Friday, January 4, 2008

Art Beyond Our Vision Gallery

Art Beyond Our Vision Gallery, an additional gallery to visit during and after the Festival of Maps, features works of art crafted from satellite data recorded from over 400 miles above the Earth. At first glance these images might resemble oil paintings or photographs. In reality, the textures found naturally on the surface of the Earth create the same depth, detail and touch of a skilled brush stroke. Nature leaves its mark and the ABOV artists “paint” that signature.

Below are two works by ABOV artists Larry Ammann and Stuart Black. The first image, Dancer, by Ammann, follows the Colorado River as it flows into Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border, through the Glen Canyon dam at Page, Arizona, and then into Marble Canyon. The second image, Liwa Oasis, by Stuart Black, depicts the boundary between the flat coast desert and salt flats of the United Arab Emirates Gulf coast and the start of the Empty Quarter - the world's largest sea of sand dunes.

Dancer by Larry Ammann


Liwa Oasis by Stuart Black

For more information and to view additional works visit

When in Chicago, visit the ABOV gallery located in the River North neighborhood at the intersection of Illinois/Wells Street. Please call or email to set up an appointment. Gallery hours during the week are 10AM – 5PM, evenings and weekends by appointment.

Art Beyond Our Vision Gallery

444 North Wells Street, Suite 205
Chicago, IL 60610
T: 312 925.4191

Monday, December 10, 2007

Open Borders

Festival of Maps organizers welcome two more exhibits for the attention of map enthusiasts. These venues came to our attention after our list of exhibits was fixed, but they are too special to miss. We encourage visitors to check out: 1) The ABOV Gallery to see mysteriously beautiful works of art created using satellite images; and 2) the Harold Washington Library, where you will discover an exhibit of rare Civil War maps.

Maps of the Civil War

The Reading Room of Special Collections will feature an exhibit of twelve maps of the Civil War. Items in the show range from crudely drawn maps created in the battlefield to fine color-lithographed maps published by the War Department in the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (1891-1895).

Highlights include:

A manuscript map drawn by General Abner Doubleday of Elys Ford on the Rapidan River near Falmouth and Fredericksburg, Virginia. Doubleday created the map nine days before the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.

A letter home written by soldier John H. Roe included a hand-drawn map of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River during General Ulysses S. Grant’s efforts to take the Fort in February, 1862.

A printed 1863 map, “Approaches to Vicksburg and Rebel Defenses,” based on a reconnaissance by C. Fendall of the U.S. Coast Survey.

Dates of exhibit: November 17, 2007 – March 1, 2008

Hours of exhibit: Monday – Thursday, noon until 6 p.m.
Friday – Saturday, noon until 4 p.m.
Sunday, closed

Location of exhibit: Chicago Public Library
Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State Street
Special Collections, 9th Floor
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 747-4875

The Chicago Public Library is comprised of the Harold Washington Library Center, two regional libraries and 76 neighborhood branches. The Chicago Public Library offers a rich resource of books, DVDs, audio books and more, provides free access to the Internet and WiFi in all of its locations, as well as free public programs for children, teens and adults.

The Harold Washington Library Center, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library and Conrad Sulzer Regional Library are all open 7 days a week, the remaining 76 branch libraries are open 6 days a week and patrons can access all of the libraries’ collections online 24 hours a day. For more information, please visit the website at or call the Chicago Public Library Press Office at (312) 747-4050.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

“Maps in the Public Square” Exhibit Explores Chicago’s Past, Present and Future

Maps are not only tools that get you from Point A to Point B. They can also expose visually an important story about resource patterns and trends of a defined area. They tackle social questions like, “Are Starbucks an indicator of gentrification?” or “Do lower-income communities have less access to fresh produce?” Depicting instances like these help community members and planners better deal with the needs of an area that may not always be clear.

This year, Festival of Maps includes an online exhibit, “Maps in the Public Square: An Atlas of the Next Chicago Region”, highlighting the creative combination of mapmaking and public policy in the Chicago region. The region’s groundbreaking advances in regional planning, sustainable urban development, and community decision-making have been supported and given shape by equally groundbreaking cartography. The exhibit draws on both the deep Chicago well of public discussion and the newest mapmaking technologies to create an annotated atlas of the best of the recent work in this area.

