WBEZ | Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/museum-contemporary-art-chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Theaster Gates is Chicago's true artist http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/theaster-gates-chicagos-true-artist-107330 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8d45dGates%20Headshot%202.jpg" style="width: 350px; height: 268px; float: right;" title="Theaster Gates (Image courtesy of Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago)" />Upon entering the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago&rsquo;s Kovler Atrium, audiences will find rows of pews from University of Chicago&rsquo;s Bond Chapel. The pews were removed in order to provide Muslim students a place to pray. Above the pews hangs a large-scale double-cross sculpture filled with household items such as umbrellas, dented cans for non-perishables, and wine glasses.</p><p>The installation will be activated with performances throughout the summer by artist Theaster Gates. The installation is titled <a href="http://mcachicago.org/exhibitions/next/all/316" target="_blank">13th Ballad</a> and intertwines concepts and theories, a familiar practice for the Gates. Here we see the relationship between religion, migration and accumulation. Gates&rsquo; work intervenes and it is this intervention that serves not as another example of gentrification, but of the possibilities of art in the face of despair.</p><p>Gates is a multidisciplinary artist, working with performance, sculpture, installation, and large-scale urban interventions. He received a degree in urban planning, but also studied ceramic. This combination of fields informs the multifaceted approach to his artistic practices. His works are not just objects. He manipulates, reconstructs, and activates them in order to breathe further life into the end result.</p><p>In 12 Ballads for Huguenot House (a work created in both Chicago and Kassel, Germany for dOCUMENTA (13)) and 13th Ballad, his work mimics Chicago itself. Chicago is a city on the precipice of two narratives. Which way will we go? Which way will we allow our buildings and schools and neighborhoods and people to go?</p><p>On the one end, there is the city of progress and prosperity. This is in some ways the surface Chicago. That does not exclude the very real lived reality of many Chicagoans who suffer little. But to those who have an intimate relationship with the parts of the city that are too often plagued with neglect, this is not the full story. On the other end, there is the city in decline.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ebfaf01.jpg" style="float: left; height: 449px; width: 300px;" title="12 Ballads (Image courtesy of Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago)" />In a conversation with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev for a book on 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, Gates said, &ldquo;I spend a lot of my time asking: how can I activate places that have been neglected, underresourced?&rdquo; Gates&rsquo; work in large part deals with ideas of reconstruction and repurpose. What can be done with this? What is missing from this object&rsquo;s narrative? This is not just characterized through the philosophical. Rather, he literally reclaims materials to, if not recreate, then reiterate its value and historicity.</p><p>&ldquo;I realized that what I was interested in was not only found objects but also discarded knowledge &ndash; that there was a relationship,&rdquo; Gates continued. &ldquo;I was willing to take on the burden of not only the material waste but also the knowledge waste that was so disposable.&rdquo;</p><p>This first began with the purchase of his own home and studio, an abandoned store on Dorchester Avenue in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. His efforts later extended to purchasing more buildings in and around the area, repurposing them as archives and a cultural center. For 12 Ballads, Gates aimed to unite two unused buildings (one in Chicago, the other, built in the 19th century and located in Germany) by using parts of each to rebuild the other.</p><p>In Gates&rsquo; work, we see the importance of discovery and the challenge against abandonment.</p><p>&ldquo;Gates embraces two counterstrategies, reactivation and employment, not only to fuel his art practice but also to offer tangible and practical examples to civic agencies for reimagining neighborhoods such as his,&rdquo; said MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling in the essay, &ldquo;Theaster Gates: Rescue Me.&rdquo;</p><p>Most importantly, his work does not rely on just what is there, but also on what could be there. Theaster Gates is Chicago. In a city full of artists of a variety of different artistic practices, Gates rises above the rest to create multidisciplinary works that speak to the spirit, anxieties, and troubles of Chicago itself. That his prestige and success reaches beyond the limitations of this city speaks to the criticalness of his work. Gates both is Chicago and speaks in conversation with Chicago and the realities of the city. If Chicago is a city of &ldquo;potential,&rdquo; then Theaster sees it already. He sees it right now.</p><p>13th Ballad runs through October 16.</p><p><em>Britt Julious blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 11:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/theaster-gates-chicagos-true-artist-107330 Everyone needs a cultural hero http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/everyone-needs-cultural-hero-107248 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/581c3Gates_Hugenot-Performance-08618_0.jpg" style="width: 620px;" title="Theaster Gates, 12 Ballads for the Huguenot House, 2012. (Image courtesy of Kavi Gupta)" /></div>Like a proper homecoming, Theaster Gates returned to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago for his latest major solo exhibition, <a href="http://mcachicago.org/exhibitions/now/2013/316" target="_blank">13th Ballad</a>&nbsp;(more on that next week).