Iraqi and Mideast cultural losses seen through an artist’s eyes

Visitors to "Backstoke of the Midwest" at the MCA walk through a recreated ancient Iraqi Gate. Photos by Jodie Jacobs
Visitors to “Backstoke of the West” at the MCA walk through a recreated ancient Iraqi Gate. Photos by Jodie Jacobs

 

It’s hard not to follow what has been happening to the people, politics and conflicts in Iraq and throughout the Mideast, but to get an artist’s take on the events see “Backstroke of the West” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

The works are Chicago-based, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz’s take on the personal and historic objects destroyed during the conflicts and how they can be memorialized and interpreted through art.

Born of an American father and an Iraqi-Jewish mother, Rakowitz uses such ironic materials as newspapers to recreate looted items and Arabic food packaging to replicate the ancient Ishtar Gate. A section even illustrates how he served Iraqi dishes on Saddam Hussein’s china.

To further explain how Rakowitz seeks to bring people of different cultural and social backgrounds together he gives his projects such titles as “The invisible enemy should not exist”  and “May the Arrogant Not Prevail.”

To accompany the exhibition, there is a pop-up food truck outside the MCA that will serve Iraqi dishes from family recipes.

Curator Omar Kholeif, l, and Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz give an opening day tour of "Backstorke of the West" at the MCA.
Curator Omar Kholeif, l, and Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz give an opening day tour of “Backstorke of the West” at the MCA.

Organized by MCA Manilow Senior Curator Omar Kholeif, Manilow, Director of Global Initiatives, the exhibit is the first major museum survey of Rakowitz’s work.

Opened Sept. 16, 2017, the show runs through March 4, 2018. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is at 220 E Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

For hours, admission and other information call (312) 280-2660 and visit MCA.

 

Exquisite craft work nicely complements natural handiwork

 

Visitors going to the American Craft Exposition at the Chicago Botanic Garden this weekend, get a two for one experience.

Works in wood by Michael Bauermeister, Augusta, MO, are among the popular objects available at the American Craft Exposition at the Chicago Botanic Garden Jacobs photo
Works in wood by Michael Bauermeister, Augusta, MO, are among the popular objects available at the American Craft Exposition at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Jacobs photo

ACE, as the show  is popularly known, presents the highest quality crafts produced by artists from across the United States.

Many of the artists, such as wood master Michael D. Mode of New Haven VT., have been showing their work at ACE for several years.

Mode who Started with the exhibition in 1996 explained. “It’s a good show with a good venue and it’s wonderful to be seen in a high quality show. It’s one of the top shows in the country,” he said.

When through admiring beautifully turned wood sculptures, gorgeous porcelain objects, amazing watercolor-like embroidery and lots of attractive, wearable art, visitors can relax at the café, then set out to see what is blooming in the gardens and what trees and plants are changing color.

Unfortunately, the exhibition is only up Sept. 15 through 17, so the show needs to be slotted into busy weekend schedules. However, it is worth the trip and admission. And the show, arranged by the Auxiliary of Northshore University HealthSystem , benefits orthopedic regenerative medicine and pharmacogenomics research.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL Jacobs photo
Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL
Jacobs photo

Tickets, whether used one day or for all three days, are one price with $13 for CBG members and $15 nonmembers. Children under age 12 enter free. The Botanic Garden is free but there is a parking charge for nonmembers.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, just east of the Edens Expressway.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For other tickets, parking and other information visit Chicago Botanic or call (847) 835-5440.

 

 

The many facets of EXPO Chicago

Celebrate Chicago EXPO Week Sept 11 through Sept 17, 2017.

What is it?

The week features EXPO Chicago, a top quality, annual exhibition in Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. Visitors can see what is being shown by top galleries across the world and in the U.S., Sept. 14 to Sept. 17.

Navy Pier, at the east end of Grand Avenue host EXPO Chicago.. Photos by Jodie Jacobs
Navy Pier, at the east end of Grand Avenue, hosts EXPO Chicago.
Photos by Jodie Jacobs

It’s also a time when Chicago art galleries and institutions usually start new exhibitions. The Program site on EXPO Chicago lists several area art shows.

It’s a chance for art lovers to visit galleries that will stay open past their usual hours. Many of the galleries are opening new exhibits on Sept 12 with evening receptions. Others will stay open from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 15. See Art After Hours on EXPO Chicago.

This year, EXPO Chicago also partially coincides with the city’s Architecture Biennial which primarily fills the Chicago Cultural Center with past, present and future architectural projects and initiatives beginning Sept. 16, 2017 and continuing to Jan 7, 2018. There are also special exhibits and installations off site.

So, put on the walking shoes, save these links to the smart phone calendar and figure out where to go and when to take advantage of Art Week.

 

At Navy Pier

EXPO Chicago (International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art) at Navy Pier opens Sept. 13 with Vernissage, an evening benefit reception for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The EXPO features 135 internationally known galleries.   See tickets  for EXPO hours and admission costs. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave.

Special Exhibitions by regional, national, and international non-profit institutions, museums, and organizations will be on the main exhibition floor of the exposition.

 

Around Town Exhibits that tie in with the show.

‘Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute’ opens Sept. 12. Also see “Color Studies.” The show also relates to the Architecture Biennial. The Art Institute of Chicago is at 11 S. Michigan Ave.

The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago has architecture galleries.
The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago has architecture galleries.

Palais de Tokyo is holding “Singing Stones,” an exhibit of emerging Chicago and French artists, in The Roundhouse at Du Sable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, Sept. 13-Oct. 29. Also at the DuSable Museum is “Chicago: A Southern Exposure,” Sept. 12, 2017–Mar.  18, 2018.

Go over to the Peninsula Chicago Hotel, 108 E. Superior St. to see “What it is to be Human,” an exhibit of artist/ architect Gaetano Pesce curated by Salon 94 Design that ties in with EXPO Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Biennial (Sept. 16, 2017-Jan. 7 2018). The exhibit is on the ground level lobby and 5th floor lobby, Sept. 11-Oct. 9, 2017.

The Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute, 33 S. State Street (7th floor)  is doing ‘Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Serenity of Madness’ Sept. 15 through Dec. 8, 2017.

The Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario St., has an opening reception for “Roman Ondak: Man Walking Toward a Fata Morgana” Sept. 12. The exhibit goes through Dec. 9, 2017.

At the Emhurst Art Museum and Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House, 150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst, “Hebru Brantley: Forced Field”S is Sept. 9 through Nov. 26, 2017.

DuPaul Art Museum,  935 W Fullerton Chicago, features “Ângela Ferreira: Zip Zap and Zumbi” Sept. 7 through Dec. 10, 2017.

The John David Mooney Foundation, 114 W. Kinzie St., is participating in the Art After Hours with a reception Sept. 15, 2017 for an exhibition of works by modern Vietnamese Artists and particularly the paintings of Bùi Xuân Phái.

The University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 5701 S. Woodlawn Ave., is doing “Terence Gower — Havana Case Study,” Sept. 12 – Dec. 15, 2017 in conjunction with the Architecture Biennial.

The Smart Museum is on the University of Chicago's Hyde Park campus.
The Smart Museum is on the University of
Chicago’s Hyde Park campus.

The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago has several new exhibits. “Emmanuel Pratt: Radical [Re]Constructions” is Sept. 12, 2017 to the summer of 2018. “Revolution Every Day” is Sept. 14, 2017 – Jan. 14, 2018. “The Hysterical Material” is Sept. 14 – Dec. 17, 2017. The Smart Museum of Art is at 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

“Materials Decoded” is Sept. 10, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018 at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, has an opening reception for  “Darger + War” Sept. 15. the exhibit continues through Dec. 10, 2017.

“Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West” is at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Sept.16, 2017 – Mar. 4, 2018.

“Let Me Be an Object That Screams” is Sept. 8 – Oct.21, 2017 in Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago University of Illinois in the Chicago Art and Design Hall, First Floor 400 S. Peoria St. (at Van Buren Street).

Graham Foundation Sep 14, 2017 – Jan 06, 2018

The Graham Foundation in the Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Place, is showing David Hartt’s “In the Forest,” a new, multi-part installation in conjunction with the Architecture Biennial.

Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus, is featuring “Carrie Mae Weems: Ritual and Revolution” with the opening reception Sept. 12. The exhibit continues through Dec. 10, 2017.

For more information visit EXPO Chicago.

 

Around Town: Labor Day Weekend

If  you don’t want to compete with other drivers going out of town Labor Day, take advantage of the long weekend to visit events and places in the Chicago area.

Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico, is under the Big top next to the United Center now through sept. 3, 2017. Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.
Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico, is under the Big top next to the United Center now through Sept. 3, 2017. Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque du Soleil

“Luzia, A Waking Dream of Mexico” will leave Chicago after this weekend. The final performance is Sept. 3. An amazing mix of color and culture, the show is under a tent at the United Center in Parking Lot K. For tickets and other information visit Cirque du Soleil Luzia.

Chicago Jazz Festival

Enjoy great music to sway and tap to under the stars in Millennium Park or surrounded by wonderful mosaics in the Chicago Cultural Center at the Chicago Jazz Festival this weekend. Admission is free. Millennium Park stages (201 E. Randolph St.) host music from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. For Cultural Center, (78 E. Washington St.) times and for who is playing where and when visit ChicagoJazzFestival.

Chicago Jazz Festival is in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center Labor Day Weekend. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Chicago Jazz Festival is in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center Labor Day Weekend. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Art Fair on the Square

Wander around historic Market Square downtown Lake Forest Sept. 3 or 4 to see 180 exhibitors at Art Fair on the Square. Sponsored by the Deer Path Art League, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Admission is free.
For directions and more information visit Deer Path Art League.

Gauguin

Catch the Gauguin exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago before it leaves. It is an exceptional show of Paul Gauguin’s sculptures, ceramics, paintings and etchings, but it ends Sept. 10 so try to fit it in during the long Labor Day Weekend. The exhibit is so popular it requires tickets. They’re included in admission price but they are date sensitive. For information and tickets visit ARTIC.

Paul Gauguin, "Self Image with Yellow Christ." Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Paul Gauguin, “Self Image with Yellow Christ.” Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Breakfast and hike

Go to Morton Arboretum for waffles, eggs and other yummy treats in the Ginko Garden Restaurant, Saturday or Sunday.  Then, hike the trails to work it off. The weather is supposed to be perfect for exploring the Arboretum, 4100 IL Hwy 53, Lisle. For more information or restaurant reservations call (630) 968-0074 and visit Morton Arb.

Hear UB40 or Aretha Franklin

Picnic on the lawn at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park where UB40 performs Sept. 2 and Aretha Franklin gets respect Sept. 3. The UB40 concert is 7:30 p.m. Aretha Franklin, original scheduled for June 17, also starts at 7:30. Original tickets will be honored. Ravinia Festival is at 418 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park. For directions, parking, tickets and other information visit Ravinia.

Enjoy the weekend and be safe.

Art Shows to put on the calendar

 

Even though summer activities are winding down some of the best art shows in the Chicago area are yet to come.

Port Clinton Art Festival attracts top artists to the annual Highland Park fair. Jodie Jacobs photos
Port Clinton Art Festival attracts top artists to the annual Highland Park fair. Jodie Jacobs photos

The first three festivals listed here are at the end of August. They mark the end of summer for their communities just as Labor Day Weekend festivals  signal the beginning of fall.

September 16-17 is particularly a popular art festival weekend. The top one that weekend is ACE, The American Craft Exposition. Some folks may recall it used to be on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus then moved over to the Botanic Garden a couple of years ago. It is ticketed but the proceeds benefit NorthShore University HealthSystem research.

