For over a century the Chicago art community has struggled to define itself in relation to other urban art centers. While prominent American artists past and present have had strong connections to Chicago, many left to make their reputations elsewhere. This book and the exhibition on which it is based reframe Chicago as an artistic center in its own right, with a perspective and community as distinctive as its geography, economy, and politics.
Exploring issues of reputation and canon formation past and present, four scholarly essays by Robert Cozzolino, Wendy Greenhouse, Kirsten Jensen and Lynne Warren probe moments of important historical shifts in the city’s artistic identity. The exhibition itself was shaped by asking forty one members of the Chicago arts community—critics, collectors, journalists, and museum specialists—to name a Chicago artist who is famous, ought to be famous, or is no longer famous, and to contribute a brief commentary on the artist and his or her work. Their selections—from the celebrated to the obscure—and multiplicity of viewpoints provide a nuanced view of the city’s artistic heritage and underscore the range of ways in which art is produced, perceived, and understood. A lushly illustrated book, Re: Chicago features a diverse group of artists including: George Healy, a nineteenth-century painter; Margaret Ianelli, a graphic artist; the famously reclusive artist and writer Henry Darger; and fashion designer Nick Cave.