Arts Calendar, 11/26-12/2


The Mystery of Irma Vep
With an anagram in its title (Irma Vep = vampire), Charles Ludlam’s two-act “The Mystery of Irma Vep” takes wordplay seriously. Or at least as seriously as the campy, fast-paced play treats anything: It satirizes genres from gothic horror to Victorian “penny dreadful” melodrama to classic film, and employs many sound cues, special effects, and quick costume changes (just two actors–Erik Hellman and Chris Sullivan–play all eight characters). Sean Graney, founder of the Hypocrites theater company, directs this new production, for which Court Theater commissioned the creation of its own crossword puzzle. Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. November 12-December 13. (773)753-4472. $32-56/$24 students. (Robin Peterson)

You Can’t Take It With You
Among the most famous of Frank Capra’s films, “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938) stars James Stewart and Jean Arthur in a comedy about two quirky families and their chaotic relationships. Winner of the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, the fun, warm film is a perfect introduction to the holiday season. Doc Films, Max Palevsky Cinema, 1212 E. 59th St. November 29. Sunday, 7pm. $5. (Elly Fishman)


Sin Orden
In the early nineties, Chicago spawned a rapid-fire crust punk group called Los Crudos, whose barked Spanish lyrics took on immigration, gentrification, and police corruption. Backyards, dive bars, and basements in Pilsen and the Little Village have since been teeming with the politically acerbic blast beats of impassioned Latinocore bands. One of the most abusive groups in the current scene, Sin Orden gets the blood rushing with a balance of fun, outrage, and spectacle. Picture a gutter punk decked out in anarchy logos delivering a fatal round house kick to a motley piñata, and you’ll have an idea of what to expect. Rancho Huevos, 2966 S. Archer Ave. November 27. Friday, 8pm. $5 (Brandon Hopkins)

David Boykin Expanse
The combined intimacy and high quality of Chicago’s music scene give it a certain advantage over cities whose jazz clubs feature a rotating whirlpool of performers. Local clubs like the Velvet Lounge may feature similar names every week, but this city offers the rare opportunity to get to know musicians through their music. Some familiar names whip up celestial jazz at the Velvet Lounge this Friday: the Expanse includes versatile saxophonist David Boykin, bassist Josh Abrams, drummer Marcus Evans, and Jim Baker, who plays piano and a vintage ARP synthesizer. Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak Rd. November 27. Friday, 9:30pm. $7. (312) 791-9050. (Brandon Hopkins)

Hawthorne Heights
Humans are no longer pulsating networks of blood and bone, but carefully constructed virtual avatars. In the era of Facebook, MySpace, and 4chan, personality becomes an artisanal craft, self-consciously embroidered based on what consumer trends tell us we should be. Music has become about ironic posturing, about name-dropping influences, and passion has dropped out of art. Hawthorne Heights speak from their hearts with a new sincerity, ripping their souls apart with guileless lyrics like, “Why was I breaking my heart instead of embracing yours?” How could such an unfashionable effusion be anything but total proof of their honesty? Reggie’s Rock Club, 2109 S. State St. November 27. Friday, 6pm. $15. (312)949-0121. (Brandon Hopkins)

Jeff Kimmel’s Wild Heart
One of the regulars at Wicker Park’s jazz loft Heaven Gallery, a spiritual remnant of the days before the Filter cafe became a Citibank, Jeff Kimmel has also been a fixture of the South Side lately. He’s part of the Recovery group that plays standards during Backstory Café’s Sunday brunches, and now he brings his Wild Heart ensemble to the Skylark, Pilsen’s late-night booze and tater tots station. Justin Purtill plays bass and Marc Riordan drums, while Kimmel mans the somewhat less common bass clarinet. The Skylark, 2149 S. Halsted St. November 30. Monday, 10pm. Free. (Brandon Hopkins)


This show displays the work of several book and paper artists, including Melissa Jay Craig, JE Baker, Shayna Cohen, Suzi Cozzens, Marnie Galloway, Amanda Meeks, Maria Jose Prenafeta, and Sarah Vogel. Although formally connected by their medium, these artists’ works explore everything from fairy tales to human relationships. Their goals and processes are just as diverse. While Craig’s and Galloway’s work frequently employ humor as a strategy, Cohen’s projects involve audience participation. All of the artists are women, and the show implicitly harbors questions of gender and identity, as well as beauty and perception. Vespine, 1907 S. Halsted St. Through November 28. Monday-Thursday, by appointment; Friday, 5-8pm; Saturday, noon-5pm. (Sarah Pickering)

