Audio

Duro Olowu:
Seeing Chicago
Virtual Gallery

About the Audio Experience

Speakers include Duro Olowu and Naomi Beckwith. Quotes are selected from archival interviews with Lorna Simpson, Jack Whitten, Richard Hunt, Roger Brown, Kerry James Marshall, and Shirin Neshat.

Exhibition Video

An introduction to the exhibition

Introduction

Museums display art and objects for an audience, but they also create a system for that display. Similar objects are often sorted together: all works from Africa are in one section, all works from nineteenth-century France are in another. Rarely are objects from one region or era displayed as equals with art from another time or place. Olowu breaks down these barriers to notice the shared concerns of artists across time and geographies, moving toward an organization inspired by visual pleasure and discovery.

This first gallery shows artworks from artists with ties to the city of Chicago. It is an example, as is the rest of the show, of Olowu’s unbridled creative mixing: the artworks come from Chicago collections, but they span decades and regions. This space allows us to train our eye to take a “second look”—to see all artworks in the exhibition anew and as equals.

Video with no sound

Featured images

Amanda Williams, Crown Royal Bag from Color(ed) Theory Suite, 2014–16. Courtesy of the artist and McCormick Gallery. Print: 15 ¼ × 22 in. (38.7 × 55.9 cm); framed: 18 3/8 × 25 1/8 in. (46.7 × 63.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, and in memory of Deonne Jackman
Amanda Williams, Pink Oil Moisturizer from Color(ed) Theory Suite, 2014–15. Color photograph, edition of 10 aside from 2 artist proofs; 13 ½ x 20 in. (47 × 50.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, and in memory of Deonne Jackman
Amanda Williams, Flamin’ Red Hots from Color(ed) Theory Suite, 2014–16. Print: 15 ¼ × 22 in. (38.7 × 55.9 cm); framed: 18 3/8 × 25 1/8 in. (46.7 × 63.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, and in memory of Deonne Jackman

Audio Playlist

  • 01

    INTRODUCTION

    00:03:22

Audio Transcript

Featured images

Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Work shown: Amanda Williams, Color(ed) Theory Suite, 2014–16. Seven color photographs; print: 15 ¼ × 22 in. (38.7 × 55.9 cm); framed: 18 3/8 × 25 1/8 in. (46.7 × 63.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, and in memory of Deonne Jackman
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Look At Me

One might typically think of portraiture as focusing on the human figure, primarily in one medium, technique, or culture. Here Olowu brings together a diverse cast of subjects, styles, and artistic media. Olowu challenges the idea of what a portrait can be, refusing to dismiss artworks that don’t represent our idea of traditional portraiture. By showing photography, painting, and sculpture together, he values them all equally, doing away with notions of hierarchy.

A second look at Olowu’s arrangements rewards the viewer with new ways of seeing. In some cases, there are lines, shapes, forms, and patterns that will emerge—in others, you may notice repeated themes such as ideals of beauty across time and culture. For example, sculptures by Simone Leigh (American, b. 1968) using elements of traditional African art are set in front of black-and-white photographs: Sophie Calle’s (French, b. 1953) The Striptease and Lorraine O’Grady’s (American, b. 1983) Miscegenated Family Album, contrasting aspects of ancient Egyptian sculpture and portrayals of contemporary women.

Video with no sound

Featured image

Lorna Simpson, Self Possession, 1992. Color polaroid photograph 25 ½ x 20 ½ x 2 inches
64.8 × 52.1 × 5.1 cm Ed. 3/5. Collection of Cari and Michael Sacks

© Lorna Simpson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Audio Playlist

  • 01

    LOOK AT ME

    00:03:58

Audio Transcript

Featured images

Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Toward Abstraction

Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, artists pushed the boundaries of realistic representation. Whether portraying people, objects, or environments, some artists elected to forgo accurate depictions of reality to focus on pure color, form, and pattern. While abstraction was often considered a Western art movement, in these galleries Olowu shows this style in art across cultures and geographies.

Olowu wants you to abandon yourself to the visual symphony of color and pattern in these rooms. While you might see recognizable subjects, like female nudes, planets, or Chicago’s Marina Towers, a further look past subject matter reveals formal qualities. These forms blur distinctions between object, craft, and art.

Video of gallery with no sound

Featured image

Jack Whitten, Pink Psyche Queen, 1973. Acrylic on canvas 71 × 60 in. (180.3 × 152.4 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2012.14
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Audio Playlist

  • 01

    TOWARD ABSTRACTION

    00:05:04

Audio Transcript

Featured images

Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Lost In Space

In this section, Olowu presents a selection of artists who consider how people have shaped natural landscapes into homes, communities, and cities. These artists investigate differences between interiors and exteriors, private spaces and the public domain. Additionally, Olowu continues to show how supposedly distinct cultures influence one another—from interior space to the outdoors.

Though landscapes tend to be defined by physical features such as rivers, mountains, or buildings, here the meaning of “landscape” expands into the conceptual world of emotion and attachment to place. As such, Olowu has selected works that fit into a traditional definition of landscape art in that they depict space, but he also includes work that defines the artistic landscape of Chicago. As all the artworks in this exhibition live in this city, the exhibition itself could be seen as a dynamic portrait of Chicago.

Video of gallery with no sound

Featured image

Roger Brown, Autobiography in the Shape of Alabama (Mammy’s Door), 1974. Oil on canvas, mirror, wood, Plexiglas, photographs, postcards, and cloth shirt 89 ¾ × 48 ¾ × 18 in. (228 × 123.8 × 45.7 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Maxine and Jerry Silberman, 1976.41
Photo © MCA Chicago

Audio Playlist

  • 01

    LOST IN SPACE

    00:03:36

Lost In Space Audio Transcript

Featured images

Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Power To The People

Artists primarily concern themselves with making art but time and time again have asserted themselves as citizens who engage with the social and political world. The Trophy, a painting by South African artist Marlene Dumas (b. 1953), depicts a naked female prisoner restrained by guards, highlighting aspects of misogyny and colonialism. American artist, writer, and activist David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) sets a butcher’s shop against a background of surrealist battle sites in North/South: The New Legionnaires to offer parallels between how both war and disease ravage human bodies.

Through the selection of these artworks, Olowu highlights artists whose practices address the prevailing social and political concerns of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These artists engaged with topics such as the civil rights movement, the American HIV/AIDS crisis, and ongoing struggles against racism, homophobia, misogyny, and other forms of systemic oppression. Olowu brings together a range of artistic responses to these topics.

Video

Featured image

Kerry James Marshall, Vignette (Lalala), 2012. Acrylic on PVC panel 72 × 60 in. (182.9 × 152.4 cm). From the private collection of Dr. Anita K. Blanchard and Martin H. Nesbitt
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, © Kerry James Marshall

Audio Playlist

  • 01

    POWER TO THE PEOPLE

    00:06:21

Power to the people Audio Transcript

Featured images

Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Second Look

In this section, artwork and clothing are shown together in a scene reminiscent of the displays at Olowu’s fashion boutique in London, where garments are displayed alongside art, furniture, and books. This inclusive display speaks to Olowu’s ability to see relationships between all forms of creativity.

A cast of mannequins dressed in Duro Olowu garments from various past seasons become fellow museum visitors, all directing their sustained gaze in the same direction: to view a collage-like display of artworks. This final room serves as a conclusion to the exhibition, demonstrating how new ways of seeing can be carried out of the galleries and into the everyday.

Video

Featured images

Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago. Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29–May 10, 2020
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Audio credits