MCA CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY WITH MAJOR THREE-PART EXHIBITION: WE ARE HERE
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago celebrates its 50th anniversary in October with an exciting series of exhibitions, programs, and events, and the unveiling of the building's new redesign. The centerpiece of the 50th anniversary is We Are Here, a major three-part exhibition drawn from the MCA's significant collection of contemporary masterworks that explores how contemporary art and culture have the power to change the way we see the world. The exhibition focuses on how contemporary artists critique the world around them and respond creatively and often provocatively, and how viewers have become an important part of that experience.
Each of the three parts of the We Are Here exhibition is organized by one of the MCA's global team of curators - Senior Curator Omar Kholeif, Curator Naomi Beckwith, and Associate Curator José Esparza - and feature artists from around the world working in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, installation, sound, film, and video. Together, these three independently curated yet inter-related 'chapters' explore the relationship between artist and viewer and tell an evolving story of contemporary art.
José Esparza curates the first part of the exhibition, subtitled I Am You, which opens in advance on August 19 on the second floor. His selection of works questions how we relate to and shape our environments. It includes works by recognized artists such as Francis Bacon, Jasper Johns, René Magritte, Marisol, and Shirin Neshat, as well as younger artists, such as Jonathas de Andrade and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye - all of whom rely upon personal experiences to illuminate how contemporary art reflects the vastness of contemporary life. Artist Tino Sehgal presents his popular art experience Kiss during the exhibition (Oct 20 - Nov 25). Referencing a number of historical and contemporary sculptures entitled Kiss, this work choreographs two dancers based on a set of instructions created by Sehgal.
Naomi Beckwith's section on the fourth floor, You Are Here, examines how the role of the viewer has changed over time, from passive onlooker to active participant. Starting with the radical objects of the Minimalists, who made works that gallery visitors could walk through and step on, the exhibition also includes the works of artists who feature their bodies in their artworks, such as Kenneth Josephson and Ana Mendieta. More socially engaged works, such as Adrian Piper and Marlene Dumas, address the effect of certain power structures on bodies in the world, while artists such as Huang Yong Ping explore representations of political figures and political power. Pierre Huyghe's performative work, Name Announcer, is installed in the gallery for the first time since it was acquired. As visitors approach the entrance, a guard/town crier asks them for their full names and then proclaims their name loudly into the gallery.
Omar Kholeif presents artists who borrow from popular culture - soup cans, movie stills, neon signage, and floor tiles - to critique its workings. His section on the fourth floor, We Are Everywhere, features artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Bruce Nauman, as well as Chicago Imagists Karl Wirsum and Roger Brown, who re-present and reveal social realities that may otherwise go unnoticed. The exhibition also explores how, since the 1980s, artists such as Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Gillian Wearing, and others have engaged with new forms of media to extend the reach of their own viewpoints and experiences. Figures such as Barbara Kruger and Lawrence Abu Hamdan encourage viewers to think twice about the power structures they engage with every day.
For the 50th anniversary, the MCA will have a range of smaller exhibitions exploring the history and collection of the museum - from special commissions, to key masterworks from the collection, to new gifts and acquisitions.
The MCA has two major commissions on display for the 50th anniversary. The first is the return ofaudience favorite Felix, a twenty-six-foot-tall fabricated cat skeleton by Maurizio Cattelan, on view from October 14, 2017 to April 8, 2018. Made specifically for the MCA's atrium, Felix plays with the popularity of prehistoric dinosaur skeletons like the Chicago Field Museum's T-Rex named Sue. Felix is a commanding sculpture meticulously fabricated to mimic the look and feel of a real animal skeleton, at once shocking and humorous as it challenges viewers' perceptions.
The second commission is a new site-specific wall mural by artist Lorna Simpson, who had her first museum show at the MCA in 1992 and went on to become the first African-American woman to show at the Venice Biennale. The mural, Untitled, is based on two smaller paintings, Ice I and Ice II, which feature found images of ice and an erupting volcano. This large-scale work juxtaposes the sublime yet disastrous imagery of smoke and ice with Ebony magazine clippings in the background. The mural is on view in the atrium from August 12, 2017 to July 29, 2018.
Heaven and Earth: Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons, on view October 21, 2017 to December16, 2018, presents a selection of works from two contemporary art icons, Jeff Koons and Alexander Calder. Both Koons and Calder have played significant roles at the MCA, which has made a longstanding commitment to both artists with major exhibitions and extensive holdings in the MCA Collection. Calder had a retrospective at the MCA and a city celebration in 1974, as well as a landmark survey in 2010; while Koons had his first ever-museum exhibition at the MCA in 1988. In a new and unexpected conversation, viewers can see the sculptural work of these two established and playful artists.
To the Racy Brink - on view from July 1 to December 10, 2017 - looks at the first decades of the museum with historical material that highlights some of the MCA's earliest vanguard programming and advertising. Since its founding in 1967, the MCA has been committed to supporting artistic experimentation and risk taking. Drawn from a selection of rare films, videos, and photographs from the MCA's archives, this is the first time the video of Chris Burden's Doomed (1975) has been displayed, giving viewers a glimpse of his 45-hour performance which intrigued and bewildered the city and tested the museum's obligation to the artist's vision and endurance. Also on view are a series of films made by David Katzive, the museum's first curator, capturing some of the MCA's earliest programming including Christo's first wrap of a building in the US, Wrap In, Wrap Out (1969), and the groundbreaking conceptual show Art by Telephone (1969), in which artists communicated instructions for creating work over the phone to MCA staff. In the 1980s, the museum began producing videos in conjunction with solo exhibitions, with the artists' insights into their work and creative process, including Vito Acconci, Jeff Koons, Lorna Simpson, and Fred Wilson.
Also on view as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, Woman with a Camera showcases a selection of works from a major gift of 50 photographs from Jack and Sandra Guthman's collection donated to the MCA for the museum's anniversary. Sharing the museum's dedication to collecting the work of contemporary female artists, the Guthman exhibition is comprised of photographs by 16 women from different backgrounds, generations, and practices, including established masters Catherine Opie, Laurie Simmons, and Carrie Mae Weems, as well as ascendant artists Anne Collier, Xaviera Simmons, and Mickalene Thomas. The women use photography to address politics, history, and identity, and explore central themes in contemporary photography: rendering the human figure, capturing public or private spaces, and commenting on our media-saturated culture. Woman with a Camera is on view from July 8, 2017 to January 14, 2018.