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Charles White: A Retrospective

Collectibles in Chinese Prints and Paintings of the 17th–20th Century

Cauleen Smith: Space Is the Place (A March for Sun Ra)

Music and Movement: Rhythm in Textile Design

Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950–1980

Judy Ledgerwood: Chromatic Patterns for the Art Institute of Chicago

Flesh: Ivan Albright at the Art Institute of Chicago

Volta Photo: Starring Sanlé Sory and the People of Bobo-Dioulasso in the Small but Musically Mighty Country of Burkina Faso

Max Lamb: Exercises in Seating

“Memoir of a City”: Selections from the David Garrard Lowe Historic Chicago Photograph Collection

Modern Japanese Portraits

Helen Frankenthaler Prints: The Romance of a New Medium

Marcel Duchamp. Bottle Rack, 1914/59

Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute

Saints and Heroes: Art of Medieval and Renaissance Europe

The New Contemporary


Charles White: A Retrospective
Through September 3, 2018
Galleries 182–84

Charles White (1918–1979) powerfully interpreted African American history, culture, and lives over the course of his four-decade career. A superbly gifted draftsman and printmaker as well as a talented mural and easel painter, he developed a distinctive and labor-intensive approach to art making and remained committed to a representational style at a time when the art world increasingly favored abstraction. His work magnified the power of the black figure through scale and form, communicating universal human themes while also focusing attention on the lives of African Americans and the struggle for equality. This exhibition—the first major retrospective of White’s work in more than 35 years—showcases an accomplished artist whose work continues to resonate amid today’s national dialogues about race, work, equality and history.

Born in Chicago and educated at the School of the Art Institute, White was part of the city’s flourishing black artistic community of the 1930s. He was determined to employ art in the struggle for social change, declaring, “Paint is the only weapon I have with which to fight what I resent.” Influenced by Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera, White completed several important mural commissions in the city, including one for a branch of the Chicago Public Library.

White married sculptor Elizabeth Catlett in 1941, and the couple soon settled in New York. Together they traveled to Mexico City, where White honed his printmaking skills as part of the printmaking collective known as the Taller de Gráfica Popular. In New York in the 1940s and early 1950s, White showed his work at the progressive ACA Gallery and was a prominent member of African American and leftist artist communities. White moved to Southern California in 1956, and his career flourished as he embraced drawing and printmaking more fully, pushing at the boundaries of his media while continuing to engage with civil rights and equality. Despite his rejection of the prevailing style of Abstract Expressionism and ongoing use of an expressive figuration, he found critical acclaim in the United States and abroad.

Charles White: A Retrospective unites a selection of White’s finest paintings, drawings, and prints, presenting the full breadth of his work and demonstrating his artistic development. The themes he explored—African American history and the fight for freedom, the nobility of black people, and the dignity of labor and human nature—reveal his talent and passion, and encourage viewers to consider current questions of history, politics, and identity in relation to the recent past.

Charles White: A Retrospective is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and The Modern Museum of Art (MoMA), in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Following its debut at the Art Institute, the exhibition will be on view at MoMA October 7, 2018–January 13, 2019, and then travel to LACMA, where it will be on view February 17–June 9, 2019.

Lead foundation support for the Art Institute of Chicago presentation is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Lead individual sponsorship for the Art Institute of Chicago presentation is generously contributed by Denise and Gary Gardner.

Charles White: A Retrospective is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago's art and design legacy, with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

This exhibition is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional support is contributed by Chuck and Kathy Harper.

Collectibles in Chinese Prints and Paintings of the 17th–20th Century
Through August 5, 2018
Gallery 134

This exhibition showcases the wide range of collectible objects depicted in Chinese prints and paintings from the 17th through 20th century. The possessions portrayed in these works of art reveal the taste and identity of their original owners—who were also the initial recipients of the illustrative representations.

In the painting Flowers of the Four Seasons, for example, an extravagant flower basket highlights the luxurious atmosphere of the Qing imperial court (1644–1911). Similarly, the fan painting Pure Objects features a grouping that deliberately recalls historic styles: greenish bronzes like those of the Shang dynasty (second millennium BC), bluish Southern Song (1127–1279) celadon, and brownish Qing-era pottery. The selection reflects the antiquarian taste of the fan’s owner, an affluent 20th-century banker who commissioned the fan in order to advertise his antique collections, elite cultural status, and fascination with the remote past. The objects depicted in these prints and paintings thus serve as surrogates for art buyers, who projected their own identities onto the illustrated valuables. The images themselves required a high level of skill to produce, reiterating the owners’ sophistication. By showing the different media that have been used to illustrate collectible objects as well as the variety of objects collected, this exhibition explores the many intersections between art collectors, illustration, and the culture of consumption in late imperial China and the Republic of China.

