Genius at Work: 29 MacArthur Fellows showcase art in Chicago

Chicago — On a sunny June morning, artist Meltin is about to hit his head against a giant steel frame that was hanging as the telescopic forklift was moving into place on the front stairs. I did. Civic Arts Church Located in the quiet South Side Block.

The crew frowned, but Chin cleverly put on a duck and appeared undisturbed. He helped grab a piece of artwork in the shape of an elaborate bank vault-style door and push it into place. Voilà.

Perhaps one characteristic of being a genius, or at least being a recipient of the verbal known “genius grant”, is a high degree of spatial awareness and lack of fear.

Chin is contributing to a biennial-style exhibition throughout the city, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Fellowship, launched in 1981 by Chicago-based John D. and the Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. One of the visual artists MacArthur Fellow.

“Towards a Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the 40-year-old MacArthur Fellow Program” includes over 20 shows and specially commissioned installations.

Chin’s “Safe House Temple Door” is a community center BBF family service that takes part in a site-specific work by acclaimed painter and Chicago-based Kerry James Marshall. At the DuSable Museum of African-American History, a black cutout from Kara Walker dramatically covers a circular wall.

The “Toward Common Cause” will officially open on Thursday, but the start dates of the exhibition have been staggered, with some already seen and some coming in the fall.

Two of the main group exhibitions at The University of Chicago Smart Museum The Stoney Island Arts Bank, which opens this week, will feature about 12 artists each, including Nicole Eisenman, David Hammons, Trevor Pagren, and Carey May Weems.

The exhibition was started and funded by MacArthur and provided a $ 1.23 million grant to its host partner, Smart. Other donors provided additional funding and in-kind payments of approximately $ 500,000.

The Chin Door is an example of the social practice art that is the central concept of the show. “When we practice social practices, it’s about permits and involvement,” said an artist based near Asheville, North Carolina.

In his case, he partnered with the Sweet Water Foundation, an innovative neighborhood development nonprofit headquartered one block away from the church. The Foundation is turning it into a community design center. There, among other projects, participants will create an art currency that Chin calls “Fundreds,” a hand-painted version of the $ 100 banknote that is part of a joint action to combat lead pollution.

Social practices have recently spread throughout the world of art, but are rarely seen on this scale. “In a way, this show is a single social practice activity,” said Don Meyer, Senior Program Officer, MacArthur, Fellow Program.

However, there are challenges in organizing a large number of stakeholders. “Partnerships are really difficult,” said Abigail Winograd, the curator MacArthur hired to organize the show, over the course of almost four years. “This is why museums usually don’t do this — it’s insane.”

Physically, “towards a common cause” extends beyond traditional gallery spaces to housing projects and bus shelters.

“We want to meet people where they are,” Winograd said.

Paradoxically, the show of artists praised for their individual achievements is deliberately diffused, collaborated, and community-oriented, but it fits into the quest for a theme, a way to share resources.

“The 19th century thinking of a lonely genius is fading and collaboration is seen as becoming more and more important,” Meyer said.

Winograd ran that idea, and then ran some ideas. “In a way, it’s crowdsourced curation,” she said. “I gave control to a teenager.”

Participants in the Smart Museum’s teenage program filled out a banner created by the Los Angeles-based painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby. These banners National Public Housing Museum There is also Minnie Riperton Apartments, which is part of the Chicago Housing Authority.

“teens Carried “This project” and Akunyili Crosby wrote by email. During their remote work relationship, they even did location scouting. After seeing some of her previous works, the teenager settled on what she called the “intimate family moments and spaces” scene.

Acnili Crosby said he knew he wanted a “partnership with Chicago citizens” for the exterior work that would last for months, adding that “they should have a say.”

Tiffany Beatty, Head of Arts, Culture and Public Policy at the National Public Housing Museum, has demolished many housing projects such as Cabrini-Green in Chicago in the last few decades.

“We love talking about homes with people like Njideka,” she added.

