Ron Athey, "Solar Anus." Photo: Regis Hertrich
Ron Athey, "Solar Anus." Photo: Regis Hertrich
December 31, 2014

Visiting Artists Program Announces Spring 2014 Season

Chicago, IL—Visiting Minds. Lasting Influence. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is pleased to announce the spring 2014 lineup of guest speakers for its Visiting Artists Program (VAP), continuing a tradition endowed more than 60 years ago. VAP hosts two seasons of public presentations by artists, writers, and scholars each academic year through lectures, symposia, performances, and screenings.

"The new season of the Visiting Artists Program offers diverse perspectives on the creative process and critical inquiry and serves as an incredible resource for Chicago's visual arts community,” says Andrea Green, Director of the Visiting Artists Program. "I invite everyone interested in the art of our time to participate in the dialogue led by our renowned speakers.”

The spring 2014 season opens Tuesday, February 4, with a lecture by iconic contemporary performance artist Ron Athey. South African artist Kendell Geers visits on February 20, followed by this season’s SAIC Distinguished Alumni Lecturer, artist and author Trevor Paglen (MFA 2002), on March 3. Artist Xaviera Simmons details her multidisciplinary practice on March 12, followed by a visit from Jennifer Doyle, author of the new book Hold it Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art, on March 25. The series ends on April 2 with a lecture by renowned New York Times Art Critic Roberta Smith

VAP Online
In addition to making their appearances open to the public, SAIC presents many Visiting Artists Program lectures as audio podcasts online at Recent presenters include Toyo Ito, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, and Beatriz Milhazes. Join the conversation by following VAP on Facebook or by signing up for its eNewsletter.

All lectures are free, non-ticketed, and open to the public
unless otherwise noted. Reservations for groups of 10 or more must be made two weeks prior to the lecture. Otherwise, seating is on a first come, first served basis.

Ron Athey

Tuesday, February 4, 6:00 p.m.
SAIC Columbus Auditorium, 280 S. Columbus Dr.

Ron Athey is an iconic figure in the development of contemporary art and performance. In his frequently bloody portrayals of life, death, crisis, and fortitude in the time of AIDS, Athey calls into question the limits of artistic practice. These limits enable his exploration of key themes, including gender, sexuality, radical sex, queer activism, post-punk and industrial culture, body modification, and ritual. Athey began his underground performances in 1981, and in 1992 he began his performance "torture" trilogy: Martyrs and Saints, 4 Scenes In A Harsh Life, and Deliverance. His latest performance, Messianic Remains is the fourth installation in the Incorruptible Flesh series and explores the artist's life within his own post-AIDS body. As in earlier works in the series, Athey plays into the myth of enlightenment in the face of death.

This lecture is co-sponsored by SAIC's Visiting Artists Program and Department of Performance. A book signing will immediately follow. Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performance of Ron Athey will be available for purchase courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Store.

Kendell Geers
Thursday, February 20, 6:00 p.m.
SAIC Columbus Auditorium, 280 S. Columbus Dr.

The work of South African artist Kendell Geers is often felt as an artistic response to horrid socio-political conditions, as it is deeply influenced by his identity as a white Afrikaner raised during apartheid in his native country. His practice is layered with ethical, spiritual, and aesthetic questions, exploring the boundaries of what is permissible and questioning the most basic concepts of identity, power, and language. The raw but poetic way in which Geers communicates both attracts and repulses, fascinates and awakens. He uses a wide variety of media, references, and strategies in a confrontational rather than dictatorial manner. Through this process the artist's bright and dark sides are endlessly negotiated in an effort to find a balance between the beautiful and the dangerous.

Geers has shown in numerous international group exhibitions and extensively across Europe, including the African Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007) and Documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany (2002). Most recently, a retrospective of his work was exhibited at Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany (2013).

Trevor Paglen
Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series
Monday, March 3, 6:00 p.m.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Rubloff Auditorium, 230 S. Columbus Dr.

Trevor Paglen’s (MFA 2002) work constructs unfamiliar, yet meticulously researched ways to see and interpret the world around us. To do this, he deliberately blurs lines between science, contemporary art, journalism, and other disciplines. He is the author of five books and numerous articles on subjects including experimental geography, state secrecy, military symbology, photography, and visuality. His most recent book, The Last Pictures, is a meditation on the intersections of deep-time, politics, and art.