Cauleen Smith: Space Is the Place (A March for Sun Ra)
Through August 5, 2018
Gallery 186

In 2010 Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker Cauleen Smith relocated to Chicago, where her work became increasingly site-specific and engaged in social activism. She created the Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Project, which has organized flash-mob appearances throughout Chicago. This project and other related works invoke the legacy of pioneering composer and performer Sun Ra (1914–1993, active in Chicago 1945–61), who brought together jazz, poetry, pageantry, graphic design, and science fiction to create an image of the future (sometimes described as “Afrofuturist”) based on readings of African American history. The visualization of this movement, black diaspora identity formation, and an emphasis on agency rather than oppression are recurrent elements in Smith’s repertoire.

Space Is the Place (A March for Sun Ra) records the spontaneous performance of the Rich South High School marching band playing Sun Ra’s eponymous 1972 composition in Chicago’s Chinatown Square. Undeterred by the pouring rain and the evident confusion of onlookers, the young musicians display great enthusiasm and charisma playing, singing, and dancing to Sun Ra’s still-powerful drum beat. Smith employs a cinema verité–like style to capture the juxtaposition of Sun Ra’s experimental composition performed by a student band among the twelve bronze statues of the Chinese zodiac lining the perimeter of the space, a reflection of the composer’s synthesis of ancient and avant-garde iconologies.

Music and Movement: Rhythm in Textile Design
Through October 21, 2018
Galleries 57–59

A tapestry that depicts a violin fractured by vibrations as it produces a sonata, a printed fabric that illustrates the bright experimentations of jazz, a gift-wrapping cloth that portrays graceful and elegantly attired dancers moving in a procession—each of these works offers a small window onto the various ways visual artists engage with, interpret, and express rhythms. Understood here as a repeated pattern of sound or movement or a harmonious sequence, rhythm invites cross-disciplinary artistic ventures, and Music and Movement: Rhythm in Textile Design explores how textiles can suggest a multisensory aesthetic.

Featuring a selection of 17th- through 20th-century works made in countries including Brazil, Finland, France, Japan, and the United States, the exhibition highlights the global nature of the Art Institute’s collection and invites visitors to consider how rhythm informs textile design. Channeling the hurried pace of modern life, Sonia Delaunay’s Jazz is composed of forms suggestive of musical notes and notations. Rendered in black, white, red, and gray, pointed angular forms abut smooth short curves, and the undulations punctuated by strong diagonals convey syncopated sensations indebted to music and dance popular in the 1920s. In contrast to the sharp visual rhythm of Delaunay’s design, the furoshiki, or gift-wrapping cloth, featured in the exhibition conveys a gentler sense of motion, presenting dancers in a receding, curved line emphasized by the fluidity of the performers’ limbs and costumes. These two dramatically different works, along with others in the exhibition, exemplify the various and complex ways in which textile designers and producers have communicated sound and movement through their work, using rhythm to connect artists and art forms.

Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950–1980
Through October 28, 2018
Galleries 1–4

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In his 1951 book Chicago: City on the Make, Nelson Algren offered bittersweet praise for the city: “Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.” This unique character—fraught with affection, tension, and contradiction—is revealed in the work of the many photographers and filmmakers who documented Chicago in the second half of the 20th century as cultural, social, and political events transformed the city. These artists focused on Chicago’s history as a city of neighborhoods, many of them fiercely segregated and separated from one another. Together, they constructed a portrait of Chicago that speaks equally to its allure and its haunting brutality.

Drawn largely from the Art Institute’s collection, this exhibition highlights the work of artists who through their images and films captured the life of their own communities or those to which they were granted intimate access as outsiders. Featured among them is a network of photographers who focused on Chicago’s South Side during a period coinciding with the emergence of the city’s Black Arts Movement. Billy Abernathy, Darryl Cowherd, Bob Crawford, Roy Lewis, and Robert A. Sengstacke all produced work in connection with the revolutionary Bronzeville mural, the Wall of Respect (1967–71). Other projects, such as Mikki Ferrill’s decade-long documentation of an improvised South Side club, The Garage (1970/80), and two of Gordon Parks’s Life magazine assignments (1953 and 1963), likewise underscore the role played by Chicago as a national center of black culture and politics.

