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Photograph: Hunter Cole

The best art exhibits to see in Chicago in January

You can see bioluminescent photography, Ed Ruscha prints and more great art at Chicago best January openings

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long
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We're pretty sure that 2018 will be an epic year in Chicago, and that includes the city's thriving art scene. In January, Chicago's best galleries and museums are packing their walls with exciting works of art, including photos of glowing bioluminescent bacteria (by Evanston photographer Hunter Cole) and paintings of people who were mummified more than 2,000 years ago. Plus, the Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting a show dedicated to West Coast minimalism while the Inutit displays fascianting paintings of aliens and historical figures by outsider artist Stephen Warde Anderson. Kick off the new year by attending some of these Chicago art exhibitions opening in January.

January art openings in Chicago

  • Art
  • Photography

Evanston photographer and scientist Hunter Cole takes a lot of pictures of bacteria—the kind that lights up like a glow stick, creating an eerie bioluminescent glow. In "Living Light," she presents photographs that depict human figures covered with Petri dishes that give off a blue aura as well as time-lapse videos of bacteria growing and dying. Stop by on the exhibit's final night and you'll be able to see some of the bacteria on display during a live demonstration of her process.

  • Art
  • Contemporary art

Chicago artist Barbara Jones-Hogu was a leader of the Black Arts Movement and a founding member of the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) who was a contributor to the infamous South Side mural the Wall of Respect. "Resist, Relate, Unite 1968–1975" is her first museum exhibition, showcasing prints, lithographs and woodcuts that celebrate African-American culture.

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  • Art
  • Painting

In the late ’60s, Sam Gilliam was part of a group of painters who began experimenting with color, making it the primary focus of their canvases. Gilliam developed "drape" paintings, featuring an unstretched canvas that was covered with paint and presented as a hanging sculpture. To celebrate the recent gift of Gilliam's painting "One," the Block Museum will present an exhibit devoted to his work, accompanied by pieces by contemporaries Alan Shields and Frank Stella.

  • Art
  • Painting

When Egyptians were mummified centuries ago, some were wrapped with paintings of themselves. The Block Museum’s new exhibit displays portraits recovered from the ancient city of Tebtunis, exploring how archaeologists and art historians have collaborated to understand the creative custom.

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  • Art
  • Contemporary art

The latest exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art's Chicago Works series highlights the work of local artist Paul Heyer, who presents a selection of paintings and sculptures inspired by LGBTQ club culture. Pastel hues and surreal imagery accompanied by a soundtrack inspired by YouTube ASMR videos create a psychedelic, dream-like space that emulates the hallucinogenic quality of a drug-addled evening on the dance floor.

  • Art
  • Photography

Three individuals examine their family histories in this exhibition of photos which draws upon the turmoil of conflicts such as World War II and the Croatian War of Independence. Throughout the exhibit, photographers Adam Golfer, Diana Matar and Hrvoje Slovenc examine the close relationship between their personal experiences and the environments that informed them. 

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  • Art
  • Painting

Outsider artist Stephen Warde Anderson taught himself how to paint after finishing a stint in the United States Navy, creating works that depict historical figures, films stars, Biblical scenes and aliens. "Attention to Detail" focuses on some of his earliest works, including paintings that utilize pointillist techniques achieved by creating tools from sewing needles and whipped cream containers. 

  • Art
  • Contemporary art

The Museum of Contemporary Art explores the West Coast minimalism movement of the ’60s, featuring art that was influenced by surfing, car culture and the region's relentlessly pleasant weather. "Endless Summer" embraces simple forms and glossy designs, featuring work by artists such as John McCracken, Larry Bell and Ed Ruscha.

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