St. Vincent Rocks Our Bowie Tattoos

Posted December 18, 2014

St. Vincent 13

St. Vincent at the Chicago Theatre
Photo: Amanda Koellner

Rock artist Annie Clark, performing with her band as St. Vincent, was spotted wearing our David Bowie Is temporary tattoos during her concert at the Chicago Theatre by vigilant MCA staff members. Later, a number of photos featuring the tattoos appeared online including one from St. Vincent herself enjoying a drink, post-concert. We spot Clark wearing the David Bowie gold orb, the lips, and the eyes. Are there any we haven’t seen?



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Chicago, 1980

Kenneth Josephson
Chicago, 1980, 1980
Gelatin silver print
Pre-edition proof
Framed: 17 x 21 in. (43.2 x 53.3 cm)
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the artist, 2014.7
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Last week thirteen works of art were displayed in our Kovler Atrium for acquisition consideration by our Collection Committee. Curatorial Assistant Steven L. Bridges highlights another work of art that was acquired earlier this year and reflects on the importance of collecting.

Few artists working today have expanded the conceptual parameters of photography as much as Chicago-based Kenneth Josephson. Born in 1932 in Detroit, Josephson first gained notoriety in the early 1960s for what became his signature style: playfully challenging established photographic codes, particularly the ardent belief in the veracity of the camera’s eye and its ability to document the world around us with “scientific” rigor. More often than not, the subject of his photographs is the medium itself, and his role within its process of creation.

Josephson’s conceptual approach to photography has persisted throughout his career, and he continues to explore the relationships between authorship, photographic processes, and the production of meaning. MCA Curator Lynne Warren organized Josephson’s first major museum retrospective at the MCA in 1983, and commented in her catalogue essay that, in Josephson’s work, “The photograph is revealed to be a photograph.” If this type of self-reflexivity seems commonplace today, it is very much the result of Josephson’s artistic legacy and his influence on the many generations of artists who passed under his tutelage—he taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for more than 35 years, among many other notable colleges and universities.

This longstanding interest shaped the suite of four photographs that entered the MCA Collection in January 2014, which herald from the 1970s and early 1980s—a time when Josephson actively questioned the sanctity of the picture frame, often through his own physical interventions (as is the case with Chicago, 1980). The photographs in this group reveal different strategies the artist employed to interrogate the medium, expanding the conversation among Josephson’s works already a part of the collection—which now include eight photographs and one collage—and within the museum’s significant holdings of conceptual photography.

The MCA’s recent Josephson acquisition reflects its commitment to collecting works by important Chicago-based artists—and by artists with whom it has a meaningful history. (Josephson has exhibited at the MCA many times.) This acquisition also recognizes the artist’s role as a catalyst for developments in the field: at the core of Josephson’s work is a critical understanding of photography’s paradoxical nature—as both document and creative act.

This post first appeared in MCA Chicago (Summer 2014).

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It is my last week as a design intern at the MCA. For the past few months I have been working on a variety of projects—exhibition labels, wayfinding signage, exhibition ads, programs, all that good stuff. The majority of the design work is done on the computer so I began drawing on Post-its as a break for both my eyes and mind. I put a few of the drawings on the blank wall above my desk to personalize my space. Eventually the Post-its added up and people started asking me about the drawings. I didn’t think people would look at them because they are tiny drawings on 3 x 3 in. Post-its. I decided to develop these doodles because people were enjoying what I made. I didn’t consider this a project, but now I do and have decided to develop it. So far I’ve made a few animated GIFS out of some of these drawings. My next move for this project will take place on the museum’s Risograph printer, my favorite perk of this internship. I don’t want to give away too much, but prepare to see color.

Interns are valued members of the MCA team. Find out how you can intern at the MCA.














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David Bowie
Low album cover, 1977

Tonight at 6 pm the Lonesome Organist—the one-man band project of Jeremy Jacobsen—performs a selection of David Bowie covers at the MCA.

