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KIRSTEN LEENAARS


Joann Podkul by Kirsten Leenaars, 2022

A Lion for Every House opens on Saturday, June 11th, at the Art Institute Chicago. The opening is from 11am-2pm at the museum.

Michigan Avenue Entrance

111 South Michigan Avenue

Chicago, Illinois 60603

Exhibition run: Jun 16–Oct 17, 2022


The Chicago art collective Floating Museum—co-directed by Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, Faheem Majeed, Andrew Schachman, and avery r. young—uses art to explore relationships among community, architecture, and public institutions. For this project, the Art Institute invited the collective to mine the museum’s photography collection as the starting point for a new site-specific installation—one that further connects the museum to the communities it serves and aims to assemble a new community in the galleries.


Floating Museum, along with three curators in Photography and Media at the Art Institute—Grace Deveney, Elizabeth Siegel, and Matthew Witkovsky—extended invitations to 10 photographers and paired them with 10 local “hosts”—political leaders, activists, and arts supporters in the city. In a series of Zoom conversations, Floating Museum talked extensively with each host about their lives and experiences. Each host was asked to choose one of three photographs from the Art Institute’s collection, and a copy of that work was sent to the host to display in a place they had designated as “home.” Each photographer made a portrait of their host with their chosen work in that home setting. Finally, Floating Museum incorporated each new photograph into a lightbox sculpture further illuminated by domestic lighting. A Lion for Every House brings together all of these components in the Art Institute’s galleries: the 30 original photographs from the collection, including the 10 ultimately selected by each host; the new photographs taken of the hosts and their selected work; and the sculptural installation inspired by the entire process.



Installation view A Lion for Every House at the Art Institute of Chicago, 2022


The exhibition takes its title from Sonia Sanchez’s epic poem, Does Your House Have Lions? In Sanchez’s telling, lions stand in for the people and things that protect a family and a home; at the Art Institute, they famously guard the entrance to a vast repository of artworks held for public benefit. By creating a circuit in which copies of museum objects move to other homes, are reproduced and transformed in those settings, and then return to the galleries and inspire new work, the exhibition explores how the walls between institutional, civic, domestic, and community spaces can become more porous. It also invites us to consider the power of collective and collaborative work and to reflect on what it means for an institution and a community to be generous and accessible.


“A lion for every house” is curated by Matthew S Witkovsky, Elizabeth Siegel and Grace D Deveney.


A huge thank you to the photographers who worked with us on this project and our hosts who opened their homes:

Photographers:

Sulyiman

Jonathan Castillo

Kirsten Leenaars

Nicole Harrison

Vidura Bahadur

Monica Boutwell

Tonika Johnson

Darryl DeAngelo Terrell

Guanyu Xu

Leonard Suryajaya


Hosts:

Serge JC Pierre-Louis

Maria & Roman Villarreal

Joann Podkul Murphy

Levette Haynes

Shireen & Afzal Ahmad

Heather Miller

Erika Allen

Curtis J. Tarver II

Alaka Wali

Stephanie Harris


Till My Feet Hit the Warm Concrete: Letters from Young People Incarcerated, a publication by Kirsten Leenaars and Circles&Ciphers. Design: Sonia Yoon.


A Letter to the City: “jail is not my home”, the second project of collaborators artist Kirsten Leenaars and restorative justice organization Circles&Ciphers started with an open call for letters from individuals who are currently incarcerated in Cook County Jail (Chicago). They received 46 letters, and each letter writer was compensated for their creative efforts. Leenaars and Circles & Ciphers then collaborated closely with 15 selected letter writers to create a documentary video piece.


Weaving their deeply personal stories through performative actions and image making, the video asks the viewer to reflect on the ways the prison-industrial complex affects individuals, families, communities and a city. Footage includes excerpts from the letters displayed on walls, buildings and street surfaces throughout different neighborhoods in Chicago identified by the letter writers as their home communities; interviews with community members responding to the letters’ text; recorded audio of the letter writers reading their own letters over the phone while calling from Cook County Jail; a performance by Circles & Ciphers youth of freestyle ‘serenades’ in front of the jail; and an airplane flying over Cook Country Jail with a banner featuring the phrase excerpted from one of the letters: jail is not my home. All these moments are documented and are edited together as a letter to the city, amplifying and echoing the deeply personal stories and experiences of young people that are often marginalized in this society.


