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Exhibitions

The Neubauer Collegium Gallery, supported by the Brenda Mulmed Shapiro Fund, presents art in the context of academic research. Our exhibitions explore the ways that thought and creative expression respond to and shape each other. Curated by Dieter Roelstraete since 2017, the gallery provides space for scholars, artists, practitioners, and the public to engage with the arts as a form of knowledge.

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WORKS BY: Tony Lewis with Bethany Collins, Devin T. Mays & Ellen Rothenberg

A photo of a sculpture by Devin T. Mays depicts a single pallet on the left and a stack of pallets on the right against a concrete wall.
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WORKS BY: Tony Lewis with Bethany Collins, Devin T. Mays & Ellen Rothenberg

This exhibition brings together the work of four Chicago-based artists who share an interest in the many meanings of “labor.”

Chicago’s auspicious role in modern labor history lies at the heart of WORKS BY, a multi-faceted group show that will be on view at the Neubauer Collegium May 1 to July 14, 2024. The exhibition brings together the work of four Chicago-based artists whose practices converge in a shared interest in the many meanings of “labor” as well as the mysterious mechanics that regulate the fractious relationship between effort and value. The opening date is celebrated the world over as International Workers’ Day, though its roots reach back into a deeply local Chicago history – that of the storied Haymarket Affair of 1886. (The first International Workers’ Day was organized on May 1, 1890, to honor the eight labor activists wrongfully accused of instigating the Haymarket Massacre—and to rally support for the eight-hour workday, which the activists had been lobbying for so valiantly.)

The centerpiece of the exhibition will be a new graphite floor drawing, produced in situ by Tony Lewis (b. 1986). Work on this new piece will commence on the opening day of the exhibition, meaning that access to the gallery will be limited until the artwork is completed later in May—the labor of its making being the primary attraction until that time. Lewis’s floor drawings are made by manually rubbing graphite powder onto large swaths of construction paper, resulting in dark, dust-coated expanses of monochrome gray. These works call attention to the seemingly mindless chore and anti-theater of their production, though there is evidently a mystical element at play in the smudgy void they engender. (Consider the analogy with the art of the mandala and comparable exercises in monastic focus and absorption.) Upon the exhibition’s conclusion, the floor drawing will be rolled up into a giant paper ball, to be unwrapped in a different context at a later date.

Lewis has invited Devin T. Mays (b. 1985) to devise a series of performative interventions into his workspace over the first three weeks of the exhibition. The interventions will include sculptural elements of a distinctly workaday nature: pallets collected during the artist’s wanderings around Chicago’s South Side. Erased: (Unrelated), a large photograph by Bethany Collins (b. 1984), will be installed in the Neubauer Collegium lobby until the completion of Lewis’s floor piece, when it will be transferred to the gallery. The image captures a cloud of chalk dust released into a black void—the microscopic remnants of the word “unrelated,” repeatedly written on a blackboard and then erased. Made in 2012 and included as part of Collins’s deeply personal White Noise series, this photograph presages the artist’s subsequent works centered on the laborious rituals of erasure and loss for which she has since become well-known, and which help shed light on one of this exhibition’s founding questions: How much “work” does it take to make art seem effortless—and the laboring body wholly absent?

Two new photo pieces by Ellen Rothenberg (b. 1948) complete the picture conjured in WORKS BY. One is of a work boot, which will be exhibited on the gallery’s east-facing exterior wall. The other is of a giant lump of crumpled paper that was once a Barbara Kruger mural (Rothenberg made the photograph during the dismantling of Kruger’s retrospective at MoMA in 2022). The latter photo will be mounted on a free-standing wall that will be placed on top of Lewis’s finished floor drawing. It will become fully accessible following a second opening reception on May 23.

The variegated fruits of these artists’ toils and exertions will remain on view until July 14, 2024: Bastille Day, commemorating another landmark event in the long history of the making of the working class.

Project Topics:

WORKS BY: Tony Lewis with Bethany Collins, Devin T. Mays & Ellen Rothenberg

Featured

WORKS BY: Tony Lewis with Bethany Collins, Devin T. Mays & Ellen Rothenberg

This exhibition brings together the work of four Chicago-based artists who share an interest in the many meanings of “labor.”