 

Aug. 26 & 27 Oak Park

The suburb of Oak Park, just west of Chicago is holding its Oak Park Avenue-Lake Arts Crafts Show in Scoville Park at Oak Park Ave and Lake Street. Operated by the American Society of Artists, the hours are Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tip: You might want to look up Frank Lloyd wright’s Oak Park designed structures before you go so you know where to look on the way to or from the art fair. For more information visit the American Society of Artists.

 

Aug. 26 & 27 Highland Park

The annual Port Clinton Art Festival features about 265 artists from several countries and states downtown Highland Park. Spread across the Port Clinton shopping square, Central Avenue, it also now crosses Central at 1st and 2nd Streets. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For other information visit Amdur Productions.

 

Aug. 26 & 27 Chicago’s Bucktown Neighborhood

The last weekend in August is also the Annual Bucktown Arts Fest. Approximately 200 artists will be in Senior Citizens Memorial Park, 2300 N. Oakley Ave & 2300 W. Lyndale St.11 am to 7 pm 200 Artists The Bucktown Arts Fest is a non-profit, all volunteer-run, neighbourhood celebration of the arts. The fair benefits arts education programming at Holstein Park and in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhoods. For other information visit Bucktown Arts Fest.

Artist Mark McMahon who usually sells from his studio and on commission, can be found at a corner of Lake Forest's annual Art on the Square.
Artist Mark McMahon who usually sells from his studio and on commission, can be found at a corner of Lake Forest’s annual Art on the Square.

 

Sept. 3 & 4 Lake Forest

Art Fair on the Square, sponsored by the Deer Path Art League, fills historic Market Square and Western Avenue across from the METRA station downtown Lake Forest from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It features 180 exhibitors. For more info: visit Deerpath Art League.

At the same time, visit the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Artisan Guild Fall Fair adjacent to Market Square in the parking lots of Lake Forest Bank & Trust to see 45 more booths. There is live music, a BBQ cookout and homemade ice cream. This fair benefits C.R.O.Y.A, the local youth group.

 

Sept. 9 & 10 Lakeview East, Chicago

Lakeview East’s Festival of the Arts showcases 150 exhibitors at Broadway Street and Belmont Avenue, Sat. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit Lakeview Festival.

 

Sept. 9 & 10 Wicker Park, Chicago

The annual Renegade Craft Fair featuring 300 crafters takes place at Division Street between Damen Avenue and Paulina Street from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit Renegade Crafts.

 

Sept. 15-17 Glencoe 

The American Craft Exposition showcases high quality works at its annual fair at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
The American Craft Exposition showcases high quality works at its annual fair at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

 

The American Craft Exposition returns to the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 E. Lake Cook Rd. (east of Edens Expressway.  The Preview Party is Sept. 14: 6:30 to 9 p.m.  General admission is Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is extra if not a Garden member. For ticket prices and other information call (847) 835-5440 and visit ACE.

 

Sept. 16 & 17 Park Forest

The Park Forest Art Fair, considered among the oldest juried fairs in the area will feature more than 90 exhibitors  downtown on the Village Square at at Main & Cunningham Streets. Presented by the tall Grass Arts Association, the fair is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit tallgrassarts.

 

Sept. 16 & 17 West Loop, Chicago

The West Loop Art Fest has 180 exhibitors on Washington Boulevard from Halsted to Racine. The fair is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m..  For more information visit Amdur Productions.

 

Sept. 16-17 Ravenswood, Chicago

The annual Ravenswood ArtWalk is along Ravenswood Avenue from Irving Park Road to Leland Avenue from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Co-presented by the Greater Ravenswood Chamber and Community Council and the sponsor, Access contemporary Music, ArtWalk combines its arts and creative industries.m See Ravenswood ArtWalk.

 

Sept. 16 & 17 Naperville

The suburb’s Riverwalk Fine Art Fair has about 140 artists downtown at
Eagle Street and Jackson Avenue along the DuPage River. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See more information at Naperville Riverwalk.

