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From A to B and Back Again

Cinema Reinvented: Four Films by Andy Warhol

Rubens, Rembrandt, and Drawing in the Golden Age

PHOTOGRAPHY + FOLK ART: Looking for America in the 1930

One Hundred Views of Tokyo: Message to the 21st Century

In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury

The Impressionist Pastel

Eleanor Antin: Time’s Arrow

Sara Deraedt—Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography Series

Expressive Ink: Paintings by Yang Yanping and Zeng Shanqing

Weaving beyond the Bauhaus

Postcommodity: With Each Incentive

Benjamin Patterson: When Elephants Fight, It Is the Frogs That Suffer—A Sonic Graffiti

The Idea of America in 19th-Century Japanese Prints

Room to Move

Christien Meindertsma: Everything Connects

Ornamental Traditions: Jewelry from Bukhara

From A to B and Back Again
Oct 20, 2019–Jan 26, 2020

This exhibition requires a $7 special exhibition ticket

A penetrating and panoramic look at an artist whose “15 minutes” endure

This major retrospective—the first to be organized by a US institution in 30 years—builds on the wealth of new research, scholarship, and perspectives that has emerged since Andy Warhol’s early death at age 58 in 1987. More than 400 works offer a new view of the beloved and iconic American Pop artist, not only illuminating the breadth, depth, and interconnectedness of Warhol’s production across the entirety of his career but also highlighting the ways that he anticipated the issues, effects, and pace of our current digital age.

Warhol gained fame in the 1960s for his Pop masterpieces, widely known and reproduced works that often eclipse his equally significant late work as well as his crucial beginnings in the commercial art world. This exhibition brings together all aspects and periods of his varied and prolific career and includes paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, videos, archival and printed material, installation, films, and media works. By showcasing the full continuum of Warhol’s work, rather than focusing on a certain period, this presentation demonstrates that the artist didn’t slow down after surviving the assassination attempt that nearly took his life in 1968 but entered into a period of intense experimentation.

Warhol, with obvious self-deprecation, described his philosophy as spanning from A to B. As this exhibition decidedly proves, his thinking and artistic production ranged well beyond that, but his true genius lies in his ability to identify cultural patterns and to use repetition, distortion, and recycled images in a way that challenges our faith in images and questions the meaning of our cultural icons.

This exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

All images: Andy Warhol. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Leadership support of Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again is provided by Kg Edit

Bank of America is the National Tour Sponsor.

Major support for the Chicago presentation has been made possible by Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation.

The Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute of Chicago is the Lead Affiliate Sponsor.

Additional funding is contributed by the Shure Charitable Trust, Maureen and Edward Byron Smith Jr. Family Endowment Fund, Constance and David Coolidge, Robert J. Buford, Penelope and Robert Steiner, William and Robin Downe, Cairy and Thomas Brown, Margot Levin Schiff and the Harold Schiff Foundation, Vicki and Bill Hood, and Lauren G. Robishaw.

Members of the Exhibitions Trust provide annual leadership support for the museum’s operations, including exhibition development, conservation and collection care, and educational programming. The Exhibitions Trust includes an anonymous donor; Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; Karen Gray-Krehbiel and John Krehbiel, Jr.; Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy; Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff; Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel; Anne and Chris Reyes; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Official Airline of the Art Institute of Chicago.
United 3p H C R 1

Additional support is provided by the Illinois Office of Tourism.

Cinema Reinvented: Four Films by Andy Warhol
Oct 20, 2019–Jan 26, 2020
Gallery 186

From 1963 to 1968 Andy Warhol made hundreds of films, and these works are central to his radical reinvention of artistic media. The films ranged from black-and-white silent works to scripted, feature-length color productions that extended the idea of seriality he was exploring in his silkscreen paintings through their repeating frames and infinite reproducibility. A wide range of genres and practices—contemporary experimental film, classic Hollywood movies, documentary cinéma vérité, pornography, and avant-garde performance—inspired his multifaceted approach to filmmaking. The selection of films presented here in their original 16 mm format underscore the links between Warhol’s cinematic career and his groundbreaking work in other media.

Films are screened daily every hour on the hour, beginning at 11:00 a.m. See the schedule of films below.

Please note that the exhibition is closed November 18 to allow time to change the installation of screens.

