Art

Flower Portraits, a ’70s-Themed Immersive Gallery, Old-Timey Photography, and Other Must-See Art Events This Season in Chicago

Mrs. James Ward Thorne, A37: California Hallway, c. 1940/Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

The temps are cooling in Chicago, but the local art scene is—you guessed it—heating up. This season, look out for can’t-miss events and happenings showcasing flower paintings, a participatory new exhibition at MCA, the return of the holiday Thorne Rooms, a ’70s-themed immersive gallery, and more.

Alex Katz, Iris 2, 2019. Courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery.

“Flowers” at Richard Gray Gallery
Widely known for his highly stylized portraiture, Alex Katz presents a new series of flower paintings in this solo show. Specifically, the artist zooms in on yellow irises, immortalizing these quotidian specimens in abstracted landscapes of vivid backgrounds.
Details: November 11

Blkhaus Studios at the Museum of Contemporary Art
During this participatory exhibition by the design studio Blkhaus, visitors are invited to bring personal objects to the museum, where they will be photographed and added to a digital catalog. By encouraging the public to explore the values of their own collections, the artists hope to inspire consideration of how institutional archives are shaped and what gets left out.
Details: November 12

The Politics of Taste at the Block Museum of Art
Since the ’60s, Colombian artist Beatriz González has been known for her Pop Art–style works that draw on imagery from newspapers and magazines. At age 80, she is finally becoming recognized on a greater international scale, thanks to a major retrospective that opened this year and a forthcoming book on her practice. Hear the book’s author, Ana María Reyes, speak about González during this talk, which coincides with the museum’s massive exhibition on Pop Art in Latin America.
Details: November 20

Documentation, In Progress: Folayemi Wilson and Norman Teague. © MCA Chicago

Lecture in Photography at the Museum of Contemporary Photography
Local artist Jessica Labatte makes dazzling photographic still lifes, often involving flowers from her gardens and curious items from her studio. Learn about her rigorous process and approach to image-making during this free lecture.
Details: November 21

Holiday Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago
You know Christmas is near when this beloved tradition at the museum returns. The 80-year-old Thorne Rooms—mini dollhouse-like interiors that show international styles of design—get decorated for the holidays, boasting tiny additions, from a Yule log to a mid-century menorah to Chinese New Year shadow puppets.
Details: November 22

“Sea Inside” at International Museum of Surgical Science
In this solo exhibition at Chicago’s medical museum, environmental artist Bryan Northup has created pieces made entirely of plastic to draw connections between our everyday waste and our bodies. From afar, his works look like innocuous and playful mosaics, but get up close to take in the sheer amount of straws, packing peanuts, prescription bottles, and other detritus that composes each one.
Details: November 22

Bryan Northup, Sea Inside, 2017. Courtesy of Bryan Northup/Facebook.

Closing Reception for “Modular Shop” at Compound Yellow
Take in the artworks that fill this exhibition/pop-up shop, from hand-built vases to printed fabrics to unique spoons, and purchase anything that resonates with you. Artist Yesenia Bello will also be leading a whispering activity using one of her ceramic vessels, followed by a communal rope-making session.
Details: November 23

Tintype Pop-Up at Freehand Chicago
If you’ve ever wanted to time-travel to the late 19th century, photographer Jen Jansen can at least make it appear as if you have. Jansen specializes in tintype portraiture, which involves using an old-timey camera to create striking, high-contrast images on thin sheets of metal. Sign up for a private session before they sell out, and choose from three portrait sizes.
Details: November 30

“Better Nights” at Kavi Gupta
This is perhaps one of the unmissable shows of the season: Revered artist Mickalene Thomas presents a ’70s-themed installation that transforms the gallery into an immersive environment that resembles an apartment, complete with wallpaper, faux wood paneling, and custom seating. In addition to showing her own rhinestone-embellished paintings of black individuals, Thomas has curated a selection of work by other artists of color.
Details: December 1