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August 2015 events calendar for Chicago

Plan your August in Chicago with our events calendar of the best things to do, including concerts, theater openings and art exhibits

Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas
North Avenue Beach

Is it August already? Time to get serious about maximizing your swimming pool time and making this summer count. If you still haven't made it out to a music festival this year, join the crowds at Lollapalooza or dance with the hippies at North Coast. Looking for some visual spectacle to round out your summer? Try watching the stunt planes at the Chicago Air and Water Show or the acrobatics on display at the Chicago Dancing Festival. With so much to do this month you're going to work up an appetite, so make sure to hit SausageFest for a hot dog or the Food Truck Social for a delicious meal on the city's streets. It's all included in our August events calendar for Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2015

Featured events in August 2015

Lollapalooza

Critics' pick

Set between Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, Lollapalooza is the city's largest music festival, boasting numbers of attendance well in the six digits on a regular day. Large stages, big acts and huge crowds. Taking over all of Grant Park, Lollapalooza is one of the best festivals in the country with a sweet bonus—no camping. Journey to the after-shows, late-night bars, or your hotel room after a long day of sweating and jamming.

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Grant Park, Loop Friday July 29 2016 - Sunday July 31 2016

John Mulaney

Critics' pick

Chicago native, former SNL writer and in-demand standup John Mulaney headlines the Better Government Association's summer comedy fundraiser. Mulaney sold out two shows at the Chicago Theatre earlier this year, so this is a good chance to see him in a somewhat more intimate setting.

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Until Thu Aug 6

Chicago Hot Dog Fest

Critics' pick

The Chicago History Museum's celebration of one our city's signature dishes is back again, and it's still growing. This year, the festival expands to three days and welcomes sausage-slinging vendors like Chubby Wieners, Fatso's Last Stand, Frank Meats Patty and more. Cover bands will be serenading the encased meat consumption throughout the weekend and a Northwestern University professor will give a lecture entitled, “Ketchup: The Condiment of Controversy.”

Read more
Until Sun Aug 9

Bud Billiken Parade

The world's largest and oldest African American parade enters its 86th year celebrating Chicago's youth. The parade's two mile route begins in the Bronzeville neighborhood and continues north on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, concluding in Washington Park with a picnic that features vendors and performers.

Read more
Until Sat Aug 8

Illinois State Fair

Critics' pick

Come for the festival fare, stay for the Butter Cow—the fair's unofficial icon and Paula Deen's life-long dream, a life-size cow sculpture made of 500 pounds of butter. Watch tractor pulls, horse races, parades and musical acts. Some events require additional tickets. The music lineup includes Sammy Hagar, Justin Moore, Rascal Flatts and Austin Mahone.

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Until Sun Aug 23

Chicago Air and Water Show

Critics' pick

Don't be surprised if you get a neck ache from looking up during this two-day event. Join throngs of people at North Beach and surrounding areas to catch air and watercraft demonstrations, including the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights.

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Until Sun Aug 16

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con

Critics' pick

Wizard World returns to Rosemont for another year of comics, costumed attendees and people waiting in line for celebrity autographs. Guests include Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and Nathan Fillion (Firefly).

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Until Sun Aug 23

Midnight Circus in the Parks

Critics' pick

Get under the big top at parks all over the city, as an eclectic ensemble of acrobats, aerialists and eccentrics perform in an intimate setting. Proceeds from these family-friendly events benefit the Chicago Park District.

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Douglas Park Saturday September 5 2015 - Sunday October 18 2015

Chicago Fashion and Music Fest

Chicago Fashion Fest brings runway shows and more than 50 local fashion designers, boutiques and salons to Division St. Head to the nightly Wicker Park After Dark fashion shows to get up to speed on fall fashion and rub shoulders with designers and models. Festivities include local food vendors, a Shopper's Row, family and pet activities and a VIP Fashion Suite & Sangria Lounge as well as live music at Subterranean.

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Until Sun Aug 30

Concerts in August 2015

5 Seconds of Summer

Hey, One Direction, all boy bands go the way of the JoBros. Your fans can't stay 13 forever. Hence the freshest cheeks in the business, Australia's 5 Seconds of Summer, the heartthrobs behind those bizarre hashtags trends you never understand. These guys hold more instruments, adding a pinch of punk-pop to meet-cute tunes about American Apparel underwear.

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Until Sun Aug 2

Miguel

Critics' pick

Fast-riser Miguel is a big-time style-sampler. Part Latin-tinged hip-hop and part classic soul, his single "Adorn" shot him to stardom after his All I Want is You LP sleeper and brought great anticipation for his latest, Wildheart.