Chicago’s auspicious role in modern labor history lies at the heart of WORKS BY, a multi-faceted group show that will be on view at the Neubauer Collegium May 1 to July 14, 2024. The exhibition brings together the work of four Chicago-based artists whose practices converge in a shared interest in the many meanings of “labor” as well as the mysterious mechanics that regulate the fractious relationship between effort and value. The opening date is celebrated the world over as International Workers’ Day, though its roots reach back into a deeply local Chicago history – that of the storied Haymarket Affair of 1886. (The first International Workers’ Day was organized on May 1, 1890, to honor the eight labor activists wrongfully accused of instigating the Haymarket Massacre—and to rally support for the eight-hour workday, which the activists had been lobbying for so valiantly.)

The centerpiece of the exhibition will be a new graphite floor drawing, produced in situ by Tony Lewis (b. 1986). Work on this new piece will commence on the opening day of the exhibition, meaning that access to the gallery will be limited until the artwork is completed later in May—the labor of its making being the primary attraction until that time. Lewis’s floor drawings are made by manually rubbing graphite powder onto large swaths of construction paper, resulting in dark, dust-coated expanses of monochrome gray. These works call attention to the seemingly mindless chore and anti-theater of their production, though there is evidently a mystical element at play in the smudgy void they engender. (Consider the analogy with the art of the mandala and comparable exercises in monastic focus and absorption.) Upon the exhibition’s conclusion, the floor drawing will be rolled up into a giant paper ball, to be unwrapped in a different context at a later date.

Lewis has invited Devin T. Mays (b. 1985) to devise a series of performative interventions into his workspace over the first three weeks of the exhibition. The interventions will include sculptural elements of a distinctly workaday nature: pallets collected during the artist’s wanderings around Chicago’s South Side. Erased: (Unrelated), a large photograph by Bethany Collins (b. 1984), will be installed in the Neubauer Collegium lobby until the completion of Lewis’s floor piece, when it will be transferred to the gallery. The image captures a cloud of chalk dust released into a black void—the microscopic remnants of the word “unrelated,” repeatedly written on a blackboard and then erased. Made in 2012 and included as part of Collins’s deeply personal White Noise series, this photograph presages the artist’s subsequent works centered on the laborious rituals of erasure and loss for which she has since become well-known, and which help shed light on one of this exhibition’s founding questions: How much “work” does it take to make art seem effortless—and the laboring body wholly absent?

Two new photo pieces by Ellen Rothenberg (b. 1948) complete the picture conjured in WORKS BY. One is of a work boot, which will be exhibited on the gallery’s east-facing exterior wall. The other is of a giant lump of crumpled paper that was once a Barbara Kruger mural (Rothenberg made the photograph during the dismantling of Kruger’s retrospective at MoMA in 2022). The latter photo will be mounted on a free-standing wall that will be placed on top of Lewis’s finished floor drawing. It will become fully accessible following a second opening reception on May 23.

The variegated fruits of these artists’ toils and exertions will remain on view until July 14, 2024: Bastille Day, commemorating another landmark event in the long history of the making of the working class.

Project Topics:

Christopher Williams: Radio/Rauhfaser/Television

Christopher Williams: Radio/Rauhfaser/Television

Radio / Rauhfaser / Television offers a provisional summation of Christopher Williams’s ongoing research into contemporary mutations of social realism. The exhibition is centered in part on the politically engaged theater of the German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz. Williams recently recorded Kroetz’s 1972 radio play Inklusive using vintage audio equipment from both East and West Germany, and the play will be broadcast on Chicago’s Lumpen Radio (105.5 FM) at several points during the show’s run. The strong sense of class consciousness in Kroetz’s work is hinted at in Williams’s use of Rauhfaser, an archetypal brand of German wallpaper that serves as scenographic shorthand for a proletarian aesthetic. A single photograph and two hand-painted glass signs hang in the gallery alongside video footage and historical documents displayed in six purpose-built vitrines. Its modest scale notwithstanding, the exhibition has an almost manifesto-like quality to it, outlining both Williams’s overarching intellectual passions – an interrogation of the way in which our visual culture is both staged and seen – and the timeless question of art’s relation to societal questions.

IMAGE:

Christopher Williams
Blocking Template:
Ikea Kitchen
(Three-quarter)
Studio Thomas Borho, Oberkasseler Str. 39, Düsseldorf, Germany
September 10, 2022, 2023

Archival pigment print on cotton rag paper
Print: 11 7/8 x 19 inches
30.2 x 48.3 cm
Framed: 26 x 33 5/8 x 1 1/4 inches
66 x 85.4 x 3.2 cm
Edition of 10, 4 AP
Signed verso
WILCH0620

© Christopher Williams. Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne.

