May 23rd 2019

Amy Sillman: The Nervous System: Talk

@ The Arts Club of Chicago

201 E Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60611

Opening Thursday, May 23rd, from 6PM - 7PM

On view through Saturday, August 3rd

Artist Amy Sillman will be in conversation about her most recent exhibition at The Arts Club of Chicago, The Nervous System.

Featuring new and recent painting, Amy Sillman: The Nervous System calls upon abstract and figurative motifs to address the material and emotional conditions of being human in fraught political times. A roughly sixty-foot, two-sided hanging frieze of printed and hand-painted works on paper provides the focal point of the exhibition. On one side, a recurring figure drags itself across the pages, showing its vulnerability, grief, and fortitude in the face of earth’s gravity and societal pressures. The other side deploys pungent color, patterning, and exuberant mark-making to convey the artist’s less explicit understandings of a body struggling to exist.

Large-scale paintings like In Illinois, (2017-2018) that hint at the artist’s deep connections to Chicago, allude to personal points of reference in the rich iconography that has been developed over time in her zines and comics, as well as oil paintings and works on paper. A wailing figure in a fetal crouch conveys the pathos of this painting, which shows two figures stacked upon each other and connected by a seeming umbilical cord. The exhibition further features an elegiac quartet of new paintings entitled Blues for Omar, 2019.

Other works, with a lighter touch, veer upon the comical with bright patches of saturated color or whimsical motifs like pomegranates, clocks, heads, or onions.

Together, the overall installation of the galleries reflects the notion of a “nervous system” referenced in the exhibition’s title. It refers at once to stressed social networks and the corporeal network of neurons—cells in the body that operate by electrical charge between the mental and physical realms of being.

Amy Sillman (born in 1955 in Detroit, MI) lives and works in New York City. She received a BFA from School of Visual Art, NYC, in 1979 and an MFA from Bard College in 1995. Primarily a painter, but actively engaging with various side interests (such as animation, language, and printmaking), Sillman weaves together a formal and discursive language, one that engages both formally and critically with painting’s history and language. Working with humor, defiance, and an almost archeological sensibility, she builds and deconstructs paintings through intermittent layers and transformations, working toward the not-[quite]-known. Sillman’s work has been shown widely in the US and Europe, and is in the collections of museums such as MoMA, The Whitney Museum, The Drawing Center, The Brooklyn Museum, LA MoCA, Portikus in Frankfurt, Lenbachhaus and the Brandhorst Museum in Munich, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and The Tate Modern, London. She has received numerous fellowships and grants, including a Guggenheim in 2001, and been an invited guest at The Radcliffe Foundation, The American Academy in Rome, and in the fall, at the Rauschenberg Foundation. Her last solo show, “Landline,” was held at Camden Arts Centre in London from September 2018 until January 2019. A recent monograph was published by Lund Humphries Publishers, London, with a text by author/curator Valerie Smith. Sillman is represented in New York by Gladstone Gallery, and currently holds a Professorship at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt, Germany.


Since 1916, The Arts Club of Chicago has been a preeminent exhibitor of international art, a forum for both established and emerging artists, and a celebrated venue for performers from around the world. For over 95 years, The Arts Club has opened its membership to artists and art patrons, and its exhibitions to the public.

Please note that the galleries at The Arts Club are free and open to the public from Tuesday – Friday from 11 am – 6 pm and Saturday from 11 am – 3 pm. Information about future events can be found at

Valet Parking will be available for $14 per car. If you are not traveling by car, The Arts Club is easily accessible via the Red Line (Grand), or any of the buses that service Michigan Avenue. The 2 and 157 buses stop across the street from our entrance.

The Arts Club is wheelchair accessible. This event will take place on the second floor of the building, accessible by elevator and staircase. The bathrooms are located, however, on the first floor at the rear of the building. A security guard may be able to direct visitors to a single-user restroom if preferable. To request accommodations, please contact Daly Arnett at or 312.787.3997.

Image: Amy Sillman, In Illinois, 2017 – 2018. Oil on canvas. 75 x 66 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

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