  • October 20–November 17, 2019
    Outer and Inner Space (1963)
    16 mm film, black-and-white, sound; 33 min. at 24 fps in double-screen format

    This rare two-screen film captures Warhol’s effervescent superstar Edie Sedgwick speaking to the camera amid a cacophony of sound as she is seated in front of a television monitor playing a prerecorded videotape of herself that was shot by Warhol on a prototype Norelco video system. The resulting work presents a quartet of highly mediated portraits of a chatty Edie—doubled in both video and celluloid images on each screen. The effect is consonant with Warhol’s celebrated serial portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe, as seen in the Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again.

  • November 19–December 8, 2019
    Haircut no. 1 (1963)
    16 mm film, black-and-white, silent; 27 min. at 16 fps
    In 1963 Warhol made a trio of films focusing on the haircutting salon parties hosted by Billy Linich (known as Billy Name), the lighting designer of the Factory, Warhol’s studio. In this version, shot in choreographer James Waring’s loft, Linich styles the hair of Renaissance art scholar John Daley. Warhol renders Daley’s features in the luminous, dramatic chiaroscuro shadowing of his painterly predecessors. The six single-take rolls follow the barbering process, punctuated by provocative appearances by the dancer Freddie Herko. At the end Waring bids the audience good night.

  • December 9, 2019–January 5, 2020
    Kiss (1963–64)
    16 mm film, black-and-white, silent; 54 min. at 16 fps
    The first Warhol film to be publicly screened, this episodic work consists of a dozen separate rolls assembled into a nearly feature-length film. Each segment, most often shot in close-up in a single take with a stationary camera, focuses on a couple—either gay or straight—kissing. Participants include New York socialites Jane Holzer and Philip van Rensselaer, visual artists Marisol and Mark Lancaster, and filmmakers Naomi Levine and Andrew Meyer. Kiss was Warhol’s most widely screened film in the 1960s and remains an iconic work.

  • January 6–26, 2020
    Tiger Morse (Reel 14 of ****) (1967)
    16 mm film, color, sound; 34 min. at 24 fps
    Filmed by Warhol in what appears to be the stock room of Joan “Tiger” Morse’s Upper East Side boutique Teeny Weeny, this impromptu portrait film captures the chatty fashion designer. Behind her oversized sunglasses and large cigarette holder, she discusses her mod aesthetic and gossips about New York’s social scene. Warhol responds by alternating the camera’s stare with disorienting strobe cuts that stop Morse mid-sentence and expansive camera movements that defy the tight space of the boutique. The film combines the intimacy of his celebrity portraits with the documentary cinéma vérité style of the era.
Rubens, Rembrandt, and Drawing in the Golden Age
Sep 28, 2019–Jan 5, 2020
Galleries 124–27

Drawing, the most intimate and immediate form of artistic creation, reached one of its pinnacles in the Netherlands during the 17th century—a period commonly known as the Golden Age.

While the story of early modern Dutch and Flemish art typically focuses on the paintings created during the time, this exhibition constructs an alternative narrative, casting drawings not in supporting roles but as the main characters. Featuring works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, Hendrick Goltzius, Gerrit von Honthorst, Jacques de Gheyn II, and many others, the show traces the development of drawing in this period, exploring its many roles in artistic training, its preparatory function for works in other media, and its eventual emergence as a medium in its own right.

The 17th century brought remarkable change in to the northern and southern Netherlands, including political upheaval, religious schism, and scientific innovation. The reverberating effects of these events had a great impact on art—what kind of art was in demand, who could and did produce art, and where and how art was made. Most artists in 17th-century Netherlands chose their career through family connections, training with a relative who worked in an artistic trade, although there are significant exceptions to this trajectory—Rubens was the son of a lawyer and Rembrandt the son of a miller.

To become a respected artist, one needed to study under a successful and skilled master in a workshop or art academy. Abraham Bloemaert, Rubens, and Rembrandt supervised the three most important workshops of the period, overseeing the development of dozens, if not hundreds, of students. In these workshops, learning to draw was essential. Once an apprentice had mastered basic drawing skills by copying other works and drawing plaster casts or monuments, often traveling to Italy to do so, he progressed to creating drawings “from life.” The ability to accurately depict the human face and body was critical to an artist’s success and was especially important for those who aspired to create history paintings—the genre considered most prestigious because it relied on literary sources and often required portraying multiple figures in complex and dramatic scenes.
A work made of pen and brown ink and brush and brown wash, with subtractive highlights (scraping) and touches of opaque white watercolor corrections, on ivory laid paper, laid down on cream laid card.

