Between the Buildings: Art From Chicago

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Allen Stringfellow, Street Smarts II, ca. 1990s. Collage and watercolor on paper. Gift of John and Dorothy Gardner. 2014-8-1
Allen Stringfellow, Street Smarts II, ca. 1990s. Collage and watercolor on paper. Gift of John and Dorothy Gardner. 2014-8-1

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Bill Engdahl, Federal Center, Chicago, IL, 1970. Siver gelatin print. Gift of Robert D. Kleinschmidt. 1998-21-18 © Hedrich-Blessing
Bill Engdahl, Federal Center, Chicago, IL, 1970. Siver gelatin print. Gift of Robert D. Kleinschmidt. 1998-21-18 © Hedrich-Blessing

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Gladys Nilsson, The Last Ball, 1976. Watercolor on paper. Museum purchase with funds provided by Dean Allen S. Weller and Rachel Weller. 1980-6-1
Gladys Nilsson, The Last Ball, 1976. Watercolor on paper. Museum purchase with funds provided by Dean Allen S. Weller and Rachel Weller. 1980-6-1

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Jim Nutt, Rumpled Dreams, 1971. Acrylic on metal. Gift of George M. Irwin. 1997-8-23
Jim Nutt, Rumpled Dreams, 1971. Acrylic on metal. Gift of George M. Irwin. 1997-8-23

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Leon Golub, The Sphinx, 1954. Oil on canvas. Bequest of William S. Kinkead 1983-6-1
Leon Golub, The Sphinx, 1954. Oil on canvas. Bequest of William S. Kinkead 1983-6-1 © Leon Golub

Exhibition

On view
Aug 30, 2018 to Mar 23, 2019
Main Level, East Gallery

By highlighting KAM’s strong holdings of work from artists practicing in Chicago during the 1930s through the 1980s, this exhibition considers the problematic nature of art historical categories and explores what other stories are missed by perpetuating a single narrative.

Coined by art writers and critics in the mid- to late twentieth century, the so-called Chicago School consisted of two groups of artists. The Monster Roster created expressive psychological works inspired by classical myths and ancient art. The Imagists are distinguished primarily by their idiosyncratic figural style, which often incorporates crude humor and aspects of Chicago vernacular culture. These artists diverged from the broader mid-century trend toward abstraction and were largely ignored or dismissed by critics in New York, who were defining the canon of modernism. However, what happens when the categorization and labeling of a group of artists is unwanted or contested? This exhibition considers the problematic nature of art historical categories and explores what other stories are missed by perpetuating a single narrative.

While the narrative of a strong figural tradition in Chicago is not unfounded, artists working in the city produced diverse, personal aesthetics—mainly due to the layout of neighborhoods in the city. Although many artists worked in isolation and regularly shared difficulty finding venues for showing their work, they collectively established alternative exhibition spaces. They regularly exhibited with fellow students from various art schools, including the School of the Art Institute, the New Bauhaus/Institute of Design, and the University of Chicago. Educational art programs and fine art institutions, such as the Hyde Park Art Center and the South Side Community Art Center, were instrumental in creating vital networks for artists who often worked independently. Thus, the notion that artists in Chicago held exhibitions out of necessity rather than a passion for a particular ideology further contests the idea of a clearly defined Chicago School.

Between the Buildings also reflects Krannert Art Museum’s strong collection of works by Chicago-based artists developed by Stephen Prokopoff, the museum’s director from 1983–1991. As a collections-based exhibition, it cannot fully tell the stories of political activism, feminist art, mural and street art, or experiments in new media that were vital to artistic practice in mid-century Chicago. But by decentering the prevailing “Chicago School” canon, the exhibition reveals the many stories that unfolded between the buildings—the structure of neighborhoods, artistic collaborations, and connections made through educational and fine arts institutions—creating a more inclusive/varied/dynamic history of art in Chicago at this time.

Artists include: Don Baum, Phyllis Bramson, Fred Berger, Harry Callahan, Barbara Crane, Henry Darger, Leon Golub, Vera Klement, Ellen Lanyon, Nathan Lerner, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, and Allen Stringfellow.

Curated by Kathryn Koca Polite

Sponsored in part by Fred and Donna Giertz. Presented as part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago's art and design legacy, with its presenting partner The Richard H. Dreihaus Foundation.

Ricker Library of Architecture and Art has developed a library guide with details about this exhibition, as well as supplementary materials and curator-recommended readings: Library Guide for Between the Buildings: Art from Chicago

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Provenance: A Forensic History of Art, installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2017.
  1. May 13, 2017 to Dec 8, 2018
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Cuzco School (active Cuzco, Peru, 16th–18th century), Our Lady of the Remedies of La Paz, ca. 1750. Welcome Wall installation at Krannert Art Museum, 2018. Photo by Jessica L. Hung.
  1. Sep 12, 2018 to Dec 8, 2018
Welcome Wall
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Kennedy Browne, Real World Harm (Act I), 2018. Still from 360º video for Oculus, 5 minutes. Courtesy of the artists © Kennedy Browne
  1. Oct 4, 2018 to Feb 9, 2019
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John Clem Clarke (United States, b. 1937), Louis XIV, 1969. Lithograph on paper. Gift of George M. Irwin 1995-9-2.4
  1. Nov 2, 2018 to Dec 15, 2018
Response Wall