Fall visual art preview 2014: 10 exhibitions to satiate a viewer’s inner critic

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“Sandra , She’s a Beauty” by Mickalene Thomas. | Courtesy of Kavi Gupta Chicago

By Kyle Macmillan

For Sun-Times Media

As the only U.S. stop for a massive David Bowie exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has generated both local and national buzz. While that show easily will dominate Chicago’s fall visual arts scene, it is hardly the only offering this fall. Here are quick looks at the Bowie exhibition and nine other highlights:

Sabina Ott: Here and There and Pink Melon Joy

Aug. 30-Jan. 4, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington

Ott, a professor of art at Chicago’s Columbia College, has been featured in more than 100 exhibitions, and her work is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This exhibition is billed as a “transformative psychic journey,” in which Ott will turn three windowed spaces in the cultural center into a mysterious environment. (312) 744-6630; chicagoculturalcenter.org.

Richard Koppe

Sept. 6-Jan. 1, 1015, Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 S. Cottage Hill

Chicago-based Richard Koppe was included in such exhibitions as “American Painting Today” in 1950 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, but he never developed a lasting national profile. A major reappraisal of this underestimated abstractionist has long been needed, and this large-scale show, with 70 paintings, prints and drawings, attempts to fill that niche. (630) 834-0202; elmhurstartmuseum.org.

Ink, Paper, Politics: WPA-era Printmaking from the Needles Collection

Sept. 11-Dec. 21, DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton

The Great Depression was a time of enormous financial distress and social transition, and artists offered a range of sometimes politically charged creative responses. This show features original prints created during this time under the Works Progress Administration by such artists as Milton Avery, Stuart Davis and Marguerite Zorach. (773) 325-7506; depaul.edu/museum.

FLOW/Im Fluss

Sept. 17-20, Chicago Loop Alliance, Couch Place Alley, State Street between Lake and Randolph

Not so much an exhibition but an immersive environment, this work consists of five 13-by-17-foot “water screens,” to combine sprays of mist and video projections “visualizing” aspects of the Chicago River and River Elbe in Germany. Created by Luftwerk, the installation celebrates the 20th anniversary of the sister-city tie between Chicago and Hamburg and is timed to coincide with Expo Chicago. (312) 782-9160; loopchicago.com.

Expo Chicago

Sept. 18-21, Festival Hall, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand

Back for its third year, this international art fair has clearly gained traction with both exhibiting art dealers and attendees from Chicago and beyond. This year’s edition encompasses 140 galleries from 17 countries, including such newcomers as the Marlborough Gallery, New York; Meessen de Clercq, Brussels, and Josh Lilley, London. (312) 867-9220; expochicago.com.

Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey

Sept. 19-Dec. 7, Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle, Evanston

The Block is the final venue for this traveling survey of more than 50 works by Mutu, a Kenyan-born artist who now lives in Brooklyn. She is best known for large-scale collages which offer visual opulence but also deal with a range of socio-political issues, including gender, race, colonialism and war. (847) 491-4000; blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.

Mickalene Thomas: I was born to do great things

Sept. 19-Nov. 15, Kavi Gupta Gallery, 835 W. Washington

The Brooklyn artist’s collage-like paintings, which draw on a range of art-historical as well as and pop-cultural sources, recently were featured in a nationally touring show organized by the Santa Monica (Calif.) Museum of Art. “The unabashed visual richness of these works attests to the power of the decorative while extending the tenets of conceptual identity art into an unusually full-bodied form of painting,” wrote art critic Roberta Smith in the New York Times. (312) 432-0708; kavigupta.com.

David Bowie is

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Sept. 23-Jan. 4, 220 E. Chicago

The MCA is the only American venue for this fall’s unquestioned blockbuster, which is likely to break attendance records at the institution. Organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the exhibition examines the musical accomplishments and cultural impact of one of rock’s most iconic figures. It encompasses more than 300 objects, including costumes, photographs, music videos, instruments and storyboards. (312) 280-2660; mcachicago.org.

Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections

Sept. 27-Feb. 15, 2015, Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan

More than 60 major artworks from the early Christian and Byzantine eras — many never shown before in the United States — will be showcased in this abridged version of an earlier traveling exhibition. Among the offerings will be a 14th-century icon of St. Prokopios, as well as mosaics, glass, silver, jewelry, textiles, manuscripts and architectural fragments. (312) 443-3600; artic.edu.

Anne Collier

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago

Often photographing existing images in magazines, books or calendars, Collier explores what the museum describes as the clichés and conventions of commercial photography, especially some of the sexistportrayals of women, and delves into the very act of looking or seeing. This show is billed as the artist’s first major exhibition, tracing her career from 2002 to the present. (312) 280-2660; mcachicago.org

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