At a time when this list is painfully difficult to narrow down, I know it would be a good drop in terms of viewing artwork.
How could I not include Dala Nasser in the Renaissance Society or Deb Sokolow in Western Exhibitions? What about Rebecca Morris from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Rathin Barman from the Art Club, or Nnaemeka Ekwelum, who exhibit collaborative projects at the South Side Community Art Center? The Terrain Biennial celebrates its 10th anniversary in Oak Park, celebrates its 36th anniversary at Sapphire & Crystals Logan Center, and the National Museum of Mexican Art celebrates the centenary of the late great Carlos Cortéz.
Just picking the highlights below was no easy task, so yes, I sneakily added a few extras above:
“Susan Giles, Space Has Become This Material Thing”: In this Chicago artist’s past sculptures, architectural monuments were twisted, turned sideways, and blended together as if they were malleable things. He now works on hand gestures, transforms the manual language of his subjects (young and old people who have just moved into their new homes) into drawings and sculptures, and gives permanent physical shape to fleeting conversations. Through Oct. 27 at Columbia College Chicago Glass Screen Gallery, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.; For more information, visit 312-369-6643 and students.colum.edu
“Jimmy DeSana: The Suburban”: A major contributor to downtown New York’s fixtures and gay mail art networks, DeSana’s career was tragically short-lived in 1990 due to AIDS, but has recently been revived in a critically acclaimed retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. The highlight of this show was this series, filmed between 1979 and 1985, in which nearly naked bodies showcase colorful conundrums of gender, behavioral, social, and artistic norms. Get ready to see the 12 funniest, sexiest photos ever made. By Oct. 28 Document, 1709 W. Chicago Ave.; For more information see 312-535-4555 and documentspace.com
“Worldly Visions: Inside the Climate Crisis”: Eight artists reveal their own approaches to addressing the extreme weather conditions, warming oceans, widespread pollution, species extinction and material waste that have become our planet’s reality. Tomás Saraceno indexes air pollution, Theo Cuthand envisions the future of Natives, Jeremy Bolen visualizes proposed scientific solutions, Cydney Lewis and Nnenna Okore re-imagines garbage, Ursula Biemann and Lorraine Gilbert document communities that care for land, and Terry Evans celebrates people’s hard-earned health Chicago area landscapes . Through Dec. 16 at Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria St.; For more information, contact 312-996-6114 and gallery400.uic.edu
“William Estrada: Multiples and Multitudes”: Chicago has long been home to a large number of social practice artists, and over the past two decades Estrada has been one of the most community-minded adopters. He attempted to establish free family portrait studios, on his own and with collaborators, in neighborhoods such as Little Village and North Lawndale; host summer art workshops and events; run pop-up presses for radical messages; Bike and push a mobile art cart modeled after Mexican street food vendors but handing out opportunities to create art; I teach bilingual art classes to families as Maestro William on YouTube. through Oct. 29 at Hyde Park Arts Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave.; For more information, visit 773-324-5520 and hydeparkart.org
“Lifecycle”: Some art deals with the passage of life, but all works of art are subject to change throughout their existence. As with the admission of an art object into a corporate collection such as the DePaul Museum of Art, the material, legality and meaning can vary, as can ownership. The museum features important works by a heterogeneous mix of modern and contemporary artists, including Gertrude Abercrombie, Richard Hull, Laurel Nakadate, Claire Zeisler, and Abelardo Morell, as well as 10 Chicago artists (yet) not in the museum’s collection. Through February 11, 2024, 935 W. Fullerton Ave. at the DePaul Museum of Art at; For more information, visit 773-325-7506 and resources.depaul.edu
“Domestic Futures”: As envisioned by more than a dozen established and emerging artists from the Great Lakes region featured in the Center for Native Futures’ inaugural exhibition, indigenous futurism is not just science fiction, but reality. Chicago’s only fine arts organization run entirely by indigenous artists hosted virtual events, consulted and had a prominent booth at last year’s EXPO; but this fall marks the long-awaited opening of its permanent space in the Marquette Building and the opportunity to see them. What happens when traditional techniques are enhanced by artists like Chris Pappan, Noelle Garcia, Tom Jones, and June Carpenter? September 16 through May 2024 at the Center for Native Futures, 56 W. Adams St., Suite 102; For more information, visit 773-519-3238 and centerfornativefutures.org
“Entre Horizontes: Art and Activism Between Chicago and Puerto Rico”: Watery landscapes aside, Chicago and Puerto Rico have a common generation of artists, many of whom engage in social and political practices. Prints, videos, paintings and sculptures, including by Candida Alvarez, Angel Otero, José Lerma, Edra Soto and Rafael Ferrer, share space with archival material documenting related community movements from the Young Lords to the Humboldt Park riot. Through May 5, 2024, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; For more information, visit 312-280-2660 and Visit mcachicago.org
“Chicago Architecture Biennial 5: This is a Rehearsal”: In line with the international trend of collaborative curation, this year’s event was organized by local group Floating Museum. CAB 5 takes the never-ending evolution of cities as its theme and promises to spread art, ideas and design throughout the city with many satellite events, including a new sculpture by the famous Viennese collective Gelitin at the Neubauer Collegium. A group show about water at 6018North, in addition to comprehensive keynote presentations at the Cultural Center and Graham Foundation. Various venues and dates, September 21 – February 11, 2024; more information at chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org
“Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art”: The internet allows us to escape our bodies; The Internet merges our offline and online selves. The Internet facilitates free expression and communication; The Internet helps governments and companies spy on our behavior, monetize our choices, and control our possibilities. 17 artists, including Keith Piper, Sondra Perry and Joiri Minaya, analyze the difference in work spanning three decades, from bioart experiments to online games to 3D-printed sculptures. From Oct. 13 to Dec. 16 at Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood Ave.; For more information, visit 773-437-6601 and wrightwood659.org
“Faith Ringgold: The American People”: If today activism and art-making often go hand in hand, craft is no longer pitted against fine art, and Black figuration has become a top trend; Ringgold is one of the biggest reasons for this. The Harlem-born outsider artist, writer, educator and organizer made some of the boldest, most influential artworks of the civil rights era and never stopped. This survey of her six-decade career, including her famous story quilts and the “Black Light” series, is as welcome as it is long overdue. MCA Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave., from November 18 to February 25, 2024; For more information, visit 312-280-2660 and Visit mcachicago.org
Lori Waxman is a freelance critic.