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Until Fri Aug 14

Idina Menzel

Critics' pick

There are sure to be thousands of little ice princess and green witches when Broadway belter Menzel hits Millennium Park. No, America will not let it go.

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Until Sun Aug 16

One Direction

By August 2015, 1D will have reached the half-decade mark. That's dangerously close to the expiration date for boy bands. Backstreet Boys, N Sync and New Kids on the Block all rode the hormonal wave for four years before an ever maturing fanbase dropped their popularity off a cliff. That explains why tickets for their concerts go on sale nearly a year in advance: Hook 'em while they still care.

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Until Sun Aug 23

Billy Joel

Critics' pick

Erstwhile angry young man Billy Joel—now an official Madison Square Garden franchise, like the Knicks and Rangers—is tacking on date after date in what's threatening to become an endless run in NYC. Because you had to be a big shot, didn’t you, eh, Piano Man? (P.S. Welcome back.) With the career revival in full swing, he's taking the show on the road, to other iconic sporting arenas.

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Until Thu Aug 27

Foo Fighters

Critics' pick

Dave Grohl and his arena rockin' crew just hit Wrigleyville to premiere material from their new album, Sonic Highways. As Grohl hinted in that Cubby Bear gear, the band is returning in 2015 to the same corner where he saw his first punk show in 1983. Only this time the gig is in the giant baseball stadium. The Foos should be just as powerful in the Friendly Confines as they were in the sports bar. Urge Overkill, Naked Raygun and Cheap Trick open, making this a Chicago love affair. Only without Chicago (the band). Tickets are also available for the rooftops.

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Until Sat Aug 29

Festivals in August 2015

Fiesta del Sol

Lollapalooza isn't the only party in town this weekend, as revelers celebrate under the sun at one of the largest Latino fests in the Midwest. The Pilsen event memorializes the morning star as a symbol for the Mexican-American people with rides, music, art and hearty Mexican meals. The fiesta also features a 5K race, the House of Sol DJ showcase and the Señorita Fiesta del Sol Pageant.

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Until Sun Aug 2

Lollapalooza

Critics' pick

Set between Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, Lollapalooza is the city's largest music festival, boasting numbers of attendance well in the six digits on a regular day. Large stages, big acts and huge crowds. Taking over all of Grant Park, Lollapalooza is one of the best festivals in the country with a sweet bonus—no camping. Journey to the after-shows, late-night bars, or your hotel room after a long day of sweating and jamming.

Read more
Grant Park, Loop Friday July 29 2016 - Sunday July 31 2016

Taste of Latin America

17 Latin American countries have consulates in the city of Chicago, but the region's cuisine can be hard to find. Sample dishes like fish panades, empanadas and Brazilian sausage at this foodie feast, featuring some of the Southern Hemisphere's finest food.

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Until Sun Aug 2

Edge Fest

Not a celebration of U2's guitarist. The "edge" here is Edgewater. This year, the 'hood hosts a long weekend of wholesome family entertainment featuring tons of interactive, kid-friendly activities including karaoke night and a dog costume contest. Vendors willl serve up the anticipated array of festival foods (corn dogs, funnel cakes, blintzes, donuts), while more than 40 local artists display handmade goods and crafts.

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Until Sun Aug 2

Chicago Hot Dog Fest

Critics' pick

The Chicago History Museum's celebration of one our city's signature dishes is back again, and it's still growing. This year, the festival expands to three days and welcomes sausage-slinging vendors like Chubby Wieners, Fatso's Last Stand, Frank Meats Patty and more. Cover bands will be serenading the encased meat consumption throughout the weekend and a Northwestern University professor will give a lecture entitled, “Ketchup: The Condiment of Controversy.”

Read more
Until Sun Aug 9

Ginza Holiday Festival

Critics' pick

Throw on a yukata, the summer kimono, at this 60th annual celebration of Japanese culture. Meet and buy crafts from master craftsmen (called Waza). Live martial arts, cultural songs, classical dances and Japanese food give Chicago a taste of Japan. Get to the fest early Saturday before the entrance fee rises to $12 at 7pm for the Yoko Noge concert.

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Until Sun Aug 9

Bud Billiken Parade

The world's largest and oldest African American parade enters its 86th year celebrating Chicago's youth. The parade's two mile route begins in the Bronzeville neighborhood and continues north on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, concluding in Washington Park with a picnic that features vendors and performers.

