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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Becoming the Breeze: Alex Chitty with Alexander Calder
Nov 16, 2019–Apr 20, 2020
McCormick Tribune Gallery - Second Floor, North Side

Artworks by Alexander Calder are often asked for by name at the MCA—understandable as they have frequented spaces in the museum for more than 25 years. For this exhibition, we invited Chicago-based artist Alex Chitty to interject in the display of Calder’s work. Here, Chitty proposes a reframing for how we look, think, and interact in both museums and the world at large.

In Becoming the Breeze: Alex Chitty with Alexander Calder, Chitty challenges the conventions of museum display by directly engaging with Calder’s modern artworks. Working in close collaboration with the museum staff to produce this exhibition, Chitty’s interjections evoke the same playful spirit the modernist sculptor brought to his own practice. Much like the breezes that activate Calder’s mobiles, the visible and invisible forces that drive exhibitions—how artworks are stored, who chooses them, and more—are revealed in ways that allow us to see Calder’s work anew.

Becoming the Breeze: Alex Chitty with Alexander Calder is organized by Raven Falquez Munsell, independent curator, and Jack Schneider, MCA Curatorial Assistant, in collaboration with Alex Chitty and with the support of MCA staff.

Generous support for Becoming the Breeze: Alex Chitty with Alexander Calder is provided by the Orbit Fund.Installation view, Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, MCA Chicago. October 26 – December 8, 1974
Photo © MCA Chicago, © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Benefit Art Auction 2019
Nov 12–Nov 16, 2019

The Benefit Art Auction is an essential part of realizing the MCA’s ardent commitment to creating exhibitions and programs that champion revelatory art and spark civic transformation, making it one of the museum’s most significant fundraising events. In this crucial moment we are honored to present a collection of works generously donated by the world’s most influential artists of the day to support the MCA’s mission.

Unlike the works in a typical museum exhibition, the works assembled here go on sale for one night only—November 16. Enjoy the electric atmosphere of bidding among other collectors in person, or bid by phone or online. The Benefit Art Auction offers a rare opportunity to support the MCA while adding a stunning work of contemporary art to your collection. We wish you all the best at the auction block!

Commons Artist Project:blkHaUS studios
Nov 12, 2019–Mar 1, 2020
The Commons: Second Floor, East Side

Human beings are natural collectors, be it of souvenirs found on vacations, heirlooms passed down from grandparents, or birthday cards received over the years. The items we hold on to reflect our social, cultural, and personal values. Likewise, museums tell stories by presenting all kinds of collected objects, which reflect the way they prioritize different social and cultural values.

In this Commons Artist Project, Folayemi Wilson and Norman Teague’s Chicago-based, socially focused design studio blkHaUS studios asks if understanding the stories of personal collections can transform the priorities of museums in forming their collections.

Historically, collections in contemporary art museums have preserved and revealed specific art historical lineages. These stories, however, are ultimately influenced by the social and political context in which museums collect. Over the last few years, some have deaccessioned works—a practice of collection care where some objects are routinely removed from their collections—with the specific intent to make room for works by artists whose ideas and art have been left out of the established canon, especially artists of color.

Over the course of the exhibition, blkHaUS brings together Chicago community members and local museums. Through thoughtfully constructed interactive experiences they collate and assess patterns of collecting, inviting audiences to share their personal objects and narratives in the Commons and take part in dialogues around their modular artwork the commons table, focusing on key questions regarding collecting, archives, and museum practice. At the end of the project, the artists share their findings with representatives from the MCA and other local museums to provide tools for museums to better reflect the communities with which they share space.

This exhibition is organized by January Parkos Arnall, Curator of Public Programs, with Christy LeMaster, Assistant Curator of Public Programs.

Routes and Territories
Nov 2, 2019 – Apr 19, 2020
Turner Gallery, Fourth Floor, Southwest Side

Human migration takes place across the world, but its stories and circumstances vary. The experiences of people who have left their country of origin to establish a new life elsewhere are rooted in longstanding—and myriad—histories of displacement. Routes and Territories brings together three works from the MCA Collection that address human migration by focusing on a particular region, Latin America, where colonialism and the forced movement of entire cultures have deeply affected communities.

