All posts tagged: visual art

A Retelling of Contemporary Art History at The Block Museum

Featured Image: Dawoud Bey, Untitled (Chicago), 1993. Polaroid color prints. Gift of Sari and James A. Klein in honor of Lisa Corrin and Peter Erickson, 2014.4.5a-b. © Dawoud Bey. Two side-by-side photographs of a young man and a young woman show them with subtly different poses and expressions. Image courtesy the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago. I spent more than 20 years of my professional career as a museum educator. My self-proclaimed mission was to help visitors connect with artworks in ways that were meaningful, accessible, and interesting. After seeing Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection, I came to more fully understand my role in a system that privileges certain voices and viewpoints. While exhibitions are generally created by curatorial teams, it’s people like me who also help create legacy by selecting which artists and artworks to discuss with the public. Although museums and galleries are becoming more inclusive and are offering alternative histories, the standard trajectory of art history is one that has been dominated by …

Review of RAISIN at 6018North

Featured Image: Installation view. A brown couch sits in a white-walled living room, on the back wall hangs three framed photographs. Image courtesy of 6018North. If you read A Raisin in the Sun in high school and were asked what the play is about, you would likely reply “the experience of a Black family moving into a white neighborhood.” While Lorraine Hansberry’s play specifically depicts the Youngers, a Black family in Chicago, RAISIN, currently on view at 6018North, uses the play’s broader themes as the basis for an ambitious exhibition featuring more than 30 local and international artists working in a wide range of media. In a conversation about the show curator Asha Iman Veal explained that several years ago she came across archival images of productions of the play in Eastern and Central Europe from the 1960s, which led to further research. She found that soon after its Broadway debut in 1959, A Raisin in the Sun was adapted to other local contexts worldwide—by the 1960s it had been translated into 30 languages. The …

Featured image: Gina Hunt, XOXO at 1011 N. 6th Street, Springfield, IL. A colorful, geometric piece hangs in porch. The house is light blue with white trim. Plants grow in front of the porch. Photo by Jeff Robinson.

Snapshot: A Conversation on the Terrain Biennial 2021 with Allison Lacher & Jeff Robinson

Featured image: Gina Hunt, XOXO at 1011 N. 6th Street, Springfield, IL. A colorful, geometric piece hangs in porch. The house is light blue with white trim. Plants grow in front of the porch. Photo by Jeff Robinson. Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers six short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. For this feature, we spoke with curators Allison Lacher & Jeff Robinson, who organized the Enos Park iteration of the Terrain Biennial, an international public art festival on view from October 2 – November 15, 2021. Founded in Oak Park in 2011 by Sabina Ott, the Biennial is an act of radical decentralization, taking art from privileged urban centers and bringing it into everyday spaces. As a part of Terrain, there are 24 sites housing public art installations in Enos Park in alone. The theme for this year’s Biennial is K.I.T (keep in touch).   Sixty Inches From Center: …

An abstract composition of blue, pink, yellow, and black shapes. Illustration by Ryan Edmund Thiel.

November Art Picks

Featured image: An abstract composition of blue, pink, yellow, and black shapes. Illustration by Ryan Edmund Thiel. If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.   Created in collaboration with The Visualist, Chicago’s leading visual arts calendar. Click here to get our Art Picks and latest articles delivered to your inbox monthly. This is a growing list, so check back often with new additions. This Fall, the first Chicago Arts Census will be initiated. The Chicago Arts Census is the first comprehensive, cross-discipline data collection effort in the city created by and with the art workers of Chicago. The Census is a collaboration between ACRE and Annas in partnership with Sixty Inches From Center, DataMade, and C.A.M.P. The Census is built to amplify our voices as art workers in …

