June 8-September 3
Charles White, born and educated in Chicago, was one of the preeminent artists to emerge during the city’s Black Renaissance of the 1930s and 1940s. A passionate mural and easel painter and superbly gifted draftsman, White powerfully interpreted African American history, culture, and lives in striking works that nevertheless have a more universal resonance.
This exhibition examines how White explored social and political themes ranging from the ongoing fight for freedom and equality to the dignity and struggles of labor. Throughout his career, he pushed against the boundaries of his media and the figurative tradition in American art.
As an artist, White’s mastery of mediums intersected with social activism, engaging the past and present with an eye toward the future. He defined his essential quest as the discovery of truth, beauty, and dignity of life and people while using an expressive and highly accessible realism. He often drew from history to illuminate inequities contemporary to his time, as Oehler describes in the forthcoming catalogue for the exhibition, “Not content merely to be mindful of the past, White made it his most important artistic theme… He returned to the past again and again for aesthetic inspiration, explicitly harnessing his creative energies to educate his fellow citizens and promote social equality by producing and displaying inspiring images of historical figures.”
Presented in the 100th anniversary year of the artist’s birth, this exhibition marks the most comprehensive presentation of White’s work since 1982 and unites a selection of his finest paintings, drawings, and prints. This includes fourteen works owned by the Art Institute, drawn in part from the group of forty-three prints by White recently acquired by the Art Institute, of which five were offered as gifts by the artist’s son. This breathtaking collection of White’s prints begins with his work in Mexico during the late–1940s, up through his last published lithograph and his most powerful etchings. Organized chronologically, the exhibition examines the development of White’s practice, from his emergence as a force in the Chicago art world through his mature career as an artist, activist, and educator in New York and Los Angeles. The exhibition deepens understanding of White’s artistic oeuvre, looking in particular at his output through the lens of Chicago’s unique cultural and artistic communities and the city’s broader contributions to American art history. Together, the featured works speak to White’s universal appeal and continued relevance to audiences today.
The Art Institute of Chicago 112 S Michigan
artcoterie.com recently spoke with artist Monica J Brown about her work currently on display @ARC Gallery on the topics of shared history, language, and healing that are incorporated into her work and life.
Learn more about the artist and see the show through this Sat August 11. ARC Gallery 2156 N Damen, Chicago IL
Scale as a medium?
AC: Your mixed media pieces are very small, almost “history windows” is there anything in your process or aesthetic that encourages the small scale?
MJB: The process itself could be replicated on a larger scale, but the smaller size of the work is meant to create a sense of intimacy, to pull the viewer in closer for a one-on-one interaction with the pieces. I like the idea of them as “history windows.” The circular motif acts as a lens which presents a view of the past. Images contained in the circle sometimes offer a visual that is easily readable while others are faded and somewhat difficult to decipher. The smaller scale also suggests fragmentation.
Words vs image
AC: Your mixed media have almost no words, but you are a poet and have included a “secret” piece of prose in the exhibition. Is there a reason for the separation of that piece and of words from your visual art? Not that words are necessary, they just seem central to you as well, do you take much influence from your prose/poetry?
MJB: The words vs images in my work are separate ways of communicating the same ideas. Each visual piece has a title, and most of those titles are pulled from the accompanying poem. Because the pieces are small, I did not want them in competition with the words, so I presented them separately. The words are important to me, but I also like the idea that you find them later after you have already engaged with the visual work and possibly added your own story/ interpretation.
The “secret” prose poem is hidden at the end of a narrow walkway which is intended to bring to mind that feeling of discomfort that can sit alongside the weight and ache of peering into the blurry, fuzzy, muted, unclear spaces of the past. The space is only large enough for one person to engage with it at a time, but it's not necessary to exit the same way you enter.
AC: You are also a yogi and yoga instructor. How does yoga and or meditation factor into your visual work, and vice versa?
MJB: The connection between the body, personal history, memory and healing informs my life and work. I have been a yoga instructor for 16 years and a bodywork (Thai/Shiatsu) therapist for 9 years. With the idea of memories being held in the body, movement (i.e. yoga) can assist in revealing, unearthing and transforming seats of stagnant and repressed emotions – a way to rewrite our stories, or at least engage with them differently.
AC: You explore your maternal history in this work, what impact does this lineage have for you as an artist and a healer? Is it significant being a part of a women’s collective to present this work?
MJB: I am interested in the ideas of genetic memory and generational healing through somatic archeology. Ruby Gibson, Th.D., author of My Body, My Earth describes somatic archeological as “unearthing in the human body those remains and artifacts of our familial, ancestral, and spiritual lineage in order to uncover our myths and remember our stories for personal and planetary evolution.” Gathering the stories from the past, knowing them, and sharing them is a means to healing learned dysfunctional patterns as well as embracing inherited strengths and gifts. It's also important to own our stories without letting them own us.
Being part of a women's collective definitely provides a space for the work to reside – a space that honors women's voices.
