previews

  • “The Propeller Group”

    Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA Chicago)
    220 East Chicago Avenue
    June 4 - November 13

    Curated by Naomi Beckwith

    The time-traveling sleuths behind the artist collective the Propeller Group will stage an exhibition whose inspiration, as chronicled in the accompanying catalogue, is a ceremony for reincarnation. The show will incorporate seven of the Ho Chi Minh City–based collective’s most critical forays into the ritualistic realm of death and birth—embracing film, installation, and sculpture—showcasing how these social-media-harnessing artists, obsessed with ersatz historic narratives and political spin, respond to the complex historic and current sociopolitical landscape of Vietnam. The group is fascinated with the contemporary maladies of a nation caught in the prism between communist ideology and neoliberal desire. Following their showcase at the Venice Biennale and solo presentation of The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music, 2014, at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, both in 2015, this first museum show is a must-see. Travels to the Phoenix Art Museum, Feb. 15–May 14, 2017; Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, June 3–Oct. 7, 2017.

  • Gordon Parks, Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1952, gelatin silver print, 13 1/4 × 10 1/4".

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

    The Art Institute of Chicago
    111 South Michigan Avenue
    May 21 - August 28

    Curated by Michal Raz-Russo

    “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 The show foregrounds their unpublished pictorial essay from 1948, “Harlem Is Nowhere,” which frames images of the neighborhood as both “document and symbol.”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 as “a three-color camera capable of overlaying multiple dimensions of experience.” Also included is Parks’s photographic essay for Life, “A Man Becomes Invisible,” 1952, a striking series of surrealistic images that matched the emotional tenor of Ellison’s Invisible Man, published that same year. Illuminating both the parallels and divergences between Parks’s and Ellison’s work, this show promises a new perspective on the pair’s joint use of photography during the civil rights movement, a period of heightened attention to the rhetoric of images.