Explore Topics of Video Games, Segregation, and the Iraq War With These Immersive Art Events

Melvin Edwards, “Lynch Fragments” (1960s–present). Courtesy of Melvin Edwards/Facebook

For the latest crop of art events and programming in Chicago, everything from video games to the Iraq War take the spotlight in unique ways. Whether you’d like to peruse old print materials at the Newberry Library or break down barriers of segregation, these upcoming artsy happenings are sure to intrigue.

Kelley Michael, The Count. Courtesy of National Veterans Art Museum

Textured Translations: A Night of Performances at Ground Level Platform
Just a couple months old, this Pilsen gallery is quickly making a name for itself for its edgy and grandiose shows, which have featured an edible dessert sculpture and displaced, kinetic landscapes. This evening is no different: It begins with an artist-designed, cutlery-free meal and ends with a performance on translation and bodily histories.
Details: April 12

“Aspartame, Citral & Rayon” at Lithium
The title of this group show might stump you, which is probably an accurate reflection of the art on view in the audiovisual installation. Three artists present works comprised of myriad materials like rubber, sand, and cotton to engage senses typically not prioritized in art shows—the gustatory, the olfactory, and the tactile. Even more telling is the “checklist” for senses you can expect, which includes “fart, ticking clock, balcony, effervescent tablets,” and more mysteries.
Details: April 12

“On War & Survival” at Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago’s National Veterans Art Museum is organizing its first triennial: a monumental survey of art made by veterans, reflecting on their individual experiences during and after service. Curated by veterans of the Iraq War, this major show spans the last century of combat and features such artists as Otto Dix, Jacob Lawrence, and Wafaa Bilal alongside lesser-known names.
Details: May 2

Chicago Antiquarian Map, Book & Ephemera Fair at Newberry Library
Do you love archives or simply old print material? Head to this fair with a special focus on historical maps, where international dealers will hawk their best cartographic gems, as well as fascinating prints and books. Even if you don’t want to throw down cash on a few rad charts, it’s a great opportunity to observe some very rare material in person.
Details: May 3–5

Joel-Peter Witkin, Siamese Twins, Los Angeles, 1988. © Joel-Peter Witkin/Courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

“Joel-Peter Witkin: From the Studio” at Catherine Edelman Gallery
Witkin is known for his work that documents marginalized communities, including those born with physical abnormalities and intersex individuals. Imbued with spiritual overtones and captured in dramatic light, these portraits aim to highlight their beauty and position them in near-folkloric settings.
Details: May 3

Melvin Edwards at Smart Museum of Art
The violence of Edwards’s twisted, welded steel assemblages is palpable even before you know the title of the series: Lynch Fragments. The evocative body of work, included in a group show at the museum, is made of objects like chains, wrenches, padlocks, and nails, presenting complex responses to racial violence in America. Hear Edwards speak about this project, which began in the early ’60s, and more work at this talk.
Details: May 8

Tonika Johnson at Museum of Contemporary Photography
Local artist Johnson had a radical idea to get Chicagoans talking about segregation in the city—across neighborhoods, race, class, and other markers of identity. She connected residents on the North and South Sides who share the same address number and street name, and had them meet one another. In this one-night event, she will discuss the photographs she took of these participants and the conversations that ensued.
Details: May 10

Tonika Johnson / Image from Folded Map/Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Photography/Facebook

“PLAY.GROUND II: Video Game Art From Hong Kong” at VGA Gallery
Take a break from the screen and appreciate the art of video games IRL at this special exhibition that traveled from Tokyo Arts Space. Artworks by five Hong Kong–based artists, all drawn from video games, showcase how the city and its architecture have long inspired countless game designers in very different ways.
Details: May 10

Deborah Butterfield at Zolla/Lieberman
You’ve probably at least seen pictures of these sculptures: life-size, almost skeletal renderings of equines. This is the body of work Butterfield has made a career of, starting with mud and sticks before moving on to branches and cast bronze. A herd of recent specimens will be on view in this solo show, underscoring the artist’s unceasing commitment to her subject.
Details: May 17