Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago

Venue  |  Exhibitions  |  Reviews

The Sahmat Collective: Politics and Performance in India

by Alicia Chester
Mounted on a red wall, a large black-and-white photograph of a funeral procession carrying a coffin draped in a hammer and sickle flag greets visitors to The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989. This striking first visual and the room that follows set the premise and tone of the exhibition with plentiful wall text, reading materials, and documentation to supplement and contextualize the work to come. The exhibition introduces an American audience to an Indian art collective born in the wake of the murder of Safdar Hashmi (1954–1989), a political activist, playwright, actor... [more]
Posted by Alicia Chester on 3/21/13

Snap, Cackle and Pop

by Mia DiMeo
"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” –Emile Zola   Sidetracked by a murky Odilon Redon pastel and Henry Fuseli’s crazed Macbeth painting in the Smart Museum’s other show, “Tragic Muse: Art and Emotion, 1700-1900,” I left the high drama of painting  for the cool photographic studies of Andy Warhol’s legendary mundane in “Warhol at Work: Portrait Snapshots, 1973-1986.” For Warhol, work was art and art was life. He referred to a tape recorder he carried around as his “wife” and later adopted a handheld camera into their relationship.  The small side g... [more]
Posted by Mia DiMeo on 5/16/11

No Longer Shall We Suffer in Silence

by Joel Kuennen
On November 30th, 2010, the art world recoiled as the news spread that the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG), under the orders of Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough, had succumbed to pressure from the Catholic League and Republican members of the House of Representatives to remove an artwork by David Wojnarowicz from the NPG’s exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture”.  The artwork had been up a month before it became the highest-profile example of government censorship of the arts in the United States in the last few years. The threat of a revived Culture War... [more]
Posted by Joel Kuennen on 1/31/11

Progressively Good Design

by Mia DiMeo
As soon I had an apartment to furnish, I bought a pristine, mint condition matching pair of 1950s loveseats from an antique store. Streamlined, modern and modular, they are sophisticatedly low-slung, resting on splayed wooden legs. The spring in their seats remind me of how well-built furniture used to be, and their clean style and adaptability to many spaces has already proven to me the principles of good design. I’m not alone in this opinion; just ask IKEA, the Scandinavian megastore that mass-produces near-replicas of my loveseats, over a half of a century later.  In the Smart M... [more]
Posted by Mia DiMeo on 7/19/10

Reassessing MiddleCoast Art

by Dan Gunn
        If “Heartland” at the Smart Museum were only another tired attempt to define “Midwestern-ness,” it would have failed before it began. Exhibitions that fall into this trap of showing “Midwestern-ness,” inevitably end up in condescending generalizations, or in forced comparisons, made to prove that “Midwesterners have culture too” which is equally condescending. Fortunately, “Heartland” is not such an exhibition. “Heartland,” is an exhibition that, for once, takes Midwestern art production on its own terms, creating a multi-pronged show full of interesting, location-specific facets. A... [more]
Posted by Dan Gunn on 10/26/09

American Made

by Robyn Farrell Roulo
"Your Pal Cliff: Selections from the H.C. Westermann Study Collection" is a visual journey into the world of Chicago artist Horace Clifford Westermann (1922-1981).   On view at the University of Chicago's Smart Museum through September 6, 2009, the retrospective is a blend of art and objects that celebrate the life and work of this often under-recognized artist.  Westermann's absurd and off-color creations are joined by preliminary drawings, prints, sketchbooks, and personal writings that give insight behind his thought and process.   This comprehensive collection is the result of a generous gift f... [more]
Posted by Robyn Farrell Roulo on 7/5/09

A Roof in Chelsea

by Erik Wenzel
John Sloan’s Lake, Central Park, 1909, a little painting in a small gold frame, is the perfect painting of this sort. Thick paint, executed quickly in a loose but descriptive style, it depicts the ultimate picturesque autumn day in a park. It is also banal and generic; it could be any park, not necessarily Central Park. It could be just about any time period as well. It’s one of the quaint things that interests people across time and culture. People enjoy fresh air and scenery and it is hard to believe it has changed much over the last century. A bit cheesy of course, but this explains the appe... [more]
Posted by Erik Wenzel on 8/25/08

Idle Idol Idyll

by Erik Wenzel
At the Smart Museum of Art, on view through November 2, is an interesting investigation into historical notions of idolatry. In addition to this, however, is a case study in museology itself. Approaching the entrance and finding a bright yellow ochre wall with the title "Idol Anxiety" emblazoned across it in bold white vinyl proclaims this will not be a regular trip through a collection of artifacts. The exhibition could be considered a work of art in itself. Art isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind. “Idols are worrisome things,” states the wal... [more]
Posted by Erik Wenzel on 7/21/08