Concepts of Construction: (art)n new work and retrospective
(art)n is a collective of artists organized by Ellen Sandor in 1983. Their primary media, PHSColograms, combine aspects of photography, holography, sculpture, and computer graphics to create fantastic and futuristic architectural renderings. The viewer interprets the images as three-dimensional sculptural objects when they are backlit. Including reconstructed versions of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and deconstructed versions of Pritzker Pavilion, the artwork addresses the intersection of architecture and nature, space and structure, and our ideas about the future of reality. Zhou B. Art Center, 1029 W. 35th St. Through November 29. Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday, noon-5pm. (773)523-0200. (Sarah Pickering)

Don’t Get Too Comfortable
The dark whimsy and ethereal, nightmarish quality of painter Beth Bojarski’s and sculptor Mark Winter’s works make “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” a fitting title for the couple’s first joint show in Chicago. The exhibition opens at the Logsdon Gallery this Friday, November 13, as a part of Pilsen’s monthly Second Friday gallery crawl. Both artists depict pastel cartoonish figures with overgrown heads and disturbing expressions, which are simultaneously beautiful and off-putting, similar to the animated films of Tim Burton. The bright colors and flat, childish figures draw the viewer into a world that is both innocent and terrifying. Perhaps “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” hopes to demonstrate this abstract form of communication: to convey thoughts, concepts, and emotions that may be disturbing and strange, and that lie beneath the ordinary realm of expression. Logsdon Gallery. 1909 S. Halsted St. Through December 5. Saturday, noon-5pm, or by appointment. (312)666-8966. (Katherine Koster)

Steve Sherrell Solo Exhibition
Steve Sherrell is a Chicago-based artist whose process incorporates computers and new technology. He conceives much of his work on a digital interface and incorporates old techniques like painting, as well as elements of collage. He attributes a recent interest in digital photography to developments in the technology, but makes a distinction, especially with regard to his paintings, between art and mere mimesis. 33 Collective Gallery, Zhou B. Art Center, Suite 101, 1029 W. 35th St. Through December 12. Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday, noon-5pm. (708)837-4534. (Sarah Pickering)

Everything is Accessible: An iPhone Photo Exhibition
All of the images in this exhibition were taken by iPhones. Against critics of the “culture of convenience,” this show proposes that the aesthetics of the iPhone may be more valid than previously thought. It does this not only by featuring iPhone photos by established professional photographers, but also by soliciting audience participation: a photo booth allows people to shoot their own uploadable pictures. The show argues for a less intimidating art scene that uses technology like camera phones to reinstate playfulness in art. Studio 101 Gallery, Suite 101, 1932 S. Halsted St. Hours by appointment only. (312)624-8291. (Sarah Pickering)

Juvenile Development: A New Generation of Photographers
This exhibition features the work of Chicago teens who have been apprenticed to professional photographers. Photographs on display include those from a project called “Uncommon Chicago,” which challenged the students to produce uncommon images from the downtown cityscape. Another project that dealt with cultural symbols required students to combine words and found objects in an abstracted self-portrait. The talent and breadth of the work presented is sure to impress, given the age of the artists. Chicago Arts District Exhibitions, 1915 S. Halsted St. Hours by appointment only. (Sarah Pickering)

This group show features the video work of 18 artists from around the world presenting their view of Shanghai. Each artist spent time in China, observing and absorbing the culture firsthand. The pace at which the city is growing and changing makes it a suitable subject for this particular medium; all videos will be on display in HPAC’s Black Box Gallery. Some pieces choose to contrast older notions of a “mystical orient” with more modern representations of globalization. Very much an exhibit of our generation, this show celebrates the growth of this global city, while simultaneously questioning its sustainability. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through December 13. Monday-Thursday, 10am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520. (Sarah Pickering)

Polonia and Other Fables
Allan Sekula’s “Polonia and Other Fables” is an endeavor in documentary photography aimed at exposing the “social impact of global economics” in Chicago, according to the curatorial statement. His images focus mainly on Chicago’s labor community and large Polish immigrant population. The exhibition is complemented by samples of Sekula’s writings, which are as essential to his art as his photographic pursuits. As is characteristic of Sekula’s work, the exhibition is critical of the medium of photography while being decidedly photojournalistic. For this story, at least, Sekula can rely on his images to do the telling. Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis Ave. Through December 13. Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)702-8670. (Leah Reisman)

Seeking Art Bargain Basement
This project seeks to apply the principles behind bargain basements in department stores to the world of art. However, instead of selling surplus goods at discount prices, all of the art in the storefront of the Co-Prosperity Sphere is the recent output of over forty local artists. Everything will be under $200, and all proceeds will go directly to the artist. Whether or not you’re interested in purchasing, the diversity and creativity of the work on display is enough to justify a visit. Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St. Through December 19. Saturdays 1-6pm and by appointment. (773)862-1232. (Sarah Pickering)

The cities and small towns of the Midwest have never been a part of the mainstream art world, last breaking through with the unsentimental, deceptively folksy murals of Thomas Hart Benton. The Smart’s “Heartland” presents contemporary art from this geographic center and cultural periphery, featuring videos, photography, drawings, and site-specific installations made by artists from Kansas City to Detroit. Some works reference the expected imagery of the Midwest, whether real or stereotyped, such as Greely Myatt’s installation of a lawnmower with plant roots, while others treat less-localized personal and societal issues with a refreshing lack of New York-style narcissism. Originally shown at a museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, to explain the culture of a people who elected Obama, this examination of familiar territory may yield surprises. Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Through January 17. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 10am-4pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11am-5pm. (773)702-0200. (Helenmary Sheridan)

Sites to Behold: Travels in Eighteenth-Century Rome
The legacy of Rome’s golden era as the marquee destination of the Grand Tour is now the focus of a new exhibit at the Smart Museum, “Sites to Behold: Travels in Eighteenth-Century Rome.” With its myriad styles of architecture, the city was attractive to artists who were inspired both by the ruins of classical antiquity and by baroque culture. Rome also presented them with a lucrative commercial opportunity via the influx of wealthy, souvenir-seeking tourists. Mementos from the Tour held prestige back home, and those who could not afford to cart off ancient statues contented themselves with prints and paintings of city views, or vedute. “Sites to Behold” addresses a variety of cultural aspects of eighteenth century Rome, revealing how the work of these artists served to cement Rome’s significance as a serious artistic and cultural center. Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Through January 17. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 10am-4pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11am-5pm. (773)702-0200. (Elizabeth Joyce)

Joanne Trestrail: Piecework
Joanne Trestrail, an alumna of the Hyde Park Art Center’s ceramics classes, brings to the gallery a unique take on form. From a distance her pieces look like rocks, but upon closer inspection, they turn out to be crescendoing multilayered works. These are not stones to dismiss easily. Trestrail’s focus on the fundamental building blocks creates pieces that grow organically, recalling the stratigraphical storytelling of geology. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through January 17. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520. (Tizziana Baldenebro)

Close Encounters
Featuring work by eight artists from New Zealand and Chicago, “Close Encounters” addresses the continuity of tradition in the midst of multicultural exchange. The show is a response to events that occurred at the Field Museum in 2008 surrounding the use of a nineteenth-century Maori marae (meeting house), when the tribe whose ancestors carved the structure requested that it be used as a place of meeting and discussion instead of as a simple exhibition piece. The artists brought together for “Close Encounters” examined that request through their artwork. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through January 24. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520. (Sarah Pickering)

Susan Aurinko curates an exhibit of works by Barbara Crane, who has had over 75 solo exhibitions internationally. A graduate of the IIT Institute of Design, she utilizes the same techniques she developed there over 40 years ago. According to a 2002 interview, her work is a quest to “eradicate previous habits of seeing and thinking.” The resulting abstractions appear simple, but often speak to a complex interaction between form and content. Kemper Room Art Gallery, Paul V. Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology, 35 W. 33rd St. Through February 1. Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm; Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. Free. (312)567-5293. (Sarah Pickering)

The Hyde Park Art Center’s faculty displays a selection of their artwork that deals thematically with the process of memory. The exhibition uses a variety of media, including painting, photography, video, installations, and performance art, in an attempt to express personal experience in retrospect. Fact and fiction collide in these projects, all of which contain multiple layers and histories. An emphasis on process gives a constructive relevance to highly individualized pieces. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through February 14. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520. (Sarah Pickering)

Rastros y Crónicas: The Women of Juarez
The unsolved murders of female factory workers in Ciudad Juárez, a border city in Mexico, are the subject of this powerful and at times personal exhibition. These violent crimes against over four hundred women have been documented for the past twenty-six years. Artists in the show are all women from the United States and Mexico, and their work will be accompanied by a series of discussions and lectures. National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St. Through February 14. Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. (312)738-1503. (Sarah Pickering)