For Winograd and her group, one of the many obstacles of the day goes back and forth between the smart team and the Chicago Housing Authority over the type and size of fasteners used to hold the Riperton apartment façade banner. It was that.

“It all comes down to the difference between 0.5 inches and 3/8 inches,” said Ray Klemchuk, Smart’s chief installer in practical overalls.

The scale and scope seem to have impressed another fellow MacArthur participant, Inigoman Grano Ovale in Chicago, known for his community-oriented projects.

“Given the pandemic, I’m really surprised at it This is all together, “he said.

Manglano-Ovalle’s contribution to the “Common Cause” is from his “Well” series “Hydrant, 41 ° 47’22.662” N — 87 ° 37’38.364 “W. This is a functional fire hydrant installed at the main facility of the Sweet Water Foundation and partially used in the Foundation’s extensive farming business.

“The original well was a reaction to conceptual Land art like Walter de Maria.Vertical Earth Kilometer,'” Manglano-Ovalle talked about almost hidden underground work. “What if that gesture becomes a utility?”

Once installed, his well becomes the property of the owner, but “when money turns into water, the well is no longer a work of art,” he said.

Hydrant persistence is another central aspect of the installation of several “towards a common cause”.

“Part of the problem with the biennial model is that it happens and disappears,” Winograd said. “That wasn’t the goal here. The idea was to have this art as a community resource.”

A few days ago, Rick Rowe was in Chicago working on his work, The Black Wall Street Journey. This title refers to the center of the black economic power that was destroyed by the Tulsa race massacre in Oklahoma in 1921.

Rowe, best known Project Low Houses In Houston, where he is based, he said his focus was on “revitalizing and rebuilding the black commercial center of the community.”

To that end, he stood on 51st Street near the Green Line stop in El, Bronzeville district. It was famous as the commercial and cultural center of blacks in the early 20th century.

It’s here that one of Rowe’s three monitors displays information about black wealth and entrepreneurship. Will be placed in the window Urban junkture, Black Community Development Non-Profit Organization. (The other two are at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Smart and School.)

“The problem with most statistics on this topic is comparing the wealth of blacks to the wealth of whites,” said Rowe. “By doing so, we cannot enter the nuances of change in the black community.”

Lowe is working with Urban Juncture to raise money to fund programs such as entrepreneurial networking events. It will continue beyond the exhibition. The ongoing programming “fits my idea of ​​social sculpture,” Rowe said. “In a sense, it’s performance.”

Lowe’s projects, like many of the “Toward Common Cause” projects, are centered around Chicago’s South Side. However, Wendy Ewald’s work “Daily Life and Dreams in a Pandemic: The Centro Romero Youth Program Project” was based on a partnership with a Northside organization. Centro RomeroProvides legal services and other assistance to immigrants, many of whom are Latin Americans.

Based in the Hudson Valley of New York and known for his photography collaboration, Ewald said he has been involved in social activities for over 50 years.

“When I started, what I was doing wasn’t seen as art,” she said. “As time went on, people came to understand it better.”

Ewald asked them to take pictures and write about their lives, initially in remote areas and later in person and in collaboration with Centro Romero teenagers. She combines images and text to scan and enhance their work. This fall, the finished artwork will be on display at selected local bus shelters and at the Weinberg / Newton Gallery in the River West area.

Ernesto Aparicio, 13, said he worked with Ewald to learn the term “still life.”

“The best I took had a lot of things to represent my family and me,” said Aparicio. “There was a pot for making beans, a guitar, the chocolates we use, and a table that covered what my grandmother brought from Mexico.”

Other students have linked their experience to the wider world and found a common cause for show titles at events that have energized millions of people. Marestella Martinez, also 13 years old, took a picture of a mural depicting George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis last year.

“It’s not just the pictures, it’s all the stories around it,” Martinez said. “I wrote that George Floyd’s daughter would grow up and see her father’s last moments.”

Genius at Work: 29 MacArthur Fellows showcase art in Chicago

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