(If you are in Chicago.)
1) The China exhibit is hit and miss: it’s (as far as I can tell) just a completely random assortment of work by current/contemporary Chinese artists in many mediums and, to me at least, non-themed shows tend to have both a) a dizzying feel and b) a very large differential between the good art and the bad art and some of the bad art is baaad. That said, there were two artists with really cool stuff you want to see in person.
Photographer Liu Bolin blew our minds. Check these out, several of which were in the show. And look at this one, which sadly was not in the show. WOW!!! Spellbinding in person, I just wanted to walk back and forth between his pictures over and over and over.
I also really liked the three oil paintings by Xiong Yu. While the figures in the paintings seem very modern, almost robotic, with a touch of ninja, the situations seem almost medieval (chivalric figures on horseback; falconry; very knight- or soldier-like). He had three paintings there, one huge, and they were just beautiful. This is one of the three we saw. And this, which I LOVELOVELOVE!!! We did not see this one although I also love it!
2) Photography exhibit: Articles of Faith by Dave Jordano. Color photographs of small African-American churches on the southside of Chicago. Some located in old storefronts; some in basements (perhaps. so it looked). Really interesting photographs. You could lose a few hours just savoring the details. (You can see me admiring the photos here.)
3) Photography exhibit: Hands by Norman Sagansky. Candid shots. Hands in respose, hands in action, hands unknowingly observed. Old hands, young hands, fragile hands, strong hands. A lot of neat interactions.
4) We also saw another photography exhibit: Look at Me by Jed Fielding, pictures of blind children in Mexico City. I thought some of the work was impressively done photographically (strong B&Ws). But these kind of photographs presented without any text or statement of intent raise a LOT of obvious questions to the viewer about exploitation and consent, to just skim off the top.
The exhibit handout says the following [bold added by me]:
“In photographing the anomalous or disadvantaged, the relationship between subject and photographer has lately become a lively issue, especially in the work of Diane Arbus or even Sebastiao Salgado. In Fielding’s work, though, the tender beauty achieved here dissolves any such questions.”
I disagree with “lately”, first. Arbus died in 1971. While her photographs are still (obviously) widely circulated and discussed, I’m pretty sure the discomfort viewers may (or may not) have with the objectification (or not) of her subjects was happening when they were first exhibited 30-odd years ago. In her case, I actually don’t wonder as much whether the subjects were complicit in or “OK with” the fact that she was photographing them as much for their “abnormalities” as for anything else. However, in Fielding’s pictures, the children are blind. Some of whom, it appears, likely since birth. Do they even really understand what a photograph is? How can they truly agree to be a part of something they’re literally unable to interact with? And, obviously the fact that I am asking those questions must lead you to realize that my second objection is with the statement that [I sarcastically paraphrase here] “his pictures are so pretty, you don’t even wonder if the kids are OK with them!” I wondered, L wondered, and every other person that wandered through the gallery while we were there wondered.
I’m not arguing whether or not they’re exploitative. I’m arguing that you DO (and WILL) ponder that as you look at them. And if you don’t? Check your pulse, dude, not sure you’re human.
5) And hey if you’re not there for the exhibit, you can just go to check out the awesome architure of the building. Hello dome window (s). Such a cool place. (They often hold weddings and/or wedding receptions here.) It’s definitely becoming a regular spot on the Duff Does Chicago Culture itinerary.