With contributions from CNT, Openlands, and Chicago Metropolis 2020, to name a few, these maps tell historical stories about the region and also reveal future implications through different topics like ‘work’ ‘moving’ ‘plans and visions’ and ‘play’.

Where are the emerging art-focused neighborhoods? Where are the ‘food deserts’ in Chicago? What is the average household transportation expense in a particular district? These are just some of the fascinating questions that can be explored at this online exhibit that runs into 2008 and will then become an online atlas. The exhibit contains over sixty map images as well as links to online mapping website and is curated is Mark Bouman, Professor of Geography at Chicago State University.

Peruse the exhibit at

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rome Reflected in Many Mirrors: Or, The Travelers’ Guide to Rome: 16th Century Style

All maps really do lead to Rome in the display currently on view in the Special Collections Department of the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library. The exhibition centers on excerpts from Antonio Lafreri’s 16th century Speculum Romanae Magnificatae—the title for a vast series of engraved images that translates as “Mirrors of the Magnificence of Rome.” Antonio Lafreri was a Frenchman from Besançon who relocated to Rome to establish a career producing engraved images and maps of the ancient city. Images range from maps that recreate the layout of Rome at various points in its history, to depictions of the still-extant ruins and statuary as recorded by 16th century artists. Lafreri’s ambitions reflected what was, at that time, an intense interest in Roman antiquity. As engravings deriving from clearly well-worn copper plates demonstrate, Lafreri’s elegant and elaborate image-making met the demands of his consumers. His work quickly became immensely popular and was distributed widely throughout Europe. At the center of the exhibition thus lies the theme of Rome observed and mapped through the eyes of the traveler.

The exhibition positions many of these images as “virtual tourism,” because they represent Rome to those who, for whatever reason, required a depiction of the city that they would not see in person. Other Lafreri documents appear as individual pieces, which probably originated as special souvenirs for travelers who wanted to commemorate a trip to Rome. Still others appear in bound folios that were made-to-order at the time of their inception: a precursor, if you will, to the contemporary coffee table book. These custom bound folios served as one-of-a-kind treasures for the libraries of well-to-do travelers, who might later consult their collection of images as references for private architectural or design projects.

Other items in this rich exhibition establish Lafreri within larger historical contexts. Some of the texts on view seek to make a contrast between “virtual” tourism and “actual” tourism. Indeed, in some display cases, Lafreri’s folios are interspersed with pocket-sized volumes, clearly meant for consultation by visitors making their way through an unknown city. Many of these guidebooks have a well-thumbed appearance, revealing the trace of a tour or pilgrimage to Rome long since completed. These charming volumes, minus the woodcut images and leather bindings, bear a striking resemblance to the Michelin guides we tote today.

The exhibition’s curator poses huge questions regarding the composition, origin, and ultimate “legitimacy” of these latter-day maps of Ancient Rome. And beyond Rome, she raises further questions about the challenges faced by the producers of maps and how they organized and spatialized history. One of the most provocative pieces on display is an image of the ruins of the Roman Forum dating from 1550. It depicts not only tourists wandering through the scene, but multiple artists as well, clearly identifiable with their drawing pads and canvases. The artists sit in various places within the decaying structure, each lost in his own work. In one corner, two artists gaze at a single statue from opposite sides. This visual metaphor makes the point that the “same” historical space is always subjected to differing perspectives and imaginations. All these questions remain pertinent to our ongoing attempts to understand history through maps.

The exhibition is characteristic of the University of Chicago’s meticulous scholarship. A collection has been assembled here that is not outwardly imposing in size, but nevertheless explores a massive historical dialogue between the present and at least two multifaceted pasts: one that is ancient and distant, and another imbued with the complicated perspectives of the 16th century.

Written by Nik Lund

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A City Too Fast for Maps: Images of Chicago’s Past and Future

The exhibit, Mapping Chicago: The Past and the Possible, at the Chicago History Museum invites visitors of all ages “to consider the relationship between maps and imagination.” The exhibition is highly recommended for those who enjoy maps, less as an accurate reference to the present than as an image of a vanished past or imagined future. The curators of the show have brought together a highly diverse collection of maps and have arranged them so as to invite freer associations between them. In this way, it is indeed a show to tempt one’s imaginative faculties.