The exhibition is divided into two rooms. Panorama Catatumbo (2012–16) by Noemí Pérez (Colombian, b. 1962) fills the interior gallery space with vast canvases that transport the viewer to Colombia’s lush Catumbo jungle—and centuries-old politics. Pérez’s long, horizontal landscapes recall the “panoramic painting” that sixteenth-century Spanish colonizers used to document and romanticize unfamiliar territories of the American continent. Meanwhile, tucked into the verdant vegetation, scenes of present-day activities outside the law, such as smuggling and paramilitary activity, reflect the current societal complexity of the area between contemporary Colombia and Venezuela, where political and economic struggles take place within the countries’ alluring natural environment.

Fragments of Latin America’s fraught past, both distant and recent, also appear in the additional two works in the exhibition. To make Guamán 1 (2016–17), Andrés Pereira Paz (Bolivian, b. 1986) excerpted images from an illustrated manuscript written in the 1610s by Felipe Guamán Poma de Alaya, a nobleman who documented the brutal treatment of Andean indigenous peoples by Spanish settlers. To recreate the disturbing images, Paz molded wire into the shape of kicking legs, pushing arms, and hands holding a whip and rock. In Las cosas vividas antes de nacer (The Lived Things Before Being Born) (2017), Noé Martínez (Mexican, b. 1986) films his mother and father as they return to the land in Mexico where they once lived. When Martínez’s parents were young adults, changes in governmental policy forced them to migrate to Mexico City and displaced their indigenous community, called Calmecayo, to a neighboring location. For Martínez, excavating this lost history meant investigating his family’s roots. Over the course of the video, we see the couple visit the former site of Calmecayo to reconstruct their memories of their life and indigenous language.

Personal, social, and political dynamics can turn a territory into a site of controversy and loss—and shape individual identity. By constructing a critical interpretation of displacement and migration in Latin America, these artists explore the ways that land retains history and memory, and cultures forge new routes across boundaries.

The exhibition is organized by José Esparza Chong Cuy, former Pamela Alper Associate Curator, with Nina Wexelblatt, former Curatorial Assistant. It is presented in the Turner Galleries on the museum's fourth floor.

Direct Message: Art, Language, and Power
Through Jan 26, 2020
Griffin Galleries of Contemporary Art, Fourth Floor

Our lives are shaped by language and communication. Direct Message: Art, Language, and Power looks at the ways artists since the 1960s have used words to challenge our ideas about all of the messages we read, write, hear, and speak daily as well as their forms. In this innovative exhibition, artists remix conventional modes of communication, challenging our perceptions of language and, by extension, power.

Direct Message has four sections of works that redefine how we understand communication.

Artworks in this section explore the meanings that emerge when text is erased. Jamal Cyrus extracted and layered pages of Malcolm X's FBI file, removed the text and inverted the redacted areas to create Cultr-Ops. The result resembles a musical score that shows his revisionist approach to Black history and culture.

Three side-by-side screens show three different light-skinned men in suits. The men appear to be verbally addressing their audience.

This section scans the transformation of historic materials and how looking back can point us forward. To create Evening, Stan Douglas drew from late 1960s archival news footage and hired actors to reenact the broadcasts. His reconstruction shines a stark light on the media’s disconnected tone during a time of American unrest.

These works focus on the appropriation of literature and mass media and what it can teach us about the public space. Barbara Kruger uses the visual language of advertising in Untitled (We construct the chorus of missing persons) to criticize how social norms are crafted and propagated by the media. Combining text and image, Kruger inverts the power of advertising to deliver a powerful feminist critique.

In a large darkened room, large letters are illuminated in yellow in vertical rows on the floor. These letters cast a warm glow over the room.

The section uncovers hidden truths about language by rearranging and reconfiguring its symbols. In an immersive installation, Jenny Holzer presents her signature style of working with LED lights programmed with a retrospective of her writings. For Chicago is back on view for the first time in ten years, when it was originally commissioned by the MCA.

