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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Cordova exhibit makes viewers think

Appearances are deceiving would be a good warning when walking into “Smoke, Nearby,” the gallery at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago currently exhibiting works of Mexico City-based sculptor Tania Peréz  Cordova.

"We Focus on a Woman Facing Sideways" 2013-17, Bronze, Swarovski Crystal drop earring and a Women wearing the other earring. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
“We Focus on a Woman Facing Sideways” 2013-17, Bronze, Swarovski Crystal Drop Earring and a Women wearing the other earring. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Her works are not meant to be looked at in passing. They require more than a glance at something mounted piece before going on to a work displayed on the floor.

As explained on a board near a sculpture with an earring the artist explains: “A woman s missing her left earring. It is suspended on a brass ribbon in the gallery. Until it is reunited with its mate the sculpture exists in both places simultaneously.”

Thus her pieces are experiential. Or as Cordova said when interviewed before the exhibit opened, “They are stories and possibilities.”

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Around Town

There’s so much going on in Chicago it’s a challenge to figure out what to try and do and see. Or, to wonder the why and wherefore of the crowd outside Goodman Theatre Jan. 19, 2017. ‘Around Town’ is an occasional feature to help sort through at least some of the city’s events.

Goodman marquee

You might think the scenery hasn’t changed when you look north on Dearborn Street near Randolph Street. Butif there fter Jan. 19, 2017, you should see the lights of Goodman Theatre’s tall marquee during the day.

Goodman Theatre celebrated its new marquee in conjunction with Ghostlight Project. Goodman Theatre photo
Goodman Theatre celebrated its new marquee in conjunction with Ghostlight Project. Goodman Theatre photo

The old marquee, damaged in an electrical fire last spring, has been replaced with a similar version but with an important difference. You will see it lit 24/7. The lights are LED, color-changeable and each letter is programmable.

“Our marquee is the brightest, most visible symbol of Goodman Theatre’s 30+ year commitment to high quality productions, cultural and aesthetic diversity on and off our stages, and proactive engagement in our Chicago community—a commitment that has distinguished us, and redefined what a major cultural institution can be,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls.

The Jan. 19 illumination was a deliberate date choice to call attention to the The Ghostlight Project, a national American theater initiative of inclusiveness.

“As part of the Ghostlight Project, we will stand with our theater colleagues across the country at the same time and pledge to protect the values of equality, inclusion, justice—and empathy for everyone, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity or sexual orientation,” Falls said.

Goodman Theatre is  at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL

 

At the MCA

Maybe you noticed that during the past few years the Museum of Contemporary Art has evolved into a multi-media venue that presents dance, music and theater programs, aside from its changing menu of art exhibits.

So, the addition of dance performances up on the fourth floor during the opening weekend of  ‘Merce Cunningham: Common Time,’ a multi-media exhibit, seems almost like a given.

Former Merce Cunningham Dance Company members will incorporate important pieces from the past 60 years into performances  called Events, Feb. 11 and 12., 1:30 to 2 p.m. and 4 to 4:30 p.m.

Staged and arranged by Andrea Weber, the Event showcases dancers Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott and Melissa Toogood. The accompanying musicians are Hanna Brock, Nicolas Collins, Kg Price, Katharine young and their arranger, Stephan Moore.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is at 220 E. Chicago Avenue

 

Black History Month

There will be free events across Chicago in February honoring Black History Month. Among them are stage related segments coordinated by the Goodman Theatre under the umbrella “Black Words Mater: Celebrating Black Voices on Stage and Beyond.”

Among the events are a reading of “Gee’s Bend” by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder at the DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E. 56th Place,) Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. and film screening August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson”  at AMC Dine-In Theatres at Block 37 (108 N. State St. (availability limited).

In addition, “Playwrights from past to present” is a lecture by Goodman Theatre Resident Director Chuck smith at the Harold Washington Library (400 S. State St) Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. and  a panel discussion on “Diversity in theater administration and Intern/apprentice networking” at Goodman Theatre’s Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (107 N. Dearborn St.), Feb. 27 at 5:30 p.m.

For more information visit Goodman Black Words

 

Five art venues worth braving Chicago temps

UPCOMING

Installation view, decor for 'Views on Stage, 2004 in "Dance Works II: Merce Cunningham/Ernesto Neto, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2012, Photo by Gene Pittman
Installation view, decor for ‘Views on Stage, 2004 in “Dance Works II: Merce Cunningham  – Ernesto Neto, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2012. Photo by Gene Pittman

It’s a given that Chicago winters are defined by how much snow has to be shoveled and how many layers are needed to protect against the cold. But, hey, Chicagoans know the city doesn’t shut down. So, Instead of hibernating the question is – what’s happening in and around the city to see and do early in 2017?

First was a look at some theater offerings premiering in Chicago. Now, let’s take a look at what is happening on the art scene.

Two of the exhibit sites, Intuit and Chicago Artists Coalition, may introduce you to art spaces you didn’t know or hadn’t visited.

The next two exhibits are in well-visited art museums but are quite unusual. The last venue hosts art exhibits throughout the year but the place is often under the radar.

 

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Stunning videos pull viewers into animal and plant life

Be immersed in color, movement and animal life with “The Sympathetic Imagination,” a short retrospective of the work of video/film artist Diana Thater. Organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Thater’s installations take up the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s fourth floor exhibition area now through Jan 8, 2017.

Diana Thater, Oo Fifi, Five Days in Claude Monet's Garden, at 1301PE,Los Angeles, 2012 (c) Diana Thater. Photo (c) Fredrik Nilsen
Diana Thater, “Oo Fifi, Five Days in Claude Monet’s Garden,” at 1301PE, Los Angeles, 2012 (c) Diana Thater. Photo (c) Fredrik Nilsen

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Art: Three shows to see before they leave

Oops. If waiting until fall to fill in activity calendar dates you might miss out on some of summer’s really good art museum shows. No need to say oops. Take a peek at this short round-up then mark in the ones you want to catch.

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