Caroline Kent’s Aesthetics of Encryption

Featured image: An installation view of Victoria/Veronica: Making Room. The back of the room displays an abstract painting by Caroline Kent with an organic shape cut out of the wall to its right. The middle of the room contains a desk. The entire room is green. Image courtesy of the artist and PATRON Gallery, Chicago. Photography by Evan Jenkins. I mount the winding staircase that twists, helix like, through the heart of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Everything goes green as the third floor galleries come into view. My eyes adjust. As I continue to ascend, a once faint grumble — more playful than ominous, a nourishing timbre, like the sound of water seeping around dry roots — begins to swell. My ears adjust.  I am now positioned on the axis of Victoria/Veronica: Making Room, Caroline Kent’s first museum solo-show, presented across two adjacent galleries, which, in tandem, explore the fugitive language forged by an imaginary set of twins “who communicate telepathically across two domestic environments.” My whole body adjusts, oriented now to the resounding tranquility brought …

After, Other, and Before: An Interview with Kehayr Brown-Ransaw

Featured Image: Nico Sardina, Here We Are All Up In Arms (Ultimate Henry’s Comfort Zone PT 2), 2021. A pair of documentation photos where the left image shows a sculpture of a house, multi-colored and slightly askew. The house is made out of different fabrics with many patterns and colors. The image at right shows a close up of the back of the house where a soft body-like form occupies a cavity in the house. Photos by Michelle Caron-Pawlowsky. This interview is the first in a series with each of the current fellows at the Emerging Curators Institute (ECI), a Twin Cities-based organization that supports emerging curators through a year-long fellowship program that incorporates mentorship-based learning, professional development, and financial support. ECI is the first organization of its kind in the Twin Cities region and provides curatorial opportunities to Minnesota-based curators that are otherwise hard to come by. ECI supports four curators each year and is currently in its second fellowship cycle. Operating within the Minnesota arts community, ECI connects its fellows with local curators, …

Image: Felix Gonzalez-Torres,“Untitled” (Death by Gun), 1990. Print on paper, endless copies. Courtesy of the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art New York, purchased in part with funds from Arthur Fleischer, Jr. and Linda Barth Goldstein. Visitors are welcome to take a piece of paper from the stack that displays images of the 460 victims of death by firearm in the U.S. during one week in May 1989.

Snapshot: American Epidemic: Guns in the United States at MoCP

Featured image: Felix Gonzalez-Torres,“Untitled” (Death by Gun), 1990. Print on paper, endless copies. Visitors are welcome to take a piece of paper from the stack that displays images of the 460 victims of death by firearm in the U.S. during one week in May 1989. Courtesy of the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art New York, purchased in part with funds from Arthur Fleischer, Jr. and Linda Barth Goldstein. Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers six short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. For this feature, we sent a few questions to Karen Irvine, chief curator and deputy director at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP). American Epidemic: Guns in the United States features the work of ten artists who look at the legacy of guns in our country from a variety of perspectives. Irvine explains some of these artistic approaches in the interview below. Sixty Inches From …

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Saint Vitus Dance: Holy Things Dripping Sweat in Lauren Wy’s AUTODESIRE VOL. 1

Featured Image: Installation shot of AUTODESIRE in Gallery Two of Western Exhibitions. Center image sits a square wooden table and two chairs where visitors can request specific volumes of AUTODESIRE. To the right of the table, volumes of AUTODESIRE are closed and mounted on the gallery wall. Each piece’s wooden spine lists the artist’s last name, volume number, and title where appropriate. To the left of the table, two pieces are exhibited on the gallery wall. A final piece is displayed on the wall directly behind the central viewing table. Photo by James Prinz, courtesy of Western Exhibitions. Alice through the looking glass, St. Teresa’s translucent veined ecstasy, Sylvia’s rhinestone tears trickling to wet the country ground. Fantasy is hard work; tell that to the Sadeian Woman or Louise and her spiders. Our scene opens at the end of the world, it’s a blazing stage. Take the man at his word when he says, “I am become death.” Lights, camera, ACTION! Beneath the desert’s floodlight suns and Planet Hollywood’s unearthly glow, a champagne orgy twitches …

