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The Art Institute of Chicago

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Edgar Degas: A Realist Painter

By: Amy Haddad Edgar Degas, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.” Many consider Edgar Degas an Impressionist artist—a painter of modern life. That he was, though different than some of his contemporaries. He called himself a “Realist.” Rather than painting plein air landscapes, using color, light and shade to capture fleeting moments, as Monet and other Impressionists famously did, Degas captured everyday movements in the theater, at the ballet or the cafés he frequented. It is a distinction made clear at the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition, &ld... [more]
Posted by Amy Haddad on 8/28/15
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Longing for Flight: Sarah Charlesworth’s Stills

by Ionit Behar
“Falling, rushing, ruining! buried in the ruins, on Urthona's dens” – William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793. Icarus’ father Daedalus made him wings and warned him not to fly too close to the sun. But Icarus, ecstatic with the ability to fly, forgot his father’s caution—the feathers came loose and Icarus descended to his death in the sea. This Greek myth can be literally interpreted as the human desire to overcome his or her limits. In psychology, to put it simply, this myth has been understood as a “mania” in which a person i... [more]
Posted by Ionit Behar on 10/10/14
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The Death of Conceptualism: Christopher Williams and The Great Sorting

by Stephanie Cristello
A single image in an empty room. The signature contrast of seventeenth-century Dutch-still life permeates the pictorial field, Easter lilies occupying a significant quotient of the bouquet, delicate white crespias folded between the rich green of the leaves laid flat against the soft, white tablecloth, patterned only by the table visible through the opacity of the thinly woven fabric. The background in the distance is a pitch black, the kind that could only exist in a photo studio; the image is sharp, close, and clear; a barely noticeable soft focus blurs the edge of the table, a softened hor... [more]
Posted by Stephanie Cristello on 2/7/14
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What Do We Owe Picasso?

by Sarah Hamilton
There is no shortage of Pablo Picasso exhibitions in our world right now – a good half-dozen major shows have opened and closed across the U.S. in the past three years, exploring everything from Picasso’s relationship with women to his relationship with other artists. Now, the Art Institute of Chicago has opened their own exhibition, “Picasso and Chicago,” adding Picasso’s relationships with cities to that list. The premise of the exhibition is a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first exhibition of Picasso in the United States, made possible back in 1913 by the Art Institute. The de... [more]
Posted by Sarah Hamilton on 3/7/13
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Image Becomes Content

by Joel Kuennen
On May 22, the Roy Lichtenstein Retrospective, an exhibit that’s been five years in the making, will open its doors. Expertly curated by Sheen Wagstaff and James Rondeau, this exhibit presents, a-chronically, thematic slices from Lichtenstein’s vast body of work; including Art History, Black and White, Mirrors, and War and Romance. It is the largest retrospective on the artist to date, with 160 pieces of work filling the back hall of the Art Institute; a normally open and spacious gallery, it has been transformed into compartments, visages of aesthetic obsessions for the artist that inspire a... [more]
Posted by Joel Kuennen on 5/16/12
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The Insight of Incite

by Courtney R. Thompson
  Today, when words have lost their material base—in other words, their reality—and seem suspended in mid-air, a photographer’s eye can capture fragments of reality that cannot be expressed in language as it is. He can submit those images as documents to be considered alongside language and ideology. This is why, brash as it may seem, Provoke has the subtitle ‘provocative documents of thought.’                         -The Provoke Manifesto (1968), Koji Taki & Takuma Nakahira    With grainy, fragmented images of cities and their inhabitants, the sizable collection of photo books in eight vitrines... [more]
Posted by Courtney R. Thompson on 1/31/12
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Two Gelatin Silver Prints and a Typewritten Page

by Erik Wenzel
When you are cremated, you aren’t actually reduced to ash. After the body has been incinerated dry bone fragments remain, which are ground up into dust. Sandwiched between two lens-shaped pieces of glass on a small pedestal is a group of what appears to be shards of coral, almost like a decoration you’d see on someone’s coffee table. These are actually human remains presented as a sculpture. In addition to this is another incarnation of the piece. Human Dust (1969), by Agnes Denes consists of two photographs of bone fragments making them look in one instance like a mound of rocks and in another... [more]
Posted by Erik Wenzel on 1/17/12
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Brutally Modern

