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How does the city of Chicago inspire the artists who live there? How is the architecture, history, and character of the city interpreted and reflected in the work of Chicago-based artists? Which parts of the city are most moving and motivational?

In this episode, artists reveal the ways in which their communities ignite ideas for photographs, sculptures, and drawings, and how those communities are invited by the artists to become part of the artworks themselves.

More information and credits


Executive Producer: Eve Moros Ortega. Host: Claire Danes. Director: Stanley Nelson. Producer & Production Manager: Nick Ravich. Editor: Aljernon Tunsil. Art21 Executive Director: Tina Kukielski. Curator: Wesley Miller. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Structure Consultant: Véronique Bernard. Director of Photography: Keith Walker. Additional Photography: Don Argott, Brian Ashby, Steve Delahoyde, Jeremy Dulac, Damon Hennessey, Sam Henriques, Ben Kolak, Christoph Lerch, Stephan Mazurek, Andrew Miller, Christopher Morrison, Leslie Morrison, Murat Ötünç, Logan Siegel, Stephen Smith, & Jamin Townsley. Assistant Camera: Kyle Adcock, Joe Buhnerkempe, Alex Klein, Ian McAvoy, Sean Prange, & Liz Sung. Sound: Sean Demers, Alex Inglizian, Hayden Jackson, İlkin Kitapçı, Joe Leo, Matt Mayer, John Murphy, Richard K. Pooler, & Grant Tye. Production Assistant: Hamid Bendaas, Emmanuel Camacho, Chad Fisher, Elliot Rosen, Stanley Sievers, Chris Thurston, & Steven Walsh.

Title/Motion Design: Afternoon Inc. Composer: Joel Pickard. Online Editor: Don Wyllie. Re-Recording Mix: Tony Pipitone. Sound Edit: Neil Cedar & Jay Fisher. Artwork Animation: Anita H.M. Yu. Assistant Editor: Maria Habib, Leana Siochi, Christina Stiles, & Bahron Thomas.

Host Introduction | Creative Consultant: Tucker Gates. Director of Photography: Pete Konczal. Second Camera: Jon Cooper. Key Grip: Chris Wiesehahn. Gaffer: Jesse Newton. First Assistant Camera: Sara Boardman & Shane Duckworth. Sound: James Tate. Set Dresser: Jess Coles. Hair: Peter Butler. Makeup: Matin. Production Assistant: Agatha Lewandowski & Melanie McLean. Editor: Ilya Chaiken.

Artworks Courtesy of: Nick Cave; Theaster Gates; Barbara Kasten; Chris Ware; BAM Hamm Archives; Bortolami Gallery; Cranbrook Art Museum; Margaret Jenkins Dance Company; The New Yorker magazine and Condé Nast; James Prinz Photography; Jack Shainman Gallery; Sara Linnie Slocum; Chris Strong Photography; & White Cube. Acquired Photography: Sara Pooley; The Art Channel/Bobbin Productions; & University Art Museum, California State University Long Beach.

Special Thanks: The Art21 Board of Trustees; 900/910 Lake Shore Drive Condominium Association; Michael Aglion; Ellen Hartwell Alderman; Adam Baumgold Gallery; Naomi Beckwith; Biba Bell; Stefania Bortolami; Kate Bowen; Pat Casteel; Chicago Embassy Church; Coachman Antique Mall; Maria J. Coltharp; John Corbett; Department of Theatre & Dance, Wayne State University; Detroit School of Arts; Christina Faist; Bob Faust; Martina Feurstein; Julie Fracker; William Gill; Graham Foundation; Jen Grygiel; Sarah Herda; Jennon Bell Hoffmann; Sheree Hovsepian; Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania; Istanbul Biennial; Nicola Jeffs; Jenette Kahn; Jill Katz; Alex Klein; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Jon Lowe; Sheila Lynch; Mana Contemporary Chicago; Christine Messineo; Laura Mott; Deborah Payne; Bishop Ed Peecher; Lisa Pooler; Rebuild Foundation; Diana Salier; Tim Samuelson; Amy Schachman; Zeynep Seyhun; Keith Shapiro; Alexandra Small; Jacqueline Stewart; Hamza Walker; Clara Ware; Marnie Ware; & Steve Wylie.

Additional Art21 Staff: Maggie Albert; Lindsey Davis; Joe Fusaro; Jessica Hamlin; Jonathan Munar; Bruno Nouril; Pauline Noyes; Kerri Schlottman; & Diane Vivona.

Public Relations: Cultural Counsel. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman.

Dedicated To: Susan Sollins, Art21 Founder.

Major underwriting for Season 8 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, Lambent Foundation, Agnes Gund, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

Nick Cave

Nick Cave creates “Soundsuits”—surreally majestic objects blending fashion and sculpture—that originated as metaphorical suits of armor in response to the Rodney King beatings and have evolved into vehicles for empowerment. Fully concealing the body, the “Soundsuits” serve as an alien second skin that obscures race, gender, and class, allowing viewers to look without bias towards the wearer’s identity. Cave regularly performs in the sculptures himself, dancing either before the public or for the camera, activating their full potential as costume, musical instrument, and living icon. Cave’s sculptures also include non-figurative assemblages, intricate accumulations of found objects that project out from the wall, and installations enveloping entire rooms.

Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates creates sculptures with clay, tar, and renovated buildings, transforming the raw material of urban neighborhoods into radically reimagined vessels of opportunity for the community. Establishing a virtuous circle between fine art and social progress, Gates strips dilapidated buildings of their components, transforming those elements into sculptures that act as bonds or investments, the proceeds of which are used to finance the rehabilitation of entire city blocks. Many of the artist’s works evoke his African-American identity and the broader struggle for civil rights, from sculptures incorporating fire hoses, to events organized around soul food, and choral performances by the experimental musical ensemble Black Monks of Mississippi, led by Gates himself.

Barbara Kasten

Barbara Kasten makes photographs and video projections in her studio that evoke an experience of movement through modernist architecture. While abstract, her work is subversively political, asking viewers to fundamentally question their perceptions. Trained as a sculptor, Kasten began to investigate photography through cyanotypes of fabrics and photograms of objects placed directly on the paper. This led her to photograph elaborate compositions of objects in the studio—such as Platonic shapes, paper, plexiglass, and wire—often illuminated by theatrical lighting and colored gels. Kasten’s video projections of rotating objects and planes of drifting color, cast onto building exteriors and interiors, destabilize the architecture through the optical fragmentation of forms.

Chris Ware

Known for his New Yorker magazine covers, Chris Ware is hailed as a master of the comic art form. His complex graphic novels tell stories about people in suburban Midwestern neighborhoods, poignantly reflecting on the role memory plays in constructing identity. Stories featuring many of Ware’s protagonists—Quimby the Mouse, Rusty Brown, and Jimmy Corrigan—often first appear in serialized form, in publications such as The New York Times, the Guardian, or Ware’s own ongoing comic book series Acme Novelty Library, before being organized into their own stand-alone books.

“What do I need to put in place to allow you to dream?”

Nick Cave

"Center Field: Art in the Middle"


An Art21 Magazine column covering art in Chicago and the Midwestern United States.