Toward Common Cause opens with three exhibitions featuring MacArthur Fellows
Three exhibitions marking the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program open across Chicago this spring, ushering in the first wave of projects presented in conjunction with Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40.
MacArthur Fellows Dawoud Bey (class of 2017), Jeffrey Gibson (2019), An-My Lê (2012), and Shahzia Sikander (2006) are among the 29 artists participating in Toward Common Cause, an expansive multi-venue exhibition organized by the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago in collaboration with more than two dozen exhibition, programmatic, and research partner organizations across Chicago, including UChicago’s Arts + Public Life, the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) at Columbia College Chicago, and the Newberry Library.
What’s on this Spring
Dawoud Bey: Portraits from Chicago (1993–2001)
May 21–August 28, 2021
Arts + Public Life, Arts Incubator, 301 East Garfield Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60637
Arts + Public Life opens Toward Common Cause with an exhibition of works by Chicago-based Dawoud Bey, who has photographed South Side youth across decades of artistic practice. In the 1990s, he invited them into his studio, seated them against single-hued studio walls, and fragmented their faces across multiple 20 x 24-inch Polaroids. In the early 2000s, he took street photographs of South Side youth as he came across them on sidewalks and steps. As a whole, these portraits make visible a group who are not fully recognized by society, activating the sitters’ inner worlds for viewers to contemplate.
Jeffrey Gibson: Sweet Bitter Love
May 28–September 18, 2021
Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60610
Sweet Bitter Love presents Jeffrey Gibson’s reflections on representations of Indigenous people in cultural institutions. Gibson, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent, responds to nineteenth-century portraits of Indigenous people in the Newberry Library’s collection. His paintings and wallpaper refute ethnographic symbolism with vibrant, glittering layers. Surrounding documentation of ceremonial gifts acquired by the Field Museum in 1991, Gibson’s works question our expectations for what qualifies as cultural artifacts and the institutional practices surrounding their care. As they enter into critical dialogue across the gallery space, these art objects collectively deconstruct myths about Indigenous cultures and attest to Native persistence.
Much Unseen is Also Here: An-My Lê and Shahzia Sikander
June 3–August 29, 2021
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, 600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605
Much Unseen is Also Here brings together the works of two major artists who both consider the theater of the landscape, monumentality, cultural history, and representation. Probing monuments and identity, An-My Lê and Shahzia Sikander explore history’s embeddedness in our present. Lê’s Silent General (2015–ongoing) presents large-scale views of places and people in the contemporary American landscape, while Sikander uses sculpture, drawings, and animation to examine representations of intersectional femininity that is prompted by questions of who monuments historically depict.
Much Unseen is Also Here has been generously supported through the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Presented in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program, Toward Common Cause encompasses a broad spectrum of contemporary artistic practice, including community-based projects realized in public spaces as well as solo and group presentations in multiple museum, gallery, and community spaces. Additional details about the exhibition—including summer and fall exhibition dates, visitor information for each venue, and related programs—are available through the companion website, towardcommoncause.org.
Toward Common Cause is curated by Abigail Winograd, MacArthur Fellows Program Fortieth Anniversary Exhibition Curator, Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago.