Spring is finally (somewhat) approaching Chicago. As the season of life and possibilities unfold, we highly recommend you pay one of Chicago’s many museums, galleries, and art spaces a visit to see, hear, and experience our world through a different perspective. Going with the seasonal theme of hope, revival, and excitement, we’ve chosen 8 spring art exhibitions in Chicago that we think you shouldn’t miss. Meanwhile, don’t be afraid to take advantage of free museum days and go outside the box! Let us know what shows you discovered beyond this list.
Will Rawls, [siccer]
MCA, 220 E. Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
WHEN: April 27 – 30, 2023. Artist Talk: April 29th, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm.
The 2021 winner of the Creative Capital Grant, [siccer] is an interdisciplinary project exploring the themes of the human body, language and communication, and race and ethnicity. Encompassing dance, photography, and sound, [siccer] addresses the relationship between blackness and image-making through a live performance accompanied by a video installation. Throughout the performance, an automated camera snaps an image every few seconds while the intervals between shutter clicks offer brief interludes when the camera fails to capture the dancers’ movements. As the performers improvise during these gaps between photographs, they rescript the terms through which blackness and queerness are made visible.
[siccer] is performed on April 27, 28, and 29, at 7:30 pm and April 30 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are available here. The video installation is on view at MCA from March 22 through June 18, 2023. Those interested in learning more about the projects can also join the Artist Talk on April 29, starting at 2:00 pm.
Michiko Itatani: Infinite Hope
Jean Albano Gallery, 215 W Superior St, Chicago, IL 60654
WHEN: April 5–June 3. Opening Reception: April 14
Based in Chicago, Michiko Itatani’s art stems from fragments collected from the experiences of the artist and those throughout the world’s history. The artist then mutates, combines, rearranges, and recreates these fragments in her paintings to develop new relationships between them. As a result, Itatani’s paintings are incomplete, fragmented, and always under inquiry. Or should we say they are always hopeful, evolving, and full of possibilities like the season spring?
Jaume Plensa: Forgotten Dreams
GRAY Chicago, 2044 W Carroll Ave, Chicago, IL 60612
WHEN: April 7–June 3
Widely celebrated for public sculpture that engages the human form, architecture, poetry, and language, Jaume Plensa presents recent work in the exhibition Forgotten Dreams at GRAY Chicago. The exhibition includes two large-scale works in cast aluminum: a series of twenty-one doors, titled Forgotten Dreams, 2020. This piece marks Plensa’s return to the use of doors as a universal motif and symbol of the human condition.
The second piece, Where Are You? (2022) consists of 21 freestanding sculptural portraits exploring the artist’s concept that “we are islands linked and separated by an ocean.” Also included in the exhibition are a series of drawings, a discipline that Plensa considers an extension of his sculptural practice, and two additional portraits – Flora Silence, 2022, in marble, and Hortensia Silence, 2022, in granite – from the artist’s Silence series. As one of the highly anticipated spring art exhibitions in Chicago, Forgotten Dreams is sure to leave you pondering about interhuman relationships in the modern landscape.
Strips & Needles—A Day in the Life
International Museum of Surgical Science, 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60610
WHEN: Mar 24 – Sep 4, 2023
“Strips & Needles—A Day in the Life” is a narrative art and medicine initiative centered on the installation of 366 Lucite panels with the purpose of creating a humanizing opportunity for healthcare providers and students of medicine and allied health fields to reflect and reconsider the patient. With over half of the U.S. population facing direct, adverse impacts of diabetes, building a supportive community, raising awareness and interest in building a stronger healthcare system, and bringing the disabled into the public’s purview are all critical to effectively confronting our country’s diabetes epidemic.
Finally, the project also directly benefits patients and families living with diabetes, healthcare providers, and the general public.
Bryana Bibbs: Numb
Olivia Gallery, 3816 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
WHEN: April 7 – May 6, 2023. Opening Reception: April 7th from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Telling stories of trauma and mental health, Bribb works between traditional and experimental processes and uses her large-scale pieces to navigate past experiences in what Bibbs considers to be “chapters.” In earlier work, Bibbs was driven by an urgency to understand her personal experiences translated into the fast processes of mark-making in painting. As time progresses, Bibbs’s most recent work reflects parallels between the slow navigation of personal experiences and the rhythmic textile techniques of hand-carding, hand-spinning, and hand-weaving, both of which are a form of transformative repetition.
“Numb is how I felt during these traumatic experiences I had gone through for nearly a decade. With this exhibition, I hope to continue to move forward in ending the stigma and encouraging others to share their stories of trauma in a way that is healthiest for them,” says the artist.
Kongkee: Warring States Cyberpunk
Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood, Chicago, IL 60614
WHEN: Apr 14 – Jul 15, 2023
If you are a big fan of Cowboy Beepop, Ghost In The Shell, and Outlaw Star, you’ll enjoy Warring States Cyberpunk. Through multi-screen videos, wall projections, neon installations, vibrant graphic works, narrative texts, and ancient Chinese objects, the exhibition tells the story of legendary poet Qu Yuan, who lived during the Warring States Period (c. 481-221 BCE), as his soul journeys from the ancient Chu Kingdom to a retro-futuristic Asia where he is reborn as an android in a psychedelic cyberpunk landscape.
The exhibition allows viewers to connect the past to the present and to value how the digital crafts and digital storytelling of today—animation, video art, even video games—share the same kinds of hard-won techniques, inspiration, and cultural influences as the bronzes, jades, and lacquerwares of old once did.
Louise Pappageorge: Intimacy of the Hand
Alma Art & Interiors, 3636 S. Iron, Chicago, IL 60609
WHEN: Apr 14 – Jun 1, 2023. Opening Reception: Friday, Apr 14, 2023, 5 – 9 pm
The word ‘thread’ is often used to represent continuity—of an idea, a theme, or a life. The simple repetitive action of interlocking threads and joining pieces and sections together to create something whole, repeated among generations, handed down and shared, chronicles the continuum of life. These sculptures focus on both our relationship to thread and the larger contemplation of the role of work in culture and the art world and how historically the value of an artist’s work is determined by gender, race, and class.
Giving Shape: Yollocalli Artistic Practice Through the Years
National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St, Chicago, IL 60608
WHEN: Mar 31 – Sep 3, 2023. Opening Reception: Friday, Mar 31, 2023, 6 – 8 pm
The last one on our list of spring art exhibitions in Chicago actually has a lot to do with the Windy City itself! When Yollocalli was located in Pilsen alongside the youth-led radio station called Radio Arte, it formed the intersection of community-oriented artistic expression in Chicago and youth-directed cultural production.
Curated by Marina M. Álvarez, this exhibition centers on how Yollocalli students and artists have transformed Chicago’s physical, visual, auditory, and literary landscapes. The artwork presented here challenges our relationships to space: how we interact with space, claim space, and reimagine our place within spaces. By uniting art and social practice, they are giving shape to the world that surrounds them.
Featured Image: The Tears, 2020, by Kongkee. Courtesy of the artist and Penguin Lab. Copyright © 2020 the artist.