The MCA presents a major survey of the work of groundbreaking, multidisciplinary artist Howardena Pindell (American, b. 1943). The exhibition spans the New York –based artist’s five-decades-long career, featuring early #figurative paintings, pure #abstraction and conceptual works, and personal and political art.
The exhibition is cocurated by Naomi Beckwith (MCA) and Frances Lewis (VMFA Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
May 11, 2018 - Aug 19, 2018
Amy Sherald paints staged narratives and constructed identities, creating portraits of African Americans—most of whom she meets during the course of her day. She deftly represents the features of each sitter with the masterful draughtsmanship of American realism. But she decorates her subjects with fantastical props and costumes: brightly colored pin-striped suits, multi-scooped ice-cream cones, rabbits in hats, giant coffee cups, and cotton candy. A lush, color-field backdrop serves as setting. An obvious care is taken with each portrait: how a prop is chosen, how it is held, the style and fit of clothing, the contrast or complement of colors, the choice of backdrop, or void, with the color intensity of a candied fantasy, and the expression and gesture of the figure. The artist has talked about her artmaking as an act to “image the versions of ourselves that thrive when extricated from the dominant historical narrative.” Her work lends truth and reality to history. “My paintings hold up a mirror to the present and reflect real experiences of blackness today and historically,” she says, “in everyday life and within the historical art canon.”
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
3750 Washington Boulevard
July 3, 2018 – October 20, 2018
Tonika Lewis Johnson’s ongoing Folded Map project connects residents who live at corresponding addresses in the North and South Side neighborhoods of Chicago. By documenting architectural aspects of the neighborhoods and conversations between residents, Lewis Johnson demonstrates how a city of renowned institutions and robust tourism is also a city that struggles with issues of racial inequality and segregation.
This exhibition was organized in partnership with Loyola University’s Center for Urban Research & Learning and the Public History Program.
April 14- August 5, 2018
Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America explores fifty years of print advertising targeted towards African-Americans—from 1968, a year of heightened social and political protest that saw the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., until 2008, the year of the election of the first African American president. Thomas digitally stripped these advertisements of all text, including product names and slogans, allowing the impact of their images to be felt more acutely.
Unbranded: A Century of White Women 1915-2015 ends with the year in which Thomas finished working on the series, and stretches back to five years before American women gained the right to vote. Like Reflections in Black, the advertising images that are featured in A Century of White Women are stripped of text, heightening our awareness of how we read them as assertions about beauty, desire, virtue, and ideal white femininity.
Seen together, the works in these two series offer a unique opportunity to explore the ways in which Thomas interrogates images across subject matter and allows for a complex and nuanced contemplation of the interrelated construction of narratives about race, gender, and class through the vehicle of advertising. By honing in on print advertising, especially drawn from magazines, Thomas also provides an opportunity to reflect on the important role magazines played as a primary form of mass communication during the 20th century.
About the Artist:
Hank Willis Thomas earned his BFA in photography and Africana studies from New York University in 1998 and MFA in photography/ MA in visual criticism from California College of Arts, San Francisco in 2004. He is a 2017 recipient of the Open Society Foundations’ Soros Equality Fellowship awarded to practitioners from a variety of fields to support work that advances racial justice. He has been a W.E.B. DuBois Institute Resident Fellow at Harvard University, and has received awards and residencies from John Hopkins University, Headlands and Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris among others.
Hank Willis Thomas: Unbranded is curated by Janet Dees, Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, with assistance from Tamar Kharatishvili, 2017-18 Block Graduate Curatorial Fellow. Funding for this exhibition has been provided by the David C. & Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council Program.
The Theatre School- DePaul University, 2350 North Racine Avenue
Mar 31–Sep 9, 2018
Nkanga is fascinated with what she has referred to as “glimmer” and “shine,” the surface qualities of natural resources such as mica, a mineral that is used in makeup and turned into an object of seduction. This interest has led the artist far and wide, studying the intense mining of the world’s natural resources since the rise of late capitalism. One of the primary means by which the artist’s interest manifests is through the body. In Nkanga’s works on paper and her tapestries, the body becomes a border implicated within the field of mining.
Nkanga acts as a cultural anthropologist—tracing the violent means by which contested minerals and objects are exhumed from their natural environments, such as Nigeria and Namibia—and considers how they are transported to the West. Through her work, the artist re-imagines our relationship to our everyday environment.
Otobong Nkanga’s first ever US survey exhibition, To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again, takes its name from the “Green Hill” in Namibia. The name is a direct translation of the town that houses it, Tsumeb, one of Namibia's "rare gems."
The exhibition is organized by Omar Kholeif, Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It is presented in the Bergman Family Gallery on the museum’s second floor.
MCA, 200 E Chicago Ave
A Tender Power: Black Womanist Visual Manifesto
works by Kimberly M. Harmon and Tracie D. Hall
March 16 , 2018
"Black women have a several lifetime’s legacy of holding space for others, even while their own spaces are encroached upon.
This show is a call for reciprocity."
— Tracie D. Hall, exhibition curator and founder of Rootwork Gallery
Rootwork Gallery, 645 W 18th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60616