2018 Symposium

Friday, September 28

Present Histories: Art & Design in Chicago

A curated component of the full /Dialogues program, presented in partnership with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the third annual Symposium featured a day-long series of discussions and provocative discourse with artists, curators, and professionals on the current issues that engage them.

Presented in alignment with Art Design Chicago and the Terra Foundation for American Art, the program traced select artistic and design legacies produced in the city, spanning from 1968–2018, as well as their impact on the larger social, aesthetic, and cultural movements from the twentieth-century to the present. Entitled Present Histories: Art & Design in Chicago, the Symposium traced the provocative positions that Chicago’s alternative models have shaped, and continue to impact internationally, across fields of art, design, and culture. Looking at the term ‘present’—both as an act of portrayal and demonstration, as well as a tense, of being current—the Symposium focused on how certain movements founded in the city have been generated, assimilated, and reimagined in our contemporary moment. Resisting a linear canon of art history, the Symposium questioned how these histories have been woven into the fabric of mainstream consciousness, and have been reconsidered anew, featuring panels, performative interventions, screenings, and book signings with some the city’s most influential creative figures. Presented in partnership with the Terra Foundation for American Art and Art Design Chicago.


Symposium Schedule

Performance: Révérence 

Brendan Fernandes | In Conversation with Sarah Thornton

Initiating the Symposium, Artist Brendan Fernandes (Artist | Monique Meloche Gallery, b. 1979 in Nairobi, Kenya) staged a site-specific iteration of his performative work Révérence (2015), featuring a series of choreographed dancers to both welcome and confront the audience. Using his training in classical ballet, alongside his unique cultural background as a Kenyan-Indian-Canadian, the performance featured classically-trained dancers from the Joffrey Academy of Dance to question identity and power dynamics. 

Through a choreographed routine of bowing, the piece interrogated the foundations and origin of the Ballet institution, which began as a way for courtiers to bow to King Louis XIV. In this way, the Baroque gestures employed in Fernandes’ work signify a hierarchy, where one utilized the body to acknowledge royalty. The ritual of the révérence in ballet has been performed at the end of a stage sequence, as well as at the end of each class, as a sign of gratitude towards both the teacher and the pianist ever since. Commissioned as part of /Dialogues, the concept of this ‘ending’ will be reversed—not as a closing, but as a beginning—literally ‘setting the stage’ for the series of conversations presented within this focused program.

As the first discussion of the program, author and sociologist of culture Sarah Thornton interviewed Fernandes, tracing the impact of his work, as well as the role of performance in his practice, which questions positions of power, control, and ‘queering space.’ The Master and Form, took place at the Graham Foundation earlier in 2018. Révérence features a collaboration with the Joffrey Academy of Dance. Presented in conjunction with The Living Mask at the DePaul Art Museum, was view during EXPO ART WEEK through December 16, 2018.

AfriCOBRA: Chicago in the Age of Black Power 

Featuring | Jae Jarrell (Artist, Member of AfriCOBRA), Wadsworth Jarrell (Artist, Member of AfriCOBRA), and Gerald Williams (Artist | Kavi Gupta Gallery, Founding Member of AfriCOBRA).

This panel was presented in alignment with Art Design Chicago exhibitions The Time is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960–1980 at the Smart Museum of Art and The Art and Influence of Dr. Margaret Burroughs at the DuSable Museum of African American History, which focused on artists working in and out of the Black Arts Movement.. A solo exhibition of the late member, Barbara Jones Hogu, Resist, Relate, Unite 1968–1975, took place at the DePaul Art Museum earlier in 2018. An exhibition curated by Williams on the occasion of the fifty-year anniversary of the group, AfriCOBRA 50, was on view at Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago to align with EXPO ART WEEK, September 8–November 24, 2018. Followed by a book signing.

