Today In Culture, August 17, 2023: Goodman Into “Garden Of Good And Evil” | Dan Friedman at AIC | Sculpture Milwaukee Changes Leadership

Abstract sculpture with several shapes with different colors and fabrics.

Dan Friedman, “Tornado Fetish,” 1985. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Ken Friedman, 2020

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Art Institute Announces “Dan Friedman: Stay Radical”

The Art Institute of Chicago has announced “Dan Friedman: Stay Radical,” on view from September 2 through February 4, 2024. “This exhibition is the first museum retrospective focused on the extraordinary and underrecognized career of American designer Dan Friedman. The exhibit will feature more than fifty works that showcase Friedman’s unbounded creativity through posters, books, large-scale assemblages, and iconoclastic furniture designs. Drawn primarily from the Art Institute’s collection, this exhibition charts Friedman’s remarkable mid-career transformation from a graphic designer to a multimedia creator whose neon-colored works defy traditional categories. His unconventional style led to diverse collaborations with some of the most prominent artists living in New York City in the early 1980s, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Tseng Kwong Chi.”

Despite early success in the corporate world, “by the late 1970s Friedman became disillusioned with corporate work and immersed himself in the artistic subculture of the East Village. This experience allowed him to explore the full range of his creativity, and begin creating the wild, mixed-media assemblages and customized furniture pieces that became the hallmark of his practice. Friedman’s work blurs the boundaries between art and design, inspired by everyday debris from the streets of New York and diverse references to popular culture, including corporate logos and cartoon characters. During the late 1980s, Friedman became increasingly invested in work addressing the political and social issues of his time, including rapidly evolving technology, environmental pollution and South African apartheid. Building on the Art Institute’s early acquisition of Friedman’s work in 1989, this exhibition represents a timely, wide-ranging examination of a major, yet under-explored figure in twentieth century design whose unbridled practice speaks to stylistic and political directions in art and design today.” More here.

Art Institute Unionized Employees Ratify Contract

“Employees of the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on August 15 ratified their first contract with management following fourteen months of bargaining,” relays Artforum. “Under the four-year agreement, the more than 500 workers, who in January 2022 unionized under the auspices of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, will receive raises of between 12.25 and 16.25 percent, with the lowest-paid workers seeing the greatest gains. The ratification comes just days after staff at New York’s Guggenheim Museum signed their own contract… after nearly two years of bargaining.”

Sculpture Milwaukee Announces Executive Director

Sculpture Milwaukee has named John Riepenhoff its executive director. Now in its seventh year, Sculpture Milwaukee is the annual outdoor exhibition of public sculpture in downtown Milwaukee. Riepenhoff is an internationally renowned artist, curator, and gallerist who lives and works in Milwaukee and is curator for the 2023 Sculpture Milwaukee exhibition “Actual Fractals, Act I.” He’s co-owner of The Green Gallery in Milwaukee, runs The Open Fund and the Beer Endowment. Says Riepenhoff, “I see my leadership role at Sculpture Milwaukee as an opportunity to forward the direction established in the first seven years of our organization, with respect for major currents in art while giving attention to undercurrents and the unexpected, with a focus on underrepresented artists.” More here.


Amazon Slashing Boxes For Products That Come In Boxes

“The retail giant is reducing packaging on millions of deliveries,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Orders are arriving on doorsteps across the U.S. without any extra packaging. A new television may sit in the manufacturer’s box at the door. A blender appears as if it were picked off a store shelf. The same for a box of baby wipes or trash bags.”

Private Planes Pollute The Planet

“Private jets are five to fourteen times more polluting than commercial planes per passenger, and fifty times more polluting than trains,” reports the Guardian. “Research found that fifty-percent of all aviation emissions were caused by one-percent of the world’s population.”