Eulogy: Jovan C. Speller at Aspect/Ratio Gallery

Featured image: Jovan C. Speller, “I sat there, Unafraid of the coming night.” Two wooden boards, split in the middle. Across the pair of them is an irregular black blob. On the right hand side, reflective wrinkles of light. In the bottom right hand corner, a seated figure with their back turned to us. Image by Avery Campbell. Courtesy of Aspect/Ratio Gallery. Imagine, you’re newly dead. You (the newly dead) have arrived from the world of the living by way of – you can’t quite recall: you remember a dark cloud branching out from the back of your head and you don’t know if it was spilled from your head or if it was being injected. You think you were seated when it happened, but who’s to say? You, the newly dead, are already beginning to lose conscious memories from your previous life. The experience of this makes you thirsty (or maybe you were just thirsty already, maybe you died from dehydration and your body remembers). In any case, you search for water. The underworld …

Review: Ronald Young’s The Prevalence of Ritual

Featured Image: Foreground (R to L): “Gatekeeper” and “(Wake Up Every Morning)”; Midground: “A House Divided;” Background: Inkjet Print. Courtesy of The Kranzberg Arts Foundation. “The objects of art jabbed the viewer low in the abdomen, squeezed his heart, pricked his mind. It communicated with those blind to its artistic excellence, as well as with those who saw.” Noah Purifoy, Junk Art: 66 Signs of Neon The twenty or so impassioned sculptures in Ronald Young’s solo exhibition The Prevalence of Ritual—on view for the summer season at The Kranzberg Arts Center Gallery in St. Louis, where Young lives and works—crack and heave with the blight of the city that birthed them. Invariably, their intensity is arresting, and mostly it’s to good artistic effect. Six large inkjet prints of gutted brick buildings, which hang along the gallery’s perimeter, provide clear context. In one of these photos, the contour of a halved and roofless structure cuts a seizing figure against the sky’s subtler ground. In another, the grain of an old door marbles nicely behind its firm …

Sincere Mark-Making & Tradition with Nishiki Sugawara-Beda

Featured Image: An installation view of I’ll Be There at Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts. Nishiki Sugawara-Beda’s “KuroKuroShiro Sacred Lot Four Seasons” hangs center frame. Four black and white paintings mounted using traditional Japanese practices. Image courtesy of Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts. As an artist who is deeply invested in my community, I have made long-lasting relationships with my fair share of creators by simply attending gallery openings, events, and art-related happenings. I have found that these settings make it quite easy to spark up a conversation with anyone in the room. In the Milwaukee art scene, Midwestern folks are more than willing to crack open a cold PBR in a garage gallery with a complete stranger and talk about local headlines. One can make fast friends this way. It’s unfortunate that networking with artists has been added to the list of things that have been made difficult by the pandemic. While the art world certainly came up with some unique and productive solutions to hosting gallery openings over the past two …

Breakroom Small Talk: A Review of Water Cooler at LVL3

Featured image: An installation view of Water Cooler at LVL3. On the left side of the frame is Rachel Youn’s piece “Lair”, and not he right are various textile pieces by KG with Youn’s piece “Prune” in the foreground. Image courtesy of LVL3. If you want to know the deepest, most personal information about someone, ask their coworkers first. Being confined to a small space with an island of misfits for grossly extended periods of time leads to intensely intimate conversations, bonds, and pseudo-friendships. Leading to uncomfortable chatter about your credit card debt with Phil from the department down the hall while you wait for your turn to use the microwave on your break, or confessing details about your partner’s bad habits with the hostess while you kill time between customers. Both learning and spilling graphic details from and to our coworkers aids in our survival of the work day. Both intensely awkward and oddly comforting, we create an environment of forced intimacy. Sterile, uncomfortable, familiar–this described environment is appreciated, mocked, and replicated precisely in …

Lion Cages and Lilac Fields: From Chicago Stages to Basements, Art, Work, and Other Pandemic Songs

