By Amy Cavanaugh
The Museum of Contemporary Art recently overhauled its 10-year-old 12 x 12: New Artists/New Work program, transforming the idea into Chicago Works, which will feature art by notable local artists. There are a few changes designed to create a better experience for visitors—12 x 12 focused primarily on emerging artists, while Chicago Works will mostly feature established artists. Instead of 12 shows a year, there will be four. The work will be displayed in a gallery on the third floor, which is twice as large as the old space. Curators will also write a printed brochure that offers details and scholarship about the artist’s work.
Kicking off the promising new series is Scott Reeder, a professor of painting and drawing at the School of the Art Institute. Reeder is a painter whose works irreverently reference canonical artists like Picasso, Pollock, and Twombly. He recently spoke with CBSChicago.com about his work, the show, and what the Chicago arts scene needs. The show runs through January 24.
CBSChicago.com: You’re creating a special piece at the MCA for this show. Can you tell me about it?
Scott Reeder: I’m doing a really big painting that’s 14-feet by 25-feet. I’ve been doing this series of pasta paintings that are like photograms (when you put objects on photo paper and put them in the sun to make negative silhouettes). That’s what they look like, but with 20 pounds of uncooked spaghetti. I put the pasta on canvas, spray paint over it, then remove the pasta and there’s a negative impression. It looks like elegant lines made with a ruler. I also do paintings with cooked spaghetti, which look like Jackson Pollock paintings.
CBSChicago.com: What are you trying to get across with these works?
SR: They’re a joke on the era of abstract expressionism. The art form was male dominated and macho, and I’m poking fun at it. I’ve been working with abstraction for awhile—I was in the book and show called Abstract America a few years ago at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
CBSChicago.com: What else will you be showing?
SR: There will be eight to ten paintings and maybe five prints. All the work has been made just for the show. I have these paintings of fruit smoking, like a banana with a cigarette or a pear with a pipe. And there’s Cute Communists, with well-known communists like Karl Marx or Castro given big eyes like little children. Everything is a little bit absurd.
There will also be these lists of humorous things like Ideas for a T.V. Show Episode or a Painting [which features things like Police Apes Surrender Prematurely and Life Coach Gets Her Head Stuck In A Potato Chip Bag]. They’ll be hand-written and are the most overtly humorous things in the show.
CBSChicago.com: How does teaching art affect your own work?
SR: It keeps you engaged and active. It can be isolating as an artist if you’re just working in your studio. Teaching prevents you from being a shut-in, since you’re talking to younger people. It gives you ideas, helps you articulate what you’re saying, and makes you stay up on what’s going on in New York or London.
CBSChicago.com: What are some themes you work with?
SR: There’s a theme of mortality, about human anxiety. Another theme is examining fashion and trends and how we assign value to things. Language is also part of that.
CBSChicago.com: How would you describe the Chicago art scene?
SR: It’s had its ups and downs, but I do think it’s getting better. From the teaching point of view there’s a ton going on, with really good museums, new wings, and new curators coming in.
The commercial aspect could be improved. If you are buying work from Chicago artists and galleries; thanks! Keep it up! If you aren’t, you should try it sometime—you might like it!