Back in the good old days, comic books were blamed for the same thing rock 'n' roll would soon be--poisoning kids' minds with sex and violence. A catalyst for parental anger at the time was a book called Seduction of the Innocent; comic-book burnings and congressional inquiries would follow before the industry caved in with the self-inflicted 1954 Comic Code Authority. A gallery show that, um, graphically shows how far comics have come in the decades since opens tonight at Art-o-Rama, the self-proclaimed "ukele of art galleries" at 3039 W. Irving Park. The cleverly named Seedcake of the Insolent features works from Clay Wilson of The Checkered Demon fame, Joe Zabel and Gary Dumm of American Splendor, Jay Lynch of Phoebe and the Pigeon People, and a raft of others. The free opening is tonight from 7 to 10; the exhibit runs through July 28. Call 588-1876 for details.
Urban Worship, a multimedia extravaganza on the subject of life in the big city, opens tonight with art from 25 artists, a performance by the Battleax performance-art group, poetry from Kathleen Kirk, Esther Williams-Hays, and Ted Hazelgrove, and a fashion show by a group that calls itself "Elizabethan B-B-Q and Rococo Cough Drops." The opening runs from 7 to 10 at Beacon Street Gallery, 4520 N. Beacon. Organizers are asking an unspecified donation. The exhibit continues through August 31; call 478-7115 for info or a schedule of additional events.
Jerker--the two-man show subtitled The Helping Hand, a Pornographic Elegy With Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Phone Calls, Many of Them Dirty--is returning for its third season at Bailiwick Repertory. Back onstage is Darren Stephens with newcomer Brad Boehmke as men looking for love and redemption across the phone-sex lines. Director Timothy Lynch returns too. It plays at 11 PM Fridays and Saturdays for the next six weeks, except for July 12 and 13. Tickets are $15; reserve them at 883-1090. The theater is at 3212 N. Broadway.
The Art Institute's new installation "Degenerate Art": The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany is a recreation of part of a massive, 600-work exhibition derisively curated by Hitler's government to illustrate the dangers of modernist art. The original show ironically enough turned out to be perhaps the biggest blockbuster art exhibition of all time; in the neighborhood of three million people in Germany and Austria saw it in 1937. The Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art has reassembled about a third of the original exhibition, including works by Beckmann, Grosz, Chagall, Kandinsky, and Klee; there's also a scale model of the entire original exhibition, a display of the only known film of it, and press clippings from the time on exhibit, plus related material on the persecution of artists and composers and some samples of art and music that gained the Nazis' imprimatur. The exhibit runs today through September 8 at the Art Institute, Michigan at Adams; it's open from 10:30 to 4:30 daily, 10:30 to 8 Tuesdays, 10 to 5 Saturday, and noon to 5 Sunday. Tickets are $6, $3 for students, seniors, and kids under 14. Call 443-3600 for info. There are also several tie-ins to the exhibition around town: The Cloud 42 theater company is presenting Degenerate Art, a play by Tom Jacobson about victimized expressionist painter Emil Nolde. It opens tomorrow night at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont (there's a preview tonight at 8), and runs through August 4. Shows are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 3 and 7:30. Tickets are $15; call 327-5252 for details. Also, the Worthington Gallery, 620 N. Michigan, is running a concurrent exhibition by the same name of 60 works both for sale and loaned from private collections; admission is free. Call 266-2424.
This morning 5,000 or so bicyclists will traverse Chicago's "Emerald Necklace," the extensive system of boulevards ringing the city. The third annual Chicago Boulevard Lakefront Tour will cover a good part of the once and hopefully future bosky arterials and a good chunk of the lakefront as well. Bikes leave the Midway Plaisance (the corner of 59th and Woodlawn) between 7:30 and 9 (the ride is noncompetitive). It's $15 to ride along; call 427-3325 for more information.
ACT UP, the coolest political group around, has its sights set this week on the American Medical Association, which is holding its national convention here through Thursday. The radical gay action group (the acronym stands for "AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power") is upset about the AMA's position in favor of involuntary AIDS testing and obligatory notification of sex partners and its longstanding opposition to national health insurance. You can act up with ACT UP this morning at 7:30 at State and Wacker. It's free. Call 509-6802 for details.
As part of a ten-year review of its cultural grant-making, the MacArthur Foundation is working to understand how and why audiences respond (or don't respond) to what the foundation calls "new work"--i.e., new and difficult art. Strange Love: Audience Acceptance of New Work is a forum and performance this afternoon at Club Lower Links. First off are two performances, one by members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and a second by performance artist David Mura; then there'll be a panel discussion featuring Joe Melillo, an arts consultant who's worked for the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, and Live Bait Theater artistic director Sharon Evans. Things get under way at 4; Lower Links is at 954 W. Newport. It's free, but space is tight; call Naomi at 663-1628 to reserve a spot.
"A young Japanese American man falls under the romantic spell of a man from the rain forests of Brazil." Sound interesting? Try, "A 12-year-old boy, lost in the wasteland of suburbia, writes a letter to Mars, asking for a friend. When he receives an answer, all hell breaks loose." Or how about, "A burrowing animal has built an immense subterranean home in an attempt to protect itself from the hostile world above." These are capsule descriptions of just the first three (Dwight Okita's The Rainy Season, Rick Clute's Growing Up Absurd, and Penn Goertzel's adaptation of Kafka's The Burrow) of a baker's dozen of new plays to be read at the Chicago Dramatists Workshop's Marathon '91, readings of 13 new works in six days. These'll be lightly staged readings designed to give authors, audiences, and potential play buyers a look at works in progress. Things start tonight with The Rainy Season, at 7:30 at the workshop's theater, 1105 W. Chicago; tomorrow, same time, same place, is Growing Up Absurd, and Thursday is The Burrow and Silvia Gonzalez S.'s The Migrant Farmworker's Son. The marathon continues with another nine readings this weekend. The playwrights will be available for discussion after most readings. It's $3 per show, $25 for the series. Call 633-0630.
"History shows again and again / How nature points up the folly of man." Marcus Aurelius? Santayana? No, just a philosophical tidbit from Buck Dharma and the gang in Blue Oyster Cult, from their baroque heavy-metal paean to the rather unhistorical figure of Godzilla. The Long Island band was "heavy" back when heavy meant something; aided by a bunch of pop hooks and lyrics from rock-critic-to-be Richard Meltzer, they coursed through the 70s as one of the decade's signal hard-rock bands. Re-formed with most of the original members, including fab guitarist Dharma, keyboardist Allen Lanier, and singer Eric Bloom, they play at Biddy Mulligan's, 7644 N. Sheridan, at 8:30 tonight. Tix are $15. Call 761-6532.
Fooey on the Bulls--Chicago holds the world championship for female cartoonists! Four of the best--Lynda Barry of Ernie Pook's Comeek, Nicole Hollander of Sylvia, Brenda Starr creator Dale Messick, and Cathy's Cathy Guisewite, all Chicagoans save Guisewite--are the stars of Funny Ladies, a 46-minute-long documentary by Pamela Beere Briggs and William McDonald that premieres tonight. After the film, WXRT's Terri Hemmert will lead a Q-and-A session with Messick, Hollander, and the producers. A reception starts at 5, film at 6; it's all on the 60th floor of the AT&T Center, 200 W. Monroe. It's free, but make reservations at 944-4868.