Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Chicago, IL

Atrium Project: Ellen Berkenblit
May 4–Nov 24, 2019

The latest installment of the MCA’s second-floor lobby atrium project features a mural by New York–based artist Ellen Berkenblit (American, b. 1958). This new work, titled Leopard’s Lane (2019), continues two recent themes in the artist’s painting practice, the expressive potential of cats, and the inherent energy of urban elements such as trucks, stoplights, and smokestacks. For the past several years, Berkenblit has incorporated a striped, tigerlike cat into her works, finding endless compositional potential in a simplified, even cartoonish profile, that remains relatively constant. This tactic of using schematic witches, birds, clocks, flowers, and horses as starting points for complex exercises in color, surface, and space has guided much of her work. Here, that cat has grown into a menacing leopard let loose in a dark landscape, sharing space with a box truck and an abstracted chimney. Honing her craft since her professional debut in the early 1980s, Berkenblit has arrived at a place of artistic assuredness where scale, orientation, and different degrees of completion or virtuosity are all up for grabs, in service to an overall goal of making images that are captivating, dynamic, and unforgettable.

Leopard's Lane is organized by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. It can be seen in the second-floor atrium.

Emerge Selections 2019
Apr 30–May 15, 2019

The MCA’s Emerge group consists of donors who support the museum’s acquisition and education programs. Every year, this group selects and collectively funds the purchase of one major work by an artist not currently represented in the MCA Collection. This year, in collaboration with the MCA curatorial team, Emerge members proposed works by Yoan Capote (Cuban, b. 1977), Emeka Ogboh (Nigerian, b. 1977), and B. Ingrid Olson (American, b. 1987) for consideration.

Capote’s sculpture addresses constraints on communication—particularly in the artist’s native country of Cuba, but also in varied situations marked by the uneven distribution of power. Ogboh’s installation introduces the sights and sounds of Lagos, Nigeria, to the gallery space with a symphonic composition of everyday urban noises. In Olson’s featured photograph and installation, she uses her body to raise questions about self-presentation, including acts of revelation and concealment.

Emerge members will cast their final votes in May to determine which of these artworks will be added to the MCA Collection.

Can You Hear Me Now?
Apr 27–Sep 29, 2019

Drawn largely from the MCA collection, the works in Can You Hear Me Now? deal with breakdowns in communication and our inability to hear each other in polarized political climates. The exhibition asks the viewer to consider the proliferation of sound: which messages merit amplification, and which are unduly stifled? The artists in Can You Hear Me Now? explore the individual’s struggle to communicate on levels ranging from the personal to the governmental, addressing which voices are supported or silenced. The exhibition surveys a world in which we are unable to engage in meaningful conversations without succumbing to political apathy.

The exhibition is organized by Bana Kattan, Barjeel Global Fellow. It is presented in the Cohen and Stone Family Galleries on the museum’s fourth floor.

Jonathas de Andrade: One to One
Apr 13–Aug 25, 2019\

At once intimate and historical, the work of Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade evokes love, memory, and place. His photographs, installations, and videos often respond to the geography and culture surrounding Recife, the city in the northeast region of Brazil in which he lives and works. He grapples in particular with the promises, failures, and inequities in Brazil’s Nordeste as the region undergoes rapid and often rocky urbanization. The exhibition debuts three new works, including Jogos dirigidos (Directed games), a film commissioned by the MCA that presents a playful exchange between members of the deaf community in the northeast of Brazil.

The exhibition is curated by José Esparza Chong Cuy, former Pamela Alper Associate Curator, with Nina Wexelblatt, Curatorial Assistant. It is presented in the Bergman Family Gallery on the museum’s second floor.

Lead support for Jonathas de Andrade: One to One 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; the Margot and W. George Greig Ascendant Artist Fund; R.H. Defares; and the Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation.

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

Generous support is provided by Jon Lehman and Zach Huelsing; Alexander and Bonin; GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana; Vermelho; Vicki and Bill Hood; Melissa Weber and Jay Dandy; and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera
Feb 23–May 5, 2019

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s major retrospective of works by Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949) celebrates an artist who has distinguished herself as a pioneer of new directions in art photography. Since the late 1970s, when she began to develop her mature style using dolls and props as proxies for people and places, Simmons has explored archetypal gender roles with her work. Turning a critical eye on tropes that dominated the postwar era of her upbringing, Simmons creates fictional scenes that mirror and unsettle the American dream of prosperity and feminine domesticity.

In addition to taking a strong feminist stance, Simmons upends traditional ideas about photography as a medium. The namesake work of the exhibition, Big Camera/Little Camera (1976), shows an actual camera juxtaposed with a miniature one, exemplifying Simmons’s other central interest: manipulating scale. “I put the two cameras together for scale,” Simmons explains, “and as a metaphor—real life versus fiction.”

Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera presents nearly all of the artist’s major series, including Cowboys (1979), Family Collision (1981), Color Coordinated Interiors (1982–83), Tourism (1983–84), and Clothes Make the Man (1990–92). In one of the artist’s most well-known series, Walking & Lying Objects (1987–91), Simmons used oversized props as opposed to miniatures. Posing wearing giant props, her subjects hide their faces while showing their legs. The personified objects probe the question of the importance of “props” with respect to humanity by representing the items we rely on to help define who we are.

More than four decades of work by Simmons will be on display, showcasing her importance both historically and as an active contemporary artist. In recent series such as The Love Doll (2009–11), How We See (2015), and Some New (2018), she continued to use the theme of the doll and costume play, asserting that her early ideas about private life and public presentation are as poignant today as they were early in her career. In addition to her photography, there is a small selection of sculpture and three films: The Music of Regret (2006), starring Meryl Streep, Geisha Song (2010), and My Art (2016). Simmons wrote, directed, and starred in the latter two, playing the role of an artist who is frustrated with her work and lack of recognition.

Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera is curated by Andrea Karnes, senior curator, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth with full support of the artist.

The exhibition is presented in the Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art on the museum’s fourth floor.

A major scholarly catalogue, copublished by the Modern in Fort Worth and DelMonico Books·Prestel, accompanies the exhibition.

Lead support for Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera 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; Becky and Lester Knight; Zell Family Foundation; Julie and Larry Bernstein; and Cari and Michael J. Sacks.

Major support is provided by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson.

Generous support is provided by Anne L. Kaplan; Kovler Family Foundation; Jennifer and Alec Litowitz; Phillips; Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund; Marilyn and Larry Fields; Efroymson Family Fund; Katherine and Judd Malkin; Ellen-Blair Chube; Susie L. Karkomi and Marvin Leavitt; One Bennett Park; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Salon 94 New York; Mirja and Ted Haffner; Vicki and Bill Hood; Susan D. Goodman and Rodney Lubeznik; The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York; and Penelope and Robert Steiner.

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.

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.

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

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