The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Exceptional Art Exhibitions Of 2014

By Carrie McGath in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 23, 2014 8:00PM

The art scene in Chicago this year was diverse and quite a force nationally from large museum exhibitions such as the MCA’s “Bowie Is” exhibition to the Art Institute of Chicago’s Magritte show that seamlessly conveyed the breadth and mystery of this highly important Surrealist. Galleries and small art centers were also bringing established and emerging art to the fore throughout 2014 in every genre from painting, to photography, site-specific installation and a bevy of performance art. Here are some of my favorites of the year.

René Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967). The Lovers (Les Amants), 1928. Oil on canvas; 54 × 73.4 cm (21 3/8 × 28 7/8 in.). Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Richard S. Zeisler. © Charly Herscovici - ADAGP - ARS, 2014

Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938 at the Art Institute of Chicago
The popular Surrealist’s work and ephemera was an arresting and solidly-curated exhibition by the Art Institute’s Stephanie D'Alessandro. This was one of art highlights of the year in my view. Telling a story of such a magnetic and significant artist like Magritte through an exhibition does not sound like an easy task, but D’Alessandro absolutely accomplished this, doing the artist’s story and his fascinating work a great justice. It was the kind of exhibition that satisfied those new to his work as well as studied, longtime admirers.

Steve Schapiro, Warhol, Reed and Bowie, installation view. Photo by Carrie McGath

Steve Schapiro: Warhol, Reed and Bowie at the Ed Paschke Art Center
One of the most important photojournalists of the 20th and 21st century, Steve Schapiro’s incredible photographs of icons Andy Warhol, David Bowie and Lou Reed feel very much at home in the newly-opened Ed Paschke Art Center. Schapiro’s command of his medium is remarkable since he is able to capture the personality, vulnerability and sheer humanity of such larger-than-life icons. It is a great companion, also, to the MCA's "David Bowie Is" exhibition that runs through January 4. Schapiro's work will be on view at the Paschke Center through January 15. Read my interview with the artist here.

Lorna Simpson, She, 1992, Color Polaroids and engraved Plexiglas plaque, 29 x 85 1/4 x 2 in. (73.7 x 216.5 x 5.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Judith Neisser, 1996.3.a-e© 1992 Lorna SimpsonPhoto: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
The MCA was the first U.S. museum to have a solo show of Frida Kahlo’s work in 1978, and in 2014 the museum exhibited the works by many artists who have been influenced by the deeply psychological and confessional work of this Mexican artist. With a focus on the body in all of its meaning—from the physical body, to the political body and more—works by artists such as Lorna Simpson and Louise Bourgeois graced the galleries. It was an absolute celebration of Kahlo and the issues she brought to the fore during a time when women were silenced and limited in the world. She was radical and this exhibit was a wonderfully curated testament to that.

Sarah Charlesworth. Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles, 1980, printed 2012, No. 14 of 14 from the series Stills.The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Liz and Eric Lefkofsky. © Estate of Sarah Charlesworth. Courtesy the Estate of Sarah Charlesworth and Maccarone.
Sarah Charlesworth: Stills at the Art Institute of Chicago
As part of the museum’s “Photography Is _________” event that began in September and will continue through May of 2015, Charlesworth’s life-sized photographs of people in different stages of falling was truly captivating. It reminds viewers of mortality, voyeurism, and unexpected, dramatic beauty. The images were originally taken from news sources and enlarged by Charlesworth, framing the drama and literally heightening that drama as 78-inch prints. Many pop-up programs, lectures, and exhibitions are planned for 2015 as part of this nine-month celebration of photography that should be on art lovers’ radar in the new year.

Sandro Miller: Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters at Catherine Edelman Gallery
This River North gallery specializing in contemporary photography always has incredible exhibitions and this one is no exception. The great chameleon photographer, Sandro Miller, has re-imagined many iconic images of pop culture figures from John Malkovich, to Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein. His work is cheeky and humorous while they are rendered with incredible detail in costuming and composition, honoring the originals. You’re in luck, too, since the show goes through January 31 at Catherine Edelman Gallery.

A Lived Practice at the Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
An exhibition with a focus on social action and its relation to art, this well-curated show at SAIC had a breadth of artists with change ever in their minds and process. All of the artists represented in this exhibition gave so much in their art and into social action and thinking, but there were highlights. One of them was Michael Rakowitz’s “Every Weapon is a Tool If You Hold It Right,” a project that involves masgouf, the national dish of Iraq. For the project, he brought together Iraq War veterans and Iraqi refugees to create this dish. The video documentation of the process and the tools used were on display in the gallery and were moving, provocative, and exemplified the inherent beauty and humanity of cultural cuisine and tradition, threading us all together.