All posts filed under: Exhibitions

Locating Your Practice in ‘Todros Geller: Strange Worlds’ with Curator Susan Weininger

Todros Geller, (1889-1949), was a Jewish-American artist born in Ukraine, immigrating to Canada and later Chicago in 1906, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a prominent artist during his time, having a hand in many organizations in Chicago and working with such artists as Charles White. The exhibition Todros Geller: Strange Worlds showcases the diverse work—in style, subject matter, and medium—that Geller created throughout his lifetime; and is hosted at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning, an organization that began as the College of Jewish studies, where Todros Geller taught for many years. Many of the objects from the exhibition come from the institute’s extensive collection of Jewish art and historic, ritual objects, a collection that Todros Geller began. Co-curator of the exhibition Dr. Susan Weininger explains Geller’s interest in Jewish art, “One of the things that [Geller] pursued his whole life was the idea of a Jewish art museum. He knew that there was a history of Jewish art [and] he traveled to study that history.” Dr. Weininger and …

A Tender Offering: The Sculpture of Patricia Whalen Keck

Foreign yet familiar. The sculptures of Patricia Whalen Keck stand still yet so full of emotion.  Their bronze forms, vulnerable and gentle, greet the viewer as they approach them. Keck’s work has a soft, soothing presence; tapping into something within all of us. Informed by the need to protect and give voice, traits common to all people, Keck’s work takes on a certain sentimentality, a quiet kindness, that embraces the viewer. She taps into the history of humanity, ideas and emotions universal. Keck considers herself a figurative artist. There is a acute attention to detail in her rendering of her forms that stems from her time spent with them. Time is a huge component of Keck’s work. The time spent creating each piece, the length of the lost wax casting process, gives Keck the time to pour herself into the work. She has said she has made work for the time spent on it. This can be felt by the viewer when interacting with the work. The time and emotion spent on the piece is …

Locating Your Practice in ‘African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race,’ with D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

A century’s legacy of Black designers working at the nexus of the quotidian, politics, history, and market capitalism is brought into focus through African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race, on view at the Chicago Cultural Center until March 3, 2019. The show’s objects and design content show generations of Black designers fusing a shared past and visions of the future within their historical contexts. This chronicle highlights designers and artists producing in many mediums including Charles Dawson, Charles White, Jay Jackson, Zelda “Jackie” Ormes, Charles Harrison, LeRoy Winbush, William McBride, Sylvia (Laini) Abernathy, and Emmett McBain. Particular emphasis is given to how 20th century Black designers and artists in Chicago reframed the conception of the Black consumer within the market economy. By the same token, the concerns, aesthetics, pressures, and values of Chicago’s dynamic Black communities are embedded in each object. Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs expressed this responsiveness when discussing the origins of the South Side Community Arts Center, quoted in the exhibition materials: “As young black artists, we looked …

Whatever You Think I Am, I’m Not – Out of Easy Reach Review

“Art can make a difference because it pulls people up short. [Art] says, don’t accept things for their face value; you don’t have to go along with any of this; you can think for yourself” – Jeanette Winterson1 Ayanah Moor’s Good News makes me smile. It was the first thing I saw walking into the “Out of Easy Reach” exhibit at the DePaul Art Museum this summer. A grid of eight-by-three screen printed sheets of paper showing cream colored text set against a black background. The first reads, “Chicago: Chicago has a lot of professional Black women. But a lot of the women just don’t have their heads together. They try to be professional, but they forget that it takes a well-rounded life to be happy. – Danielle Thomas.” 23 more sheets list women’s candid remarks on the dating scene for women loving women in different cities across the U.S. Instantly there is a sense of a queer satire — taking the viewer’s knowledge (physical, visual, and sensual) of relationships and sex and gender, and transforming them. The …

