Though he is most recognized now as the director of the unflinching feature films Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011), Steve McQueen has had a nearly 20-year career as a visual artist working primarily in moving images. As the holder of the largest collection of work by McQueen in any museum in the United States, the Art Institute of Chicago is proud to present, in the first large-scale survey ever devoted to the artist, 15 of his works, including one created specially for the exhibition and on view for the first time.
Born in London in 1969 to West Indian immigrants, McQueen made his first major work, Bear, in 1993 as he was completing his studies in the visual arts at Goldsmiths College. In the following two decades, he has produced a steady stream of evocative moving-image installations that blend elements of contemporary life and social commentary. His subject matter varies widely—meditations on immigration and diaspora, hip-hop culture, mining conditions in Africa, gun violence in Britain—but is always underscored by an emphasis on the individual body, often his own, as the surface on which contemporary life is written. Just as emphatically, McQueen uses film to explore the very essence of the medium itself. Distilled into contrasts between light and darkness, motion and stillness, and sound and silence, McQueen’s installations are formally rich and multifaceted, redrawing the boundaries between fine art and filmmaking. Also included in the exhibition and on view for the first time outside the United Kingdom is Queen and Country (2006), a project composed of stamps bearing portraits of the British men and women who lost their lives in Iraq, which McQueen completed as an official British war artist.
McQueen won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1999 and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2009. In 2011, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the visual arts. The Art Institute is the only museum in the country presenting this exhibition, which will travel to Switzerland in 2013. The exhibit runs October 21 through January 6, 2013.