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Four Chicago artists to be featured in PBS series

Theaster Gates has angered some with proposed changes at the DuSable Museum. | Sun-Times file photo
Theaster Gates has angered some with proposed changes at the DuSable Museum. | Sun-Times file photo

Four Chicago visual artists will be the subject of the first episode of the Peabody Award-winning documentary television series “Art in the Twenty-First Century,” when it begins its eighth season on PBS this fall.

With Claire Danes, the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress, serving as host, the four-part series will look at artists from Chicago, Mexico City, Los Angeles and Vancouver. The initial episode, on Sept. 16, will put the spotlight on Chicago with a look at the work of:

+ Nick Cave, the American fabric sculptor, dancer and performance artist best known for his wearable fabric sculptures called Soundsuits, who also is director of the graduate fashion program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Artist Nick Cave. (Photo: Al Podgorski)
Artist Nick Cave. (Photo: Al Podgorski)

+ Theaster Gates, the “social practice” installation artist and director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago whose work (including the creation of the Stony Island Arts Bank) deals with issues of urban planning, religious space, and craft, and with the revitalization of poor neighborhoods through combining urban planning and art practices.

+ Barbara Kasten, the photographer who creates abstract interior environments in which the interplay of assembled light, objects, mirrors, Plexiglass and mesh forms illusory abstract geometric compositions, and suggests a distorted sense of scale and perspective.

Artist Barbara Kasten. (Photo: Courtesy of Nick Ravich)
Artist Barbara Kasten. (Photo: Courtesy of Nick Ravich)

+ Chris Ware, the cartoonist known for his Acme Novelty Library series, and the graphic novels (“Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth,” and “Building Stories”) – work that explores themes of social isolation, emotional torment and depression, that often contains lettering and images that evoke the ragtime era or other early 20th-century American design styles.

Comics artist and graphic novel writer Chris Ware. (Photo: Marnie Ware)
Comics artist and graphic novel writer Chris Ware. (Photo: Marnie Ware)

The other three programs in the series will focus on artists from Los Angeles, Mexico City and Vancouver, and will be made by three documentary directors: Three-time Academy Award nominee Deborah Dickson; MacArthur Foundation Fellow and Peabody Award-winner Stanley Nelson; and Emmy Award-winner Pamela Mason Wagner.

This will be the first time in the show’s history that the episodes will not be organized around an artistic theme, but instead, the 16 featured artists will be grouped by their unique and revealing relationships to the places where they live as the artists share universal experiences through their life stories and creative works.

As ART21 executive director Tina Kukielski notes: “Art is increasingly being defined and described in relationship to a sense of place. In our time of hyper-interconnectivity, where you choose to live and work matters like never before.”

The series will showcase the geography, architecture, society, culture, and heritage of each location. Each episode highlights aspects of contemporary life that viewers everywhere experience and, according to ART21 executive producer Eve Moros Ortega: “Using the sounds, colors, and energy of the city as a landscape that artists respond to and interact with, the films expand beyond the studio to explore each artist’s engagement with their communities and the world around them.”

The programs also will reveal how artists today simultaneously draw inspiration from and influence their immediate surroundings, while also engaging far-flung communities from all over the world–Amsterdam, Aspen, Basel, Bloomfield Hills, Bregenz, Brussels, Chiapas, Cuernavaca, Denver, Detroit, Istanbul, La Porte, Lisbon, London, Milan, New York City, Okanagan, Pasadena, Philadelphia, Puebla, San Francisco, Sinaloa, and Toronto. Through their work, they participate in global conversations about the pressing issues of our time – from terrorism, to environmental crises, to the struggle for civil rights.

During the past seven seasons, “Art in the Twenty-First Century” has profiled over 100 artists. Season 8 will explore photography through abstract still lifes and pictorial narratives; sculpture through hand-crafted and found objects; painting through murals, figuration, and cartoons; performance through staged plays, improvisational dance, and group actions; video through immersive installations, literary adaptations, and films that blend fact with fiction.

NOTE: Check local listings for air times.