</div><p>In my eyes, there are two reactions to Theaster Gates. The first, who is this man? The second, I love this man. Gates inspires rapturous attention from his audiences and his artistic career has flourished exponentially in the past decade. But this is not about what Gates has done., It&#39;s about who Gates is and continues to be for the public at large.</p><p>I am not an artist but I see in Gates a creative force that is unparalleled. Others perhaps feel the same way, too. His latest exhibition then, is a reminder of his place as an important, even critical cultural figure for the city of Chicago and for lovers of the arts in general. Gates is a cultural hero, someone to admire, to study, to find purpose in with each new career move.</p><p>Theaster Gates is my cultural hero. So too are Zadie Smith and artist Lorna Simpson. I grew up staunchly independent, finding little purpose in others and instead turning inward. But it was not until I read Smith&rsquo;s <em>White Teeth</em> that I saw so much of what was missing.&nbsp;</p><p>Although I admire their work, their position as a cultural hero is greater than the sum of their creative productivity. It is more selfish, more indicative of what I need as an emerging creator. Cultural heroes help solidify one&rsquo;s work and purpose. It is not that they provide vocal assurance. Rather, it is their pursuit of their own endeavors that gives rise to one&rsquo;s own sense of security. You begin to think, &ldquo;If they can do that, then I can do this.&rdquo; Our projects may not be as grand, but it is in the creation of them &ndash; the birth of a core idea, the making, and the final product &ndash; that we find meaning.</p><p>In Smith I found a voice that was so precise and exact as to be frightening. And once that surpassed, I found a young woman of color who wrote (and wrote well and did so successfully). This career path, this pursuit of the written word&hellip; in Smith I found assurance: Yes, this is possible. Yes, this can be great.&nbsp;</p><p>But in some ways, there is value in living vicariously through another&rsquo;s work and choices. For the emerging creator, our cultural heroes show us not a path, but a possibility. This can be yours, they say.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes, you just need to know that you&rsquo;re not completely wrong,&rdquo; my friend Hafsa Arain said. She is in graduate school studying Religious Leadership. Our paths are not similar, but we are both creating and in the early stages of this creation.</p><p>&ldquo;Especially when you are trying to explain what you are doing,&rdquo; Arain said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s good to know that your work can matter.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Our cultural heroes often inform our choices, opinions, outlook, and interests. This does not signal a lack of personal vision, but rather guidance, assurance and care. What their work and pursuits say is that, &ldquo;You are right. This is okay.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Britt Julious blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for <a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a> or on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 17 May 2013 15:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/everyone-needs-cultural-hero-107248 Culture Catalysts: Cultivating Talent http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/culture-catalysts-cultivating-talent-107206 <p><p>Culture Catalysts is a monthly series that celebrates and provides a platform for Chicagoans at the epicenter of the cultural scene. Listen to&nbsp;<strong>Beth Kligerman</strong>, Director of Talent &amp; Talent Development at Second City, and <strong>Dylan Rice</strong>, Program Director of Creative Industries-Music at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in a conversation about the mechanics of cultivating talent and building infrastructures that allow and encourage artists to remain in Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MCA-webstory_20.gif" style="float: left;" title="" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Recorded live Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.</p></p> Tue, 09 Apr 2013 10:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/culture-catalysts-cultivating-talent-107206 Daily Rehearsal: Mike Daisey brings 'American Utopias' to the MCA http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-11/daily-rehearsal-mike-daisey-brings-american-utopias-mca-103591 <p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/mdaisey/status/264072544963948546/photo/1"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/large_1.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right; " title="The set of 'American Utopias' (Twitter @mdaisey)" /></a><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Could there ever be <a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/theater/15824206/mike-daisey%E2%80%99s-american-utopias">another article</a> about Mike Daisey</strong></span></span> without mention of <em>This American Life </em>and Apple? At least for now, no. Daisey is currently in Chicago for his piece <a href="http://www.mcachicago.org/performances/now/all/2012/881"><em>American&nbsp;Utopias</em></a>, which opens at the MCA Thursday, co-presented by the Chicago Humanities Festival. He&#39;ll also <a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/2012/10/31/113-lineup/">read at <em>The Paper Machete</em></a> on Saturday.