Avec Turns Twenty: The Video

Avec kicks off its twentieth-anniverary year with a brief video at Avec’s Instagram joint. “It’s hard to believe it was twenty years ago this year that we opened the doors to our special spot on West Randolph,” the restaurant posts. “Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite behind the scenes stories from the past two decades, and we’ll also be rolling out some monumental plans for a birthday celebration you won’t want to miss!”

Maple & Ash Founders Accused Of “Misappropriating” Millions In PPP Funds

“Estranged investors in one of Chicago’s most successful restaurants say they have proof the founders of the Maple & Ash steakhouse engaged in ‘rampant misappropriation’ of federal pandemic relief funds and diverted millions of dollars into other accounts,” according to newly unsealed court records obtained by WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times. “The plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Maple & Ash say they gathered ‘smoking gun’ evidence that federal Paycheck Protection Program funds were funneled away from the restaurant for personal use—including more than two million toward the purchase of a Learjet in 2021.”

Whistling Winn-Dixie: Aldi Acquires 400 Stores

Aldi, a popular subject for Chicago columnists of late, “hits the gas on Southeast expansion by acquiring Winn-Dixie [and] Harveys Supermarket,” reports Crain’s. The deal will give Aldi approximately 400 new stores across the Southeast U.S., part of the chain’s plans to expand to over 2,400 stores by the end of 2023.


Linear Television Viewing Drops Below Fifty-Percent

“Broadcast and cable TV dropped to a new low in July 2023 in terms of total share among American viewers—dropping below fifty-percent of total TV usage in the United States for the first time, according to Nielsen,” reports Variety. “Meanwhile, streaming services like YouTube and Netflix accounted for a record 38.7 percent of total U.S. TV usage.”


Iowa Educators Turn To ChatGPT To Ban Books

“Faced with new legislation, Iowa’s Mason City Community School District asked ChatGPT if certain books ‘contain a description or depiction of a sex act,’” reports Popular Science. The district “removed nineteen books from its collection ahead of its quickly approaching 2023-24 academic year. The ban attempts to comply with a new law requiring Iowa school library catalogs to be both ‘age appropriate’ and devoid of ‘descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act.’ Mason City’s Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Bridgette Exman argued it was ‘simply not feasible to read every book and filter for these new requirements.’” The removed volumes include “Killing Mr. Griffin” by Lois Duncan; “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult; “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood; “Beloved” by Toni Morrison; “Looking for Alaska” by John Green; “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini; “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie; “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser; “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker; “Friday Night Lights” by Buzz Bissinger; “Gossip Girl” by Cecily von Ziegesar; and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou.


Growing Community Media Names Editor

The local journalism nonprofit based out of Oak Park that publishes five weekly newspapers (Wednesday Journal, Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Village Free Press) has named veteran editor and reporter Erika Hobbs as its new editor. More here.

State Investigation Begins In Police Raid Of Kansas Newspaper; Items Returned; Newsroom Encryption Encouraged 

“The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has begun a criminal probe of the police raid of a newspaper office last week that has drawn outrage from journalists nationwide who see it as a violation of the First Amendment,” reports the Washington Post. “A lawyer for the Marion County Record expressed optimism about the investigation of a search that its editor decried as ‘Gestapo tactics.’” The police are returning the stuff they took, reports the New York Times. “The Marion County attorney said… there was insufficient evidence to justify the search of The Marion County Record and seizure of its journalists’ equipment.”

Posts Freedom of the Press Foundation, “While this shouldn’t have happened in the first place, we can’t assume law enforcement will always follow the law. However, journalists can take some straightforward steps to better protect newsroom data and to maintain continuity during an emergency.”


Madonna At Sixty-Five

“Madonna turns sixty-five this week. During her forty years in the spotlight, she has been loved and loathed in equal measure. It is safe to say no other artist of her renown stirs such passionate debate,” writes Madonna biographer Mary Gabriel of the “ballsy provocateur from Michigan” in the New York Times. “At the heart of it lies a basic misconception as to who she is. Though she is most often described as such, Madonna is not merely a blinding blue star in a vast celebrity galaxy. She has accomplished what few artists—and even fewer female artists—have done: She has changed the world.” And that influence is lasting: “Madonna is a cultural wrecking ball who has dared to be everything—performer, songwriter, producer, actor, director, children’s book author, muse—at a time when women were encouraged to stick to one lane.”

