Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Portrait of the Artist: Ray Noland

Artist Profiles 4 Comments »
photo credit Chris Diers

photo credit Chris Diers

Ray Noland understands the importance of duplication and distribution. His designs and Internet campaigns (including on the cover of this magazine) contributed to the ground swell of support around president Obama’s campaign, and continue to rally the populace around political figures and events. He’s the mastermind behind the “Go Tell Mama” traveling art show, and co-curator of the exhibition “Officially Unofficial,” which profiles art inspired by Obama, at the Chicago Tourism Center until May 31. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jed Fielding/Chicago Cultural Center

Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »


An eerie brutality that is not entirely sadistic yet is deeply unsettling haunts Jed Fielding’s lucid and shadowed black-and-white portraits of blind children in Mexico, whose expressions run a gamut from joy, through tranquility, sadness, bewilderment and awe, to outright horror. In all cases, the subjects’ emotions are sharply delineated, seeming to lack self-conscious control over their release, and conveying a sense of vulnerability, which, of course, is fitting. The root of the disquiet that pervades the show is captured in a shot of a child’s wide-open eye that seems to stare intensely, although we know that it sees nothing. Leaving it for others to debate the ethical questions involved in Fielding’s project, its results show us how we use our gift of sight to do the face work in public that allows us to cover ourselves with masks that safeguard some shred of privacy and allow our social relations to move along. (Michael Weinstein)

Through July 5 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington

Review: Jenny Walters/Green Lantern Gallery

Photography, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »


Three plastic liters of off-brand pop sit on a table next to two stacks of plastic cups and a bowl of ice. That black-and-white photo welcomes us to Jenny Walters’ party, where we get to see images of bound flowerless stalks and rolled fabric bundled tourniquet fashion around an upright vacuum cleaner, and color portraits of women of various ages, all of whom exude an air of distance, self-enclosure and alienation. As old-school feminism makes a comeback this season, Walters offers a particularly excruciating variation on the theme, introducing us to all the lonely people, whether they stand before us dolefully with an arm in a sling or hold tightly a “reborn” doll (“lifelike” simulation of a baby) with mildly distressed tenderness. Walters is not issuing a call to action; she is making a plea that we understand and feel what it means to be trapped in life, as we all are, regardless of gender. Open the pop and take a swig; it is Walters’ brand of aqua vita. (Michael Weinstein)

Through June 13 at Green Lantern Gallery, 1511 N. Milwaukee.

Review: Sabine Gruffat and Vanesa Zendejas/Roots & Culture

Multimedia, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »

Sabine Gruffat’s video art and Vanesa Zendejas’ drawings/collages couldn’t be less similar, and experiencing the two together at Roots & Culture is less thought-provoking than incoherent. Gruffat’s work is much stronger and more provocative, suggesting an obsession with media theory in the Marshall McLuhan tradition of media as extensions of ourselves. Gruffat plays with the concept of electronic language and signaling through an interactive video game across several television screens, complete with joystick, that has the interactivity of a video game—when you press various buttons the lines and patterns on the TVs, like analog signals or hospital monitoring machines, change configuration and the pitch of an electronic drone changes—without any of the content. Her “Black Oval White” presents a chaotic montage of video interference, integrating live-rendered computer animation, from which the viewer discovers and creates patterns and shapes. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: From Lviv to Chicago/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Serhei Mikhnovsky

Serhei Mikhnovsky


Melancholy introspection does not seem part of the Ukrainian temperament—at least not for the three artists from Lviv now showing in Chicago. And as one of them says, art is  “not only what you create but how you see everything around you”—a world of bright colors, sharp contrasts, jagged lines and shiny surfaces. Maybe back in the bad  old days of the Soviet empire, some Ukrainian artists were more attached to the angst-ridden side of Modernism that still enthralls adolescents of all ages. But like the early  twentieth-century Constructivists, these three seem thrilled by the energy and freedom of the modern world—including a freedom to express a Ukrainian kind of spirituality—as Skop does with his 300 paintings of Kozak Mamai, a traditional warrior/sage/minstrel. Which is also to say that these Ukrainian modernists, two of whom began as architects or  decorators, are not playing the game of contemporary conceptual art. No clever puzzles here—just paintings that grab and hold your attention. Especially the buzzing, electric cityscapes of Mikhnovksy. No, this is not the kind of modernism that will find a place in the MCA or the new wing of the AIC. If only Chicago had a few dozen more alternative  “institutes of Modern art.” (Chris Miller)

Through May 24 at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2318 W. Chicago Ave.

