Karen Savage’s photograms appear as x-rays capturing the experience of her Catholic upbringing. Baby Dresses, Wedding Dresses, Penance Scarves are exposed for their delicate place in our history. Each of these pieces tell a story, creating a collection of stories of women we can all identify with, Savage explains to me as we sit in her Oak Park home.
And the City Gallery at the History Water Tower (806 N. Michigan Ave) in Chicago is an appropriate setting for these works to be on display. Photograms are created by laying something sheer, like an article of clothing on top of photo-sensitive paper then exposing it to light. What comes out of this process is a ghostly white image floating on a black backdrop. There is no lens to manipulate, just the remains of a handkerchief, a lace collar or a tablecloth to tell the tale.
The subject matter in Savage’s pieces adds weight to the medium. The pieces she selects to examine are of the past; items now discarded for her to find in flea markets and thrift shops, like dress gloves and delicate collars and lace table clothes. Full size dresses show the delicacy of the material. The embroidery of a tablecloth creates an ornately beautiful pattern.
The black and white works are haunting, but it is the lace gloves stopped me in my tracks. These gloves are an object from the past, captured on a color photo paper; a process no longer available. The red, yellow, purple are made even bolder next to the black and whites. This series appears to look like each set were just tossed on to a side table or dressing table and making me wonder who worn them and for what occasion.
Savages images tell a story of the past and of the present; a world of celebration and penance – a delicate world unobstructed by any lens.
(This work can be seen at the City Gallery at the Historic Water Tower through May 10, 2010)
When you walk into the photo exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, you are quickly drawing by the lushness of the images. The vibrant colors and depth of focus gives an illusion of being in the space. This is due to photographer John Allan Faier compiling several photographs into one image, giving you a richness of perspective. But the true joy comes from the actual design of the spaces themselves.
In the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Chicago built several mausoleums in a modernist style. The mausoleums are meant to be a place for family to come and commune with the dearly departed. But with today’s sensibilities, they seem radical; harkening back to the more liberal time when the doctrine of Vatican II was embraced.
The vibrant colors of the carpet and vibrant patterns on the furniture make the rooms look like a hip hotel lounge rather than a cold crypt. The images have no figures other than lone statues standing strong as if to provide support for mourners to lean on in their time of need.
The exhibition Queen of Heaven, named after one of the cemeteries he visited, allows to even the most atheistic among us to find beauty in religious settings; and a sense of peace in these simultaneously quiet and loud images.
(The exhibition can be seen on the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center through March 28, 2010)
Liam Gillick’s work explores the idea of how our environment affects our perspectives. In his current exhibition at MCA Chicago, Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario, Gillick explores the past 20 years of his work, but in an atypical way. He created new works to tell the story of his artistic evolution.
As you first walk in, you notice two prominent installations. Slatted framed walls create the walkways and rooms, directing you along a path, showing Gillick’s fascination with “relational aesthetic”, the idea of how our world is constructed affects our experience in it. The second piece you notice is the brightly colored panels on the ceiling of the exhibition space. These are a nod to his current works of color. He has replaced the drop ceiling with colored transparent panels adding a reflective glow to the walls and room.
In two of the sectioned off areas he has works he has done over the years. A Glass case is filled with posters and books he has designed. In another section photos of his works have elaborate diagrams and explanations; too much information to digest, but giving one a sense that these simple structures have lot of thought behind them.
Across the hall from the exhibition, two more of his pieces are a part of the Artists in Depth series at the MCA. These two works are a part of the MCA’s permanent collection and are placed around works by three important conceptual artists, Jenny Holzer, Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. If you had any questions remaining about his work from the larger exhibition, these two pieces bring together why he is a significant artist of his time.
The exhibition Liam Gillick: Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario and Artists in Depth both continue through January 10, 2010.
I am not a religious man. My spirituality is a mish-mash of a Catholic upbringing (long atrophied) and a large helping of pop culture spirituality (from Yoga to Oprah). I guess I am more comfortable placing my faith in scientific fact, with faith being the perfect word for my belief because I have no true comprehension of science. Its what I hold as TRUE, but yet do not fully grasp.
Visiting the exhibition Dis/Believer: Intersections of Science and Religion in Contemporary Art, I realize my faith should really be based in Art. The spiritual connection I feel from staring at a powerful painting or provocative sculpture that translates it’s meaning without a word being uttered is magical. Maybe even a miracle?