Rembrandt, more than other artists of this period, embraced life drawing. Most notably, he pioneered the collective study of the female nude—a commonplace practice today, but one that challenged the bounds of decency in the 17th century. Studying the live figure increasingly became standard practice in the Netherlands during this period, but it was generally restricted to drawing male models, since prevailing cultural norms made it difficult for artists to find women to pose for them, especially in the nude. Among the most celebrated of all Rembrandt’s drawings is a rare study of a female nude, which is featured in this exhibition. An emotive and striking work, it highlights the importance for artists of the period to learn to draw the female figure. This skill, despite its inherent challenges, was necessary to receive critical acclaim.

Although drawings in the 17th century served many purposes— as reference materials, studies for future paintings, preparatory designs for prints—they also emerged as independent works of art, bought, commissioned, and collected by wealthy merchants. This was due in part to the rise of a new genre of drawing: the landscape. Works depicting the natural world and countryside appealed to an increasingly affluent merchant class that lived in a dense urban environment. These city dwellers enthusiastically received highly finished landscape drawings and deemed them objects worthy of preservation and display.

Produced in a broad range of media, including chalk, ink, and watercolor, the drawings in this exhibition are captivating examples of artistic skill and imagination. Together they provide a new view of the creativity and working process of Netherlandish artists in the 17th century and reveal how drawings came to be the celebrated works of art we know them to be today.

PHOTOGRAPHY + FOLK ART: Looking for America in the 1930s
Sep 21, 2019–Jan 19, 2020
Galleries 1–4

Collecting the past while recording the present.

In the 1930s, as the United States was struggling through the Great Depression, a rising interest in early American vernacular arts—collectively referred to as folk art—converged with major documentary photographic projects. As artists, curators, collectors, and government administrators sought to define American culture as distinct from Europe, they identified in these two burgeoning fields a national culture they considered egalitarian, unpretentious, and self-made.

This exhibition is the first to connect these twin impulses to collect the past and record the present by examining the roots of documentary photography and folk art and revealing how the fields were shaped in the early 20th century. At the heart of the display are works that represent two massive governmental projects to document and catalogue everyday life in America. The first, the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Index of American Design, hired artists to reproduce in watercolor some 18,000 American decorative arts and crafts from the colonial period to the 1800s. At the same time, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) hired some of the country’s most talented photographers—including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, and Arthur Rothstein—to document the plight of everyday Americans and the government’s role in assisting them, producing an indelible image bank of a nation in crisis.
Black and white photograph of women, lips pursed, against wood paneled wall.

These arts and objects of everyday people, places, and things inspired a new range of collectors—both individual and institutional—and the work entered the collections of museums and galleries at unprecedented rates. Looking for America examines the legacies of enthusiasts such as Bernard and Margaret Behrend and Elizabeth Vaughan, whose collecting activities led to the foundation of the Art Institute’s own folk art collection.

Alongside carvings, ceramics, furniture, and metalwork emblematic of those illustrated in the WPA Index of American Design, landmark photographs, including key works from Walker Evans’s American Photographs and Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York, reveal how photography began defining modern art. Drawn almost entirely from the museum’s permanent collection, the interdisciplinary display features over 100 works of photography, decorative arts, painting, sculpture, and textiles that are not only vibrant and dynamic examples of American ingenuity but emblematic of a modern—and distinct—American character and vitality.

Photography + Folk Art: Looking for America in the 1930s is supported by Vicki and Tom Horwich.

One Hundred Views of Tokyo: Message to the 21st Century
Sep 21–Dec 8, 2019
Gallery 107

The idea was to invite the most prominent artists of the late 20th century to capture a single moment in the present.

The theme—100 views of Tokyo— was a subject that harks back to the great landscape print series of the 19th century by Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. The goal? To create a definitive statement, a message, for the future.

Created between 1989 and 1999, most of the prints in this series—conceived by members of the Japan Print Association—depict actual locations in the city such as the Shinjuku area, Tokyo Tower, Haneda airport, and sites such as Tokyo Bay, though a large number of works show completely imaginary places or abstract imagery. The array of methods used reads like an encyclopedia of printing techniques and includes woodblock printing, lithograph, mezzotint, and photo etching. Not only did this project celebrate the long careers of accomplished artists, it launched the careers of others.

