Summer is not the traditional high season for art viewing unless you have the means to travel to Venice, Italy or Kassel, Germany. Or Cleveland for the Front Triennial — that’s not so far. But given the standards of temperature and humidity control needed to maintain the physical integrity of artworks (meaning, really good quality air conditioning), perhaps this ought to change. Certainly, there will be no shortage of exciting exhibitions on display in Chicago this season, so why not enjoy both the sights and the temperateness?
“Igshaan Adams: Desire Lines”: Speaking of Venice, skip the vaporetto and see the widely-acknowledged star of this year’s Biennale in his first major U.S. solo show. In enormous two- and three-dimensional tapestries, Adams traces pathways through the public terrains and private domains of Bonteheuwel, the South African township he calls home. Through Aug. 1 at the Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan Ave.; more information at 312-443-3600 or artic.edu
“Emergence: Intersections at the Center”: If queer identity has finally become mainstream, it remains crucial to understand that it was not always so. “Emergence” features art from the 1940s-80s by Ralph Arnold, Patric McCoy, Juarez Hawkins and other Black LGBTQ creators, many of whom had little choice but to be discrete about their sexual orientation. The South Side Community Art Center afforded a safe space then as now. Through July 2 at the South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S. Michigan Ave.; more information at 773-373-1026 or sscartcenter.org
“Mel Bochner Drawings: A Retrospective”: What’s a drawing? What’s a word? What’s a number? If you feel secure in your answers, a visit to this survey might be in order. One of the country’s foremost conceptualists, Bochner has spent the past six decades making droll art by measuring gallery walls, writing out phrases, and otherwise upending basic expectations of how the systems we take for granted actually work. Through Aug. 22 at the Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan Ave.; more information at 312-443-3600 or artic.edu
“Slavs and Tatars: MERCZbau”: Imagine that the Department of Oriental Studies of the Jan Kazimierz University of Lwow had never become defunct, and that it had a gift shop with branded sweatshirts, towels and T-shirts for sale. The Berlin-based artist collective Slavs and Tatars makes this absurdity into a reality, allowing discerning shoppers to contemplate shifting ideas of East and West. Through Oct. 7 at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 5701 S. Woodlawn Ave., more information at 773-795-2329 or neubauercollegiumgallery.com
“Nick Cave: Forothermore”: Chicago’s most fabulous artist gets his due with a career-spanning retrospective featuring more sequins, feathers, fake flowers, twigs and synthetic hair than have ever before graced the Museum of Contemporary Art. On view are a dozen of Cave’s famed “Soundsuits” — wearable full-body sculptures as outrageous as they are protective — plus a psychedelic video room, cacophonic geometric wallpaper, recent bronzes, a gargantuan mural of pony beads, and an atrium aglitter with hundreds of suspended kinetic spinner toys. Through Oct. 2, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; more information at 312-280-2660 or mcachicago.org
“Moga: Modern Women & Daughters in 1930s Japan”: “Modern girls,” popularly called moga, were Japanese women who abandoned traditional norms in the period after World War I. This collection of “shin nihonga” paintings from the Meguro Gajoen, a massive Tokyo entertainment complex of the era, provides an expanded view of the typology, focusing on domesticity instead of the more customary scenes of independent females smoking, drinking and flirting with abandon. Through July 16 at Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood Ave.; more information at 773-437-6601 or wrightwood659.org
“Chronicle of a Fall”: What is home to you? This question forms the basis of artists Nadav Assor and Tirtza Even’s immersive, feature-length video installation, constructed from experimental documentation of the domestic and professional lives of six immigrant cultural workers in the U.S. Expect an intimate, visceral and fragmentary exploration of what it is like to come from one socio-politically fraught place — only to land up in another. May 27-Aug. 6 at Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria St.; more information at 312-996-6114 or gallery400.uic.edu
“Michel Andreenko: Revisited” & “Michel Andreenko and Ukrainian Artists in Paris”: Working to secure the legacy of a diasporic artist who refused to be subsumed under Russian culture during Soviet times, the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art surveys a noted Ukrainian modernist born in Odesa, Ukraine, in 1894. Initially a creator of vanguard set designs and constructivist experiments, Andreenko made forays into surrealism and landscape painting, eventually returning to hard-edge abstraction. His contemporaries in Paris, where he took refuge in 1923 and remained until his death in 1982, are the subject of a companion exhibit, delayed due to the pandemic. June 18-Sept. 25 at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2320 W. Chicago Ave.; more information at 773-227-5522 or uima-chicago.org
“Martine Syms: She Mad Season One”: Trying to make it as an artist in LA today isn’t easy. That’s the ostensible subject of Syms’ ongoing video series, which brilliantly satirizes mass media and social media, representations of Blackness and gender, and the pervasiveness of empowerment programs and surveillance culture. All five episodes are shown here together for the first time. July 2-Feb. 12, 2023 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; more information at 312-280-2660 or mcachicago.org
Also on view this summer will be a stellar array of solo shows at galleries around town:
- At Patron, Jennie C. Jones, fresh from her solo exhibit at the Guggenheim, presents objects made from acoustic panels, in her signature enmeshment of minimalist sculpture and avant-garde music (June 4-July 16).
- Alberto Aguilar will have his first show at Engage Projects, sure to be fundamentally playful, improvisational and inspiring (June 4-July 16).
- Roman Villarreal, the self-taught creator of beloved public sculptures in South Chicago and throughout the city, gets a much-deserved survey at Intuit (June 17-Jan. 8, 2023).
- And Document invites Laura Letinsky to show older photographs and newer ceramics, all rich explorations of fragility, imperfection and proposition (June 25-Aug. 13).