THE BLOG

North and South: Strong Exhibits

01/18/2013 04:12 pm ET | Updated Mar 20, 2013

There's something about January. For the second year in a row, I'm seeing outstanding exhibits when one might not expect any.

Terry Adkins, at the Block Museum in Evanston, playfully and provocatively tweaks our collective consciousness in his examination of African-American Culture and its history. This blockbuster exhibit soars on many levels. The first prerequisite for great art is that it stand on its own without the necessity of wall-labels or explanations. A second is that there's enough substance to enable the viewer to feel stimulated and wanting more. Terry Adkins delivers. Remote facets of major historical figures are examined and writ large, revealing insights, educating, provoking, inspiring and humoring. Jimi Hendrix was in the service. John Brown prevails and maybe, just maybe, Beethoven was a Moor.

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On the South side, at the Hyde Park Art Center, Tom Torluemke has created a 170 foot wide mural / installation delving into life and death in the city, the mix of urban decay and societal ambition. Torluemke is a modern day Thomas Hart Benton. With a driving Midwestern aesthetic, he is familiar with, but ignores coastal trends, and focuses on the solidity and depth of his own experiences and perceptions. This makes him a powerful artist, and perhaps like Benton, one whose significant acknowledgement might not come until later.

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Torluemke's exhibit opens Sunday afternoon. Adkins' opened a week ago.

Thanks very much,
Paul Klein