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Speaking of <em>The Paper Machete</em></strong></span></span>, the WBEZ-podcasted reading series is <a href="https://www.facebook.com/thepapermachete/posts/103360996494557">officially moving to the Green Mill</a>, after a few trial runs, in December.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-opponent-at-a-red-orchid-theatre/Content?oid=7820781">Tony Adler describes</a> the performances</strong></span></span> of Guy van Swearingen&nbsp;and Kamal Angelo Bolden in&nbsp;<em>The Opponent</em> at A Red Orchid Theatre as something &quot;fans will be wanting to say they witnessed years from now.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- There<a href="http://thenewcolony.org/view/down_and_derby"> is a production</a> about real, live roller derby</strong></span></span> at the Red Tape Theater by New Colony. Will it be as good as <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQGPdXnb2Gg"><em>Whip It</em></a>? Can anything really be?</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Thu, 01 Nov 2012 10:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-11/daily-rehearsal-mike-daisey-brings-american-utopias-mca-103591 Zell Foundation donates $10 million to the Museum of Contemporary Art http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/zell-foundation-donates-10-million-museum-contemporary-art-103564 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/843164372_b9eb8b0a58_z.jpg" style="height: 415px; width: 620px; " title="'Short Cut,' by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset in front of the MCA in 2007. (Flickr/Andrew Ciscel)" /></div><p>The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago announced Wednesday that Helen Zell and her husband Sam Zell, the real estate mogul, of the Zell Family Foundation are donating $10 million to the museum, which will go to the creation of the new Zell Fund for Artistic Excellence.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;Helen and Sam Zell are visionary philanthropists whose passion and commitment to the arts is beyond measure,&quot; said Madeleine Grynsztejn, Director of the MCA, in a statement. &quot;We are extremely grateful for this generous gift which will help support key Vision initiatives to position the MCA as a pre-eminent contemporary art museum. As a Trustee and mentor, Helen has been an inspiring force over the course of the MCA&#39;s history, and we have all benefited from her intelligence and guidance.&quot;</p><p>The donation will go towards starting a new branding campaign, continuing the museum&#39;s residency program and starting a new outdoor summer plaza series.</p><p>Previously Chair of the MCA Board between 2004 and 2008, and now a board member, Helen Zell has helped MCA Board members raise $20 million, &quot;which eliminated nearly half of the museum&#39;s debt incurred from the construction of the new building,&quot; according to the MCA.</p><p>&quot;Like the MCA itself, I am committed to both sustainability and growth,&quot; said Helen Zell. &quot;In the thirty years that I have been involved with the museum, I have never seen it more confident and clear in its direction. I want to help make sure that the museum is on solid financial ground and our Vision is realized.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 31 Oct 2012 14:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/zell-foundation-donates-10-million-museum-contemporary-art-103564 A daring plan to wrap a Chicago museum raises city ire – and makes art history http://www.wbez.org/series/artwork/daring-plan-wrap-chicago-museum-raises-city-ire-%E2%80%93-and-makes-art-history-99731 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Christo%20tying%20knots%20with%20rope%20on%20a%20ladder%20-%20Harry%20Shunk.jpg" title="The artist Christo ties rope around the exterior of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago during the installation of his 1969 show ‘Wrap In Wrap Out.’ (Harry Shunk)" /></div><p>By the time he was 33, Christo had wrapped many everyday objects. He took tables and chairs, and shopping carts and oil barrels, covered them in heavy cloth and bound them with rope.</p><p>The Bulgarian artist and his late French wife, Jeanne-Claude, are best known for <em>The Gates</em>, the billowing, bright orange arches they installed by the thousands in New York&rsquo;s Central Park in 2005. But in 1969 they were still struggling to make their mark.</p><p>Christo&rsquo;s curious wrapped parcels didn&rsquo;t live up to the artist&rsquo;s ambitions. He wanted to wrap something big, something monumental: a building, preferably in his adopted home of New York City. Christo and Jeanne-Claude self-finance all of their projects through the sale of Christo&rsquo;s preparatory drawings and scale models, so convincing someone to pay for such a project wasn&rsquo;t the issue.</p><p>During a recent conversation, he ticked off the list of buildings he approached in downtown Manhattan starting in 1961. &ldquo;Number 2 Broadway, number 20 Exchange Place,&rdquo; he recalled. &ldquo;We tried to wrap a building at Times Square.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Christo%27s%20preparatory%20drawing%20for%20wrapped%20museum%20-%20Christo.jpg" style="height: 235px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="A preparatory collage illustrates Christo’s vision to wrap the MCA. (Courtesy of Christo)" /></div><p>They all said no. Christo said he quickly realized that his best hope to wrap a building &ndash; his first in North America &ndash; would be to wrap a museum, which might be more amenable to his strange proposition.