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Hidden Agenda

Real Pictures: An Installation by Alfredo Jaar at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, through March 25 Acquiring prosperity on the backs of others is the basis of the West’s economic domination of formerly colonized third-world countries, and many of Alfredo Jaar’s earlier forays into this subject provided pictorial metaphors for the phenomenon. For a mid-80s […]

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Little Miracles

Joel Meyerowitz on the Street: The First Decade at the Art Institute, through March 19 Two contrasting approaches to street photography can be found in the exhibition of 53 outdoor color photos taken by Joel Meyerowitz in the 1960s and 70s. A related exhibit on the history of street photography in an adjacent Art Institute […]

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Disorderly Constructs

Dieter Appelt at the Art Institute, through January 8 at Ehlers Caudill Gallery, through January 28 In the first of two 1973 Dieter Appelt works at the Art Institute, both called Self-Portraits, we see 16 photos, mounted in blocks of 4, of the photographer’s head and torso as he presses parts of his face and […]

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One of Two Cities

THE PERFECT CITY: PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHICAGO BY BOB THALL at the Art Institute of Chicago, through December 4 I find the title of this exhibit almost as engaging as Bob Thall’s photographs. “The perfect city” is so distant from the other epithets associated with Chicago, and yet there is an inherent ideal, a geometric beauty […]

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Nature’s Sway

BARBARA CRANE: STICKS AND STONES at Gallery 954, through October 15 In the 19th century negatives were often combined to create photographic panoramas giving the illusion of a seamless 360-degree view of a landscape or city. For a group of works titled From Coloma to Covert, in her current show “Sticks and Stones,” Barbara Crane […]

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Sullivan Forever

SULLIVAN BY SULLIVAN at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, through September 14 In 1954, when architect Crombie Taylor was beginning the project of restoring several halls in Louis Sullivan’s great 1889 Auditorium Building, he asked the Chicago Architectural Photographing Company if they had any documentation. They brought him several boxes containing 127 eight-by-ten glass-plate negatives of […]

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Surface Projections

ANNIE LEIBOVITZ: PHOTOGRAPHS 1970-1990 at the Chicago Cultural Center, through October 2 PEOPLE OF DEHON at the Greenview Art Center, through August 14 Of the 119 photographs by Annie Leibovitz now on view at the Chicago Cultural Center, almost all are portraits, and most are portraits of celebrities–Mick Jagger, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, John Lennon. […]

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A Oneness Beyond Words

Imogen Cunningham at Edwynn Houk Gallery, through March 19 Art’s strongest effects are somewhat mysterious. If there were simple formulas–rectangles mean anger, curves mean joy–works would be boringly predictable, little more than essays. Instead, the best work reveals itself slowly, surprisingly, over time. Curves in one work may express joy, in another anger, and in […]

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A Feeling for Human Beings

MICKEY PALLAS at Ehlers Caudill Gallery, through January 29 I can think of few better icons of 1950s America than Mickey Pallas’s 1959 photograph Convertible and Suburban Family. A “perfect” family–husband and wife, boy and girl and dog–sit in a convertible parked in front of their suburban home. The camera is perfectly aligned with the […]

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Remembrances of Things Past

SALLY MANN: STILL TIME at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, through November 6 Most Americans photograph their children. Few do so in black and white; fewer still use a century-old view camera for the job. The somber gray tones give Sally Mann’s large-format snapshots of her three utterly modern kids the haunting look of the […]

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A Vision of Freedom

HELEN LEVITT at the Art Institute, through May 2 Helen Levitt’s photographs are gentle, delicate, subtle. Seen a few at a time, or reproduced in books, they may seem only documents of diverse street people–the elderly, the middle-aged, and especially children–caught in positions perfectly expressive of their uniqueness. This in itself is not an inconsiderable […]

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Alienation and Representation

SPECIAL COLLECTIONS: THE PHOTOGRAPHIC ORDER FROM POP TO NOW at the Mary and Leigh Block Gallery of Northwestern University, through March 4 My favorite work in Special Collections: The Photographic Order From Pop to Now is Christian Boltanski’s The 62 members of the Mickey Mouse Club in 1955 (1972). Boltanski enlarged 62 black-and-white photos from […]

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Evidence of Wrongdoing

ZOE LEONARD, PHOTOGRAPHS at the Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago, through February 21 Several years ago, when I was traveling through the German Democratic Republic with a group of fellow students, someone in my group was severely reprimanded by officials for taking pictures in an area where such activity was prohibited. I still […]

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Change the World. Buy a Sweater

ADVERTISING AND SOCIAL ISSUES: UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON at the Museum of Contemporary Photography It’s the sort of small-business success story Ronald Reagan liked to weave into his talks about the “American spirit.” Originally a family business, organized in 1965 near Treviso, Italy, the clothing retailer Benetton now boasts more than 7,000 shops in 100 […]

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Women’s Pictures

NOT NICE GIRLS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY WOMEN 1930-1980 at Kelmscott Gallery Though the title “Not Nice Girls” might suggest otherwise, most of the work in this show isn’t explicitly feminist in intent, method, or imagery. Nevertheless the exhibit won’t fail to persuade viewers that women photographers have made significant contributions to the medium. The show’s title […]