This exhibition celebrates the recent acquisition of a complete set of prints in the series and features over 30 works, including Tokyo Rhapsody (above) by Toneyama Kojin (1921–1994), an artist fascinated by the arts of Mexico and Japanese folk arts. In this lithograph, a human figure rides a large wasp over Tokyo, whose buildings and monuments appear jumbled, as if reconfigured into a distorted collage. Is this part of the message to the future? Or is it meant more for the present?

In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury
Sep 6, 2019–Jan 12, 2020

The transformative impact of a country on the work of six visionary artists and designers.

The work of Clara Porset, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Cynthia Sargent, and Sheila Hicks has never been shown together before. While some of these artists and designers knew one another and collaborated together, they are from different generations, and their individual work encompasses a range of media varying from furniture and interior design to sculpture, textiles, photography, and prints. They all, however, share one defining aspect: Mexico, a country in which they all lived or worked between the 1940s and 1970s. During this period they all realized projects that breached disciplinary boundaries and national divides.

“There is design in everything … in a cloud, in a wall, in a chair, in the sea, in the sand, in a pot.”
—Clara Porset, 1952

This exhibition is the first to explore Mexico’s impact on these visionary artists and designers. It takes its title from a quote by Clara Porset, a political exile from Cuba who became one of Mexico’s most prominent modern furniture designers. Influenced by Bauhaus ideas, she believed that design could reshape cities, elevate the quality of life, and solve large-scale social problems. This approach informed her 1952 exhibition Art in Daily Life, in whose catalogue she wrote, “There is design in everything … in a cloud, in a wall, in a chair, in the sea, in the sand, in a pot,” encouraging us to look at both the natural and machine world for inspiration and ideas.

Arriving in Mexico City in 1935, Porset started her design studio in the early 1940s. Inspired by the country’s climate, lifestyles, aesthetic and cultural traditions, and political progressivism following the end of the Mexican Revolution (roughly 1920), she conceived designs to be made from local materials and used both handmade and industrial manufacturing techniques.

Mexican artist Lola Álvarez Bravo, a close friend and collaborator of Porset, was one of few women photographers working in the country during this period. Her photographs are essential to understanding Porset’s no longer extant projects, and her dynamic photomontages, created by cutting and pasting together parts of different photographs to create new images, provide insights into Mexico’s richly layered social, political, and geographical landscape during the 1940s and 1950s.

Porset was also friends with German émigré Anni Albers. Encouraged to visit Mexico by Porset, she first traveled to the country in 1935 and made 13 subsequent trips. Mexico’s landscape and architecture became a vital source of inspiration and remained so throughout her career, providing an abstract visual language for her designs. The triangle motif, for instance, that she used repeatedly in textiles and screenprints was drawn from archaeological Zapotec sites such as Monte Albán.

Mexico also left a deep impression on Japanese American Ruth Asawa. In 1947, two years after taking a class with Porset at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, she returned to the country and was drawn to the artistry in utilitarian looped-wire baskets that she encountered in Toluca. From then on, sculptures made with this wire technique became her primary practice.

American Cynthia Sargent moved to Mexico City from New York with her husband Wendell Riggs in 1951 and produced several popular lines of rugs in their weaving workshop. Porset championed Sargent’s work and included her fabric designs in her pivotal exhibition Art in Daily Life. Sargent and Riggs went on to co-found the Bazaar Sábado, an influential market for Mexican and expatriate art and craft that continues to this day.
A orange woven hanging has a darker cirled in the center and loosely finished ends at the top and bottom.

While American artist Sheila Hicks never met Porset, she was aware of Porset’s designs through her close friendship with architect Luis Barragán, who worked with both artists. After studying Latin American weaving traditions and traveling to South America, Hicks relocated to Mexico in the late 1950s and set up a workshop in Taxco el Viejo, where she collaborated with and learned from local weavers, while producing pieces that are resolutely her own.

The work of these independent-minded artists provides six divergent yet aligned models of creative practice that followed alternative routes and opened up new possibilities. Displayed together, their work makes the case for a continued evaluation of Mexico’s creative landscape and contributes to burgeoning discussions aimed at a more inclusive history of modern art and design.

Major funding for In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury is provided by the Gordon and Carole Segal Exhibition Fund; the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation; Margot Levin Schiff and the Harold Schiff Foundation; and Barbara Bluhm-Kaul and Don Kaul.

