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The best things to do in Chicago this month,
selected by our culture criticsMay 2016

Art and Design
Museums and Institutions

'Souvenir I' by Kerry James Marshall
Souvenir I by Kerry James Marshall Photo: Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art



5/21–8/28 Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem. Parks, a renowned documentarian of the black rights movement, produced a now-famous photo essay for Life magazine to illustrate Invisible Man, Ellison’s 1952 novel about systemic racism.

Through 5/10 Van Gogh’s Bedrooms. One of the most famous scenes in art history depicts where Van Gogh rested his weary head after long days of painting in the South of France. This exhibit focuses on life in and around that famed Yellow House.
Through 8/7 Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print. Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck is known as one of the most important painters of the 17th century, but he also produced a significant body of printed work depicting his peer artists—the first “yearbook” in art history.
Through 8/14 Abstractions: Aaron Siskind. An important midcentury Chicago photographer, Siskind is known for his abstract expressionist black-and-white camera images.
111 S. Michigan. artic.edu


5/12–8/13 Sharon Lockhart’s art film and photos take viewers to Łódź, a Polish city where concrete courtyards serve as playgrounds for local children. Lockhart focuses her lens on these children, who improvise their playtime in the urban jungle. 201 E. Ontario. artsclubchicago.org


5/12–8/21 Poor Traits. Barbara Rossi is one of the original Hairy Who artists, painting shocking portraits that could be mistaken for bouquets of deli meat.
5/12–8/21 The Secret Birds. Local legend Tony Fitzpatrick shows his avian-themed collage series in which birds sing about the artist’s friends and influences.
935 W. Fullerton. museums.depaul.edu


Through 5/8 Presence. Multimedia artist David Wallace Haskins debuts eight site-specific installations, immersive environments with technical tricks that give the illusion of heaven on earth. 150 S. Cottage Hill, Elmhurst. elmhurstartmuseum.org



5/21–8/13 Shoretime Spaceline. Karen Reimer uncovered a peculiar fact about the Hyde Park Art Center’s site: It was once beachfront property, fabricated by lake landfill to make the Chicago Beach Hotel for visitors of the 1893 world’s fair. It was such “a Golden Age robber baron thing to do,” says Reimer: “It steals by making.” Here, she hauls her own sand into the center’s giant gallery space, complete with a boardwalk and textile sky.

Through 7/17 La Paz. Chicago’s figurative sculpture scene is booming because of artists like Rodrigo Lara Zendejas, who carves clay into hyperrealistic faces and expressions. In this exhibit, he transforms a gallery into a chapel to address the religiosity of Mexican American immigrants.
5020 S. Cornell. hydeparkart.org



Through 7/5 Self-Portraits. Fans of Cindy Sherman, take note: The late Lee Godie emerged nearly simultaneously with Sherman and, like Sherman, played with the notion of identity. The local outsider artist used bus terminal photo booths as her studio. Homeless and having no formal art education, Godie made poignant self-portraits, often costuming herself as royalty or drawing makeup on the black-and-white prints by hand. 756 N. Milwaukee. art.org


Through 7/23 Community Uprooted: Eminent Domain in the U.S. The practice of eminent domain is familiar to those who recall Mayor Daley’s bulldozing of the Meigs Field runway in 2003. The government right to claim private land has also affected the lives of families throughout the United States, who have lost homes and property. Photographer Richard Wasserman’s project also highlights how citizens can use eminent domain to reclaim disused land for redevelopment.
Through 7/23 Persistence of Memory. A lifelong series of portraits by William Utermohlen documents his lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The canvas was his therapy but also a devastating mirror.
Through 7/23 South Williamsburg. William Castellana’s street photographs of his Brooklyn neighborhood capture the lives of Hasidic Jews against the backdrop of gentrifying Williamsburg.
820 N. Michigan. luc.edu/luma


Through 6/5 Surrealism: The Conjured Life. With more than 100 paintings and objects, this exhibit tells the story of surrealism’s roots. On display are masterworks by Magritte, Ernst, Paschke, and Koons.
Through 7/3 BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Diane Simpson. Now in her 80s, the longtime Chicagoan is finally being recognized for her contributions to contemporary sculpture.


Through 9/25 Mastry. Kerry James Marshall, Chicago’s greatest living painter, has said there are “enough” pictures of white people, so he won’t paint them.

220 E. Chicago. mcachicago.org


Through 7/10 Burnt Generation: Contemporary Iranian Photography. Forget what you think you know about life in Iran. In this group show, nine contemporary Iranian-born photographers unmask the competing realities of Iranian life, including youth experiences of a traditional society, battle scene reenactments, and more. 600 S. Michigan. mocp.org


Through 10/9 Dan Ramirez. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez worked as a steel hauler for years before discovering minimalist painting. His palette favors silver, black, red, and blue over sharply cut planes of color on large canvases. 1852 W. 19th. nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org


Through 6/26 Between the Ticks of the Watch. How is a gas mask like a megaphone? This and other object riddles play out in a group show posed around the topic of doubt and uncertainty in life and art. Free. 5811 S. Ellis. renaissancesociety.org


Through 5/29 Chornobyl: Impact and Beyond. The Ukrainian city decimated by its own power plant is now a symbol for nuclear disaster. This exhibition marks the accident’s 30th anniversary with works tackling environmentalism, human rights, and physics. 2320 W. Chicago. uima-chicago.org


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