In anticipation of this performance, Michael Green, our developer of public programs, spoke with Jacobsen about his song selection, influences, and Bowie.

Michael Green: Can you let us know a few of the Bowie songs you’ve selected to cover for your performance?

Jeremy Jacobsen: Much of Low and also much of Let’s Dance, some other things as well.

MG: Why these particular songs?

JJ: Well, Let’s Dance is so familiar and my versions are super mutated from the original. I can let my style coast over the well-known songs. Also the tunes on both of these records are slightly simpler . . . a benefit to performing them as a one-man band, which you might guess is most challenging.

MG: Are there specific Bowie periods you are most drawn to?

JJ: Yes. The 1980s, Scary Monsters, Low, etc. But I love it all.

MG: Has Bowie influenced your own work in any way? Either as a musician or performer?

JJ: Yes, totally. I was listening to Low daily as I first began doing the Lonesome Organist back in 1996. I’m pretty sure no music on that record crept into my tunes but I am also sure that my idea of persona was solidified by Bowie’s many manifestations. I had hoped that the Organist would prove more malleable in terms of persona but at least my music achieves a certain variety.

MG: You played the 2002 Meltdown Festival that Bowie curated at the Royal Festival Hall in London. What was that experience like? Did you meet Bowie?

JJ: Bowie was having a baby at the time, so no, unfortunately for me I did not get the chance to meet him. It was just a gas to get called on to do it though.

MG: Were you surprised to get the call to participate in Meltdown? Were you aware that Bowie was a fan of your work?

JJ: I was totally surprised by the whole thing and was blown away that Bowie had heard something as low profile as my releases. It’s a credit to him that he is actively looking and listening for new music.

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Day Without Art 2014

Posted December 4, 2014


Monday, December 1, was both World AIDS Day and Day Without Art (or Day With[out] Art), each a powerful effort to spread awareness about AIDS and to encourage activism against the disease and any misconceptions that still linger about it. Led by the group Visual AIDS, Day Without Art first began in 1989 as a response to the way AIDS had affected the artistic community, suggesting in its name a future without artists and art.

Each year, artists, organizations, and institutions collaborate on projects for Day Without Art. This year, Visual AIDS commissioned a series of videos from artists under the title and idea ALTERNATE ENDINGS. According to Visual AIDS, “ALTERNATE ENDINGS highlights the diverse voices of seven artists that use video to bring together charged moments and memories from their personal perspective amidst the public history of HIV/AIDS. . . . They share tales of love and breakups, sing songs of defiance, celebrate action, and remember those whom we have lost. Through these diverse stories we are invited to reflect upon our complex past as we envision divergent narratives and possibilities for the future, because AIDS IS NOT OVER.” On December 1, the MCA joined Visual AIDS and other artists and organizations around the world, participating in Day Without Art by virtually blacking out our website (in the past museums have hung black cloth over artworks or removed certain pieces entirely) through a roll-over screen, which blacked out our homepage and directed people view ALTERNATE ENDINGS.

Today we share these videos again and give them a permanent home on MCA DNA. Although Day Without Art 2014 has passed, the struggle against AIDS, prejudice, and fear continues all year.







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In anticipation of her free public tour of Body Doubles at 6 pm this evening, Michelle Puetz reflects on one of the many treasures held in the MCA Archive—an excerpt from a 1993 interview with artist Lorna Simpson, whose work is featured prominently in the exhibition.

One of the things that has been such a joy about working both as a curator and on a number of research-based and archival projects during my Mellon Fellowship has been finding materials like this one, an interview with Lorna Simpson in 1993 on the occasion of her exhibition at the MCA, Lorna Simpson: For the Sake of the Viewer (Nov 21, 1992–Mar 14, 1994). While this is just a short excerpt of a much longer video, Simpson sharply articulates some of the major questions posed in her work—in particular the complexities she faces trying to explore black female identity without making sweeping generalizations based on race, gender, class, or sexuality.

