Founded in 1868, the Visiting Artists Program is one of the oldest public programs of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring some of the most compelling practitioners and thinkers working today. The Visiting Artists Program celebrated SAIC’s 150th Anniversary with a diverse mix of lectures, screenings, performances, conversations, and readings by distinguished artists Chris Ware, Jeff Koons, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Kunlé Adeyemi, Sarah Vowel, Rona Pondrick, Richard Mosse, Christian Boltanski, Tom Kalin, Xu Bing, Joep van Lieshout, Diane Simpson, and Sophie Calle.
Chris Ware: Bill and Stephanie Sick Visiting Artist in Conversation with Hamza Walker
Chris Ware (SAIC 1991–93) is an award-winning cartoonist and author whose work tries to tell unpretentious stories about what it feels like to be alive via the generally approachable yet surprisingly complicated medium of the American comic strip. He is the author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, which was included on Amazon's “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” list in 2014.
Jeff Koons: 150th Anniversary Distinguished Alumni Lecturer
Since his first solo exhibition in 1980, Jeff Koons (SAIC 1975–76) has shown his work in major galleries and institutions throughout the world. His Celebration sculptures were the subject of exhibitions on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Château de Versailles opened its doors to a living artist for the first time with Jeff Koons: Versailles, where a selection of his works was presented within the Grand Apartments. The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York presented the most comprehensive survey of Koons's career to date in 2014, Jeff Koons: A Retrospective.
Eija-Liisa Ahtila is a contemporary visual artist and filmmaker who experiments with narrative storytelling in her films and cinematic installations. Her earlier works dealt with unsettling human dramas at the center of personal relationships such as teenage sexuality, family relations, mental disintegration, and death.
Kunlé Adeyemi is an architect, urbanist, and designer. His recent work includes Makoko Floating School, an innovative, prototype, floating structure located on the lagoon in the heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. This acclaimed project is part of an extensive research project, African Water Cities, being developed by NLÉ, an architecture, design, and urbanism practice founded by Adeyemi in 2010 with a focus on developing cities.
Sarah Vowell: Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series
Sarah Vowell (MA 1999) is a New York Times-bestselling author of six nonfiction books on American history and culture. By examining the connections between the American past and present, she offers personal, often humorous accounts of everything from presidents and their assassins to colonial religious fanatics, as well as thoughts on Native Americans, utopian dreamers, pop music, and the odd cranky cartographer.
One of the most internationally successful sculptors of the last 30 years, New York-based artist Rona Pondick uses traditional and technologically advanced methods to create sculptural hybrids that meld body fragments with animal or plant forms.
Richard Mosse’s photography captures the beauty and tragedy in war and destruction. Mosse has shot abandoned plane wrecks in the furthest reaches of the planet and the former palaces of Uday and Saddam Hussein now occupied by US military forces. His most recent series, Infra, captures the ongoing war between rebel factions and the Congolese national army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Christian Boltanski is one of France's foremost artists whose installations challenge basic assumptions of what constitutes an artwork. Since the 1960s, he has worked with the ephemera of daily life and human experience, from obituary photographs to rusted biscuit tins, to examine the transitory nature of our life on earth. He employs lights, candles, shadows, and imagery of death in a body of work that is about memory and loss and the relation between life, death, and art. A central theme in Boltanski's work is that every moment of our lives is transformed into a past that is as definitive as death. He is interested in the universal transience of the individual and the role of memory to conserve lived experience.
Tom Kalin (MFA 1987) is known for narrative features, installations, and short experimental films and videos. His first feature, Swoon, was awarded the Caligari Prize in Berlin, Fipresci Prize in Stockholm, Best Cinematography at Sundance, and the Open Palm at the Gotham Awards. Kalin directed the film Savage Grace and produced the films I Shot Andy Warhol and Go Fish, and was a writer for Cindy Sherman's Office Killer. He also was a founding member of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury, known for its provocative public art projects.
Xu Bing is a pioneering contemporary artist, known for making mixed-media installations that subvert systems of language, meaning, and tradition. Originally trained in printmaking, Xu Bing has a conceptual practice that has taken many forms, including meaningless Chinese characters, an American font that looks “Chinese,” and a “language” made up entirely of emoticons. Made collaboratively with the artist Ai Weiwei, his work Wu Street (1993) is currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Joep van Lieshout
In 1995 Joep van Lieshout founded his studio Atelier Van Lieshout, and has produced works that straddle art, design, and architecture, such as sculpture and installations; buildings and furniture; and utopias and dystopias. What these works have in common are a number of recurring themes, motives, and obsessions such as systems, power, autarky, life, sex, and death.
Diane Simpson (BFA 1971, MFA 1978) creates sculptures and preparatory drawings that reflect her interest in the coexistence of the industrial and domestic worlds. Her constructed forms serve as a vehicle for exploring the influence of design and architecture of various cultures and periods in history. A major survey exhibition of Simpson's work is currently on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston through March 27, and she will have work on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago from February 16 to July 3.
Since the late 1970s, Sophie Calle has made work that investigates provocative and often controversial methods for confronting her emotional and psychological life. She is well known for her sleuth-like explorations of human relationships and often weaves together photographic documentation, narrative texts, found imagery, and personal iconography. Calleʼs acclaimed work has been shown in prominent venues worldwide, and she was the recipient of the 2010 Hasselblad Award in Photography.