Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Chicago, IL

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Otobong Nkanga: To Dig a Hole that Collapses Again
Mar 31–Sep 2, 2018
Featured images

A black tapestry speckled with silver arrowheads depicts two pairs of orange legs, one wearing a skirt, with flat, geometric shapes in place of torsos and heads. The pair is connected at the hip and each stands on a crystalline mound.
Otobong Nkanga, In Pursuit of Bling: The Transformation, 2014. Tapestry; 71 7/10 × 71 in. (182 × 180 cm); edition of 5, aside from 1 artist’s proof. Courtesy of Lumen Travo Gallery, Amsterdam and Galerie In Situ – Fabienne Leclerc, Paris.

Born in Nigeria and now based in Antwerp, Otobong Nkanga explores the contested social and political histories of colonialism, with a particular focus on the relationship between Africa and the Western world. She does this through performance, drawing, photography, and installation—examining how raw minerals are transported through various covert economies and how they are transformed into desirable consumer objects.

Nkanga is fascinated with what she has referred to as “glimmer” and “shine,” the surface qualities of natural resources such as mica, a mineral that is used in makeup and turned into an object of seduction. This interest has led the artist far and wide, studying the intense mining of the world’s natural resources since the rise of late capitalism. One of the primary means by which the artist’s interest manifests is through the body. In Nkanga’s works on paper and her tapestries, the body becomes a border implicated within the field of mining.

Nkanga acts as a cultural anthropologist—tracing the violent means by which contested minerals and objects are exhumed from their natural environments, such as Nigeria and Namibia—and considers how they are transported to the West. Through her work, the artist re-imagines our relationship to our everyday environment.

Otobong Nkanga’s first ever US survey exhibition, To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again, takes its name from the “Green Hill” in Namibia. The name is a direct translation of the town that houses it, Tsumeb, one of Namibia's "rare gems."

The exhibition is organized by Omar Kholeif, Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It is presented in the Bergman Family Gallery on the museum’s second floor.

Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen
Through –May 20, 2018
Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art on the museum’s fourth floor

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is proud to present the first major survey of the work of groundbreaking, multidisciplinary artist Howardena Pindell (American, b. 1943). The exhibition spans the New York–based artist’s five-decades-long career, featuring early figurative paintings, pure abstraction and conceptual works, and personal and political art that emerged in the aftermath of a life-threatening car accident in 1979. The exhibition traces themes and visual experiments that run throughout Pindell’s work up to the present.

Trained as a painter, Pindell has challenged the staid traditions of the art world and asserted her place in its history as a woman and one of African descent. Since the 1960s, she has used materials such as glitter, talcum powder, and perfume to stretch the boundaries of the rigid tradition of rectangular, canvas painting. She has also infused her work with traces of her labor, such as obsessively affixing dots of pigment and circles made with an ordinary hole-punch. Despite the effort exerted in the creation of these paintings, Pindell’s use of rich colors and unconventional materials gives the finished works a sumptuous and ethereal quality.

The work she has created since 1979, when the accident left her with short-term amnesia, engages the world beyond the painting studio. Expanding on the experimental formal language she previously developed, Pindell has explored a wide range of subject matter, from the personal and diaristic to the social and political. Her Autobiography series transforms postcards from her global travels, which she used to reconstruct her memories, into photo-based collages. Other bodies of work, such as her Rambo series, respond to broader cultural concerns and critique sexism, racism, and discrimination at large.

The exhibition also highlights Pindell’s work with photography, film, and performance, mediums she has used to explore her place in the world. Her chance-based experiments include photographing her drawings juxtaposed over a television screen, as well as creating Free, White and 21 (1980), a performance for film based on her personal experiences of racism. The exhibition also includes Pindell’s most recent works from the last two years, which draw on the beauty and innovation of her approach to abstraction to build upon contemporary conversations around equity and diversity.

Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen is cocurated by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the MCA, and Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Endless Summer
Jan 27–Aug 5, 2018

Taking its title from the classic Bruce Brown surf movie from 1966, Endless Summer offers a snapshot of the seductive minimalism that emerged in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Alternatively called Finish Fetish or Light and Space, the movement's works were influenced by the surf industry, custom car culture, and the legendary climate of Southern California and characterized by slick surfaces and dreamy, sometimes atmospheric color. Distinct from the East Coast variant of minimalism that was emerging at the same time, the West Coast artists embraced new materials such as fiberglass, plastic, and resin instead of steel, iron, and lead, and they reveled in the vagaries of perception rather than objective facts. Peter Alexander, for instance, is best known for his delicate wedges of translucent colored resin that taper off at their tops to blend with its surroundings. Craig Kauffman experimented wildly with vacuum-formed plastics and automotive paint to make works that merge painting and sculpture but also allude to commercial signage and customized car designs. Likewise, Billy Al Bengston borrowed his material palette of bent metal, high sheen paints, and stenciled symbols from hot rod culture to push painting into a new direction.

