Friday, November 25, 2011

CHICAGO: David Hartt / MCA Chicago

David Hartt, Archive, 2011. Edition of 6 + 1 AP. Courtesy of the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago via
MCA Screen: David Hartt
November 26, 2011 - April 29, 2012

220 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL

Chicago-based Canadian artist David Hartt’s latest work, Stray Light, inaugurates the MCA Screen, a new series of media-based exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago. Hartt’s films capture the social, cultural, political, and economic complexities of his subjects, which he then renders with a cool, dispassionate eye. His latest subject is the former Johnson Publishing Company building on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, famous for producing Jet and Ebony magazines and as a leader in African-American taste and culture. Stray Light includes a film displayed in a gallery with a carpet designed to evoke the Johnson Publishing Company, as well as a group of photographs in an adjacent gallery. MCA Screen: David Hartt is curated by James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling and runs from November 26, 2011 to April 29, 2012.

Hartt records the time-capsule nature of the Johnson Publishing Company space, with its original 1971 interior design by Arthur Elrod. John Moutoussamy, an African-American partner in the firm Dubin, Dubin, Black & Moutoussamy, designed the 11-story building as the headquarters of the Johnson Publishing Company, with an iconic presence on Michigan Avenue with its illuminated Ebony-Jet marquee at the top. The interior of the building is modern, colorful, and complex, an expression of founder John Johnson’s vision of what a leading, black-owned business could be. 

The title of the project, Stray Light, is a term used to refer to unpredictable light within a controlled environment. It is also a fitting metaphor for Hartt as an outside observer of a company that has influenced so much of African-American cultural history. His film and photographs provide an intimate portrait of the dreams and ideals of the Johnson family’s business which continue under the leadership of the founder’s daughter, Linda Johnson Rice. Stray Light is, in fact, the final means to capture the essence of the building, after the unexpected news that the building was sold in late 2010 and the company has relocated to another site. Thus, Hartt’s film is a lasting document of the style and ethos of this unique work environment. 

The soundtrack for the 12-minute Stray Light film is created by Chicago composer and flutist Nicole Mitchell. Mitchell is co-president of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), an organization that, like the Johnson Publishing Company building, was created in the 1970s and has become a leader in the cultural community. 

This program is made possible by the generous contributors to the Allen M. Turner Tribute Fund, honoring his past leadership as Chairman of the MCA Board of Trustees, and by Emerge, a donor affinity group that supports the education, exhibition, and acquisition programs of the MCA. 

Support for this exhibition is generously provided by the Chauncey and Marion Deering McCormick Family Foundation. Air transportation is provided by American Airlines, the Official Airline of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization accredited by the American Association of Museums. The MCA is generously supported by its Board of Trustees; individual and corporate members; private and corporate foundations; and government 
agencies including the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Museum capital improvements are supported by a Public Museum Capital Grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Chicago Park District generously supports MCA programs. Air transportation is provided by American Airlines, the Official Airline of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

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