The exhibition reminds viewers that a map always represents an historical document, with its own historical origins. Moreover, in a city like Chicago, which has seen such phenomenal change in a relatively short time, the “aging” of a map can be a startling revelation for later viewers. For example, an 1834 Chicago land-holdings map is accompanied by a quote from one Joshua Hathaway, Jr., who, while marveling at the exploding real estate market, observed: “Indeed, in Chicago, every map is out of date before it leaves the press.” Clear evidence of this rapid change is offered by an 1892 map showing the complete network of coal-carrying freight trains. The Pacific, Michigan Southern, Chicago, and Rock Island railroad tracks merged then at the spot now occupied by Millennium Park. Considering the appearance of that area only 15 years ago, the “out-of-dateness” of these maps is quite apparent.

Another important section of the exhibit features the historical links between the mapping of the city and the mapping of its citizens. Chicago, of course, has a long and complicated history regarding the segregation of its African-American population. Many maps from past decades plot all too clearly a pattern of discrimination that situated this population to their “own place” on the map. Nevertheless, this important social critique is contrasted with maps that show Chicago as a place of extraordinary ethnic mingling and diversity. One finds crazily complicated maps that attempt to color code the arrival of immigrants from every imaginable origin onto the city grid. I was not surprised to see a large Polish contingent emerging on the West Side, north of Chicago Avenue, around the turn of the century. But I was indeed unaware of the large Swedish population that came to dwell just north of the river around the same time. On one of the maps commissioned in 1976 specifically to plot the ethic distributions as they appeared in 1900, the notes dryly state: “The locations of these groups is approximate…The neighborhoods were never totally homogenous.” And indeed they were not.

Especially inspiring to the imagination are maps that plot the future. Perhaps the most tantalizing items on display are satellite views of the city provided by the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill with overlaid points indicating the sites that have been proposed for the 2016 Olympic Games in Chicago. A placard beneath summarizes—with somehow perfect Chicago inflections—comments that reveal the polarized debate between persons alternately thrilled or horrified by the idea of Chicago as an Olympic host.

The exhibition subtly addresses some of the other debates currently “on the map” in the city. One section juxtaposes some of Daniel Burnham’s beautiful 1908 renderings of his proposed lakefront with an 1836 Cook County Clerk’s office map depicting the stretch of land between Madison and (now) Harrison, and East of Michigan Avenue. Written on the 1836 map, in an elegant and clear script, one reads: “A Common to remain forever Open, Clear, and Free of any buildings or other obstacles whatever.” This is precisely the motto championed today by the many groups attempting to halt the building of the proposed Children’s Museum adjacent to Millennium Park. The debate remains open at present, and the historical precedent recorded here certainly resonates with modern sentiments regarding the preservation of Chicago’s lakefront.

Anyone who loves the way maps take the imagination across the dimensions of time and place should treat themselves to a trip to the Chicago History Museum.

Written by Nik Lund

Monday, October 22, 2007

Revealing the Earth at the Museum of Science and Industry

“Geography is destiny,” booms a voice in a dark room. Seated in a circle under television screens and video projectors, visitors watch a huge 6-foot diameter, carbon fiber globe light up in the middle of the exhibit room. And thus is ‘Earth Revealed’ in the Museum of Science and Industry’s new permanent exhibit exploring the planet from a variety of scientific and anthropological approaches.

Oftentimes when we look at a globe it is hard to glean much information beyond where one country ends and another begins. Earth Revealed illuminates how mapping can be useful in understanding anything from earthquakes to climate change. It also shows how our actions affect the dynamic and ever-changing face of our world.

The exhibit itself is about a ten-minute multimedia presentation utilizing data sets from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA as well as video footage from around the world.

Working in tandem, the globe, television screens and voiceover fully communicate a point. The beginning narration explains which colors represent what topographical or seismological phenomenon as they are highlighted so viewers can get their bearings with the globe. As dark green mountain ranges light up all over the globe, the television screens show video footage of mountains.

The multimedia formats combine to elucidate more complicated phenomena overlaying the topography.

