At a Place Where the Trees Were Still All Green

Stuart & Co. Gallery is pleased to announce At a Place Where the Trees Were Still All Green, an exhibition of new works by Kristian Bruce. Through recollected moments of vulnerability, playfulness, blooming sensuality, and absurdity, Bruce presents the viewer with empathetic responses to past subjects and reconstructed spaces. Many works represent an aggregation of events that may span years but seem to compress into a single image in order to depict “a world of merging habitual and imaginative incidents.” Likewise, the body of work presents us with a transient discovery of “self,” a form of record keeping and a commingling of remembered, and misremembered, familiarities.

The title of the show refers to “the happy days of unquestioning youth” and the tendency to apply significance to memory in an arbitrary or necessary way. Works such as Bruce’s title image embody this relationship between objects and the contextual meaning of those objects enigmatically felt in the same moment. Set against a backdrop of grass and mountaintops, a non-descript figure is seated on an inanimate horse that appears to gallop and whinny with more life than the figure itself. The disproportionate limbs and gestural bust leave the viewer suspended in time, contemplating whether the figure is a toddler dreaming of the future or an adult reminiscing on the past. Details are reduced to essences, and the palette is at once elementary and psychologically rich.

The same is true of The Last Time and A Fern Which I Had Never Found Among the Woods. In the former, a void profile steers a pay-to-ride racecar, similar to one that would be found in front of a supermarket, with a plug as the only indicator that it is not a real automobile. In the latter, a similar unadorned figure emerges from a camping tent while an oversized fire blazes nearby illuminating the forested setting. The outline of a mysterious hand can be seen reaching out from among the trees as if it were an extension of the branches or some other-worldly spirit. Largely pulling inspiration from Egyptian vase painting, an interest in empathetic identity can again be gleaned from the ambiguous, stylistic approach to figure painting.

A Place in Which They Might Be Found further illustrates this notion. Outlines of hands and feet materialize from a heavily-forested landscape, some pointing, some stretching, and others grasping. The transparency of the limbs leaves us to question their origin and intention while appreciating the mystery of their pseudo-absence. The composition brings to mind playful storybooks of youth, but with a tinge of menace. The mask-like faces of the characters in The Sun Made Me Sick with Impatience contribute to a similar psychological dissonance. The whimsical imagery of two young boys atop a tricycle is interrupted by their yellowed, chiseled features suggesting heat and nausea and alluding to golden death masks of antiquity.

Eliminating many of the signifiers of traditional figure painting, and instead embracing absences and outlines as referential to stages that can be traced backward and forward in time, Bruce creates works that collect up and give back a sense of fulfillment or possibility. Steeped in simplistic profundity, figures become vessels for contemplations of memory, desire, identity, and transition, and Bruce’s narratives lead us down a winding path of self-discovery. Just as James Joyce “foregrounded the process of thinking” with his novel Ulysses by making use of stream-of-consciousness, experimental prose full of puns, parodies, and allusions, rich characterization and broad humor, Kristian Bruce’s At a Place Where the Trees Were Still All Green foregrounds the process of remembering.

Bruce was born in 1994 in Bozeman, MT. He currently lives and works in Chicago. Bruce has been recently featured in Stuart & Co. Gallery’s group exhibition, Passage, and Kruger Gallery’s In the Company of Flowers.

Maintaining a contemporary vision, Stuart & Co. Gallery strives to represent emerging and mid-career artists at the forefront of expression. Since its inception in 2012, Stuart & Co. Gallery has been home to innovative, pioneering exhibitions across a multitude of media and genres. The gallery embraces multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and cross genre art forms in addition to traditional practices.

Please join Stuart & Co. for the opening reception of At a Place Where the Trees Were Still All Green on Saturday, April 22nd, 2017, from 7-9pm.

For more information please contact Britney Lipton at (312) 487-1850 or via email at

Stuart & Co. Gallery
2250 W. Ohio Street, Chicago, IL 60612

Ben Shahn: If Not Now, When?

Above:  Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner
Ben Shahn, 1965, Collection of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership

Iconic works by the well-known artist and activist go on view at Spertus Institute beginning April 9th.

As the second exhibit in its new Ground Level Arts Lab, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership presents more than 30 works by artist and activist Ben Shahn, who exposed injustice and inspired social change through his art.

Throughout his career, Shahn explored themes of inequality, immigration, antisemitism, ethnic identity, fair labor, and urban life. These themes were critical in the decades he worked — from the early 1930s through his death in 1969 — and their relevancy resonates equally today. About showing his work, Curator Ionit Behar says, “Ben Shahn’s images of immigrants, refugees, labor organizers, and civil rights workers are as powerful today as they were during his lifetime. It is critical to exhibit Shahn’s works in these times, in this country, in Chicago, and at a Jewish institution. His commitment to debate and social change is inspiring, a much needed feeling here and now.”

