Winded Rainbow premieres eight new works by Juan Angel Chávez and offers a historical view of the artist’s practice through the inclusion of maquettes for his large-scale sculptures and installations from 2007-2014. Eight smaller-scale three-dimensional works from 2011-2012 are also included. The exhibition coincides with Chávez’s recent desire to transition away from primarily constructing large wooden structures and toward making sculptures from accumulated materials like clothing, signage, and even hair extensions.
Many of Chávez's works over the past ten years relate to aspects of his experience in both Chicago’s urban environment and in his native country of Mexico: the inventiveness, scavenging skills, and spontaneous construction of shelters pertinent to survival there have influenced not only his choice of salvaged lumber, traffic cones, PVC pipes, and billboards as materials, but also their transformation into immersive installations in which viewers become participants. One such work was Neptuno (2011), whose title was taken from a Mexican pop song that advises those seeking passage to the U.S. to blend in by “try[ing] not to look like you’re from Neptune.” This colossal, curved, wooden corridor-like structure—which from different angles resembles a UFO or submarine—evokes the complicated dynamics of border crossing, particularly through smugglers’ tunnels into the U.S. Chávez says that he makes art that “deals with issues of adaptation and survival,” which he considers to be “universal experiences.” Examples of other installations include his Scraping the Bowl (2012), a raised floor created from the residual material of a dilapidated barn that he and collaborators riddled with bullets and then burned down, and Speaker Project (2007), a 25-foot-long architectural “stereo speaker” that provided free practice and performance space within public arts centers in Boston and Chicago. Photographic documentation and maquettes for these and ten other works are included in the exhibition.
Inspired in part by an ancestor (six generations removed) who was a prospector throughout the Western United States and Mexico, Chávez has created several new and recent works relating to the idea of an explorer in a new land. His forefather's imagined resourcefulness and ingenuity regarding materials and survival are evident in the artist's choices. Chávez's new works, among other things, include references to: shelter (a 12-foot diameter hut made primarily from salvaged clothing); gathering food (sculptures forged from tangles of bowed fishing rods and mammalian forms covered in synthetic hair extensions); fire (charred wood in multiple works); and communication (text-based works featuring dialogue from movies about the American West and the artist's mash-ups of American slang from 1850-1920 with contemporary Mexican phrases). Chávez's manipulation and contextualization of his chosen materials brings their histories to light through multiple layers of poetics and recognition.
Chávez describes himself as a "Mexican-born artist, adapted Chicago native, distinctive visionary, and spirited explorer." In 2014, he was selected as the Chicago Ideas Week Artist-in-Residence and also received a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant. He has received grants and awards from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Richard Driehaus Foundation, Artadia, 3Arts, Illinois Arts Council, and the Neighborhood Arts Program through Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs. Chávez's work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago; Herron School of Art and Design, Indianapolis; Matthew Marks Gallery, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Diverse Works, Houston; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; Mass Art, Boston; FIGGE Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa; and New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, New Harmony, Indiana. Chávez lives and works in Chicago, where he teaches at the School of the Art Institute.
A 24-page booklet featuring an essay by Senior Curator Kendra Paitz will be published in March.
This exhibition and its related programming is supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation—Mirza Arts and Culture Fund; and MECCPAC, a Dean of Students Office Diversity Initiative.
University Galleries is collaborating with the Ecology Action Center, the Children's Discovery Museum, and Illinois State University's Art Education department on educational programming.
Junior high and high school students from several schools will visit University Galleries through field trips subsidized by a grant from the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation. Following their curator-led tours of the exhibition, graduate students in Art Education will visit their classrooms to lead artmaking activities and discussions. An exhibition of the resulting artworks will be on display at University Galleries in May.
Educators can earn recertification points by participating in a free workshop co-presented by the Art Education department on Saturday, March 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The workshop will feature an exhibition tour, discussion, activities, and lesson plans. Please register by contacting Kendra Paitz at gallery@IllinoisState.edu.
Families with young children are invited to participate in a free activity co-sponsored by the Ecology Action Center on Saturday, March 7, at 1 p.m. Kris Hall, Assistant Director of the EAC, will read The Garbage Monster aloud and discuss recyclable materials. A scavenger hunt through the exhibition will follow. No registration is required.
Participants in two Children's Discovery Museum programs (Youth Maker Night on March 19 at 5 p.m.) and (Homeschool Workshop on March 13 at 1 p.m.) will tour the exhibition before returning to the Museum to build their own work in the Maker's Space. Registration is required. Please contact the Children's Discovery Museum at 309.433.3444.
As always, free curator-led tours are available for classes and community groups.
Additionally, University Galleries is partnering with Home Sweet Home Ministries (which is lending materials for one of Chávez's sculptures) to collect textiles, clothing and shoes for its HSHRenew recycling program February 24 through April 4. The donations will be used by HSHM to support their programs to provide food, shelter, and hope to the hungry, homeless, and hurting in our community.
Saturday, February 28
Saturday, February 28
5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 7
9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Saturday, March 7
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.
February 24 - April 4