Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Zachary Cahill/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Painting No Comments »
Zachary Cahill. painting from the installation "USSA 2012 Wellness Center"

Zachary Cahill. painting from the installation “USSA 2012 Wellness Center”


Zachary Cahill’s current exhibition, “USSA 2012: Wellness Center,” reflects on the contemporary dilemma of wellness in general and the healing potential of art in particular. Staging a physical retreat for therapeutic refuge in the third-floor enclave of the Museum of Contemporary Art that recalls European sanatoriums of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this highly referential exhibition of painting, sculpture and writing finds itself most cogent on the wall. Paintings often dressed in synthetic palettes and textual epigrams act in Cahill’s institution as optically prescriptive pseudo-pharmaceutical compositions with a desired effect on the viewer, a crooked analogue of the canonical canvases of romanticism they uncannily suggest.

The works center on health, wellness and care, topics as political and provocative as they come, instinctively relevant on a global scale, yet problematic as if by design. Health transcends the everyday, at once at the forefront of our collective consciousness and buried deep within it, a perennial victim of its own ubiquity. The industries of wellness wrestle with sizable points of contention, from intellectual property to the ethics of access. And the spaces of caregiving continue to provide rich ground to consider a question as genuinely human, ageless and pertinent today as any other, one found here, scribed in acrylic: what does it mean to be healthy? Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artists: Miller & Shellabarger

Artist Profiles, Drawings, Installation, Loop No Comments »
Miller & Shellabarger. "Again Gone," installation view

Miller & Shellabarger. “Again Gone,” installation view

“Western Exhibitions shows all three of us,” say Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, meaning the Chicago gallery separately represents Dutes, Stan and S&M, their collaborative practice as Miller & Shellabarger. The two met as undergraduates studying ceramics and organically began to work together on artistic projects. Twenty-one years later, the couple shares an Irving Park home and studio where individual art practices continue to grow alongside joint projects. Teaming up as Miller & Shellabarger periodically dominates their individual practices, while at other times independent work demands a hiatus from the collaborative. They have found an effortless ebb-and-flow, and three is not a crowd in this household.

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News: Changes in Chicago’s Arts Leadership [updated]

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Jessica Cochran has left her position as Curator of Exhibitions and Programs at the Center for Book & Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago. She was there four years and curated group exhibitions such as “Social Paper” and “Structures for Reading.” Cochran is now curator of a private contemporary art collection.

Cortney Lederer has resigned as Director of Exhibitions and Residencies at the Chicago Artists Coalition, where she worked from 2011-2014. At the CAC, Lederer designed residency programs for artists and curators (called “Bolt” and “Hatch”). She is pursuing an independent art consulting and curating company, CNL Art Consulting.

Jamilee Polson Lacy has accepted a position as Director and Curator of Providence College Galleries, in Rhode Island. While working as an independent curator in Chicago for many years, Polson Lacy organized the nomadic Twelve Galleries Project (founded in 2008), and was managing editor of the Bad at Sports blog. She says that the Providence College Galleries is a new initiative supported by a capital campaign to exhibit contemporary art at the college, and is modeled on UIC’s Gallery 400. She will return to Chicago periodically with her husband, Stephen Lacy (of Academy Records), to complete forthcoming exhibitions at Western Exhibitions and Columbia College Chicago, among other projects.

Tempestt Hazel is the new Arts Program Manager at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park. She will work to grow their residency, exhibitions and public programs. Hazel was formerly the Professional Development Manager at the Chicago Artists Coalition (from 2012-2014), and continues to curate independently and administer the arts website Sixty Inches from Center. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Two Chicago Artists Confirmed for Crystal Bridges Museum Exhibition

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Alberto Aguilar, still from Sensitive Equipment (video), 2012, to be shown at the Crystal Bridges Museum

Alberto Aguilar, still from Sensitive Equipment (video), 2012, to be shown at the Crystal Bridges Museum

Chicago-based artists Alberto Aguilar and Alison Ruttan have been selected to show in “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now,” a survey of contemporary art from the U.S. at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the private collection museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, founded by Alice Walton of Walmart. This is the museum’s first such survey, on a scale to rival the Whitney Museum’s biennial, and includes 102 total artists from all regions of the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Johalla Projects Curates Art at Pitchfork Music Festival

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"Geometric Village" being installed earlier this week

“Geometric Village” being installed earlier this week

The West Town gallery Johalla Projects returns to the Pitchfork Music Festival, held in Union Park, this weekend to present “Geometric Village,” an installation by Heather Gabel and Chad Kouri. Two A-frame architectural structures fifteen feet tall and nine feet wide are joined by an additional set of smaller chairs or stools scattered around these forms. The two triangular structures will house smaller works by the two artists that will be available for sale. Gabel will have packs of postcards available for $15 and Kouri will exhibit a set of prints he created with Tan & Loose Press which are available for $15 each. This installation will be accessible to festival attendees; tickets are currently $60 a day, or $110-$130 for a three-day pass. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Cities Built Within Galleries

