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The traveling exhibition is the first solo exhibition in a museum for the Chicago-born artist
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is pleased to present Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush, the first solo exhibition in a museum for the Chicago-born artist, at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St., Exhibit Hall, 4th floor North), this February 10 to May 6. The traveling exhibition, organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, is a 10-year survey of approximately 30 of the artist’s paintings, watercolors and collages. Abney, born in 1982, is at the forefront of a generation of artists that is unapologetically revitalizing narrative figurative painting, and as a skillful storyteller, she visually articulates the complex social dynamics of contemporary urban life.
The exhibition will preview at an Exhibition Open House on February 9 from 5–8pm, featuring a lecture by Marshall N. Price, Nancy Hanks Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, at 5:30pm in the Claudia Cassidy Theater on the 2nd Floor North of the Chicago Cultural Center. Additional exhibition programming will be added at chicagoculturalcenter.org.
Abney’s works are informed as much by mainstream news media as they are by animated cartoons, video games, hip-hop culture, celebrity websites and tabloid magazines. She draws on these sources to make paintings replete with symbols that appear to have landed on the canvas with the stream-of-consciousness immediacy of text messages, pop-up windows, a Twitter feed or the scrolling headlines of an incessant 24-hour news cycle. By engaging loaded topics and controversial issues with irreverence, humor and lampooning satire, Abney’s works are both pointed contemporary genre scenes as well as scathing commentaries on social attitudes and inequities.
Abney’s works are lively menageries populated by characters who are violent villains, unwitting victims, aspirational heroes and ineffectual anti-heroes, set against the backdrop of narratives that touch on politics, race, homophobia, celebrity, consumerism and other potentially incendiary topics. These densely packed paintings can be challenging to decipher. The artist has said that her work is “easy to swallow, hard to digest,” and certainly its playful and seductive nature belies its often serious tone. She was identified by Vanity Fair magazine as one of the many artists championing the Black Lives Matter movement.
Abney emerged in 2008 when her work was included in the notable exhibition 30 Americans, organized by the Rubell Family Collection, Miami. As one of the youngest among a distinguished group of intergenerational African American artists, she immediately became part of an important artistic lineage. Her large-scale paintings in that exhibition included Class of 2007, depicting her MFA class as African American inmates conspicuously wearing orange jumpsuits. It was a commentary on incarceration, race and inherent inequities in higher education and signaled the artist’s immediate willingness to confront difficult issues. Abney continues to mine aspects of American culture to create compelling, narrative tableaux reminiscent of grand manner history painting.
Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush is organized by Marshall N. Price, Nancy Hanks Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
All exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street, are presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Building hours are Monday–Friday, 10am–7pm, Saturday–Sunday, 10am–5pm; closed holidays. Admission is FREE. For information, visit chicagoculturalcenter.org, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @ChiCulturCenter.
Year of Creative Youth
In an effort celebrate and encourage young artists, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have designated 2018 as the “Year of Creative Youth.” The $2 million investment by the City of Chicago will include a Creative Youth Festival across the Millennium Park Campus, performance opportunities for teens at city festivals and partner events, cultural grants and convenings for youth arts organizations and a marketing campaign among other events.
Upcoming 2018 Exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center
Keith Haring: The Chicago Mural
March 3–September 23
Having rocketed to worldwide fame in the 1980s, graffiti artist Keith Haring worked with 500 Chicago Public School students to paint a monumental mural in Chicago's Grant Park in 1989. This exhibition includes a large selection of the mural reflecting the artist's incisive draftsmanship and unsettling cast of symbolic characters (atomic baby, barking dog). Soon after the Chicago project, Haring died tragically of HIV-AIDS in 1990.
Sidney R. Yates Gallery, 4th Floor North
Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle
June 2–October 1
This multi-faceted project explores the past, present and future of North America’s Great Lakes – one of the world’s most emblematic and ecologically significant ecosytems. Painted in Rockman’s signature, meticulous but visionary hyper-realist style, the works in the exhibition are anchored by five mural-sized (72” x 144”) oil paintings, each exploring a theme that emerged during Rockman’s field research and engagement with lake experts. Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle is organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
Exhibit Hall, 4th Floor North
African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race
October 27, 2018–March 3, 2019
Featuring work from a wide range of practices including cartooning, sign painting, architectural signage, illustration, graphic design, exhibit design and product design, this exhibition is the first to demonstrate how African American designers remade the image of the black consumer and the work of the black artist in this major hub of American advertising/consumer culture. African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race is funded in part by the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, as part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy.
Chicago Rooms, 2nd Floor North
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors. For more information, visit cityofchicago.org/dcase.
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