Visual Arts Fall Guide 2022: Art Institute presents the arts of Africa in a major exhibition

When people think of the Art Institute of Chicago, African art probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, according to one museum curator.

“That’s one of our big challenges, initiatives or ambitions – to make it better known,” said Constantine Petridis, the museum’s chairman and curator of the Arts of Africa. “It’s always been a bit overshadowed by so many of our other great collections.”

Female figure, 19th century. Baule; Côte d’Ivoire. National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

National Museum of African Art/Art Institute of Chicago

The department’s profile is set to receive a major boost on November 20 with the opening of a large-scale show in Regenstein Hall, the museum’s main special exhibition gallery, entitled The Language of Beauty in African Art.

With more than 250 sculptures from cultures across the continent, this is the largest show to date that explores the aesthetic appreciation of these objects through the eyes of their African makers and users, and makes clear that their appearance is closely related to their function.

“It’s a fundamental aspect of art,” Petridis said. “This is not an afterthought. This is not a side note. Very often it is intricately intertwined or extremely related to the purpose and function of these arts. The objects look good, so they are successful for doing what they are supposed to do.

The show will include loans from an assortment of public and private collections, as well as selections from the Art Institute’s African collection, which dates back to 1957. Petridis describes the holding as modest in size but comparable to other museums of the Art Institute’s size. “It’s better than people think it is,” he said.

The show, which traveled to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, earlier this year, will remain on display through February 27, 2023 at the Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan (artic.edu).

Here’s a selection of 10 more fall exhibitions worth checking out:

Through Sept. 25, “Flourish: The Garden at 50,” Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe (chicagobotanic.org). There are just a few weeks left to see this indoor and outdoor exhibition celebrating the Botanic Gardens’ 50th anniversary. The organization commissioned 10 nature-inspired installations from local, national and international artists. Among them are “The Rookery,” a fantastical castle-like structure built from bent willow saplings by North Carolina artist Patrick Doherty, and “Herbarium,” a hanging installation of dried flowers in the visitor center by Rebecca Louise Lowe of Cambridge. England.

“Memory Leak: Drops and Traces”, installation view 2014 Engraved copper dharapatras and havankundis, burnt newspapers and books, water. Featured in Unbearable Memories, Unspeakable Stories at the South Asia Institute.

Courtesy of the South Asia Institute

Through Dec. 10, “Unbearable Memories, Unspeakable Stories,” South Asia Institute, 1925 S. Michigan (saichicago.org). Some people may not yet have heard of the South Asia Institute, which opened in 2019 and has become a major art and cultural destination in the South Loop. As part of an ongoing exhibition series, this show presents works from Prithika Choudhry’s 15-year-old ‘Partition Memory Project’, which examines the trauma and lingering effects of the 1947 partition of British India into the independent states of India and Pakistan.

David Hockney,

David Hockney, “5 March 2020, No. 2” © David Hockney.

Until January 9, 2023. David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020. Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan (artic.edu). Talk about an artist who needs no introduction. Born in England, but perhaps most associated with California, where he has lived permanently since 1964, Hockney emerged during the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and has been active ever since, creating his distinctive brand of vivid , stylized landscapes and portraits. This show features more than 100 works he created in 2020 using an iPad app specially developed to meet his artistic demands.

Through 19 Feb 2023, The Capture of Louis Sullivan: What Richard Nicholl Saw. Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie (driehausmuseum.org). As one of the seminal figures in Chicago’s contemporary architectural scene, Louis Sullivan needs no introduction. This show features 40 photographs that Nickel, a Polish-American architectural photographer and advocate, took of Adler & Sullivan buildings from the 1880s and early 1990s. These images date back to the 1960s and 1970s, when many of these architectural treasures were demolished, and provide invaluable documentation of these lost structures.

Bridget Riley, 'Blue Landscape', 1959. Collection of the artist.

