Art Shows Inspired by Icebergs and Frozen Rivers Are Perfect for Winter in Chicago

Ligia Lewis, “Water Will (in Melody)” / Photo © Maria Baranova/Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art

Winter in Chicago may be challenging for some, but for artists and galleries, it lends inspiration for events centered around icebergs and frozen rivers. In addition to these frigid displays, other upcoming art happenings in town highlight South Side public housing, Frank Lloyd Wright’s World Heritage Sites, and a screening about white supremacist culture.

Palacio 3, 2019. / Photo courtesy of José Santiago Pérez

“S Is for Soul Sister” at Arts and Public Life
In 1970, young residents of a South Side public housing project were photographed for visual aides used in Chicago educational settings. The photographer, Okunola Jeyifous, revisits these images in a series that captures those same children 50 years later—and critically examines the problematic ethnographic study.
Details: January 17

“Palacios (Fantasy Structures)” at Roman Susan
In this solo show, Chicago artist José Santiago Pérez presents a series of abstract baskets made of carefully coiled, colorful plastic. Alluding to traditional South American craft, they stand as spaces for contemplation, containers for memory, and assertions of not forgetting.
Details: January 18

Frank Lloyd Wright’s World Heritage Sites at Chicago Architecture Center
Perfect for those interested in architectural preservation, this talk invites historians and preservationists to speak about two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Chicago: Robie House and Unity Temple, which were added last year to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Experts will discuss the process of attaining this special status and what it might mean for the sites’ futures.
Details: January 23

Water Will (in Melody) at Museum of Contemporary Art
You’ve probably never experienced contemporary dance as imagined by Ligia Lewis. In this one-hour performance by the Dominican-American choreographer, four dancers move across a dark, water-slicked stage in a nightmarish melodrama.
Details: January 30–February 1

Requiem: A White Wanderer / Photo courtesy of Chicago Cultural Center

Requiem: A White Wanderer at Millennium Park
Consider it a lament of climate change: Local duo Luftwerk has collaborated with composer Katherine Young to create a composition based on the carving of iceberg A68—a hulking block that broke from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017. It’s a chance to listen close to try to better understand distant, collapsing environments with not-so-distant repercussions.
Details: January 31–February 2

The White to Be Angry at the Art Institute of Chicago
The multihyphenate artist known as Vaginal Davis left an indelible mark on Los Angeles’s underground punk and queer scenes. Among her roster of drag performances and videos that challenge normative binaries is this short film that satirizes constructions of white supremacist culture. Screening on its 20th anniversary, it is an alarmingly timely watch.
Details: February 1

“River Ice” at Perspective Group + Photography
Most of us dread the icy temperatures of a Chicago winter, but for Steve Geer, the deep freeze brings opportunity to make art. For the past three years, he has ventured to the Chicago River to capture its transformation from gentle current to solid sheet, finding in its progressing states alluring compositions and patterns.
Details: February 1

“Outsider Art: The Collection of Victor F. Keen” at the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Keen, a practicing attorney, has spent nearly four decades collecting more than 200 artworks made by outsider artists, including James Castle, Lee Godie, and George Widener. This exhibition showcases a sample of this trove, usually housed in his private Philadelphia gallery.
Details: February 6

George Widener (American, b. 1962), Magic Circles, 2017. Mixed media on joined paper, 39 x 39 in. (99.1 x 99.1 cm). Collection of Victor F. Keen.

“What Remains: On the Sacred, the Lost, and the Forgotten Relics of Live Art” at ARC Gallery
For eight years, this storefront was the home of Defibrillator Gallery, a platform for performance art now based in Bridgeport. To mark Defibrillator’s 10th year, international artists draw on relics used in past performances to perform new pieces. Watch them reanimate a variety of objects (like underwear and inflatable clowns) in choreographies that range from the monumental to the fleeting.
Details: February 7