Local Art: Current MCA Exhibits

9 April 2019

Bruce Nauman, Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain, 1983. Neon; diameter: 70 7/8 in. (180 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gerald S. Elliott Collection, 1995.74. © 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.


As one of Chicago’s many fantastic museums, The Museum of Contemporary Art allows visitors to escape the city and into themselves, looking out reflectively. Two exhibits currently at the MCA, Prisoner of Love and Big Camera, Little Camera, both draw the viewer in with striking visuals and beg a deeper engagement beyond the art hanging on the wall.


Prisoner of Love


Prisoner of Love is a reflection on the human experience. Upon entering, a massive blinking neon sign captures all attention; most viewers stop to take a picture. The sign is a circle, with words as its perimeter, the light rotating from one to the next as if the sign is a clock. In a way, it is. Bruce Nauman’s 1983 work: Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain, is the center of Prisoner of Love’s rotating exhibit. Into spring, and then fall, the exhibit’s ten month course will tick through the words on the neon sign.


Currently, Life and Death are on view. Among the varied art included is a seven-and-a-half minute video by acclaimed artist and filmmaker, Arthur Jafa, Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death.


Throughout Prisoner of Love, messages hover on the peripheral edges, waiting to be noticed and drawn out by the viewer. Some pieces have no guiding description whatsoever, only a plaque reading the work’s title, artist and medium. Ultimately, this leaves the interpretation of Life and Death up to you.


At the end of the exhibit, the MCA poses a question: “After seeing this exhibition, what will you remember, do, say, or share?”


Big Camera, Little Camera


Big Camera, Little Camera showcases four decades of artist Laurie Simmons’ work. The result is that walking through the third floor of the MCA feels like walking through several chapters of an artist’s changing life and work.


Simmons best known for her experimental play with dolls, posed amongst miniatures and eventually life-sized objects. The dolls were easily accessible subjects with a built-in commentary on gender roles in the 70s and 80s.


Later Simmons experimented with ventriloquist dummies, not for the faint of heart. The exhibit features Simmon’s 45-minute foray into film, titled The Music of Regret, 2006. The video stars, incredibly, Meryl Streep amidst a cast of dummiessomething you have to see for yourself.


Laurie Simmons is the mother of popular writer and star of HBO’s Girls, Lena Dunham. Dunham is featured in the last room of the exhibit. Simmons departs from dolls to photograph her daughters and others in body paint. The series is described as moving “beyond the categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ exploring gender beyond a male-female binary.” This description shows a reflection of Simmons on her past work and how to adapt her message to a modern era.


In Big Camera, Little Camera, viewers are privileged to witness Simmons’ self-reflection alongside her and her art.


The Museum of Contemporary Art is located less than three miles from 1000M, another cultural experience easily accessible using the building’s Personal Car and Driver service.

Prisoner of Love is on show from Jan 26-Oct 27, 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. You can purchase tickets here.