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The Way of the Shovel (audio tour)

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The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology traces the interest in history, archaeology, and archival research that defines some of the most highly regarded art of the last decade. Consisting almost entirely of work produced after the year 2000, The Way of the Shovel re-imagines the art world as an alternative “History Channel” that is as concerned with remembering histories as it is with challenging their truthfulness. Archaeology is considered both metaphorically and literally, with an emphasis on historical and archival research and the relationship between objects and historical truth.

Los Angeles–based artist Amanda Ross-Ho premieres her first outdoor public art project, THE CHARACTER AND SHAPE OF ILLUMINATED THINGS, in which she explores how photography is a direct analogue to the act of seeing. Updating Joseph Beuys’s famous declaration “Everyone is an artist,” Ross-Ho suggests more specifically that today everyone is a photographer, as the ubiquity and speed of digital photography shapes the way we view and experience the world. In Ross-Ho’s hands, the plaza is transformed into an enormous photo studio, with objects on display for the purpose of being photographed by the public, while the sun serves as a shifting source of light, affecting both our perception of how the objects look in real life and how they appear in our photographs.

THE CHARACTER AND SHAPE OF ILLUMINATED THINGS is the third iteration of the MCA Chicago Plaza Project, which has previously featured work by Mark Handforth (2011) and Martin Creed (2012).

Daniel Clowes is an acclaimed comic book artist and graphic novelist—although he prefers the designation “cartoonist”—with nearly fifty publications to his credit. He is also a highly reputed magazine illustrator (and regular cover artist for the New Yorker) and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for the film adaptation of his 1997 graphic novel Ghost World, which is widely credited with establishing the graphic novel as a credible literary form. This major survey, the first museum retrospective of Clowes’s work, presents more than 125 original drawings and artifacts in an elegant, inviting installation combining today’s graphic style with shades of a Victorian parlor.

Amalia Pica (audio tour)

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Born in Argentina and based in London, artist Amalia Pica explores metaphor, communication, and civic participation through drawings, sculptures, large-scale photographic prints, live performances, and installations. Pica is interested in the limits and failures of language and in what it means to have a platform to speak out from. Using simple materials such as photocopies, lightbulbs, drinking glasses, beer bottles, bunting, cardboard, and other found materials, she creates work that is formally beautiful and conceptually rigorous while addressing fundamental issues of communication. Raising questions about individual versus collective speech and the translation of thought to action, she examines the role of the artist in conveying messages to audiences. Pica’s work is also optimistic in its reflection of moments of shared experience, often incorporating signifiers of celebration and communal gatherings—found and constructed objects that revel in simple, and sometimes outmoded, technologies. Amalia Pica is the artist’s first major solo museum exhibition in the United States and includes approximately fifteen of her most significant works from the last seven years, in addition to new commissions.