The Neubauer Collegium gratefully acknowledges the Brenda Mulmed Shapiro Fund for its generous support of the gallery, and is grateful to Conor O’Neil and the Danielson Foundation for their additional support of this exhibition.

Project Topics:

Gelitin: Democratic Sculpture 7

Gelitin: Democratic Sculpture 7

Known internationally for their ambitious public art projects and transgressive performances, Gelitin are indefatigable partisans of the ludic impulse in art, forever honoring Friedrich Schiller’s claim that “man only plays when he is in the fullest sense of the word a human being, and he is only fully a human being when he plays.” This exhibition features a monumental sculpture of a pizza that guests are invited to activate by poking their heads through to make toppings. The work made a brief public appearance at the Chicago Cultural Center on September 21 as part of the opening of the fifth Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Founded in Vienna in 1993 by Ali Janka, Florian Reither, Tobias Urban, and Wolfgang Gantner, Gelitin first met in 1978 “when they all attended a summer camp.” They have been “playing and working together” ever since, and they are now embarking upon their fourth decade of collaborative artmaking with a first-ever exhibition of their work in Chicago. Known internationally for their ambitious public art projects and transgressive performances, Gelitin are indefatigable partisans of the ludic impulse in art, forever honoring Friedrich Schiller’s timeless claim that “man only plays when he is in the fullest sense of the word a human being, and he is only fully a human being when he plays.” Indeed, what may appear abject, provocative, and occasionally pornographic in their art should be considered, first and foremost, from the emancipatory perspective of “homo ludens.”

Gelitin’s exhibition at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, conceived in close collaboration with the fifth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, consists of a major new interactive installation titled Democratic Sculpture 7. It is part of an ongoing series of works, many of which are typically executed in the foursome’s signature heterodox materials (mud, sweat, urine, etc.), that solicit activation through sharing. Democratic Sculpture 7 was developed during their exhibition at the artist-run gallery O’Flaherty’s in New York in the spring of 2023, and the sculpture (made up primarily of colorful discarded clothing) does indeed look an awful lot like a quintessentially New York slice of pizza—a lot thinner than Chicago’s “deep dish” variant on the classic Neapolitan staple, which for some years now, has featured prominently on UNESCO’s ever-expanding list of “intangible cultural heritage.” (In the broader context of Gelitin’s decidedly anti-monumental, proletarian aesthetic, one could align the Arte Povera flavor of Democratic Sculpture 7 with the no-frills, working-class roots of much Italian cuisine.) Five holes in the sculpture allow the viewer to poke their head through the pizza’s toppings, thereby turning the static object into a conversation piece – proverbial food for all manner of thought, from the aesthetic of the pie chart or the history of human migration as told through foodstuffs to the politics of food. The latter is a matter of real concern in some of Chicago's underserved neighborhoods (“food deserts”), some of which feature prominently in this edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, curated by local art collective Floating Museum and titled This Is a Rehearsal.

Much like the element of play may often be dismissed as unworthy of serious intellectual consideration in the aesthetic sphere, the historical “problem” of the art world’s low esteem of food, and the marginalization of gastronomic matters in western art, endure. Might one of the reasons why still-life painting has long been ranked among the lowest of all imaging genres, for instance, have something to do with its predilection for depicting foodstuffs? If that is the case, why does the world of high culture find it so difficult to take seriously what is in essence simply a matter of life or death? Seen from this vantage point, we may be tempted to frame Gelitin’s seemingly lighthearted, jocular interest in food, and the creative powers of the human digestive tract more broadly, in the larger context of a properly subversive “transvaluation of values” that seeks to restore to art the critical charge of what, like food and play, appears trivial but is, of course, anything but. For this is precisely why the apparently trivial is so worthy of pursuit – and why the politics of its trivialization (no matter whether this pertains to art or food) may hold the key to a better understanding of much more than the human intestinal apparatus.

Democratic Sculpture 7 is curated by Dieter Roelstraete and presented in collaboration with Chicago Architecture Biennial 5: This Is a Rehearsal. Prior to its installation at the Neubauer Collegium, Democratic Sculpture 7 will briefly be on view at the Chicago Cultural Center. Thanks to Jamian Juliano-Villano and O’Flahertys for their support.