</p><p>Christo and Jeanne-Claude approached New York&rsquo;s Museum of Modern Art in 1967. The museum was interested, but Christo said they failed to secure permission for the show from the New York Fire Department or from the museum&rsquo;s insurance company.&nbsp;</p><p>So New York said no, but Chicago said yes. It was a fateful decision.</p><p>The Museum of Contemporary Art was just a year old in the fall of 1968. Its first director, a hip young Dutchman named Jan van der Marck, showed the most avant-garde work he could find. Early on the MCA showed work by groundbreaking artists like the minimalist Dan Flavin, who had his first solo museum show there; he hung alternating pink and gold fluorescent lights in the gallery and called it art. For another show, <em>Art by Telephone</em>, van der Marck invited nearly 45 artists to create work by giving the museum instructions over the phone. The museum then built and installed the pieces based on the instructions they&rsquo;d received, and sometimes changed the work on a daily basis.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fabric sample 2_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 335px; width: 250px;" title="Christo sent the MCA two fabric samples in the leadup to the show, one fire resistant and one ‘water resistant only.’ He instructed the museum to ‘light a piece of each and see the difference.’ (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /></div><p>Van der Marck passed away in 2010, but David Katzive, the MCA&rsquo;s first curator, said his mentor&rsquo;s daring was controversial &ndash; even with some of his own bosses. &ldquo;They wanted contemporary art in the city,&rdquo; Katzive said of the museum&rsquo;s more conservative board of directors. &ldquo;They were getting that but they were also getting art that was even beyond what they had expected.&rdquo;</p><p>This was certainly true of Christo and Jeanne-Claude&rsquo;s plan to wrap the MCA in chocolate brown fabric. Inside the museum, they would wrap the gallery floors and stairwells, too, in soft white drop cloths. The show would be called <em>Wrap In Wrap Out</em>.</p><p>Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 from complications related to a brain aneurysm, but she and her husband collaborated on art projects until her death. In the lead-up to the MCA Chicago show, Christo sent the museum two fabric samples &ndash; &ldquo;for the color.&rdquo; One was fire resistant and one was labeled &ldquo;water resistant only.&rdquo; Christo&rsquo;s handwritten note instructed the museum to: &ldquo;light a piece of each and see the difference.&rdquo;</p><p>Clearly, fire safety was on the artist&rsquo;s mind. But ask whether Chicago&rsquo;s Fire Department gave the show its blessing, and you get mixed answers.</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, but of course!&rdquo; Christo insisted. &ldquo;We cannot do anything in the building before the fire department gives us approval.&rdquo;</p><p>Curator David Katzive remembered things differently. &ldquo;We didn&#39;t think we were doing anything that required permission,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So [the show] went ahead without any prior requests or clearances.&rdquo;</p><p>True to what Katzive said, we didn&rsquo;t find a permit in MCA or city records.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Christo and aid draping the fabric - Harry Shunk.jpg" style="height: 390px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Christo and an assistant adjust the draping of one of the heavy sheets of tarpaulin suspended from the roof of the MCA. (Harry Shunk)" /></div><p>These days, Christo&rsquo;s close friend and Chicago-based lawyer, Scott Hodes, helps the artist navigate a labyrinth of bureaucracy and public opinion. He&rsquo;s gone so far as to create corporate entities with Christo and Jeanne-Claude as its employees, in order to protect the artists from personal liability. Hodes said compared to later projects such as <em>The Gates</em>, the MCA wasn&rsquo;t that complicated or dangerous.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;He had over a thousand people in New York at <em>The Gates</em>. He had monitors to make sure that people didn&#39;t get injured,&rdquo; Hodes said. &ldquo;There were some projects that were so dangerous that he didn&#39;t hire volunteers. The project in Paris to wrap the Pont Neuf was done by professional rock climbers.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago installation couldn&rsquo;t have been more different. Picture Christo, eight art students and David Katzive gathered in front of the museum on a snowy January day. The MCA was located at 237 E. Ontario then, in a one-story building that once housed the offices for Playboy. &ldquo;It was a shoebox structure &ndash; really quite dull and nothing special,&rdquo; Christo recalled.</p><p>The artist and his team were equipped with thousands of feet of rope and thousands of square feet of heavy, dark brown tarpaulin. &ldquo;It took quite a bit of work to haul [the tarps] up to the roof,&rdquo; Katzive said. &ldquo;It was laid out in long piles and pulled up, much as you would raise a curtain.&rdquo;</p><p>Watching the installation that day, an observer from the MCA described the scene this way: &ldquo;Christo and two men straighten the tarps as they hang. The Curator bites his nails.