• Untitled, 1931.

    Untitled, 1931.

    James VanDerZee

    The Art Institute of Chicago
    111 South Michigan Avenue
    January 24–April 25, 2004

    Curated by Colin Westerbeck

    James VanDerZee’s seventy-five-year career as a portraitist in Harlem spanned most of the twentieth century and took in almost every African American of note, from Marcus Garvey to the literati of the Harlem Renaissance. But his bread and butter consisted mainly of walk-in clients of a less celebrated sort. Curator Colin Westerbeck, who recently left the Art Institute after a nearly twenty-year stint, has selected 105 prints—many borrowed from the collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem—that put the focus on what he calls VanDerZee’s “everyday working methods as a storefront photographer.” In some cases, poses and backgrounds stay the same while the subjects change, hinting at the underlying codes that govern portraiture as a whole.

  • Untitled #57, from the series “I did not remember I had forgotten”, 2002.

    Untitled #57, from the series “I did not remember I had forgotten”, 2002.

    Laura Letinsky

    The Renaissance Society
    5811 South Ellis Avenue Cobb Hall, 4th floor
    March 7–April 19, 2004

    Curated by Suzanne Ghez

    Laura Letinsky scrutinizes the intimacies of the domestic in probing photographs that bring a contemporary relevance to the familiarities of genre painting. This exhibition of thirty prints from the mid-’90s to the present surveys her interrogation of romanticism in emotionally complex works that are as voluptuous and elegant as they are feverish and remote. In their depictions of the remnants of shared meals, the photographs play on fragments of activity: Melon rinds, withered bouquets, and scattered bread crusts lie quietly against the geometry of the table plane and articulate the moment when the quotidian becomes transcendent. With formal intelligence, Letinsky’s images suggest libidinal rituals and the mapping of longing, fulfillment, and decay in lush and silent repose.