Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Chicago, IL

MCA Building exterior at night. Photo: Peter McCullough, © MCA Chicago

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
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Prisoner of Love
Jan 26–Oct 27, 2019

Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, by acclaimed artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa, is a multilayered seven-minute montage about the experience of living in the United States. The video tells a story of trauma and transcendence in a flurry of footage—from historic speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama, to clips of cultural icons Beyoncé and Notorious B.I.G., to flashes of concerts, home movies, news footage, music videos, and sports matches—all set to a soaring gospel-inspired anthem.

Centered around this filmic journey, the exhibition features a rotating body of work from the MCA's collection inspired by the titular themes in Bruce Nauman's iconic neon Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain. The work's title establishes the themes of three rotating groups of artwork in the exhibition’s final gallery: life and death, love and hate, and pleasure and pain. Powerful, moving works by artists such as Deana Lawson, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Marilyn Minter, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Carrie Mae Weems alternate throughout the run of the show.

The exhibition is curated by Naomi Beckwith, Manilow Senior Curator. It is presented in the Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel Galleries on the museum's second floor.

Lead support for Prisoner of Love is provided by The Pritzker Traubert Collection Exhibition Fund.

Major support is provided by Cari and Michael J. Sacks.

The Commons Artist Project: Public Fiction with Triple Canopy
Jan 22–Jun 9, 2019

With faith in public and private institutions at an all-time low, what kinds of speeches—and speakers—are likely to win trust, acquire authority, and mobilize audiences? Over the course of four months, Los Angeles–based curatorial endeavor Public Fiction and New York–based magazine Triple Canopy stage a series of experimental lectures on public speech at sites of assembly throughout Chicago. The lectures address the use of public speech to mold opinion, forge intimacy, marshal authority, and orchestrate movements. As part of the exhibition, an installation in the Commons, the museum’s space for art and civic engagement, responds to these lectures and conveys the overall structure and timeline of events.

The lecture series Parts of Speech considers the various components of public speech: language, speaker, location, distribution, and audience. Six participants including artists, filmmakers, comedians, novelists, and musicians freely interpret the form of a lecture at venues chosen based on the topic and delivery. The resulting monologues, stump speeches, startup manifestos, and musical performances test the vocabularies and tactics that entice and persuade—or provoke and alienate.

The exhibition culminates in the publication of videos composed from documentation of each lecture that reflect on the migration of public speech from radio to television to the internet and beyond.

Parts of Speech is by Public Fiction (Lauren Mackler) with Triple Canopy. The Commons Artist Project is organized by January Parkos Arnall, Curator of Public Programs, with Christy LeMaster, Assistant Curator of Public Programs.

Lectures are presented by Steffani Jemison, Hari Kunzru, Tomeka Reid, Astra Taylor, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, and Julio Torres. The exhibition includes video work by Rami George, Liz Magic Laser, David Levine, Nicole Miller, Rodney McMillian, and Videofreex.

Chicago Works:Jessica Campbell
Dec 18, 2018–Jul 7, 2019

The candid, often hilarious work of Chicago-based artist and cartoonist Jessica Campbell (Canadian, b. 1985) critiques the traumas and absurdities of gender politics. In her first solo museum exhibition, she re-envisions the life and artwork of twentieth-century Canadian painter Emily Carr (1871–1945) in a suite of brand-new work. Inspired by their shared roots in Victoria, British Columbia, Campbell approaches Carr’s work from multiple angles and across conventional and unconventional mediums–from paintings and drawings to comics and textiles. Her vivid retellings transform seemingly distant art histories into living texts.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is an immersive carpet mural inspired by Giotto di Bondone’s fourteenth-century Scrovegni Chapel, a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance with frescos depicting stories from the life of Christ. Campbell’s work, however, features vivid, cartoonlike scenes that interweave formative—and often difficult—narratives from the lives of both Carr and Campbell. Though the artists grew up in Victoria nearly a century apart, they lived only fifteen-minutes away from each other, and many of the events Campbell recalls from her past took place in landscapes Carr that painted. The colorful floor-to-ceiling carpet dampens the sound in the gallery, creating a chapel-like atmosphere for viewing Campbell’s poignant, irreverent, and at times grotesque scenes. This allows viewers to contemplate imagery that is rarely given space for serious contemplation: the lived experiences of women.

Enriching the carpet mural’s narratives is a free takeaway comic that extends each scene on a full page with multiple panels. Campbell pairs these complexly rendered stories with texts drawn from both her and Carr’s personal writings, providing an alternate—and equally valid— way to parse the scenes depicted.

Other works explore Carr’s biography from complementary perspectives. Large-scale ink and charcoal re-creations of Carr’s unpublished cartoons illuminate an otherwise invisible private life full of domestic indignities and female companionship. Campbell also references Carr’s trip to the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago (arriving one day too late to see a show at the Art Institute of Chicago featuring masterpieces, Carr left the city disappointed). A rug satirizes the female nudes in the survey mostly of men’s work, demonstrating women’s presence in the canon of Western art history primarily as muses, not artists. Looking through a feminist lens, Campbell transforms Carr’s story into a conduit for exposing the types of representation that society values.