In addition to the documentary, Leenaars and Circles & Ciphers produced the publication Till My Feet Hit the Warm Concrete: Letters from Young People Incarcerated, which includes all 46 letters they received. The letters contain poems, hip-hop verses, personal stories and philosophical reflections on the notion of freedom within the context of America. The publication is an important element of their project because it fully represents the multitude of experiences and perspectives that were expressed in the letters. It also serves as an educational tool, as it highlights restorative justice practices and inspires readers to imagine alternative models to the current criminal justice system while providing concrete ways that readers can become active contributors to this conversation.


The publication is designed by Sonia Yoon and was made possible with support of the DCASE Artist Response Grant (2021) and with support of the Embassy of The Netherlands in DC.


Link to video excerpt documentary: A Letter to the City: “jail is not my home”






Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Opening: Friday, April 15th, 6pm – 9pm.

Open hours Saturday, April 16th, 10am – 5pm.

Design Museum of Chicago, 72 E. Randolph, Chicago, 60601


Industry of the Ordinary have invited 100 Chicago-based artists to reflect on our shared experience of the last two years. This brief show will bring together a significant cross-section of the city’s creative community for a unique event.

Each artist was given the following text:

‘As we continue to emerge from the initial period of global upheaval, we find ourselves in a liminal space – a transitory, in-between state of indeterminacy and ambiguity. We are neither in nor out of the pandemic and exist as a binary condition; a superimposed state of being. A sense of being in a waiting room with no windows’.


The artists

Alberto Aguilar • Candida Alvarez • Tim Anderson • Julia Arredondo • Claire Ashley • Aimée Beaubien • Jonas N. T. Becker • Iris Bernblum • George Blaha • Larry Bookbinder • Meghan Borah • Whitney Bradshaw • Phyllis Bramson • Stephanie Brooks • Judith Brotman • Jared Brown • Ivan Brunetti • Robert Burnier • Tom Burtonwood/Holly Holmes • Paola Cabal • Patty Carroll • Jonathan Michael Castillo • Juan Angel Chavez • Andrea Coleman • Kelli Connell/Natalie Krick • Andi Crist • Paul D’Amato • Karen Dana Cohen • Cass Davis • Design As Protest Collective • Denenge • Documents Bureau (Georgina Valverde, Matthew A. Stone, Marcos Herrera, with Dud Lawson and K. James Henderson of Depression Press Mfg. & Ink, Inc.) • Jeanne Dunning • Vanessa Filley • Tony Fitzpatrick • Lora Fosberg • Dianna Frid • Dawn Gavin • Beate Geissler/Oliver Sann • Aron Gent • Joan Giroux • Matthew Girson • Corinne Halbert • Anne Harris • EJ Hill • Cody Hudson • Sam Jaffe • James Jankowiak • Kelly Kristin Jones • Janis Kanter • Mariah Karson • Barbara Kasten • Chris Kerr • Laura Kina • Kierah / KIKI King • Katinka Kleijn • Anna Kunz • Jessica Labatte • Jin Lee • Kirsten Leenaars • Riva Lehrer • Carron Little • Jorge Lucero • Duncan MacKenzie/Christian Kuras • Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle • SaraNoa Mark • Nathan Mason • Yvette Mayorga • Cecil McDonald, Jr. • Amy Mooney • Paul Nudd • Betsy Odom • Nate Otto • Debra Parr • Erin Peisert • Kim Piotrowski • Pooja Pittie • Melissa H. Potter • Public Collectors • Joseph Ravens • Monica Rezman • Caitlin Ryan • Cristal Sabbagh • Jason Salavon • Carlos Salazar-Lermont • Kathie Shaw • Deb Sokolow • Edra Soto • Amanda Taves • Nora Taylor • Tom Torluemke • Selina Trepp • Tricia van Eck • Amy Vogel • Philip von Zweck • Julie Weber • Frances Whitehead • Julian Williams • Jay Wolke • Sarah Beth Woods/Małgorzata Markiewicz • Derrick Woods-Morrow • Victor Yañez-Lazcano

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