The Vessels that Marva Made: An Interview with Members of Sapphire & Crystals

“I am a strong woman; my strength as a Black woman pays homage to what I call the Sapphire Spirit. A woman who is sassy, jazzy, spiritual, brainy, the healer–she is Mother Earth in its grand splendor. I salute this spirit in all Black women everywhere. The recognition of my own Sapphire Spirit provided me with the knowledge I needed to speak. My name is Marva and I speak through my art, my voice extends all the way back to the first known human being who was a Black woman. Going forth, through my ancestors, I am creating new symbols and new directions, moving from my own individual voice to that of the collective voice. I now join with sixteen other African American Women Artists and form the Sapphire & Crystals group. As a collective we step forward to the world.” –Marva Lee Pitchford-Jolly In 1986 artists Marva Lee Pitchford-Jolly and Felicia Grant Preston started meeting in Pitchford-Jolly’s home to discuss how to continue supporting women artists after the group Mud Peoples Black Women’s Resource …

Risk/Play/Reap at Jan Brandt Gallery

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s review of  “Risk Play Reap”,  a collaborative exhibition by Allison Carr, Danell Dvorak, Monica Estabrook, and Amy Wolfe, which was installed at Jan Brandt Gallery in Bloomington, IL. Presented through Sixty Regional. Art making is usually thought of as a solitary activity, but what happens when that usually solitaire activity is opened up to the direct input of others? This show, consisting of the collaborations of four artists offers some experiential insight into that question. A statement accompanying the show in part explains the collaboration process: “Each artist began a piece, then passed it to another for further development. Additions, alterations, and reconfigurations continued, until the group agreed a piece was completed, whether through lengthy, multiple cycles, or two to three passes.” First of all, I noticed that when viewing the entirety of the show, the exchange of approaches within each piece had resulted in a variety of finished works that, at the same time, had a consistency of formal solutions. Layering, transparency, textural surfaces, juxtaposing of imagery, and often a sculptural …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 3: Leah Gipson

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of re-orienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted just as much in ethics as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. And yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: What and who is art’s “community,” and what do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores …

MA Exhibition: The Midway Point

This review is part of our Sixty Regional project which partners with artists,  writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and Illinois. Written by Jessica Bingham, artist and co-founder of Project 1612, this review looks into the recent MA Exhibition at Heuser Art Center at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Large windows scale the exterior walls of Bradley University’s Heuser Art Center, giving you a glimpse of the artworks that lie within. There is absolutely no way to drive past the building without taking a peek into the gallery. The artwork seems to glow from within, especially in the winter, and the MA Exhibition was no exception. Large-scale paintings by Jack Crouch fill the walls, the rich historical narratives from which they are derived interrupted with playful teddy bears and children’s toys, a window into the life of the painter. Natalie Zelman’s organic ceramic objects cover pedestals that sit lower to the floor, creating reflective landscapes. The back walls of the gallery are plastered with a large floor to ceiling installation of painted cardboard, …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 2: Regin Igloria and North Branch Projects

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of reorienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted in ethics as much as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. Yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: who is art’s “community,” and what exactly do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores the influence that …

Reflections on Pictures from an Exposition at the Newberry Library

Even 125 years later, we can’t stop thinking about the World’s Columbian Exposition, an extravaganza so large and dense that we continue to unpack its flaws and glorify its vastness. In 1893, Chicago introduced the world to collections of dancers, photographs, paintings, magazines, and yes, even a map made entirely of pickles. The fair influenced how we view and how we curate exhibitions today. It was a spectacle and its history is a labyrinth of stories and mystery, and even a bit of horror. The Newberry Library is looking at the visual aspects of the fair—exhibiting an extensive collection of ephemera and art—in Pictures From the Exposition: Visualizing the 1893 World’s Fair. The exhibition displays the way artwork influenced people from afar to visit Chicago, as well as those who were living the experience, and how these images served as a means of advertising as well as fine art. What’s always been so undeniably interesting to me as a Hyde Parker, living on the edges of where the famous fair was once held, is how …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 1: Nicole Marroquin

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of reorienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted in ethics as much as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. Yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: who is art’s “community,” and what exactly do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores the influence that Addams …