While the television screens show still frames of Richter scales and buildings crumbling during earthquakes, advanced digital imagery techniques highlight tectonic plates and fault lines on the globe so that viewers can ‘watch’ the earthquake happen on the globe. As viewers are watching, the voiceover also explains exactly how tectonic plates on the ocean floor move together to ultimately create the quakes we feel on the ground.

Earth Revealed’s biggest achievement is highlighting the effect human activity has on the earth. For example, as the voice discusses the ramifications of slash and burn agriculture in Africa, images of a forest burning flash across the television screen. Meanwhile, reddish dots pop up in various African nations, showing the viewer where these practices take place.

Following the brief discussion of slash and burn agriculture, through showing cloud patterns on the globe, and images of huge smoke clouds on the screens, viewers can see how these practices affect the climate.

The Museum of Science and Industry has always been lauded as a unique institution, especially as one of the few museums that engages visitors through interactive exhibits. While Earth Revealed is not interactive in the traditional sense, it truly engages viewers by creating a powerful connection between what they are watching and themselves.

We might think of cartography as limited to ink on paper. This exhibit shows how mapping can be used in new ways to understand what is happening on our planet.

By using a familiar format (the television screen) to present viewers with relatively common imagery (mountains and forests), the exhibit allows viewers to make a connection between what they already know and the more complex data supplied by NOAA and NASA.

A truly unique exhibit in the Festival of Maps, Earth Revealed offers a fascinating variation on traditional museum offerings.

Written by Sarah Arkin

Friday, October 5, 2007

Prairie State Landscapes

The busy State of Illinois building seems like an unlikely place for a museum, but “The Grammar of Landscape: 11 Photographic Visions in Illinois” offers a delightful respite from the bustling business district.

The exhibit, one of several shows preceding the Festival of Maps, presents images by 11 photographers with distinct perspectives. The exhibit brings together imagery of industrial landscapes, nature, and cityscapes in a cleanly executed presentation. The photographs offer, as the curator’s explanation says “the land around us in terms of building blocks.”

It is in fact the range of subject matter along with the stylistic variance of the photographs that make the exhibit a success. We see not only city, agriculture, prairie, forest and industry, but we see each of these elements from different visual perspectives.

Gary Kolb, famed nature photographer, offers black and white silver gelatin prints of Illinois forests. On the adjacent wall of this room of the exhibit are three
color photographs of Chicago industrial sites at nightfall by Michelle Keim.

Both Michael McGuire’s ink-jet panoramas and Bob Thall’s black and white digital prints expose the precise angles and structures that comprise Chicago’s urban environment. The surprising vivacity in McGuire’s parking garages is juxtaposed beautifully with the loneliness of Thall’s empty roads.

Jin Lee’s close-up, low depth of field, C-prints of prairie flowers augment the vastness of Art Sinsabaugh’s panoramas titled “Midwest Landscape.”

My favorite set of photographs in the exhibit are Bill Sosin’s inkjet prints. All of the pictures focus on raindrops on Sosin’s car windows. Different rain-related moments throughout the city comprise the blurry backgrounds. In addition to the images themselves, their particular room shows off the unique architecture of the Thompson Center. The room is striated with supporting beams, which generate dramatic lines of vision.

But the compelling photographs are just one element of the show. It is, after all, part of the Festival of Maps. Next to each set of photographs, the viewer will find a map showing exactly where in Illinois the photographs were taken.

“We’re so pleased to be part of the Festival of Maps,” said curator Judith Burson Lloyd Klauba. “[The maps] add another level to the pictures,” she continued. “They personalize the images.” Indeed, the maps allow the viewer to bring together the different elements of Illinois by linking a specific place with each image.

Both photographs and maps are methods of preservation and documentation. Photographs capture a moment in time, permanently recording history. Maps record the details and development of geography. Oftentimes we think of maps as a way of determining a route between point A and B, but this exhibit highlights how much more maps can be used for.

The Illinois State Museum aims to preserve Illinois history. What better way to do that than through the artistic documentation in the photographs and the technical documentation of cartography? The exhibit does a magnificent job of combining two important methods of preservation and documentation.

Written by Sarah Arkin