These projects are complemented by works created in other neighborhoods that were undergoing significant transformation. For example, Danny Lyon’s 1965 series Uptown conveyed both the struggle and immense pride of residents living in an area where immigrants from central Appalachia had recently settled. In a similar manner, Luis Medina gained the trust of members of Hispanic street gangs while photographing their graffiti in areas surrounding Wrigley Field in the late 1970s. This rich history of street photography is complemented by the parallel emergence of filmmakers such as Tom Palazzolo and Kartemquin Films, who poetically captured the city’s changing landscape. Together, these works reveal Chicago’s character, lovely and ever so real.

Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950–1980 is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago's art and design legacy, with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

This exhibition is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional support is contributed by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation and Allison and Susan Davis.

Judy Ledgerwood: Chromatic Patterns for the Art Institute of Chicago
May 10, 2018–September 30, 2018

Bluhm Family Terrace

Color and pattern are fundamental instruments in the work of Chicago-based artist Judy Ledgerwood (American, born 1959)—attributes she has been dynamically refining in her oversized canvases, installations, and ceramics since the 1980s.

For over 30 years her work has been distinguished by a visual vocabulary comprising intentionally decorative motifs that, at times, extend well beyond the edge of the canvas, taking over entire walls or rooms. Ledgerwood derives the circles, quatrefoils, and seedlike forms that often populate her work from symbolic shapes associated with Paleolithic and Neolithic goddess cultures throughout Europe, though they also recall patterns used in fashion, design, and the decorative arts.

“My work challenges the authority of the grid by creating paintings that provoke an optical experience often characterized by afterimages, retinal fatigue, and other fugitive, ephemeral, and transient experiences that cannot be predicted, controlled, or legislated,” says Ledgerwood. Using intense colors, she organizes the forms within triangles and chevrons that the artist perceives as ciphers of feminine power.

This spring Ledgerwood’s work occupies the Art Institute’s Bluhm Family Terrace, covering the vertical surfaces in a pink vinyl painted with her signature quatrefoil pattern in gold enamel paint. Central to the installation is the artist’s sustained interest in the relationship between pictorial space and the physical space that contains the work: in this case, the painting depends on the architecture for its structure while also directly challenging it. The pink background, installed in long, horizontal washes of color, gently sags in the center, appearing as if it were a textile pinned at the upper corners. These pink curves filled with floral motifs rebel against the terrace’s strict, vertical architectural elements, while the gold paint—reflective, drippy, and distinctly material—activates the otherwise neutral modernist space.

Chromatic Patterns for the Art Institute of Chicago reaches beyond painting to alter the experience of the space. Indeed the experience itself is heavily mediated by the specific color that defines the space, informally referred to as “drunk tank pink,” which has a proven calming effect on those exposed to it. The profound physical, mental, and emotional effects of color are essential both to this particular installation and to Ledgerwood’s entire body of work.

This exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago with major funding from the Bluhm Family Endowment Fund, which supports exhibitions of modern and contemporary sculpture.

Flesh: Ivan Albright at the Art Institute of Chicago
May 4, 2018–August 5, 2018
Gallery 273

Chicago native Ivan Albright (1897–1983) remains one of the most provocative artists of the 20th century, a “master of the macabre” famous for his richly detailed paintings of ghoulish subjects. The 1928 painting, Flesh, announced the theme that obsessed the artist throughout his career: the decaying human body. Late in life, he continued urging himself to "make flesh more like flesh than ever has been made before; make flesh close, close, and closer, until you feel it.”

A medical draftsman during World War I, Albright portrayed the body’s vulnerability—to age, disease, and death—in works that provoked outrage and admiration, such as Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida (1929–30) and And Man Created God in His Own Image (1930). As one critic wrote in 1931, “There is a frightful fascination about [Albright’s paintings] that makes the beholder return to the scene of the torture.” Albright’s reputation as an inimitable painter of decaying flesh led to his commission to paint The Picture of Dorian Gray for a 1945 Hollywood film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novel. Given the opportunity to portray the decadent aristocrat “withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage,” as Wilde wrote, Albright pushed the depiction to the limits of good taste: the eyes bulge maniacally, and sores and pustules cover his leprous features. At the end of his life, Albright turned his pitiless gaze on himself in a haunting series of self-portraits, one of which he made in his hospital bed three days before he died.