Alterity and the Exhibition Environment: Feminist History of Alternative Spaces in Chicago 

Panelists | Lynne Warren (Adjunct Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago), Mary Patten (Member, ACT UP; Professor, Film, Video, New Media and Animation and Visual Critical Studies, SAIC), Torkwase Dyson (Artist | Rhona Hoffman Gallery), and Kay Rosen (Artist, former ARC Member). Moderated by Jenni Sorkin (SAIC BFA 1999), Associate Professor, History of Art & Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Alternative spaces are often discussed within the canon of Chicago’s exhibition history. Yet, these spaces also played a parallel role in the activities that defined feminist art and social practice in the city’s scene. In her chapter for the newly launched book Art in Chicago: A History from the Fire to Now, author Jenni Sorkin delivers a survey of communal alternative exhibition spaces from 1973 to 1993 as they built momentum in Chicago alongside the commercial gallery system and during the women's movement. The panel featured Lynne Warren, longtime champion of Chicago's artists, whose groundbreaking exhibition Alternative Spaces: A History in Chicago (MCA Chicago, 1984) first tracked this history; Mary Patten, one of the founding members of ACT UP, an activist group formed to bring attention to the AIDS crisis; conceptual artist Kay Rosen, a prominent member of the cooperative feminist art gallery Artist Residents of Chicago (ARC, 1973); and Torkwase Dyson, an interdisciplinary artist whose projects such as tiny studio have examined a nomadic practice that generates both environmental interdependency and solitude. This conversation traced the histories and roles of feminism in Chicago's alternative spaces from the 1970s to the present. Torkwase Dyson, on view at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, aligned with EXPO ART WEEK.

Book Launch | Art in Chicago: A History from the Fire to Now

Edited by Maggie Taft and Robert Cozzolino (Judith Kirshner, Consulting Editor and Erin Hogan, Sidebars Editor). Chapter Authors: Wendy Greenhouse, Jennifer Jane Marshall, Maggie Taft, Robert Cozzolino, Rebecca Zorach and Jenni Sorkin.

Funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this newly launched book was available for a signing at the /Dialogues Stage published through the University of Chicago Press. 

Screening | Designers in Film: A Glimpse into the Goldsholl Archive

A screening of select films and reels produced by Goldsholl and Associates—whose films, television ads and other moving image work innovated “designs-in-film”—was on view at the /Dialogues Stage, as an interlude to the final conversation in the Symposium on Chicago’s Mid-Century impact on the advertising and commercial industry at large.

Making the Modern Image: Mid-Century Commercial Industry in Chicago

Panelists | Theaster Gates (Artist | Rebuild Foundation), Corinne Granof (Curator of Academic Programs, Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University) and Amy Beste (Director of Public Programs, Department of Film, Video New Media and Animation, SAIC), and Lara Allison (Lecturer, Art History, Theory and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago). Moderated by Michael Golec (Associate Professor, Art History, Theory and Criticism, SAIC).

Through recent exhibitions that relate the advertising and commercial publications industries to the context of contemporary art, this discussion traced Chicago’s contribution to the glossy image that defined the Mid-Century aesthetic. Tracing the political, social, and cultural impact of these design philosophies, this panel will look at the national impact of firms and companies whose work pushed industry boundaries through avant-garde approaches. Under what conditions did these methods co-exist within the Mid-Century moment? Featuring Theaster Gates, whose recent exhibition A Johnson Publishing Story at the Rebuild Foundation explores the enduring role of Ebony and Jet magazines in defining and popularizing a black aesthetic and identity around the globe; Corinne Granof and Amy Beste on the work of Goldsholl and Associates, whose films, television ads, and other moving image work innovated “designs-in-film” influenced by László Moholy-Nagy and the Bauhaus approach; and historian Lara Allison, speaking on the seminal legacy of the Great Ideas campaign by the Container Corporation from 1950–80. This discussion, moderated by Michael Golec, examined the many contributions of Chicago’s enduring impact on a national and international aesthetic. Up is Down: Mid-Century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University will be on view from September 18–December 9, 2018 and A Johnson Publishing Story Curated by Theaster Gates at the Rebuild Foundation’s Stony Island Arts Bank was extended through September 30, to align with EXPO ART WEEK.