Read more
Until Sat Aug 8

Wrigleyville Summerfest

Wrigleyville is more than just barhopping and Cubs games—it also host an annual neighborhood fest with food, beer and live music. The little ones can hang out in the kid zone, which features a moon bounce and a slide. Best of all, proceed benefit local charities like Resurrection Lutheran Church, Lakeview Pantry, The Night Ministry and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

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Until Sun Aug 9

Northalsted Market Days

Critics' pick

Northalsted Market Days is the largest two-day street festival in the Midwest and features lots of booze, phallic junk food (think corn dogs and chocolate-dipped bananas), music acts and terrific street fashion.

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Until Sun Aug 9

Festa Italiana

The UIC area gets in touch with its Italian roots by showing off neighborhood restaurants at this magnifico festival. A bocce-ball tournament, grape-stomping challenge and meatball-eating contest get the competitive juices flowing while bands provide the event's soundtrack.

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Until Sun Aug 16
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Free events in August 2015

Tuesdays on the Terrace

Critics' pick

Each Tuesday, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosts a free concert in its Anne and John Kern Terrace Garden. The lineup features performers from the Chicago jazz community, including Fred Anderson and Joshua Abrams. Attendees can order food à la carte from the outdoor grill or pig out at the buffet (it's $26). If it's raining outside, the event moves indoors to the MCA Café.

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Gold Coast Until Tuesday September 29 2015

"Move Your Body: The Evolution of House Music"

Critics' pick

Gathering memorabilia, interviews and equipment, the Chicago Cultural Center's latest exhibition delves into the history of house music, charting its origins in Chicago clubs during the 1980s and its recent resurgence in pop music.

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Until Sun Aug 16

Movies on the Pier

Critics' pick

A new outdoor film series has cropped up in Chicago at Navy Pier with a perfect line up of beloved classic films to add to your busy summer calendar. Each Thursday night, a different film will be screened at the skyline stage starting at 8pm in August, and 7pm in September. The series kicks off with Chicago favorite Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and continues over the next six weeks with blockbusters like Top Gun, Ghostbusters and Jaws. The screenings are free and first come first serve. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult or guardian.

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Navy Pier Skyline Stage, Chicago Thursday September 3 2015 - Thursday September 10 2015

Chicago Hot Dog Fest

Critics' pick

The Chicago History Museum's celebration of one our city's signature dishes is back again, and it's still growing. This year, the festival expands to three days and welcomes sausage-slinging vendors like Chubby Wieners, Fatso's Last Stand, Frank Meats Patty and more. Cover bands will be serenading the encased meat consumption throughout the weekend and a Northwestern University professor will give a lecture entitled, “Ketchup: The Condiment of Controversy.”

Read more
Until Sun Aug 9

Bud Billiken Parade

The world's largest and oldest African American parade enters its 86th year celebrating Chicago's youth. The parade's two mile route begins in the Bronzeville neighborhood and continues north on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, concluding in Washington Park with a picnic that features vendors and performers.

Read more
Until Sat Aug 8

"North Korean Perspectives"

Critics' pick

North Korea is one of the world's most reclusive nations, a place where the flow of information is strictly controlled by the government. Because of this, there are contrasting views of the state which this exhibition explores by using government imagery as well as photographs taken by imbedded photojournalists. The collection seeks to reconcile the way North Korea's government presents itself with the way it is viewed by the rest of the world.

Read more
Museum of Contemporary Photography, South Loop Until Sunday October 4 2015

Macbeth

Midsommer Flight returns to summer in the Chicago Park District with an outdoor staging of Shakespeare's cautionary tale of the future King of the Scots and his ambitious wife. Beth Wolf directs.

Read more
Until Sun Aug 30

Chicago Air and Water Show

Critics' pick

Don't be surprised if you get a neck ache from looking up during this two-day event. Join throngs of people at North Beach and surrounding areas to catch air and watercraft demonstrations, including the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights.

Read more
Until Sun Aug 16

Chicago Dancing Festival

Critics' pick

Even though this terrific festival of international dance companies is free, tickets sell out faster than Lar Lubovitch can plié. This year, the Harris Theater, Museum of Contemporary Art and Pritzker Pavilion will host performances by some of the nation's top troupes.

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Until Sat Aug 29

Colleen Green + Jaill

Self-described "stoned songwriter" Colleen Green, linked to Hardly Art, showcases her fuzz-pop compositions, featuring buzzing drums and cutesy choruses that should illicit giggles from the rather ripped. Jangling indie rock outfit Jaill open the show.