Review: Thomas Roach/Scott Projects

Multimedia, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »


It is easy to dismiss Thomas Roach’s work as a young student’s flirtation with the dry conceptualism of the 1960s and 1970s, but to do so would to miss the point. With a deep nod to artists Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner, paragons of conceptualism who stripped art down to its most basic elements, and seeking to expose its fundamental nature, Roach also simplifies to the utmost end. Instead of mental expansion, though, Roach wishes only to remain obtuse and impenetrable, highlighting our inability to fix meaning upon a deconstructed world of images and signs, in which inherent natures are nowhere to be found. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Aaron Delehanty/Finestra Art Space

Michigan Avenue, Painting No Comments »


Part of a curatorial series by Finestra attempting to integrate form, content and context in its tiny space, Aaron Delehanty’s epic painting “Visible City,” and accompanying installation that further extends its expanse beyond the canvas, doesn’t so much represent a dystopian city as situate the viewer in it. From the point of view of one of the countless chaotic birds circling above a city, the eye is drawn through a number of concentric circles that lead from an agrarian hillside down to the valley of the city, as the human architecture towards the center travels forward in time to its destination, a futuristic clump of skyscrapers clouded by a dense orange fog. What makes the piece compelling and original is not its subject but its dynamism and atmosphere; perspective lines like motion lines (or stretch marks) demarcate a movement along the land that’s mirrored by the galaxy of birds above it, keeping the viewer permanently off balance. This performance quality of the “Visible City” extends to the artist’s use of Finestra’s space. Walls are painted the same choking orange as the painting’s sky, and a glass picture window is painted with black silhouettes of birds, which again create a disturbance: are the figures representations or a warning, akin to the stickers placed on a window to keep birds from smashing into them? Delehanty, whose interests include experimental map-making and soundscapes, intends “Visible City” as an introduction to a larger body of work, and the piece finally feels above all else like an uncanny prelude to a blueprint of the future. (Monica Westin)

Through May 30 at Finestra Art Space, 410 S. Michigan, Suite 516

Review: Laura Berger/Fill in the Blank Gallery

Lincoln Square, Painting No Comments »


Laura Berger’s show, “Into the Out,” at Fill in the Blank Gallery creates what at first seem to be borderline-saccharine worlds of smiling tree stumps and dancing bearded woodland creatures, and certainly one of Berger’s strongest tropes is of an inviting nature (a print for sale features the slogan “go back outside”). The paintings also re-imagine the natural world as a space of infinite potential, inhabited by various beings—equal parts manga and Dr. Seuss—paddling through undefined expanses and trees unanchored from the earth. However, these slight scenes, almost all of which feature a small group of various people and creatures in charming relation to one and another and their benevolent little worlds, carry with them a dark undertone of loss and subtle threat behind such blank and wide-eyed gentleness; one painting, for example, features two figures holding hands and entering a stream that enters the gaping mouth of a tree from which there’s no way out on the other side. Even the ostensible emphasis on the joy of relationship is undermined; in the most striking painting, two girls attempt to send speech bubbles to one another, but they pass by silently and create an unease that’s far more captivating than the obvious signifiers of cuteness and purity would suggest at first pass. (Monica Westin)

Through May 30 at Fill in the Blank Gallery, 5038 N. Lincoln

Preview: Manifest Urban Arts Festival/Columbia College

Art Fairs, South Loop No Comments »


With only a week before graduation, the real world, and Sallie Mae loan officers descend, the seniors and graduate students of Columbia College will gather on Friday, May 15 for the seventh annual Manifest Urban Arts Festival. Though past festivals have boasted impressive musical headliners like OK Go and Lupe Fiasco, budget cutbacks have brought the focus of this year’s festival back to the students’ endeavors. Student artwork will be on sale throughout the festival, whose various hot spots in the South Loop Arts Corridor will be accessible via the free Chicago Trolley or by good, old-fashioned foot power. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Zoe Crosher/65 Grand

Photography No Comments »


For this, her second solo exhibition at 65GRAND, Los Angeles-based artist Zoe Crosher continues her work with “The Reconsidered Archive of Michelle du Bois,” an extensive collection of photographs inherited by Crosher from du Bois, an American woman who traveled and worked as an escort in Pacific Rim cities during the 1970s-1980s. The archive itself offers incredibly rich material; du Bois photographed herself and posed for snapshots obsessively, generating a collection that features her in a dizzying variety of costumes and personas, and prompting Crosher to nickname her “the Cindy Shermanesque (but she’s the Real Thing).” Crosher’s “reconsideration” takes the form of re-photographing the fronts and backs of du Bois’ photos and exhibiting them in relative isolation from the rest of the archive. Read the rest of this entry »