 

September 23 & 24 Highwood

A tiny suburb known mostly for its restaurants, Highwood started its  Annual Starving Artists Show last year and drew a crowd. Its 2nd annual show will showcase 120 artists along Sheridan from Highwood to Webster Avenues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

 

Sept, 23 & 24 Barrington

Art in the Barn features 166 exhibitors on the grounds of the Good Shepherd Hospital, 450 W Highway 22. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit Art in the Barn.

 

Sept. 23 & 24 Edgewater, Chicago

The Edgewater Arts Festival, formerly Edgewater fall Art Fair, is a popular neighborhood get together that now attracts visitors from other Chicago communities. Spread from 1040 to 1190 West Granville Ave. it features the performing and visual arts. Along with more than 100 juried-in Chicago area artists, the festival has three music stages, a beer garden and a children’s activity area. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit Edgewater Arts.

 

Four Wisconsin artists exhibit in Pilsen

The Pilsen area on the near south side of Chicago has been evolving into a significant arts destination, partly due to the presence of the Chicago Arts District on Halsted Street and the National Museum of Mexican Art which is a kind of anchor for the neighborhood’s art community.

A number of small art galleries there are gathering attention and contributing to Chicago’s vibrant urban art scene including the LALUZ Gallery on 18th Street.

Four Wisconsin artists are featured in newest LALUZ Gallery show.
Four Wisconsin artists are featured in newest LALUZ Gallery show.

On Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, LALUZ  Gallery opened its newest show, “Visions of Wisconson” to feature artists Sara Strozinsky, Anne Horjus, Katie Schofield and Laura Annis.

The four artists who have distinctly different aesthetics are friends and collaborators from the Baraboo/Madison area.

Watercolors depicting calming close-up views of Wisconsin prairie grass, watery rocks and trees by artist Sara Strozinsky offer a sharp contrast to the bustling Ashland Avenue traffic just outside the door.

Dutch born artist and current Wisconsin resident Anne (pronounced ON-eh) Horjus is exhibiting two series, each inspired by the choral works of composer Eric Whitacre. Horjus is a singer and a visual artist, so working the two disciplines together is a natural fit for him.

His first series entitled “Sleep” combines fine-lined sketch work with muted colors that depict the thoughts of a slumbering boy.  Done in black Derwent pencils and airbrush it has a wonderfully light touch. “Sleep” is now available in  book form with a poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri and includes a link to Whitacre’s musical composition.

The artist’s second series, bolder with more highly-saturated colors, is “Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine.” Inspired by the works of DaVinci, it complements another Whitacre composition.

When viewed side by side it is difficult to imagine that they are works by the same artist, but Horjus is nothing if not versatile. Friends describe him as a “Renaissance Man.”

The show also features the works of artist Katie Schofield who is primarily known for her natural forms that usually are showcased in outdoor venues, and Laura Annis’ known for her bold colors to depict nature and mythology in an animation/illustration style.

“Visions of Wisconsin” at LALUZ  Gallery 1545 W. 18th Street. through September 2, 2017. For hours and other information visit LALUZ  or call (312) 401-344.

Reno Lovison

 

At Driehaus: Toulouse Lautrec and Tiffany

A visit to the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, a magnificent late 1900’s mansion on East Erie Street, is a double treat.

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec "Jane Avril" 1893, color lithograph. John Faier Photo
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec “Jane Avril” 1893, color lithograph. John Faier Photo (c) Driehaus Museum

In 2016, the museum hosted an exhibit of Downton Abbey’s fabulous costumes. The mansion’s elaborate rooms which hold several items from Driehaus ‘ vast collection of decorative arts, perfectly fit the exhibit titled “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times.”

This year, the museum is featuring art of a different kind in “L’Affichomani: The Passion for French Posters.”

Spread across two upstairs floors of the museum, the exhibit comes from Driehaus’ own large collection of turn-of-the-last-century posters.

Dating from the Belle Époque of about 1875 to 1910, they show off the wonderful lines and colors favored by their artists: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, Jules Chéret, Eugene Grasset and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen.