The exhibit Ben Shahn: If Not Now, When? opens April 9 and runs through August 27, 2017. Its title comes from a famous quote attributed to Hillel the Elder, a rabbinic sage important in Jewish history. He said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”

Among the works being shown are two important groups of lithographs. The earlier group, known as the Civil Rights Portfolio, is from 1965, when Shahn created prints to benefit of the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Relations Council of Greater New Haven, Connecticut. Shahn included portraits of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, young volunteers who had been working to register black voters when they were murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, by members of the local Ku Klux Klan. These portraits and others in the series, reflective of Shahn’s desire to honor civil rights workers, themselves became iconic images of the civil rights movement.

The other group of works is a series of 24 color lithographs titled For the Sake of a Single Verse. Shahn completed the series in 1968, a year before his death. With it, he achieved a lifetime goal, illustrating a passage from the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, a work he discovered in Paris in 1926 when he was 28 years old. About the project, Shahn wrote, “I was entranced by the writer’s observations, not just upon Paris, but on life itself. Malte Brigge had only just arrived in Paris when the notebooks began. He too was twenty eight. This young man seemed almost to be me.”

Other works in Ben Shahn: If Not Now, When? include individual prints, drawings, and archival materials. All works in this exhibit are from the collection of Spertus Institute, which has not presented an exhibit of his work since 1977. Shahn was born in 1898 in Kaunas, then part of Russia, but today in Lithuania. He arrived in the United States in 1906 when his father’s anti-czarist activities forced the family to immigrate. The artist grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn and became an apprentice in a Manhattan lithographic firm, finishing high school at night and later taking classes at New York University, City College of New York, and the National Academy of Design. He had his first solo show at the Downtown Gallery in 1930, and shortly thereafter, his series of paintings of the trial and execution of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti established his reputation. Through the relevance and ubiquity of his art, Ben Shahn became one of the best-known American artists of the mid-twentieth century.

Admission to the exhibit—in the Ground Level Arts Lab on the first floor of Spertus Institute—is free. Hours are Sunday 10 am- 5 pm, MondayWednesday 9 am- 5pm, Thursday 9 am- 6 pm, and Friday 9 am- 3 pm. The exhibit is closed on Saturdays and Jewish and secular holidays. Spertus Institute is located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue. Discount parking is available for $8 at Grant Park South Garage, with Spertus validation.

On Sunday, April 23 at 4 pm, Spertus Institute presents an Art Talk in conjunction with Ben Shahn: If Not Now, When?. Dr. Susan Chevlowe, organizer of a 1998 Ben Shahn exhibit at the Jewish Museum, New York, leads a discussion about transformative and relevant power of Ben Shahn’s art. Tickets are $18 with $8 discounted tickets for students. Tickets are available online at or by phone at 312.322.1773.


Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership offers dynamic learning opportunities, rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and open to all. Graduate programs and workshops train future leaders and engage individuals in exploration of Jewish life. Public programs — including films, speakers, seminars, and concerts — take place at the Institute’s Michigan Avenue facility, in the Chicago suburbs, and online. For more information, please visit

The Ground Level Arts Lab is made possible in part through the generous support of the Harry and Sadie Lasky and Charles & M.R. Shapiro Foundations.

Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community. 

Morpho Gallery: 12th Annual Emerging Artists Winter Sessions 2017

March 24th opening reception 6-9pm

March 24th – April 3rd

Morpho Gallery continues to exhibit local and midwestern artists in a series of shows this winter and early spring. Each show consists of 20-30 artists, photography, mixed media, sculpture and oil paints.

These shows are meant to provide knowledge to young artists on gallery procedures and how to exhibit their art in galleries. We do not take any commissions and provide a non-competitive friendly atmosphere.

March 24th Featured Artists:

Sheri Lee, Katharine Steinberg, Kate Snow, Mary Jo Nasko, R.M. Proce,
Neil Solomon, Ashley Schultz, Michael Claire, Eoin Cullen, Katelyn Crawford, Elliott Acosta, Levi Yutuc, Marta Mazur, S.E. Farnum, Ayza-Andriana Churina, Collett Hudeckek, Allison Yazel and Joanna Murphy

Morpho Gallery
5216 N Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625

Morpho Gallery: 12th Annual Emerging Artists Winter Sessions 2017

Morpho Gallery continues to exhibit local and midwestern artists in a series of shows this winter and early spring. Each show consists of 20-30 artists, photography, mixed media, sculpture and oil paints.

These shows are meant to provide knowledge to young artists on gallery procedures and how to exhibit their art in galleries. We do not take any commissions and provide a non-competitive friendly atmosphere.

March 3rd Featured Artists:

Paige Mostowy, Benjamin Martins, Mike Warnick, Timothy Hughes,Katelyn Crawford, Sarah Braden, Hunter Bell, Matt Fitzpatrick, Melissa Kucia, Ben Dorsz, Teresa Parod

March 3rd opening reception 6-9pm
March 3rd- March 23rd
Next show March 24th

Morpho Gallery
5216 N Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625