Project Topics:

The Chicago Cli-Fi Library

The Chicago Cli-Fi Library

This exhibition is a modest attempt to make sense of the paralysis that sets in when artists try to fashion a response to the complexity and enormity of climate change. Featuring recent works by Chicago-based artists Beate Geissler & Oliver Sann, Jenny Kendler, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, and Dan Peterman.

Climate change is a great existential crisis for humanity, yet the apocalyptic prospect of global warming and other consequences of this great disruption hardly make themselves felt in the mainstream of cultural production. Whether we consider art, film, literature, or music, the specter of climate change has yet to produce the Anthropocene’s defining masterpieces. One could make the case that it is the very enormity of the challenge of imagining the unimaginable that causes this creative paralysis. The Chicago Cli-Fi Library is a modest attempt to make sense of this paralysis, suggesting that art’s response to the complexity and enormity of the issue at hand can only ever be piecemeal, ad hoc, and hyperlocalized – all of which must be understood as virtuous. Named after the emerging literary genre of “climate fiction,” or “cli-fi,” and accordingly bookish in both conception and outlook, this exhibition will feature the work of Chicago-based artists Geissler & Sann, Jenny Kendler in collaboration with Andrew Bearnot, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, and Dan Peterman.

Curated by Dieter Roelstraete.

Project Topics:

Rick Lowe: Notes on the Great Migration

Abstract painting by Rick Lowe

Rick Lowe: Notes on the Great Migration

This exhibition features a series of new paintings by the acclaimed Houston-based artist.

In the fall of 2022, the Neubauer Collegium will present an exhibition of new paintings by Rick Lowe, the acclaimed Houston-based artist who was a Visiting Fellow at the Neubauer Collegium from 2019 until 2021. Lowe’s “notes” on the Great Migration took shape in the wake of another Chicago-centered project begun in 2019: his Black Wall Street Journey, part of the Toward Common Cause exhibition celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program. (That exhibition, in turn, was informed by the Black Wall Street Journey research project at the Neubauer Collegium.) The centerpiece of Notes on the Great Migration will be a new mode of presenting Lowe’s two-dimensional work – in a manner fitting for the artist’s seminal contribution to the development of a properly American brand of Sozialplastik, or “social sculpture.”

Project Topics:

Slavs and Tatars: MERCZbau

A mannequin displays Slavs and Tatars merchandise

Slavs and Tatars: MERCZbau

MERCZbau revisits the intertwined histories of the Ukrainian city of Lviv and the Polish city of Wroclaw as seen through the prism of a particularly eastern Orientalism. An installation featuring merchandise dedicated to a defunct Department of Oriental Studies offers a reflection on the shifting meanings of our enduring East/West divides and the human drama of migration, made so much more poignant by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The gallery is open to the public Mon – Fri, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.

MERCZbau revisits the intertwined histories of the Ukrainian city of Lviv and the Polish city of Wroclaw as seen through the prism of a particularly eastern Orientalism. The Berlin-based artist collective have created a speculative range of merchandising dedicated to the defunct Department of Oriental Studies of what was once known as the Jan Kazimierz University of Lwow, acting as if age-old traditions of scholarship and inquiry about “the East” had survived the Polish population’s forcible westward journey after World War II. The installation thereby offers a reflection on the human drama of migration as well as the shifting meanings of our enduring East/West divides, made so much more poignant by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The exhibition was made possible in part through a partnership with the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry and Gray Center Fellow Leah Feldman. All proceeds from the sale of the merchandise will be donated to the Scholars at Risk organization.


Curated by Dieter Roelstraete.


Installation photography by Robert Heishman. Event photography by Max Herman.

Project Topics:

Arnold J. Kemp: Less Like an Object and More Like the Weather

Arnold J. Kemp: Less Like an Object and More Like the Weather

Masks have occupied Arnold J. Kemp’s imagination for close to three decades, and they are doubly present in the project developed for the Neubauer Collegium, the centerpiece of which is a sprawling installation consisting of hundreds of hand-sculpted ceramic objects, paired with two large-scale photographs of the artist’s hand eerily animating a flaccid Fred Flintstone mask.