Featured Image: Jyreika Guest (left) performing in a music video for the livestreamed theater production grelley. Guest stands on a crate and gestures toward the video camera, surrounded by lighting equipment and a basic set design. At right are crew members (L-R) Eon Mora, Kevin Veselka, and Glamhag. In the background another actor checks their outfit in a mirror. Filmed in Chicago, May 2021. Photo by Sarah Elizabeth Larson. This is the first in a series of articles made in collaboration with the Chicago Arts Census to explore the living, labor, and material realities of art workers in the city of Chicago. To learn more about the Census, how to get involved, or how to take the survey, please visit: https://chicagoartscensus.com/ To get to the Internal Call Center you have to enter the museum’s loading dock, head down endless hallways of windowed offices—the home of Curatorial, Education, the Director, the President (a.k.a. the people who neither know nor want to know you exist)—hop down two or three flights of stairs, and weave through the maze …

Image: A view of "Dreamscapes: Imaginings of a Black Pastoral" at Roots and Culture. Photo by Colectivo Multipolar. IG: @colectivomultipolar

The Black Pastoral, a landscape of abundance

Featured image: A view of “Dreamscapes: Imaginings of a Black Pastoral” at Roots and Culture. Two the left is a doorway covered in sheer green fabric that leads into a room with a video piece on display. The right side of the image shows a hallways leading to a larger room with additional artworks. Photo by Colectivo Multipolar. Entering the space of Roots & Culture on the opening night of Dreamscapes: Imaginings of a Black Pastoral, you are transported through a portal into the familiar realm of fellowship. For me, in the fellowship found in the hall of my childhood Baptist church, a gathering space designated for the communal unravel immediately following Sunday morning service, or in the fellowship found in the yearly ritual of my family reunion, a tradition of Black joy where familial cohesiveness can be restored, generational collectivism is centered and celebration is key. Aunties, grandmas, cousins you didn’t know you had, family friends and friends of friends all coalescing for one singular premise: communion. Walking through Dreamscapes: Imaginings of a Black …

Review: Just Above My Wall, (To The Right) at South Side Community Art Center

In the discussions of the art world, it’s often lost on us how deeply personal the act of viewing and acquiring art actually is. We’re dazzled by headlines featuring big names and nearly incomprehensible amounts of money. It obscures the reality that in its purest form, buying art is about beautifying our intimate spaces and private moments.

Conspicuous Consumption: A Pop-Up Summer

Featured image: Jarrett Ellis, founder of hoopdreamstudios, in a pop-up at Congruent Space. Ellis is crouching down on a basketball court design that says “HOOP DREAM”. Photo by Dally Dew Drop. It’s late July in Chicago. Summer solstice has long since passed, the mask mandate has seemingly dissolved, and the in-person event has risen again from the ashes of lockdown. In a sudden lurch, a fantastical standard has been set: people with access and ability to be out and about will be out and about. Experiences will be had, and they will be exciting and valuable and make up for all the “lost” time of the pandemic. (Nevermind that the pandemic isn’t, indeed, “over,” or that “lockdown” never ends for people inside prison walls or otherwise forcibly disposed into ever-proliferating forms of criminalized life). This particular historical moment is being positioned by retailers and other state agents as an “out of the shadows and into the light” moment that celebrates an ostensible “return to normal” — an “after” crisis that urges people to exhale and …

Image: Mehran Salari, "Untitled," 2017. Monoprint and pencil and pen, 40×40 cm. A black and white image that is largely abstract with a group of organic shapes. Image courtesy of Didaar Art Collective.

Space: Chapter One – A conversation with Didaar Art Collective

Featured image: Mehran Salari, Untitled, 2017. Monoprint and pencil and pen, 40×40 cm. A black and white image that is largely abstract with a group of organic shapes. Image courtesy of Didaar Art Collective. Last Spring, Didaar Art Collective, a cooperative group of Iranian artists based in Chicago, organized a group show titled Space: Chapter One at Oliva Gallery. The exhibition was on display from April 9 to May 8, 2021, and featured drawings and printmaking by twenty-nine emerging Iranian artists. Toward the end of the lockdown, I visited the exhibition. I was yearning for a moment of reflection on the intricacies of our spatial bound beyond the insipid private experience in front of my laptop screen. This was an experience that I had greatly missed, and the exhibition, beyond its visualizations of space and possibilities, was uniquely positioned to give insight into the ongoing contested-over space in Iran.  It was refreshing to see how these artists work around the difficulties of the current moment while standing their ground during a time of mass oppression, …