Installation, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Diane Simpson. "Window Dressing" at Monique Meloche

Diane Simpson. “Window Dressing: Apron 1,” oil stain on MDF, polyester fabric; and “Window Dressing: Bib-doodle,” gatorfoam board, hardboard, wallpaper, enamel, ink

By Matt Morris

It’s often said around town that Chicago has two seasons: winter and construction. The architectural epicenter where we reside explodes into transformation in the warm months, as buildings, roads and public spaces undergo restructuring. A few exhibitions on view right now conspire to reflect this construction condition by taking built environments and our habitation of them as points of departure. The artworks’ proximity to source materials is a useful measurement in distinguishing where a quirky meta-criticality is achieved, and where sometimes the experience at hand is burdened by its references. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Matthew Girson/Chicago Cultural Center

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Matthew Girson. "The Painter's Other Library," installation view

Matthew Girson. “The Painter’s Other Library,” installation view


A vexatious cloud hangs low over Matthew Girson’s new exhibition “The Painter’s Other Library.” Depicting endless shelves of meticulously placed books, the artist’s many compositions are executed in a brooding, almost impenetrable palette. At first blush, they read simply as black. As the eyes adjust to the paintings’ hushed tones, book after book, arranged to echo the precision and symmetry of modernist geometric abstraction, slowly emerge from the oleaginous mire. The beguiling tension within these works is heightened by the stark white walls and cathedral-like atmosphere of the Chicago Cultural Center. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Stephanie Cristello Appointed Senior Editor at ArtSlant

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Last month, writer and artist Stephanie Cristello was appointed as one of the senior editors for ArtSlant. In this new role, she will be overseeing coverage not only in Chicago, but also Toronto (Cristello’s hometown) and Santa Fe. This appointment follows her taking on the role of editor-in-chief for THE SEEN, the blog for EXPO Chicago, last October, where she will continue as well. Cristello graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with her BFA in 2013. Much of her art-making involves text and shares the lithe, curious approach in her writing.

Looking forward to her new position at ArtSlant, Cristello described by email the interesting ways that their art coverage encourages drawing connections between projects happening throughout the world. “ArtSlant has this way of inadvertently forcing coincidence; it is the perfect environment for happenstances to occur on a more international scale. I am definitely interested in this idea of expanded connectivity,” she writes. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wassily Kandinsky/Milwaukee Art Museum

Painting No Comments »
Wassily Kandinsky. Panel design for the “Juryfreie” exhibition, Wall A (Entwurf für das Wandbild in der Juryfreien Kunstschau: Wand A), gouache on black paper, 1922

Wassily Kandinsky. Panel design for the “Juryfreie” exhibition, Wall A (Entwurf für das Wandbild in der Juryfreien Kunstschau: Wand A), gouache on black paper, 1922


The Centre Pompidou’s Kandinsky collection, currently in Milwaukee, offers a rare opportunity to see work that both precedes and follows the painter’s Blaue Reiter period (1911-1914) that is so well represented at the Art Institute of Chicago. But limited as it is to pieces that the Kandinsky family could not or would not sell, it’s not the kind of retrospective that assembles the best art.

Nevertheless, the quality of his early landscapes is surprising. Kandinsky was sensitive to the textures of paint and his colors were already well tuned. Even when painting a nearly monochrome stretch of sandy beach, his sharp drawing makes the scene snap with excitement.

His Blaue Reiter pieces in this collection, the “Improvisations” of 1909 and 1911, are overwhelmed by the raw excitement of Franz Marc’s “Large Blue Horses,” from 1911, hanging beside them. But if this show had drawn from other collections, Kandinsky’s four ecstatic Campbell panels from MOMA, for example, would have reversed the comparison. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Chicago Cultural Center Launches Residency for Artists and Curators

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Applications became available on July 11 for the Chicago Cultural Center’s Studio Artist and Curatorial Residency Program. It is the first program of its kind administered by the city. Six artists will be given a studio for the three-month residencies in the Cultural Center and a $2,000 per month, restriction-free stipend. Applications are due July 31. Emerging curators selected for the fellowship will work with DCASE staff to produce exhibitions in the Cultural Center. “It’s very much an experiment and a new program for us,” says Daniel Schulman, director of visual art, when reached for comment by phone. “There are a few goals with the program,” says Schulman. “It’s a way of bringing artists to us, it increases our interaction with artists, and it allows the Cultural Center to be more of an active hub.”

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