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Wrapped stairwell and gallery - Harry Shunk.jpg" style="height: 342px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Christo and Jeanne-Claude also wrapped the MCA’s interior in white drop cloth. (Harry Shunk)" />After they secured the fabric to a wooden frame they&rsquo;d built on the roof, Christo tied the rope in knots around the building &ndash; an important part of the project&rsquo;s aesthetic, according to Katzive.</div><p>&ldquo;Christo would be tying the ropes, pretty much improvising on the spot,&rdquo; Katzive recalled. &ldquo;He&#39;d run a line, tie a knot through the middle of it, run rope throughout that &ndash; some were real knots, some were just tangles of rope &ndash; to create a pattern of the hemp on the canvas, to make it beautiful.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>As the team worked, falling snow accumulated in the dark fabric&rsquo;s many folds. Christo called that &ldquo;the most rewarding part of the project ... suddenly the entire museum became like a sculpture.</p><p>The installation attracted the attention of city dwellers and the national media, who swarmed the site. You can see the commotion in a short film Katzive shot that day.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="338" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yg2Dqj6WTHg" width="601"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;There was a kind of party-like atmosphere,&rdquo; Katzive remembered. &ldquo;Passersby on the street would stop and look and watch. . . they kind of picked up on the joyousness of it. We would hear people say things like, &lsquo;They&#39;re wrapping the whole building! They&#39;re wrapping the whole thing!&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jan and Ingeborg van der Marck and friend at Christo opening 1969 med res (small).jpg" style="height: 272px; width: 400px; float: left;" title="From right: Ingeborg and Jan van der Marck and a friend explore the wrapped gallery barefoot during the opening reception for the show. (Courtesy of the MCA)" /></div><p>MCA staff told Christo the show did &ldquo;beautiful things to people.&rdquo; Inside the museum, students drew, children turned somersaults, and more than one couple was caught making out under the stairs.</p><p>But not every observer was so enthralled. Many art critics and museum directors hated the show. Newspaper accounts described confused onlookers and laughing construction workers. A Mrs. Frank O&rsquo;Brien of Superior, Wis. wrote the MCA, asking, &ldquo;Will you kindly advise me who is paying for this insane idea. . . .?&rdquo;</p><p>Then, towards the end of the first day of work, a reporter saw a fire official inspecting a building across the street. The inspector spotted the museum; he was shocked. He stormed over, demanding to know: Where was their permit?</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m sitting downstairs in my office and I hear a little hollering,&rdquo; David Katzive recalled. &ldquo;The fire department had showed up, telling us that we were in violation of some city code. Jan [van der Marck] asked them, &lsquo;What were we in violation of?&rsquo; And they told him &lsquo;You&#39;ve covered your windows.&rsquo; Of course they didn&#39;t know, because the building was entirely covered, that there were no windows.&rdquo;</p><p>Museum staff told inspectors they&rsquo;d left the front door and roof uncovered, as well as a rear delivery entrance. But the fire department wasn&rsquo;t satisfied with that explanation. &ldquo;Here we would have potentially had a building in downtown Chicago with a combustible exterior. That&rsquo;s not something that&rsquo;s going to make the Fire Prevention Bureau very happy,&rdquo; said Ed Prendergast, who was an engineer with the bureau at the time.</p><p>The inspector who spotted the building that day worked with Prendergast, who thought he and his colleagues were right to be cautious.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cheif%20murphy%20photo%20%28small%29.jpg" style="height: 268px; width: 200px; float: right;" title="First Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Francis J. Murphy was the head of the Chicago Fire Prevention Bureau in 1969. (Courtesy of Ken Little)" /></div><p>&ldquo;The city has had some fairly catastrophic occurrences,&rdquo; he said, like the 1967 five-alarm fire that destroyed McCormick Place. After that incident and the deadly 1958 Our Lady of the Angels Church fire, which killed 92 students and three nuns, Prendergast said that former Mayor Richard J. Daley was &ldquo;obviously not interested in having any more major fires.&rdquo;</p><p>So in stepped the head of the Fire Prevention Bureau. First Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Francis J. Murphy was a &ldquo;dems and dose&rdquo; kind of guy, a hands-on boss beloved by his crew. He didn&rsquo;t just enforce Chicago&rsquo;s fire code, he helped write parts of it. Now he wanted proof that the heavy brown fabric wrapped around the MCA was firesafe.</p><p>Murphy died in 1996, but he left behind a lengthy &ndash; and heated &ndash; letter exchange with Jan van der Marck and his staff, now housed in the MCA&rsquo;s archive.</p><p>Van der Marck wrote to Chief Murphy and assured him the tarpaulin around the museum posed no threat, so did the Chicago-based canvas supplier, who claimed the fabric had been prepared with &ldquo;the same treatment used on most high rise buildings&rdquo; in the city, including the Hancock Building.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;But those reassurances weren&rsquo;t enough to sway Chief Murphy.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jan%20JvdM%20and%20Ingeborg%20at%20Christo%20opening%201969%20med%20res%20%28small%29.jpg" style="float: right; height: 274px; width: 350px;" title="Jan and Ingeborg van der Marck at the opening for ‘Wrap In Wrap Out.’ (Courtesy of the MCA)" /></div><p>The next day, Chicago&rsquo;s art glitterati assembled for a black-tie reception with museum founders, the city&rsquo;s biggest collectors and Christo. The artist and his wife were dressed to the nines. &ldquo;I remember [Jeanne-Claude&rsquo;s] very fancy French boots, from Paris &ndash; up to the top of the legs,&rdquo; Christo said.</p><p>Into all that pageantry strode Chief Murphy. He walked straight up to Jan van der Marck and handed him a letter. Reassurances from the canvas company, he wrote, were &ldquo;self-serving&rdquo; and &ldquo;not informative.&rdquo; He wanted a lab test that proved the fabric was fire-resistant and he wanted it in 48 hours.</p><p>The &ldquo;or else&rdquo; was implied.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MCA in the snow - Harry Shunk.jpg" style="float: left; height: 446px; width: 300px;" title="Snow accumulates in the folds of the heavy cloth. (Harry Shunk)" /></div><p>Van der Marck resisted taking down the show. He provided more experts who argued that the test Murphy wanted was outrageous &ndash; they&rsquo;d have to go to New Jersey to find a lab to do it &ndash; and that the fabric had the same treatment as canvas used by the U.S. Army.</p><p>But weeks passed without a response from the fire chief. Finally, according to curator David Katzive, the museum got an order to take down the show. But by this point it was already closing &ndash; and nearly 14,000 people had seen it.&nbsp;</p><p>Visual art tastemakers saw it too, according to lawyer Scott Hodes. &ldquo;It gave Chicago a different impression in the art world,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The Chicago art scene was dominated by the Art Institute of Chicago, which would not have done this kind of a show. The MCA coming aboard showed Chicago could be on the leading edge, too.&rdquo; Christo said Chicago was crucial in his own artistic evolution, giving him the credibility to wrap bigger buildings, like the German parliament in 1995.</p><p>Ironically, as Christo&rsquo;s reputation grew and he was ushered into the canon of contemporary art, the city went from fighting him to courting him. The Morton Salt Company, for example, invited Christo and Jeanne-Claude to wrap a mammoth pile of salt at its South Side facility shortly after the MCA show. Former Mayor Harold Washington was a fan, too, according to Hodes.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The mayor and Christo talked about doing a project in Chicago and Mayor Washington basically said to Christo, &lsquo;You decide what you&#39;d like to do and I&#39;ll see to it that Chicago welcomes you,&rsquo;&rdquo; Hodes said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/blow%20torch.JPG" style="float: right; height: 415px; width: 310px;" title="A volunteer uses a blow torch to heat up the sidewalk before laying down vinyl for ‘Color Jam.’ (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /></div>Christo hasn&rsquo;t come back, but other artists have benefitted from the trail he blazed.</div><p>As night fell on the corner of State and Adams last week, volunteers used a blowtorch to heat the sidewalk, then laid down huge sheets of red, green and blue vinyl. They were wrapping the intersection &ndash; the whole intersection: buildings, streets, lampposts, everything.</p><p>The project is called <em>Color Jam</em>, and its creator, Chicago artist Jessica Stockholder, claims it&rsquo;s the biggest ever vinyl art project in North America. Program manager and curator Tristan Hummel, who works with the project sponsor, the Chicago Loop Alliance, said the paperwork to make this happen was extreme. He can&rsquo;t imagine doing it the way Christo might have done.</p><p>&ldquo;To accomplish anything on this scale, to do so without permission would be suicidal,&rdquo; Hummel said. &ldquo;You&#39;re talking about a huge loss of investment.&rdquo;</p><p>Luckily, he said, the city and other stakeholders have embraced the project, which opens Tuesday June 5th.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&#39;t be surprised if in the &lsquo;70s if they were just like, &lsquo;Weirdo,&rsquo; like dismissive of a project like that,&rdquo; he said of Christo&rsquo;s 1969 MCA project. &ldquo;Now I think it&#39;s been proven a little better that art has an impact.&rdquo;</p><p>As Hummel and his crew worked, two Chicago police officers rolled up in their SUV. One leaned out the window and asked what was going on. They&rsquo;re installing art, I told them. The cop nodded his head and they drove away.</p></p> Fri, 01 Jun 2012 10:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/artwork/daring-plan-wrap-chicago-museum-raises-city-ire-%E2%80%93-and-makes-art-history-99731 With ordinary objects, artist Laura Letinsky instills - and questions - photographic desire http://www.wbez.org/story/ordinary-objects-artist-laura-letinsky-instills-and-questions-photographic-desire-96180 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-07/Untitled3_Letinsky_2011.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/36364802?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="451" width="601"></iframe></p><p>Historically the still life has been considered a “debased genre” – less important, say, than the portrait or the landscape. This hierarchy is reflected in the artwork’s sale price, with still lifes fetching less money than other genres.