As the largest repository of Albright works in the world, the Art Institute is proud to organize this exhibition showcasing one of Chicago's most uncompromising artists. In exploring the "way of all flesh," Albright challenged conventional notions of art and beauty, earning fame as well as notoriety. More than 30 works from the museum's collection present a focused retrospective of Albright's enduring masterpieces, which even today retain the power to shock, move, and fascinate.

Max Lamb: Exercises in Seating
Through August 26, 2018
Gallery 283

The chair is the holy grail of objects for many designers, including Max Lamb (English, born 1980). He has created more than 400 seats, most of them produced in limited numbers due to the complexity of their manufacture and his interest in trying new things. Lamb’s uncompromising approach—and his embrace of materials precious and inexpensive, natural and synthetic—has changed very little since he graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in 2006. He has, for example, cast a stool from molten pewter on a beach in Cornwall, built a chair from quickly carved blocks of polystyrene foam in London, chopped down an entire ash tree in Yorkshire and divided it into 131 logs to sit on, and hauled giant chunks of marble from a quarry in Vermont, carving them into seating elements on site. The results are bespoke designs, each a unique take on a chair, stool, or bench.

By focusing on seats—one element of Lamb’s practice—this exhibition illuminates his working methods and passion for research, inquiry, and experimentation. A selection of chairs and stools is accompanied by photographs, maquettes, tools, and videos that illustrate how they were made. Interested first and foremost in the exercise of making, Lamb is intent on learning through doing, creating work in series, mastering new techniques and gaining an understanding of specific materials. By drawing associations between individual pieces, he suggests that each is part of a larger whole and calls attention not only to his methods but also to his interest in playing with modernist traditions of form and function through shifts in scale, size, shape, and material. Lamb’s seats—the product of his own relentless interrogations—spur us to question the objects that define our daily lives and to examine their essential role in shaping how we behave and interact with the world.

Max Lamb: Exercises in Seating is the inaugural exhibition of the Franke/Herro Design Series, which highlights the work of important emerging talent.

This exhibition and catalogue are made possible by Jay Franke and David Herro.

“Memoir of a City”: Selections from the David Garrard Lowe Historic Chicago Photograph Collection
Through June 15, 2018
Ryerson and Burnham Libraries (weekdays only)

This exhibition features highlights from David Garrard Lowe’s eponymous collection of historic Chicago photographs and ephemera, donated by Lowe to the Ryerson and Burnham Archives in 2016. Lowe is a well-known lecturer, historian, and author whose books include Art Deco New York, Stanford White's New York, and most notably, Lost Chicago, the latter of which documents in words and images dozens of historic structures and sites in Chicago which have been greatly altered or are no longer extant. This collection of approximately 1,100 objects dating from the 1880s to 1980s includes residences, office buildings, hotels, schools, clubs, transportation, infrastructure, and much more.
Federal Building (dome), Chicago, Illinois. Henry Ives Cobb, architect. Harold Allen, photographer. David Garrard Lowe Historic Chicago Photograph Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Modern Japanese Portraits
Through July 1, 2018
Gallery 107

The 1940s and 1950s were a pivotal time for sōsaku hanga, the “creative prints” movement in Japan. Artists who had been trained primarily as oil painters turned to traditional woodblock printing to give full expression to their often somber images. Some of the most haunting portraits produced in Japan were created in this era, and they speak to the effort these artists made to imbue their subjects with a depth and psychological nuance entirely new to the medium.

This exhibition features the work of two such artists, Onchi Kōshirō (1891–1955) and Saitō Kiyoshi (1907–1997). Onchi, the main advocate of sōsaku hanga and one of the movement’s major artists, created prints that are decidedly Western oriented in style, with Vasily Kandinsky and Edvard Munch among his major influences. His portrait of poet and friend Hagiwara Sakutarō has been hailed as one of the most powerful prints produced by a 20th-century Japanese artist. The dark tones and wrinkled skin of its subject make for a disturbing image, in keeping with Hagiwara’s tendency toward depression brought on by war.

