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Modern Sculpture in an Old-Fashioned Setting

Free Art Show Invites Fresh Look at Civic Gem

An 88 year-old war memorial has a new function: it’s the stunning backdrop to the Spring Show of Chicago Sculpture International, an organization that supports Chicago sculptors.

Located at the corner of Diversey and Lakeview, the National Elks Memorial recently reopened to the public, and the spiffy interior of this domed building has been completely rejuvenated.

The memorial rotunda was built in 1926 to honor the sacrifice of American veterans. It’s hard to believe that this Beaux Arts-style building has never hosted an art exhibit. Maybe that’s because the building itself is a work of art, with statues and murals and incredible attention to decorative detail.

The new show is called Invoking the Absence and examines artists’ notion of presence and emptiness. It was curated by Lucas Cowan, who did the marvelous Morbid Curiosity show at the Chicago Cultural Center a couple of years ago and curated large-scale public exhibitions in Millennium Park, including the work of Mark di Suvero.

This exhibition features strong and diverse work from 22 sculptors, including Eric Stephenson, who works as a studio assistant to the internationally acclaimed Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt. There’s also striking work from Terry Karpowicz and Dominic Sansone, and Laurie LeBreton’s odd figures multiply like rabbits around a marble fireplace.

If there’s any downside to having an art show in such a powerful place, it’s the dominating effect of the building itself. It’s easy to look past some of the artwork and behold the marvelous domed ceiling overhead. But once your eyes adjust to the scale, there’s much to see and enjoy closer to the ground.

The exhibition is open through October 26 at  2750 N. Lakeview Avenue but note building's very specific hours: Monday through Saturday, 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.