</p><p>There have been, however, moments in history when the still life has come into prominence. The 17<sup>th</sup> century, for example, when Dutch masters gave us opulent tablescapes overladen with oysters, ripe fruit and sides of meat. Or the latter half of the 20<sup>th</sup> century, when <a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=wayne+thiebaud+cakes&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=j3AxT6yNJOjfsQKv2-iSBw&amp;biw=1600&amp;bih=655&amp;sei=kXAxT8D-Ion_sQLey7mLBw">Wayne Thiebaud gave us cakes</a> and <a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=wayne+thiebaud+cakes&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=j3AxT6yNJOjfsQKv2-iSBw&amp;biw=1600&amp;bih=655&amp;sei=kXAxT8D-Ion_sQLey7mLBw#um=1&amp;hl=en&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US%3Aofficial&amp;tbm=isch&amp;sa=1&amp;q=claes+oldenburg+sculptures&amp;oq=claes+oldenburg+&amp;aq=0&amp;aqi=g10&amp;aql=&amp;gs_sm=c&amp;gs_upl=3384l3384l2l5348l1l1l1l0l0l0l0l0ll0l0&amp;bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&amp;fp=dab9654dde5ead8&amp;biw=1600&amp;bih=655">Claes Oldenburg gave us clothespins</a>. Still lifes catch our eye in periods of time when images of objects clustered together have embodied something about the current culture that makes them relevant and resonant.</p><p>Photographer <a href="http://lauraletinsky.com/">Laura Letinsky</a> thinks that we’re in another such moment where the still life is ascendant.</p><p>All you have to do, she says, is look at the plethora of lifestyle magazines stuffed to the brim with glossy photos of meticulously laid out, Martha Stewart-esque dinner tables and ads for shiny new iPods. Or scan countless food and home decor blogs that document every lamp, every refurbished desk, every jar of jam, every room arranged in pristine fashion. Right now, it seems, we really want to look at beautiful images of beautiful objects made for us to consume.</p><p>Asking why, and exploring her own love-hate relationship with these images of domestic perfection, are what have driven Letinsky’s work since she began making still life photographs in 1997.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-07/P1040497.JPG" style="width: 300px; height: 225px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Objects in Letinsky's studio reflect the artist's preoccupation with all things discarded. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)">Letinsky says she wants to undermine and challenge what she sees as the “promise” of these images. Rather than show us a “cornucopia awaiting the viewer’s appetite,” she wants to show us the discarded, the spoiled and the left-over. In her images, flowers have wilted, drinks have been spilled, fruit has rotted—in short, the party is over. Letinsky wants to question the promise of perfection and possession held in not just still life photos, but in every photographic image.</p><p>You can explore her work in the video above, or see it for yourself starting tonight: Her first solo museum show opens Tuesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of their <em>Chicago Works</em> series. She’ll also have photos on display at <a href="http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/exhibitions/feast/"><em>Feast</em></a>, a food and hospitality-themed exhibit that opens at the Smart Museum on Feb. 16.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/artwork"><em>Art/Work </em></a><em>features contemporary visual artists exhibiting in Chicago talking about the inspiration and perspiration behind their creative endeavors. </em><a href="http://www.mcachicago.org/exhibitions/next/all/292"><em>Chicago Works: Laura Letinsky </em></a><em>opens today at the </em><a href="http://mcachicago.org/" target="_blank"><em>Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago </em></a><em>and runs through April 17, 2012. The MCA is a station partner of WBEZ. </em><a href="http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/exhibitions/feast/"><em>Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art </em></a><em>runs at the </em><a href="http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/exhibitions/feast/"><em>Smart Museum of Art</em></a>&nbsp;<em>from Feb. 16 through June 10, 2012.</em></p></p> Tue, 07 Feb 2012 18:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/ordinary-objects-artist-laura-letinsky-instills-and-questions-photographic-desire-96180 Eiko & Koma, AXIS reimagine the dancing body http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-08/eiko-koma-axis-reimagine-dancing-body-93850 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/ek_3191_image.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Editor's Note: Body and soul unite in two upcoming dance performances. Each encourages audiences to re-imagine the body in motion. <a href="http://www.luciamauro.com/" target="_blank">Lucia Mauro</a> shared her take with <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>:</p><p>In dance, the body is a given. After all, it’s the instrument through which artists ply their craft on stage. But some dancer-choreographers challenge viewers to look beyond the flesh and make new discoveries about relationships and their place in the grand scheme of things. Eiko and Koma are legendary figures in experimental dance that doubles as installation art. The Japanese-born husband and wife will perform a continuous duet, titled <em>Naked</em>, at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Turner Gallery. In it, the unclothed dancers move at a glacially slow pace inside a giant nest of twigs and feathers. Their exposed chalk-white bodies seem to figuratively dematerialize inside their natural environment—they fuse with the earth.