Hellenic Heads by George Petrides at the Embassy of Greece in the US. Credit: Courtesy of George Petrides

Bertolt Brecht famously wrote, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” Regardless of the medium, the work on display in Chicago exhibits visually relays and conceptually conveys specific cultures of the past, present and future.

The Past
Hellenic Heads: George Petrides is currently on view at the National Hellenic Museum (through Dec.10). The sculpture exhibition features six busts inspired by key periods in Greek history, from the Classical (510 BC – 323 BC) and Byzantine (330 AD – 1453 AD) to the present with the Greek War of Independence (1821 – 1829), Destruction of Smyrna (1922), and Nazi Occupation and Greek Civil War (1941 – 1949) in between. 

“At the National Hellenic Museum, as we share Greek history, art and culture we are always looking to make connections between the past and present, and between Greece and America,” explains NHM Executive Director Marianne Kountoures. “In Hellenic Heads, sculptor George Petrides engages us in an artistic dialogue spanning from ancient times to the present.

“Although his sculptures reference specific moments in Greek history, they address universal themes well beyond their original historical context: the tragedy of war and genocide, the position of women, and the plight of refugees, to name just a few,” continues Kountoures. “We’re thrilled to share these expressive and thought-provoking sculptures with our visitors.”  

To learn more, visit nationalhellenicmuseum.org.

The Present
Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art (Oct.13 – Dec.16) uses digital art to suggest how today’s web uses digital technologies to surveil, erase and exploit members of society. Organized by New York’s Buffalo AKG Art Museum, the touring show concludes in Chicago via Alphawood Exhibitions at Wrightwood 659.

The exhibit features 3-D printed sculptures, software-based and internet art, animated videos, bioart experiments, and digital games by Morehshin Allahyari, Zach Blas, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, A.M. Darke, Stephanie Dinkins, Hasan Elahi, Sean Fader, Rian Ciela Hammond, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Joiri Minaya, Mongrel, Mendi + Keith Obadike, Sondra Perry, Keith Piper, Skawennati, Saya Woolfalk, and Lior Zalmanson, collectively.

“These artworks demonstrate that artists who work with digital technologies have long considered the complex relationship between technology and difference. Unfortunately, as is true across contemporary art, these artists often have not been valued beyond their communities, due to the systemic biases of institutions including art museums and galleries,” says Tina Rivers Ryan, PhD, curator of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, who co-curated this exhibition with Paul Vanouse, professor at the University at Buffalo.

Visit wrightwood659.org for more information.

The Future
Hyde Park Art Center welcomes Candace Hunter: The Alien-Nations and Sovereign States of Octavia E. Butler (Nov. 11, 2023 – March 3, 2024). Co-curated by the Art Center’s Public Programs Manager Ciera Alyse McKissick and Director of Exhibition & Residency Programs Allison Peters Quinn, the show explores ideas presented by speculative fiction novelist Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006). 

“I’ve been working with Butler’s content for over a decade,” notes Hunter. “I was drawn to Butler’s work because she was a Black girl in literature creating worlds that were fantastical. It was a world you could find for yourself or create. You could just think of something, and it is. That was my first understanding of conceptual art: I can just make it, and it is.”

Through collages, installations, video, and audio works, Hunter illustrates the future societies Butler wrote about in “Parable of the Sower” (1993) and “Lilith’s Brood” (2000). Along with the exhibition, Hyde Park Art Center will present a series of free public programs including concerts, reading circles and writing workshops that explore Hunter’s interpretation of Butler’s books. 

For details, visit hydeparkart.org.

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.