Free things to do in Chicago | Mar 25–31
This is the last week for a lot of free art exhibits, and Mess Hall is having its last shindig before it closes its doors.
RuPaul's Drag Race Season 5 Official Logo Viewing Party
Start your "werk" week with the fiercest bitches in America as Drag Race revs up with a fifth fabulous season.
Left-field lovers Abyss, Raj Mahal, Illiac and Cos have been gathering to push buttons and boundaries with bass, hip-hop and off-kilter beats for more than two years now, racking up a steady following at LOKaL lounge before making the move around the corner to this sleek watering hole.
"Claire Ashley: frizzflopsqueezepop."
8am–7pm, Chicago Cultural Center
Ashley’s inflatable sculptures sprawl across the floor and strain against the walls and ceiling of the Chicago Cultural Center. Her spray-painted works have an undertone of menace despite their Day-Glo colors and playful medium: Their sagging, bulbous forms recall bodily organs swollen to grotesque sizes. While the show includes a few abstract paintings and small-scale sculptures, only the colossal inflatables create the spectacle that makes this show pop. Through Mar 31.—Lauren Weinberg
"Structures for Reading."
10am–6pm, Center for Book and Paper Arts
Moyra Davey, Gareth Long, and Chicago artists such as Sterling Lawrence and Johana Moscoso riff on books and the act of reading in installation, photography, video and sculpture.
"Victoria Sambunaris: Taxonomy of a Landscape."
10am–5pm, Museum of Contemporary Photography
Sambunaris has spent more than a decade photographing the U.S. from coast to coast. Her images of American landscapes and infrastructure, which include a recent project devoted to the U.S.-Mexico border, appear with the books, maps and artifacts that the artist collected during her travels.
"Johanna Billing: I'm gonna live anyhow until I die."
10am–6pm, Kavi Gupta Gallery
Set to a soundtrack inspired by experimental musician Franco Battiato, Billing's new video follows five children as they run around Rome. Their adventures, culminating in an empty school, allude to psychoanalysis, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Bruno Munari among other Italian heroes.
10:30am–6pm, Carrie Secrist Gallery
The New York School, Chinese scholars' rocks, and travels in Ireland and Iceland are among the influences on Geichman's new black-and-white abstract paintings and works on paper. Closing reception Sat 30, 1–5pm, includes artists' dialogue with Geichman and Dana DeGiulio at 1pm.
"Gabriel Vormstein: Tempus fungit- amor mannet."
Vormstein doesn't mind that some of his art won't stand the test of time. The Berlin artist usually paints lone human figures in watercolor on newspaper, which he expects to grow brittle and gradually become a “color” in the work. While his more sculptural “pulp paintings” come off as less sophisticated, an installation that fills the gallery’s storefront window with torn and painted newspaper is a fitting monument to Vormstein's fascination with temporality. Through Mar 30.—FM
7pm, Peanut Gallery
Two dozen M.F.A. students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign present their new work in painting, sculpture, photography, metal and new media. Opens Fri 15, 6–10pm.
Visiting Artists Program: Josiah McElheny
6pm, Art Institute of Chicago
McElheny, who had a solo show at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art last fall, explores architecture and science, among other disciplines, through complex installations that incorporate glass, photography, film, text and performance.
Gods and Monsters
6:30pm, Chicago Cultural Center
Dir. Bill Condon. 1998. 105mins. Ian McKellen earned his first Oscar nomination—much deserved—for his playful and melancholic performance as gay Frankenstein director James Whale. Much less impressive is Brendan Fraser, as the straight gardener the auteur lusts after.
7pm, UP Comedy Club
The Louder Than a Bomb founder and artistic director of Young Chicago Authors reads from his new poetry collection, Schtick. With his trademark hip-hop musicality, it explores all aspects of Jewish-American culture, as well as his own history. Reserve a ticket at upcomedyclub.com. Doors are at 6:30pm.
10pm, Smart Bar
Acid Test holds down Smart Bar with Sevron, Stephen P and Blue J keeping it strictly vinyl. Once a month, the band of brothers spins house, techno and acid for devoted followers. This month, Will Azada of the Proper Trax label heads up this night of acid-leaning house and techno featuring Grey People. Best of all, no cover.
7pm, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel (University of Chicago)
Rumor has it that the string quartet version of Haydn's the Seven Last Words of Christ, Op. 51, was not actually penned by the Austrian master but is in fact a work of careless transcription. It's not unusual for quartets to fashion their own adaptation of the orchestral original, so Spektral offers a fresh vision in partnership with local arranger Joe Clark.
9pm, Scarlet Bar
Just try to find elbow room at this throwback to the house party days of college when beer pong, 20-ounce brews and hot boys ruled.
10am, Chicago Cultural Center
The city's getting Chicago babies hooked on culture early with its new music and performance series. Geared toward the "stroller set," the outings let parents and pre-kindergarten kids take in free family-friendly performances in music, dance and theater. In case you thought this was your typical assortment of handclapping, patty-cake feel-goodery, think again: The brainy but engaging artists' roster includes Spektral Quartet's humorous, interactive antics; accessible classical act Chicago Q Ensemble; theatrical and sculptural dance group RE | Dance Group; improvised jazz artist Jeff Parker; and more.
"Ann Toebbe: The Inheritance."
Toebbe peoples her new paintings and collages of domestic interiors with the family members, friends and foes involved in a vicious inheritance dispute.
3pm, Joe's Bar
Blake Shelton has become a person of interest in American pop culture thanks to his charismatic every-guy role as judge on The Voice . His 2011 LP, Red River Blue, ain't bad, either. He has a new record, Based on a True Story, due this year. Today's appearance is a promotion and you must win tickets at US99.com for entry.
6pm, Permanent Records
Alabama singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield brings her low-fi pop stylings to Ukie Village record shop Permanent behind infectious 2013 LP, Cerulean Salt.
Farewell to Mess Hall: Closing Ceremonies and Celebration
7pm–midnight, Mess Hall
After ten years in Rogers Park, the experimental cultural center Mess Hall closes with a parade, party and key-tossing ceremony.
"Mark Booth: Light Emitting Intestine of Interstitial Largess."
1–5pm, Audible at ESS
Booth experiments with language and improvisation in a site-specific text installation complemented by paintings, drawings and audio works. Special performance Sat 30 at 8pm, featuring a mix of field recordings, noise, drums, cheerleaders and vocalists.
Wexler reads from his newest book, The Adventures of Ed Tuttle, Associate Justice, and Other Stories.
8pm, Graham Foundation
Experimentalist Valerio Tricoli performs a new, no-doubt heady work to mark the 100th anniversary of futurist Luigi Russolo's manifesto, "The Art of Noises," which paved the way for noise as a recognized form in contemporary music.
To get your Saturday off on the right track, Eternals bassist Wayne Montana takes over this modern Asian-themed and always-packed-with-beautiful-people haunt on Milwaukee Avenue for early evening dubby jams.