Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and The MacArthur Fellows at 40

Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and The MacArthur Fellows at 40

While in Chicago this summer, I was fortunate to be able to see parts of the multi-site project, Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and The MacArthur Fellows at 40, curated by Abigail Winograd, organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, in collaboration with other Chicago institutions.  Some of the exhibitions are open for another few weeks, others continue longer.

Here I will share with you two that are in their Dernier Jours. Carrie Mae Weems: A Land of Broken Dreams, at Logan Center Exhibitions through December 12, 2021, is an especially powerful installation. At the Smart Museum, a group show by the same name as the entire project features compelling, pivotal artworks or installations by 12 of the 29 artist fellows. These and other of the Toward Common Cause exhibitions I saw were dense, profound, and inspiring. It is always uplifting to see works by artists one admires, works one is familiar with and works not seen before, something like seeing old friends and meeting someone new. Seeing these new works by someone you’re familiar with brings a new level of admiration. The large-scale drawings of Toba Khedoori were especially memorable – she is an artist I look forward to seeing and learning more about.

I’m sharing a few photos from my iPhone of Weems’ installation and hope they will inspire viewers to visit the exhibitions and websites for detailed supporting background information, on this installation and the other artists and venues.

 

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Barbara Kruger at The Art Institute of Chicago

Barbara Kruger at The Art Institute of Chicago

When I learned that the Art Institute of Chicago was presenting a show of Barbara Kruger’s work, I knew I had to see the show. I thought I knew the work, having followed her development since first seeing her art in NYC in the early eighties, the text-based works that became her signature style.

This current show is so much more than I was expecting, and I left the galleries overwhelmed and uplifted. I was impressed with how Kruger has continued to evolve; the text-based works have continued to grow in scale and in subtle ways, as found throughout the museum through interventions, using video, sound, surveillance, and time.

After leaving the exhibition, as always, I wandered through the museum, discovering different works, coming across quite remarkable artworks in a quiet gallery or hallway. Among the treasures I found on this day, were Munch, Pollaiuolo, and a beautiful Schoengauer; I had them all to myself.

In a sculpture gallery on the level below the Barbara Kruger installation I saw a gleaming, white sculpture set amongst a gallery full of life-sized neo-classical marble sculptures. I did a double take, stepped back, and was drawn in to explore what it was that caught my attention, why it seemed like something was out of place. At the back of the gallery sits the 1916 bronze sculpture Abraham Lincoln by Daniel Chester French. Here at the front, the life size statue of two figures – entwined, in an embrace, kissing, one with leg bent back, ecstatic – was shinier, smoother, bulkier than those other sculptures. Closer inspection revealed the figures are two middle-aged men in tight embrace: one submissive, wrapped in the stripes of the flag with the field of stars furled across his ass and with an engraved heart on the sole of his upraised high heel: Hoover & Cohn.  Justice, from 1997, is an aspect of Kruger’s work I was unfamiliar with and here I am presenting a few images from the installation.

I’m old enough to remember many aspects of what Hoover and Cohn did to influence the American way of life. Roy Cohn was the prosecutor in the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg espionage trial and was instrumental in arguing for their execution. His legacy continued as Chief Counsel for Joseph McCarthy and into the future, even aiding Roger Stone in Reagan’s presidential campaign. A thoroughly researched book by Seth Rosenberg Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power details the symbiotic relationship of many of these public figures, especially Hoover and Reagan. It is a book I highly recommend and one that is difficult to put down once you begin reading.

If you’ve ever hung a picture on a wall, curated an exhibition, you know the importance of good exhibition design; how works are grouped to amplify each other, yet retain individuality. Creating an intelligent flow from one work to the next, one gallery to the next is a demanding task. The curatorial team, designers, installers, and artist collaborated in the process to make this exhibition a success. The Art Institute has shared some of the process in this excellent presentation: Building an Exhibition with Barbara Kruger: Five Perspectives from Five Collaborators.

THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU at The Art Institute of Chicago, through January 24, 2022

 

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Barbara Kruger – Chicago

Barbara Kruger – Chicago

These projections on The Merchandise Mart, are part of the exhibition THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU at The Art Institute of Chicago, on view through January 24, 2022. The projections run through November 25, 2021.

Whose Hopes?  Whose Fears?

Whose Laughter?  Whose Tears?

Whose Values?  Whose Justice?

 

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This Is What Democracy Looks Like – National Rally For Reproductive Rights

This Is What Democracy Looks Like – National Rally For Reproductive Rights

Women’s March National Rally – Reproductive Rights.

Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Tacoma, Seattle, joined hundreds of cities across the U.S to rally with tens of thousands of people for support of Reproductive Rights – here we gathered at the State Capitol on October 2, 2021.

It was exciting to see people converging, carrying signs, gathering in groups as we approached the capitol. The crowd grew denser the closer we got. The rally began with a march from the Capitol Campus into town, returning to the Capitol where people lined the steps of the legislative building and the organizers set up the P.A. system. Many previous rallies that we attended featured well known speakers; in contrast, the speakers at this rally were often first-time public speakers, some were attending their first rally – they ranged in age from 15-75, they shared their personal histories and reasons for joining together to support reproductive rights.

Older participants know how hard it has been to change the anti-choice culture, how the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision meant that – finally – women could have access to safe and legal abortions. Their children and grandchildren join in the current fight, because, sadly, reproductive rights are again being challenged, and the hardships caused by limiting abortion access continue to disproportionately impact the BIPOC communities.

I was already an adult in 1973 and remember well the horror stories of what it was like before that historic date. When I was growing up there was a “home for un-wed mothers” in our neighborhood; it was shrouded in mystery. I remember the stigma and the danger for women who had no choices for safely, legally, terminating a pregnancy.

When I saw the young girls, marching with their mothers and big sisters, as one sign said, I’m Marching for My Future – I was proud to be standing and marching with them, marching to assure we won’t go back, back to barbaric times; and as a man, I march against toxic masculinity and an outdated patriarchy.

 

On a related note, I want to mention a new book that has just been released. This project by photographer Roslyn Banish, Focus on Abortion, is a continuation of her ongoing exploration of social dynamics through photography and text that began with her 1976 publication of City Families: Chicago and London.

 

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EMERGENCE – E

EMERGENCE – E

…how relatively empty the streets were in Chicago, as they have been in many cities and communities.

When we returned to the northwest, we saw the pandemic numbers rising again with the newer Delta variant emerging. Like most people, we wanted to put our masks away and return to the life we knew before the pandemic. We know the world has changed, changed in so many ways. We remain cautious and optimistic and know that we can’t just abandon all the effort we have put into being sensible, cautious, and responsible or let these efforts of the past year go to waste. We bought a new series of masks and continue to exercise caution and care when around others.

We spent the summer in the Pacific Northwest; unlike the previous eighteen months, we could be outside even more and visit with vaccinated friends indoors.

We began planning a return to Chicago for September where I have been writing and editing several photos in these posts. We’ve seen new shows in spaces awakening from the past year and the beginning of a new season. Visits to some galleries take more planning with advance appointments necessary. Major institutions are open except for refreshments.

I’m including another gallery of selected photos from the past 18 months; some may be familiar to you if you look at my Flickr or Instagram accounts. Some of the photos document the changes of season and others mark my experiences specific to the pandemic.  With my next post I’ll share some new Chicago photos and images from exhibitions we’re seeing.

Thank you for taking the time to read about our activities and thoughts about this past year. We are blessed to have close friends and family who care about each other, and about the common good. Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

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