Simpson is reflecting on works like 1991’s Flipside, which is a part of the MCA’s permanent collection and currently on view in Body Doubles, that combine fragmented body parts (which she refers to as “dissections”) with text. She explains that these juxtapositions are one of the ways she attempts to avoid objectification and humanize her work.

As I’ll discuss this evening in the public tour, Lorna Simpson is heavily represented in Body Doubles for a variety of reasons. I included Flipside as well as two newer and related works: the photographic series Summer ’57/Summer ’09 (2009) and a large-scale, three-channel video installation, Chess (2012) that emerged from the 57/’09 series. Simpson was one of the first female artists I felt a strong connection to, in large part because of her complex exploration of the stereotypes embedded in race and gender. Her more recent works, in which she uses her own body as a subject and performative tool, speak to the themes I’m interested in exploring in Body Doubles—specifically the variety of ways that artists have used the body to question the relationship of gender and sexuality to identity.

bell hooks (another extremely inspirational force in my life) put it best, stating that Simpson “wants us all to look again, to see what has never been seen, to bear witness. . . . Against [a] backdrop of fixed colonizing images, Simpson constructs a world of black female bodies that resist and revolt, that intervene and transform, that rescue and recover.”

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted November 27, 2014


Andy Warhol. Campbell’s Soup Can (Turkey Noodle),

Tired of the same of thing at Thanksgiving? Feeling uncreative or need a last minute idea for a new dish? We asked four MCA staff members what their favorite thing to make for Thanksgiving was and we got back five mouth-watering recipes.

Emily, Schoenherr, Senior Security Coordinator

My parents recently became vegetarians, so I made this gravy for our Thanksgiving meal in 2013. Hands down, it’s the best gravy I’ve ever had.

Mushroom Thyme Gravy
Adapted from Food52

⅓ cup dried mushrooms
2 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons shallot, minced
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup cream
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Salt & pepper

Bring vegetable stock to a boil. In a small bowl, pour the stock over the mushrooms. Let soak for 20 minutes.
Remove the mushrooms from the bowl, setting the stock aside. Thinly slice the mushrooms.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the shallot and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes until softened. Add the flour to the butter-shallot mixture, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 minutes.
Gradually add 1½ cups of the reserved stock (leaving the mushroom sediment out), stirring well to incorporate. Cook over medium heat until thickened.
Add the sliced mushrooms, soy sauce, cream, sherry, and thyme to the gravy. Cook for a few more minutes until heated through and thickened to desired consistency.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monica Guerrant, Manager of Individual Giving

This recipe has been in my family’s cookbook for years.

Cranberry Sauce

1 pound fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 pkg cherry Jello (0.3 oz)
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
½ cup chopped fine celery
1 can crushed pineapple (20 oz), drained
1 cup hot water (not boiling)

Grind or crush fresh berries with food processor, or my preference, I run them through a meat grinder. In a large bowl add sugar to crushed cranberries.
In a separate, smaller bowl, mix hot water and cherry Jello until dissolved.
Add Jello to cranberry-sugar mixture. Stir in pineapple, nuts, and celery.
Refrigerate (preferably in serving bowl) overnight.

Jared Sheldon, Telecommunications Coordinator

I want to premise this recipe with a disclaimer. Pureed cauliflower is not nor will it ever be mashed potatoes. It is, however, delicious! You could use Romanesco if you’d like some color.

