edited by Rebecca Zorach and Marissa H. Baker. University of Chicago, David & Alfred Smart Museum, November 2018. 215 p. ill. ISBN 9780935573589 (pbk), $35.00.
Reviewed January 2019
Chicago’s South Side has always been a center for creative practice. The Time is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side, 1960-1980 focuses on the artistic, political, and social moments during this time and recasts these narratives in conversation with contemporary issues such as protest, race relations, and identity. The catalog focuses on African American artists in and outside of the Black Arts Movement, including, but not limited to, Black Creativity, AfriCOBRA, Afrofuturism, and even the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at the Smart Museum of Art, the catalog begins with a timeline starting in the 1930s that gives the reader context for both the landscape of the South Side of Chicago and the events that shaped the historical, political, and economic reality of this time period for African Americans. This approach speaks to the intended audience, which is wide, and could include anyone seeking to learn more about the South Side's art worlds as well as seasoned scholars interested in the primary source materials and archives.
The catalog is made up of a series of essays and interviews as well as reproductions of ephemera and historical photographs. The writing style and tone overall is accessible. The texts are grouped into five sections, each of which can stand on its own or be put into conversation with the others. The catalog concludes with a comprehensive compilation of artist biographies, exhibition checklists, author biographies, and a bibliography that lists the archival materials and interviews separately, making it very easy to use. Additionally, the inner front and back book cover features a map of the “Spaces of Black Arts Movement” in Chicago, giving readers a visual reference for the places referred to in the catalog.
The design and production of this catalog are well done. The color, the carefully chosen typography, and the sequencing of materials, including images and quotes, work well, and the use of arrows with the image citations helps the reader when multiple images are on a page. The images themselves are of high quality and are thoughtfully placed throughout the book. One criticism is that the book’s large size and almost square shape can be rather awkward, especially as the book has a soft binding. That being said, the binding did withstand considerable handling over a short period of time.
Overall, this title makes a substantial contribution to the current scholarship on the South Side of Chicago art scene. The thoughtfully curated, dynamic mix of materials creates an inviting and interesting experience for readers, and makes for a comprehensive companion to the exhibition.