The Shapes of Spaces

sculpture

Installation view, Chicago Works: Amanda Williams, MCA Chicago. July 18 – December 31, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Upon first glance, Amanda Williams’s Reliquary 1: To Unlearned People This May Seem to be Full of Nothing and Void of Humanity looks exactly as described in the title. Cut from sheets of plywood, the piece appears like a small house, constructed from panels painted white, and consisting mostly of void, where the wood has been removed. However, on closer examination, one can see that each sheet of plywood is actually a figure — the rectangular holes represent lots, the wood that remains represents streets, and the entire house is folded from the flat surface of a map. This is a house that has been built from a map of Englewood, a neighborhood in South Chicago. Continue reading

Amanda Williams: Chicago Works

Sculpture

Installation view, Chicago Works: Amanda Williams, MCA Chicago. July 18 – December 31, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Artist and architect Amanda Williams likely never expected her public art project Color(ed) Theory, for which she surreptitiously painted the exteriors of condemned houses in largely vacant Chicago neighborhoods, to garner significant attention.  But in 2015, the Chicago Architectural Biennial highlighted the ongoing project, suddenly giving it a platform with international reach.   In her first solo exhibition, Color(ed) Theory is featured alongside other recent multimedia works by Williams at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Continue reading

A House for Summer

House for summer sculpture

House for Summer 20th anniversary performance, 2007.

Struggling up the hillside in 100 degree temperatures, I peered through the dusty firs and pines, to see a small cluster of birch trees. If they appear out of place even within the variety of species represented in the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon, that is because they are— these trees are part of a living sculpture called House for Summer created by artist Helen Lessick. Continue reading

Connecting Lines through History: Portland Art Museum’s Center for Contemporary Native Art

Sculpture Portland

Recurring Chapters in the Book of Inevitable Outcomes by Brenda Mallory. Image courtesy of the Portland Art Museum.

The Portland Art Museum’s Center for Contemporary Native Art is not a large space, but the curators always manage to squeeze a great deal of work into it, by working in multiple dimensions. This certainly holds true for the current Connecting Lines show, featuring Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation) and Luzene Hill (East Band Cherokee). Continue reading

The Octopus Eats its Own Leg

sculpture

Takashi Murakami, Photo: Maria Ponce Berre, © MCA Chicago

According to Japanese folklore, a distressed octopus can chew off an injured leg and a new one will grow in its place.  Regeneration and re-invention are certainly subtexts at Takashi Murakami’s mid-career retrospective at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, but this sprawling exhibition also shows that while his work has certainly changed in form and focus, Murakami’s body of work, for all its emphatically contemporary, anime-inspired appearance, is, perhaps surprisingly, conscientiously rooted in hundreds of years of traditional Japanese visual culture.   Continue reading

Public Space & Old Tires

Photo credit: City of Chicago

Few cities do public art as well as Chicago.  Place the point of a giant compass at the intersection of State and Madison, and a circle with a radius of about 1,000 yards will encompass works by Calder, Picasso, Dubuffet, Chagall, Miro, Richard Hunt, Jaume Plensa and Anish Kapoor. Through April 2018, a public installation of sculptures by artist Chakaia Booker fills the Boeing Gallery, a comfortably shaded outdoor promenade that runs the length of Chicago’s Millennium Park.  These seven steel and rubber sculptures manage to remain lighthearted and invitingly interactive, though much of Chakaia Booker’s oeuvre is freighted with poignant allusions to race, class, and social mobility.     Continue reading