Cauliflower Puree

1 small onion (sweeter is better in this case)
1 small head of cauliflower
1tbs olive oil (other veg oils will do just fine)
¼ to ½ cup stock (veg or chicken would be best)
Butter (salted, unsalted, veg spread . . . all will work)
Salt & pepper

Break down the cauliflower from the underside. Remove the large trunks first and cut them in halves. Once the branches are too small to divide split into parts roughly the size of the larger halves.
Chop one small onion, a ¼ inch chop is good. Heat a medium size cast iron or frying pan to medium high. Add olive oil and then onion. Stir frequently enough to avoid browning or sticking. Once the onion has a milky appearance, not quite transparent, add the cauliflower and turn the head down to medium, medium low-ish. The goal is to pan roast these slowly to develop caramelization. After you start to see some browning add a little stock at a time and let the cauliflower drink it up.
Once the cauliflower is cooked through and browned a bit, transfer to a food processor or blender. Add 1 tbs of butter/veg spread and puree the mess out of it. Add more butter or stock to reach the desired texture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Optional ingredients:
Curry powder and peas add a lovely color

Kristen Kaniewski, Visitor Services Manager

This is my grandmother’s recipe and was a family favorite growing up. I started make these for my new Chicago family several years ago and I like that I am carrying on my grandma’s traditions with a new group of friends.

Alice’s Pecan Tarts

3 oz cream cheese
½ cup butter
1 cup flour

¾ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup chopped pecans

24 pecan halves

Blend together pastry ingredients into dough. Form into log and cut into 24 pieces and shape into tarts in mini muffin tins.
Beat together batter ingredients and mix in the chopped nuts. Pour batter evenly onto unbaked pastry. Top with pecan halves.
Bake for 25 minutes in a 325°F oven.

Bonus Recipe

For the most part I tend to stick to very traditional Thanksgiving recipes. My excitement is derived from frequent investigations of variations of the Thanksgiving palette. I like to consider Thanksgiving Day to be just that, an entire day to give thanks, symbolically, by putting delicious things in my face. I find it essential to begin a lengthy cooking process with a solid base. My Thanksgiving base of choice is biscuits and gravy. Both biscuits and gravy have endless variations. With that in mind I present to you, Jerk Eye Gravy with buttermilk biscuits 3 ways. I know, I know . . . what’s Jerk Eye Gravy? That story begins as my adaptive method cooking stories often do . . . with a big mistake. I was making a sauce for tofu and black-eyed peas and added WAY too much jerk sauce. After quadrupling the volume of the other sauce components with very little respite for my taste buds I decided to use a quarter of the sauce and turn it into a gravy using butter, flour, stock, and coconut milk. I added a little coffee to round out the heat with some earth tones and Jerk Eye Gravy was accidentally created. It may be an acquired taste . . . by may I mean probably.
—Jared Sheldon

Jerk Eye Gravy

1 tbs fats (vegetable based spreads, butter, drippings or lard all work well)
1 tbs flour
1 tbs stock
2 tbs of milk (coconut milk is really nice I think)
½ tsp (or more to taste Jerk Sauce (my knowledge of jerk sauce is not extensive by any means. Currently I’m using Uncle Joe’s, a local producer, but feel free to experiment.)
1 tsp coffee (the addition of coffee is probably not necessary, I like it. Consider it an option. Chicory may also be nice although I haven’t tried it.)

Step 1) Make these biscuits or cheat and buy a premade tube. You can substitute 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice per cup to nondairy milk to make a vegan buttermilk substitute.

Step 2) Make a gravy
In a cast iron or frying pan with a tall lip, heat and/or break down the fats at a medium high heat. Add all of the flour at once and whisk vigorously When mixture thins and starts to bubble, reduce heat to low, and cut back on the whisking. Cook until a warm toasty aroma develops. Add stock and milk 1 tbs at a time until mixed. Add Jerk Sauce, coffee, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Anne Collier
Woman With A Camera (The Last Sitting, Bert Stern), 2009
Chromogenic development print
50 x 71 2/5 in. (127 x 181.4 cm)
Collection of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg
Courtesy of the artist; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; Corvi-Mora, London; Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles; and the Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow

The following text is excerpted from the beginning of Kate Zambreno’s essay in the exhibition catalogue Anne Collier, part of the MCA Monograph series, which accompanies the first major solo US exhibition of Collier’s work at the MCA, Nov 22, 2014–Mar 8, 2015.

I am wondering what it means to collect.

