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Sympathy for the Devil

Subtitled “Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967,” this exhibit often captures the cultural force of the music’s delirious, anarchic promises. The conceptual and sensual center is British artist Douglas Gordon’s installation Bootleg, which even without music suggests the essence of rock–its ephemerality, intensity, transgression, and physicality. Set up in a dark room are two […]

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Fiona Tan: Correction

Watching the subjects of Fiona Tan’s video installation–prison inmates and guards–I realized that I had to forget received notions of guilt and punishment. All those thoughts about remorse, innocence, and discipline were preventing me from perceiving Tan’s restrained project (among her influences are documentary photographers August Sander and Danny Lyon) for what it is: portraits […]

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The Significance of Sunday

A Family Farm Album: The Photographs of Frank Sadorus at the Illinois State Museum, through August 27 Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte at the Art Institute of Chicago, through September 19 Work and leisure coexist in the benevolent, fertile landscape captured by Frank Sadorus, an amateur photographer who documented his life on […]

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In Living Color

Risking the Abstract: The Mexican Modernism of Gunther Gerzso at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, through June 27 Tribal art was once extolled for its directness and elemental nature, though Western fascination with “primitive” art has also been linked to colonialism–to our own primitive lust for power. Painter Gunther Gerzso, an artist of Hungarian […]

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Christine Tarkowski

At first glance Christine Tarkowski’s menacing silo and bunker on the balcony at the Hyde Park Art Center–part of an installation called Administrative Bunker + Rook–seem to be made of concrete, but it’s soon clear that they’re digital photos printed on cloth. Around the bunker are three-dimensional tank barriers that seem less than threatening because […]

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Idealistic Realism

Thomas Struth at the Museum of Contemporary Art, through September 28 El ojo fino at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, through October 5 My favorite variant of the idea that the real world is a bleak, tedious place is the phrase “reality hit me,” implying as it does that reality is a violent, unforgiving […]

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For Beauty’s Sake

Beyond the Easel at the Art Institute of Chicago, through May 16 By Janina Ciezadlo I find myself defending the paintings in “Beyond the Easel” at the Art Institute of Chicago against the accusation that they’re too pretty. Many contemporary observers consider decorative art unworthy of consideration because it’s apparently outside the formal and philosophical […]

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Capturing the City

Chicago Painting 1895-1945: The Bridges Collection at the Illinois Art Gallery, through May 19 By Janina Ciezadlo [Chicago] is colossally rich; it is ever changing; it yearns for distinction. The newcomers who pour in from the wheatlands want more than mere money; they want free play for their prairie energy; they seek more imaginative equivalents […]