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February 2–April 20, 2007
Brian Dettmer, “Postoperative”
James F. Cleary, B.F.A., “Wisenheimer’s Disease”

Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Free and Open to the Public

Both these artists modify medical media—Dettmer with the painstaking precision of a neurosurgeon and Cleary with the evident glee of a mad scientist.

Brian Dettmer, Skull

“Postoperative” features a variety of objects that have gone under Dettmer’s knife, including 11 books that he dissected one page at a time by carving through their covers and excising everything but images and ideas of interest to reveal the hidden relationships of their innards. Also on display will be a skull and a full-size, anatomically correct human skeleton that Dettmer molded from cassette tape shells for AC/DC’s Back in Black and other such albums, reinterpreting the phrase “dead media”: as Dettmer says, “Their intended role has decreased or deceased and they often exist simply as symbols of the ideas they represent rather than true conveyers of content… Through meticulous excavation or concise alteration, content becomes recontextualized and new meanings or interpretations emerge.”

Last month, Dettmer’s first solo exhibition in New York, at Art & Idea (now known as Haydée Rovirosa Gallery), was dubbed “buzz-worthy” by the Village Voice; in Chicago he is represented by Packer Schopf Gallery, where his shows have drawn much acclaim. He was featured in Ivy Sundell’s 2005 book Living Artists and his work appeared in the corresponding “Living Artists Invitational” exhibition. A Chicago native and Columbia College graduate, Dettmer recently relocated to Atlanta. For more information about Dettmer and his work, visit www.packergallery.com or www.haydeerovirosa.com.

James F. Cleary, B.F.A., Horror Mel (Makin’ Francis Bacon)

“Wisenheimer’s Disease” comprises a series of 40 photomontages depicting Cleary’s apocalyptic vision of humankind’s degeneration resulting from “Do It Yourself Homo Improvement.” In Cleary’s words, “My drawings look forward with horror to the novel and grotesque ways that science may choose to reshape the human body in a well-meaning, but misguided effort to improve upon God’s work.” Although the monstrous creatures that Cleary produces by reconfiguring and satirically defacing medical illustrations offer harsh criticism of body modification and genetic engineering, the artist confesses that he suffers from the same disease as the scientists that he condemns—he simply delights in “making monsters.”

Cleary counts as his greatest artistic influences his older brother’s college anatomy textbooks and Mad Magazine collection, which he discovered simultaneously at the age of five. He first experimented with making monsters at the precocious age of nine, when he attempted unsuccessfully to graft the claws of a crawfish onto frog legs. Cleary received his titular B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in 1990 and now resides in Minneapolis, where his work has been shown at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Rogue Buddha Gallery. More information about Cleary and his work is available at:

These exhibitions are the latest in the Museum’s “Anatomy in the Gallery” series, which has showcased medically themed contemporary art in quarterly paired exhibitions since 1998. The Museum exhibits this artwork along with thousands of historical artifacts from its permanent collection, including surgical instruments as well as a number of paintings, drawings, and sculptures, in accordance with its mission: to enrich the lives of its visitors by enhancing their appreciation and understanding of medicine.

Read Josh Tyson’s review of the exhibitions in the March 29–April 4 issue of Time Out Chicago (PDF)


This project is partially sponsored by a CityArts Program 2 grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.


1524 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60610 USA
fax 312.642.9516


Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 10 am to 4 pm
Wednesday: 10 am to 4 pm
Thursday: 10 am to 4 pm
Friday: 10 am to 4 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm

Last admission will be taken one hour before the closing time.