In 1944, Saitō Kiyoshi joined Onchi’s prolific, avant-garde circle (called Ichimokukai), whose members cherished the woodblock’s potential for radical self-expression. Having begun his career as an oil painter, Saitō later embraced the technique of woodblock print making, finding inspiration for subject matter and style in the works of Odilon Redon, Paul Gauguin, and, like Onchi, Munch. In 1951, he stunned Japanese art circles when he was awarded first prize at the São Paulo Biennale.

Modern Japanese Portraits presents nearly 30 groundbreaking works by Onchi, Saitō, and other artists of the movement. All of the portraits, including many rare editions, are drawn from the Art Institute’s major collection of 20th-century prints.

Volta Photo: Starring Sanlé Sory and the People of Bobo-Dioulasso in the Small but Musically Mighty Country of Burkina Faso
April 27, 2018–August 19, 2018
Galleries 188–189

Designed to resemble a cross between a photography studio and a record store, this multisensory exhibition brings together commercial studio photography and popular music from the former West African country of Upper Volta. Through this dynamic conjunction of image and sound, Volta Photo examines the postcolonial culture of an economically challenged but recently liberated country negotiating its local, regional, and international identities.

In 1960, photographer Sanlé Sory (born 1943) opened his studio, Volta Photo, at the center of Bobo-Dioulasso, the cultural capital of what was then Upper Volta. He specialized in portraits—of Fula villagers, elaborately dressed Malians, and other inhabitants of that vibrant cultural crossroads. A clever, youthful studio operator, Sory appealed to his sitters’ desires for signs of modernity and leisure, offering a few choice props such as a telephone and a motorbike and using painted backdrops of scenes associated with travel including a beach and an airplane.

Mutual appreciation brought Sory together with the music ensembles that flourished in Upper Volta from the 1950s through 1980s. These popular orchestras, combinations of up to a dozen or more musicians, melded instruments and rhythms rooted in West African musical formations—including Cuban salsa, James Brown–style funk, and early rock’n’roll—with regional musical and narrative traditions of the Mande and other cultures. Sory photographed many of them, including Volta Jazz and other stars of the Bobo scene, as well as music fans and partygoers, especially in the villages around Bobo. Sory also mounted his own music parties in the villages.

This immersive installation brings the complex culture of Upper Volta to life through more than 100 of Sory’s photographs from the 1960s; objects from Volta Photo such as its signature backdrop, studio lights, and several props; digitized music from the era; and 45-rpm records. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Lead support for this exhibition is generously provided by Helen and Sam Zell.

Major support is provided by The Artworkers Retirement Society.

Additional funding is contributed by Kenneth and Christine Tanaka and Ralph and Nancy Segall.

Helen Frankenthaler Prints: The Romance of a New Medium
Through September 3, 2018
Galleries 124–27

One of the most significant figures in the development of American abstraction, Helen Frankenthaler (American, 1928–2011) i is best known for her monumental and boldly gestural canvases awash in vibrant hues. Lesser known are the prints that the artist produced at the print workshop Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) over nearly two decades—images that, while decidedly smaller, capture the same whimsical beauty found in her brilliant canvases. Featuring over 50 prints from Frankenthaler’s time at ULAE, this exhibition reveals an artist enchanted with what she called “the romance of a new medium.”

Born in New York City, Frankenthaler received her earliest art instruction from the Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo while a student at the Dalton School in New York and studied with the influential artist and teacher Paul Feeley at Bennington College in Vermont. After graduating in 1949, she returned to New York, where her paintings caught the attention of the famous art critic Clement Greenberg, who championed her originality. In the early 1950s, Frankenthaler developed her signature “soak stain” technique by thinning her paints with turpentine or kerosene to facilitate absorption into the canvas. The resulting images, with their translucency, bridge Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting, at once full of the energy of making and the beauty of color.

It wasn’t until 1961 that Tatyana Grosman, with the assistance of the artists Grace Hartigan and Larry Rivers, lured a hesitant Frankenthaler to ULAE, Grosman’s newly formed print workshop on Long Island. Having never made prints before, Frankenthaler feared her spontaneity and large-scale approach to painting would not translate to the more modestly sized stones used in lithography. However, her introductory experience working with master printer Robert Blackburn on her first print, called simply First Stone, vanquished those fears, and a full-fledged printmaker was born. Over the next 17 years, Frankenthaler embraced lithography, etching, aquatint, and woodcut, producing over 30 editioned prints that are rich with vitality and evidence Frankenthaler’s obsession with redefining the medium.

This exhibition presents the Art Institute’s nearly comprehensive catalogue of Frankenthaler’s ULAE production together with loans from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. Included are never-before-displayed proofs that illustrate the artist’s working method, explore the evolution of an image from initial idea to final published edition, and demonstrate Frankenthaler’s unwavering passion for printmaking.

Educational programs and gallery enhancements are made possible by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.

Marcel Duchamp. Bottle Rack, 1914/59

Art Institute of Chicago Acquires Exceptional, Radical Duchamp Readymade

Bottle Rack 1914/59, Signed by the Artist in 1960, and Owned by Robert Rauschenberg will Redefine the Storytelling Power of the Museum’s Collection of Modern Art

The Art Institute of Chicago announced a collection-changing acquisition of Marcel Duchamp’s boundary breaking readymade Bottle Rack (1914/59). Signed by Duchamp in 1960 for its owner—a young Robert Rauschenberg—this ever-provocative and still-astonishing work has a deep connection to two significant artists who radically challenged and redefined our notions of “art” and changed the course of art history. Acquired from the internationally respected Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, through Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, Duchamp’s Bottle Rack will go on view today, February 13, 2018, in the Art Institute’s Gallery 395B, contextualized within the museum’s exceptional galleries of modern art.

Art Institute President and Eloise W. Martin Director James Rondeau shared: “Bottle Rack is among the most pivotal, landmark works in Marcel Duchamp's profoundly influential body of work. Rarely, do we have an opportunity to acquire an object that so succinctly embodies the expansive influence of an artist on future generations, including countless on display in our museum every day. This is a transformational moment for our world-class collection--with pride and gratitude we take another progressive step forward in a shared vision with our audiences, curators, and donors to create incomparable experiences of art and artists in our galleries in Chicago."

Duchamp’s contributions are foundational to the history of modern art, and the history of modern art in Chicago. Taken out of its original context, reimagined, and signed by the artist, the readymade upended tradition and artistic convention—transforming an everyday, ordinary object by virtue of the artist selecting it. In 1914, Duchamp purchased a common, mass-produced bottle rack at the French department store Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville. Duchamp felt free to acquire new versions for exhibitions and display after his sister accidentally discarded the “original.” He selected the Art Institute’s newly acquired version for the 1959 exhibition Art and the Found Object in New York. Robert Rauschenberg acquired Bottle Rack after the touring exhibition and later, in his studio in 1960, asked Duchamp to sign it; he obliged, writing in French, “Impossible de me rappeler la phrase originale M.D./Marcel Duchamp/1960” (Impossible for me to recall the original phrase M.D./Marcel Duchamp/1960).

Art Institute Deputy Director, Chair and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Ann Goldstein enthusiastically shared: “Duchamp’s readymade revolutionized the way we think about what an artwork is, how it is produced, and the ways in which it is exhibited—over the course of the twentieth century, it opened up new worlds of art. This still radical work of modern art empowers us to expand, extend, and highlight some of the richest and most important stories in the history of art.”

Bottle Rack deepens incredible moments of resonance and brings new storytelling power to the Art Institute’s permanent collection: from Duchamp’s intertwined history with our progressive and visionary embrace of the Armory Show in our galleries in 1913, to Brancusi’s Golden Bird (1919/20), which was included in the artist’s landmark 1927 exhibition at the Arts Club of Chicago that was installed by Duchamp (and which entered the Art Institute’s collection in 1990). In addition Brancusi’s Leda (1923) also entered the Art Institute’s collection through the support of Duchamp as a gift from Katherine S. Dreier’s estate in 1953. Duchamp was a friend and advisor to our museum’s first curator of modern art, Katharine Kuh, and he also played special role in the gift of the prestigious Mary Reynolds Collection of Surrealism in 1951.

Speaking on behalf of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Senior Curator David White said, “I am delighted that this groundbreaking work by Duchamp, which was one of Bob Rauschenberg’s proudest possessions, has been acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago. Duchamp and his work hugely influenced Rauschenberg’s thinking about art and the Bottle Rack will continue to provoke and enrich viewers as it joins the Institute’s extraordinary collection.

