All posts tagged: Chicago Art

Framing the Body: A Critical Look at Witkin’s Photographic Legacy

“Brilliant and divisive,” those were the words Catherine Edelman, gallery owner and panel moderator, used to describe acclaimed photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. The latest exhibition at Catherine Edelman Gallery, Joel-Peter Witkin: From the Studio, features more than 25 photographs, 80 drawings, as well as sketchbooks and journals, darkroom tools and cameras, letters, and contact sheets. But it was Witkins mission, “to create photographs that show the beauty of marginalized people,” and how he executes that aim was the primary topic of discussion for the ‘Otherness & Beauty’ panel hosted by the gallery on June 1. The panel included painter, writer and disability activist Riva Lehrer, art therapist Deb DelSignore, and art historian Mark B. Pohlad. Witkin, an American artist based in Albuquerque, photographs his subjects in carefully crafted settings and utilizes manual darkroom techniques to produce surreal images. The subjects are often “intersex, post and pre-op individuals, and people born with physical abnormalities.” Lehrer makes artwork depicting similar marginalized people, with one very important difference—she is a portrait artist. Lehrer works collaboratively with her subjects to …

In Our Bodies, Together: Disability Art Showcase and Maker-Space

Creative, connecting, and celebratory—these were the intentions laid out for people at the start of the Disability Art Showcase and Maker-Space on April 16th. The event organizer, Bri Beck, a disability artist/advocate and art therapy graduate student from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, hosted between sixty and seventy participants at Access Living, downtown Chicago’s main Center for Independent Living, for an evening of art-making and community-building.   Systemically divided groups of disabled people, veterans, scholars, art therapists, artists, activists, and more, were invited to utilize the arts “to share the varied story of disability and to bring together those that are disabled and those that work within this community to further grow and define a collective voice and community”—per Beck’s design. Image: Two people, one kneeling and one standing, work together on a colorful wall tapestry made of various fabric strips. Photo by Ryan Edmund. Guests contributed to a group tapestry, created disability pride buttons, wove fibers alongside someone new, participated in a #DisabledIAm photobooth, and engaged with artwork created by disabled artists …

If You Want to Watch, You Can Watch: A Conversation with Multimedia Artist Heather Raquel Phillips

In Heather Raquel Phillips’ videos we are so very close. But we rarely get the full picture. Instead, we sense our way. We feel what we are meant to know, despite, or because of, the ambiguity. It is familiar, yet private. We cannot, would not, transpose ourselves onto or into another’s moment. But we watch, transfixed, sometimes trapped up close, sometimes lingering, our desires holding us rapt. Eyes closed, a grimace, then a small smile, as someone takes an electric clipper to another’s head and shaves it clean. Eyes closed, relaxed, stroking hair to the lull of R&B. The gentle touch of a manicured hand against the neck, the other confidently guiding the razor along the scalp. They bend forward as the razor tickles the nape, moving with the grain of their body in response to another’s structured guidance. Tongues ecstatically licking lips, devouring in anticipatory delight. Bodies gleeful with expectation, awaiting their punishment. Phillips, a mixed race artist living and working in Philadelphia, explores the intersections of race, class, gender & sexuality through the …

‘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 …

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 …

Review: Reinterpreting Religion, at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Upon entering the long, dim exhibition hall at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, the first encounter in Reinterpreting Religion is Yvette Mayorga’s bubblegum pink, white, and gold installation Guns and Virgins (2018). With its offering of confectionary AR-15s, cartoonish police officers, American flags, Brown prostrate bodies, and a pair of frosting-drenched basketball shoes, Mayorga’s physically flattened yet confrontational work spurs the viewer to lay down their divine expectations at the altar of America’s violent tendencies and obsessive consumerism. Though Christianity, the predominant religion in the United States by far, promotes teachings centered on loving your neighbor, accepting the weary traveler, and turning the other cheek to violence, 81% of “white, born again/evangelical Christians” voted for Donald Trump despite his penchant for encouraging violence on the campaign trail and admittance of sexually assaulting women. Throughout Lauren Leving’s curatorial process, she recognized that religion seemed to have been commandeered as a tool to divide rather than unite communities across America. Though the exhibition kicks off with candy-coated automatic weapons, the intention of Reinterpreting Religion is to …

