September 16, 2020

Also on View: Visual Arts at UChicago

Installation view of "Untitled (Ren Screen)" and "Untitled (05-07)."

Installation view of "Untitled (Ren Screen)" and "Untitled (05-07)."

Jonathan Mandel / The Chicago Maroon

On-campus arts programs are subject to change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. More updates are to follow as the College reopens later this September. Check in with each Recognized Student Organization (RSO) and art program for more details. 

Does one Arts Core class not seem enough to satiate the right side of your brain? Fear not: there are plenty of (often hidden) ways to pick up a paintbrush, get charcoal underneath your fingernails, or maybe just admire someone else’s creations.  

While the trek downtown is worth it, seeing art doesn’t have to involve a long drive down Lake Shore Drive. Why not drop by one of the many museums right on campus instead? Tucked away in an unassuming courtyard right next to Campus North, the Smart Museum of Art is the University’s main art museum, harboring a collection of works ranging from 12th-century Korean bowls to 20th-century Warhols, Paschkes, and Matisses. While temporarily closed for re-installment, upcoming exhibitions include Claudia Wieser’s Generations; Lust, Love, and Loss in Renaissance Europe, a display of passion and violence from the Renaissance era; and not all realisms, a photographic history of revolution in the African continent in the 1960s. Their Art to Live With program has been put on hold for the 2020–21 school year, but generally each fall, students are able to select from over 100 artworks to hang in their dorm rooms—of course, as long as you arrive at the museum early enough to nab a Picasso.  

Stumbling upon the Renaissance Society (endearingly nicknamed the Ren by patrons and students), hidden on the fourth floor of Cobb, always feels like happening upon a long-lost treasure in the attic. This small, independent museum is on Atlas Obscura’s list of attractions to check out in Chicago. Since 1915, the Renaissance Society has been known for its “experimental ethos,” and it regularly features contemporary artists from around the world. Following former executive director and chief curator Solveig Øvstebø’s departure, the Ren has appointed Myriam Ben Salah to the position effective September 15, 2020. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Ren has temporarily closed until mid-September—future shows will require an advance appointment, with an online viewing room and more digital content to follow. Upcoming exhibits include Nine Lives, which documents the multitudes of storytelling media through a feminist lens; and Haig Aivazian’s All of the Lights, an installation of mostly found footage of how light has evolved from the natural to the mechanic in daily human venture.  

The Oriental Institute, meanwhile, boasts a collection of slightly older works—ancient Middle Eastern artifacts—showcasing the Human-Headed Winged Bull (Lamassu), a fragment of a Dead Sea Scroll, and mini statues of fertility goddesses, among other historical pieces. If you’re reading the Epic of Gilgamesh for first-year Hum, put down your tired translation and check out the original: 4,000-year-old Babylonian cuneiform tablets (circa 2,000 B.C.E.)! While the Oriental Institute is temporarily closed, be sure to check out their online archives and their virtual museum tour

The Logan Center for the Arts, located at East 60th Street and South Drexel Avenue, features both professional and student artwork. From the unexpected student installations and drawings taped to the walls, to concerts and plays, to dance competitions, the Logan Center is always one of the liveliest spots on campus. Every year, Logan Center Exhibitions’ dynamic exhibition cycle brings international contemporary artists for shows and exciting programming at the Logan Center Gallery, right at the building’s north entrance. Just across the lobby, Café Logan doubles as a popular study spot and exhibition space; once in a while, you can catch spoken word/poetry RSO Catcher in the Rhyme performing in the corner of the cafe. Or, if you just want to study and play your instrument, feel free to plop down at the DelGiorno Terrace, the Central Courtyard, or any open music practice room. The Logan Center is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 but is working on plans to reopen in the academic year. 

Wander into the Booth School of Business to view their surprisingly substantial collection of modern art, including works by contemporary German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans and Department of Visual Arts faculty members Pope L. and Laura Letinsky.  

On the other end of Woodlawn, the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society holds exhibitions in its gallery. Past exhibitions have included Martha Rosler: Passionate Signals, which explores the legendary feminist video and photo artist’s works from a novel, “green” angle. The Neubauer Collegium is currently closed due to the pandemic until further notice. 

Although a bit farther than the rest, the Arts Incubator on 301 East Garfield Boulevard hosts exhibitions, artist residencies, community-centered arts events and activities, and arts education. Envisioned by artist and UChicago faculty member Theaster Gates, it houses the Arts + Public Life initiative, which seeks to strengthen the University’s relationship with the South Side’s artistic and civic communities. 

Arts RSOs 

Not that students are uninvolved in the arts world either—many find spaces to draw, write, and paint during their free time. While some arts RSOs have requirements and shows, there are also plenty of laid-back ways to get messy and creative. More information will follow in the upcoming fall quarter about in-person meetings from each RSO. 

Festival of the Arts (FOTA) orchestrates a campus-wide jubilee of student art and hosts workshops, performances, and gallery openings throughout the year. If you have an ambitious vision, or a project you’re eager to complete, FOTA can help provide the resources to do so, along with a supportive community of fellow artists. Keep an eye out for information about their fall show and how to get involved. Drop by Logan every Tuesday evening and join Outside the Lines at their weekly figure-drawing workshops, where seasoned pros sketch alongside those who have never drawn a live model before; pop in for 10 minutes on your way to dinner, or delve into a pose for 2 hours. If you’re lucky enough to register for a spot in UChicago Ceramics’s first-come, first-serve studio sessions, enjoy creating clay crafts once a week at the Hyde Park Arts Center. UChicomics is a collective of comic artists, cartoonists, and simply lovers of visual art—this summer, they commissioned cartoon art and raised over $450 for the Okra Project.