The experience of Duchamp’s Bottle Rack at the Art Institute of Chicago will encourage visitors to consider whether any other work of art occupies such an interesting and provocative position within, between, and at the forefront of so many pivotal moments in modern and contemporary art.

Through prior gifts of Mary and Leigh Block, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice E. Culberg, and Mr. and Mrs. James W. Alsdorf; Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection Fund; through prior gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection; Sheila Anne Morgenstern in memory of Dorothy O. Morgenstern and William V. Morgenstern; through prior bequests of Joseph Winterbotham and Mima de Manziarly Porter; Ada Turnbull Hertle and Modern Discretionary funds.

Xu Longsen: Light of Heaven
February 1, 2018–June 24, 2018
Galleries 101, 108–9, 130, 132, and 134–35

Born in Shanghai and trained at the Shanghai College of Arts and Crafts, Xu Longsen is regarded as one of the most creative artists of his generation in China. While his work includes oil paintings and sculptures, it is his large-scale landscape paintings—or shanshui—created with traditional tools and materials that have earned him international acclaim.

The Chinese term shanshui is conventionally translated into English as landscape art, but this style of painting depicts not only a natural place but also an inner space where the artist can rest their heart and mind. Its birth can be traced to the 10th through 12th century, but some representational elements, such as mountains and forests, go back as far as the third and fourth centuries BC. The beauty of shanshui is imbued with both a certain mystic quality and regard for the role of the artist in society.

In taking on this age-old style, Xu identifies himself with the grand tradition of Chinese painting and philosophy even as he revolutionizes them. His work is groundbreaking not only in its sheer size—many paintings are over 30 feet tall—but in its unique installation that combines traditional Chinese ink painting with contemporary public spaces. Throughout history, few other Chinese artists have attempted to create and display their works on such a monumental scale. Xu’s depictions of mountains and water as well as humankind’s spiritual home are awe-inspiring.

This installation, Light of Heaven, was created specifically for the Art Institute’s galleries. It consists of a set of pillars painted with layers of ink wash along with a number of landscape paintings—all inspired by the mythological Mount Kunlun, home to many Chinese gods and goddesses.

Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute
Gallery 285

This fall the Art Institute opens a new installation devoted to the museum’s seminal collection of architectural drawings and furniture, graphic, and industrial designs of the 20th and 21st centuries. This evolving Modern Wing display is the first of its kind in the United States, highlighting important acquisitions and presenting architecture and design as an integrated, ever-changing, and multilayered experience.

The practitioners represented in the Art Institute’s diverse collection showcase the many voices that have shaped the fields of architecture and design and continue to do so today. From Daniel H. Burnham, Marion Mahony Griffin, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to Armin Hofmann, Louis Kahn, and Lauretta Vinciarelli as well as contemporary practitioners such as Stan Allen, Irma Boom, Studio Gang, and Yuri Suzuki, works from our past, present, and future are organized chronologically by theme. Sections range from the history of ornament and Pop to contemporary moments in urbanism and speculative design. Delving into the development of the modern city, the effect of technological transformations, the impact of evolving health concerns, and the influence of global dynamics, the history of modern and contemporary architecture and design is presented as a living social and cultural process. A series of new, immersive videos further illuminate key issues and works from Chicago and the Midwest, across the nation, and around the world.

Taking our increasingly complex social, cultural, and political landscape into consideration, this display emphasizes the critical role architecture and design continues to play in identifying urgent issues and generating new thinking and problem solving. Its dynamic narratives highlight the impact of architecture and design thinking and practice on our lives, opening up a space for conversations with the general public, architecture and design enthusiasts, and experts in these fields alike.

Saints and Heroes: Art of Medieval and Renaissance Europe
Galleries 235–239

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the spiritual, domestic, and chivalric worlds of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This spring, the Art Institute unveils the new Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor, presenting nearly 700 objects from the museum’s rich holdings of art from 1200 to 1600: monumental altarpieces, exquisite jewelry, and the beloved arms and armor collection.

