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Past Exhibits

Past Exhibits

Who Represents Us?

Andy Warhol memorialized luminaries of modern Jewish culture in a series he titled "Ten Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century." Today, as we think about Jewish identity through a multi-cultural, twenty-first-century lens, do these Jews represent us? Who does?

From Here to There

Four contemporary artists—Linda Robinson Gordon, Ellen Holtzblatt, Lilach Schrag, and Michelle Stone—explore the relationship between the physical and spiritual. Works include drawings, paintings, sculptures, and videos.

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

This exhibition showcased original illustrations, influences, and artwork from New Yorker cartoonist Ken Krimstein’s page-turning graphic biography of Hannah Arendt, cited as one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century.

Todros Geller: Strange Worlds

This exhibition showcased more than 30 works, the majority for the first time, by artist Todros Geller, an influential WPA-era Chicago artist who was central to the history of modern American Jewish art. Presented in conjunction with Art Design Chicago.

Inquiry 01: Chicago Jewish Artists Fellowship Exhibition

Presented work by Nelly Agassi, Leslie Baum, Iris Bernblum, Dianna Frid, Matthew Girson, Jesse Malmed, Geof Oppenheimer, Roni Packer, and Rana Siegel.

Ellen Rothenberg

Spertus Institute presented a commissioned, site-specific installation by Chicago-based artist Ellen Rothenberg, organized by Ionit Behar, Spertus Institute's Curator of Collections and Exhibitions.

Outside Inside

Spertus Institute displayed works created by the second cohort of the Midwest Jewish Artists Lab. This year-long initiative brought together twelve distinguished local artists for workshops, study, and critiques.

Ben Shahn: If Not Now, When?

This exhibition showcased 30 works from the Spertus Institute Collection by artist and activist Ben Shahn. Through his career, Shahn worked to expose injustice and inspire social change.

Voices of Wisdom in the Ground Level Arts Lab

This Ground Level Arts Lab exhibition showcased new works created by Spertus Institute's inaugural cohort of the Midwest Jewish Artists Lab, which brought together 12 local artists for workshops, study, and critiques.

From Maxwell Street to Milwaukee Avenue

Howard Schwartz (shown below in his studio) is both an accomplished artist and an avid family historian. He combines the past and the present in mixed media portraits inspired by his family story, a story that, like that of many Chicago families, begins its American chapter...

A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York

Talented young Brooklyn-based cartoonist Liana Finck has brought these letters to life in her book, A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York. Spertus Institute is pleased to present a selection of her illustrations, sketches, and etchings.

Amy Reichert: Reinventing Judaica

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership was pleased to present this debut exhibit of work by local architect and designer Amy Reichert.

Scots Jews: Identity, Belonging and the Future

Award-winning documentary photographer Judah Passow spent a year photographing Scotland’s Jewish community, producing a portrait that captures the complexity and diversity of the Scottish Jewish life at the beginning of the 21st century.

Collecting Local

This exhibit featured a monumental abstract painting by a young refugee from Danzig who went on to become the doyenne of the Chicago art scene, a whimsical papercut ketubbah with some very unconventional imagery, pendant portraits of two of Chicago’s earliest Jewish settlers, among much more.

All Around the House

Spertus Institute was honored to present a pair of large-scale photographs by Jay Wolke. These images, from his landmark study of Chicago Jewry, offer vivid windows into age-old traditions reenacted in a uniquely American context.

Woof and Drash: Weaving the Jewish Experience

Berit Engen began weaving as a child in Norway, and now practices this ancient craft of entwining woof (horizontal threads) with warp (vertical threads) from her home in Oak Park, Illinois.

Voices & Visions™

In a series of 18 striking images, the words of Jewish luminaries from Maimonides to Susan Sontag were interpreted by renowned artists and designers including Milton Glaser, Carin Goldberg, Seymour Chwast, and Chicago's Art Paul.

Shalom Chicago

Presented in collaboration with Spertus Institute, Shalom Chicago is an exhibit at the Chicago History Museum about the city’s Jewish community.

Tales, Myths, and Nightmares

In Tales, Myths, and Nightmares, Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern introduced a cast of characters he called “irreducible,” like the spare style and primary colors he uses to set his scenes. His paintings personify fragile survivors who represent the struggle and strength of the Jewish experience.

Hassidic Courts

As a photojournalist for the Reuters news agency, Gil Cohen-Magen was assigned in 2001 to take pictures of Jewish new year’s customs in Mea Shearim, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Jerusalem and a longtime enclave for the Haredi or ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Uncovered & Rediscovered

Uncovered & Rediscovered was an evolving exhibit that explored the Chicago Jewish experience. The exhibit unfolded over time in a series of intimate chapters (each on display for 3 to 6 months in the ground floor vestibule of the Spertus building).

What Does It Say to You?

What Does It Say to You? borrowed its title from a classic museum scene in Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. This exhibit was conceived to deepen the conversation between Spertus and its audiences by soliciting responses to its content.

A Force for Change

A Force for Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund was the first exhibit to explore the legacy of the Julius Rosenwald Fund created by the Chicago businessman and philanthropist to foster black leadership through the arts, literature, and scholarship.

Twisted Into Recognition

Twisted Into Recognition: Clichés of Jews and Others explored the ways images and objects that depict stereotypes are seen, perceived, and classified.

The RedBall Project

On September 3, the new Spertus building was a site for artist Kurt Perschke's RedBall Project, an ongoing, mobile sculptural performance that has taken place in such locations as Busan, Barcelona, and Sydney.

Imaginary Coordinates

Imaginary Coordinates was inspired by antique maps of the Holy Land in Spertus’ collection. The exhibition juxtaposed these maps with modern and contemporary maps of this region, all of which assert boundaries.

The New Authentics: Artists of the Post-Jewish Generation

“The New Authentics” are 21st-century American Jews. Free to choose their affiliations, they are Jewish culturally, religiously, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, partially, biologically, or invisibly.

The Language Barrier

While the new Spertus building was being built, a showcase was created on the 50-foot-long Michigan Avenue barricade of the construction site for the site-specific work of leading contemporary artists who consider compelling questions about culture, identity, and religion.