Take a Swing Around 'Par Excellence Redux,' a Mini Golf Course of Playable Artworks at Elmhurst Art Museum
Now open at the Elmhurst Art Museum is Par Excellence Redux, a miniature golf course featuring a widely varied collection of playable artworks. Curated by Colossal’s founder and editor-in-chief Christopher Jobson as part of an open call, the two-part course pays homage to the wildly popular Par Excellence that opened in 1988 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The designs range from a challenging optical illusion to a maze-like castle with the potential for a hole-in-one to Annalee Koehn’s fortune-telling piece first shown 33 years ago in the initial exhibition.
Chicago sculptor Michael O’Brien conceived of the original Par Excellence, which opened to lines down the block and subsequently sold out daily. It was recognized nationally in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Chicago Tribune, among others, and went on tour throughout Illinois before returning to Chicago as a rebranded commercial project called ArtGolf, which was located at 1800 N. Clybourn in Lincoln Park on the site that’s now occupied by Goose Island Brewery. Although artist-designed golf courses are shown at a variety of Midwest museums—you can see versions at the Walker Art Center, The Sheldon, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art—Par Excellence is widely regarded as the first.
The Front 9, which runs through September 26, features artists Julie Cowan, Current Projects, Andrea Jablonski & Stolatis Inc., Annalee Koehn, Latent Design, Jesse Meredith, Gautam Rao, Robin Schwartzman & Tom Loftus (aka A Couple of Putts), and the museum’s Teen Art Council. Open October 13, 2021, to January 2, 2022, The Back 9 shows work from artists Wesley Baker, KT Duffy, Eve Fineman, Joshua Kirsch, Annalee Koehn, Vincent Lotesto, Joshua Lowe, Jim Merz, David Quednau, and Liam Wilson & Anna Gershon.
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In honor of Mental Health Month this May, Chicago artist Joseph Perez, who works as Sentrock, created an illustrated series celebrating the people and scenes around his studio in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. “I started doing it just for myself, to take an hour or two and share my thoughts or reflections for that day or the day prior,” he tells Colossal.
Lively, expressive, and deeply empathetic, the resulting illustrations draw on Sentrock’s background as a graffiti artist and his connection to those around him. They tell a story about the neighborhood that’s historically been rich with Latinx culture and portray the sights and experiences shared by the community through a distinctly personal lens. The artist explains:
I started allowing myself to reflect on the past, present, the current situations I found myself in. I allowed myself to reflect on my everyday life, whether boring, exciting, or just my imagination of the moment. I started to capture the people outside my studio, whether friends or strangers. My purpose for this was to initiate a connection with the people around me, the community.
Sentrock began with reference photos of friends, family, and community members before reinterpreting them in bright, vivid renditions of his signature bird character. Usually depicted as a beaked mask, the recurring image is Sentrock’s analogy “to humanity: a person who is able to find or escape to their freedom by placing them in a different reality.” In the new works, the character travels from person to person, sometimes worn by kids skateboarding down 18th Street and others by the artist himself, like in the moving portrait of him and his mother.
Head to Instagram to see the full series and original images, and if you’re in Chicago, keep an eye out for the designs, which Sentrock plans to wheat paste around the city.
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Interview: Tonika Johnson Discusses the Folded Map Project, Which Brings Residents Together to Discuss Chicago’s Segregated Neighborhoods
Though not Chicago’s true geographic center, the intersection of Madison Street, which runs east to west, and State Street, which runs north to south, is the central point for the city’s address system. Chicago native Tonika Johnson, however, has been viscerally aware that the north-south dividing line is not a mere postal distinction since she was a teenaged photographer, an experience she discusses in the latest interview supported by Colossal Members.
Doing this project and talking to so many people across racial lines has taught me that it’s like this self-perpetuating, self-fulfilling prophecy of segregation. If your worlds are so separate, you’re only going to understand it as much as your lived experience allows. You can find truth in whatever silly thing you think because you don’t have anything to challenge it.
