Studio Brunstrum

Chicago Art Weekend

November 1, 2019

Susan spent a weekend showing her Los Angeles friend, Connie, around Chicago. Museums, galleries, Open House Chicago and more!

A crisp fall weekend in mid-October that included visiting 10 art galleries, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Chicago Architecture Center, Zhou B Art Center and touring 5 buildings at Open House Chicago with my friend Connie was pure delight! Hosting a Sunday afternoon champagne and Hoosier Mama Pie soiree for a few friends (8 scrumptious individual pies so everyone could taste a bite or two of each) along with lunch at Politan Row and dinner at RL rounded out the weekend! I am tired just writing about it…

At the Zhou B Art Center Monthly 3rd Fridays Open House we met artist-in-residence Sally Ko (one of my favorites) and Martin Bernstein (the first artist-in-residence).

My favorite West Loop/West Village galleries we wandered into and spent time viewing exhibits included:

1. The Rhona Hoffman Gallery featured the whimsical and colorful watercolors and collages of artist Gladys Nilsson, one of the foremost Chicago women artists and a member of the Hairy Who that came to prominence in the 1960’s and focused on aspects of human sexuality and its inherent contradictions.

2. The Matthew Rachman Gallery featured the ballpoint pen and colored pencil sketches of another Chicago artist, Wesley Willis. Known as an artist of the streets, diagnosed with schizophrenia and a punk rock musician, he sold his drawings for $10-$20. It was only after his death that he began to receive recognition for his artwork.

3. The Catherine Edelman Gallery featured the haunting portrait photography of Sandro Millar, another Chicagoan. His most recent body of work, I Am Papau New Guinea focused on indigenous people from a variety of tribes. Many wore headdresses, had painted faces, wore tribal dress and ornamental talismans.

4. The Mariane Ibrahim Gallery is new to Chicago and featured the photographs of Ayana V. Jackson. Take Me to the Water is culmination of her work and embraces historical illusions. The characters inhabit an Aquatopia.

5. The Richard Gray Gallery featured the exhibition of artist Leon Polk Smith; Endless Space. Bold, colorful shapes with curved edges created in the late 1950’s to early 1970’s are reminiscent of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian’s style, with a more simplified feel.

6. The Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery featured the new work, Shatter, of artist John Sparagana. His art is made from cutting (via a razor) iconic pages from magazines and deconstructing comic books and then re-imagining them into pixelated images of himself.

Of all the downtown buildings we toured at Open House Chicago (sponsored by Chicago Architecture Center), I enjoyed The Cliff Dwellers Club at 200 S. Michigan, Gensler Architecture at 11 E. Madison and The Palmer House Hotel Red Lacquer Room at 17 E. Monroe.
The Cliff Dwellers is a boutique private club for members interested in literature, painting, music, architecture or the performing arts and has magnificent views of Lake Michigan.

Gensler is in the iconic Louis Sullivan building, built in 1879, once the home of Carson Pirie Scott and now a national historic landmark.

The Palmer House is Chicago’s oldest hotel, given by Potter Palmer as a wedding gift to his new wife Bethel in 1871.However, 13 days after their wedding, it burned down in the Great Chicago Fire. Two years later at the cost of $1.7 million, Palmer constructed a second hotel across the street from the original that included the city’s first elevators. The Red Lacquer Room is best-known for the most fabled dinner in history – a banquet attended by over 500 dignitaries, given by Bertha in 1879 to honor the return of General Ulysses S. Grant from a trip around the world.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Open House Chicago for an inside sneak peak at a few more of Chicago’s buildings – always a real treasure and an opportunity I love to take advantage of!

Susan Brunstrum
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