Additional support is provided by Maria and William D. Smithburg; Kimberly M. Snyder; the George Lill Foundation Endowment; Nada Andric and James Goettsch; the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; Thomas E. Keim and Noelle C. Brock; the Butler-VanderLinden Family Fund; the Terra Foundation for American Art; The Danielson Foundation; and CNA.
CNA logo

Members of the Exhibitions Trust provide annual leadership support for the museum’s operations, including exhibition development, conservation and collection care, and educational programming. The Exhibitions Trust includes an anonymous donor; Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; Karen Gray-Krehbiel and John Krehbiel, Jr.; Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy; Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff; Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel; Anne and Chris Reyes; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.

The Impressionist Pastel
Aug 21, 2019–Feb 9, 2020
Gallery 242

Although Impressionism is most closely associated with oil painting, during the late 19th century, Impressionist artists increasingly began to exhibit and market their prints and drawings as finished works of art. In fact, prints and drawings made up nearly half of the works in the eight Impressionist exhibitions held in Paris between 1874 and 1886. Pastels in particular became increasingly sought-after by collectors.

Pastel, a medium used to draw on paper or, less often, on canvas, is made by combining dry pigment with a sticky binder. Once artists have applied the pastel to the surface, they can either blend it, leave their markings visible, or layer different colors to create texture and tone. Pastel portraits had previously gained popularity in France and England in the 18th century, but fell out of fashion with critics when pastel was deemed too feminine; not only was it used by women artists, but it had a powdery consistency similar to women’s makeup. The Impressionists rejected this bias and instead embraced the medium’s ability to impart immediacy, boldness, and radiance.

This focused installation features pastels by four artists whose work was shown in the Impressionist exhibitions: Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Eva Gonzalès, and Berthe Morisot. Their subjects range from scenes of modern life, such as ballet performers and a woman working in a hat shop, to depictions of intimate moments of bathing and women with children.

Eleanor Antin: Time’s Arrow
Aug 24, 2019–Jan 5, 2020
Gallery 289

A pioneer and provocateur since the 1960s, Eleanor Antin slyly destabilizes the authority and objectivity of documents through a variety of media—photography, performance, video, and writing.
Four black-and-white photographs show a naked young woman from the front, back, and each side.

First day of 1972 performance, July 15, 1972, 8:43 a.m., 125.5 pounds

CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture (detail), 1972. Twentieth-Century Discretionary Fund

Her landmark early feminist work, CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture (1972)—part of the Art Institute’s collection—comprises a grid of 148 photographs that sequentially capture the artist’s journey to lose 10 pounds over a 37-day period. Antin’s deadpan, pseudo-scientific self-portraits mock the objectivity of Conceptual Art while alluding to the conceits of Classical sculpture, which claim that the ideal form lies within a block of stone, waiting to be freed by the artist.

Five black-and-white photographs show a naked older woman from the front, back, and each side.

First day of 2017 performance, March 17, 2017, 9:25 a.m., 130.6 pounds

CARVING: 45 Years Later (detail), 2017 © Eleanor Antin, courtesy of the artist and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York

Time’s Arrow marks the first time CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture is shown with CARVING: 45 Years Later (2017), an expansive reprisal of the original work through 500 photographs over four months. The pairing of the two works offers a meditation on aging and the passage of time. “It now took forever to lose a single pound,” Antin commented. “I believe that my older body was in a valiant and existential struggle to prevent its transformation into the skeleton beneath the protecting flesh … death.”

The CARVING works are joined by other self-portraits, The Eight Temptations (1972), also in the museum’s collection, as well as her recent self-portrait in a red cape, !!! (2017). Together these pieces offer reflection on aging, transformation, and the conception of the self.

Sara Deraedt—Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography Series
Aug 24, 2019–Jan 5, 2020
Gallery 188

Artist’s notes
The museum offers two entrances: the doors to the original 1893 building are at 111 South Michigan Avenue and the 2009 Modern Wing can be entered at 159 East Monroe Street.

The Carolyn S. and Matthew Bucksbaum Gallery is located on the first floor of the museum’s Modern Wing. The gallery is 1,690 square feet, with a north-facing window and two exits.

The Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography Series is generously supported by the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation.

Expressive Ink: Paintings by Yang Yanping and Zeng Shanqing
Aug 10–Nov 10, 2019
Galleries 101, 108, and 109

Yang Yanping and her husband Zeng Shanqing belong to a generation of Chinese artists whose early careers were stifled by the Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong. From 1949 through the late 1970s, the People’s Republic of China regulated the lives and work of its artists, limiting their expression and shutting out international influences. As these policies were loosened, Yang and Zeng were able to practice their art freely in China, winning acclaim before moving to the United States in 1986.

