Elmhurst Art Museum Exhibit Offers Escape From Winter Darkness

Monika Wulfers (Credit: Elmhurst Art Museum)
Monika Wulfers (Credit: Elmhurst Art Museum)

Source: Elmhurst Art Museum

A vibrant exhibition of contemporary art that is all about light and place, SpotLight, is now on view through April 27 at Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 S. Cottage Hill. the exhibit offers an escape from seasonal darkness. 

The light-based sculptures, installations and videos in SpotLight transform something ephemeral and commonplace into poetic statements about memory, perception, technology and the built environment.

For the 10 artists in SpotLight, LED lights, laser levels, light boxes and neon bulbs serve as sculptural material for some, while others record or recreate the light conditions of a particular place or time. Artists Paola Cabal, Dana Major and Monika Wulfers produced immersive, site-specific installations around the building, taking advantage of the museum's floor-to-ceiling windows, large public spaces and the galleries' high ceilings. SpotLight also features recent work by Dana Carter, Spencer Finch, Daniel Miller, Jeroen Nelemans, Jason Peot, Morgan Sims and Jan Tichy. 

SpotLight is curated by EAM Chief Curator Staci Boris and is accompanied by a rich array of public programs, listed below. 

About the Artists

  • Born in Bogota, Colombia, Paola Cabal lives and works in Chicago. For EAM, she produced a site-specific, 60 foot-long wall and floor "intervention" titled Winter Azimuth that continues her exploration of the play of sunlight on and through built structures. Paola currently teaches at DePaul University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received an MFA in 2003. Her work has been included in numerous exhibitions around Chicago, and she is also part of the collaborative (f)utility projects.
  • Chicago-based artist Dana Carter appreciates light for its instability, intangibility and metaphoric possibilities. Much of her work is based on staged situations that incorporate light as it passes through different materials and thresholds. Dana teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies. She recently had a solo exhibition at MassArt, Boston, and was included in an exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center. 
  • Brooklyn-based artist Spencer Finch produces work that explores memory and perception. His light installations, watercolors and photographs have been shown in museums and galleries around the world. His work is in the collections of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, among others. Spencer received a degree in comparative literature from Hamilton College and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. He is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.    
  • Dana Major's multi-media work explores how perception creates reality, and her installations, performances and fabrications frequently involve optical illusion, LED technology and phenomena of light. For EAM she created a site-specific Shadow Matrix, an immersive, interactive installation using wire, LEDs and shadows. Dana lives in Evanston and received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011, as well as a BA in Philosophy and English from DePaul University. Dana recently produced new installations at Governors State University Art Gallery in Chicago and Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston.
  • Daniel Miller is a Chicago-based artist who uses an array of technologies, integrating code and mechanical form to investigate space, ecology and the contemporary landscape. He has taught for 15 years and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Art and Technology Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dan received his MFA in Time Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1997. 
  • Jeroen Nelemans was born in the Netherlands and lives in Chicago. He works in a variety of media and is interested in the construction and perception of images, especially how digital images can be manipulated. His recent shows include the Mission Gallery in Chicago, the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Nelemans received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007.
  • Jason Peot lives in Elmhurst and is a Professor of Art at Harper College. His installations, objects, and photographs explore light, form, space and material, and he is debuting a new work in SpotLight. In addition to a solo exhibition at EAM in 2003, Jason has had one-person exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center and Linda Warren Gallery, among others. His work is included in numerous private and public collections in Chicago, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, EAM and McCormick Place. Jason received an MFA in sculpture from Northern Illinois University in 1997.
  • Morgan Sims lives and works in Chicago but will temporarily be moving out west to be a visiting professor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. For SpotLight, Morgan's 7-foot-tall neon sculpture, Rocket, was installed in EAM's McCormick House. Composed of gridded planes of neon tubes, Rocket's repeated geometric forms echo Mies' design while also adding vibrant color to the neutral palette of the interior. Morgan received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2010, and his BFA from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 2004. He currently teaches at Harold Washington College and Spudnik Press in Chicago. His work has been shown nationally, recently in a solo exhibition at Bert Green Fine Art, Chicago.
  • Born in Prague, Jan Tichy studied art in Israel before earning his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he now is adjunct professor in the Department of Art and Technology Studies. Often exploring issues of power, Jan's work combines video, sculpture, architecture, sound and photography, and he is known for his use of video projection as a time-based source of light. Jan is particularly interested in the history of modernism and has been influenced and inspired by the light-based work of László Moholy-Nagy as well as the architecture of Mies van der Rohe, whose S.R. Crown Hall was the site of one of his projects. He has had solo exhibitions at the MCA, Chicago; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago; the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art; CCA Tel Aviv; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; and Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, among others. 
  • Monika Wulfers is a Berlin-born artist who lives and works in Chicago. As a resident artist at Argonne National Laboratory from 1975 until 1982, Monika developed a significant body of work in computer art. Since then, her oeuvre has included video, digital photography, light installations and paintings. For SpotLight, Monika produced a large-scale, site-specific light installation composed of white neon tubes in EAM's glass-enclosed Hostetler Gallery. The sculpture will be visible from outside and will illuminate the Museum at night. Monika received a BA in Philosophy from North Central College and an MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Free programs

