The Acquisition Committee of the Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago is pleased to announce the six acquisition finalists for 2019: a sculpture by Maren Hassinger (American, b. 1947), a painting by Lubaina Himid (British, b. 1954), eight works on paper by Toyin Ojih Odutola (Nigerian, b. 1985), a video by Letícia Parente (Brazilian, 1930-1991), thirty collages by Elisabeth Wild (Austrian, b. 1922) and a sculpture by Heimo Zobernig (Austrian, b. 1958). Acquisition finalists will be on view in the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago starting May 24, 2019, and remain on view throughout the summer.
On May 29, Society for Contemporary Art members are invited to hear presentations and select two artworks for purchase. This is a transition year, with current first vice president David Egeland slated for SCA president in 2019–20. Information on the forthcoming Board of Directors slate for 2019–20 is available below.
Board of Directors Slate for 2019-20
Vice President and Programming Co-Chair
Nominating and By-laws
Stephanie Skestos Gabriele
Macol Stewart Cerda
Please be aware that you must be a member in good standing to vote. Couples may share a single membership vote. Absentee ballots will only be available May 20-28. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on absentee ballots.
Sponsored in part by Sotheby’s
Maren Hassinger began taking dance classes even before she started formal schooling. While she was at Bennington College, her interest in dance and choreography shifted to a focus on sculpture informed by her prior exploration of movement and an object’s relationship to space.
Hassinger was among the first class of students to graduate from the fiber arts MFA program at the University of California in Los Angeles. During that time she began working with wire rope, which she described as “open to innovation.” She combined steel cable with tree branches to create sculptures that, in her words, “resembled living, breathing things.” By juxtaposing these materials, Hassinger sought to maintain a balance between the natural and the made, between fragility and strength—and also to express equality, by joining the sculpture’s opposing ends.
Hassinger collected the material for Interlock in a salvage yard on Alameda Street in Los Angeles. As is characteristic of Hassinger’s early wire-rope sculptures, Interlock visibly reflects the process of its production; the artist combined the found materials with industrially produced elements, revealing the tension between technology and nature. This work is also a key example of how Hassinger uses bodily movement to make artistic production possible and distinctive. Scaled to her own body, Interlock shows how Hassinger’s sculptural practice is rooted in her dance and performance background, collapsing these genres into the physical space in and around the work.
In Venetian Palace, Lubaina Himid asks the question “What shape is a woman’s space?” The work, part of the series Architects, Models, Plans (1997–98), depicts a fictionalized building and architectural elements designed by an imaginary black female architect. The structures and models in Venetian Palace break down the boundary between inside and outside, existing in an in-between state. The artist’s background in theater is reflected in her keen sense of mise en scène, apparent in this painting’s tightly orchestrated composition, abstract patterns, and bold color palette. Himid’s imaginary architect seems in command of the elements within Venetian Palace, an important example of the artist’s ambition to “place black people into historical events, to make the invisible more visible” and “make the point that black people have contributed to European cities—many were built on the money earned from the slave trade—and have influenced the cultural landscape, making it a more vibrant and multilayered place to be.”
Himid’s work as a cultural activist includes but is not limited to her art, encompassing curatorial and educational efforts in the United Kingdom. She was a leading member of the British Black Arts Movement in the 1980s, which offered a political forum for artists of African and Caribbean descent. Then and throughout her career, Himid has endeavored both to open a dialogue with the viewer and to give audiences of color the opportunity to see themselves in contemporary art through a critical strategy that combines modes of European genre and portrait painting with her own history.
Toyin Ojih Odutola (Nigerian, born 1985)
The Treatment 3, 2015
Pen ink, gel ink, and pencil on paper
12 x 9 inches each
(One of eight from The Treatment series)
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s multimedia drawings are informed by her experience of coming of age as an African woman in the American South. Early in her career, she began creating vivid portraits that investigate the social and political dynamics of skin color, the malleability of identity, and the nature of the color black.
The Treatment was prompted by an invitation to participate in the 2015 group exhibition Young, Gifted and Black. Ojih Odutola used the title of the exhibition to direct the creation of a series of 43 portraits that was ultimately completed in 2017. In drafting each image she employed her signature black ballpoint pen as a tool for negotiating the formal and social implications of blackness as both skin color and surface treatment. She sourced public headshots and media images of prominent, or “gifted,” Caucasian men in their youth, and then outlined their silhouettes in pencil before filling in their faces with black ballpoint pen. Ojih Odutola redacts the socioeconomic status and white privilege of these subjects through her destabilizing treatment, as “black” becomes the primary identifier for otherwise recognizable men. Portraits from this series are shown in sequence or as a grid to underscore, in the artist’s words, “how an individual can claim one’s identity when rendered in the sameness of a group.”
