex, the line cutter, who maybe crept through a Deb Sokolow conspiracy, who buys all your friends’ artworks but never yours. Guess who? It’s you. You made this list and you ranked it and you live in it. You’re either on this list or you’re a product of this list or you’re on this list’s parallel universe (maybe, the Top Fifty People Who Read Lists list). Congrats!

We agree that a linear fifty names is simplistic. Instead, picture this list as a family tree that’s been trimmed into an MC Escher hedge maze. Or see the names as intersecting circles, a cosmic Venn diagram, or raindrops hitting a lake. There could be a list of fifty (or 500) best painters, or a new list for every week we publish this newspaper. For now, here are fifty people who have made an impression on other peoples’ lives.

Who are these people? They are mentors, magnets, peers, alchemists, art mothers, Chicago-ish, artists’ artists, evangelicals, alive today, polarizing, underrated, retired, workhorses and teachers. Lots of teachers. If you’re an artist in Chicago it’s likely that a handful of these artists trained you, or showed you that art was even a possibility. The bonus of local legends is that we can learn from them, face to face. Many lead by example.

About the selection process: Artists only for this list. (Power curators and other hangers-on get their own list, next year). To rank these artists we surveyed hundreds of local living artists, racked our brains, had conversations, wrote emails, canvassed the streets with art critics, cast votes, then recalls, called important curators in London who promptly hung up on us, drank pumpkin latte, checked emails and then finally wrote it all down. And now, we present to you, the Art 50. (Jason Foumberg)

The Art 50 was written by AJ Aronstein, Janina Ciezadlo, Stephanie Cristello, Alicia Eler, Pat Elifritz, Jason Foumberg, Amelia Ishmael, Anastasia Karpova, Harrison Smith, Bert Stabler, Pedro Velez, Katie Waddell and Monica Westin. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Vision and Communism/Smart Museum of Art

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Victor Koretsky, Untitled, c. 1960s. Ne boltai! Collection.


“Propaganda is hyperbole rendered urgent,” according to the exhibition’s catalogue, written collectively by a team of art historians, curators and media studies professors, accompanying the Smart Museum’s “Vision and Communism.” The exhibition centers on Cold War posters and maquettes by Soviet cultural worker Viktor Koretsky, and is the Smart’s contribution to the citywide conversation regarding the visual language of Russian posters, The Soviet Arts Experience. Koretsky’s incendiary posters take aim at the myth of capitalist democracy and give shape to its external threat (whereas more common Soviet realist images exhorted workers toward productivity) to the communist vision with images of Klansmen hugging bombs, a black man about to be hung by a rope in the shape of a dollar sign, and unemployment lines. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Warholian Summer

Painting, Photography 1 Comment »

Andy Warhol, "Self-Portrait," 1986, Polaroid Polacolor print. Collection of Helyn and Ralph Goldenberg.

By Jason Foumberg

A pilgrimage to view all the Andy Warhol exhibitions around Chicago this summer will take you from tourist-laden Streeterville to tree-lined Hyde Park to the suburban flatlands of Glen Ellyn. There was no citywide master plan to the coordinated showing of Warhol’s works (unlike the recent thematic, “The Soviet Experience”), but the concurrence evidences the artist’s durable popularity. Warhol is a go-to name brand that bodes well for museums and sits well with the public. The three exhibitions, though, focus on his later work, from the mid-1970s through the 1980s, well after the Marilyns and soup cans. Unlike last year’s “Andy Warhol: The Last Decade,” presented by the Milwaukee Art Museum, which surveyed the artist’s uneven career in the 1980s, the current exhibitions do well to hone in on smaller bodies of specific work, such as his documentary street photography and the shadow paintings series. These boutique exhibitions refine Warhol’s over-prolific output to pointed theses, revealing that, although everything and anything could be the subject of a Warhol artwork, he is enjoyably digested in small doses rather than a glut of a retrospective. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Digital Buddha

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia 1 Comment »

3-D digital reconstruction from east wall altar, South Cave, Northern Xiangtangshan, with missing fragments shown in yellow. Image by Jason Salavon and Travis Saul.

By Chris Miller

In 1909, distinguished poet and orientalist Victor Segalen, author of “La Grande Statuaire chinoise,” found himself and a colleague alone with a splendid statue of the Buddha in a remote shrine in China. Despite some damage to the torso, “its profile had retained its nobility, its eyes their gaze, the smile of its mouth its generous sweetness and a kind of irony.” Immediately they knew what they had to do. “This statue, we must have it! We will not leave without it!” Removing an axe from their luggage, Segalen began chopping at the neck. The noise attracted the attention of two locals, who showed Segalen how to apply wedges and wooden blocks to make the work so much easier.

Imagine that process repeated tens of thousands of times in grottos and temples throughout China in the early twentieth century. Plunderers carted off entire shrines, servicing the hot European market for world art. The chopped-off heads, hands, whatever, eventually entered the collections of far-flung museums, including American.

But times have changed. The pioneering scholar of Japanese Buddhist art, Ernest Fenellosa (1853-1908) believed that “we are approaching the time when the art work of all the world of man may be looked upon as one, as infinite variations in a single kind of mental and social effort.” Modern scholars, though, are more likely to agree with Sir Edmund Leach (1910-1989): “Works of art are not just things in themselves, they are objects carrying moral implications. What the moral implication is depends upon where they are.” Read the rest of this entry »