Friday Night Artist Talks

Jan. 31, 6:30 p.m.
Artist Talk: Jeroen Nelemans: Jeroen Nelemans' work exploring light is influenced by his Dutch heritage. For SpotLight he remakes images by artists Piet Mondrian and Johannes Vermeer using laser levels and digital collaging, investigating the "lifespan" of an image and contemporary notions of seeing.
Feb. 21, 6:30 p.m.
Artist Talk: Jason Peot: Elmhurst-based artist Jason Peot inserts geographic content into sculptural installations of light and wood. While their complex shadows reference population densities of U.S. cities, they also encourage a new awareness of space.  

March 14, 6:30 p.m.
Artist Talk: Dana Carter: Using the windows of her studio space, natural light, and art materials, Dana Carter stages "light events" that take form in a variety of media. Both observer and maker, Carter engages in various rituals that alter the light and shadow of her environment.

April 4, 6:30 p.m.
Artist Talk: Daniel Miller: Daniel Miller uses an array of technologies, integrating code and mechanical form, to investigate space, ecology, and the contemporary landscape. His domed scale model of Chicago simulates the full rotation of the sun and moon, demonstrating the shifting effects of light and darkness on the city.

April 25, 6:30 p.m.
Artist Talk: Jan Tichy: Jan Tichy explores contemporary sites and photographic histories through his innovative use of light-based media. He will discuss the influence of modernist László Moholy-Nagy on his practice, his projections at Mies' S.R. Crown Hall, and his collaborative, public art installation Project Cabrini Green.

Free Events, Workshops for Families and Kids

Saturday, Jan. 25, 10:45 a.m.

SpotLight Storytime

Ages 3 - 6 with adult

Come as a family to enjoy stories and a craft featuring the beauty of light and color. Librarians from Elmhurst Public Library will share fun tales, music, and action rhymes to help celebrate EAM's new exhibition. 

Saturday, Feb. 1, 10:30 a.m.

Shadow Puppet Workshop with Artist Dana Major

All Ages with Adult

Make shadow magic! Giants from miniatures! Dark from light! Put your magic in the movies! Exhibiting artist Dana Major will guide participants to fashion shadow puppets from paper and simple construction materials. Adventuresome puppeteers can make their own shadow scenery and record 2-minute movie shorts on a shadow screen using their own devices.

Saturday, Feb. 22, 10:30 a.m.

Family Workshop with Artist Monika Wulfers

Ages 5 and up with adult

This workshop, inspired by the artist's own work, will keep your brain limber and your neurons firing as you explore the intersection of math and art. Learn about grids, lines, and points, and how you use number values to make a drawing.

Friday, March 7, 6:30 p.m.

Book Discussion: Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day by Diane Ackerman

Read celebrated storyteller-poet-naturalist Diane Ackerman's exploration of a year of dawns across the seasons, from bird and animal behavior, to the light of dawn, and dawn rituals across the world. Discussion led by Elmhurst Public Library (EPL) staff and held in the McCormick House. Books available at Elmhurst Public Library.

Saturday, March 8, 10:30 a.m.

Tracing Cast Shadows Workshop with Artist Paola Cabal

Age 6-12

This workshop will encourage young artists to look closely at the interaction between light and the objects it hits. Participants will use clamp lights, colored papers, and dark and light media to trace cast shadows, studying how light passes around solid objects like our bodies and through transparent materials like glass or plastic.

Friday, March 21, 4-5 p.m.

Book Party!

Grades 1-3


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