Yang developed a unique style in the early 1980s, rooted in traditional Chinese painting but indisputably modern. Originally trained as an architect, she worked in oils before adopting a more traditional Chinese media—ink on paper. Her signature style features a wiry ink line speckled with tiny dots, executed with pen rather than brush, depicting her favorite themes: lotuses and landscapes. Yang’s contrasting washes, often incandescent in hue, bleed into each other, dissolving these subjects into abstract nebulas of color.

An ink painting by Zeng Shanqing that depicts a man pulling forcefully on a horse's lead as the horse rears into the air. The composition is dynamic and bold, conveying strength and pent-up energy.

Zeng’s work has largely focused on figure and horse painting, more acceptable subjects in early revolutionary China. Nevertheless, the former professor at the Central Academy of Art suffered political criticism during the Cultural Revolution and endured several years of physical labor. Painted with a large, rapidly wielded brush, Zeng’s boldly polychromatic figures are expressions of dynamic and pent-up energy. Their contorted forms, sometimes in the fetal position, hint at the trauma of his earlier years.

Although celebrated in China in the early 1980s, the couple’s art has been largely neglected in the three decades since they emigrated to New York. This exhibition marks the first presentation of their work in a major United States art museum.

Weaving beyond the Bauhaus
Aug 3, 2019–Feb 16, 2020
Galleries 57–59

Established in 1919, acclaimed German art school the Bauhaus was home to an innovative weaving workshop whose influence stretched across the Atlantic.

Like the larger institution, the weaving workshop embraced the principal of equality among artists and the arts alike. Although the realities of the Bauhaus never quite matched its utopian vision, the workshop nonetheless served as an effective incubator of aesthetic and pedagogical talent. In the decades following the school’s forced closure in 1933, the Bauhaus went on to have a wide-reaching impact on American art—due in part to the large number of affiliated artists who immigrated to the US, where they continued to practice and teach in the spirit of the school’s educational system and theories.
A work made of cotton, plain weave; painted with pigment and gold leaf; attached linen threads in grid pattern.

Presented on the centenary of this foundational organization, Weaving beyond the Bauhaus traces the diffusion of Bauhaus artists, or Bauhäusler, such as Anni Albers and Marli Ehrman, and their reciprocal relationships with fellow artists and students across America. Through their ties to arts education institutions, including Black Mountain College, the Institute of Design, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Yale University, these artists shared their knowledge and experiences with contemporary and successive generations of artists, including Sheila Hicks, Else Regensteiner, Ethel Stein, Lenore Tawney, and Claire Zeisler, shaping the landscape of American art in the process.

Postcommodity: With Each Incentive
July 25, 2019–April 26, 2020

Postcommodity is an arts collective made up of collaborators Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist, who aggressively tackle some of the most pressing issues of our day. Their site-specific installations, interventions, videos, and sound pieces aim to foster constructive dialogues around social, political, and economic processes that destabilize communities and geographies and to connect Indigenous narratives of cultural self-determination with the broader public sphere.

For their project at the Art Institute, titled With Each Incentive, Postcommodity reimagines the Bluhm Family Terrace as a stage for Chicago’s architectural future and contemplates how it might be transformed by the current wave of Indigenous American refugees from Mexico and Central and South America. The project is a symbolic gesture toward a desirable future that considers the culturally defined, kinship-centric architectural pragmatism often associated with Mexican and Central and South American cities, where a building is not an end but an ongoing process of growth or expansion. On the terrace, this takes the form of an ephemeral sculptural installation with columns of cinder block and steel rebar in various states of completion.

With Each Incentive references an Indigenous American worldview of continual emerging, becoming, and manifesting, rather than completion, finality, and wholeness. It is about making space—socially, culturally, and aesthetically—for refugees and for the intergenerational stewardship of family, culture, and community. This vision of a nimble approach to construction, of being prepared to add on and to build on, presents a new framing of the city’s historic skyline, inviting visitors to glimpse and further imagine Chicago’s Indigenous future.

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.