Recording Industry Comes After Great 78 Project

“For years now, the Internet Archive has offered up its Great 78 Project, in which the Archive, in coordination with other library/archival projects (including the Archive of Contemporary Music and George Blood LP), has been digitizing whatever 78rpm records they could find,” relays Mike Masnick at Techdirt. “78rpm records were some of the earliest musical recordings, and were produced from 1898 through the 1950s when they were replaced by 33 1/3rpm and 45rpm vinyl records.” Most of the 78s were on “shellac, and were fairly brittle, meaning that many old 78s are gone forever. As such there is tremendous value in preserving and protecting old 78s, which is also why many libraries have collections of them. It’s also why those various archival libraries decided to digitize and preserve them. Without such an effort, many of those 78s would disappear.”

Masnick runs through the factors of the lawsuit filed against the Archive by the RIAA, and says “all this really does is demonstrate exactly how broken modern copyright law is. There is no sensible or rationale world in which an effort to preserve culture and make it available to people should be deemed a violation of the law. Especially when that culture is mostly works that the record labels themselves ignored for decades, allowing them to decay and disappear in many instances. To come back now, decades later, and try to kill off library preservation and archival efforts is just an insult to the way culture works.”


Directors Phylicia Rashad And Jess McLeod Join Steppenwolf Season

Steppenwolf Theatre Company has announced that directors Phylicia Rashad and Jess McLeod will join the company’s 2023-24 Season. Rashad will direct the world premiere of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Purpose,” “an epic drama that confronts family, faith and Black American politics,” featuring ensemble members Alana Arenas, Glenn Davis and Jon Michael Hill. McLeod, who served as resident director of “Hamilton” in Chicago, will direct the Chicago premiere of Larissa FastHorse’s” The Thanksgiving Play,” “a skewering comedy about everything in America, featuring ensemble members Audrey Francis and Tim Hopper.”

Goodman Into “Garden Of Good And Evil”

Goodman Theatre artistic director Susan V. Booth has announced a musical for next summer, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” based on John Berendt’s nonfiction bestseller. With a book by MacArthur grantee Taylor Mac and music and lyrics by Tony-winning Jason Robert Brown, the world-premiere production will be directed by Tony Award winner Rob Ashford, with choreography by Tanya Birl and sets by Christopher Oram. Tickets for the June 25-August 4, 2024 run in the 856-seat Albert Theatre are available by Goodman membership here. Individual tickets will go on sale later.

Soprano Renata Scotto Was Eighty-Nine

“Renata Scotto made her U.S. debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1960, followed by 314 appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York from her debut in 1965 to her finale in 1987,” reports the Sun-Times.

Skinny Magazine Sings: Opera News Ends

“Opera News, an eighty-seven-year-old publication focused on the Metropolitan Opera and spotlighting the art form in the U.S., will print its final issue in November and be incorporated into Britain-based Opera magazine,” reports AP. “The Metropolitan Opera Guild, a separate company formed in 1935 by Eleanor Belmont to aid the opera house, will scale back operations and become a supporting organization of the Met.”


Rahm At Length On “Freakanomics Radio” Podcast

“You’re asking an Emanuel to slow down?” is one of U. S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel’s first sallies this week on the “Freakanomics Radio” podcast. He tells host Stephen Dubner, “There are three C’s in the last three years that have changed the world—COVID, the conflict in Europe and the coercion by China. And all three of those have upended every assumption we’ve had for the last thirty years,” he says. Of the present day? “We have ugly periods, but in those same periods of ugliness, we’ve had leaders—not just Presidents, leaders—who grasp the better angels, and pull us into a better place. And that is, you know, what we need from all of us. And I do mean our leaders, because it can inspire us to better places.”

