A Tale of Today – Connecting Past & Present

Sep 21, 2020 / by Jacqueline Lewis / Chicago Gallery News

Artists Mika Horibuchi, and Nate Young

The Driehaus Museum’s new exhibition, A Tale of Today: Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi, opens September 26, following a spring COVID-19 postponement.

Featuring site-specific works by Chicago artists Nate Young and Mika Horibuchi, the exhibition is the second installation of the museum’s contemporary series, A Tale of Today: New Artists at the Driehaus Museum, which gives audiences a chance to view the Gilded Age’s legacy through new perspectives while connecting the abundant history of the Nickerson Mansion with our current reality.

Richard H. Driehaus, the museum’s founder, not only hopes to reach new audiences but also, he says, “to demonstrate the importance of architecture and sense of place from the incomparable vantage point of the Nickerson Mansion, while also showcasing new artists in this historical setting.” Exhibiting artists were chosen based on their ability to complement and communicate with the museum’s preexisting architecture and decoration. The first part of the series, from 2019, featured Yinka Shonibare, a London-born and -based artist, raised in Nigeria, who draws on both his English and African history to create his art.

In this second edition, artist Nate Young’s work draws on themes of history, semiotics, and spirituality to explore the connections between collective and familial history. Young’s pieces in the exhibition combine sculptural installation and woodworking skills to create doubles of existing cabinets and drawers, calling to mind the Gilded Age’s craftsmanship while blending his contemporary edge seamlessly with the lavish space. Young approached this project differently than previous exhibitions because the mansion is not a blank box, but a robust space. Pieces must coexist within the location’s atmosphere of excess and overt beauty. Young has hidden bone holograms in his pieces for visitors to notice upon closer examination, there to remind viewers of the invisibility of certain narratives throughout history.

Mika Horibuchi installation. Photography by Michael Tropea, 2020

Mika Horibuchi’s artistic interest lies in tricks and slips of visual perception. Horibuchi’s installations utilize trompe l’oeil as a way to analyze representation, ownership, and authorship. With this technique, the artist reflects and responds to the mansion itself. For example, Horibuchi created paintings that simulate photographic documentation of Asian artifacts, but the accompanying descriptive text is blurred, allowing viewers to form their own narratives with pieces removed from their original context. Horibuchi has also recreated paintings from the museum but in cool shades of gray. The original paintings were created mimicking historical precedents, and now Horibuchi’s paintings continue the legacy of mimicry.

Curator Kekeli Sumah believes both Young and Horibuchi’s installations “make conversations about the Gilded Age relevant in today’s society.” By giving these living, local artists a dynamic platform, the Driehaus Museum elevates the next generation of artists through a beautiful, melding dance of modernity and history at the Nickerson Mansion while highlighting the legacy and beauty of the Gilded Age.