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Exhibitions

Chicago Dispatch / July & August 2022

Chicago is alive with creativity - we pick three of the top design shows this summer.

Volume Gallery: ‘Abigail Chang / Reflections of a Room’ 
Until end of August 2022

Stony Island Arts Bank: ‘Tom Sachs / Furniture’
Until 4th September 2022

The Art Institute of Chicago: ‘Jonathan Muecke / Objects in Sculpture’
Until  10th October 2022

By Adrian Madlener / 21st July 2022
Tom Sachs, ‘Crate Chair No. 13’, 2018 COURTESY: Tom Sachs & Stony Island Arts Bank / PHOTOGRAPH: Genevieve Hanson

Tom Sachs, ‘Crate Chair No. 13’, 2018
COURTESY: Tom Sachs & Stony Island Arts Bank / PHOTOGRAPH: Genevieve Hanson

SHINING BRIGHTER THAN ever beneath the long shadows of New York and Los Angeles, Chicago continues to stake its claim within art, architecture and design circles. Famous as a bastion of international style and design manufacturing in the 20th century, the Midwestern metropolis is today alive with creative activity, home to top museums, leading galleries and innovative platforms. This summer, three solo exhibitions are tapping into Chicago’s architectural heritage by submitting to scrutiny our common perceptions of space, traditional production techniques and even our lexicon of recognised shapes.   

Volume Gallery: ‘Abigail Chang / Reflections of a Room’ 

Exhibition view, ‘Abigail Chang: Reflections of a Room’, 2022, Volume Gallery COURTESY: Abigail Chang & Volume Gallery

Exhibition view, ‘Abigail Chang: Reflections of a Room’, 2022, Volume Gallery
COURTESY: Abigail Chang & Volume Gallery

Chicago-based designer and educator Abigail Chang creates works informed by the interaction of material and detail. Her approach takes elements of material culture and the built environment to make conceptual statements that reflect on the current zeitgeist. Her recent ‘Skeuomorphic Screens’ installation explored the aperture-like qualities of screens as undervalued architectural components and her work has been shown at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. Chang is currently visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Architecture, Design and the Arts, and this is her first show with the renowned Volume Gallery, which often works with architects developing object design. 

Abigail Chang, ‘Safety’, 2022 COURTESY: Abigail Chang & Volume Gallery

Abigail Chang, ‘Safety’, 2022
COURTESY: Abigail Chang & Volume Gallery

Proportioned according to a typology and scale of domestic objects, this series of eight geometric surfaces in ‘Reflections of a Room’ nudge visitors into considering their presence within the white cube space. The designs, layered or angled against the stark backdrop, serve as frames for these interactions. One object suggests how the change in natural light over the course of the day might influence the experience of looking out of a window, while another plays on the ominous positioning of one-way mirrors, often used to conceal security cameras. These works question the ubiquity of elements in our daily lives and beyond initial encounter, the wonderfully minimalistic yet seemingly identifiable forms take on a plethora of ephemeral light refracted textures. 

Exhibition view, ‘Abigail Chang: Reflections of a Room’, 2022, Volume Gallery COURTESY: Abigail Chang & Volume Gallery

Exhibition view, ‘Abigail Chang: Reflections of a Room’, 2022, Volume Gallery
COURTESY: Abigail Chang & Volume Gallery

Stony Island Arts Bank: ‘Tom Sachs / Furniture’ 

Tom Sachs, ‘Shop Chair (Yellow)’, 2020 COURTESY: Tom Sachs & Stony Island Arts Bank / PHOTOGRAPH: Genevieve Hanson

Tom Sachs, ‘Shop Chair (Yellow)’, 2020
COURTESY: Tom Sachs & Stony Island Arts Bank / PHOTOGRAPH: Genevieve Hanson

Seeking to break down the idea that furniture or any other mass-produced product should be pristine, Tom Sachs creates furniture leaving its handmade qualities exposed, celebrating the imperfections of materiality and assembly. The New York-based polymath follows the tradition of counter-industrialists like Augustus Pugin who have championed the honesty of construction and the use of certain materials over others. For Sachs, the inadvertent marks that are made during production communicate narrative and help forge a closer emotional bond with the everyday objects around us, perhaps even inspiring us to buy less and place more value on the items we already have.

