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Rashid Johnson On His Art And Chicago Origins

ARTnews goes long on what’s up with Rashid Johnson, including Chicago origins: “For one so outwardly social, Johnson doesn’t seem to care much for small talk these days. Close friends and acquaintances alike describe him as measured and thoughtful in what he says, and they tend to go out of their way to remark on how much they benefit from even run-of-the-mill conversations with him. When [old friend, gallerist Joel] Mesler catches up with Johnson, the most mundane talk is liable to turn ‘crazy philosophical’—and, interestingly enough, to compel Mesler, who hates talking on the phone, to hop on the line with Johnson three or four times a day.” Twenty years ago, a young Johnson approached Monique Meloche for representation. “He was making a lot of Afro-futurist constellation abstract photographs using very culturally relevant objects like chicken bones, cotton seeds, black-eyed peas, and barber shavings,” Meloche recalls. “But there was a lot of homogeneity in it”—so Meloche agreed to represent Johnson on two conditions: “If you don’t make any more chicken bones, and if you go to grad school.” Continues ARTnews, “Taking her seriously, Johnson enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He dropped out a few classes shy of graduating, however, and moved to New York in 2005 ‘because he had big ambitions’ Meloche remembers. ‘He was born and raised in Chicago. He wanted to get out of Dodge.’”

Greg Breda’s “Still” at PATRON Gallery 

For his second solo exhibition with PATRON, Los Angeles-based artist Greg Breda paints portraits depicting revelatory moments for African American characters within movies that span the years from the mid-1960s to 2019. “Rendering the figures in his paintings with lush brushstrokes on vellum, Breda’s compositions reference film stills that portray scenes of self-reflection and contemplation for the characters,” the gallery relates. “‘Still,’ the exhibition’s title, alludes to meditative and spiritual connotations of stillness, as well as the reality that society continues to grapple with and rehash the same issues.

Each of the seven paintings in the exhibition reference a specific film, including ‘The Landlord’ (1970), the story of a young entrepreneur, played by Beau Bridges, who acquires a building in East Harlem where a one-night stand with a married tenant, played by Diana Sands, leads to an unplanned pregnancy. Breda chose a scene from the film where Sands’ character is visibly pregnant, standing by a window gazing directly at the viewer with a face full of complex emotions. Breda’s painterly interpretation of her on vellum nearly glows as light appears to be absorbed by the rich material surface. Thick brushstrokes of contrasting white and gray paint represent light casting on the warm brown face of the figure. Breda’s use of light and recurring motif of windows invokes a religious symbolism evidenced in the long history of painting. Diana Sands’ character becomes a Madonna-like figure in the portrait.” More here.

Sheffield Federal Historic District Protests Teardown Of 1880s Home For Side Yard

“Preservationists have paid close attention to the Sheffield area on Lincoln Park’s western edge. Parts of it can take visitors back to the late nineteenth century. But when cheap money sloshes through real estate, things happen,” writes David Roeder at the Sun-Times. “The advocacy group Landmarks Illinois [has] counted 350 properties that have been destroyed or significantly altered in Sheffield since the 1990s, about a third of its building stock,” he reports. “People tear down homes and combine lots to build something bigger. They replace multiple units with single-family homes, which some contend disrespects the neighborhood’s character. Plopped into this little pot of tension is a Sheffield homeowner [who] lives on Seminary Avenue, and he’s bought the three-flat next door with the intent to tear it down. He hit a local nerve because the three-flat was flagged in a historic resources survey as potentially worth saving. And he’s told people he wants the property as a side yard, a garden for him and his family to enjoy.”

Private Armed Guards To Patrol Bucktown

“Armed private security guards are expected to begin patrolling a section of Bucktown on Wednesday, according to emails sent by leaders of the Bucktown Neighbors Association, which is organizing the program,” reports Block Club Chicago. The group “has refused to answer questions about how the plan would work… Security guards will patrol the area between Armitage Avenue to the north, Damen Avenue to the west, North Avenue to the south and Paulina Street to the east, according to a P4-branded PowerPoint presentation… The nightly security patrols could begin in the evening and last past midnight, with hours changing depending on the season.”

Deere Opening Office In Fulton Market

“Needing access to Chicago’s base of technology workers, tractor and construction equipment maker Deere… will open an office in the Fulton Market neighborhood next year,” reports the Sun-Times. “It plans to hire 150 people for the office within the next two years, with ultimate plans for 300 workers there. In exchange, it’s gotten a state tax incentive worth an estimated $4.9 million over the next ten years.”


Daniel Rose On Returning To Chicago To Open Le Select

Daniel Rose “wants to make it clear that he’s not leaving New York and that he’ll continue to support Le Coucou and his two restaurants in France. But he will spend more time traveling back and forth to Chicago,” reports Eater Chicago. “Le Select is a collaboration with Boka Restaurant Group… Rose says each of his restaurants are tailored to their cities and they offer him different ways ‘to express all this Frenchness… French cooking is not the best cooking in the world, but it’s the one I know the best… And there are many different traditions to express that.’”

Fooditor Talks Tiki

Fooditor responds to Newcity’s December feature story on the history of the tiki bar: “The language used in the piece seems to have already decided how we’re supposed to feel; ‘racial injustice’ is assumed, the real colonial history of that part of the world is ignored whenever you get pineapple in your drink, and so on. Here’s what I think. Tiki can be tacky, in a racial way, like so many things from the mid-twentieth century. But I don’t think drinking fruity rum drinks in a fantasy thatched hut is necessarily implicated in colonialism and ‘racial injustice.’ Part of what we drink and dine out for is to experience other worlds—often fantasy, abstracted ideas of what other parts of the world are like. Italian Village has an upper floor area that feels like being on a stage set depicting, well, an Italian village. Many Japanese restaurants have tatami mats for sitting on in a way that does not come naturally to westerners. Are these things racist, or merely… fun to try, once in a while?”


“The Murder of Fred Hampton” Selected For National Film Registry

The National Film Preservation Board has selected “The Murder of Fred Hampton” as one of the films in the 2022 class of the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress, Chicago Film Archives relays in a release. “The National Film Preservation Board each year selects twenty-five films from submissions across the nation as ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films.’ Produced in 1971 by The Film Group, ‘The Murder of Fred Hampton’ and the tragic history it encapsulates garnered little attention during its time. Intended as an exploration of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, the film took a sudden turn in the winter of 1969. On December 4 of that year, Chairman Fred Hampton, charismatic leader of the Panthers, was killed while sleeping in his apartment on Chicago’s West Side by a tactical unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, working in conjunction with the Chicago police,” a story dramatized in the film “Judas and the Black Messiah.” “Howard Alk, the director of ‘The Murder of Fred Hampton,’ used interviews and evidence from the scene to determine that Hampton and Black Panther Party colleague Mark Clark were assassinated by Chicago law enforcement officials, contrary to news reports and police testimony… A 35mm print of ‘The Murder of Fred Hampton’ is preserved as part of Chicago Film Archives’ Film Group Collection.” More on the film here.

“Unapologetic” Debuts On PBS’ POV

Kartemquin Films relays news of the world broadcast premiere of “Unapologetic,” directed by Ashley O’Shay [Newcity Film 50], on PBS POV, Monday, December 27 at 9pm in all markets, then streaming for sixty days through Black History Month, February. “After two police killings, Black millennial organizers challenge a Chicago administration complicit in state violence against its Black residents. Told through the lens of Janaé and Bella, two fierce abolitionist leaders, ‘Unapologetic’ is a deep and insightful look into the Movement for Black Lives, from the police murder of Rekia Boyd to the election of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.” Trailer here.

Older Audiences Aren’t Rushing To The Movies

“Older audiences, and especially older women, are the most hesitant demographic to return to multiplexes as COVID-19 continues,” writes Ryan Faughnder in his “Wide Shot” column at the Los Angeles Times. “Some of those moviegoers simply aren’t coming back, according to a recent study released by research firm the Quorum. The study profiled the typical filmgoer who is ‘likely lost’ as a theatrical viewer. That audience member is more likely to be female, over thirty-five and nonwhite. Of the group of former moviegoers who were the least likely to return to theaters, 63% were female in the survey. Among those in the study age 45 and over, 57% are considered ‘former filmgoers.’ That’s a disastrous trend for the movie musical genre… If boomers, Gen Xers and elder millennials aren’t returning for [Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’], good luck to anyone making rom-coms or adult dramas for theatrical release. Even older-skewing male-oriented action movies have struggled, relatively speaking (Hello, James Bond). On the opposite end of the universe, there’s ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home,’ which is about to obliterate the record for the biggest opening weekend since the pandemic.”

Alex Ross To Publish First Graphic Novel, “Fantastic Four: Full Circle”

Alex Ross will publish his first graphic novel at Abrams ComicsArts, in collaboration with Marvel Comics this August, reports Bleeding Cool. “Fantastic Four: Full Circle” is “the first graphic novel written and illustrated by renowned comic artist Alex Ross in his thirty-plus-year career.”

Trib Promotes Nina Metz To Critic

“Nina Metz, the Chicago Tribune entertainment reporter who’s been covering television, movies and the local production industries, was promoted Monday to critic,” reports Rob Feder. “She’ll continue her two weekly columns and contribute to deadline reporting… The Tribune has been without a staff TV critic since Maureen Ryan resigned in 2010.”

A Red Orchid Theatre Returns To In-Person Performances

A Red Orchid Theatre returns to in-person performances with the Chicago premiere of “The Moors.” Written by Jen Silverman and directed by artistic director Kirsten Fitzgerald, “The Moors” runs January 6-February 27, 2022. Single tickets are on sale here.


Sports Owners Clamor For Gambling At Their Stadiums

“Tom Ricketts, Rocky Wirtz and Jerry Reinsdorf all make the case for stadium sports betting to Chicago aldermen,” reports the Tribune. “Chicago is on the cusp of allowing in-person betting at professional sports stadiums. After a contentious meeting last week where aldermen criticized the plan and worried it would hurt a proposed Chicago casino, Mayor Lori Lightfoot got it through the City Council Joint Committee on Licensing and Zoning, having tweaked it to try to gain more support.”

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