Smart Museum’s ‘Toward Common Cause’ exhibition to showcase MacArthur Fellows

Exhibitions at cultural institutions across the city will feature renowned artists

The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is organizing three exhibitions this spring across the city, marking the 40th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program.

The projects will be presented in conjunction with Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change, and the MacArthur Fellows Program at 40. MacArthur Fellows Dawoud Bey, Jeffrey Gibson, An-My Lê and Shahzia Sikander are among the 29 participating artists.

Toward Common Cause is a multivenue exhibition, featuring more than two dozen exhibition, programmatic and research partner organizations, including UChicago’s Arts + Public Life.

The exhibition will encompass a broad spectrum of contemporary artistic practice, including community-based projects in public spaces as well as solo and group presentations in museum, gallery and community spaces.

Additional initiatives will open later this summer and into the fall. The full list of participating artists and other details are available online at the exhibition website.

What’s on this spring

Dawoud Bey: Portraits from Chicago (1993–2001)
May 21–August 28, 2021
Arts + Public Life, Arts Incubator, 301 East Garfield Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60637

Arts + Public Life opens Toward Common Cause with an exhibition of works by Chicago-based Dawoud Bey, who has photographed South Side youth across decades of artistic practice. His portraits make visible a group who are not fully recognized by society, activating the sitters’ inner worlds for viewers to contemplate. 

Jeffrey Gibson: Sweet Bitter Love
May 28–September 18, 2021
Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60610

Sweet Bitter Love presents Jeffrey Gibson’s reflections on representations of Indigenous people in cultural institutions. Gibson, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent, responds to nineteenth-century portraits of Indigenous people in the Newberry Library’s collection. His paintings and wallpaper refute ethnographic symbolism with vibrant, glittering layers.

Much Unseen is Also Here: An-My Lê and Shahzia Sikander
June 3–August 29, 2021
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, 600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

Much Unseen is Also Here brings together the works of two major artists, both of whom consider the theater of the landscape, monumentality, cultural history and representation. Probing monuments and identity, An-My Lê and Shahzia Sikander explore history’s embeddedness in our present.

Lê’s Silent General (2015–ongoing) presents large-scale views of places and people in the contemporary American landscape, while Sikander uses sculpture, drawings, and animation to examine representations of intersectional femininity that is prompted by questions of who monuments historically depict. 

Much Unseen is Also Here has been generously supported through the Terra Foundation for American Art. All three projects are curated by Abigail Winograd, the MacArthur Fellows Program 40th Anniversary Exhibition Curator at the Smart Museum.

Toward Common Cause is organized by the Smart Museum of Art in collaboration with exhibition, programmatic, and research partners across Chicago. It is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Additional support for individual projects has been provided by Allstate; the Terra Foundation for American Art; the National Endowment for the Arts; The Joyce Foundation; a Mellon Collaborative Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry; the Visiting Fellows Program at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society; and the Smart Museum’s SmartPartners. In-kind support is provided by F.J. Kerrigan Plumbing Co and JCDecaux.