Chicago, as we all know, comes in like a lion and will, unfortunately, end like a lion as well. Cruel March will leave us as cold and pillaged as late February. Our excuses to stay inside grow exceedingly exhausted (really, how many times can you watch the YouTube video of that drugged-out kid after his dentist trip?). Luckily, for you “photophiles” out there, photography-fever has consumed the university museums and galleries around town. Five Chicago schools tackle photography in a spectrum of ways this month, ranging from solo shows focusing on early and unrefined works of renowned photographers, to exhibitions that use photography to contemplate space and location.
Aaron Siskind: The Thing Itself Smart Museum of Art (University of Chicago)
One of the most renowned photographers of the past century, Aaron Siskind defined American photography in his 60-plus years behind the lens. The man who turned street cracks into ribbon dances is best known for his abstract work, although he began his career in social documentation. His interest manifested in his work that removes objects from their literal settings and re-frames them, opening the viewer to alternative interpretation. “The Thing Itself” presents Siskind’s early attempts at this approach, as well as writings from the artist that demonstrate the tension of representation. On view through May 10 in the Joel and Carole Bernstein Gallery for Works on Paper. 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. (smartmuseum.uchicago.edu). Hours: Tues., Wed., & Fri. 10a.m.–4p.m., Thurs. 10a.m.–8p.m., Sat.–Sun. 11a.m.–5p.m. Admission Free.
Realism and Magic: Latin American Photography from the Collection of DePaul DePaul University Museum
Taken from DePaul’s own photography collection, “Realism and Magic” presents photographs from Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Peru and the Caribbean. The exhibit features work spanning from nineteenth-century German photographer Hugo Brehme through the contemporary Cuban artist Sebastião Salgado. The photographs on display chart the artistic trajectory of photography in Latin America, as well as common socio-economic issues apparent in the artists’ works. On view through May 4 in the Main and North Galleries. 2350 N. Kenmore Avenue. Hours: Mon.–Thurs. 11a.m.–5p.m., Fri. 11a.m.–7p.m., Sat.–Sun. 12–5p.m.
Polaroids: Mapplethorpe Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art (Northwestern University)
Before launching into his famous images of still-lifes, sexual deviance and celebrity, Robert Mapplethorpe was an artist with a vision and an instant camera. “Polaroids: Mapplethorpe” is a collection of over 90 images taken between 1970 and 1975. These rough Polaroids, taken before he developed his iconic photographic style and techniques, explore the themes that will appear in Mapplethorpe’s later, mature work. On view through April 5 in the Alsdorf Gallery. 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston. Hours: Tues. 10a.m.–5p.m., Wed.–Fri. 10a.m.–8p.m., Sat.–Sun. 12–5p.m. For a full review of this exhibition, please visit fnewsmagazine.com
Florian Slotawa, Hotel Europoa, Prague, Room 402, Night of June 8,1998, Silver gelatin print. Countesy of Sies+hoke, Dusseldorf.
PhotoDimensional Museum of Contemporary Photography (Columbia College)
An unfortunate quality of the photograph is that it removes a certain essential element of life: dimensionality. Though photographers play with perspective and space, true phenomenology is essentially impossible to recreate. “PhotoDimensional” explores the reinstatement of dimension in photography in the work of thirteen diverse artists, including John Coplans, Leslie Hewitt, Vik Muniz and Lorna Simpson. Works range from drawings of minimalist sculptures created from the dust in the gallery they sit in, to sculptures made of photographic materials, to the sagging stomach of an artist mimicking the pose of an ancient Greek sculpture, challenging viewers to push the boundaries of representation and opening dialogues concerning definitions of space. On view through April 19. 600 S. Michigan. Hours: Mon.–Wed. & Sat. 10a.m.–5p.m., Thurs. 10a.m.–8p.m., Sun. 12–5p.m.