I meditate upon the tender memento mori of the photographer Anne Collier, who photographs her collections of books of photography, self-help tapes, and other lost and melancholic objects.

“To collect photographs is to collect the world,” Susan Sontag writes in her essay “On Photography.” A photograph in a book too, she notes, is an object to be collected.

Can you collect, I wonder, people too?

Anne Collier’s image of Marilyn Monroe from Bert Stern’s The Last Sitting, from her Woman With A Camera series (the name teasing in its anonymity). Marilyn, in a moment of playfulness, poses wearing black evening gloves and holding a Nikon camera suspended over her mouth. Looking away, her eyes crinkle in a smile. The camera obscures but does not mask what we are really looking at—the mythic face. What the camera performs here is a form of peekaboo, like the fan dance with the striped diaphanous scarf in those other Stern images, a clichéd and expected pose from a specific time period, as the title, gently wry, suggests. The camera isn’t active, posed like it’s actually looking back, taking pictures back at the photographer capturing her. As if to show the joke—she is the beautiful image here, this is not her point of view.

So who is the Woman with a Camera? The Woman with a Camera is Anne Collier. Her gaze is obsessive, sad, sensitive, droll. She’s not just looking, she’s looking at how others have looked (men, fellow photographers, all of us)—an affectionate and ironic distance, yet also with the intimacy of a collector, perhaps even a fan.

To look at this image of Marilyn Monroe is to mentally page through the rest of the book, with its somewhat morbid name—the fragility and pathos of those images—and then to linger on the biography, on Marilyn’s deep unhappiness and struggle, which she would ultimately not survive. How this photo shoot, commissioned by Vogue in 1962, was part of a major publicity effort after she was fired from 20th Century Fox, a year after being institutionalized at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. Six weeks after she posed for these photographs, taken during three boozy days in the Hotel Bel-Air, she would be dead of an overdose of barbiturates. The heaviness of all of this, the tragedy behind closed doors, seeps into these photographs, giving them the weight of a historical memory. Memento mori, from the Latin for: “remember you will die.”

And yet she performed such vitality. “You’re beautiful!” Bert Stern remembers saying to Marilyn upon first meeting her. “What a nice thing to say,” she replied, always rehearsed for the public. Upon seeing only accessories laid out on the bed, she quickly grasped his idea for the shoot, a series of nudes (not very high-concept). She was worried, initially, about revealing a surgical scar on her stomach, but after consulting with her companion/hairdresser, she went for it. Champagne. Flirting. She became Marilyn (a movement she could do, how she could disappear into a crowd, or be a lonely woman on a bridge, how aware she was of performing the persona). She transformed—for the camera—into the sex symbol. “Not bad for thirty-six,” she said, or something to this effect, as she emerged from the bathroom in one of the sheer scarves.

There is no real intimacy to the nude, yet Bert Stern captured something in these photographs, something, perhaps naked, unable to be replicated. He tried to replicate them, exactly, a few years ago, with tabloid star Lindsay Lohan, and although she possessed the tortured life, she noticeably lacked Marilyn’s talent for vulnerability, her expressive and haunting face. Performances cannot be repeated—not exactly.

The red Xs of the contact sheets that Bert Stern published in the book, where Marilyn crossed out the images she disliked (are these ones showing this wounded vulnerability, where the mask drops or is askew, where she reveals such loneliness and longing?) The red X. The gesture that performs her disappearance, that looks like a cross, her cross. The cover of The Last Sitting is exactly this—Marilyn crossed out, Marilyn already a ghost, Marilyn with her mouth open as if trying to say something.

Sontag: “Photographs state the innocence, the vulnerability of lives heading towards their own destruction, and this link between photograph and death haunts all photographs of people.”

The camera is objective. And yet one desires to be inside, to enter a subjectivity hinted at in fragments. What does it mean to imagine another’s life, the impossibility of accessing their perspective? What does it mean to never escape one’s image or mythic status, while still struggling with personhood?