Review: Static Cling @ Heaven Gallery

It’s always been interesting, walking into Heaven Gallery and browsing the vintage shop connected to the space on the right hand side. Gold brooches, gaudy necklaces, and fur hats line the wall as the gallery’s cat wanders in to sprawl out on the floor. It’s a gallery I’ve frequented for the past five years. It’s comforting, it’s familiar. It’s no surprise then that two Chicago artists, Nico Gardner and Lauren Carter, decided to respond to Heaven’s unique space and the clothes that fill the empty areas. Nico and Lauren simultaneously nod their heads at the tables filled with the contents from your grandmother’s jewelry box, creating their own reimagining of these pieces through their artwork. Memory, nostalgia, and identity are influential in the collection of pieces inhabiting the gallery. When entering the room, visitors are greeted with a piece entitled Keepsake: two tiny, sculptural, found containers in the shape of rabbits resting on a wall shelf. Lauren adds in hair and nail clippings into her work as a reminder that these objects carry some weight—a human’s contact, a …

Art Against the Flow and a Semantic Ecotone

As I walk into the gallery space, I’m greeted by vibrant and seemingly disparate groups of artworks. On one wall, there are bold, schematic line drawings of Chicago architecture. To my right are totem-like sculptures with intricate embellishments. Across the way is a collection of flat landscapes with skewed perspectives. This is Chicago Calling: Art Against the Flow, an exhibition on view at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art as part of Art Design Chicago. Throughout the show, it seems that the curators Kenneth Burkhart and Lisa Stone refrain from hand-holding me through a chronological, step-by-step development of an artist or artistic movement. As I trace my way through the space, pausing at each work, I soon realize that the absence of a consistent, linear narrative may be the point. Intuit’s mission is to celebrate the power of outsider art, which they define on their website as “the works of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world and who instead are motivated by their unique personal visions.” With this in …

Featured image: Udita Upadhyaya at the book release for “nevernotmusic,” at TriTriangle. The artist leans over a table, looking down as she writes in gold pen inside a copy of her book. Next to her is another copy, open to its centerfold, where gold thread is visible. The artist wears a light-colored, textured sweater. Photo by Caleb Neubauer.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the third of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (the first and second interviews are online). After the book’s release in September, I met with Udita to reflect on the book, the process of creating it (and personalizing each copy), and the connection between music and grief in her work. Get a copy of the limited edition book by contacting Udita. Find @uditau on Twitter and Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: How are you feeling about Saturday’s book release event? Udita Upadhyaya: I’m still processing, but I am feeling good. It was great to see the book in its final form. The book is really beautiful! I have not spent enough time with it yet, but …

Installation View: Up is Down at the Block Museum

This fall, Art Design Chicago is illuminating the legacy of art and design that’s embedded in Chicago’s history and culture through a full calendar of exhibitions, events, and other programs across the city. As editorial partners in this effort, we’re working with them to to elevate the stories of Chicago’s lesser-known artists, designers, and creators, past and present, through comics, essays, interviews, podcasts, and videos. For the videos we’ve teamed up with On The Real Film to present short profiles that highlight the exhibitions, projects, and people who are showcasing these legacies in various ways. The third video in this series, “Installation View: Up is Down” takes a behind-the-scenes look at the installation process for The Block Museum’s exhibition Up is Down: Mid-century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio. Co-curators Amy Beste and Corinne Granof discuss the legacy and impact of the Goldsholl Studio on design and advertising, and provide insight into the curating process for a multimedia show that includes a wide variety of mediums and formats. The Block Museum’s Dan Silverstein elaborates …

Fever Dream: Allison Lacher at Monaco

I’m wearing my winter coat the day I visit Allison Lacher’s exhibition Full Sun (the sun being nowhere in sight), but just a week ago, the high reached 90 degrees in St. Louis. Without the undeterred peddling of all things pumpkin by every coffee shop in town, one could be forgiven for forgetting that it is, in fact, October. The brick facade of the gallery has been painted a dark gray, giving nothing away except that this corner of the city has been carved out for The Contemporary. But from within the neutral frame of Monaco, a warm glow is emanating. From the street, the interior space is inviting, with a peachy orange coat of paint and floors speckled with iridescent floral cutouts (over the course of a month, Lacher’s work has indeed served as an escape from both the cold and the heat). However, once inside, the comfort of room temperature begins to give way to a sense of hollow domesticity. Hung throughout the space are window panes, stretched over with bars of ribbon, …

Image: Bri Beck leans into the frame from the right side, looking down at a tan mixed media garment piece on a white pedestal. Other works can be seen in the background. Photo by Ryan Edmund.

