Abstraction and identity in DePaul Art Museum spring exhibitions

Beverly Fresh
"BEVERLY FRESH: Really Somethin Else" by Zack Ostrowski, associate professor of art, media and design, opening April 26 at DePaul Art Museum is his first solo exhbition in Chicago. (Image courtesy of Adam Weglarz)
This Spring, DePaul Art Museum will offer an unconventional dialogue between two exhibitions. A third exhibition will showcase the museum's newly acquired artworks.

In one gallery, Beverly Fresh - artist, rapper, musician and world-record breaker - takes on the incongruities, social rituals and archetypes of the rural Midwest in his first solo museum exhibition in Chicago.

In the other galleries, 13 female-identifying black and Latina artists who employ various forms of abstraction will comprise "Out of Easy Reach," which takes place at DePaul Art Museum and Gallery 400 at University of Illinois at Chicago and Rebuild Foundation's Stony Island Arts Bank.

"The exhibitions both create conversations around the construction of an artistic identity (Midwestern male, black or Latina women) in the face of social norms and expectations that often stifle artistic agency and freedom," said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, chief curator and director of the museum. "The titles of the exhibitions - 'Out of Easy Reach' and 'Really Somethin Else' - reflect an interest in complicating identities and aesthetics rather than feeding into common stereotypes and clichés."

Beverly Fresh is the artistic persona that Zack Ostrowski, an associate professor of art, media and design at DePaul, uses to explore Midwest culture. With mixed-media installations, sculptures and videos from the last six years, the exhibition pulls from age-old performance traditions, juvenile graffiti, backyard debauchery and pig wrestling to explore rural Midwest symbols, behaviors and vernacular that stem from his Michigan childhood. "BEVERLY FRESH: Really Somethin Else" is anchored by Ostrowski's "Outskirts" video series of his interventionist performances in small Midwestern towns.

"DPAM Collects: Happy Little Trees and Other Recent Acquisitions"

This exhibition will focus on newly acquired artworks from artists of color, women, LGBTQ artists and Chicago artists.

"The series is a wonderful opportunity to show how the museum's collection reflects the university's Vincentian value of diversity and inclusion and our commitment to not only exhibiting, but also collecting, the work of Chicago-based artists," Widholm says. "We want the DePaul community to become familiar with what is in our collection."

The exhibition is DePaul Art Museum's first public display of artworks by artists including Candida Alvarez, Don Baum, McArthur Binion, Michelle Grabner, Miyoko Ito, Helen Mirra and Zoe Nelson.

The exhibitions open April 26 and run through Aug. 5 at DePaul Art Museum on the university's Lincoln Park Campus. More about the exhibitions is available at http://depaul.edu/museum.