For Sontag, a photograph was also a fragment. This essay composed of fragments. And by that, I mean photographs.

Fragment: Marilyn reading James Joyce’s Ulysses outdoors wearing a striped bathing suit. She often insisted on being photographed with a book (a desire to direct her publicity, perhaps, away from the image of the dumb blonde). This reminds me of the press photo of a young Louise Brooks on set, shiny in black and white, reading Kierkegaard.

Some English professor once called a method of skipping around while reading Ulysses “The Marilyn Monroe method,” as she had confessed to not finishing it, and mostly enjoying Molly Bloom’s monologue. The Marilyn Monroe method: I employ it too. I skip around. I flip. I drift.

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David Bowie Is a Temporary Tattoo


Posted November 21, 2014


Illustration by Tobey Albright

The MCA Design, Publishing, and New Media department enjoys any excuse to collaborate with outside artists and illustrators we admire. During our planning for the David Bowie Is exhibition, we were curious to know which phase of Bowie’s ever-changing career had been influential to others. We approached a few artists and asked them to contribute. Subject-wise, we left it open to their interpretation. We simply wanted the illustrations to be reflective of the energy captured by the exhibition. These illustrations would take the form of tattoos—an homage to Bowie’s own, ever-changing body art. Below are the final tattoos, as well as a few outtakes, in action.


Illustration and gif by Cari Vander Yacht



Illustration by Derek Erdman


Illustration by Michael Worful

Artists who contributed also included Katie Chung, Benjamin Niznik, Alex Spaßenberger, and Bryce Wilner.

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Loving the Alien


Posted November 18, 2014


Screen shot of video for Monitor 2
All photos: Michael Smith
Courtesy of Lee Blalock

Lee Blalock is an artist, performer, and educator. She has been blogging the process of developing an “otherworldly tea party,” in response to David Bowie Is, that takes place at the MCA on Tuesday, November 18. An excerpt from her blog describes some of the materials that she has prepared for the event.

I start everything with an image to keep me on track. It’s also the way I think, in images. I decided on the image of a space traveler. One common thread among all of my work, no matter who the character is at any time, is a new origin story. We don’t know much about space, so it’s a great opportunity to inject the nonlinear into performance personas. The image sets the tone. Next, I started planning out the flow of the performance. Short and sweet, a duration of about 30–40 minutes.

First spread of performance booklet

First spread of performance booklet

We’ll be speaking in Bowie lyrics, so I needed to print them off and design them for a score book that we’ll all read from. I don’t expect everyone to remember the lyrics. He has such a huge catalog, right? And I’ve chosen songs that maybe some people won’t know. There will be one performer who will sing one of my favorites, “Subterraneans,” from the Low album. The lyrics were written using the cut-up technique, something Bowie borrowed from Burroughs.

Tarot card design for "Subterraneans" lyrics (recto, verso)

Tarot card design for Subterraneans lyrics (recto, verso)

I’ve created a set of tarot cards that use words that rhyme with the original lyrics to prompt the performer to sing intermittently throughout the performance. In between these somewhat theatrical spoken lyric performances, there will be live art making prompted by actions inspired by the Oblique Strategies cards (originally created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt) which were used during the production of Bowie’s Berlin triptych.

Deck of cards for performance prompts based on Oblique Strategies

Deck of cards for performance prompts based on Oblique Strategies

I’ve created a set of strategies with prompts to modify behavior and body language called “Loving the Alien: Other Orthographic Projections.” The strategies will be interpreted by the performers, most of whom are artists and friends. And of course, it’s my piece, which means there will be media—lots of media. I’m shooting video and writing programs for sound and video control.

Final rehearsal

Final rehearsal of Oddity()

As always, there will be fabrication, sound, video, movement (the Lab dancers are on board again!), and writing. Wonderful. A really fun part of performance, for me, is making the media which supports the live work.

To learn more about Lee’s process, visit her blog.

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