Museum of Contemporary Art – Chicago
MCA Chicago Plaza Project: Martin Creed. In early August 2012, London-based artist Martin Creed (British, b. 1968) debuted an ambitious new sculpture created especially for the MCA plaza. Made up of white neon lettering, Work No. 1357, MOTHERS is the largest kinetic sculpture Creed has created to date: measuring forty-eight feet wide and more than twenty feet tall, it steadily rotates a full 360 degrees. This substantial public artwork is a companion piece to the artist’s yearlong residency at the MCA, Martin Creed Plays Chicago, which blurs the lines between the inside and the outside of the museum and furthers Creed’s engagement with the city at large.
Creed often uses language in his work, spelling out unassuming words or common phrases. In some cases he works with neon on a modest scale. Work No. 845 (2007), for example—on view concurrently in the MCA’s first-floor lobby—reproduces the word “THINGS” in bright multicolored letters that are a few inches high. In contrast, the rotating neon sculpture Creed produced for the MCA plaza is intended to be monumental. As the word “MOTHERS” spins overhead, directly in front of the museum’s main entrance, it becomes a glowing presence that is both celebratory and imposing. It had to be large, Creed said, “because mothers always have to be bigger than you are” and because “it feels like mothers are the most important people in the world.”
Creed is one of the United Kingdom’s leading artists and was the winner of the 2001 Turner Prize. He lives and works in London and spends time in Alicudi, Italy. Creed’s work has been exhibited widely at a variety of international venues, and he has produced public projects throughout the world, including one in London in August 2012 to coincide with the Summer Olympics.
This is the second annual MCA Chicago Plaza Project, following the inaugural installation of sculptures by artist Mark Handforth in 2011. Through May 2013.
MCA Screen: Akram Zaatari. Since the mid-1990s Akram Zaatari has explored how photography and video are used to record minute moments that accumulate to compose a greater sense of history. For Zaatari, history is deeply intertwined with the specific realities of individual lives, and thus much of his work is rooted in photographic archives and personal experience and often subtly registers the effects of conflict in his home country of Lebanon and the surrounding region. Using the world around him as an ongoing resource, Zaatari excavates objects with historical relevance, photographs personal documents and diaries, and weaves biographical elements into narrative videos and photo installations that explore questions of sexuality and human intimacy.
A cofounder of the Arab Image Foundation, Zaatari has shaped his career not only by creating images but also by collecting, preserving, and archiving photographs from the Middle East, yet few of his works are straightforward pictures. One of his primary projects has involved accessing the archives of commercial studio photographer Hashem el Madani, whose mid-century Studio Shehrazade amassed a trove of black-and-white portraits (taken between the late 1940s and 1970s) of Beirutis in confident poses and amorous embraces, sometimes costumed and reenacting scenes from their favorite Hollywood films. By pulling these mid-century and prewar images into the present, Zaatari subtly asks what forms of being and types of relationships were being imagined in this cosmopolitan society of the past.
In addition to his photographic practice, Zaatari has made more than forty videos to date, many of which have been screened internationally to great acclaim. His latest, the award-winning Tomorrow everything will be alright (2010), was featured in the 2011 Istanbul Biennial and centers on the hesitant reunion of two male former lovers who communicate preternaturally through a typewriter, as if the anachronistic medium were delivering text messages back and forth. The video features footage Zaatari shot in the late 1990s, during a time of uncertainty in Lebanon. A new photo installation by Zaatari featuring images of couples from the Studio Shehrazade archive accompanies the video. Through May 12, 2013.
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART is located at 220 East Chicago Avenue.