Tepantitla at the Broad

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Field Station: Claudia Peña Salinas,installation view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, 2018. Photo: Eat Pomegranate Photography

There’s a purposeful tension between past and present in Claudia Peňa Salinas’s work.  Her installations evoke ancient Mexican history, but through the sparse language of minimalist grid-like sculptures reminiscent of Sol Lewitt.  Her site-specific works respond to the architecture of the gallery space, and her exhibition at the emphatically modern Broad Art Museum offers a re-creation of Tepantitla, a compound in ancient Mesoamerican city Teotihuacan.  Yet while evoking the ancient past, Salinas’s work also manages to speak to contemporary social issues. Continue reading

Heaven’s Light

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Xu Longsen: Light of Heaven. (2018) Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In Chinese mythology, the Kunlun Mountain is home to many gods and goddesses, it demarks the center of the four points of the compass, and it’s the place where Earth and Heaven meet.  For artist Xu Longsen, it served as the inspiration for an ambitious serious of site-specific paintings and sculptures that calculatedly respond to the architecture of the Art Institute of Chicago’s suite of Asian art galleries.  Continue reading

Craig Tandy: Tangible Light

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Tandy Dennos 3. Reflection II

As a child, Craig Tandy was keenly observant of instances where light seemed to become tangible, as when the thick cigarette smoke in movie theaters made palpable the ethereal shafts of light streaming from the projector, or when a focused beam of sunlight managed to break through a hole in a cloud.  Since then, Tandy has produced an impressively vast and varied body of Constructivist-inspired sculpture, and much of his work takes its direct inspiration from the physics and properties of light.  His Projection sculptures currently on view in the spacious atrium of the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, Michigan, are a stately series of nylon monofilament sculptures which evoke reflected light through Tandy’s calculated application of geometry and physics.  Continue reading

Backstroke of the West

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Installation view, Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West, MCA Chicago September 16, 2017—March 4, 2018 The invisible enemy should not exist, (2007–ongoing) Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

In 1995, Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein, established the Fedayeen Saddam, a notorious paramilitary force.  As a devoted fan of the Star Wars trilogy, Uday issued an exact replica of Darth Vader’s helmet as part of the Fedayeen’s official uniform—a bizarre and unsettling instance of life mimicking art.  At Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, a Fedayeen helmet sits alongside a Darth Vader helmet as part of Chicago-based conceptual artist Michael Rakowitz’s mid-career retrospective, a show which calls attention to politically charged and revealing instances of cross-cultural exchanges between East and West.     Continue reading

Fired Up

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Installation shot, courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art

The Toledo Museum of Art is ground zero for the Studio Glass Movement of the 1960s, which had modest beginnings in a garage on the TMA’s campus.  Although women were integral to the movement, their work originally attracted less attention than that of their male counterparts.  In recent years, this is no longer the case, and the Toledo Art Museum’s exhibition Fired Up is a celebration of the robust international presence of female glassblowers.   Fifty works comprise this exhibition, the first in America to shine the spotlight on glass art by contemporary female glass artists.  The show isn’t bound by any particular theme, but all the works on view are emphatically aesthetic objects, entirely nonfunctional, and playfully push the boundaries of the medium beyond what many of us are likely used to seeing, revealing the surprising and perhaps under-appreciated versatility of glass.  Continue reading

Rodin at the Met: A Century of the Sublime

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Auguste Rodin (French, Paris 1840–1917 Meudon) The Thinker Founder: Cast by Alexis Rudier (French) Modeled ca. 1880, cast ca. 1910 Bronze Overall (wt. confirmed): 27 5/8 in., 185 lb. (70.2 cm, 83.9 kg) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Thomas F. Ryan, 1910

In 1877 at the Paris Salon, Rodin’s Age of Bronze was considered so lifelike that skeptical artists and viewers alike circulated the defamatory rumor that Rodin had simply submitted a bronze made directly from a cast of his model, and the sculpture was ignominiously removed from the show.  After the artist subsequently furnished proof that he had indeed modeled the sculpture by hand, it was displayed again the following year, and the work, originally titled The Vanquished, became Rodin’s breakout triumph.  Continue reading

Amanda Williams: Chicago Works

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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