Trees, Elephants, and Climate Change Lend an Earthy Theme to These Upcoming Art Happenings in Chicago

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), “Christ Driving the Money Changers From the Temple,” circa 1570. The Minneapolis Institute of Art, the William Hood Dunwoody Fund/Courtesy of Art Institute of Chicago.

Coming up later this season, art events and openings in Chicago offer plenty of ways to get deep and emote, from a photography show about elephants and one about climate change to an evening of music by the Chicago Sinfonietta honoring women artists. Balance it all out with a printer party and a lesson in tobacco leaf bookmaking.

Colleen Plumb, Doc (Syracuse, New York) at Hornafjordur, Iceland, 2018. Archival pigment print, 30 x 45 inches. Courtesy of McCormick Gallery.

“Greenhouse” at Paper Hat
The trees are naked and the sky is constantly gray, but foliage abounds in this group show of artwork about plants. From prints to ceramics depicting all kinds of greenery, the creative hothouse is the perfect escape from the winter blues.
Details: February 21

“Thirty Times a Minute” at McCormick Gallery
Photographer Colleen Plumb has spent the past decade not only documenting elephants in captivity around the world but also creating highly public responses to these small enclosures. These take the form of guerrilla video projections that cycle through her heart-wrenching images; see her work in this solo show, which might inspire you to think more deeply about our relationship with animals.
Details: February 25

Le•ap Big Print Art Show at Second Story Studios
Having recently acquired a new printer, the gallery is ready to fire it up and have a party. Check out fresh prints by eight local artists, each maximized on this new apparatus and ready for visitors to purchase and take home.
Details: February 29

“Robin Hustle’s Fenestrated Shape” at Roman Susan
Chicago artist Hustle is interested in the complexities of surfaces: porousness, textures, and notions of statis and becoming. She explores these in water vessels that emphasize gestures made to create them. Take in their curious, precarious forms in this solo exhibition.
Details: February 29

Care Vessels for Common Water (2020). Courtesy of Robin Hustle, photo by Torie McMillan.

Tobacco Leaf Bookmaking at the Smart Museum of Art
The museum’s galleries are currently filled with sprawling installations by contemporary Chinese artists as part of the massive exhibition “The Allure of Matter.” These include a rug made of cigarettes by Xu Bing, which was the inspiration for this workshop, in which a master bookbinder will guide you in how to use tobacco leaves to create your own book.
Details: March 5

“Cloudy With a Chance of Ruin”
Jan Brugger and Shanna Zentner have been thinking about clouds: the ones in the sky, tinged by air pollution, and the digital ones pregnant with data. This show pairs their individual sculptures and collages as well as the artists’ collaborations in a display meant to ask if we can weather the storms of climate change, information overload, and fast-changing landscapes.
Details: March 7

Xu Bing, Study for Tobacco Book, 1999. Photo courtesy of Xu Bing Studio.

“Sight + Sound: A Sonic Art Exhibition”
Join the Chicago Sinfonietta for an evening of music honoring visual art. The program includes compositions inspired by art from Mark Rothko, Viktor Hartmann, and other luminaries. Its centerpiece, though, is “Syzygy,” which debuts here and celebrates women artists such as Frida Kahlo, Maya Lin, and Alma Thomas.
Details: March 7 and 9

“El Greco: Ambition and Defiance” at the Art Institute of Chicago
The 16th-century Greek painter was known for his dramatic flair. In emotional religious scenes, unnaturally elongated figures are at the forefront of complex compositions rendered in peculiar hues. More than 55 works are assembled for this monumental survey of the Renaissance eccentric—most famously The Assumption of the Virgin, the beautiful centerpiece of what was once an altarpiece in a Toledo convent church.
Details: March 7