WBEZ | School of the Art Institute http://www.wbez.org/tags/school-art-institute Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Artist found inspiration in South Side jazz clubs http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/artist-found-inspiration-south-side-jazz-clubs-112646 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.wbez.org/" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">One of the major artists of the Harlem Renaissance never actually lived in New York.</p><p dir="ltr">The painter Archibald Motley, Jr. called Chicago home for most of his life. That&rsquo;s where, starting in the 1920s, he became inspired by a vibrant South Side nightlife that is largely forgotten today.</p><p dir="ltr">Many of these paintings are on display now in the exhibit <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/motley.html">Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist</a> at the Chicago Cultural Center, but only through the end of August.</p><p dir="ltr">Motley was born in New Orleans in 1891. A few years later, his family moved to Chicago where his father worked as a Pullman porter. Motley had a middle class upbringing in Englewood and eventually attended the School of the Art Institute.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://drive.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/?tab=mo#folders/0By7E2pZ6aCZtSl9MWm1palVzeGc">Professor Richard Powell of Duke University</a>, the exhibit&rsquo;s curator, said shortly after graduation Motley began a lucrative career painting portraits.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;African Americans who were business folk, ministers, school teachers, people who have some disposable income where they wanted their portraits done,&rdquo; said Powell. &ldquo;Archibald Motley filled that niche.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Motley soon began to paint not just his neighbors, but the neighborhoods themselves. Powell points to Motley&rsquo;s depiction of a bustling Bronzeville block in Black Belt from 1934.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;&lsquo;Black Belt&rsquo; was a sociological term that folks at the University of Chicago used to describe that part of Chicago where black people lived,&rdquo; Powell explained. &ldquo;[Motley] transforms it because there&rsquo;s nothing all that black and bleak about this painting.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Black Belt&rsquo;s vibrant street scene is crammed with men in dark suits and women in bright dresses. Curved black cars cruise under neon signs. According to Powell, Motley captures an energy that no photograph of that era could.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I love how we get in the background, the sky and the stars in the sky. But rather than getting horizon lines, he just blends it. We move from that wonderful blue sky to the mauve of the sidewalk,&rdquo; said Powell. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a hint that this is not Realism 101. This is expressionism.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Powell thinks it may have been influenced by his studies at the Art Institute, as well as what he saw in 1929 during a six-month stay in Paris on a Guggenheim Fellowship.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;He looked at the work of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the French artist who worked in Belle Époque Paris. The place that had all the can-cans and cabarets,&rdquo; said Powell. &ldquo;I think that Motley said &lsquo;there&rsquo;s something similar to that happening here in the South Side of Chicago.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, the Jazz Age in Chicago was in full swing at that time, filling nightclubs throughout the city.</p><p dir="ltr">In Motley&rsquo;s painting Saturday Night (1935), the dominant color is pomegranate red. A jazz combo plays to a crowded room of people drinking, laughing and talking. Lampshades dot tables where patrons lounge with martinis and cigarettes. A woman in a frilly dress sways to the music as waiters in white uniforms rush by with drink trays.</p><p>Powell said Motley captures the essence of the mood through color and technique.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s always this kind of energy between the figures and each other and how they interact with one another. Not in terms of a narrative but in terms of a composition,&rdquo; Powell said.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.mikeallemana.com/">Michael Allemana is a local musician and jazz historian</a>. He says the music scene back then was something everyone wanted to experience. There were nightclubs and theaters on nearly every block in some parts of the black South Side.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You didn&rsquo;t have TV, and radio was just starting to be a force,&rdquo; noted Allemana. &ldquo;Wherever you lived, you could walk to a club. Chicago was a magnet because there were opportunities for musicians to play here. It must have been so vibrant. And that&rsquo;s what I get out of [Motley&rsquo;s] paintings.