As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. 

TODAY

Friday, December 15

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Cold on Christmas Up in the Air, Brothers, Everybody's Fine and Assassination of a High School President »

Art Thu Dec 03 2009

Exploring Poland in Chicago: Allan Sekula at The Renaissance Society

Picture 1.pngAllan Sekula's current solo show at the Renaissance Society, titled Polonia and Other Fables, was executed over a three-year period and is comprised of 40 photographs and related text. Also on display in the gallery is an older piece of his, an installation of a slideshow, titled "Walking on Water."

Motifs such as the hammer and sickle, May Day parades, black sites, music, and the artist's family are repeated throughout the exhibition. We can tell that Sekula is definitely trying to say something about geopolitics, and perhaps something about heritage and assimilation, but it's difficult to figure out exactly what without extensive research. The subtly snarky title of the show, Polonia and Other Fables, is the clearest indicator. For interested viewers who want to try to piece together the puzzle, Sekula, who is an accomplished writer in addition to a photographer, has provided extensive texts both on the walls and in laminated folders on tables within the exhibition. The writing in the folders reads like spontaneous memoirs. Quotes spur rants and elicit memories, which are often vague and poetic. In this sense, the writing mimics the photographs, but I'm not sure how much it adds to the photographs. It almost seems like the photographs should be supplementing the text, instead of vice-versa.

Writing about Sekula's work both by him and others suggests an interest in the pitfalls documentary photography, but this critique is not necessarily clear in Polonia and Other Fables, except perhaps in a single photograph- Ladies Auxiliary Polish Army Veterans of World War II. Polish Constitution Day parade, 3 May 2008. It is a dynamic scene, reminiscent of a David painting, with a caped man entering the frame from the left and engaging with the audience by pointing straight into the camera, his mouth gaping. A caped woman on the right holds out her hands, with her palms down, in what appears to be a calming gesture. This photograph suggests a critique of documentary photography because it brings up the problem of subject self-awareness. We can no longer assume authenticity in photography. This is an issue that has become ever more relevant in today's world of Photoshop and reality television.

There are some charmingly site-specific touches in the exhibition, like a series of photographs documenting people on the University of Chicago's campus, only feet from the gallery, waiting for the legendary May Day noontime shadow of hammer and sickle to appear on the sidewalk, cast by Virginio Ferrari's sculpture. Sekula, being a liberal man of Polish decent, presumably has an interest in Chicago because of its Polish connections, as well as its rich history of labor union organization. The exhibition also displays a reoccurring interest in public cultural displays--from the May Day march downtown to the Taste of Polonia festival in Jefferson Park.

There is no question that the show is thoughtful and generous. The audience, though, in return, must be generous with their time. A fair and insightful viewing of Polonia and Other Fables requires patience, so do not try to rush through this show or you will likely walk out with nothing.

Polonia and Other Fables will be up until December 13 at The Renaissance Society (5811 S. Ellis) on the University of Chicago campus.
install.png

 
GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store

 

Events


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop, nancy@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15