Taking a second look at art

Mannequins in Duro Olowu clothes gaze at art in new MCA Chicago exhibition. (J Jacobs photo)
Mannequins in Duro Olowu clothes gaze at art in new MCA Chicago exhibition. (J Jacobs photo)

If you have ever debated or thought about the question of what is art you will find some interesting answers in a new exhibit at the Museum of contemporary Art. Titled “Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago” it is not a photography exhibit of city places.

Organized for the MCA by Naomi Beckwith, Manilow Senior Curator, with Curatorial Assistant Jack Schneider, the exhibit is curated by Nigerian-born British designer known for his women’s fashions. The exhibit presents Olowu’s ideas of how art, the world around artists, museums and the people who attend exhibits interact with each other.

It could be called “Second Look” which happens to be the title of one of the show’s explanation boards. Olowu wants visitors to remember a show, “not necessarily for names of particular artists.” Instead, he hopes guests will consider the broader concept of what” art and museums mean.”

Think about how portraits have changed over time when viewing a new exhibit at MCA Chicago.. (J Jacob s photo)
Think about how portraits have changed over time when viewing a new exhibit at MCA Chicago.. (J Jacob s photo)

Using objects primarily from the MCA, and from other Chicago’s public and private art collections, he groups the works to make statements of patterns and ideas.

One room, called “Look at Me” consists of portraits in paintings and other art forms. Olowu notes that the room is filled with different faces, body types, races and genders of what he calls “real life.” And that once a visitor steps into the room that person becomes part of the crowd.

Part of how he hopes visitors will understand is that portraiture varies over time according to different ideals of beauty, shape and pattern.

Kerry James Marshall, Portrait of a Curator (In memory of Beryl Wright) 2009. (J Jacobs photo)
Kerry James Marshall, Portrait of a Curator (In memory of Beryl Wright) 2009. (J Jacobs photo)

To put all that into perspective, the last room has mannequins dressed in Olowu designs looking at art.

On a more personal level, I was glad to find two of my favorite artists (and yes I do look at the artist’s name) included: Kerry James Marshall, represented in Portrait of a Curator (In memory of Beryl Wright) 2009, and Roger Brown, represented by “Autobiography in the shape of Alabama (Mammy’s Door) 1974.

But I’m also glad Olowu included folk art such as H. C. Westermann’s 1958 “Memorial to the idea of man if he was an idea” made of pine, bottle caps, cast tin toys, glass, metal, brass, ebony and enamel.

“Autobiography in the shape of Alabama (Mammy’s Door) 1974. (J Jacobs photo)
Roger Brown, represented by “Autobiography in the shape of Alabama (Mammy’s Door) 1974. (J Jacobs photo)

DETAILS: “Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago” is at the Museum of Contemporary Art,  220 E Chicago Ave Chicago, through May 10, 2020. For ticket, hours and other information call (312) 280-2660 or visit MCA Chicago/Home.

To hear Duro Olowu talk about the why behind the exhibit go to the video

 

Jodie Jacobs

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