Queens Who Bathe and Queer Visibility

Andie Meadows (Miss Meadows) is a queer photographer in Chicago whose photographic project, “Queens Who Bathe” immediately pulled me in to their overarching work. New and familiar faces, elegant poses, and dramatic looks occupy the project’s life on Instagram. What is also notable are the descriptions and mentions in the caption that illustrate the importance of collaboration and how artists, creatives, activists, and performers make up the vibrant and growing Chicago family. I met with Andie at the WasteShed—a resource that provides repurposed arts, crafts, and materials—where we discussed queer history, building a space in their tub, and the vulnerability involved when being photographed. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. S. Nicole Lane: You said you plan events for the Chicago History Museum? Andie Meadows: Yeah, so it’s called “The Out Committee.” It’s a volunteer committee that’s been going for fifteen years. I’ve been on it for two. They do a season of programs, usually it’s three or four. I’m working to get them to do more throughout the year, because I am not just gay for [Pride] …

ColectivoMultipolar : Documenting Our Life

I first saw ColectivoMultipolar on the dance floor where they were photographing Rosebud, a queer party at Berlin in the Boystown neighborhood. The photographer came over to me and said, “Can I take your photo?” to which I smiled and held the hand of a close friend standing nearby. Later on, we would connect again through social media, where I started to follow their practice, follow their friendships, and admire their dedication to the Chicago queer nightlife scene. The photographer documents party’s all over the city: Daphne, TRQPITECA, Femmes Room, Ariel’s Party. Moreover, ColectivoMulitpolar brings their camera along into the city and on to the dance floor wherever they go, and agreed to meet for an interview. S. Nicole Lane: Where are you from and how did you end up in Chicago? ColectivoMultipolar: Soy Mexicana, and there are many stories about how I ended up in Chicago—let’s talk about the happy one. I am the youngest of my five siblings. My mother was very strict with my only sister (10 years my senior), so with me I guess she was …

Reflections of the ECLIPSING Festival

I’ll begin at the end. Arms raised, knees levering, booties popping, we danced to the beats served by DJ Hijo Pródigo in the Currency Exchange Café, which had turned into a bar for the night, serving up cocktails loaded with activated charcoal. We had an hour before been perched next door on stools and benches for a reading at the BING art books store, and an hour before that stood chatting with cheese cubes on napkins in the Arts Incubator gallery. Nearly a festival in itself, it was the closing night of the monumental ECLIPSING festival: three months that included a performance series, a group and a solo exhibition, workshops, a vegan market, and a “performative lecture” in four arts venues around Chicago. The festival, whose full title is ECLIPSING: the politics of night, the politics of light, was organized by Amina Ross and took place between January and March. The word Ross used to describe the robust programming is “holistic.” An eclipse is a drama, a shifting in the relationships between the looker, the looked-at, and the …

Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis, The Way You Look (at me) Tonight. Photo: Robbie Sweeny.

“Radical Hospitality”:
Relaxed Performances on the MCA Stage

Chair or floor cushion? I decided to make myself comfortable in a chair on the corner of the stage—in the midst of the action, but removed enough to observe much of what was happening at the edges of the space. This performance of Claire Cunningham & Jess Curtis’ The Way You Look (at me) Tonight was certainly relaxed. Escorted to stage level, the audience was invited to sit directly on the stage in clusters of chairs and cushions, and prompted to make themselves at home, even remove their heavy winter boots if they were so inclined. After explaining what to expect, Cunningham and Curtis—acclaimed international theatre and dance artists—set into motion a “collage of dance, song, and text.” For roughly 100 minutes, the audience was treated to a show pendulating between humorous yet poignant moments and more classical performance segments of dance and song. (You can see a clip here). Though classical might be the wrong word, as Cunningham and Curtis’ work itself questions what we consider classic or traditional, playing with romantic ideals, gender …