Arnold J. Kemp (b. 1968) is a Chicago-based American artist whose work ranges across an array of media including installation art and sculpture, painting and photography, and performance and poetry. Over the years, Kemp has sought to articulate his long-standing interest in challenging and interrogating the politics of “othering” so central to the imperial project of Western enlightenment. He has pursued this interest through a variety of forms and motifs, among which the mask stands out as the artist’s most persistent iconographic concern. Masks have occupied Kemp’s imagination for close to three decades, and they are doubly present in the project developed for the Neubauer Collegium, the centerpiece of which is a sprawling installation consisting of hundreds of hand-sculpted ceramic objects, paired with two large-scale photographs of the artist’s hand eerily animating a flaccid Fred Flintstone mask: “speech acts” that are exquisitely articulate in their wordlessness.

Curated by Dieter Roelstraete

Project Topics:

Ida Applebroog: MONALISA

Ida Applebroog: MONALISA

This exhibition, presented as part of Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40, features an installation of MONALISA by American artist Ida Applebroog. Living in Southern California in 1969, Applebroog sought refuge from her family in her bathtub, where she spent between two and three hours an evening drawing pictures of her body. This ritual eventually resulted in 160 portraits of Applebroog’s vagina. Packed away in 1974 and rediscovered in 2009, the drawings are installed as wallpaper on a wooden structure resembling a house.

Curated by Dieter Roelstraete

Installation photography by Robert Heishman. Event photography by Max Herman. Video by Robert Heishman and Robert Salazar. All rights reserved.

Project Topics:

Carmenza Banguera: The Visible, the Laughable, and the Invisible

Carmenza Banguera: The Visible, the Laughable, and the Invisible

This exhibition offered a provocative meditation on the meanings of the “resistant” Black body.

In her three-part exhibition project The Visible, the Laughable, and the Invisible, Afro-Colombian artist Carmenza Banguera explored tropes of Blackness and belonging, conjoining perspectives across two multicultural democracies, Colombia and the United States. Banguera’s works were partly based on observations drawn from an exploratory trip to Chicago in the spring of 2019 and reviewed through the lens of the Afro-Colombian experience in her hometown of Cali. Informed by the “racial reckoning” taking place in the United States following the murder of George Floyd, the exhibition offered a compelling meditation on the transnational meanings of the “resistant” Black body as invulnerable and thus capable of arduous and unsafe work. Banguera offered a striking critique of this gendered and racialized notion of bodily resistance, baring the contradictions of such embodied citizenship as they subtend Black Americans’ daily dealings with pervasive state violence and constrained labor markets. Conceived in close collaboration with the Contours of Black Citizenship in a Global Context research project at the Neubauer Collegium, this exhibition compelled us to imagine new ways of being and seeing.

Curated by the Contours of Black Citizenship in a Global Context research team in collaboration with Dieter Roelstraete

Installation photography and video by Robert Heishman. Event photography by Max Herman. All rights reserved.

Project Topics:

Pope.L: My Kingdom for a Title

Pope.L: My Kingdom for a Title

My Kingdom for a Title was the first exhibition to be organized at the Neubauer Collegium since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global health emergency unavoidably cast a shadow over the project, which contained allusions to the crisis with a degree of directness that is unusual in Pope.L’s work. Visitors entered an immersive installation under a cloud of objects that have come to symbolize the socio-medical predicament. The centerpiece was a selection of works chosen from Pope.L’s Skin Set Project, an ongoing series of text-based drawings and paintings featuring elliptical aphorisms that call attention to the way color is deployed to categorize people. An arrangement of medicine cabinets with mirrored doors left ajar were lit from the inside, inviting visitors to get a better look at the works contained within. The subtle play of prompts and references animated the gallery as a space where notions of access — to art, to meaning, to health care — were entangled with those of color as conventional markers of identity.

Curated by Dieter Roelstraete

Installation photography and video by Robert Heishman. All rights reserved.

Project Topics:

Apsáalooke Women and Warriors

Apsáalooke Women and Warriors

The Apsáalooke Women and Warriors project was a multi-site exhibition, jointly organized by the Neubauer Collegium and the Field Museum, that presented a rich narrative of the Apsáalooke cultural past, figured the present-day Apsáalooke identity, and offered a vision for the future. The centerpiece of the Collegium site was a tipi-like structure that transformed the gallery into an intimate space showcasing historical materials and works by contemporary Apsáalooke artists. All proceeds from the book published on the occasion of the show will benefit Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, Montana.

Curated by Nina Sanders in collaboration with Dieter Roelstraete.

Project Topics: