In this weekly column, art critic Lori Waxman adapts her 60wrd/min project to review work by artists whose practice has been affected by the pandemic. Waxman covers shows that have been cancelled, postponed, shuttered, made remote or opened by limited appointment, as well as art made during quarantine. Reviews are written in the order in which requests are received. This iteration of 60wrd/min is a democratic, good-faith effort to document more of the making of art that is happening in our city at a time when much of it is relatively unobserved.
What do young Americans look like? This question is provocative in an era in which the president and his supporters have made it clear who does and doesn’t matter in their country. Vesna Kittelson, an artist who grew up in Croatia and has long lived in Minneapolis, paints a different picture than that offered by the white supremacist imagery of MAGA. In her slightly larger-than-life cutouts, a broad range of Americans pose for their tenderly detailed portraits, each as much an individual as the other. Eleven of them will be on display at the Weisman Art Museum this fall, in a presentation postponed since April due to the museum’s pandemic closure. Since then, the need for the citizens—and officials—of the United States to not look just at but to really see one another, to acknowledge the humanity of people who look different than the image in the mirror, has only grown. Kittelson’s “Young Americans” series, populated by Rica and Harvey, William and Areca, Geovanni and Kara and others, can only help.
—2020-09-21 10:43 AM
The conventional understanding of time posits that it flows forward only, that the past is the past, and we are always heading toward a better future. In her closed, now reopened, Chicago Works exhibition at the MCA, the experimental filmmaker Deborah Stratman creates a far more critical and embodied experience of history, immersing visitors in the sounds and sights and troubles of hundreds of years of Illinois. The main vehicle for this travel is her elegiac film, “The Illinois Parables,” which includes chapters on the removal of the Cherokee, the destructiveness of tornadoes and fires, the invention of the nuclear reactor, and the murderous police raid on the headquarters of the Black Panthers. Everything is intercut with striking, beautiful scenes of forests, rivers and prairie, in all seasons, as they are now and as they may also have been then. Nature, at least, has borne witness, as Stratman asks the rest of us to try to do, too. A new twelfth chapter, “Feeling Tone,” recreates Studs Terkel’s WFMT radio booth, complete with an audio program of the great oral historian’s unedited interviews. For those unable to visit the museum, audio files, transcripts and more are available on the MCA website. The film will be streamed online during the show’s final week.
—2020-09-22 1:37 PM
Yae Jee Min and Ricardo Partida
Mounting solo shows adjacently can spark revelatory conversations. So it is with Yae Jee Min’s and Ricardo Partida’s simultaneous exhibitions at the Chicago gallery Julius Caesar (postponed since spring, now open). Min layers sequins, heat-press dyes, acrylic and more on canvases both teeny-tiny and ginormous, creating constellations of color, texture and pattern that owe something to Julie Mehretu and something else entirely to 1980s aesthetics. In his paintings, Partida combines neoclassical representations of Greek mythology with Venuses and femme fatales, plus some Gauguinesque coloring, and runs it through an unabashedly homoerotic filter. On the surface, the work of Min and Partida doesn’t seem to have much to talk about. But taking them together makes it loud and clear the extent to which each artist is creating work out of endless strata of past art, personal experience, material histories and so on. Show me a painting that isn’t also a palimpsest, I’ll show you an artist who is in denial about the need to revisit the past in order to reinvent the future. It certainly, and thankfully, won’t be these two.
—2020-09-23 11:14 AM
With her studio and work closed, Leslie Hirshfield has taken to painting in her parents’ basement. That might sound nightmarish to some and comforting to others. For Hirshfield it offers a symbiosis of work and subject: her pre-COVID oils, drawings, watercolors and gouaches feature dreamily rendered scenes of childhood and family memory, as often as not starring twin girls. (The artist has a twin sister with whom she collaborates on paper and metalwork collages.) That dreaminess goes both ways, sometimes sharp and realistic, other times loose and impressionistic. Two fully realized quarantine paintings keep to the former aesthetic and richly revisit people and places from the past: a home-built stage upon which the young sisters performed for captive audiences, a wall on which muralists portray close family members present and absent. Notable in both is Hirshfield’s use of the picture-in-a-picture: a child’s sweet drawing as theater backdrop, the fictional mural. This feels uncannily true to life today, turned inwards as it can’t help but be, funneled through evermore flat, rectangular planes. (Lori Waxman)
—2020-09-25 10:31 AM