Locating Your Practice in ‘Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design,’ with Bri Beck

“I could have never expected this, it’s so exciting. It [makes me] feel like my story has been told for a very long time, and I don’t always have to be the one telling my story,” asserts Bri Beck while discussing the work in Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design: 1970s to Today at Gallery 400. The exhibition is a multi-generational sampling of the disability-centered artwork that has been coming out of Chicago over the last fifty-plus years. Artist and art therapy graduate student Bri Beck and I visit the exhibition to discuss her experience as a part of this rich history. As we make our way through the gallery, Beck points out artists she’s worked with, portraits of people she recognizes, and professors she’s been mentored by. “I love being a part of the Chicago disability community,” says Beck. A close-knit and interconnected community, she explains, “there aren’t very many of us!” The seemingly small circle of artists and activists doing disability work in Chicago is precisely what has made the city an epicenter for advocacy and …

Touching Time: An Interview with José Santiago Pérez

José Santiago Pérez’s show, Flirting with Infinitudes, part of the Doing/Thinking residency at Wedge Projects, will be on view until the closing reception on October 5th. The pieces in his show activate the triangular gallery space with their touches of bright neon colors.  In Flirting with Infinitudes, Santiago Pérez uses knots as a way to meditate on time and its the cycles and repetitions, and ultimately on what binds us. Some of the pieces evoke tapestries made with modern materials, the colorful plastic cascading from the knots that affixing the lacing in place against a dark grid. Other pieces contrast colorful materials against the translucent, one material contracting and ballooning against the coiling and releasing of the other. In still others, the translucent white plastic hangs in strips that partially veil the vivid looping and knotting. The show is accompanied by a takeaway booklet that continues the show’s meditations in text form. I got a chance to talk to Santiago Pérez and we discussed the show’s craft-based process, the use of knots, and the transition from …

City Visions: Urban Space, Daily Life, and the Camera

Treated with fumes and mercury vapor, the silver-polished metal plate is exposed to the light of a sunny Parisian day and reveals a latent image on its mirror-like surface: the curve of a cobblestone street leads the eye down rows of various-sized structures, toward a far-off vanishing point in the cityscape. Legible in the foreground, out in front of what appears to be a residential building, we see two figures miniaturized within the sweeping panorama. Captured by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the eponymous daguerreotype technique, this 1838 photograph, titled Boulevard du Temple, is believed to be the first picture ever created of city space and daily urban life. With its elevated perspective looking down and across this vista, Daguerre’s photo situates the viewer as an observer who is simultaneously in the city but also looking at it from some remove, as if through a window. The wide angle and sense of distance allow the viewer to consider the scene aesthetically: the contrast and quality of light, the atmosphere, the architectural forms. At the same time, …

Broadcasting Art From Inside Cook County Jail

On the night of the screening of Radioactive: Stories from Beyond the Wall, the newest intervention in Maria Gaspar’s 96 Acres Project, the area around Cook County Jail was vibrantly alive. Cars zoomed by with teenage girls poking out of sunroofs, Mexican flags draped around their shoulders, and passengers shouting “Viva México!” in honor of Mexican Independence Day that weekend. Facing the north wall of the massive compound—the largest jail in the country—a parking lot was converted into a viewing space, with folded chairs orbiting around large speakers tuned into Lumpen Radio. William Onyeabor songs played as about fifty people settled in for Radioactive’s second screening. A group gathered around what looked like a food cart, but was actually William Estrada’s Mobile Street Art Cart project, making screen prints that read “Families Belong Together/Abolish ICE/Abolish Prisons” and pinning them up to dry on clotheslines. As the sun set the lot filled out, buzzing. Behind the wall, the light from a single room spilled out through a barred window. With the Radioactive screenings and other aspects of the 96 …

Color it Clean: An Interview with Jeffrey Michael Austin

I first met Jeffrey Michael Austin through an exhibition we were a part of at the Chicago Artist Coalition in 2015, during which he was a resident in their HATCH program.  He then had successive projects in the St. Louis vicinity where I was living, and I maintained an ongoing admiration for the cleverness, humor, and versatility of his practice (he is also an accomplished musician, one-third of the trio Growing Concerns).  He is an artist that is responsive to his environment, locating the wonders of natural elements, as well as wonder-ing about the state of human nature. His re-staging of common objects and occurrences straddle the playful and the political. As the latter becomes more and more urgent, he engages in critique that arises out of a call for empathy.  Over a very long email correspondence, we reflected on some recent bodies of work, as he prepared to open his solo exhibition ‘Outstanding Balance’ at Heaven Gallery.     Lyndon Barrois Jr: It is notable that there are a lot of stars in the recent …