Without, Within the World: Hume Chicago

Call them DIY, alternative, radical, or safe, Chicago’s independent art spaces create a world without money and borders within a world defined by both. They function as community hubs and communal living spaces, providing free and affordable entertainment, hosting activism workshops and food drives, and building connections among young, emerging, and marginalized artists. “Without, Within the World” is a series of interviews that asks curators and administrators about building utopia while maintaining viable spaces.      For this installment of “Without, Within the World,” we talked to executive director Fontaine Capel of Hume Chicago. Hume is a small gallery and artist studio space run out of a storefront in Humboldt Park. Through an open call process, Hume exhibits work by artists who are underrepresented on the gallery circuit, particularly women, queer, and immigrant artists. In addition to its gallery shows, Hume provides affordable studio spaces for artists and hosts regular events that contribute to its relaxed and friendly environment, such as movie nights and karaoke parties. Hume was established by Capel, Olive Panter, and Gita Jackson, who have …

Review: “Resilient Images” at the Hyde Park Art Center

Resilient Images confronts the viewer before one even walks through the gallery’s door. Look up slightly, and you will see Justine Pluvinage’s video installation Amazons facing out onto Cornell Avenue from the inside of the building, with its multiple panels of female subjects taking an epic, slow-motion stroll through both greenery and crumbling industrial architecture. If you’re walking with your head down through the bitter temperatures of a typical Chicago winter, you’re likely to miss this introduction entirely. For the artists, though, this might simply be indicative of the sort of resilience they are gesturing towards in their work. This exhibition is the result of a year-long artistic exchange between Hyde Park Art Center and the Centre Regionale de la Photographie Nord—Pas-de-Calais, featuring the artists Justine Pluvinage and David Schalliol. Both artists generated a site-specific work out of their respective residencies without further collaboration or dialogue with the other participant — Pluvinage travelled from France to Chicago to shoot her film, while Schalliol’s work was made in Hauts-de-France. Yet the pieces shown in Resilient Images …

Envisioning an Abolitionist Future

What would the world be like if we eliminated prisons, surveillance, and policing? What types of alternative methods can we seek to pursue justice? What systems can we set in place to encourage people to come clean about their wrongdoings? These questions are at the center of the prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition movement, which aims to dismantle violent systems founded on oppression and inequality, including imprisonment, surveillance, and policing. These questions are also ever-relevant in Chicago, a city with a long history of racist police violence. Do Not Resist? 100 Years of Chicago Police Violence, a recent community-based, artist-led multi-site exhibition that took place across Chicago at the Hairpin Arts Center, Roman Susan Gallery, Uri-Eichen Gallery, and Art In These Times, presented artworks that dealt with Chicago’s history of police violence. The artworks focused on specific victims and incidents of police violence, shifting the dialogue to question the PIC more universally. The final event of the exhibition-related programming, “The Aesthetics of Abolition in the 21st Century,” brought together Mariame Kaba and Sarah Ross to discuss the …

Image Description: Image of a very dark room, three faint windows can be made out. White text on top of the image says "Black Out Dinners" with a small fork and knife graphic. Photo courtesy of 6018North.]

6018North’s Black Out Dinners with The Chicago Lighthouse

Black Out Dinners are not the dining-in-the-dark, date-night novelty you may have seen offered on Groupon. 6018North, an Edgewater nonprofit for experimental arts and culture, takes the experience far beyond a trendy meal. In partnership with The Chicago Lighthouse, Black Out Dinners are presented by fully or partially visually impaired servers who guide guests in the pitch-black setting. The first two courses of the delicious vegetarian meal (Giuseppe Catanzariti of Midnight Kitchen Projects was the chef, with Sonia Yoon, when I attended) are enjoyed at communal tables in the dark, with only minor bumps and air-grasps. Dessert is served back in the light, and includes a discussion with the servers and meeting your fellow table-mates.   As dinner guests, we were placing ourselves in the unknown, trusting someone for whom the dark is not unknown at all. This trust, the ability to lean on one another’s strengths, makes Black Out Dinners about far more than food. I had the chance to speak with Tricia Van Eck, Artistic Director at 6018North, as well as Elbert Ford, Job Placement Counselor …