Bridget Riley, ‘Blue Landscape’, 1959. Collection of the artist. © Bridget Riley 2022

September 17-January 16, 2023, “Drawings of Bridget Riley: From the Artist’s Studio,” Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu). After working in several previous styles, Riley became part of the Op Art movement of the 1960s with her disorienting, geometric abstractions. The London-born artist later largely disappeared, but returned to favor with a resurgence sparked in part by a 2000-01 solo show at New York’s Dia Center for the Arts (now Dia Chelsea). This show is billed as the first and most comprehensive look at her drawings in over half a century.

September 20-June 2023, “Nostalgia for My Island: Painting from the Museo de Arte de Ponce, 1786-1962.” National Museum of Puerto Rican Art and Culture, 3015 W. Division (nmprac.org). As renovations to Puerto Rico’s Museo de Arte de Ponce continue after damage from Hurricane Maria five years ago and the subsequent earthquake, the institution is sending highlights of its collection on tour off-island for the first time. Spanning nearly two centuries, this exhibition features 21 works by such important Puerto Rican artists as Myrna Báez José Campeche, Francisco Oller, and Miguel Pou.

Mohamed Melehi (Morocco)

Mohamed Melehi (Morocco) “Composition”, 1970, acrylic on wood. The work is featured in Taking Form: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950-1980 at the Block Museum of Art.

Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Sept. 22-Dec. 4, “Taking Form: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950-1980,” Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston (blockmuseum.northwestern.edu). Mention abstraction in the United States and the visions of Richard Diebenkorn, Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still immediately come to mind. But this artistic approach is hardly limited to this country. This touring show, organized by New York University’s Gray Art Gallery, offers a look at abstraction in an unexpected part of the world and examines what organizers describe as its larger cultural, intellectual and spiritual connotations.

September 22-January 8, 2023, Monochromatic Sets, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood (smartmuseum.uchicago.edu). Artwork made in one color was an essential part of mid-20th century modernism. Think Ad Reinhardt or Yves Klein. But this exhibition looks much more broadly geographically, chronologically and culturally at this ongoing artistic approach, with more than 100 works, including examples from such artists as Teaster Gates, Carmen Herrera and Yayoi Kusama.

Roberto Montenegro, Portrait of an Antiquary or Portrait of Chucho Reyes and Self-Portrait, 1926, oil on canvas, is included in The First Homosexuals: Global Images of a New Identity, 1869-1930 at Wrightwood

Roberto Montenegro, Portrait of an Antiquary or Portrait of Chucho Reyes and Self-Portrait, 1926, oil on canvas, is included in The First Homosexuals: Global Images of a New Identity, 1869-1930 at Wrightwood

Pérez Simon Collection, Mexico /© Arturo Piera

Oct. 1-Dec. 17, “The First Homosexuals: Global Images of a New Identity, 1869-1930.” Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood (wrightwood659.org). The presence of gays and lesbians is so commonplace on television, in movies, and in books today that most people probably don’t pay much attention to it. But it was anything but a century or more ago. This ground-breaking show examines what organizers call “the first self-consciously queer art,” with 100 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and film clips dating back as far as 1869, when the word “homosexual” was coined in Europe.

November 19 – April 23, 2023, “Forecast Shape: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s – Today,” Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago (mcachicago.org). This large-scale exhibition, the first presented at the MCA in English and Spanish, offers a reimagining of Caribbean art, focusing on 37 artists from the region who work in the Americas and Europe. According to press materials, the show seeks to reveal the Caribbean as “a place not defined by geography, language or ethnicity, but by constant exchange, displacement and movement”.

Ebony G. Patterson, “ ...the wailing...guides us home...and there is a bellling on the land...,” 2021, featured in “Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s- Today, at MCA.

Ebony G. Patterson, “ …the wailing…guides us home…and there is a bellling on the land…,” 2021, featured in “Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s- Today,” at MCA.

Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

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