Benjamin Patterson: When Elephants Fight, It Is the Frogs That Suffer—A Sonic Graffiti
Through Oct 20, 2019

Benjamin Patterson’s When Elephants Fight, It Is the Frogs That Suffer—A Sonic Graffiti, an immersive 24-channel sound installation, transforms the Art Institute of Chicago’s McKinlock Court into an acoustic frog pond with a symphony of croaks from eight frog species. These croaks, emanating from the bushes and fountain, are echoed by human imitations in English, German, and Greek—each language having its own onomatopoeia for the amphibian’s call. The playful animal chatter intermingles with human choruses intoning proverbs and political messages, including excerpts from texts by Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and former president Barack Obama, and passages from the Brothers Grimm fairytale The Frog King (1812) and Aristophanes’s ancient Greek comedy The Frogs (405 BC).

Patterson was a founder, and the sole African-American member, of Fluxus, an international collective formed in the 1960s that sought to blur the boundaries between art and life, artist and audience, and the visual and performing arts. This installation references Patterson’s signature 1962 performance piece Pond. In both works the artist expressed his admiration for frogs, which he found an apt stand-in for marginalized groups in society. The title of the work is derived from a Greek proverb of African origin that suggests that, in times of financial and political instability, it is the small creatures that are most affected.

When Elephants Fight, It Is the Frogs That Suffer—A Sonic Graffiti was originally commissioned for the exhibition documenta 14 (2017; Athens and Kassel) and was acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018. Prior to his death in 2016, Patterson provided a participatory score for the work, and in the spirit of Fluxus, institutions are prompted to become coproducers of the installation as they adapt the work to specific environmental contexts. Its exhibition in the museum’s McKinlock Court marks the first time the work has been realized in the United States.

This installation will remain on view as long as the weather permits.

The Idea of America in 19th-Century Japanese Prints
Through Sep 15, 2019
Gallery 107

The array of prints featured in this exhibition emerged from the specific historical events initiated when a fleet commandeered by US Commodore Matthew C. Perry first landed in Japan in 1853. Perry’s arrival marked the beginning of a period of mutual curiosity between two cultures, and his mission was to open Japan to trade after more than 200 years of restrictive policies under the Tokugawa shoguns. The terms of the trade treaty were not finalized until 1858, at which time five Japanese ports—including Yokohama, the most active—were opened to the member nations: the United States, France, England, Russia, and the Netherlands. Surrounded on all sides by water, the modest foreign settlement at Yokohama was designed to both contain and protect the newcomers.

Prints known as Yokohama-e, or “pictures of Yokohama,” soon capitalized on the novelty of the people and goods coming into the busy international port. The Japanese public had a great appetite for news about the arrivals, and publishers enjoyed a much-needed boost to their businesses when they mass-produced commercial images of this fresh subject matter. However, Yokohama-e were often misrepresented as realistic or factual. While a few of the images take genuine, observed scenes as their source, the prints were often based on engravings in foreign newspapers. Japanese artists created convincing or amusing scenes of Western customs, dress, technology, and transport, and even American cities, often fictionalizing them in the process. The resulting prints found an eager audience among visitors from Europe and the United States as well as domestically.

Room to Move
Through December 31, 2019
Interactive Gallery, Ryan Learning Center

The Interactive Gallery in the museum’s Ryan Learning Center is a place for creative play—a space where visitors of all ages are invited to experiment with artistic ideas, materials, and practices, and to respond creatively to the things they see, feel, and think about their experiences in the museum.

Visitors who have stepped into the Interactive Gallery over the last year will know that this space has hosted different types of participatory interactions. Drawing Room made space for people to engage with drawing as an interpretive act. Living Room encouraged visitors to contemplate and converse, inspired by the museum’s collection. Coloring Room was a celebration of hues and tones, engaging participants in hands-on explorations of color theory. This exhibition, Room to Move, is the first installation in the Ryan Learning Center that invites people to work together in movement-based creations.
A concept sketch for the Room to Move installation by School of the Art Institute of Chicago undergraduate and exhibition design intern Juan Arango Palacios.

A concept sketch by School of the Art Institute of Chicago undergraduate and exhibition design intern Juan Arango Palacios, who contributed to the development of the space’s design and interactive zones.

The installation is inspired by performance art and connects to a number of notable happenings in the museum this year. One is Iterations, the Art Institute’s new series of contemporary performance commissions. Launched this past February, Iterations explores the range of practices in the world of performance art today. The series will continue over the next three years with artists activating various museum spaces, challenging both our understanding of those spaces and what a work of art can be.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, the German art school founded by Walter Gropius. Bauhaus artists worked in a range of media and techniques—from painting and sculpture to textile design, graphic design, typography, architecture, and performance—and understood these different artistic disciplines as being equal and connected. Bauhaus performance artists often investigated the relationships between human movement, geometry, structure, and physical space.
Sketch by artist Sandra Leonard of a design for the costumes for the Room to Move. The sketch shows a figure in a pink skirt.

