Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art has taken on the daunting goal of recalibrating recent art history by calling attention to seminal contemporary artists that may have been overlooked by the predominantly white male dominated contemporary art establishment. The latest installment to this investment in art history is the newly opened Laurie Simmons retrospective entitled Big Camera, Little Camera after a photo she took in the 1970’s, which is included in this exhibition. Taking over most of the 4th floor, the exhibition features 200 works culled from thousands of works of art created by Simmons in her over 40 year career as an artist The exhibition is a compelling look at the evolution of an important though perhaps not well known visionary. The MCA gift store also features merchandise created with the artist specifically for this show.
The exhibition begins with early work: portraits of her New York friends shot against wallpaper she had hung specifically as a backdrop: the tentative beginning of her set building process, creating environments for her vision to take place. Her concerns include examining gender roles and expectations, commercialism, the rise of American consumer culture, what is and is not real through dolls including ventriloquist puppets, and life sized sex dolls. Simmons worked in color photography (color is very important to her) before color photography was considered “ art” because all serious artists worked in Black and White. There is a self-conscious archness to her work, as well as an activism as she deconstructs fashion photography or creates vignettes with tiny dollhouse figures, or creates an immense mural photo of intensely colored plastic household goods to comment on our consumerism. Simmons has branched out also into filmmaking and has brought some of her early work to life as it were by creating objects human sized and filming with surrealistic plots, as in her movie The Music of Regret, starring Meryl Streep and some of the objects with human legs you see in midcareer works. The films are playing in one area of the exhibition, and there will be screenings and discussions. This is an exhibition that will make you laugh and make you think. Take some young folks with you to normalize seeing a major retrospective by women artists. Laurie Simmons Big Camera, Little Camera runs through May 5th.at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art at 220 East Chicago Avenue. Anyone stating to the ticket booth that they have been affected by the Gender Pay Gap will only have to pay 81% of the admission fee, to atone for the fact that women only make 81% of what men do for the same job. For more information, exact gallery hours, additional events, go to https://www.mcachicago.org/Exhibitions/2019/Laurie-Simmons-Big-Camera-Little-Camera