Paglen's visual work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; 2008 Taipei Biennial; 2009 Istanbul Biennial; 2012 Liverpool Biennial; and numerous other solo and group exhibitions. Paglen has received grants and awards from the Smithsonian; Art Matters; Artadia; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; LUMA Foundation; Eyebeam Art + Technology Center; and the Aperture Foundation.

Presented in collaboration with SAIC's Office of Alumni Relations.

Xaviera Simmons
Underscore and Open
Wednesday, March 12, 6:00 p.m.
SAIC Columbus Auditorium, 280 S. Columbus Dr.

Xaviera Simmons’s body of work spans photography, performance, video, sound, sculpture, and installation. Rooted in an ongoing investigation of experience, memory, abstraction, and present and future histories that specifically shift notions surrounding landscape, her studio practice is defined as cyclical rather than linear. In other words, Simmons is committed equally to the examination of different artistic modes and processes. For example, she may dedicate part of a year to photography, another part to performance, and other parts to installation, video, and sound works—keeping her practice in constant and consistent rotation, shift, and engagement.

Simmons received a BFA from Bard College after spending two years of walking pilgrimage retracing the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade with Buddhist Monks. She completed the Whitney Museum's ISP in Studio Art (2005) while simultaneously completing a two-year actor-training conservatory with the Maggie Flanigan Studio. Simmons’s major exhibitions and performances include the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut; Museum of Modern Art, New York; New National Museum of Monaco; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and SculptureCenter, New York. Simmons is a recipient of countless awards and fellowships, and her works are in the collections of UBS; Deutsche Bank; Guggenheim Museum, New York; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Studio Museum in Harlem.

Jennifer Doyle
Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art
Tuesday, March 25, 6:00 p.m.
SAIC Columbus Auditorium, 280 S. Columbus Dr.

Jennifer Doyle is a Professor of English and Co-Chair of the LGBIT Studies Minor at University of California, Riverside, where she directs Queer Lab. Her newest book, Hold it Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art (2013), explores some of contemporary art’s most contentious works. Doyle shows how controversy in art is used to question our assumptions about identity, intimacy, and expression; and, she considers emotion as an artist’s medium in the works of such artists as Ron Athey, Carrie Mae Weems, and David Wojnarowicz.

Her previous publication, Sex Objects: Art and the Dialectics of Desire (2006), was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Foundation award for writing and culture. She is also the recipient of a 2012 Andy Warhol Foundation | Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant, and is the 2013–14 Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the University of the Arts London. She is also on the Board of Directors at Human Resources Los Angeles, a nonprofit arts space supporting interdisciplinary and performance-based practices.

Co-sponsored by SAIC’s Visiting Artists Program and Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.

Roberta Smith
Criticism in the Expanded Field
Wednesday, April 2, 6:00 p.m.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Rubloff Auditorium, 230 S. Columbus Dr.

Roberta Smith was born in New York City in 1947, raised in Lawrence, Kansas, and graduated from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa in 1969. She has written art criticism for the New York Times since 1986. She was art critic for the Village Voice from 1981 to 1985 and in the 1970s, wrote for Artforum, Art in America, and Arts Magazine. She worked on the Donald Judd catalogue raisonné and has contributed essays to museum catalogues on various artists including Judd, Alex Katz, Elizabeth Murray, and Cy Twombly. Smith has lectured widely and taught at the School of Visual Arts, New York, and the Rhode Island School of Design. She received art criticism grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1975 and 1980. In 2003 she received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism from the College Art Association. Smith lives in New York City with her husband, Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine.

Co-sponsored by SAIC's Visiting Artists Program, Department of Painting and Drawing, and New Arts Journalism program.

The primary mission of the Visiting Artists Program is to educate and foster a greater understanding and appreciation of contemporary art through discourse. Founded in 1868 and formalized in 1951 with the establishment of an endowed fund by Flora Mayer Witkowsky, the Visiting Artists Program is one of the oldest public programs of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to public presentations by artists, designers, and scholars, VAP arranges studio critiques, round-table discussions, and workshops for SAIC students, providing them with direct access to world-renowned speakers working across disciplines.

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Download Release (printer-friendly version): VAP Spring 2014.