Art exhibit explores current political heat


Courtesy Orly Telisman

Anna Elise Johnson used multiple mediums to create her artwork entitled “Two Suits.” The work will be featured in the politically inspired exhibit “Sapphire” at the Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 300 W. Superior St., opening Oct. 7.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

A new multimedia exhibit curated to bring attention to social issues in this year’s presidential election will open Oct. 7, just as Election Day looms over registered voters.

“Sapphire” will be displayed at The Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 300 W. Superior St., and will run until America’s next president is inaugurated in 2017. The exhibit is supported by Common Cause Illinois, a group promoting government accountability, and follows in the footsteps of works such as artist Illma Gore’s  infamous nude painting of Donald Trump worth $1.4 million.

The exhibit will feature new works from Anna Elise Johnson, Deb Sokolow and Jason Pallas. Artist Danh Vō will contribute his  2010 piece entitled “Pao Soft,” which depicts a gold leaf affixed to the United States flag. 

Displaying collages, paintings and drawings, the exhibit will include pieces on civic engagement, statements of power, and political protests. 

Nabiha Khan, curator of the exhibit, said the artists collaborated with professionals from different fields to ensure their work was informed and researched.

“All the works are civically engaged and touch on a lot of different topics within democracy,” Khan said.

Trevor Gervais, leading coordinator at Common Cause Illinois, said the nonprofit partnership will allow the organization to connect with a new audience. Gervais added that having perspective on the election and knowing personal voting rights are important, as well as understanding how money plays a part in politics.

Deb Sokolow, a Chicago-based artist, used the story of cult-leader Jim Jones to question people in power, specifically in politics.  Her piece “Some concerns about the candidate” is partially fiction and heavily text-driven. She will be contributing two new works to the exhibit including “Back Hallways,” which will have undertones of the current presidential election.  

“Every time you have presidential candidates in a debate vying to have the most difficult job in the world, you have to question [if they are] delusional,” Sokolow said. 

Pallas’ art will feature two gold-monochrome wall-works that audiences can scratch at with coins or other objects. Once the ink is scratched away, the images of important political protests, such as the March on Washington, are revealed. 

“We’re conjuring [the] spirits [of the marchers] forward to figure out how those past incarnations might be relevant to our contemporary situation,” Pallas said. 

Anna Elise Johnson’s works will take on that same contemporary topic on a wider scale. Johnson, who is now based in Los Angeles, will have multiple pieces in the exhibit, including acrylic collages made up of objects found in an office. On opening night, Johnson will perform a dance in which she will move her body with a projection of politicians’ hand gestures on a screen.

Gervais said he hopes the exhibit will attract more student voters. In 2014, America saw the lowest reported voter turnout since World War II, according to a Sept. 27 Washington Post article.

“Hopefully, by presenting [discussions of democracy] in a new way,  will be a great opportunity for students to become more involved in the [election],” Gervais said.