The exhibition is organized by Nina Wexelblatt, Curatorial Assistant. It is presented in the Dr. Paul and Dorie Sternberg Family Gallery and Ed and Jackie Rabin Gallery on the museum’s third floor.

Generous support for Chicago Works: Jessica Campbell is provided by the Sandra and Jack Guthman Chicago Works Exhibition Fund.

West by Midwest
Nov 17, 2018–Jan 27, 2019

Western art history is often viewed as a neat succession of individual artists and their singular masterpieces. This narrative runs parallel to the American story of westward expansion, propelled by the idea of individualism and independence. West by Midwest offers a messier alternative—one that illuminates the ways that contemporary art practices spread and develop by tracing the intersecting lives of artists who have migrated from the American Midwest to the West Coast since the mid-20th century. Lured by career opportunities, warmer weather, and the prospect of a better life promised by the postwar boom, artists in this exhibition attended art schools together, shared studios, exhibited work in the same galleries, collaborated on projects, engaged in activism, and dated. Following these crisscrossing lines of kinship, West by Midwest reveals social, political, artistic, and intellectual networks of artists and their shared experiences of making work and making a life.

Divided into five sections, West by Midwest presents more than eighty artworks in a wide variety of media, made by some sixty-three artists from the 1960s through the 2010s. Each section maps three overlapping forms of kinship: practice, or the ways that artists make and approach their work; place, or the spaces where artists congregate and exchange ideas; and people, or the manifold human relationships that compose artists’ personal and professional circles. Anchored by works in the MCA’s collection, West by Midwest eschews a definitive survey of individuals’ achievements to instead consider how artists move and make work within a larger field of relations.

West by Midwest is organized by Charlotte Ickes, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, with Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. It is presented in the Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art on the museum's fourth floor.

Artists in the exhibition include:
José Antonio Aguirre, Terry Allen, Carlos Almaraz, José Alpuche, Garo Antreasian, Judith Barry, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Patrick Blackwell, Andrea Bowers, Vija Celmins, Judy Chicago, Bruce Conner, Jean Conner, Robert Cumming, Aaron Curry, Emory Douglas, Hal Fischer, Roy De Forest, Joe Goode, Anna Halprin, Lawrence Halprin, David Hammons, Richard Hawkins, Judithe Hernández, Dennis Hopper, Douglas Huebler, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Jim Isermann, Suzanne Jackson, Stephen Kaltenbach, Barbara Kasten, Mike Kelley, Mary Kelly, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Cary Loren, Tom Marioni, Jerry McMillan, Rodney McMillian, Rebecca Morris, Bruce Nauman, Senga Nengudi, Kori Newkirk, Niagara (Lynn Rovner), Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Catherine Opie, John Outterbridge, Laura Owens, Jorge Pardo, Stephen Prina, Roberto (Beto) de la Rocha, Frank Romero, Amanda Ross-Ho, Sterling Ruby, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, Miriam Schapiro, Melanie Schiff, Jim Shaw, June Wayne, William Wegman, Charles White, William T. Wiley, Mason Williams, and Karl Wirsum.

Lead support for West by Midwest is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris: Caryn and King Harris, Katherine Harris, Toni and Ron Paul, Pam and Joe Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris; Zell Family Foundation; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; Karyn and Bill Silverstein; and the Nancy Lauter McDougal and Alfred L. McDougal Exhibition Fund.

Major support is provided by Jennifer and Alec Litowitz.
Additional generous support is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellowship program.

Nov 3, 2018–May 12, 2019

Groundings explores movement—both seen and unseen—through a series of residencies with artists who work in dance, music, and performance art. Using durational processes, the artists inhabit and shape the gallery space alongside works from the MCA's collection. The exhibition considers the reciprocal influence between bodies in motion and the invisible forces that govern movement, such as gravity, time, and electricity. Featured collection works consider movement and its relationship to identity, place, and action. Over the run of Groundings, the performers hold open rehearsals in which they create performances and physical objects that speak to the themes of the exhibition.

The exhibition is organized by Grace Deveney, Assistant Curator, and Tara Aisha Willis, Associate Curator of Performance. It is presented in the Turner Galleries on the museum's fourth floor.

Enrico David: Gradations of Slow Release
Sep 29, 2018–Mar 10, 2019

Enrico David (Italian, b. 1966) has distinguished himself as one of today’s most original artists, fashioning a universe of imagery that revolves around the human figure and its many states of being. Rendering the body as fragile, vulnerable, grotesque, tortured, and ecstatic, he uses a wide range of media, including sculpture, painting, installation, and works on paper, to achieve an encyclopedic yet extremely personal account of the human form.

The subtitle of the exhibition, Gradations of Slow Release, comes from a sculpture of the same name but also characterizes the circular process of this artist’s work, in which imagery and ideas slowly morph and evolve over time, guided by shared themes that find different but related forms. References to interiority, multiplicity, privacy, introspection, and disembodiment course through his works, which sometimes feel extremely contemporary in their expression and, at other times, appear archaic or timeless. The exhibition traces David’s works made over the past 20 years, revealing the interconnections in his body of work in an attempt to build an empathic relationship between the viewer and the objects he has created.