</p><p>Now some may ask, “But is this dance?” And the answer is not so straightforward. Eiko and Koma were influenced by a post-World War II Japanese practice known as Butoh. This artistic movement, which also has been called a meditative approach to life, honors the journey of the body from birth to death and beyond. Often associated with the atomic bomb and white-powder makeup, Butoh utilizes the entire body, from eyes to fingertips. Eiko and Koma are considered more avant-garde dance artists, most interested in linking human beings to their natural surroundings. And despite their often naked performances, their bodies do not necessarily project sexuality. Rather, the sensual texture of their skin merges with crackling leaves and branches; throughout, their bodies seem to disappear.</p><p>On the opposite end of the spectrum, AXIS Dance Company does not advocate the gradual disappearance of the body. Instead, the artists of this longtime physically-integrated troupe place dancers in wheelchairs front and center. They are joined by able-bodied dancers; but everyone is an able-bodied dancer in this company. . For its Chicago engagement at the Auditorium Theatre, AXIS will perform choreographer Alex Ketley’s hard-edged <em>Vessel</em>. It consists of a stream of quartets and duets meant to evoke how human bodies can project memories, both assuring and painful.</p><p>The central duet in <em>Vessel</em> places a man and woman in an aggressive push and pull. His wheelchair seems to serve as a barrier for their fractured relationship. The woman soars into his lap, perches in a dangerous overhead lift, and tumbles across the floor. He resists, rotates and pitches forward in utter despair before picking himself up and continuing a less arresting tug of war. Just watching them interact is like being mesmerized by the continuous movement of a carousel. The action is fierce and non-stop. It’s also gentle and sublime—like &nbsp;gliding ice dancers entwined with graciously sculpted shapes in space.</p><p>Both Eiko and Koma and AXIS Dance Company challenge preconceptions about dance and expand the reach of the human body.</p><p><a href="http://www.eikoandkoma.org/" target="_blank">Eiko &amp; Koma’s</a> living installation <em>Naked</em> begins Tuesday at the <a href="http://www.turnercontemporary.org/" target="_blank">Museum of Contemporary Art’s Turner Gallery</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.axisdance.org/" target="_blank">AXIS Dance Company</a> performs Nov. 19 and 20 at the <a href="http://auditoriumtheatre.org/wb/" target="_blank">Auditorium Theatre</a>.</p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-08/eiko-koma-axis-reimagine-dancing-body-93850 Spaghetti and ‘Cubist cokeheads’? Artist Scott Reeder seduces with humor. http://www.wbez.org/content/spaghetti-and-%E2%80%98cubist-cokeheads%E2%80%99-artist-scott-reeder-seduces-humor <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-01/Cubist Cokehead.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/31441609?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601" frameborder="0" height="338"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor’s Note: The above video contains certain images that may not be appropriate for younger or more sensitive viewers. </em></p><p>Scott Reeder is a funny painter. Not funny-strange, but funny-ha ha: a painter with a sense of humor. His pieces have punch lines, sometimes in the title, and sometimes in the way they’re made. For instance, paintings of pinkish-colored, concentric circles or flat squares of color transform from mere abstract images into something giggle-inducing when you learn the titles are <em>Continuous Hot Dog</em> and <em>All the Boring States</em>. A sublime looking canvas that might call to mind a Cy Twombley chalkboard painting turns out to have been made with 50 lbs. of dried spaghetti, like a very advanced version of someone’s nursery school craft project. &nbsp;</p><p>Many modern artists have challenged the art establishment with humor – like Duchamp with his signed urinals. But as a classically trained painter who’s now on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Reeder says he’s not trying to “undermine these heroic painters.” His work is less a challenge to - and more of a conversation with – the great painters of the past. &nbsp;“The tone of it, what I’m trying to say,” Reeder insists, is, “have you tried spaghetti – as a tool?”</p><p>Some might know Reeder from earlier, Milwaukee-based collaborations with brother Tyson, like the web –based series Zero TV. Now his work has its biggest spotlight to date in the MCA’s revamped and rebranded <em>12x12</em> series, which for ten years showcased mostly local artists in their first solo museum shows, and which re-launches today with Reeder as <em>Chicago Works</em>. The show includes several new figurative paintings, Reeder’s title lists, and his biggest painting yet, a 14 by 25 ft. spaghetti painting on display in the MCA’s main atrium.</p><p>WBEZ filmed Reeder while he created this work, and spoke to him about why he makes paintings with titles like <em>Cubist Cokehead</em> and <em>Symmetrical Pirate</em>. They’re as funny as they sound, and you can see them in the video above.</p><p><em><a href="../../content-categories/96594">Art/Work</a> features contemporary visual artists exhibiting in Chicago talking about the inspiration and perspiration behind their creative endeavors.</em> <a href="http://mcachicago.org/exhibitions/next/all/289">Chicago Works: Scott Reeder</a> <em>opens today at the <a href="http://mcachicago.org/">Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago</a> and runs through Jan. 24, 2012. The MCA is a station partner of WBEZ.</em></p></p> Tue, 01 Nov 2011 18:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/spaghetti-and-%E2%80%98cubist-cokeheads%E2%80%99-artist-scott-reeder-seduces-humor