“My strength is I read a ton. I try to think of everything in three-dimensional chess from a political standpoint, a policy standpoint, a public communication standpoint. Prioritize. Very impatient trying to get it done, trying to make sure that it has an impact, etcetera. I’m quick to judgment. That’s both good and, probably more times, bad. Always open and exposed to not a limited amount of people, but constantly taking in information. That has many, many weaknesses and it comes off imperious at times, and it comes off as intolerant at times.” Pressed for political plans, Emanuel practices his parry. “I know a lot about arrogance. I deal with it every day. But it’s not the total character.”

Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest This Weekend

The twenty-second annual Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest is this weekend, featuring over 120 artists, two food courts, interactive art demonstrations and over thirty performances headlined by Funkadesi, Lucy Smith Quartet, Whiskey for Jesus, Son Monarcas and Rogers Park’s very own Urban Rhythm Band. Musical performances on Friday, August 18, 6pm-9pm. Full festival on Saturday, August 19, 11am-9pm, and Sunday, August 20, 11am-7pm. More here.

More Student Debt Cancelled

“Starting Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal student loan borrowers received emails from their services with the subject line ‘Your student loans have been forgiven,’” reports ABC News. “The notices came as part of the Biden administration’s previously announced efforts to cancel debt for 804,000 borrowers who qualify for relief under their repayment plans but haven’t yet received it because of what officials have called administrative failures.”

Shooter Kyle Rittenhouse Set Up As Major Texas GOP Player

Kyle Rittenhouse has launched a nonprofit with extreme-right Texans, reports the Texas Tribune. He “has created the Rittenhouse Foundation, which promises to fight for gun rights and includes leaders who have close ties to ultraconservative megadonors from West Texas… Rittenhouse moved to Texas last year after being acquitted of homicide charges in the fatal shooting of two people at a 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He’s since steadily ramped up his political involvement in Texas, often railing against the media, ‘cancel culture’ and gun control groups.”

Supreme Court To Consider End To Rent Controls; Lift Of Illinois Ban On Rent Control Proposed

“Billionaire real estate interests and conservative megadonors with ties to Supreme Court justices want the high court to end rent stabilization,” reports The Lever. “Corporate lobbyists and conservative groups with ties to two of the justices’ billionaire benefactors are pushing the Supreme Court to let landlords hike rents… At issue is a petition from two landlord lobbying groups asking the high court to overturn New York City’s rent stabilization law, which has been on the books since 1969 and limits annual rent increases for more than one million units in the city—nearly half of all rentals… A housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society, an anti-poverty organization in New York, said if the Supreme Court were to overturn the rent stabilization law, ‘It’s the end of New York City.’”

In Illinois, newsletters Marcus Gilmer at Crain’s, The Lift the Ban Coalition has announced the Let the People Lift the Ban Act (HB 4104). “If enacted, municipalities would be able to put the matter before voters, allowing them to choose whether to exit the state’s blanket ban… The coalition said of the state’s current housing situation: ‘With pandemic-related rent relief funds drying up and eviction moratoriums sunsetting, Illinois is spiraling back into a housing affordability crisis. Nearly half (48.1 percent) of Illinois renters are rent burdened under federal standards, paying more than a third of their income on rent. Evictions have reached pre-pandemic levels and are rising.’” The bill would “put power in the hands of everyday Illinois residents who have been disenfranchised to lift the ban on rent control.”

Arkansas Rejects AP African American Studies As “Prohibited Topics”

“The Arkansas Department of Education abruptly rejected AP African American Studies, saying the course may violate Arkansas law,” reports Popular Information. “The department encourages the teaching of all American history and supports rigorous courses not based on opinions or indoctrination,” the director of communications for the Arkansas DOE said. “The course may violate a new Arkansas law regarding ‘prohibited topics’ in public schools… The Arkansas DOE did not explain what in the AP African American Studies course constitutes prohibited indoctrination.”

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