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

Toxic Water

Beyond Streaming: A Sound Mural for Flint, installation view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, 2017, photo courtesy the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

Intending to save $200 million dollars over the course of twenty-five years, in 2014 the city of Flint switched its water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and, in its place, built a pipeline channeling water from the Flint River.  This resulted in lead corrosion in city pipes, exposing tens of thousands of residents to toxic water, and a state of emergency was declared.  Three years on, the reverberations of the Flint water crisis are still being felt.  Beyond Streaming, an interactive “sound mural” at the Broad Art Museum, addresses the Flint water crisis, but this conceptual sculptural installation is merely a fraction of what this art project actually entails.  Continue reading

Chicago Goes Pop

In 2015, Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson (husband and wife) donated over $400 million worth of art to the Art Institute of Chicago.  It would be the largest bequest in the institution’s history.  As of December, this massive addition to the permanent collection is now on permanent view in a suite of galleries in the museum’s contemporary wing, an airy, rectilinear space designed by Pritzker-winning Renzo Piano.  The 44-piece collection is a veritable who’s-who of postwar art, with a particular emphasis on all things Pop. Continue reading

Us is Them

sculpture

Jeff Sonhouse, Meeting at the Crossroads, 2003. Oil and mixed media on canvas. Photography courtesy UICA, images captured by Pizzuti Collection

If the exhibition Us is Them at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids seems at times to have an excessively broad focus, I can happily forgive this on the grounds that it had so much to offer.    This is a muscular show that assembles a diverse international ensemble of artists whose work, broadly speaking, addresses social justice and current affairs.  Continue reading

Kehinde Wiley: Re-Imagining Art History

Kehinde Wiley Sculpture

Kehinde Wiley (American, born 1977), Digital Study for Saint Ursula and the Virgin Martyrs, 2014. © Kehinde Wiley. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Anthony van Dyck’s Seventeenth Century Portrait of Charles I at the Hunt now hangs reverentially in the Louvre, so it’s easy to overlook the artist’s daring decision to paint an equestrian portrait of the monarch dismounted and dressed in civilian clothing as he makes almost mischievous eye contact with the viewer; to its original audience, this was emphatically contemporary art.  Multimedia artist Kehinde Wiley helps us look at these Old Masters in a new light.  His subjects strike poses straight from Old Master paintings, but wear camouflage and Timberland boots.  Furthermore, he playfully flips the switch on art, giving us a color-inverted pantheon of Who’s Who in art history.  Continue reading

Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens

Ai Weiwei sculpture

Remains (detail), 2015. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei studio.

“How does he manage to do it?” One wonders.  It’s not just that Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei can work with media as varied as cast iron, steel rebar, porcelain, wood, or Legos, but that somehow the finished works are beautifully crafted and always embedded with carefully considered layers of meaning.  The exhibition Natural State at Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park brings an impressive cross-section of his recent work to the heart of America’s Midwest, and amply demonstrates Ai’s uncanny knack for seamlessly integrating craftsmanship with concept.  Continue reading

Art As Experience

Witness Sculpture

Installation view, Witness, MCA Chicago. July 2, 2016 – February 19, 2017. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

I’m increasingly realizing that most art can only be experienced in person; the expansive and visceral terrain of a Jackson Pollock canvass, for example, its paint in places measuring nearly a half-inch thick, is entirely lost in translation when transposed into a deadened image in a book (and I can forgive someone for finding Pollock underwhelming if they only ever encounter him in diminutive digital or print reproductions).  At Chicago’s Contemporary Museum of Art is a strong pair of exhibitions which emphatically make the point that art is, at its essence, experiential.  Together, they demand viewer interaction and emotional response. Continue reading