Collected Histories: “Open 24 Hours” by Edra Soto

Edra Soto has transformed the Commons at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) with her work Open 24 Hours into a beautiful place filled with remnants of histories that gives birth to transcultural discourse and new meaning. Fittingly, Soto’s culturally charged work is the inaugural project for this new “civically engaged space” at the MCA. As I walk in to the Commons to attend Edra Soto’s artist talk, there are installations of intricately designed, custom-made display structures that stand like pillars, shelf after shelf holding up empty bottles of all different shapes and sizes; the translucence of the greens and browns of the bottles providing a striking contrast to the opaque white of the shells that adorn their surfaces. Edra Soto informs the audience that she collected these bottles, and continues to do so, in her neighborhood of East Garfield Park. She picks them up, washes them, removes their labels—she cares about these bottles as objects. She sees something in them. They are not pieces of trash to be discarded and forgotten, they are pieces …

Democracy at Work: travis and P.Michael of ONO

“It’s spooky, actually,” said P.Michael when I asked about his 37-year collaboration with fellow ONO member travis. “Sometimes, he’ll be working on something and I’ll be working on something, and we’ll show each other what we’ve been working on, and it’s the same thing, sort of. It’s like one person started it and one person finished it. It just fits perfectly.” We were sitting at travis’s kitchen table in his South Side Chicago home on a Sunday afternoon, drinking peppermint tea ladled out of a pot. ONO is the “Avant-gospel” noise band that P.Michael and travis formed in 1980. They started regularly performing again about seven years ago in all varieties of DIY basements, art museums, music festivals, and loft galleries, with an evolving cast of band members. They have released several recordings in recent years, but the full ONO experience lives in the live show, which is tightly orchestrated, with a narrative arc and several costume changes. travis spits out words that weave history with personal pain, moving in and out of the crowd as he adds or subtracts …

Interpreting Faye Driscoll’s “Play”: The Art of Audio Description and ASL Interpretation

None of the typical rules of a play apply here. Then again, when you come to a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, you aren’t really expecting typical, are you? Play is the second performance in a series called Thank You For Coming, created by Bessie Award–winning director and choreographer, Faye Driscoll. This performance “uses the ritual of storytelling to explore our reliance on stories to relate to one another and form identities as individuals and citizens.” What begins as a communal audience-participation on stage quickly delves into a parody of an absurd theater act. Employing multiple meanings of the term “play,” the cast performs a drama but an allowance for improvisation leaves room for the actors to engage in the more fanciful version of “play” as well. Play is also atypical in its breaking of the fourth wall. Not only does a sound engineer remain on stage, occasionally being called into the action, but Driscoll herself joins the cast. At times she is grabbing props or directing the actors, as if it were a rehearsal …

Inside & Outside of the Book: A Look at the Self-Reliance Library and School

In Chicago, as in many cities, a few degrees of separation can make a huge difference.  Ridgeland Avenue, an Oak Park thoroughfare, and Austin Blvd, an entry-way into the Austin neighborhood, are divided by Lake Street, which is lined with shops, Pete’s Fresh Market, and the yellowest building, I would estimate, in a ten-mile radius. I walk towards Compound Yellow, an independent, experimental arts space, and feel like an invited intruder. The mere brightness of the building forces you to engage with it, but as you draw closer, the tenderness of the flags waving above the structure and the suspended cloth circles hanging from the trees indicate a sense of careful living. The three buildings that comprise the compound have been united since 2016, the most noticeable one declaring itself as the Self-Reliance School & Self-Reliance Library, a collaboration between  Compound Yellow and Chicago arts publisher Temporary Services. The Self-Reliance Library is a reading and creating library, an installation consisting of over 80 books, as well as furniture and banners that take influence from ideas …

Smiling Behind the Sun: An Interview with Vincent Wade

Libyans sometimes refer to being arrested and taken away without warning as being “taken behind the sun.” This interview series celebrates—through conversations with formerly-incarcerated artists and their allies—the ways in which an artistic, creative life can transmute the impact and redefine the legacy of an experience within the Prison Industrial Complex.  In 1984, Vincent Wade was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, based on a confession tortured out of him by Chicago police detectives. He spent 31 years in state prison, teaching and working as an artist in every available medium, sharpening his skills for the day he would walk free. On August 14, 2015—years after proof of systematic torture and coercion by the Chicago Police Department was uncovered—Vincent was finally released. While groups like Chicago Torture Justice Memorials continue to fight on behalf of Chicago police torture survivors, Vincent remains focused on the thing that got him through more than three decades behind bars: his art. We sat down just south of Washington Park to talk about Vincent’s artistic mentors, his …