Featured image: "007" SHAN Wallace, 30 x 24 x 1.75 inches (framed in black) (76.2 x 61 x 4.45 cm) 30 x 24 inches (unframed) (76.2 x 61 cm), 2020. A black and white showing a group of people dancing. Courtesy of the artist and FLXST Contemporary.

wont you celebrate with me: Erin LeAnn Mitchell & Shan Wallace in Conversation

Featured image: 007, Shan Wallace, 30 x 24 x 1.75 inches (framed in black) (76.2 x 61 x 4.45 cm) 30 x 24 inches (unframed) (76.2 x 61 cm), 2020. A black and white showing a group of people dancing. Courtesy of the artist and FLXST Contemporary. The words “won’t you celebrate with me“—the title of Erin LeAnn Mitchell and Shan Wallace’s duo exhibition at FLXST Contemporary in Chicago—comes from the title of a poem from acclaimed Black poet Lucille Clifton. In the poem, Clifton declares for a celebration of her shapeshifting, of her molding, and of her becoming simply true to all of the multitudes that live within and through her. Clifton points to the challenges and obstacles that she’s faced and understands that the world may want to take her tenderness and joy away, but she crafts her own worlds where she is undoubtedly celebrated, uplifted, and loved for her triumphs everyday. In their two-person exhibition, artists Mitchell and Wallace continue this declaration of jubilee, pointing to a Black femme supremacy that complicates …

Six wooden frames are each filled with pieces of broken clay in different configurations; the voids have equal visual importance and presence. Gunjan Kumar, Broken Whole, 2021. Clay. Photo Credit: Jonathan Castillo, Courtesy of South Asia Institute.

More in Common, a review of The Sindhu Project: Enigma of Roots

Who could have imagined that a casual conversation in Chicago in 2016 between Mahwish Chisty, an American-based artist from Pakistan, and Gunjan Kumar, an American-based artist from India, would result in the compelling exhibition currently on view at South Asia Institute? During their chat, the artists discovered that their family homes were only four hours apart. But, in an interview with the artist Chisty notes, “Due to the tense political relations between India and Pakistan, we could not have met if we lived in our respective countries, even though we share the culture, traditions, and Punjabi language.” Their conversation and the realization that despite the political situation, they had more things in common than divided them became the genesis for The Sindhu Project: Enigma of Roots. The project focuses on the archaeological sites and artifacts in the Sindhu (Indus) watershed, a region stretching across northwest India and much of Pakistan. This underpinning in specific place ties into the processes both artists use—digging, rubbing, engraving—which mimics archeological ones. All the pieces were created specifically for the …

Featured image: “Body” Digital collage, risograph print by Whitney Humphreys. The piece shows an image of a woman with part of her face missing, revealing cyborg-like parts underneath. Underneath are various machine parts. The right side of the piece shows a robot arm and text that reads: "Robot brides that free themselves become a paradox: objects with agency". The piece is mostly pink, green, and tan. Image courtesy of the Internet Archive.

When Archival Bodies Collide: Rupturing Gender Through History

Artists have always relied on the archive and material history in their work, whether it be in the emulation of a specific style, the expression of a historical moment, or in a particular medium such as collage. The practice of exhuming images from archives necessarily carries these histories and styles along with it, no matter what the artist might attempt otherwise. But they can also refigure old art by placing it in conversation or contradiction with the new. Two artists, Whitney Humphreys and Sarah Tyschenko, are performing such insightful and disruptive reconfigurations with images of gendered bodies from the archive. I discovered San Francisco-based artist Whitney Humphreys’ zine series Gendered Machines a couple months ago, after I was browsing the Internet Archive—a free, digital library of websites and digital materials—looking for zines. I came upon her series, a collaboration with the Internet Archive and Tiny Splendor Press, and requested a copy of each zine, not thinking much about it until they arrived a few weeks later in all their risograph beauty. Humphreys told me she …