Solveig Nelson

  • PHANTOM LIMBS

    TWO YEARS before Princess Leia appeared in a flickering blue projection in Star Wars and an actual hologram was used in the science-fiction film Logan’s Run (both 1977), the artist, choreographer, dancer, and writer Simone Forti had begun a collaboration with the holographer Lloyd G. Cross to create moving, three-dimensional holographic versions of several of her dance pieces. Three of the resulting holograms, made between 1975 and 1978, were included in Forti’s retrospective at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria, in 2014; this past spring, seven were exhibited at the Box in Los Angeles,

  • “Out of Easy Reach”

    “Out of Easy Reach” stages what curator Allison M. Glenn describes as a “reparative” art history centered on the expanded modes of abstraction practiced by twenty-­four female-identifying American artists of color. The exhibition includes more than fifty works produced between 1980 and the present, setting contributions by Candida Alvarez and Howardena Pindell in dialogue with the work of younger artists such as Ayanah Moor and Juliana Huxtable. Glenn’s catalogue essay gestures toward Kimberlé Crenshaw’s 1989 notion of intersectionality and contemporaneous ideas of

  • the life and legacy of Thing

    IN 1991, at “SPEW: The Homographic Convergence”— a showcase of queer zines, T-shirts, videotapes, and performance that took place at the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago—Robert Ford described Thing as a “black gay and lesbian underground arts journal and magazine kind of thing.” The publication, which he founded in 1989 with Trent Adkins and Lawrence Warren, highlighted what Ford called a “black sensibility” in the underground. Published “capriciously”—typically every three or four months—it featured original interviews, writing, and photographs by artists, musicians,

  • Joyce Pensato

    In the early 1990s, Joyce Pensato shifted away from what she calls her “atmospheric” abstract paintings of previous decades to a parallel body of works based on charcoal drawings of cartoons, now transferred to black-and-white enamel paintings. Pensato models her paintings not on comic strips or animated cartoons per se but on their afterlives: Utilizing a composite of sources, she paints cartoon-themed objects from her own collection of flat cutouts originally intended as advertisements, and discarded toys. This stunning exhibition of eight large-scale paintings and seven charcoal drawings,

  • Lee Godie

    Departing from previous painting-dense retrospectives of Chicago-based artist Lee Godie’s work, Intuit’s recent exhibition—though it did include several strong canvases—focused instead on some fifty of the several hundred self-portraits that Godie took in public photo booths during the 1970s and ’80s. Godie, who was homeless and sold her work directly on the streets, brilliantly mobilized the city’s photo booths as artist’s studio. These public interiors functioned as sites via which she staged multiple forms of belonging—to her home city and equally to multiple movements within

  • “Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem”

    “Invisible Man” traces the artistic collaborations between photographer Gordon Parks and novelist Ralph Ellison (an avid recreational photographer who utilized photographic metaphors in his writing) via forty-five photographs; numerous related objects, including archival manuscripts; and an insightful catalogue. The show foregrounds their unpublished pictorial essay from 1948, “Harlem Is Nowhere,” which frames images of the neighborhood as both “document and symbol.” This collaboration focused on Harlem’s free, nonsegregated mental health clinic, which Ellison described

  • “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now”

    AT THE THRESHOLD of this exhibition is Glenn Ligon’s Give Us a Poem, 2007, positioned immediately adjacent to the show title that spans the entirety of the gallery’s outer wall. Ligon’s neon wall work quotes Muhammad Ali’s response to a 1975 Harvard audience’s request for a poem. Ali’s succinct answer—“Me / We!”—is illuminated in an alternating pattern, the two words stacked one atop the other. Ligon’s use of reflexive symmetry plays on the collectivity called for by Ali to amplify a central question of “The Freedom Principle”: How does contemporary art revisit black cultural nationalisms

  • Tony Lewis

    In The “Calvin and Hobbes” Tenth Anniversary Book, Bill Watterson explains his decision not to commercially license his comic strips as an attempt to preserve the imaginative place generated by the characters: “Calvin and Hobbes was designed to be a comic strip and that’s all I want it to be.” “Pall,” Tony Lewis’s assured, sharply intelligent exhibition imbued with a nuanced political charge, placed Watterson’s strict medium specificity in dialogue with that of text-based Conceptual artists. Lewis presented works from three untitled ongoing series in graphite on paper: nine collages of altered

  • the Halprin workshops

    IN 1966, David Antin declared that environment was “a pretty dead word.” The critic was being more than a little ironic, yet his pronouncement diagnosed a real anxiety. For artists and critics across the ideological spectrum, environment had become a difficult—and destabilizing—term. For some, it invited a departure from ideals of flatness, threatening the art object’s increasingly precarious autonomy. For others, including those sympathetic to art’s expanded field, environment had a worrying association with movement, a disruption of the one-to-one encounter between viewer and static