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Places like the Platinum Lounge, Dreamland Cafe and Lincoln Gardens made up what was known as &ldquo;The Stroll&rdquo; &mdash; a nightlife district on State Street between 26th and 39th streets.</p><p dir="ltr">Those days are over, but there are still remnants of that era if you know where to look. &nbsp;</p><p>For instance, <a href="http://chicagopatterns.com/chicago-jazz-history-revealed-at-meyers-ace-hardware/">Meyers Ace Hardware store on E. 35th street</a>. Way in the back, past aisles of light bulbs and power tools, the store is hiding a secret past.</p><p dir="ltr">Manager Dave Meyers takes Powell and I up thin wooden stairs to his makeshift office. His father moved his old hardware store to this location in the 1960s.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Right now, we are on the bandstand. It went out six feet farther that way. In front of that was the stage.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">As Meyers opens the door, Powell&rsquo;s eyes widen as he gazes at a large crimson-colored mural on the back wall.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Oooh! Oh my goodness,&rdquo; Powell exclaimed. &ldquo;Oh wow!&rdquo;</p><p>The mural shows a white jazz saxophonist playing opposite an exotic-looking creature pounding a drum.</p><p dir="ltr">The painting was part of the Sunset Cafe later known as the Grand Terrace.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The club was known as a (black and) tan club,&rdquo; said Meyers. &ldquo;Because blacks and whites came here.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Meyers showed us pictures of Earl &lsquo;Fatha&rsquo; Hines, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and others who performed here and other nearby haunts.</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s not clear who painted the mural or when it went up. Powell thinks it might have been sometime in the 1940&rsquo;s. But he says Motley definitely went to the Sunset Cafe.</p><p dir="ltr">Powell reflected on what it was like to peek into Motley&rsquo;s past.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;m speechless. That was amazing,&rdquo; said Powell. &ldquo;You can get kind of a glimmer of maybe what was. Just a glimmer.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a> </em></p></p> Fri, 14 Aug 2015 00:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/artist-found-inspiration-south-side-jazz-clubs-112646 Reviewing ‘The Walk’: Student fashion from the School of the Art Institute http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-05/reviewing-%E2%80%98-walk%E2%80%99-student-fashion-school-art-institute-106995 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/8705712616_2ed6c0a084_z (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Never mind the weather, here&rsquo;s how I know that spring has really arrived. It&rsquo;s the moment when I find myself inside a temporary tent set up in Millennium Park, perched on the edge of a long, white runway, seated next to my colleague and fellow fashionista, Natalie Moore.</p><p>Pens and cameras in hand, outfits tight and sharp, we were more than ready to review &ldquo;The Walk,&rdquo; the School of the Art Institute&rsquo;s annual student fashion show.</p><p>Now in its 79th year, the show features the work of sophomore, junior and senior students. As you might expect of an art school, some of the looks are highly conceptual and absolutely unwearable. They&rsquo;re explorations of an idea or theme or moment in history which makes for drama on the runway, but won&rsquo;t translate into a street look &mdash; at least not without major refinements.</p><p>Natalie and I both appreciate experimental or cutting edge art and fashion. But face it, like most of you, we&rsquo;re also just looking for something to wear!</p><p>The sophomores in some way face the biggest challenge. They work with a very limited set of materials and color palette, and they only get to produce one look.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><object height="375" width="500"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633411726996%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633411726996%2F&amp;set_id=72157633411726996&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633411726996%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633411726996%2F&amp;set_id=72157633411726996&amp;jump_to=" height="375" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="500"></embed></object></p><address style="text-align: center;">Press play, then &quot;X &quot; for full screen. &quot;Show info&quot; displays captions.</address><p>Still, they&rsquo;re the base from which all the looks emerge, and we often can trace a transition across the different classes. What starts as an idea or concept among the sophomores will be radically transformed by juniors, only to bloom into the seniors&rsquo; fully-realized set of fashion looks.</p><p>Turns out, that wasn&rsquo;t the case this year. In fact, I&rsquo;d call 2013 the year of the upset!</p><p>For one, both Natalie and I were far more entranced by the juniors&rsquo; work than the seniors&rsquo;.</p><p>Rosa Halpern&rsquo;s work was particularly exciting. Working with a dark, dramatic palette, Halpern&rsquo;s looks included an elaborately constructed puffy long coat, perfect for today&rsquo;s fall-like weather (Natalie said it looked a bit like some of <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-oJUJyI1QI_g/TbKuT73OQTI/AAAAAAAAA7Y/f2j6EqJBAA4/s1600/junya-watanabe1_1362162i.jpg">Junya Watanabe&rsquo;s</a> work), which included one of the most intriguing and prominent accessories of this year&rsquo;s show: masks and other facial coverings.</p><p>Halpern said she was inspired by Algerian Muslim gypsies and female hip-hop artists, and wants to make clothes &ldquo;that make women feel stronger and better and more awesome, and enjoy life more.&rdquo;</p><p>Jelisa Brown&rsquo;s outfits deployed some Chicago icons, including our city flag. Brown also referenced Michael Jordan on the back of a flowing red cape. Her looks reflected hometown pride but also took a playful or even critical stance toward those icons. The Jordan image, for example, looked a lot like that fabled gingerbread man, running away and yelling &lsquo;catch me if you can!&rsquo;</p><p>That the juniors stood out kind of makes sense. Junior year is the moment to experiment, since students have made it through the trial by fire of their first year, but they don&rsquo;t yet feel that pressure seniors have to get out there and find a job!</p><p>But it was also because the senior work felt safer to us than in recent years, especially last year.</p><p>The color palette was very muted in many cases, and minimalist looks were rampant. That can be interesting fashion territory to explore. But too often it created looks that made me think of the fashion establishment: think Calvin Klein or Eileen Fisher. Both are great designers, but they&rsquo;re hardly what you&rsquo;d expect from student designers, who tend to be more experimental and adventurous in their work.</p><p>In a few cases, a minimalist approach did work well. Kirstie Breitfuss, whose theme was &ldquo;The Art of Noise,&rdquo; used an unusual palette of light browns, reds and greens to create a sophisticated, subtle texture.</p><p>Other standouts include Krystle Thomas, whose collection &ldquo;The In-Between&rdquo; reminded me of Chicago artist <a href="http://www.blogcdn.com/www.comicsalliance.com/media/2011/04/hebrubrantleymain.jpg">Hebru Brantley&rsquo;s </a>work, as if some of his characters had come to life on the runway.</p><p>Carlie Hougen said her looks are generally inspired by a historical period, in this case the 1950s anti-communist sentiment that culminated in the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), as well as films like <em>Invasion of the Body Snatchers</em>. Hougen took those images of cultural anxieties and, inspired by a short film she found depicting the effects of LSD on a woman, explored &ldquo;how a housewife on LSD might dress.&rdquo; Our favorite look was an over-sized black and red check wool trench coat (think <a href="http://cdn02.cdn.justjared.com/wp-content/uploads/headlines/2008/12/ryan-gosling-lumberjack.jpg">lumberjack</a>) over a very soft and fragile pale pink- and yellow-patterned dress.</p><p>But the stand-out (and to my mind, &nbsp;the second major upset of this year&rsquo;s show) was the menswear. I&rsquo;ve often found the men&rsquo;s clothes just don&rsquo;t measure up to the designs for women. So I was pleased to see that the work of many designers, but especially the looks by Sam Salvo, raised the menswear bar very high.</p><p>Salvo&rsquo;s looks incorporated ideas about the power structure of male sexuality, including bondage elements (a thigh harness and chains!). I was struck by the dramatic and elegant edge to his clothes.</p><p>I had worried going in that the fervor over Baz Luhrmann&rsquo;s film <em>The Great Gatsby</em> might have produced a lot of 1920s looks (as it has in mainstream fashion). Salvo&rsquo;s looks came closest, but put a fashion alchemy on a historical period (like Hougen) that made his clothes much more reflective of our moment.</p><p>Salvo says his fashion inspiration reflects what he wants, but also sometimes fears to wear.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s exactly the impulse that made the best student designs so inspiring: the ability to turn personal or cultural or historical fears into fashion that is absolutely, one hundred percent fearless.</p><p><em>Alison Cuddy is WBEZ&rsquo;s Arts and Culture reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy">@wbezacuddy</a>, on<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison?ref=tn_tnmn"> Facebook</a> and on<a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport"> Instagram.</a></em></p></p> Fri, 03 May 2013 14:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-05/reviewing-%E2%80%98-walk%E2%80%99-student-fashion-school-art-institute-106995