When you first walk in to Columbia College’s Glass Curtain Gallery on the corner of 11th and Wabash in Chicago’s south Loop, you are immediately drawn towards the glowing ceiling to floor white mobile in front of you.
Teresa Diehl’s installation The Last Lullaby is in response to her trip to Lebanon in 2006. While there, she found herself in the middle of a conflict. Rocket attacks between Israel and Lebanon were coming down are the civilian population below. Diehl examines how life goes on and human nature allows one to numb oneself to the realities of possible death. The glycerin molds of lambs, helicopters and bombs are heavy handed, but so are bombs. And faith, fate and destiny are all one has to get through these times.
Sandra Yagi’s paintings “Noah” and “St. Jerome” recast each of the two biblical stories to examine modern issues. In Noah, Yagi places the figure on land with the cruise ship arc, docked behind him and is surrounded by a group of extinct animals, some discovered through scientific study.
Kysa Johnson’s two paintings are gorgeous representations of religious works. Tiepolo’s Immaculate Conception inspired one painting done as a microscopic yeast colony blown up – addressing how asexual reproduction happens. The other inspired by Carracci’s St. Catherine in Ecstasy is of the molecular structure of MDMA magnified. Through both of these works, she is commenting on the miracles found in the bible are being achieved today.
Technology plays an extraordinary role in contemporary society. So it is no surprise that the topic too made it into the exhibition. The Australian collective, The Glue Society captured satellite images from Google Earth of four locations for their work “God’s Eye View”. They composed four stories from the bible, the Parting of the Red Sea, The Garden of Eden, Noah’s Arc, surrounding by rising waters and the crucifixion of Christ. For a second, you see these and think “could this be real”?
Trong Nguyen‘s “Last Supper at CERN” incorporates text message length statements and the search for the Higgs boson or “God Particle” which some say will prove the existence of God. He does this in a fun way. 13 turntables play gospel music. They are set on top of a long table placed in the same way as Christ and the Apostles in Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”. On each record player the guests spilled spaghetti and meatballs spelling out messages in text form, “OMG!!!”, “Geeks = Gods” and “Hallelujah!” as if the mess came as a result of the guests jumping up in celebration of the discovery being announced.
These works help me understand a small bit of two complex topics that I’ve learned don’t have to be in opposition. Is that discovery a Miracle? No, but the insight gained does reinforce my faith that art can make a hopeless soul like myself see. And for that, I place my faith in the power of art.
More than any other to date, the exhibition currently at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Rastros y Cronicas: Women of Juarez, typifies what we at TE are trying to showcase — Arts that explore relevant issues of the day.
Since 1994 with the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement, American companies have crossed over to Mexico to build factories called maquiladoras and boarder cities like Juarez began to boom. Young men and women moved from small towns in hopes of finding a better way of life. In reality, what has happened is rapid, uncontrolled growth; shantytowns where women have been abducted and brutally murdered. And few of these crimes have been solved.
This exhibition looks at the politics of NAFTA for sure, as in Cecillia Alvarez’s piece When the Opportunist is King Women are a Commodity where the rape and pillaging of poor women and resources benefit men in suits with blinders on, marching through the factory reaping the rewards.
Marked, hija de Juárez, from artist Eva Soliz explores that natural reaction to something too difficult to comprehend and that is to just look away. In here entry, Soliz has two chess-like figures, one of a queen headed down a path, her face is marked with a pink cross, the symbol used by the families of the abducted women. In the foreground, a smaller male figure, a pawn, looks away and reinforce the idea of a community not making an effort to acknowledge these crimes.
But the majority of the works look at the loss of these mothers, daughters and sisters. Numerous pieces look at the innocence of the ‘muejeres’, as young as six years old, who have been lost. Ester Hernandez’s installation Your Last Doll has an actual poster of one of the victims enlarged.
The words “Se Busca” or “Searching For” and a photo of the 14 year old before the abduction. In the foreground a Plexiglas case holds a Quinceanera doll, representing the last doll a girl is to receive before she becomes a woman, bringing home that many of these victims are young girls.
Recently Juarez has been in the news for its drug cartels and drug related violence. But these murders are still happening and will continue until more people turn and face this problem head on.
You can see these works as part of the exhibition Rastros y Cromcas: Women of Juarez, at the National Museum of Mexican Art now extended through July 4, 2010.