Art This Week in Culture

Heading to EXPO CHICAGO? Here Are 8 Must-See Exhibitions (and One Top-Secret Sale) in the City

Nicole Eisenman, Beer Garden with Ulrike and Celeste, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist and the Hall Collection.

"What Happened" by Nicole Eisenman
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
When: April 6 - September 22
Why It’s Worth a Look: “What Happened” is the first comprehensive exploration of Eisenman’s work, showcasing about 100 pieces that span her career from 1992 to present. She navigates a variety of mediums, including painting, drawing, murals, and installations, to voice her wry commentary on social dynamics. 
Know Before You Go: Eisenman’s influences and subject matter are similarly diverse, ranging from underground comics to Renaissance art to 1930s socialist murals. 

“Radical Clay: Contemporary Women Artists from Japan”
Art Institute of Chicago
When: December 16, 2023 - June 3, 2024
Why It’s Worth a Look: With 40 works by 36 artists, “Radical Clay” spotlights the contributions of contemporary women artists to the Japanese ceramics genre. The artists on view range from the pioneering figures of Mishima Kimiyo, Tsuboi Asuka, and Ogawa Machiko, who have been reshaping ceramics for decades, to the fresh perspectives of younger artists like Konno Tomoko, Aoki Katsuyo, and Oishi Sayaka.
Know Before You Go: A central form of disruption explored in the exhibition is the artists' dismissal of traditional gender norms, shown either through their unorthodox approach to typically feminine subjects, or their outright pursual of stereotypically masculine subject matter. 

Lorraine O’Grady, Family Portrait 1 (Formal, Composed), 2020. Image courtesy of the artist and the Artists Rights Society.

"The Knight, or Lancela Palm-and-Steel" by Lorraine O'Grady
Mariane Ibrahim 
When: April 10 - May 25
Why It’s Worth a Look: Forty years after introducing Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, her avatar that challenged the art world’s racial boundaries, O’Grady introduced The Knight, or Lancella Palm-and-Steel, an enigmatic figure cloaked in Renaissance-style armor and adorned with headdresses. This exhibition features life-sized photographic portraits, alongside "Family Portraits," of The Knight with her mythic companions. Earlier works that connect to the present themes of race, class, gender, and age are shown in tandem with the main collection. 
Know Before You Go: The Knight’s pressing question is, "If you conceal everything—race, class, age, gender—what is left? What is possible?” 

“Infinite Like Night” by Paul Mpagi Sepuya
When: April 12 - June 1 
Why It’s Worth a Look: In his fourth solo show at Document, Sepuya continues his exploration of portraiture, queer relationships, and Blackness. Sepuya engages with the complexities of the darkroom—not just as a place of photographic development but as a metaphorical space where queer and other marginal identities intersect with creativity. His subjects—spanning friends, lovers, and collaborators—show the rich, intimate nature of his work.
Know Before You Go: “Infinite Like Night” is a first glimpse into a new body of work, "Blue Studio," that the artist has been cultivating over the past two years.

“Black Mountain Poems 1955” by John Chamberlain
Corbett vs. Dempsey
When: March 21 - April 27 
Why It’s Worth a Look: Before Chamberlain became renowned for his sculptures of crushed automobile steel, he was a poet at Black Mountain College, where he crafted verses amid the creative fervor of the 1950s. In “Black Mountain Poems 1955,” 22 manuscripts selected out of 71 by Chamberlain are displayed as a window into his literary experiments.
Know Before You Go: For fellow Black Mountain College poet Charles Olson, Chamberlain penned the following poem:

"the afternoon had sun you
felt on the back of yr head leaning
forward, between halves, no
band, silent; save
the look across the green to
me. i say nerves
of me but from you i
see a kindness
that becomes you."

Jules Allen, Untitled, 1985–87. Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Gray Gallery.

“Me and You” by McArthur Binion and Jules Allen
Richard Gray Gallery
When: April 12 - May 31
Why It’s Worth a Look: “Me and You” presents a visual dialogue between Binion and Allen that spans four decades of their careers. The exhibition presents Binion’s new "Handmadeness" paintings, featuring personal documents and musical scores, alongside Allen’s gelatin silver prints and documentary-like snapshots of New York and Black urban life. 
Know Before You Go: Binion and Allen's artistic relationship began in 1980s New York, which was then home to a thriving Black avant-garde scene. 

“METAMORPH” by Shinique Smith
Monique Meloche
When: April 6 - May 18
Why It’s Worth a Look: Drawing from personal stories, what she dubs “magical childhood experiences”—including spiritual sessions with the Dalai Lama, and dalliances in the worlds of graffiti and high fashion—Smith’s work weaves together a narrative that spans cultures and geographies. The artist utilizes fabric, calligraphy, and collage to create large-scale compositions that position textiles and keepsakes as vessels for memory. 
Know Before You Go: As Smith notes of the work on display, "Unfolding, unraveling and dancing around the perimeter of the gallery, the paintings are a reminder that everything is in motion and constantly evolving."

Kehinde Wiley, Treisha Lowe, 2012. Photography by Jason Wyche. Image courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly.

"A Journey: Highlights From the Ron and Ann Pizzuti Collection
Peninsula Chicago
When: April 12 - June 12
Why It’s Worth a Look: The Peninsula Chicago has a long-standing tradition of arranging public programming to coincide with EXPO Chicago, last year working with prominent collector Beth Rudin DeWoody to craft an exhibition featuring highlights from her trove. For this edition, the hotel has joined forces with Ohio collectors Ron and Ann Pizzuti—as well as the couple's daughter, Dara Pizzuti, who is acting as curator—to spotlight a number of impressive aquisitions. 
Know Before You Go: On display are works from artists including Marina Abramović, Kehinde Wiley, Theaster Gates, Jacob Hashimoto, Wang Jin, the Campana Brothers, Nick Cave, and Derrick Adams.

“The 777 Club”
Soccer Club Club
When: April 13 - 14
Why It’s Worth a Look: “The 777 Club” is a "unique" retail event curated by Soccer Club Club in collaboration with artist Rita Ackermann. Limited first-come-first-serve pieces will be for sale by the artist, as well as Bernadette Corporation, Richard Kern, Nate Lowman, Paul McCarthy, Richard Prince, and Jamian Juliano-Villani.
Know Before You Go: So far, the only information hinting at what might take place comes from Soccer Club Club's teasing note, "Tunes will be provided. There will be things to purchase, but, fair warning, they are limited in quantity. And luck has nothing to do with it, you just need to show up!"