This landmark of modernism in Chicago [The Arts Club of Chicago] is now filled with so many precisely rendered fantastic landscapes; claustrophobic, psychologically coded interiors; a mise en abyme of pictures within pictures; and a menagerie of symbolically resonant household pets. Mileaf underscores the intentionality of this juxtaposition by unfolding the exhibition around a turned wood mantle evoking the vernacular interior decor of nineteenth-century Chicago, which any native Chicagoan will recognize as an “original detail” still common in local dwellings. Camouflaged in a monochrome coat of paint making it continuous with the wall, the mantle functions as an apparition of homely domesticity beneath a hovering group of the exhibition’s smaller paintings hung salon-style. Situated in view of a significant artifact of architectural modernism in Chicago—the elegant steel staircase with a travertine marble surround designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1951 and salvaged as the central feature of the building when the Club moved to its present location in 1997— the anachronism of the display crystallizes what is most striking about Mileaf ’s curatorial strategy.1 The juxtaposition of these interior features—each representing divergent genres of interior space at midcentury—appears to propose an alternative timeline of the exhibition history of the Arts Club of Chicago. In assembling an underappreciated cross section of artists, a loose grouping united by overlapping social circles and shared exhibitions or formation, as if it were a contemporary group show, she essentially recasts the Arts Club’s defining role in the history of the reception of Surrealism in Chicago as it might have been.
Please click here to read the exhibition review of A Home for Surrealism: Fantastic Painting in Midcentury Chicago, by art historian Jennifer R. Cohen in the Journal of Surrealism and the Americas. The exhibition ran at The Arts Club from June 7–August 15, 2018.
About the Journal of Surrealism and the Americas:
The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas focuses on the subject of modern European and American intellectuals’ obsession with the “New World.” This obsession—the very heart of Surrealism—extended not only to North American sites, but also to Latin America, the Caribbean, and to the numerous indigenous cultures located there. The journal invites essays that examine aspects of the actual and fantasized travel of these European and American intellectuals throughout the Americas, and their creative response to indigenous art and culture, including their anthropological and collecting activities, and their interpretations of the various geographic, political, and cultural landscapes of the Americas. We furthermore intend to investigate the interventions / negotiations / repudiations of European/American or other Surrealisms, by indigenous as well as other artists, writers and filmmakers.