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Monday August 31 2015

Theater in August 2015

All Our Tragic

Critics' pick

The best play and most unique theatrical experience of 2014 returns in a remount that's somewhat streamlined but has lost none of its incredible power. Yes, the Hypocrites' mash-up of all 32 surviving Greek tragedies into one unwinding story still takes 12 hours to take in, give or take. But some judicious trims to Sean Graney's script and cast and a reconfigured, more coherent staging make the daylong play more intimate, and therefore even more of a bonding experience for the community comprising the audience and actors alike.

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Until Sun Aug 16

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Critics' pick

Much of the work for which playwright Christopher Durang became known in the 1970s and ’80s are brazen, often angry satire. Which makes the warmth of this 2013 comic riff on Chekhov an unexpected but not unwelcome wrinkle. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, as well as the play’s two additional characters, Nina (yep) and Cassandra, are over-the-top and a little ridiculous but they’re also unmistakably human. Durang’s farcical Chekhovian parallels are deftly deployed, just self-aware enough to be short of obnoxious.Steve Scott’s first-rate cast finds all of the highbrow fun in the play’s allusions to The Cherry OrchardThe SeagullUncle Vanya and Three Sisters. But they also key in to the real Chekhovian pathos Durang bakes into their characters.

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Until Sun Aug 2

Brilliant Adventures

Critics' pick

Alistair McDowall’s twisty, darkly comic thriller is set in 2010, but as it opens, 19-year-old Luke (Curtis Edward Jackson) is lying on a dingy couch in a run-down flat playing Tetris on what looks to be an early ’90s-vintage Game Boy. The setting is Middlesbrough, a blighted industrial city in the north of England where poverty and drugs loom large over blocks of boarded-up houses. The local mood is so dire that people hardly blink at the fact that Luke’s drug-dealing chav brother, Rob (Ryan McBride), leads a near-catatonic junkie (Will Kinnear) around on a dog’s leash. Luke, though hobbled socially by a heavy stutter, is a verifiable self-taught scientific genius. And that unassuming stack of cardboard boxes in the corner? That’s actually a working time machine. McDowall, a rising young English playwright receiving his first U.S. production at Steep, has crafted an intriguing blend of social commentary and science fiction. And once you’ve introduced a time machine—well, it’s kind of like Chekhov’s rule about guns.

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Until Sat Aug 29

Pippin

Critics' pick

The Tony-winning revival of the Stephen Schwartz musical, directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus with circus elements created by Gypsy Snider of Montreal's 7 Fingers, comes to the Cadillac Palace for a scant two weeks. The national touring cast includes Sasha Allen as the Leading Player, Kyle Selig in the title role and Tony winner John Rubinstein, the original Pippin of 1972, as Charles.

Read more
Until Sun Aug 9

Macbeth

Midsommer Flight returns to summer in the Chicago Park District with an outdoor staging of Shakespeare's cautionary tale of the future King of the Scots and his ambitious wife. Beth Wolf directs.

Read more
Until Sun Aug 30

Loving Repeating

Critics' pick

In Loving Repeating, Galati’s 2006 chamber musical written with composer Stephen Flaherty, his unshakable fidelity to the words of Gertrude Stein is the whole point—and a lovely one at that. In using Stein’s waggish settings of language—her love, yes, of repetition—as lyrics set to Flaherty’s equally playful score that Galati makes them soar.

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Until Sun Aug 30

Kafkapalooza

First Floor Theater's first two literary festivals asked playwrights to pen short works inspired by the Brothers Grimm and Mark Twain. This year, it metamorphosizes into a tribute to the life and work of Franz Kafka. This year's lineup includes Ike Holter, Brett Neveu, Kristiana Colón, Marylin Campbell, Karen Kessler, Amanda Fink, Emmett Rensin, Skye Robinson Hillis and Ariel Zetina.

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Until Sat Aug 22

Stupid Fucking Bird

Critics' pick

Sideshow Theatre Company's hit 2014 production of Aaron Posner's Chekhov riff returns. Con, the frustrated young playwright at the center of Aaron Posner's cheeky update of Chekhov's The Seagull, is like his Russian counterpart obsessed with pushing theater into "new forms." Unlike in any other translation of Chekhov, Con's conciliative pal Dev  asks him, "Like this? This play we're in right now. Is this the kind of new work you mean? New forms?" To which Con replies, "No no no. Fuck no! Better than THIS!" Posner's take, if not a "new form," is a bracingly fresh take on Chekhov's "comedy" in which everyone ends up dead, crazy or at the very least compromised. 