by Mia DiMeo
Aptly timed, the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Bertrand Goldberg: The Architecture of Invention” aligns with the current fight to save one of the architect’s masterworks from demolition, Northwestern University’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, an issue that has been gaining attention nationally as part of a larger discussion on modernist architecture and its preservation. Goldberg’s first comprehensive retrospective, curated by Zoë Ryan and Alison Fisher, focuses on Marina Towers as a high point in his long career with archival materials from its construction and from other progressive projects, real... [more]
Posted by Mia DiMeo on 10/10/11
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Lost and Found at the Art Institute

by Mia DiMeo
A stack of stamped and aged parcels sits in a Plexiglas case towards the midway point of the expansive “Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad, 1941-1945.” Sent by the U.S.S.R. Society of Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries to the Art Institute and other institutions in non-Communist countries in the 1940s, the parcels contained 157-stenciled posters made by the TASS media studio in Moscow, meant to gain support for the Soviet war effort and influence an alliance. Likely disregarded at the time as a populist, “lesser” art form, the posters were stashed away for decades until... [more]
Posted by Mia DiMeo on 8/22/11
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The Curtains of Perception

by Erik Wenzel
For her eponymous exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, photographer Uta Barth created a new body of work entitled …and to draw a bright white line with light (2011). The photographs depict a wavy line made as light passes through the curtains in the artist’s home. Barth noticed this by chance and realized that by moving the gossamer fabric she could in effect “draw with light,” literalizing the Latin origin of the word photograph. The …and to draw series consists of individual works that vary between single panels and diptychs (there is also a triptych from the series that is not on view) ... [more]
Posted by Erik Wenzel on 7/11/11
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The Way Things Go

by Robyn Farrell Roulo
The blizzard in early February that dropped two feet of snow on the city forced the cancellation of the Society for Contemporary Art’s conversation with Peter Fischli and overshadowed the opening of "Peter Fischli David Weiss: Questions, the Sausage Photographs, and a Quiet Afternoon," at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Although the winter storm was unavoidable, it doesn’t seem like the museum has made an effort to promote the work on view through April 17th, there was no press preview and the museum's enthusiasm surrounding the exhibition has been a bit of a disappointment.The conversation with Fischli could not be rescheduled and w... [more]
Posted by Robyn Farrell Roulo on 3/25/11
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Modernism Out in Nature

by Erik Wenzel
Recently, I found myself wandering around the Art Institute on a Friday night. Killing time before meeting some people, I decided to catch up on the various temporary exhibitions I had yet to see, Jitish Kallat’s “Public Notice 3” and Richards Hawkins’ “Third Mind”. I ended up going into the photography gallery in the Modern Wing, intrigued by the large black square I saw through the glass doors (I guess they do serve a purpose beyond making the galleries off the “main street” hallway feel like boutiques in a mall). The space was lined with small framed black and white photographs,... [more]
Posted by Erik Wenzel on 11/29/10
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Gray Area

by Mia DiMeo
There’s been lots of static in the art world recently about the issue of private collections being exhibited by museums. Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight has been one of the most vocal, calling out institutions on their presentations of these “vanity shows.” On his “Modern Art Notes” blog, respected art critic Tyler Green has passionately objected to this practice as well.  Green has repeatedly called these exhibits “improper,” specifically taking to task the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) in his post, “A Season of Shame at LAC... [more]
Posted by Mia DiMeo on 11/22/10
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108 Years Later

by Mia DiMeo
Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between per... [more]
Posted by Mia DiMeo on 1/31/11
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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Revisiting Old Friends

by Victor M. Cassidy
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) took photographs for publication in the periodicals of his time. He went from place to place, subject to subject, image to image, rarely exercising control—or seeking to exercise control--over what was done with his photographs. Through much of his career, Cartier-Bresson dispatched exposed film to Magnum, his photo agency, which developed, edited, and sold the images. Sometimes he sent exposed film with captions to the magazine that had given him an assignment and did not see his pictures until they were published. Taking the photograph was the main event for... [more]
Posted by Victor M. Cassidy on 8/9/10
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Saving Sullivan

by Marla Seidell
Visions of Chicago, past and present, seep into the subconscious via Richard Nickel’s black-and-white photographs of Louis Sullivan’s architectural masterpieces. In Untitled (Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Store, General View from Street Level), 1965, Nickel pays sensitive attention to the timelessness of the Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Building. The upper expanse of the photo is filled with the building itself, lofty and soaring, whilst the bottom half of the photo shows the interconnection between pedestrians and the building’s ornate cast iron façade. Sixties-era citizens—men in suits and hats, ladies... [more]
Posted by Marla Seidell on 7/26/10
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Pop & Sparkle