Alphonse Mucha " Sarah Bernhardt as "La dame aux Camelias," 1896, color lithograph. John Faier photo.
Alphonse Mucha ” Sarah Bernhardt as “La dame aux Camelias,” 1896, color lithograph. John Faier photo

Of course as posters, they do more than serve as advertisements for particular artists. They advertise entertainers, products and events of the time. In doing so they turned the streets of Paris in art galleries while bringing together art and commerce.

So go for the exhibit, but stay to see the mansion. The Driehause collection includes Tiffany glass.

“L’Affichomani: The Passion for French Poster” Is at the Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St., Chicago, through Jan. 7, 2018. For admission and hours call  (312) 482-8933 and visit Driehaus.

 

 

An art exhibit worth a gasp or two

Each time you walk into another room up on the fourth floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago you’ll hear a gasp or a wow. The responses are to the wall-filling, psychedelic art of Takashi Murakami.

Visitors were taking photos of Takashi Murakami's works throughout the exhibit at the MCA. This room held "Tan Tan Bo Puking - aka Gero Tanm 2002, courtesy of Galerie Perrotin and its companion piece. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Visitors were taking photos of Takashi Murakami’s works throughout the exhibit at the MCA. This room held “Tan Tan Bo Puking – aka Gero Tanm 2002, courtesy of Galerie Perrotin, and its companion piece. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

A Japanese artist who has studied the traditional methods of his country but favors anime (Japanese animated film) and manga (Japanese comics), Murakami mixes folklore, politics, Asian culture and contemporary pop art in highly-patterned or deeply contrasting paintings and with fanciful or foreboding sculptures.

Titled “Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” the MCA exhibit is a retrospective that begins with early, fine-art works using traditional Japanese Nihonga materials on paintings of turtles. However, look closer at their themes and you understand that Murakami is concerned about industrial pollution and nuclear power..

As you walk through the exhibit and see different themes and materials that Murakami favored during the past three decades, you will understand that the title refers to regeneration. If an octopus eats off a damaged part a new one will grow.

Some motifs are scary or critical commentary. Others are cheerful and playful. But no matter the subject matter, Murakami’s works are eye-catching and show great attention to detail.

To accomplish his more complex and very detailed works, Murakami has a studio of artist assistants. Indeed, one room shows what a work looks like when drawn but not completely painted in. It looks like a page from the currently popular patterned coloring books enjoyed by youngsters and adults.

It’s also okay to see commercial value in what Murakami does. He worked with pop star Kanye West on an album cover and with Louis Vuitton on a fashion product.

But as you walk through the rooms, remember that Murakami has done and continues to do is what other artists do. Their works express inner emotions and also are responses to surrounding cultures and what is happening in the world.

Murakami has merely been responding in hi definition and amplification.

”Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and curated by Michael Darling, is at the museum now through Sept. 24, 2017.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is at 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago. For admission, hours and other information call (312) 280-2660 and visit MCA.

 

Rashid Johnson exhibit reflects the times

 

“Rashid Johnson: Hail We Now Sing Joy” is worth the drive across Illinois’ northern border. Up now through early fall at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the most current works of Johnson are monumental.

Milwaukee Curator of Contemporary Art Margaret Andera and artist Rashid Johnson in front of "Antoine's Organ." Photos by Jodie Jacobs
Milwaukee Curator of Contemporary Art Margaret Andera and artist Rashid Johnson in front of “Antoine’s Organ.” Photos by Jodie Jacobs

More often than not, an exhibit features works large and small. And Johnson, a Chicago native and New York-based artist, has worked with a variety of formats from photography to installations. Many of those works were in a 10-year retrospective at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary in 2012.

Now, isitors to the MAM show are likely to get the message of how Johnson, a black artist who grew up in Evanston and studied at Columbia College Chicago and the School of the Art Institute, views the world today. They are  immediately aware upon entering the exhibit that this time Johnson is thinking large scale.