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Until Sun Aug 30

Moby Dick

Critics' pick

We are all Jonah in David Catlin’s powerful, thrilling and acrobatic new adaptation of Moby Dick at Lookingglass Theatre. The skeletal set, by Courtney O’Neill, centers on a vast, metallic rib cage. The bones encompass the stage, the actors and nearly the audience too. This retelling of Melville’s doorstop classic is one told entirely from within the belly of the whale. 

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Until Fri Aug 28

Art in August 2015

"Liminal Infrastructure"

Critics' pick

See photographs taken with the Liminal Camera, a massive portable camera fashioned from a shipping container, at this new DePaul Art Museum exhibition. The collection features newly-commissioned photographs made in and around Chicago by Lauren Bon, Richard Nielsen and Tristan Duke. A companion exhibit, "Liminal Portraits", will be on display simultaneously at Co-Prosperity Sphere.

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Until Sun Aug 9

"The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now"

Critics' pick

The exhibit is filled with music and noise that viewers experience collectively. It’s a bit disorienting for those used to silent appreciation of art, but the sonic elements of the collection are as vital as the pieces on display. “The Freedom Principle” explores the legacy of the avant-garde jazz and experimental music that originated in Chicago’s South Side during the 1960s. By connecting this music to the visual art that was birthed from the scene and the experimentation it continues to inspire, the exhibit positions musicians like Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill as radical art innovators. 

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Gold Coast Until Sunday November 22 2015

"The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates"

For the past 15 years, artist Julie Green has painted images of death row inmates' last meal requests on plates as part of an ongoing project. She plans to paint 50 plates each year until capital punishment is abolished. The Block Museum will be displaying 600 of Green's plates, each accompanied by a description of the meal, a date and the state in which the inmate was executed, highlighting the anonymous nature of the death penalty.

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Until Sun Aug 9

"Sonja Thomsen: Glowing Wavelengths In Between"

Milwaukee-based artist Sonja Thomsen explores the ephemeral qualities of light in her latest exhibition, "Glowing Wavelengths In Between." Collecting color photographs, photographic murals and metallic sculptures, each piece in the collection searches for ways to recalibrate our perceptions of the visible world.

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Until Sun Aug 9

"North Korean Perspectives"

Critics' pick

North Korea is one of the world's most reclusive nations, a place where the flow of information is strictly controlled by the government. Because of this, there are contrasting views of the state which this exhibition explores by using government imagery as well as photographs taken by imbedded photojournalists. The collection seeks to reconcile the way North Korea's government presents itself with the way it is viewed by the rest of the world.

Read more
Museum of Contemporary Photography, South Loop Until Sunday October 4 2015

"Charles Ray: Sculpture, 1997–2014"

Critics' pick

The second floor of the Modern Wing plays host to an exhibition devoted to the work of Chicago-born sculptor Charles Ray. Since beginning his career as a sculptor in the early '80s, Ray has become known for his life-sized works and his innovative use of solid, machined aluminum and stainless steel.

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Art Institute of Chicago, Loop Until Sunday October 4 2015

"S, M, L, XL"

Critics' pick

In the 1960s, sculptors began taking their pieces off of pedestals and creating immersive artworks that become a part of the gallery instead of its focal point. "S, M, L, XL" explores the role of sculpture by presenting four different works that increase in physical size and ambition. Ranging from an impossibly narrow hallway to the interior a decommissioned hot air balloon, viewers are able to inhabit these sculptures and explore the physical and emotional boundaries of the medium.

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Gold Coast Until Sunday October 4 2015

"David Hartt: Interval"

Critics' pick

Canadian artist David Hartt investigates how culture and values change over time in "Intervals," a new exhibition featuring films and photographs from two isolated locales: Whitehorse in the Canadian Yukon and Sakhalin Island, a Russian territory.

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Art Institute of Chicago, Loop Until Sunday October 11 2015

"Keren Cytter"

Critics' pick

Fan of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show will enjoy New York–based multidisciplinary artist Keren Cytter's intentionally low-budget videos featuring intentionally kitschy, lo-fi effects that wouldn't seem out of place on late night Adult Swim broadcast. The MCA's exhibition of Cytter's work features eight videos from the past decade, as well as drawings inspired by the artist's attempts to re-create the atmosphere of film noir, horror movies and soap operas.

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Gold Coast Until Sunday October 4 2015

"Chicago Works: Faheem Majeed"

Critics' pick

The MCA's local series continues as South Shore artist Faheem Majeed presents his first solo museum exhibition, breathing new life into discarded objects like old billboards, particleboard and scrap metal. Visitors will be able to view Majeed's sculptures and a room-sized installation in addition to events and performances that will take place within the space.

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Until Sun Aug 16

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