Photography, with its special capacity for identification, observation, and implication, allows for unique access to and evidence of dramatic, often traumatic, events. In crime, the notion of truth is imperative, and photographs are used as evidence and in the service of identifying perpetrators, sometimes mistakenly. Photographs also allow us voyeuristic access to the events, and play a major role in how they are remembered and recorded. All of the artists in Crime Unseen grapple with a re-telling of disturbing events, ranging from violent murder to “softer” crimes. In addition to contemporary works, the museum will present a selection of photographs from the collection of the Chicago History Museum’s Chicago Daily News archive dating from the 1920s and 30s. These will include images of some of Chicago’s most notorious burglars, murderers, gangsters and crime scenes. In addition to this historical local context, artist Krista Wortendyke will recreate her Chicago Killing Season installation in the museum’s print study room, which will chart the number of murders in Chicago during the exhibition dates one year ago.
Contemporary artists such as Christian Patterson, Angela Strassheim, Richard Barnes and Deborah Luster document real places and objects associated with violent murder. Their photographs incorporate or reference the techniques of photojournalism, forensic photography, and documentary landscape. On a conceptual level, the work deals with a charged landscape and actively engages with myth and reality as it presents and expands the various facts and theories surrounding the crimes.
In a more documentary mode, Taryn Simon retells the stories of people who were wrongly convinced and then exonerated through DNA evidence. Corinne May Botz photographs the macabre dollhouses built by Chicagoan Frances Glessner Lee in the 1930s and 40s that were used to train detectives to search for evidence at crime scenes. And as a contemporary update to the historical newspaper photographs, Christopher Dawson chronicles the elaborate production required for the televising of crime on 24-hour news channels as he explores our fascination with violent events.