Invoking the Absence, Elks National Veterans Memorial

“Review: Chicago Sculpture International/Elks National Veterans Memorial”
New City

Written by Chris Miller on June 6, 2014


Terrence Karpowicz. “How Soon We Forget,” steel/Photo: Jyoti Srivastava
The rotunda of the Elks Veterans Memorial may not be the best place to display sculpture. Whatever light filters down from the windows high up in the dome is not enough to bring the forms, colors and textures of sculptural surfaces to life. The only spotlights are those that illuminate the dramatic, though fatigued, figure sculpture of James Earle Fraser (1876-1953) permanently installed in a niche within the surrounding wall. As it echoes the dome above it, the monumental mushroom-shaped, bent-wood construction by Terrence Karpowicz is the only piece in the Chicago Sculpture International 2014 Biennial Exhibition that seems to belong in this dim, enormous space. And as with all the other sculptures in metal, glass or even 3-D printed resin, the artist’s craftsmanship is the first thing that you notice. Craftsmanship, rather than any kind of shared aesthetic or philosophy, seems to be what defines the organization to which these sculptors belong.


Dusty Folwarczny. “Hug,” salvaged steel, bolts (photo by Jyoti Srivastava)
The sculptural and pictorial program on the surrounding walls of the Memorial puts this exhibition of contemporary sculpture into an historical context. There isn’t much enthusiasm any more for the generic idealism of themes like “Brotherhood,” “Charity” and “Fidelity,” which in the Memorial feels as shallow as the op-ed section of a daily tabloid. Today, it’s every mind for itself, which isn’t necessarily any better. Most of the CSI sculptures feel cute, clever and well made enough to attract attention to themselves but not to anything greater. They don’t really enhance each other. Ironically, they do succeed at “Invoking the Absence,” the title given by the curator to this exhibition. But if these artworks were better lit—and shown within retrospectives of each individual artist—they might turn out to be far more compelling situated into stories of the creative minds that made them.

Through October 26 at the Elks National Veterans Memorial, 2750 North Lakeview.


“Modern Sculpture in an Old-Fashioned Setting; Free Art Show Invites Fresh Look at Civic Gem”

Chicago Tonight, WTTW

Written by Marc Vitali on May 21, 2014

An 88 year-old war memorial has a new function: it’s the stunning backdrop to the Spring Show of Chicago Sculpture International, an organization that supports Chicago sculptors.

Located at the corner of Diversey and Lakeview, the National Elks Memorial recently reopened to the public, and the spiffy interior of this domed building has been completely rejuvenated.

The memorial rotunda was built in 1926 to honor the sacrifice of American veterans. It’s hard to believe that this Beaux Arts-style building has never hosted an art exhibit. Maybe that’s because the building itself is a work of art, with statues and murals and incredible attention to decorative detail.

The new show is called Invoking the Absence and examines artists’ notion of presence and emptiness. It was curated by Lucas Cowan, who did the marvelous Morbid Curiosity show at the Chicago Cultural Center a couple of years ago and curated large-scale public exhibitions in Millennium Park, including the work of Mark di Suvero.

This exhibition features strong and diverse work from 22 sculptors, including Eric Stephenson, who works as a studio assistant to the internationally acclaimed Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt. There’s also striking work from Terry Karpowicz and Dominic Sansone, and Laurie LeBreton’s odd figures multiply like rabbits around a marble fireplace.

If there’s any downside to having an art show in such a powerful place, it’s the dominating effect of the building itself. It’s easy to look past some of the artwork and behold the marvelous domed ceiling overhead. But once your eyes adjust to the scale, there’s much to see and enjoy closer to the ground.

The exhibition is open through October 26 at  2750 N. Lakeview Avenue but note building's very specific hours: Monday through Saturday, 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.



Libbie Beaudet