A zaftig retrospective from art duo Industry of the Ordinary

August 20, 2012

1. Industry of the Ordinary: 2003-2013, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. Adam Brooks and Mathew Wilson, the artistic duo known as Industry of the Ordinary (IOTO), aren't so much putting on a show as taking over the Chicago Cultural Center with their retrospective, which opened over the weekend. There's a sound installation in the elevator and, coming soon, one that will pipe out across Randolph Street. Over the show's six-month run, a variety of performances will happen in various spots around the building, including dance, group recitation and the intriguing Celebrity and the Peculiar, which involves an installation of tents "infused" with celebrity scents.

The show's sprawl is matched by its density, as if Brooks and Wilson were compelled to include everybody in their retrospective. Center stage in the exhibit's main gallery is Angle, by fellow artist Jim Zimpel. You can stand on the sidelines or bid to try and hook one of the small fish darting about a large tank on the floor. If your lure proves lucky you'll then face the decision to either cook or release your catch. I vote to skip the fishing entirely and leave the poor lil swimmers in peace.

Despite the variety of artists and works on display what results isn't incoherent but tightly connected, woven together by the collaborative and participatory spirit which runs through much of IOTO's output. At one end of the gallery, behind thick black curtains, you'll find Everyone, a video which purports to document all the artists of Chicago. At the other end clamber up a set of stairs or a ramp into Portrait Project 2011-2012. Here, 71 artists working in different media have crafted portraits of Brooks and Wilson. This "curated" show within a show, a mix of paintings, letters, videos, photos and more, is part thrift store jumble, part fun house hall of mirrors. The day I was there a woman wandered from one portrait to the next, laughing out loud and calling to her friend to "come see."

You'll come, see and want to stay for a bit, enveloped by the warm and generous nature of IOTO's retrospective, which is almost too highfalutin' a term for what really feels like an invitation to group creativity. Think of it as this season's "zaftig" art show, assuming that's a term as suitable for objects as it is for people. Through February 2013.

2. Falafill, one of my local "quick-food" go-to's has this great series called Chefs for Charity. Each month a different celebrity cook creates a tasty variations on the old chick peas wrapped in pita bread standard and donates part of the proceeds to the charity of her choice. What could come off as pretentious often turns out delicious, including this month's concoction by Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe and Nightwood. His ingredients include crispy fried kale, pickled pistachios and sweet summer corn — so good!

Corn of course is one of the endangered foods of this summer's prolonged drought. All the more reason to celebrate those golden niblets at the 37th annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival (which by the way is also a welcome back for University of Illinois students). If your hankering for corn has no limits, you can also check out the DeKalb Corn Fest, one of the oldest — and still free! — summer music festivals in Illinois. Not too shabby — nor corny. Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, August 24 and 25. DeKalb Corn Fest, August 24-26.

3. Not only did DuSable Museum President and CEO Carol Adams help keep the South Shore JazzFest alive for another year, she's also overseeing a summer of fabulous performances at her home base. This coming weekend the museum hosts Here's to the Red Black and Green, an evening of spoken word by Def Jam performers Red Storm, Triple Blak and M'Reid Green. The event also celebrates what would have been the 125th birthday of Marcus Garvey, the journalist, political leader and black nationalist/Pan-Africanist who worked to create a separate shipping line, manufacturing economy and new homeland (Liberia) for blacks. Legend has it the Chicago Defender's premature obituary led to Garvey's second, and life-ending stroke, so a Chicago-based celebration of his life and influence seems like a good karma kind of move. August 25 7:00 p.m. 

4. Speaking of legends, this week the Museum of Contemporary Art's Tuesdays at the Terrace features the Fred Anderson Legacy  Band. Anderson, a wonderful and influential jazz saxophonist, passed in the summer of 2010, but his students and fans continue to host events to keep his music alive. Like Anderson, the late, great Von Freeman provided significant support and inspiration for many of Chicago's current jazz players. The jazz saxophonist died just last week, so no doubt many attending Tuesday's show will be celebrating his life as well. August 21 5:30 p.m.

5. Join the good folks behind the NPR podcast How To Do Everything and you may learn how to host a great meet-up! They'll be at the Long Room Saturday afternoon and word is a cocktail crafted especially for HTDE (is that a thing?) will be on the menu, hopefully served up by the charming Jason Burrell. You can also catch some of the Vocalo crew Thursday night, when they host Music and Stories...Live!  The event is part of WBEZ's Race: Out Loud series. Hey we're not just on the air — we're all around you! How To Do Everything, August 25 3:00 p.m., Vocalo: Music and Stories...Live! August 23 6:30 p.m.