by Joel Kuennen
Pop-crackle­-sparkle. Fireworks take flight over the city, from the North to the South – sound and vision wed in the momentary act of an aesthetic explosion. It’s the Fourth of July and the city is rumbling around me as I sit and write this article. Down at the Art Institute of Chicago, however, things are quieter at their Sound & Vision exhibition in the Modern Wing, running from June 19th to August 29th. Opened by a performance from hometown hero Cory Arcangel, this exhibition  explores the juncture between sound and vision, more specifically, how they have come to be represented in con... [more]
Posted by Joel Kuennen on 7/5/10
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Watching You Watching Me

by Joel Kuennen
Roger Hiorns is a London-based artist who has been making waves and iridescent crystals across the pond for the last few years, most recently being shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2009 for his installation entitled SEIZURE. From submerging thistles, engines or entire rooms in a solution of copper sulfate, to pulverizing jet engines into fine dust, Hiorns' work exhibits an approach that lacks a certain reverence and will guarantee him a lengthy shelf life in the art world. Luckily for Chicagoans who haven’t been able to make it over to Europe to see this artist's work, the Ar... [more]
Posted by Joel Kuennen on 5/24/10
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Color Me Rad

by Erik Wenzel
“Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913 – 1917” at the Art Institute of Chicago centers around Bathers By A River (1909 – 17), a masterpiece painting in the museum’s collection. The show focuses on a period of five years in the artist’s life filled with experimentation and exploration of what he called the “methods of modern construction,” a phrase repeated ad infinitum throughout the exhibition’s wall texts. The dates of 1913 – 17 seem odd because the timeline of the exhibition begins with 1907 and traces Matisse’s career from there. As a major exhibition dedicated to a modern master, it is... [more]
Posted by Erik Wenzel on 3/22/10
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Affinity with Human Values

by Victor M. Cassidy
        William Eggleston’s photographs, “range widely, they are highly differing, richly varying. In landscapes, cityscapes, street scenes, roadside scenes, at every sort of public converging-point, in dreaming long view and arresting close-up, through hours of dark and light, he sets forth what makes up our ordinary world. What is there, however strange, can be accepted without question; familiarity will be what overwhelms us.” These w ords come from Eudora Welty’s introdu ction to The Democratic Forest (1989), William Eggleston’s semi-autobiographical volume of photogra... [more]
Posted by Victor M. Cassidy on 4/12/10
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Crazy Salad

by Victor M. Cassidy
"Modern in America: Works on Paper, 1900-1950s," at the Art Institute until April 4, “offers viewers the opportunity to ruminate on what constituted ‘modern’ in America at various moments in the first half of the 20th century,” according to the exhibition text. Taken from the Art Institute’s permanent collection, the exhibition comprises about 140 prints, drawings, collages, and watercolors by 60 famous and not-so-famous artists. Installed in several galleries, the work is not presented chronologically, but is grouped to suggest “the meaningful artistic and thematic dialogues that can un... [more]
Posted by Victor M. Cassidy on 3/29/10
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Everything is Illuminated

by Robyn Farrell Roulo
        It is quite a coincidence that “Italics,” Francesco Bonami’s ambitious endeavor to liberate the contemporary art of Italy opened just one week before Italian-born artist Monica Bonvicini’s "Light Me Black", the first "Focus" exhibition to debut in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing.  Unlike many of the artists included in the Bonami’s survey of the last forty years of Italian Art, Bonvicini has received critical acclaim and international recognition for her videos, installations, drawings and photography that investigate and comment on relations between power and gender in the... [more]
Posted by Robyn Farrell Roulo on 11/22/09
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Gen-X Idealism in Jaded Form: Lazarus, Strauss and Plöger

by Marla Seidell
On a snowy Wednesday afternoon in December, I visited the Art Institute to find refuge from the cold and the particular emotional sustenance derived from photography. What I found was an exhibition of new works by three emerging photographers -- Jason Lazarus, Zoe Strauss and Wolfgang Plöger -- that turned out to be the exact opposite of the title given to their collective show. "On The Scene" examines life at the periphery, not "the scene" of society, and in the spirit of the Gen-X identity of these artists, promotes a subtle idealism worth contemplating. In Recordings ("Big Storm... [more]
Posted by Marla Seidell on 12/14/09
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A Brief Art History of Wine

by Marla Seidell
        On view until September 20, the Art Institute's impressive and wide-ranging exhibition, "A Case for Wine: From King Tut to Today," is interesting not only for its plethora of drinking artifacts but for what it says about the history of human interaction with alcohol.  What is clear is the dissolute nature of man and woman in regards to drink over the ages. From an ancient Greek terracotta bowl decorated with men reveling in Bacchic frivolity to an English silvered brass wine cistern from 1720 used to chill wine for the upper classes, the nature of the beast has gone from Dionysian... [more]
Posted by Marla Seidell on 9/14/09
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Overview of the Modern Wing

