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Shedd Aquarium

We Are Here at the Museum of Contemporary Art

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220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611

For the MCA’s 50th anniversary, a major three-part exhibition draws from the MCA’s significant collection to explore the question: What is contemporary? The exhibition presents the idea that the contemporary artist fundamentally critiques the world around them and responds creatively and often provocatively; and that the viewer is part of this experience. Associate Curator José Esparza Chong Cuy curates the first part of the exhibition, showcasing how artists deal with the contemporary world on a personal and intimate level, from broad universal and environmental questions, to issues of identity and spirituality. Esparza presents the work of a diverse range artists from different generations such as Rene Magritte, Marisol, and Jonathas de Andrade, to show that contemporary art is not defined by a moment in time, but by the way it reflects the world around us. Curator Naomi Beckwith marks the moment when people’s bodies became central to the viewing, and even making, of art in the second part of the exhibition. Starting with the radical objects of the Minimalists (who made objects gallery visitors could walk through and step on), the exhibition also includes the works of artists who feature their bodies in their artworks (such as Kenneth Josephson and Ana Mendieta), and moves on to feature more socially engaged works (such as Adrian Piper and Marlena Dumas) about the effect of certain power structures on bodies in the world. Senior Curator Omar Kholeif curates the third part, demonstrating how artists have borrowed from the familiar popular culture of the everyday—soup cans, movie stills, neon signage, and floor tiles—such as in the work of Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Bruce Nauman, as well as the Chicago Imagists, including Karl Wirsum and Roger Brown. Collectively, they represent and reveal realities that may otherwise go unnoticed. The exhibition also explores how since the 1980s, artists such as Stan Douglas, Cindy Sherman, Gillian Wearing, Jeff Koons, and others have engaged with new forms of media to extend the reach of their own viewpoints and experiences. This is rounded out by figures such as Barbara Kruger and Lawrence Abu Hamdan, who encourage to think twice about the veracity of the power structures in which we invest.

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