The best art exhibits to see in Chicago in July

Gilded age portraits at the Art Institute, the arrival of the interactive 29Rooms exhibit and more July art openings
Lucas Foglia, Esme Swimming, Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore
Photograph: Lucas Foglia
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Summer in Chicago is a busy time, but there's no reason to miss out on all the great art in galleries and museums throughout the city (especially if you want to spend the afternoon in an air-conditioned building). July brings an expansive exhibition of work by late 20th-century portrait artist John Singer Sargent to the Art Institute, with 100 of his paintings on display. You'll also find a series of breathtaking photos by Lucas Foglia on display at the Museum of Contemporary Photography plus the debut of 29Rooms, a pop-up exhibition of interactive installations. Take a break from the summer music festival circuit and see some of the most exciting art openings in Chicago in July.

July art openings in Chicago

John Singer Sargent, Street in Venice, American
Photograph: National Gallery of Art
Art, Painting

“John Singer Sargent and Chicago’s Gilded Age”

As one of the most sought-after portrait artists at the turn of the 20th century, John Singer Sargent traveled the world painting important figures and scenes. Sargent first exhibited his work at the Art Institute in 1890 and returned to Chicago often, thanks to the patronage of local businessman and art collector Charles Deering. Comprising 100 of this works, "Chicago's Gilded Age" showcases the breadth of Sargent's talents and seeks to unravel his connections to our city's art scene at the dawn of the 1900s.

Pizza in the Rain
Photograph: Courtesy Pizza in the Rain
Art, Contemporary art

“Counterparts”

A trio of rising Chicago artists takes the spotlight in Vertical Gallery's new show “Counterparts,” which provides a taste of the talent taking shape throughout the city. The show features work by self-taught street artist Pizza in the Rain, fine artist Joseph Renda Jr. and multimedia creator Crop.

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Photograph: Courtesy Western Exhibitions
Art, Textiles

“Compression”

Artists Elana Herzog and Luanne Martineau are the subjects of this dual show, which explores the combination and compression of materials in artistic works. Herzog works with found textiles and paper pulp, forming layered collages that demonstrate the ways in which experiences can be formed (and reformed) over time. Likewise, Martineau is a paper-weaving and needle-felting artist who embeds explicit graphics in her work, recontextualizing images that cultural norms dictate as “improper.”

Photograph: Courtesy Block Museum of Art
Art, Film and video

“Paul Chan: Happiness (finally) after 35,000 years of civilization”

School of the Art Institute graduate Paul Chan unpacks the violent and sexual themes of Henry Darger’s The Story of the Vivian Girls through a pixelated video inspired by the self-taught artist's work. The 18-minute looping animation brings Darger's characters to life in vivid color, exploring the unsettling nature of the artist's dysfunctional utopia, which incorporates the realities of war and misguided politics.

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Mika Horibuch
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY.
Art, Painting

“Chicago Works: Mika Horibuchi”

icon-location-pin Museum of Contemporary Art, Streeterville
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The latest installment of the MCA's Chicago Works series showcases the hyper-detailed paintings of Mika Horibuchi. Using oil paints and linen canvases, Horibuchi creates images that are so realistic, they appear to be three-dimensional, including renderings of curtains and blinds that will fool all but the sharpest-eyed viewers.

Lucas Foglia, Esme Swimming, Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore
Photograph: Lucas Foglia
Art, Photography

“Lucas Foglia: Human Nature”

Photographer Lucas Foglia considers the classic (and increasing) conflict between humanity and nature in his latest collection of images. Foglia depicts lush foliage seeping into urban environments and humanity encroaching upon remote landscapes, demonstrating how our conflicting desires have altered the environments we inhabit.

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Photograph: Courtesy Getty Images/Refinery 29
Things to do, Exhibitions

29Rooms

Refinery29's popular 29Rooms exhibition finally makes its way to Chicago for a four-day engagement, allowing guests to interact with 29 installations spread throughout a cavernous warehouse space. Throughout each three-hour session, you'll be able to walk along the keys of a giant typewriter, gaze at an intricate collage of neon signs, jump into a ball pit and have a pillow fight. A portion of proceeds from the event is donated to nonprofit partners.

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