The Art Institute of Chicago has .pdf's of most of the catalogues from the Chicago & Vicinity shows that started in 1897. These were prestigious exhibitions for local artists. The museum stopped doing them in 1985, but they still have a glorious reputation among the local artists. Evanston Art Center hosts a biennial now that refers back to these shows. I have a piece in the current one.
I'm a nerd and I downloaded every catalogue they had from here: https://www.artic.edu/search/exhibitions?q=Chicago%20and%20Vicinity
This is a trove of Chicago history and art history. On a more personal level, the last show in 1985 featured artists that I have met, are famous, or that taught me in art school. Michiko Itatani, Martyl, Eleanor Spiess-Ferris, Lee Grantham are standouts. Itatani, Spiess-Ferris, and Grantham are still active today.
Some of the organizers and trustees of the earliest shows have names like Palmer, Potter, Burnham, Ryerson, Field and Wicker. The name, "Marshall Field," was continuous through the years.
In year two, I saw Laredo Taft and Ivan Albright's father, A. E. One of the coolest trivia from the second catalogue is that the artists' addresses were listed! One lady had a studio in the tower of the Auditorium Theater! So. Jealous.
Next, I'm going to dip into a postwar show during one of the golden ages of the arts in Chicago. Mies van der Rohe was developing the International Style in Chicago. Maholy Nagy immigrated with his designs influenced by the Bauhaus...1952...
The catalogue doesn't have that many images. Vera Berdich is the only person I can recall hearing about.
Now, I'm going to jump ahead a generation to 1971 and see who's showing. Oh my god! "Sam Gilliam, Artist" is listed as one of the jurors! Wow. Roger Brown, William Conger, and lots of interesting sculptors with Rauschenberg-type assemblages and a pop minimalist. Neato.
Next, let's go back to the WWII era and see what's happening. 1944...Ha! The cover features a painting of happy servicemen returning to their friends and family at a port or something. Wait. There is one lady isolated in the middle of the painting holding two small children she looks very unhappy.
Featured artists include Gertrude Abercrombie! Ivan Albright! Martyl. Oh, shit! Joan Mitchell showed a piece called Accordian Player. If that is The Joan Mitchell she was only 19 years old. Louise Dunn Yochim was in this show. She was one of the grand dames of Chicago art. I have one of her books. A very good year.
I'll continue exploring these catalogues in my off time and learning more about Chicago art and artists.
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