What does Chicago look like through the outsider eyes of New York–based painter and filmmaker Sarah Morris? Chicago is Morris’s 10th film and part of an ongoing series of city portraits. Set to a hypnotic electronic score by British artist Liam Gillick, Morris’s film Chicago (2011) pays homage to the quintessential American city. Morris paints a panoramic picture of Chicago’s emblematic built environment, while her signature telescopic zooms frequently pierce the city’s well-tended surface to reveal something altogether less planned, manicured, and anesthetized—and therefore more familiar. These unscrupulous close-ups and subtly spying glances compound the sensatio

The American premiere of Chicago is the touchstone for this display of works from the MCA Collection—both by Chicago artists and by outsiders like Morris—that similarly hold a mirror to the museum’s hometown. A certain measure of alienation permeates much of the work of Andreas Gursky, and Catherine Opie, who are among the better-known artists in the “outsider” category, while artists Jonas Dovydenas, Kenneth Josephson, Jason Lazarus, and Bob Thall offer a more sympathetic or relaxed “insider” view. The exhibition also includes works by Keith Morrison and Thomas Struth from neighboring Chicago collections.

CITY SELF is organized by Dieter Roelstraete, Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

To complement the artists’ visions of Chicago presented in CITY SELF, MCA has partnered with WBEZ (Chicago Public Media) to offer selected stories from the Curious City series. Curious City researches audience questions and then presents findings on air and on online. For CITY SELF, topics of interest about Chicago have been matched to artworks that explore similar themes.


Support for CITY SELF is generously provided by the Pritzker Traubert Collection Exhibition Fund. Additional generous support is provided by David C. & Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, Robert and Sheryl Bellick, Anne and Don Edwards, and Petzel Gallery.

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