Monday, September 26, 2016

The 2016 Expo Chicago Show

This year's Expo Chicago art show at Navy Pier featured some very provocative political art inspired by the election and ongoing social issues both in the US and around the world.

For Freedoms Installation, Monique Meloche Gallery

Sandra Ramos

This interactive exhibit allowed visitors to either construct or deconstruct a brick wall. Removing a brick or some mortar from the wall was rewarded with a shot of tequila.

Amanda Williams

The most memorable pieces, for me, were the ones that address the issues of police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. For example, this impeccably rendered dystopian hellscape of mass incarceration, mass deportation, and mass murder at the hands of police.

Sandow Birk, "Triumph of Fear"

A more subtle approach is this dual portrait of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and Mike Brown, the unarmed teen he killed.

Charlotte Potter, "Lenticular America" - Wilson

Charlotte Potter, "Lenticular America" -  Brown

And I am sure that my hero, Bree Newsome, would appreciate what this artist did to the Confederate flag.

Sandow Birk

These history paintings feature Black women in stances of resistance.

Kimathi Donkor, "Nanny of the Maroons' Fifth Act of Mercy"

Kimathi Donkor, "Harriet Tubman En Route to Canada"

Actress/writer/producer Fawzia Mirza had an interactive project in which she invited visitors to try on traditional Middle Eastern clothes, including head coverings, photograph themselves wearing it, and share the images on social media. I took part in it myself. She wanted to remind people that a hijab is "just a piece of cloth."

And even though this pile of pillows may look cozy and kitschy, it is also a work of political art, highlighting the plight of detained immigrants. Each one is made of clothing worn by Chicago area undocumented immigrants. Each is being sold to support Human Rights Watch.

Díaz-Lewis for Human Rights Watch
In addition to the social commentary works above, there were a lot of other pieces that caught my eye. Whenever possible I tried to get the name of the artist so I can link to their site, but I apologize for the ones I missed.

Ruben Nusz

Alfredo Sosabravo

Damien Hirst
It's always fun to see work that responds to other work, like this amusing send-up of Hirst's work by one of my favorite video artists.

Gregory Scott

Vanessa Prager

Student work from UIC

Carlos Aguirre

Scott Olson

Sam Gilliam

Alma Thomas

Fabian Marcaccio

Lars Christiansen
I love the way the paint seems to have been extruded through perforations in the canvas. So innovative, and such a fascinating texture.

Robert Greene

Mary Sibande

Ayana V. Jackson

Alfredo Jaar

I also had a chance to meet Nnenna Okore and hear her talk about her artwork, which, like mine, is made with recycled materials.

As always, I enjoyed the show and hope that someday I will be in it. And I am looking forward to returning to Navy Pier in November for SOFA.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Kerry James Marshall's Masterful Works at the MCA

In an art world where Black subjects and Black artists had all but been rendered invisible, Kerry James Marshall has been making powerful images. His show at the MCA is a celebration of his mastery of painting. I find his distinctive pitch-black people recognizable anywhere I've seen his work. He is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

I recommend seeing this show along with the Art Institute's Invisible Man show of work by Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison. The two shows create a powerful dialogue between Black creatives who refuse to be rendered invisible. Mastry continues through September 25th.

Looking for the Invisible Man

I had no idea that Ralph Ellison and Gordon Parks, the author of Invisible Man and the photographer who created so many iconic images, collaborated with each other, but thanks to The Art Institute of Chicago, I do now. Sadly, their work together wasn't published as they had intended. However, through good curation, the museum has brought their words and images together for a exhibit that makes a still-timely statement about the status of African-Americans, Black men in particular, in a country continues to grant us second-class citizenship. 

In the wake of so many tragic current events, this show feels especially relevant to me. It is on view until August 28th and I definitely recommend it. This show, coupled with the current Kerry James Marshall retrospective at the MCA, would make a very thought-provoking paring.

And if you can't make it,take a look at this video from the Art Institute:

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