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2016 Spring Arts Preview — Visual arts

The work of Kerry James Marshall — including "Past Times" from 1997 — is on exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Wondering who might be counted among the enduring artists of our time, those whose works are still being shown in major museums 50 years now? A strong candidate is Kerry James Marshall, who has gained international recognition for his provocative, exquisitely realized paintings that mine hundreds of years of art history and boldly delve into the African-American experience.

Kerry James Marshall, Untitled, 2008. |Private collection, courtesy Segalot, New York. © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Kerry James Marshall, Untitled, 2008. |Private collection, courtesy Segalot, New York. © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

“Marshall has been working for more than three decades to redress the near-complete absence of black figures in the art shown in museums,” writes Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. “His work, which features black subjects almost exclusively, is premised on populating the walls of art institutions with images of African Americans in order to, as Marshall explains, ‘address Absence with a capital A.’”

Along with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the MCA, 225 E. Chicago, has organized the veteran Chicago artist’s first career retrospective, subtitled “Mastry.” It will feature 70 paintings from the early 1980s to the present, as well as drawings and works in related media. On view here from April 23 through Sept 25, it is the clear standout of the spring visual arts season. (Free with regular admission, mcachicago.org)

Here is a look at five other notable spring shows:

Through April 23, “Alex Katz: Present Tense, Sixty Years of Master Drawings,” Richard Gray Gallery Chicago, 875 N. Michigan. (Free, richardgraygallery.com) Alex Katz has been a major force in the contemporary-art world since the 1950s with his trademark, pop-tinged imagery that combines flattened perspectives, monochromatic backgrounds and unmodulated colors. Katz’s draftsmanship, a less-heralded side of his artistry, is examined in this major career survey, which is divided between the Gray Gallery’s spaces in Chicago and New York. An illustrated catalog accompanies the show, with an essay by noted curator and scholar, Robert Storr.

Anthony van Dyck. Lucas Vorsterman, 1630/33. Clarence Buckingham Collection. | COURTESY OF THE ART INSTITUTE
Anthony van Dyck. Lucas Vorsterman, 1630/33. Clarence Buckingham Collection. | COURTESY OF THE ART INSTITUTE

March 5-Aug. 7, “Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print,” Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan (Free with regular admission, artic.edu). In the late 1620s, celebrated Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck embarked on “Iconography,” a series of about 100 portrait prints of noblemen, scholars and artists that would prove hugely influential in the field. The Art Institute owns examples of all 15 etchings that the artist made himself as well as several realized by other printmakers based on his designs. These prints, which have never been shown since they were acquired in 1929, form the core of this sweeping exhibition. In all, it features 140 portrait prints spanning five centuries, from the earliest prints by Albrecht Dürer to modern and contemporary works by such artists as Käthe Kollwitz and Chuck Close.

March 25-Aug. 14, “Estampas de la Raza: Contemporary Prints from the Romo Collection,” National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th. (Free, nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org) Art, especially printmaking, has long been an integral part of Mexican-American life. This exhibition, organized by the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, chronicles the rich history of printmaking in this community since the rise of the Chicano Movement in the 1960s. It examines five thematic areas, including that struggle for socio-political equality and the expression of individual identity. On view will be more than 60 prints by 44 artists, including Lalo Alcaraz, Roberto Gutiérrez, Luis Jiménez Jr., Tony Ortega, Frank Romero and Patssi Valdez.

The staging of Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House as a Playboy bachelor pad, from “Designs for Living, 1961 issue, part of the exhibit “Playboy Architecture — 1953-1979” at the Elmhurst Art Museum. R. Donald Jaye, architect . | COURTESY EAM/Copyright Bur
The staging of Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House as a Playboy bachelor pad, from “Designs for Living, 1961 issue, part of the exhibit “Playboy Architecture — 1953-1979” at the Elmhurst Art Museum. R. Donald Jaye, architect . | COURTESY EAM/Copyright Burt Glinn Magnum Photography

May 7-Aug. 19, “Playboy Architecture, 1953-1979,” Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst. (Free with regular admission, elmhurstartmuseum.org) At first blush, Playboy magazine and architecture might seem like they have nothing in common. But in fact the publication featured interviews and articles focusing on such noted 20th-century architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Buckminster Fuller and was a force in the field. This touring exhibition, which includes photographs, films, architectural renderings and design objects, explores how architecture and design shaped the Playboy mystique and how it in turn influenced the world of architecture. A bonus feature is a staging of van der Rohe’s McCormick House, which is part of the museum, as a Playboy bachelor pad.

Tony Fitzpatrick, “Volo,” 2014. Guache, watercolor, ink and collage. Collection of John Cusack | COURTESY MCA
Tony Fitzpatrick, “Volo,” 2014. Guache, watercolor, ink and collage. Collection of John Cusack | COURTESY MCA

May 12-Aug. 21, “Tony Fitzpatrick: The Secret Birds,” DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton. (Free, museums.depaul.edu). Tony Fitzpatrick is a quintessentially Chicago artist, with a big, outspoken personality shaped by the rollicking Midwestern city that he has always called home. This exhibition will showcase “The Secret Birds,” a recent series of metaphorical drawings and collages that show off his painstaking craftsmanship. These colorful, whimsical and wonderfully engaging works focus on both backyard and more exotic birds but also manage to integrate the artist’s wide-ranging interests in everything from Latin-American literature to Chicago history.

Kyle MacMillan is a local freelance writer.

Posted at 6:00 p.m. March 1, 2016.