In a city like it Chicago, it is no easy feat to compete with the other museums and artistic institutions in the area. The brand new DePaul Art Museum (DPAM) in the neighborhood of Lincoln Park shows off its ability to play with the big boys with their first exhibit, Re: Chicago. With artistic nominations from forty-one of the current leaders in the Chicago arts realm, a story line of the city’s artistic history throughout the past century is created before your eyes. Big names in the Windy City’s art scene such as Gertrude Abercrombie and Henry Darger are not the only artists on view. Smaller names are not only shown, but emphasized for their understated influence.
In this 4,000 square foot exhibition, a multitude of styles, media, and expressions are examined over two floors. The chic new design removes the need for a museum map thanks to the intuitive layout of the galleries within. Although DPAM is directly next to a major elevated train station, the humming of the trains is almost inaudible. Lighting is evenly dispersed, and even Angel Otero’s large, multi-media piece (including fabrics, wood, and lights) has only the faintest shadows. With the elimination of these distracting factors, it is amazingly easy to focus on the artwork. Everything about this newly designed building, from the high ceilings to the shiny woods floors, directs you towards the stars of the show: the art.
The only room with an easily discernible message is the “hyperreal” display room, with delightfully vibrant paint and bold images. This gallery nods at the influence of the avant-garde era with bold red walls and primarily white and black pieces. This is a pleasant change from the wood floors and white walls everywhere else. Since all the galleries in this exhibition are extremely similar in set up, the large mix of time frames and styles can become a little confusing, although the overall theme of history and artistic evolution comes through. Chicago specific themes such as race and socioeconomic divides spill through the works of Paul D’Amato and Kerry James Marshall whilst images of gangsters, politicians, and sports, which frame a good portion of this city’s history, can also be found.
By utilizing experts and cultivating culturally as well as historically rich pieces, Re: Chicago hits the mark over and over again. Whether your time in Chicago is long or short, appreciation of some sort will be found in DPAM’s introduction to the Chicago art scene. With a body of work as diverse as the city it represents, nothing is left behind or lacks representation. Although Re: Chicago will only be running through March 4, 2012, This first exhibition will lead to many DPAM devotees for years to come.
by Emily Krieger