Chicago Museums Have 23 Great Exhibits You Can Visit in May

Irving Penn at the Art Institute, Theaster Gates at MCA, The Sahmat Collective at Smart Museum, and more

Artwork by Theaster Gates on display at MCA

Photo: Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art

Artwork from Theaster Gates: 13th Ballad

ART & DESIGN

ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
Through 5/12 Irving Penn: Underfoot. Irving Penn trained our tastes in 20th-century high fashion. As an old man, though, Penn documented humanity’s crusty side: chewed gum, garbage, and sidewalk stains. Through 5/12 Picasso and Chicago. It’s now been 100 years since the AIC showed Picasso’s work at the 1913 Armory. To celebrate this centennial, the museum is exhibiting more than 250 works. Through 6/2 They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910–1950. This exhibition highlights artistic expressions of the immigrant experience. Concurrently, Kara Walker’s Rise Up Ye Mighty Race! (through 8/11) investigates the inheritance of racism in the Obama era. Open Mon–Wed, Fri–Sun 10:30–5; Thu 10:30–8. Free (kids under 14) to $23. 111 S Michigan. artic.edu.

DEPAUL ART MUSEUM
Through 6/30 War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. This group exhibition proposes that being a mixed-race Asian American is a fertile cultural identity from which poignant conclusions about sexuality, gender, conflict, and creativity can be harvested. 935 W Fullerton. museums.depaul.edu.

HYDE PARK ART CENTER
Through 7/28 Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford: Hall of Khan. The artist creates living equestrian statues to honor historical and contemporary figures. Mon–Thurs 9–8, Fri–Sat 9–5, Sunday 12–5. 5020 S Cornell. hydeparkart.org.

ILLINOIS STATE MUSEUM CHICAGO GALLERY
Through 6/21 Focus 4: Four Solo Exhibitions. Here, see some excellent artwork by a handful of visually captivating artists. Preston Jackson’s violently surreal sculptures depicting African American identity stand out. Includes work by Michael Onken and Steven Robnett. 100 W Randolph. museum.state.il.us.

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
5/18–10/6 Theaster Gates: 13th Ballad. The museum’s massive atrium will hold remnants from Gates’s recent urban revitalization projects, including objects imported from Germany’s Huguenot House and church pews from the South Side. Through 6/2 Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949–1962. These are shocking paintings brought together from important museum collections. Through 6/18 Jason Lazarus wants to disturb the notion of the museum. He encourages visitors to occupy the MCA, offering replicas of Occupy Wall Street protest signs for participants to carry. Open Tue 10–8, Wed–Sun 10–5. Free (kids under 13) to $12; free Tue for Ill residents. 220 E Chicago. mcachicago.org.

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY
Through 6/30 Spectator Sports weaves sports and art together, encouraging viewers to scream at their televisions during a game. The show includes works by notable artists including Paul Pfeiffer, Andreas Gursky, and Cory Archangel. 600 S Michigan. mocp.org.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM
Through 5/24 Mapping. Two exhibitions consider historical maps and contemporary interpretations of mapping strategies. The topic of mapping has been well tread in contemporary art, but few are the opportunities to encounter antiques alongside newer interpretations. 231 N Annie Glidden, DeKalb. niu.edu/artmuseum.

RENAISSANCE SOCIETY *Critic’s Pick
Through 6/23 William Pope.L: Forlesen. This solo exhibition is a continuation of Pope.L’s exploration of the socially coded distinctions that define race relations in America. Rather than damning or finger-pointing, his perspective is often self-reflective, funny, and difficult. Free. 5811 S Ellis. renaissancesociety.org.

SMART MUSEUM
Through 6/9 The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India Since 1989. This is the first Midwest survey of the well-known Indian art and activist group. Free. Open Tue–Wed 10–5, Thu 10–8, Fri–Sun 10–5. 5550 S Greenwood. smartmuseum.uchicago.edu.

SOUTH SIDE COMMUNITY ART CENTER
5/3–7/7 The Philosophy of AfriCOBRA. Though still active today, the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists, or AfriCOBRA, made their most significant contributions in Chicago in the 1970s. This is the first of three retrospective shows taking place this year. 3831 S Michigan. southsidecommunityartcenter.com.

SWEDISH AMERICAN MUSEUM
Through 6/23 Entangled Routes. The Klassen brothers and their mother revel in the geography, natural materials, culture, and myths of Sweden. 5211 N Clark. swedishamericanmuseum.org.

UKRAINIAN INSTITUTE OF MODERN ART
Through 6/2 The museum continues to uncover distinct artistic unions. Bruce Thorn, Paul Lamantia, and John Kurtz draw upon a Chicago tradition of image-making in the Ed Paschke vein. Their canvases explode with mesmerizing, cartoonish faces and forms. 2320 W Chicago. uima-chicago.org.
 

HISTORY & CULTURE

CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM
Through 9/22 The museum presents a collection of Vivian Maier’s breathtaking photos. Through 1/4/14 Ebony Fashion Fair. Dazzling designer garments were plucked from the 50-year archives of the Ebony Fashion Fair. $14. $12 students, seniors. Mon–Sat 9:30–4:30, Sun 12–5. 1601 N Clark. chicagohs.org.

DuSABLE MUSEUM
Through 5/12 Reflections. Documentary-style photographs from several prominent African American artists and thinkers of the 20th century. Free to $10. Tue–Sat 10–5, Sun 12–5. dusablemuseum.org.

FIELD MUSEUM
Through 6/16 Fashion and the Field Museum Collection: Maria Pinto. Pinto weaves stories about how garments from the museum’s collection relate to present-day fashion. Through 9/8 Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence. This new show illuminates the many creatures, from fireflies to deep-sea fish, that use self-produced light in nature. Open daily 9–5. General admission free (kids under 3) to $15; all-access passes $21–$30. 1400 S Lake Shore. fieldmuseum.org. *Child Friendly.
 

SCIENCE, NATURE, KIDS

MITCHELL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN
Through 9/8 The museum showcases a new exhibition of artifacts from its permanent collection. $3–$5. Open Tue–Sat 10–5, Thu 10–8, Sun 12–4. 3001 Central, Evanston. mitchellmuseum.org.

MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY
Through 9/2 Animal Inside Out. This exhibit showcases more than 100 specimens preserved through the process of plastination. Timed-entry tickets required, $12–$20, which include general admission. Open daily 9:30–4. Free (kids under 3) to $15. 57th and Lake Shore. msichicago.org. *Child Friendly.
 

More events:
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Music: Classical and Opera | Dance | Museums | Musicals

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