Constructed by famed Chicago urban planner and architect Daniel H. Burnham in 1881, the DuSable Museum of African American History’s Roundhouse has remained vacant for decades. The former horse stable is now welcoming visitors once again, hosting a free exhibition that opened during EXPO Chicago and will run through a portion of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Not only does it bring a notable art exhibition to the DuSable campus, but it also throws open the doors to a historic South Side building that has long been closed to the public.
Curated by Katell Jaffrès of Paris contemporary art institution Palais de Tokyo, “Singing Stones” assembles works by 11 emerging artists, including participants who hail from France and Chicago. Due to its association with the Architecture Biennial, many of the pieces on display integrate architectural materials and concepts. The venue itself is also showcased by way of a raised platform at the top of some stairs just past the Roundhouse’s entrance, which allows for sweeping views of the rotunda and the works contained within it.
The most prominent piece (both in expanse and volume) on display in “Singing Stones” is French artist Thomas Teurlai’s Score for Bodies and Machines, an installation that surrounds two photocopiers with towering strings of paper filled with copied body parts and the amplified hum of exposure lamps moving back and forth. Nearby, a series of 3D-scanned sculptures and video installations designed by the team behind Chicago’s Floating Museum project rest on a circular frame, intentionally echoing the design of the Roundhouse.
Aside from a trio of humorously gyrating metallic sculptures by French artist Dorian Gaudin located in an attached wing of the Roundhouse, nothing else in the exhibition quite matches the spectacle of the aforementioned works—not to mention the grandeur of the venue. While “Singing Stones” offers a well-curated lineup of work by rising France– and Chicago-based contemporary artists, it’s the opportunity to stand within the reinstated historic space (constructed before the legendary World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893) that will likely draw most attendees to the Washington Park exhibit.