Brazilian artist Letícia Parente trained as a chemist and continued her scientific career—eventually earning a doctoral-level degree—when she began making art later in life, studying printmaking at the Núcleo de Artes e Criatividade (Center for the Arts and Creativity) after her move to Rio de Janeiro in 1971. Her video practice emerged in the mid-1970s after she met a pioneering group of Brazilian artists, including Anna Bella Geiger and Sonia Andrade, who used their bodies to challenge traditional class and gender roles under a patriarchal society.
One of Parente’s best-known works, Marca Registrada (Trademark) records the artist as she embroiders the words “Made in Brasil” onto the sole of her foot. The ten-minute video follows the artist walking to a chair, threading a needle, and piercing her foot over and over until the sewn message is complete. In “sewing” her own body, Parente calls attention to a particular mode of torture—electrocution of the soles of prisoners’ feet—associated with Brazil’s military regime (1964–85) while also referencing the historical branding practices of slave owners and merchants. By performing the action on herself, Parente complicates the roles of victim and enforcer. The bilingual “trademark” stitched upon her foot represents a self-inflicted “brand” and symbolizes the country’s manufacturing industry positioning itself for economic globalization. As with all of Parente’s video works, these political themes occur within a domestic space where the ritual of chores like ironing, hanging a garment, and sewing are presented as absurd and even violent acts, suggesting that oppression in the home is equal to life under the regime.
Elisabeth Wild (Austrian, born 1922)
8 3/8 x 7 1/8 inches
(One of thirty collages)
Courtesy of the artist and Karma International, Zürich and Los Angeles
Elisabeth Wild’s colorful and abstract collages emerge from her rich life experiences and the artistic practice she has developed over the past six decades. Born in Austria to Jewish parents, Wild escaped the Nazi regime and fled to Argentina in 1938. She worked in textile design, marrying textile industrialist August Wild. Due to the volatile political climate in Argentina, the family moved to Basel, Switzerland, in 1962. Wild returned to South America in 1996 and joined her daughter, artist Vivian Suter, in Panajachel on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, where they both live today. While their home at the edge of the rainforest may appear serene, violence caused by natural disasters and drug trafficking impacts their life.
Evoking the still-life paintings that were foundational to her early practice, Wild’s recent collages balance figuration with abstraction. The rich colors and patterns recall her work in textile design and are often inspired by the visual traditions of Argentina and Guatemala. Making collages has become a daily meditative ritual for Wild. She leafs through fashion and lifestyle magazines and takes fragments from their commodified context, combining them with cutouts from colored cartons and glossy paper and rearranging them into complex compositions that visualize the artist’s inner experience. Part of a series titled Fantasías, the collages are, indeed, fantastical spaces to encounter, our eyes moving from the light-blue wall (its color chosen by Wild herself) into the artist’s kaleidoscopic world.
Heimo Zobernig (Austrian, born 1958)
Enamel on cardboard
79 ½ x 4 ¾ x 4 ¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main
Heimo Zobernig creates objects that investigate the relationship between artwork, interior architecture, and mise-en-scène design, as well as shifting contexts of display. In 1980 Zobernig received a degree in set design from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, and thereafter he embraced the history, theory, and practice of theater production. Using lightweight and portable materials that are often central to crafting theatrical props would become a continued strategy in his subsequent studio practice. Since the mid-1980s Zobernig has constructed sculptures out of domestic materials such as Styrofoam and cardboard; the latter makes up the tubular construction shown here. These minimal productions often simulate furniture or display apparatus, appearing both familiar and uncanny in a gallery setting.
Untitled has no fixed mode of display. Its thin post-like structure atop a round base suggests a plinth or stanchion. The enamel surface treatment of Untitled represents just one of the subtle choices Zobernig made to stage a situation in which his objects become irreverent stand-ins for their functional counterparts. The sculpture’s precarious, in-between status is a key aspect of its stage presence. Despite being a discrete object on its own, Untitled operates within a network of contexts that continuously recast its role: the institution, spectatorship, and the sculpture’s placement in relation to other works. Scaled to the human body, this work’s relationship to its surrounding space and the viewer is critical to its reception.