David lives and works in London and has exhibited around the world, including at Tate Modern and the Venice Biennale. His work is in the collection of the MCA, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Hammer Museum, and Tate Modern, among others. This exhibition is the first survey of the artist’s work in the United States.

The exhibition is organized by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. It is presented in the Bergman Family Gallery on the museum’s second floor.

Generous support for Enrico David: Gradations of Slow Release is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris: Caryn and King Harris, Katherine Harris, Toni and Ron Paul, Pam and Joe Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris; and the Margot and W. George Greig Ascendant Artist Fund.

Additional generous support is provided by Mr. Robert Rennie and Mr. Carey Fouks; Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London; and Nicoletta Fiorucci, Founder of Fiorucci Art Trust.

a body measured against the earth
Aug 25, 2018–Apr 7, 2019

“Walking … is how the body measures itself against the earth.”*

The artists in this exhibition stage encounters between the earth and the body—the primary tool at their disposal—to understand the land and their relationship to it. Ranging from physical interventions in the ground to conceptual documentations of travel and labor, their divergent practices reject a totalizing or objective view of the landscape, instead favoring embodied investigations of specific places, histories, and ideals. In the process, the artists recognize land “not as scenery, but as the spaces and systems we inhabit, a system our own lives depend upon.” (Rebecca Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art, 47.)

Titled after a quote from ecofeminist author and critic Rebecca Solnit, a body measured against the earth is drawn largely from the MCA’s collection. It takes inspiration from the ephemeral “earth-body” works staged by Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta in the 1970s and weaves legacies of land art and “walking art” with more recent work in conceptual photography and the moving image.

The exhibition is organized by Jared Quinton, Marjorie Susman Curatorial Fellow. It is presented in the Cohen and Stone Family Galleries on the museum’s fourth floor.

*Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (New York: Penguin, 2001), 31.

Artists featured in this exhibition include:
Vito Acconci (American, 1940–2017)
Jeanne Dunning (American, b. 1960)
Hamish Fulton (English, b. 1946)
Regina José Galindo (Guatemalan, b. 1974)
Maria Gaspar (American)
Nancy Holt (American, 1938–2014)
Richard Long (English, b. 1945)
Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948–1985)
Richard Misrach (American, b. 1949)
Dennis Oppenheim (American, 1938–2011)
Robert Smithson (American, 1938–1973)
Michelle Stuart (American, b. 1933)
Elizabeth M. Webb (American)
Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953)

Atrium Project: Federico Herrero
Aug 11, 2018–May 5, 2019

In Alphabet, a site-specific commission for the MCA atrium, Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero (b. 1978) paints the museum’s second-floor entrance with his characteristic color blocks to create a large, abstract landscape. Jumping from the atrium wall to the facade windows, the mural offers an immersive experience that—similar to a real landscape—dramatically changes with the shifting seasons.

Herrero sees his paintings, which range from small canvases to monumental urban spaces, as open-ended landscapes that are never finished, always growing and morphing into something new. In a sense, these works grow beyond the canvas or vertical wall and make their way to the horizontal surfaces of the floor and ceiling, extending his abstract color fields into urban spaces and public life.

Alphabet is organized by José Esparza Chong Cuy, Pamela Alper Associate Curator. It can be seen from the MCA’s public plaza and second-floor atriu

Heaven and Earth: Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons
Through March 24, 2019

For the MCA’s 50th anniversary, we are bringing together two of the most important artists in the museum’s history, as well as icons of the last 100 years. Heaven and Earth: Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons finds common ground between these seemingly disparate artists, with Alexander Calder’s weightless sculptures nominally representing “heaven” and Jeff Koons’s celebrations of the mundane and concrete as “earth.” This pairing highlights both artists’ interest in playing with balance and gravity to make compelling sculptural statements, while reveling in the contrasts between high art aspirations and mundane material choices.

Calder (American, 1898–1976) originally made a name for himself in the 1920s for inventive bent-wire portraits and later his extraordinary and performative circus sculptures. He is best known, however, for the delicate floating sculptures of metal and wire that have come to be known as “mobiles”—a term coined by Marcel Duchamp. The MCA has extensive holdings of Calder’s work that have been regularly shown for decades, and in 2010, the museum produced a major exhibition titled Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form Balance Joy.

In the early 1980s, Koons (American, b. 1954) ushered in an influential new era of art with works that borrow from liquor advertisements or posters of basketball legends, as well as over-the-top celebrations of household goods like vacuum cleaners, in order to redefine the boundaries of taste. His star power was recognized early on and the MCA organized his first museum exhibition in 1988, and revisited his work with a major survey in 2008. Thanks to many generous gifts, the MCA collection holds his work in depth.

This playful and unexpected pairing of two of the most recognized artists of the modern era have an extended presence in the MCA’s galleries and will be updated periodically with substitutions by both artists.

This exhibition is organized by James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling. It is presented in the McCormick Tribune Orientation Gallery on the museum’s second floor.

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