Even as the dons of the Williams Art Mafia rake in the dough, its rising stars continue to earn accolades as well. Two younger Eph curators on the shores of Lake Michigan have recently seen new exhibits open to acclaim.

A jet engine is lifted into place for the Roger Hiorns installation at the Art Institute of Chicago


First up is James Rondeau (MA ’94), who is curating an awesome-looking exhibit by Roger Hiorns that features jet engines mounted on an exterior terrace at the Art Institute of Chicago. As the Chicago Tribune describes:

The machinery of “Untitled (Alliance),” which in a previous life were mounted atop military surveillance planes, have similarly mingled with unlikely foreign substances. Hiorns has embedded into the engines prescription drugs commonly used to treat trauma and depression, suggesting the connections, Rondeau explained, “between global security and emotional well-being.” Furthermore, the drugs are purposefully shrouded from view, representing the power of withholding information.

Rondeau further describes the installation as “daring” and “adventuresome.” Looks like it.

Meanwhile, 90 miles to the north, at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Ethan Lasser ’99 (curator at the Chipstone Foundation, and good friend of mine) is curating an exhibit of music and pottery from Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, which links the present with antebellum artist Dave the Potter, a slave in pre-Civil War South Carolina. Time Out Chicago recently outlined how Lasser:

asked Gates to collaborate on a Dave exhibition after viewing a performance “where I had embodied Dave and was singing from my [potter’s] wheel a narrative that I invented about his life,” Gates explains. (The Chipstone Foundation and MAM have collaborated on American decorative arts shows since 1999.)

Instead of focusing solely on the ceramics by Dave that would be on display, Gates decided to tackle “the history of craft labor in the U.S.” To prepare, he completed a monthlong artist’s residency at Wisconsin’s Kohler Company. Involving Kohler in his project helped Gates fulfill the Chipstone Foundation and MAM’s request to attract new audiences to the museum.

At the exhibit’s opening, Gates assembled a 250-person choir to sing the musical portion of the installation, which will be played as a recording throughout the exhibit’s display.

Both exhibits will show through most of the summer (Gates through August 1; Hiorns through September 19) for Ephs living in or visiting the Lake Michigan area.

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