  • Josef Koudelka

    Moravian-born French photographer Josef Koudelka gained renown in early-1960s Czechoslovakia for his portraits of social groups—from the Roma to avant-garde theater collectives—but it was not until 1984 that he came forward as the previously anonymous “Prague Photographer” who captured the 1968 Soviet invasion of that city. While this striking body of work (parts of which ran as photo-essays in London’s Sunday Times and Look magazine) earned the artist inclusion on the Magnum roster, Art Institute curator Matthew S. Witkovsky’s nuanced retrospective of the artist, “Josef Koudelka:

  • Casilda Sánchez

    Casilda Sánchez’s best-known digital-video installation, As Inside as the Eye Can See, 2009, pictures two eyes with long lashes approaching each other in extreme close-up. This confrontation between anatomies brings to mind the physical and social collisions of body art, but it also reads as a pun on Clement Greenberg’s celebration of painting as an appeal to “eyesight alone.” Sánchez’s first solo exhibition, mounted at Aspect Ratio, continued to play with conventions of vision and picturing that have been historically linked to painting, but were here approached through the material conditions

  • “Michelle Grabner: I Work From Home”

    Scrambling one’s creative practice and domestic life, as conceptual painter Michelle Grabner has done since the mid-1990s, carries forward feminist critiques while opening up the contradictory poles of intimacy and circulation inherent in the artist’s studio. This exhibition of more than eighty of the Chicago-based artist’s works will highlight her commitment to painstaking process as well as to the invention of platforms for others: Grabner will hang some of her paintings on backdrops made by Gaylen Gerber, and exhibitions by Karl Haendel, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Amanda

  • “The Way of the Shovel: Art As Archaeology”

    Addressing the recent historiographic turn in artistic practices through works made in the last two decades by thirty-three artists, including Joachim Koester, Deimantas Narkevičius, and Hito Steyerl, MCA curator Dieter Roelstraete frames this pervasive interest in countermemory as a critical response to a “cultural pathology of forgetting” that emerged in the post-9/11 Bush era. In addition to gathering examples of laborious archive-based practices (Mark Dion), obsessions with obsolete display technologies (Tacita Dean), and reinvestigations of the after- effects

  • Steve McQueen

    PROJECTED CLOSE AGAINST A WALL in a large, dark gallery, the saturated red of Steve McQueen’s 16-mm film Charlotte, 2004, produced an intimacy with the viewer every bit as charged as the contact that occurs between the artist’s finger and Charlotte Rampling’s eyeball. McQueen’s insistent probing, with occasional pauses to explore the sagging skin of the actor’s closed eyelids, alternated with handheld pans over fragments of Rampling’s face that read as both explicit and abstract. The film’s overspill of color onto the floor and surrounding walls gave the moving image a sense of physical presence,

  • R. H. Quaytman

    The screenprinted and gessoed varnished panels of R. H. Quaytman speak foremost, perhaps, to a discourse of painting, but also to that of photography, sculpture (the panels are thick, often painted on multiple sides, and at times may be physically handled by viewers), and even literature (exhibitions are organized according to “chapters”), among other forms. For Quaytman’s recent exhibition at the Renaissance Society, “Passing Through the Opposite of What It Approaches, Chapter 25,” projection emerged as a central theme. Not only did pictorial references—works featuring installation views

  • Hito Steyerl

    For this expertly mounted exhibition of Berlin-based artist and writer Hito Steyerl’s work, curator Lisa Dorin installed six video projections throughout the Art Institute of Chicago’s modern wing. Dorin, describing Steyerl as a “riot grrrl” in her exhibition essay, ventured to consider the artist’s practice in terms of the issues around which that early-’90s movement coalesced. If riot grrrl challenged the veracity of the documentary, exploding its form, Steyerl’s work, in the artist’s own words, embraces images “passed on from hand to hand, copied and reproduced by printing presses, video

  • Gretchen Bender

    Seeing video art as “ghettoized [by] the eighties art world,” Gretchen Bender (1951–2004) described herself not as a video artist, but as a visual artist working with television as her material. It is in part because of this wary definition of her practice—one rooted in a commitment to art’s “public vision”—that Bender’s work remains so important today. Thanks to curator Philip Vanderhyden, a survey of the artist’s commercial output and two of her central installations from the 1980s can be experienced firsthand in “Tracking the Thrill,” an exhibition of Bender’s videos on view this