Culture Catalysts: Hamza Walker


Hamza Walker

Hamza Walker. Photo by Dawoud Bey

Get to know the work of a different Chicago-based thought leader each month. Meet the artists featured in our Chicago Works series and others who influence arts and culture in Chicago.

Writer, curator and, since 1994, Director of Education for The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, Hamza Walker has played a pivotal role in Chicago and beyond. Prior to his position at The Society, he worked as a Public Art Coordinator for The Department of Cultural Affairs. He has written articles and reviews for such publications as TransNew Art ExaminerParkett, and Artforum. For several years before its closing, he served on the board of Randolph Street Gallery and is currently on the boards of Noon, an annual publication of short fiction, and Lampo, a non-profit presenter of new and experimental music. He has served on numerous panels, locally, nationally and internationally and is the recipient of the 1999 Norton Curatorial Grant. 

David Hartt and Linda Johnson Rice in Conversation


David Hartt

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Join artist David Hartt and Linda Johnson Rice, Chairman of Johnson Publishing Company, for this engaging conversation presented on the occasion of Hartt’s MCA Screen installation, Stray Light. For this work, Hartt obtained unprecedented access to Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company building, filming and photographing its iconic architectural and interior designs. In this conversation, moderated by Kymberly Pinder, Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Hartt and Rice discuss the social, cultural, and economic complexities surrounding the company and its headquarters. Recorded Sat, Dec 10, 2011, 3 pm.

CHF: Art by Telephone and Other Adventures in Conceptualism


Art By Telephone

Art By Telephone LP exhibition catalogue. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Publication Archive

In 1969, the brand-new Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago mounted a landmark exhibition—Art by Telephone—that took its title literally. Artists phoned in their works of art, which were then created on-site to their specifications. Iain Baxter& was one of the participating artists then, and he returns to Chicago this fall for his retrospective at the MCA. In a conversation with art historian Hannah Feldman, Baxter& recalls not only Art by Telephone but also additional milestones in conceptualism. Recorded Sat, Nov 5, 1-2 pm.

CHF: The Subversive Artist


Naomi Beckwith

MCA Curator Naomi Beckwith. Photo by Paul Mpagi Sepuya.

Siebren Versteeg in conversation with Naomi Beckwith
part of the Richard Gray Visual Art Series

Artist Siebren Versteeg, whom New York Magazine called “every Harry Potter–loving/Hackers-watching/anti-capitalist computer geek’s idol,” writes his own software code, avails himself of online media and commercial databases, and creates high-tech works that critique the very sources he uses. In a way, his art shows us that our digital reality is not so real. So far his approach has resulted in works such as Dynamic Ribbon Device, which renders the Associated Press’s Internet feed in the shape of the Coca-Cola logo. He discusses his work and the role of the artist in the digital age with Naomi Beckwith, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

The Dialogue 2011


The Dialogue

The Dialogue: The MCA Chicago’s annual conversation on museums, diversity, and inclusion; September 15, 2010. Photography © Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Photographer, Jacob Boll.

On Wednesday, September 7, the MCA hosted the fourth iteration of The Dialogue, our seminal fall event that turns the MCA Theater into a live chat room. Together we delved into pressing issues of diversity and inclusion facing museums today. This year we focused on Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and the early 1990s that is changing the way we experience everything. As this generation comes of age, values related to self-identity, including notions of race and culture, are shifting profoundly. Museums and cultural organizations must attempt to understand these profound changes and their implications to develop a new sense of where and how people produce and engage with art. This might mean that organizations, such as the MCA, should not only rethink who and what we present but also the very ideologies that underlie our collecting, presentation, and interpretive activities.

Grounded in new ethnographic research of Chicago Millennials, the preliminary findings of which were shared by the Museums in the Park Marketing Committee, this dynamic evening featured Hennessy Youngman, YouTube’s most followed art theorist; Chicago’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Michelle T. Boone; and our newest curator, Naomi Beckwith, formerly of The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Recorded Sept 7, 2011, 6 pm.

Lorna Simpson


Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson: 1957 / 2009 (detail), 2009. Courtesy the artist and Salon94, New York.

Renowned for photographs, videos and text-works that challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history, and memory, Lorna Simpson discusses her process and her most recent work, placing it in context within the larger span of her practice. Over the last five years, Simpson has been creating works that draw from an archive of photographs from the 1950s, complicating the historical images by creating her own replicas of these, posing herself to mimic the originals. The MCA Chicago organized Lorna Simpson’s first traveling museum exhibition in 1992, and most recently featured early works by the artists in the exhibition Rewind 1970s to 1990s: Works from the MCA Collection. Her work is included in the upcoming 2012 MCA exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s. Recorded Saturday, April 2, 2011, 3 pm.

Sarah Thornton: Artists at Work


Sarah Thornton

Sarah Thornton. Photo: Lou Keating.

Sarah Thornton writes about art, the art world, and the art market. Renowned for her book Seven Days in the Art World, she discusses her new research project about the working lives and identities of contemporary artists. Michael Darling, MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, interviews Dr. Thornton. Recorded Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 7 pm.

Susan Philipsz


Susan Philipsz

Susan Philipsz. Photo: Taavetti Alin; Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Scottish artist Susan Philipsz, winner of the 2010 Turner Prize, shares the ideas and processes that generated We Shall Be All, a new sound installation that draws from Chicago’s political and labor history. Commissioned for the MCA Collection, it will be presented beginning February 26. Philipsz frames this new piece within the context of her previous work and describes her interest in the sculptural properties of sound and the power of songs. Recorded Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 6 pm.

Elizabeth Francis: Architecture and the Environment


Elizabeth Francis

Elizabeth Francis. Photo: Mattia Candiotti.

How does where we live affect our understanding of our environment? Elizabeth Francis, an architect keenly interested in architectural research and sustainability, takes us on a journey to explore this question. She discusses examples of integrated design from her work with the firm Mario Cucinella Architects and her current projects under atelierFrancis, which incorporate research, architecture, and art. She brings the question of environment home as she reflects on the realities of being a working woman in Italy today. Recorded Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 6 pm.