by Robyn Farrell Roulo
Saturday, May 16, 2009 marked the inaugural celebration of the highly anticipated addition to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Modern Wing. The 264,000 square foot addition opened its doors to the public after a ribbon cutting ceremony that included James Cuno, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the museum, Modern Wing architect Renzo Piano and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. It was a momentous occasion for the dedicated museum staff and supporters after many years of planning and four years of construction. Located at a corner Monroe Street and Columbus Drive, the state-of-... [more]
Posted by Robyn Farrell Roulo on 5/18/09
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Girls, Tricky

by E-Slant Team
    From the Art Institute of Chicago: The new Modern Wing offers the museum’s first state-of-the-art gallery dedicated solely to the exhibition of works in film, video, and new media. Generously supported by leading Chicago collectors Donna and Howard Stone, this gallery is located on the Modern Wing’s first floor adjacent to the photography gallery. The first year of programming highlights four recent acquisitions that have yet to be displayed at the Art Institute. The inaugural installation is Steve McQueen’s Girls, Tricky, an intimate work from 2001 that portrays the experimental “trip-hop”... [more]
Posted by E-Slant Team on 6/15/09
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All Things Natural

by Robyn Farrell Roulo
  Saturday, May 16th, marked the inaugural opening of the Modern Wing, but it also premiered the exhibition, "Cy Twombly: The Natural World, Selected Works 2000-2007".  Located in the new Modern Wing, in the Abbott Galleries  off of Griffin Court, the exhibition features over 30 works by the artist.  The collection of work showcases more recent developments by the artist over the past decade.  The body of work is monumental in size and meaning, a fitting exhibition for Renzo Piano's profound space. Cy Twombly. Untitled, 2003. Oil on canvas, 84 3/4 x 104 1/2 in. (215.3 x 265.4 cm) Glenstone, © Cy... [more]
Posted by Robyn Farrell Roulo on 5/18/09
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Yousuf Karsh

by E-Slant Team
Yousuf Karsh’s portraits are instantly recognizable. Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’Keeffe, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Marian Anderson, true visual icons of the 20th century, each sat before his photographic lens. This master portraitist, however, came from humble beginnings. As a teenager the Armenian Karsh fled his native Turkey to live first in Syria and then in Canada with his photographer uncle. Always connected with traditional photographic methods, he honed his skills first as an apprentice in Boston from 1928 to 1931 and then in his own studio in Ottawa from 1932 unt... [more]
Posted by E-Slant Team on 3/30/09
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Nice Threads: The Restored Tapestries of the Met and the Art Institute

by Thea Liberty Nichols
Having just opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in the beginning of November, The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries is a sprawling show that occupies room after room of prime real estate in the second floor space set aside for special exhibitions. Featuring seventy tapestries that represent over four hundred years of the medium’s heyday, the exhibition was precipitated by the completion of a conservation project that lasted over thirteen years. A team of Netherlandish conservators set about duplicating the natural dying processes of the tapestries creators, employing color... [more]
Posted by Thea Liberty Nichols on 11/10/08
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War is Over, if You Want It

by Thea Liberty Nichols
All the economic doom and gloom seems to have put a damper on this holiday season’s typically heavy onslaught of commercials, billboards and radio plugs-- perhaps happily so. A more extreme counterpoint to consumer gluttony can be found when wandering through the contemporary art galleries of The Art Institute of Chicago where Martha Rosler’s series Bringing the War Home, from 1967-72,  is now on display in its entirety.This series of twenty photomontages was created by Rosler during the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Each image mixes collaged photographic journalism from the frontlines... [more]
Posted by Thea Liberty Nichols on 12/29/08
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The Prints and Drawings of the Art Institute

by Erik Wenzel
About eight years ago the Art Institute closed its prints and drawings galleries and study center. A few years later the newly renovated Jean and Stephen Goldman Prints and Drawings Center opened, but there were no galleries for the work. One could always make appoints to see select pieces, but like many, I felt the loss of a space devoted to such artworks. As the museum amped up its renovations and gallery rearranging as construction on the new Modern Wing began, the galleries formerly devoted to African and Amerindian art closed and were gutted. Who knows where those galleries will land once all... [more]
Posted by Erik Wenzel on 8/11/08