Endless Summer features works from an important gift from the estates of Walter Netsch and Dawn Clark Netsch in 2014, which drastically improves our representation of this fertile chapter in art. These works are joined by related works already in the MCA collection, from artists including Robert Irwin, John McCracken, Larry Bell, and Ed Ruscha, to present a wide variety of approaches within this time and place.

This exhibition is organized by James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling. It is presented in the Cohen and Stone Family Galleries on the museum’s fourth floor.

Chicago Works: Paul Heyer
Jan 16–Jul 1, 2018

The MCA presents the first solo museum exhibition of Chicago-based artist Paul Heyer (b. 1982). In his most immersive installation to date, Heyer creates a multisensory, dream-like realm that combines his ethereal paintings and sculptures, which are rooted in his experiences and memories of being an active participant of rave and club culture.

The exhibition is set to a meditative soundtrack meant to prompt hypnotic or hallucinogenic feelings in listeners. In the background of this soundscape, we see Heyer’s large, pastel paintings, which feature floating figures of cowboys and abstract forms.

The exhibition also presents his recent sculptural work, including brooms that hang in a constellation above the viewer, suggesting a psychedelic fantasy, and a sculpture consisting of metallic lamé fabric draped across a bed-like platform in the center of the gallery. The silky material and its sheen provide another reference to both science fiction and the opulence of drag culture.

Together, the works create a balance between gravity and levity, light and dark, and past and future, prompting viewers to reflect upon a utopian model of the universe.

This exhibition is organized by Omar Kholeif, Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives, and Erin Toale, former Curatorial Assistant, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. 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: Paul Heyer is provided by the Sandra and Jack Guthman Chicago Works Exhibition Fund, Night Gallery, Chapter NY, and Susie L. Karkomi and Marvin Leavitt.

MCA Screen: Paul Pfeiffer
Dec 23, 2017–May 20, 2018

Paul Pfeiffer (American, b. 1966) is best known for video-based artwork in which he manipulates media footage from sports and music culture. Through repetition and omission, his works expose the absurdity, complexity, and violence of popular spectacles. This exhibition highlights one of Pfeiffer’s newest works, Three Figures In A Room (2015–16), on view for the first time in a museum. The two-channel video deconstructs the infamous boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, in May 2015.

The work is composed of two videos projected across from each other. The first is an edited version of the “Fight of the Century” stripped of all sound, and manipulated so that the fighters appear paused, and fade in and out of view. The second video is a recording made by Pfeiffer of sound technicians, or foley artists, creating a soundtrack of the fight at Kantana Sound Studio in Bangkok. Using props and their own bodies, they re-created every sound made by the two boxers’ body movements. Overall, the installation creates a disorienting juxtaposition between the two very different forms of movement that result in the same grunts, labored breathing, and thuds of pounded flesh.

Three Figures In A Room is presented alongside works from the MCA’s permanent collection selected by the artist and the exhibition’s curator, Grace Deveney, based on their ongoing dialogue about the relationships between image, sound, anthropology, and autobiography.

This exhibition is organized by Grace Deveney, Curatorial Assistant at the MCA. It is presented in the Turner Gallery on the museum's fourth floor.

Heaven and Earth: Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons
Through Dec 16, 2018

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.

Through Apr 8, 2018

The MCA’s beloved sculpture Felix (2001) by Maurizio Cattelan (Italian, b. 1960) is on view for the first time since 2006 as part of the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration. Purposely designed to fit in the MCA’s Kovler Atrium, this work plays with the popularity of prehistoric dinosaur skeletons like the Field Museum’s legendary T-Rex named Sue. In typical Cattelan fashion, the skeleton depicts a gigantic, fictional cat rather than an actual fossilized species. Measuring more than twenty-six feet tall at the tip of its outstretched tail, the commanding sculpture has been meticulously fabricated to mimic the look and feel of bones.

Cattelan is known for an artistic sensibility at once shocking, controversial, and humorous, as seen in works such as the solid gold toilet that was recently installed in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, a sculpture of Pope John Paul II being struck by a meteor, or a pint-sized Adolf Hitler kneeling in a prayer of forgiveness. At the core of his work, however, is an urge to snap viewers to attention to question their preconceptions and think critically about the world around them.

Felix will be joined by other icons of the MCA’s collection, including Jeff Koons’s Rabbit (1986), Rene Magritte’s Wonders of Nature (1953), and Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait (1949), in a series of 50th anniversary exhibitions.

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