Tom Sachs,’Shop Chair (with Arms)’, 2022 COURTESY: Tom Sachs & Stony Island Arts Bank / PHOTOGRAPH: Genevieve Hanson

Tom Sachs, ‘Shop Chair (with Arms)’, 2022
COURTESY: Tom Sachs & Stony Island Arts Bank / PHOTOGRAPH: Genevieve Hanson

This exhibition is the first retrospective of the artist’s design practice in over two decades. His use of accessible materials (plywood, resin, steel and ceramic), his capacity to find beauty in a certain type of resourcefulness and the honesty of artisanal production align with the host institution’s ethos. Housed in a former bank building, Stony Island Arts Bank serves as a creative space for the preservation, redeployment and amplification of art and cultural artefacts on the South Side of the city and its predominantly Black population. Sachs’s now iconic ‘Shop Chair’ is fabricated in small batches at North Carolina workshop Stokes Manufacturing. His tight-knit studio of ten operates like a kind of cult, venerating all the qualities of readily available plywood.  

The Art Institute of Chicago: ‘Jonathan Muecke / Objects in Sculpture’

Exhibition view, ‘Jonathan Muecke: Objects in Sculpture’, 2022, Art Institute of Chicago COURTESY: Jonathan Muecke & Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition view, ‘Jonathan Muecke: Objects in Sculpture’, 2022, Art Institute of Chicago
COURTESY: Jonathan Muecke & Art Institute of Chicago

“Jonathan Muecke’s rigorous practice and mind-bending objects challenge how we understand design as a creative discipline,” says Irene Sunwoo, Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, “and at the same time encourages experimental display strategies that rethink what a design exhibition can be.” This exhibition surveys the designer’s most experimental pieces. 

Exhibition view, ‘Jonathan Muecke: Objects in Sculpture’, 2022, Art Institute of Chicago COURTESY: Jonathan Muecke & Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition view, ‘Jonathan Muecke: Objects in Sculpture’, 2022, Art Institute of Chicago
COURTESY: Jonathan Muecke & Art Institute of Chicago

Receiving a BA in architecture from Iowa State University, Muecke first worked at firm Herzog & de Meuron before pursuing an MFA in 3D design from the highly influential Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. In the past decade, the multifaceted creative has mounted pavilions at Design Miami/ and shown standalone works in numerous gallery shows. First conceived by Zoë Ryan, Director of the ICA, University of Pennsylvania, this exhibition is, surprisingly, Muecke’s first museum showcase.  

Exhibition view, ‘Jonathan Muecke: Objects in Sculpture’, 2022, Art Institute of Chicago COURTESY: Jonathan Muecke & Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition view, ‘Jonathan Muecke: Objects in Sculpture’, 2022, Art Institute of Chicago
COURTESY: Jonathan Muecke & Art Institute of Chicago

From his studios in Minneapolis, Muecke develops a wide range of spatial concepts and objects. In works like the 2013 ‘Stabilizer’ table, he seeks to challenge and reformulate the relationship between form and functionality. His meticulously crafted designs riffing on the archetypal details of everyday furniture also work to distort perception. Like Chang and Sachs, Muecke explores the absurdity of the mundane, often suggesting how we might begin to think about adopting new habits or occupying our surroundings differently. 

Exhibition view, ‘Jonathan Muecke: Objects in Sculpture’, 2022, Art Institute of Chicago COURTESY: Jonathan Muecke & Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition view, ‘Jonathan Muecke: Objects in Sculpture’, 2022, Art Institute of Chicago
COURTESY: Jonathan Muecke & Art Institute of Chicago

Volume Gallery: Abigail Chang / Reflections of a Room

@volume_gallery

Stony Island Arts Bank: Tom Sachs / Furniture

@tomsachs

The Art Institute of Chicago: Jonathan Muecke / Objects in Sculpture

@artinstitutechi

 

 

 

 

Article by Adrian Madlener
Article by Adrian Madlener
Adrian Madlener is a Brussels-born, New York-based writer covering a wide range of design-related topics. View all articles by Adrian Madlener