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Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West at the Museum of Contemporary Art

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220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611

Based in Chicago, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz makes work that explores recent contested social, political, and cultural histories. Drawing on personal experiences and research on these subjects, as well as history and popular culture, Rakowitz creates illustrated objects, installations, and performances that invite viewers to contemplate their complicit relationship to the political world around them, recognizing that hospitality and hostility are interlinked. The artist’s first US museum survey features early works, a new commission, and major installations, such as Enemy Kitchen (2003-ongoing), a pop-up food truck that serves Iraqi dishes made from recipes that Rakowitz and his mother collected through workshops and extensive community liaisons. Spoils (2011) is a project that saw the artist serve Iraqi date syrup and venison on Saddam Hussein’s very own china, and The invisible enemy should not exist (2007-ongoing), a lifelong project to fabricate at full scale every single item looted from the Iraqi National Museum. Collectively, this exhibition tells a story of restitution and reconstitution and positions Rakowitz as one of the most important artists of our time.

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