The exhibition also includes a screening of three short works organized by Christy LeMaster, Assistant Curator of Performance and Public Practice, and a workshop space created for ongoing conversation and workshops hosted by the MCA’s community partners organized by Gibran Villalobos, Assistant Curator of Performance and Public Practice.

This exhibition is organized by former MCA Assistant Curator Grace Deveney, with MCA Curatorial Assistant Jack Schneider.

The Shape of the Future
Oct 19, 2019–Apr 5, 2020
Carol & Douglas Cohen Gallery: Fourth Floor, North Side

The Shape of the Future features works from the MCA permanent collection that reckon with the dubious dream of a universal design language. Coinciding with the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial, the exhibition explores global modernism as a framework for utopia and speculative world making, marked by traces of labor, political fantasy, and cultural turmoil. Highlighting the histories and ideologies embedded in the built environment, these artists reveal the complexity—and at times absurdity—of the modernist project as a collection of disasters and reveries.

The exhibition is organized by Nina Wexelblatt, Curatorial Assistant. It is presented in the Cohen and Stone Family Galleries on the museum’s fourth floor.

Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces
Oct 2, 2019 – Mar 8, 2020

Using absurdist satire to address critical issues of our time, Mika Rottenberg (Argentinian, b. 1976) offers subversive allegories for contemporary life. Her videos and installations interweave documentation with fiction, and often feature protagonists in factory-like settings who manufacture goods ranging from cultured pearls to millions of brightly colored plastic items sold wholesale in Chinese superstores. Presenting several recent projects including Rottenberg’s newest video installation Spaghetti Blockchain (2019), which explores ancient and contemporary ideas about materialism, the exhibition traces central themes in the artist’s oeuvre, such as labor, technology, and the interconnectedness of the mechanical and the bodily.

The exhibition is organized by Margot Norton, curator at the New Museum, New York. The MCA’s presentation of the exhibition has been coorganized by Bana Kattan, Barjeel Global Fellow. It is presented in the Bergman Family Gallery on the museum’s second floor.

Lead support 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 Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris; the Margot and W. George Greig Ascendant Artist Fund; Zell Family Foundation; Cari and Michael Sacks; and Julie and Larry Bernstein.
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Chicago Works: Assaf Evron
Jul 23, 2019–Jan. 6, 2020

The MCA is pleased to present the first solo US museum exhibition of work by Assaf Evron (Israeli, b. 1977). Running concurrently with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the exhibition features new and recent works that dwell at the interstice of architecture, ornamentation, place, and image. A former photojournalist, Evron applies what he calls a “photographic logic”—his camera’s capacity to simultaneously document the resolutely volumetric world in all its plentitude and flatten it into an image—to subjects ranging from skyscrapers to underground quarries. Through acts of translation between three and two dimensions, the artist explores how built and natural environments are used as surfaces for projections of cultural, political, and economic ideologies and expressions of power.

This exhibition includes new works based on the artist’s photographs of structures and spaces in both Israel and Chicago that feature the meander, a ubiquitous decorative motif derived from the natural curves of rivers and streams. Untitled (Kikar Rabin, American Accents) (2019) references the Greek key motif, a type of meander, used on the stone pavement of Tel Aviv’s Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square)—the seat of city hall and the site of political protests, state-sponsored rituals, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. Evron’s sculpture meditates on how the Greek key serves as both a surface announcing democratic ideals around civic assembly (associated with ancient Greece) and an urgent reminder of what the artist considers to be democratic failures in Israel. For a series of related photographs, Evron trained his lens on some of Chicago’s iconic skyscrapers, including the southern and eastern facades of the Monadnock Building, the world’s largest office building at the time of its construction in 1893 and an early testament to the technological ingenuity and capitalist ambition during a period of rapid modernization and urbanization. Evron invites viewers to compare the historic and continued significance of the Greek key and other decorative surfaces that meander and meet as images across the world, accruing new significance in each encounter.

The exhibition is organized by Charlotte Ickes, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow. It is presented in the Dr. Paul and Dorie Sternberg Family Gallery and Ed and Jackie Rabin Gallery on the museum’s third floor.

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.

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