The first gallery is dominated by a 10-foot high black scaffolding that is overflowing with plants in hand-built ceramic pots, small shea butter sculptures, books, a video, an upright piano and lights.

A gallery is covered with the faces of the "Anxious Audience" pieces made with wax on black soap backed by ceramic tiles.
A gallery is covered with the faces of the “Anxious Audience” pieces made with wax on black soap backed by ceramic tiles.

Titled “Antoine’s Organ,” the piece is Johnson’s nod to the African Diaspora but the work is named for Antoine Baldwin, a pianist and music producer. Musicians will be up in the grid of scaffolding periodically to play the piano.

It doesn’t matter which way visitors continue behind the grid into the next galleries. There are just four rooms. Each has one theme: “Antoine’s Organ,” “Anxious Audience,” “Escape Collage” and “Falling Man.”

Faces, all looking as if they were inspired by Edvard Munch 1893 painting, “The Scream,” look from the walls in the “Anxious Audience” gallery. Made with wax on black soap backed by white ceramic tiles, the faces seem to reflect the racial violence and conflicts in the news.

“Escape Collage” in another gallery, goes in the opposite direction. The

Colorful paintings, all titled "Escape Collage" offer a hopeful view of tropical warmth.
Colorful paintings, all titled “Escape Collage” offer a hopeful view of tropical warmth.

works, made from custom wallpaper appear to have black smudges that may be figures entering a colorful, tropical world of multicolored tiles and paint. Johnson has said he equated palm trees with success because they meant being able to leave a cold climate for a tropical one.

A table filled with blocks of Shea butter will capture viewers’ attention in the fourth or second gallery depending on which way visitors walk after “Antoine’s Organ.”

Johnson leaves it up to the visitors to interpret the meaning of the butter although Shea is often thought to be soothing and even a balm.

Table with blocks of shea butter surrounded by "Falling Man" art work.
Table with blocks of Shea butter surrounded by “Falling Man” art work.

However, all the works on the walls of this gallery are called “Falling Man.” They are made with red oak flooring, pieces of mirrors, black soap, wax and white ceramic tiles.

Although the figures resemble video game people, the pieces’ titles of “Falling Man” beg other interpretations such as violence or unsuccessful economic ventures.

Viewers should find Johnson’s work relevant now and reflective of the past given that art through the ages has historically reflected the times when created.

“Rashid Johnson: Hail We Now Sing Joy” is at the Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202, now through Sept 17, 2017. For admission and hours call (414) 224-3200 and visit MAM.

 

Paul Gauguin revealed

It’s likely no surprise to art aficionados that an extraordinary exhibit has opened at the Art Institute of Chicago this summer.

Paul Gauguin, 1889 "In the Waves (Ondine l). Photos taken at the exhibit by Jodie Jacobs
Paul Gauguin, 1889 “In the Waves (Ondine l). Photos taken at the exhibit by Jodie Jacobs

Chicagoans don’t question an oft used phrase referring to the Art Institute as a world class museum. Arguably, among the things that have made it so in their minds are its large collection of French Impressionists and such famed paintings as Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” Edward Hopper’s “Nighhawks,” Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist” and Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884.”

But a great institution does more than collect. It investigates well-known works were created and why and also presents new and lesser known works.

There was “Seurat and the Making of ‘La Grande Jatte’ ” back in the summer of 2004 which revealed other figures in the famous painting and included related sketches and paintings.

Then there was “Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917” in spring of 2010 which revealed new information about “Bathers by a River -1909-1910” found through technical research. It also offered a more in-depth view of the artist’s works.

More recently, the museum focused on the paintings: “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” which were researched and compared in order to shed more light on the artist and his time in Arles.

Visitors at that exhibit in 2016 may remember that Van Gogh set aside a room for Gauguin whom he greatly admired and hoped would help start an artists’ commune there.

Now the museum is turning its spotlight and technical research onto Gauguin. The resulting exhibit sheds extraordinary light onto an artist who is much more than a painter particularly fond of Tahitian figures.

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