A Home for Surrealism reviewed in Journal of Surrealism and the Americas

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.

Posted June 25, 2019
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Newest Garden Project featured on WDCB Radio

Journalist Gary Zidek interviewed Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford at The Arts Club of Chicago, on the occasion of his exhibition entitled Garden Gipsoteca. The show, which includes works of cast sculpture, is the latest work commissioned by The Arts Club in our Garden Projects series. Listen here.

To learn more about Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford and Garden Gipsoteca, join us for an artist talk and activation on Friday, May 3rd at 6 pm. Historian Jonathan Levy will join the artist in a discussion about the role of reproduction in taste-making, value, status-signaling, and social relations. Free and open to all!



Posted April 22, 2019
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Thessia Machado in Newcity’s “Art Top 5”

Our current exhibition, Thessia Machado: Toward the Unsound was listed in Newcity’s Art Top 5 for February, 2019.

Click here to read the full story.

Toward the Unsound presents sculptural works by the New York based visual artist whose practice is deeply influenced by legacies of experimental sound performance and a deep care for found technology. The exhibition includes site-specific installations, designed for the particular sonic and architectural footprint of The Arts Club. Sounding and visual works are presented together in counterpoint–each contributing to, reflecting upon, and infiltrating the other. A catalogue, designed by Sonnenzimmer, was published on the occasion of the exhibition. It features an essay by the curator Jenna Lyle and a sound appendix with studio recordings of the works in the show. We hope that you’ll stop by to look and listen!

Thessia Machado’s installations and video pieces have been exhibited in New York, London, Philadelphia, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Berlin and Athens. She has been awarded residencies at Homesession, Barcelona, the NARS Foundation, NY, I-Park, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Vermont Studio Center and is a recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Experimental Television Center, The Bronx Museum, and the American Academy in Berlin. In 2017 she was a recipient of an Artists Grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Posted January 31, 2019
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Surrealist Soirée with The Neo-Futurists (Tickets Required)

Event Date: June 8
Time: 6:00 p.m.

Surrealist Soirée with the Neo-Futurists at The Arts Club of Chicago

8 June 2018 | 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

In homage to the French predecessors of these Chicago painters, The Arts Club will host a Surrealist Soirée with The Neo-Futurists–an evening of performative poetry and interactive experience. As masters of ceremonies, “The Neos” will lead attendees through various embodied Surrealist ambulatory and textual explorations, and perhaps the occasional seance. At an intuitively selected moment, the poetic incantations of poet Ron Sakolsky and Chicago surrealist Penelope Rosemont.

This event is proudly part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy, with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

This exhibition is sponsored by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Limited Capacity, please make a reservation. This event is free and open to the public.


Posted May 9, 2018
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Exhibition of Chicago Surrealist Paintings from the 1940s and 1950s

Opening: 7 June 2018 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Surrealist Soirée: 8 June 2018 6:00 – 8:00 pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Arts Club of Chicago is pleased to announce A Home for Surrealism: Fantastic Painting in Midcentury Chicago, a ground-breaking exhibition that traces the US arc of the international art phenomenon. Following displays of Salvador Dalí’s paintings Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1933, such local artists as Gertrude Abercrombie, Ivan Albright, Eldzier Cortor, Harold Noecker, Julio de Diego, Dorothea Tanning, Julia Thecla, and John Wilde took to their canvases to fashion a home-grown apotheosis of the imagination. Working not as an organized movement, but rather in personal and idiosyncratic ways, these painters shared a tendency toward meticulous handling of form. They conjured dream spaces that strove to convince a Midwestern audience of the plausibility of their fantasies.

As early as 1929, The Arts Club of Chicago played an important role in introducing the city to European surrealism with both exhibitions and visits by such artists as Max Ernst, Dalí, and Man Ray. The institution was not only at the forefront of the transatlantic avant-garde, but it also became a meeting place for artist members like Albright and Thecla, as well as ground zero for new information about art. The Arts Club continues these traditions to this day, and with this exhibition will introduce a group of Chicago painters who, until recently, have been largely overlooked.

“This exhibition unearths a trove of Chicago paintings that speak to the city’s psychic life following World War II—the images are haunted and haunting, and display the artists’ simultaneous alienation and rootedness to this place,” says Arts Club Executive Director and curator of the exhibition Janine Mileaf.

Insisting on recognizable subject matter and depictive style, the Chicago surrealists ran counter to the rising tide of Abstract Expressionism on the East Coast. The generation of artists known as the Imagists who succeeded the Chicago surrealists have seemed to appear sui generis from a prior cultural vacuum. This exhibition sheds light upon the missing Midwestern Midcentury and highlights this loosely associated group of artists who dared to portray their wild imaginations.

A Home for Surrealism is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, as well as a gift from the Zell Family Foundation. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue distributed by the University of Chicago Press (available June 2018), including essays by Robert Cozzolino (Minneapolis Institute of Art), Adam Jolles (Florida State University), Janine Mileaf (Arts Club of Chicago), and Joanna Pawlik (University of Sussex), and artists’ biographies by Marin Sarvé-Tarr (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art).

A Home for Surrealism is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy, with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

About Art Design Chicago Art Design Chicago is a spirited celebration of the unique and vital role Chicago plays as America’s crossroads of creativity and commerce. Spearheaded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this citywide partnership of nearly 60 cultural organizations explores Chicago’s art and design legacy and continued impact with more than 30 exhibitions, hundreds of events, as well as the creation of several scholarly publications and a four-part documentary presented throughout 2018. #ArtDesignChicago #ArtsClubChicago #ChicagoSurrealism


About The Arts Club of Chicago

Since 1916, The Arts Club of Chicago has been a preeminent exhibitor of international art, a forum for established and emerging artists, and a celebrated venue for performers from around the world. For over 100 years, The Arts Club has opened its membership to artists and patrons of the arts, and its exhibitions to the public. At its inaugural meeting, the mission of the Club was defined as: “to encourage higher standards of art, maintain galleries for that purpose, and to promote the mutual acquaintance of art lovers and art workers.”

The Arts Club of Chicago is located at 201 East Ontario Street. Exhibitions are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday- Friday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Saturday 11:00 am – 3:00 pm.
ph: 312.787.3997; email:


Featured Image: Harold Noecker. The Genius?, c. 1943. Oil on canvas; 30 x 36 in. (76.2 x 91.4 cm). Collection of Bernard Friedman, Chicago.

Posted April 19, 2018
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