Trained as a photojournalist, Johnson ultimately decided against going into the field, choosing instead to remain an enthusiastic—and skilled—hobbyist. She created the Folded Map Project, which uses photography as a starting point to explore the creation of segregated neighborhoods in Chicago, and the systemic racism in urban planning, real estate development, and resource allocation that has allowed that segregation to persist.
The basis of the project is Johnson’s stark photographs of map twins—that is, houses that have the same address but on different sides of the city. Johnson initially had planned to just display the map twin photos side-by-side, but as she met the people whose homes she was photographing, she decided to use her journalism skills to facilitate recorded conversations between the occupants.
Read the full interview with Johnson to dive into the difference between art and photojournalism, the power of uncomfortable conversations, and why she’s bringing history to light.
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Last week, artist Olafur Eliasson (previously) unveiled a massive, wave-like artwork that mimics the rippled surfaces of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Comprised of 1,963 curved tiles, “Atmospheric wave wall” sits between the two bodies of water at Willis Tower and shifts in appearance based on the sunlight, time of year, and position of the viewer. It’s the Danish-Icelandic artist’s first public project, which was curated by CNL Projects and commissioned by EQ Office, in Chicago.
Speckled with orange pieces, the blue-and-green motif is constructed with powder-coated steel and based on Penrose tiling, a design with fivefold symmetry, which fills the undulating border. At night, a light shines through the street-side work, emitting a glow through the tile seams and further altering the appearance of the textured facade. Eliasson says about the work:
Inspired by the unpredictable weather that I witnessed stirring up the surface of Lake Michigan, ‘Atmospheric wave wall’ appears to change according to your position and to the time of day and year. What we see depends on our point of view: understanding this is an important step toward realizing that we can change reality.
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This week, we’re launching Chicago Art & Culture, a new weekly roundup of exhibition openings, artists talks, and other fun events occurring around the city. Each Thursday, we’ll share a shortlist of three to five happenings in the realm of art, design, and visual culture. As guidelines around COVID-19 mitigation evolve, we’ll be curating events that are either virtual, held outdoors, and/or following best practices. Sign up for Chicago’s newsletter—in addition to our daily, weekly, and shop updates—here, and check out the first issue. Keep an eye out for New York, Los Angeles, and London lists, too.
Have an event you’d like us to consider? Submit your idea to [email protected]. We’re looking to partner with local businesses and organizations each month, as well. Get in touch at [email protected] to sponsor Chicago Art & Culture.
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Through a series of brightly hued paintings titled Lost & Found, Max Sansing examines the human desire for happiness and peace through a distinct sense of place. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, the artist is known for vibrant murals, which you can explore on Instagram, and smaller-scale artworks (shown here) that are rooted in the culture that’s unique to the city.
Each of Sansing’s paintings focus on a single subject who is overlayed with a thick brushstroke or whispy feather. The artist tells Colossal that the central characters are in the midst of a revelation, having just experienced or realized a needed adjustment. “I think at some point in most Chicagoans’ lives, you come to a point where you need a change. Either Chicago does that for you, or you do it for yourself. Finding that and unlocking those new pathways is a huge part of life,” Sansing says.
Many of the works that are part of Lost & Found hearken back to the artist’s upbringing. “Rapture,” in particular, features Anita Baker in the background, a gesture toward the R&B singer’s tunes that would reverberate throughout the neighborhood Sansing grew up in during the 1980s. In the same piece, though, a bullet propels toward a young boy’s head. “The threat of gang violence in the early 90s was kind (of) like a wake-up call out of adolescence,” the artist says, and a reality for many Black boys and men in the United States.
Sansing isn’t without hope, though. The artist writes, “I think we all want that moment in life to finally have clarity, peace, happiness, and in the end, that’s what a lot of civil unrest is about. Folks just wanna live and be. And some want that for others who can’t have it due to hate and systemic roadblocks.” As a whole, Lost & Found embodies the revelations necessary to bring justice and allow communities to thrive. “To quote the show title,” Sansing says, “these things are lost for some, and we have to find it.” (via Supersonic Art)
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.