Artist Sandra Leonard designed the exhibition’s costumes, based on works from her own staged pieces.
While Room to Move connects to historical and contemporary performance practices, it is first and foremost a place for intergenerational creative play. You don’t need to know anything about performance art to enjoy dressing up and inventing new ways to move—but you may just discover how moving playful participation can be.

Christien Meindertsma: Everything Connects
Through Oct 20, 2019

Exhibitions are free with museum admission.

What can you do with an entire harvest of flax or 1,000 wool sweaters? The possibilities are endless and entwined.

Since graduating from the Eindhoven Design Academy, Christien Meindertsma has become known for her research-oriented work that explores the potential of raw materials and reveals processes that have become obsolete due to industrialization. Her prototypes, documentary videos, and finished objects highlight our relationship to the materials and products in the world around us and address concerns of environmental sustainability.
A photo of the different stages of turning flax into a biodegradable chair.

This exhibition showcases two of Meindertsma’s recent projects. For Flax Project (2012–present), she purchased a harvest of flax from a farmer in order to study methods of production from unprocessed material to final products. On display in this exhibition is each step involved in transforming raw flax into an entirely biodegradable chair, one that won Meindertsma the Dutch Design Award in 2016. The designer shifted her focus to a different production process for Fibre Market (2016–present), using fiber-sorting machines to scan and sort 1,000 wool sweaters based on their material content. The scanned results revealed frequent inaccuracies in the information provided on the sweaters’ labels, making evident the fact that common clothing is often made from a wider range of materials than indicated. After sorting, the sweaters were shredded and made into fibers that Meindertsma developed into a yarn and then a bespoke Donegal tweed. This recycled fabric can be used in many ways, including as an upholstery fabric for one of her biodegradable Flax Chairs—bringing Meindertsma’s design process full circle.

By exploring the often hidden lives of products within their social, political, and material contexts, Meindertsma invites us to reconsider the value of objects, especially the potential of undervalued resources such as flax and recycled wool. Her projects suggest that intelligent processes and design can play an important role in addressing the overconsumption of resources and prompting positive change.

Christien Meindertsma: Everything Connects is the second exhibition in the Franke/Herro Design Series, which highlights the work of important design talent. This exhibition is made possible by Jay Franke and David Herro.

Ornamental Traditions: Jewelry from Bukhara
Through Oct. 16, 2019
Gallery 50

Located in present-day Uzbekistan, the Emirate of Bukhara (1785–1920) was an important center of Islamic religion and scholarship and a major oasis on the famous Silk Road that traversed Central Asia from ancient times. As such, it was highly diverse—home to the majority Uzbek and Tajik populations in addition to communities of Arabs, Jews, and Turkmens who played a role in the emirate’s vibrant trade. Over time, Bukhara developed its own iconic style of jewelry characterized by intricate blue enamelwork that mirrored the area’s blue-glazed, tiled architecture. Russia’s colonization of the region in 1866 brought with it more advanced enameling techniques, allowing for increasingly complex designs.

In almost every context, the jewelry of Bukhara embodied great meaning and was rarely considered mere decoration. Incredibly large, ornate suits of jewelry were thought to protect the wearer from evil spirits, particularly during important events like weddings, and were the strongest assertion of a person’s power and wealth. Throughout Uzbekistan, such objects were designed to be worn as sets rather than exist as singular pieces.

Some of the most magnificent examples of Uzbek jewelry come from the court of the last emir of Bukhara, Mohammed Alim Khan (1880–1944), where men and women dressed in embroidered silks, fine silver, and enameled jewels. Their jewelry served various functions, often simultaneously: indicating political status and wealth, signifying religious and spiritual practice, and marking important rites of passage or ethnic identity.

Ornamental Traditions: Jewelry from Bukhara brings together nearly 50 jeweled objects from the Central Asian region of Bukhara—promised gifts from the private collection of Barbara Levy Kipper and her late husband, David—and rare ikat and embroidered textiles from the Art Institute’s permanent collection. The jewelry and decorative objects presented in this exhibition offer an exceptional experience of a rich and vibrant artistic heritage rarely seen outside the former Soviet Union.

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