The sumptuous display begins with a large room featuring architectural sculpture, treasury objects, and early painting that convey the austere sanctity of earlier medieval art. The centerpiece of the gallery is the meticulously conserved Ayala Altarpiece, commissioned in 1396 by the chancellor of Castile for his family’s funerary chapel in northern Spain. Spanning nearly 24 feet across and eight feet high, the painted wood altarpiece has undergone extensive treatment over the last three years and makes its restored debut in brilliant form. Two linked vaulted galleries showcase altarpieces and altarpiece fragments from Italy, Spain, and northern Europe, including the Art Institute favorite Saint George and the Dragon by Bernat Martorell. Each is displayed to suggest its original religious space, highlighting the church as a center of public life.

The spaces that follow are more intimate, focusing on the texture of late Gothic and Renaissance life. One gallery presents luxury goods and the accessories of feasting, while another displays works of art for the bedchambers of Tuscany’s merchant elite. Everyday objects from northern Europe, along with jewelry and items of personal display, complete the domestic picture of the period.

An elegant rotunda introduces the collection of arms and armor with equipment for the bodyguards of four rulers. From here, the space opens to a gallery filled with weaponry and armor dominated by two armored figures on horseback—one dressed for battle, the other for sport—and two armed and costumed figures engaged in foot combat. Finally, a gallery lined with cabinetry features the art of the sword, luxury firearms, and equipment for the hunt extending through the Baroque era.

The new installation expands the display of art of this fascinating period sixfold, premiering several recently conserved works and many significant new acquisitions—an elegant late Gothic breastplate and backplate, a rare 15th-century German portrait, and an outstanding group of 17th- and 18th-century swords. Subtle changes in the architecture of the galleries propel visitors through time and from religious to secular works, while digital labels provide an interactive multimedia experience. At the heart of this display are the gifts of major collectors whose donations serve as the collection’s foundation: the Ayala Altarpiece and Saint George and the Dragon from Charles Deering, Sienese and Florentine gold-ground paintings and early Northern works given by Martin Ryerson, a terracotta altarpiece by Florentine Benedetto Buglioni and a South German carved and painted Saint Catherine from Kate Buckingham, and George F. Harding’s impressive collection of arms and armor. All come together in the new Deering Family Galleries, offering a transporting experience to a time that continues to enchant.

The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor are made possible by the extraordinary lead support of The Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation, Laurie V. and James N. Bay, Linda and Vincent Buonanno, The Edwardson Family Foundation, and The Estate of Arthur Maling.

Major support is generously provided by the Deering Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance.

Additional funding has been contributed by Mr. and Mrs. William R. Jentes, Richard Gradkowski, Holly and John W. Madigan, Mae Svoboda Rhodes, Daniel T. Manoogian, and the historic commitments of Marilynn Alsdorf, Kate Sturges Buckingham, and Bea and Herman M. Silverstein.

The New Contemporary
Through December 31, 2018
Galleries 288, 290–299

This December, we reopen our galleries of contemporary art, unveiling the largest gift in the Art Institute’s 136-year history: 44 iconic works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns. Generously donated by Chicago collectors Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, these 44 paintings, sculptures, and photographs transform the museum’s presentation of contemporary art, bringing new depth and perspective to the Art Institute’s already strong holdings and making this collection the strongest of any encyclopedic art museum in the world.

The Art Institute has been committed to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art since the museum’s founding in the 19th century, when Impressionism was considered “contemporary.” Our rich collections today are largely the result of the generosity and vision of private collectors who have chosen to become great benefactors, and the Edlis/Neeson gift is the latest chapter in this long legacy of patronage and support.

Their gift charts the course of the most adventurous art movements since the 1950s, primarily in the United States, beginning with the work of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly, who began to forge a path out of Abstract Expressionism toward Pop Art with the use of images, materials, and techniques from mass media and found objects. Pop itself is represented in the gift by a landmark group of works by Andy Warhol—including two self-portraits—and signature works by Roy Lichtenstein. The collection also chronicles the significant and enduring influence of Pop Art on later generations of artists, including the virtuouso painter Gerhard Richter, the photography-based critiques of Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman, and the pop-culture riffs of Katharina Fritsch, Jeff Koons, and Takashi Murakami.

The Art Institute is a collection of collections, each compelling on its own terms yet capable of telling richer, more extraordinary stories when brought into dialogue. To be sure, the Art Institute of Chicago—and the stories we tell—have been made far greater by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson’s gift, an extraordinary benefaction to the city, and, indeed, to the world.

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