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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Food banks across the United States have been seeing an unprecedented uptick in usage since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and dozens of Chicago natives and current residents have joined together to provide local aid. Since June 25, Prints for Hunger has raised $20,000 for the Greater Chicago Food Depository through its online fundraiser selling 84 photographers’ most significant works from the past few decades.
Prints are sold for $100, with $85 being donated to help community members in-need. “As more and more people file for unemployment, thousands of our neighbors are facing hunger for the first time,” organizers said in a statement about the organization, which has more than 700 partnerships across Cook County. “The Food Depository is a crucial member of a united community effort that brings food, dignity, and hope to our neighbors.”
We’ve gathered some of our favorite pieces here, but you can explore more of the collection on Instagram or the Prints for Hunger site, where the works are available for purchase. (via Block Club Chicago)
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Packed within a 6,000-square-foot space on Chicago’s south side is a fictional universe teeming with pinned up newspaper clippings, towers of retro electronics, and tons of vintage advertising from McDonald’s to Vienna Hot Dogs. It’s the world of Hebru Brantley’s iconic characters, Lil Mama and Flyboy, whose enlarged head rests on the floor in one room of the immersive installation, titled Nevermore Park. Moving through the pathways lined with plastic toys and paint-spattered pallets, visitors pass a downed spaceship and a brick wall of street art, elements that structure Brantley’s narrative for the surreal environment.
The Los Angeles-based artist cites the tales of the superheroes and comic books he engaged with during his childhood living in Chicago as directly impacting his current projects. “I’m in love with creating and I have so many stories I want to tell,” he tells Colossal. “I want my work to create a narrative that hasn’t been told before, in ways others haven’t seen expressed. I’m working to create the things I wished existed.”
Although Brantley created many of the objects specifically for Nevermore Park, he also amassed thousands of pieces of real ephemera that create a strong undercurrent of Chicago’s history as expressed through pop culture, toys, magazines, and found objects. The periodicals lining the newsstand, for example, belonged to his grandmother. “She had saved a number of them and it created a unique opportunity for me to incorporate these real historical artifacts into my body of work for visitors to experience. Everything weaves together with the goal of staying authentic to the stories I wanted to tell,” he says.
Nevermore Park, though, is intended “to be a total sensory experience,” inspiring Brantley to collaborate with WILLS on the audio component, offering a soundtrack that he says visitors always ask about. “Bringing people into a space they wouldn’t normally occupy with sounds that are familiar, amplify the story and culture even more,” he writes. “Sight is an important aspect of the experience but so is the sound piped into each section.”
If you’re in Chicago, there are tickets available to visit Nevermore Park through May 3. Otherwise, head to Instagram to keep up with Brantley and see what’s next for Flyboy, Lil Mama, and Nevermore Park.
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CHICAGO—Containing a massive paper wave, a tower of leftover fat, and a tiger-skin rug of 500,000 cigarettes, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China encompasses 48 works from 26 contemporary Chinese artists in an exhibition on view now in Chicago. Focused on the materiality of seemingly every day objects, the exhibition prompted artists to explore how substances like tobacco, plastics, and Coca-Cola could be fashioned anew. “Taken together, the works introduce a broader framework for understanding global contemporary art, which I call ‘Material Art’ or caizhi yishu, where material—rather than image or style—is the paramount vehicle of aesthetic, political, and emotional expression,” said co-curator Wu Hung.
The Allure of Matter is an extension of a trend artists in China began in the 1980s as they experimented and “exploded fireworks into paintings, felted hair into gleaming flags, stretched pantyhose into monochromatic artworks, deconstructed old doors and windows to make sculptures, and even skillfully molded porcelain into gleaming black flames,” a statement about the exhibition says.
Today, artists involved in the project, like Ai Weiwei (previously), Hu Xiaoyuan, and Cai Guo-Qiang (previously), are engaging with that provocative tradition through their multi-media works that often fill entire rooms, like gu wenda‘s human hair structure that is suspended from the ceiling. “Their monumental works represent a multifaceted phenomenon that inspires us to ask big questions about our relationship to the everyday material world around us as well as the interrelationship between Chinese art and broader trends in contemporary art globally,” co-curator Orianna Cacchione said.
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Photographer Gareth Pon (previously) encourages his audience to join in his reinvention of Where’s Waldo. His architectural photography relies on depth, pattern, and symmetry, often framing a small piece of the city he’s visiting, like the water-covered street below Chicago’s “L” or a multi-colored building complex replete with balconies and air conditioners in Hong Kong. But every image has one signature twist: Pon hides a small rocket in each of his structural pieces. On his wildly popular Instagram, the photographer shares that his lifelong dream is space travel, perhaps explaining his use of the flying object. To join Pon’s ongoing game of spot the rocket, check out his Facebook.
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.