“Leaf by Leaf” at the Chicago Artist Coalition

How does our environment affect our cultural memory and identity? What relationship does geography have with power and how does it affect diasporic communities? HATCH Project exhibition “Leaf by Leaf” at the Chicago Artist Coalition investigates these urgent questions that are embedded within the plants, the land, and the organic elements that surround us. Featured artists include India Martin, Whit Forrester, and Yasmin Spiro, who all create works that unveil a beautiful yet complicated ecology that is cultural, political, and spiritual. My experience with the exhibition grew from a sense of awe within the breathtaking photographs of India Martin’s birthplace of Hawaii, to the spiritual and sublime within Whit Forrester’s plant-turned-holy icons, landing at a textural encounter of materials found in the earth that comprise the sculptural work of Yasmin Spiro. To investigate these themes deeper in the artists’ work, I asked each of the artists three questions about one specific piece that was featured in “Leaf by Leaf.” Sabrina Greig, curator of the exhibition and HATCH project curator-in-residence, introduces us to a unifying theme …

Locating Your Practice in ‘A Johnson Publishing Story,’ with Samantha Hill and Krista Franklin

“We had so many good times. I grew up with Johnson,” a fellow visitor to A Johnson Publishing Story told me of the more than fifteen years she had spent working with the Johnson Publishing Company. As we took in the many books and objects on display from the Johnson Publishing Archive, she shared how she had started as a young secretary on Johnson’s executive floor, then worked as an executive secretary for the company’s children’s publication Ebony Jr., before going on to serve as a Midwest director for community relations, visiting Black churches and other institutions in Oklahoma, Missouri, and beyond to promote Johnson Publishing subscriptions and charity initiatives. And when we stopped in front of a zippy red alligator embossed vinyl-sheathed typewriter, I was surprised by how evocative such an object could be when she remarked, “Oh, I remember these! IBM at the time made these Selectrics in black, steel gray, and putty, but Johnson had them made custom in red alligator. I hammered away at one just like this.” John H. Johnson started …

Cruising the Archives: Chicago’s Gerber/Hart Library and Archives

“Often by chance, via out-of-the-way card catalogues, or through previous web surfing, a particular ‘deep’ text, or a simple object (bobbin, sampler, scrap of lace) reveals itself here at the surface of the visible, by mystic documentary telepathy. Quickly — precariously — coming as it does from an opposite direction. If you are lucky, you may experience a moment before.” — Susan Howe, “The Telepathy of Archives” This past February, an initiative to pull books containing “LGBTQ content” from a public library swept through Orange City, Iowa. While the campaign wasn’t successful, its intentions remain the stuff of relatively recent Midwestern history. This is to say that when the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives was founded in 1981, patrons couldn’t necessarily count on finding their own experiences and narratives reflected in the shelves of public libraries — while queer content might not have been explicitly banned, it was certainly a blind spot in most mainstream collections. Named after Henry Gerber (founder of the first American gay rights association incorporated in Illinois) and Pearl Hart (one of Chicago’s …

This image depicts part of a performance score, bound into a thin book. On the top page, toward its bottom-right corner, it reads “Dear Corey: Unfold (into you)” in black ink on grey paper. Across the binding, on the bottom page—the majority of the image—text, lines, arrows, and shapes appear in black ink against a whitish vellum background. Solid black abstract shapes connect and overlap, creating white space where they overlap. Lines swoop, loop, and change direction, and some end in arrowheads. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book in progress)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the second of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the first interview here and the third here). In late May, I met with Udita to discuss the book’s first mock-up, her aesthetic choices and decision-making process, and the role of intimacy, the body, and language in her work. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, 7 pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: So, you made a book! Udita Upadhyaya: Yeah. This is not what it’s going to look like but this is the first mock-up with real pages of the scores and some of the color and stuff being decided. MSL: Wow. Can I look …