Tony Lewis employs graphite to spectacular ends. With colored pencil on paper, the material gives a worked-over quality to his otherwise vibrant and exacting drawings. With screws and rubber bands, the material comes to life, forming its own bold visual vocabulary. For his 2019 solo exhibition at Blum & Poe’s L.A. location, the SAIC alum mined the historic 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, an event the artist continues to revisit. It was also the subject of his 2020 solo exhibition “The Dangers (As Far As I Can See),” at Massimo de Carlo in Italy. An exhibition scheduled at Blum & Poe New York has been postponed.
In addition to his role as graduate dean and professor of painting and drawing at SAIC, Arnold Kemp maintains an active multidisciplinary art practice, with three solo exhibitions opening on the West Coast this winter. “False Hydras,” opening at L.A.’s JOAN gallery in January, will be Kemp’s largest solo exhibition to date, and refers to an urban myth dreamed up by another Arnold Kemp (no relation). It will feature a collection of books by another unrelated Arnold Kemp as well as works crafted from objects made by the artist’s grandfather. “The absence of these other Arnold Kemps is meant to haunt this show and is a metaphor for missing black bodies,” Kemp says. At Portland’s Fourteen30 Contemporary, Kemp will show ceramic objects and drawings stemming from his aluminum-foil masks. He also has work on view in Nia DaCosta’s forthcoming “Candyman.”
Although trained as a photographer, Assaf Evron’s work transcends the field, incorporating architecture, sculpture and installation with a critical engagement of history and image-making. An ongoing collage project allows him to install large-scale photographic interventions on Mies van der Rohe buildings around Chicago. During EXPO 2019, Evron displayed “Collage for the Esplanade Apartments” on the iconic Lakeshore Drive building, featuring a mountain view from the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve UNESCO World Heritage site. A forthcoming iteration of the collage project will take place at IIT’s Crown Hall. The 2020 Illinois Arts Council Agency Artist Fellowship awardee is at work on “Carpet Space,” in collaboration with Dan Handel, on the phenomenology of carpets in hospitality areas, which will be displayed in 2021 at the Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal. For Manifest magazine, he’s working on a project investigating polychromy—all-over color—in classical architecture.
Despite the ways in which the pandemic and the Movement for Black Lives have exposed longstanding issues with capitalism, global food chains and the environment, Claire Pentecost sees a silver lining. “I’ve waited most of my life to see a significant change in attitudes about environmental issues, and for a long time I have believed that our relations with the more than human world will improve when we address social justice issues,” she says. The SAIC professor is at work with her partner Brian Holmes on renovating a new community space they’re calling “Watershed Art and Ecology.” Last year, her collective Deep Time Chicago collaborated with forty artists on field stations along the Mississippi River in order to make the “landscape legible as a critical zone of habitation and long-term human-environment interaction.” They are organizing a traveling exhibition on the project.
For over sixty years, Margot Bergman has been creating and exhibiting work, primarily painting. Last year, the octogenarian had solo exhibitions at Susanne Vielmetter in Los Angeles, Switzerland’s Museum Langmatt and Germany’s Museum Folkwang. Long interested in the absurd, many of Bergman’s recent paintings are distorted portraits of women, often depicted with extra facial features. For a 2019 solo exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery, Bergman also showed photographs: unnerving close-ups of dolls and masks.
B. Ingrid Olson
Whether layering photographs with found objects or other materials, or creating sculptures in dialogue with their surrounding architecture and the bodily form, each of Ingrid Olson’s pieces ask the viewer to question how they experience and relate to space. The SAIC alum is currently at work on concurrent 2021 exhibitions for the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, “History Mother” and “Little Sister,” part of the Feminist Art Coalition project, which will coincide with her first monograph. The Carpenter Center is Le Corbusier’s only building in North America, and Olson is “coaxing out some of the particular, problematic parts of his history, his ideologies and his actions” into new site-specific sculptural installations. Chicagoans can catch Olson’s work this fall as part of Chicago Manual Style’s portion of the “Four Flags” international project and at the MCA’s “Just Connect.”
Brooklyn-bred artist Kamau Patton came to Chicago to make music, and was inspired by the community of artists and the ways the city and artists preserved history. His archival practice is a core component of his work, which deals with photography, audio and the manipulation of media to highlight the complexities of sound, color and light. This year the interdisciplinary artist and School of the Art Institute of Chicago instructor was the recipient of the $100,000 Creative Capital Award for “Tel,” a name coined by archeology, that is a combination of performance, study and contemplation of how memory has been altered under the influence of cyberspace, telematics and transmission technologies. Patton is in “research mode,” and seeking ways to strategize within the political and ecological environment. He is at work on an archival project at Experimental Sound Studio, where he is engaging with audio archives from the Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection, the Malachi Ritscher Collection, and the Links Hall Collection, and will invite other artists to work with him.
David Schutter has had a busy few years. In addition to participating in Documenta 14 and a solo exhibition at Rhona Hoffman, the painter won a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts. He is at work on a project stemming from that fellowship, on the painting “The Gross Clinic” by Thomas Eakins. This year, Schutter became the first American to receive the Berliner Kunstpreis from the Akademie der Künste, following prestigious winners including Blinky Palermo and Isa Genzken. This October, Schutter begins a lifetime appointment as chaired professor in the Institut für Kunst im Kontext at the Universität der Künste, Berlin, the largest art school in Europe, although he will stay on at the University of Chicago as a visiting professor.
Words form the basis of our society. We use them to make laws, to set the historical record. The media use them to document and interpret the world around us. Bethany Collins is skeptical of the authoritative nature of text, of word as law. “It’s always a reflection of who we are in any given moment, so it’s constantly in flux,” she says. Take “America: A Hymnal,” originally a book published by Candor Arts and Patron, containing one-hundred versions of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” on view this summer at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Or her work recasting “The Odyssey,” a diptych of which she’ll exhibit this fall at Renaissance Society, based on the translation by Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate the text into English. In Collins’ work, most of which is drawing-based, the texts are often obscured or erased, sometimes with the artist’s own saliva, making it clear how readily language can be manipulated. The 2019 Artadia awardee will take her work further in a 2021 solo exhibition at the Frist Art Museum, with a new hymnal work based on “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Riva Lehrer’s studio practice and writing come together in October when her memoir, “Golem Girl,” is published by Penguin Random House and an exhibition of her paintings opens at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery (which recently started representing her). Lehrer was introduced in 1997 to a collective of fellow disabled artists who were also activists. Finding this community changed the direction of her work, and she is now best known for her portraits of other disabled people that visualize their diverse bodies while focusing on the complexity and individuality of her subjects’ lives.