Susan Clinard is one of those sculptors who are strong on optical and weak on conceptual—which is to say that the emotional content of her figures is instantly recognizable, and her themes are so ancient, they predate literacy, much less the last 200 years of art theory and criticism. Especially now as she returns to Chicago with an exhibit of many pieces that relate to her life as a new mother, as well as her more youthful concerns with body awareness and stranger anxiety. So, regardless of virtuosity, her pieces will never be shown in the new ModernWing of the Art Institute, but they might belong a few miles south, in the “Ancient Americas” exhibit at the Field Museum, where she seems to pick up where the sculptors of Nayarit and Quimbaya left off. Though the ancient artists are a very tough act to follow, because the best examples have been gleaned from generations of sculptors working the same style, while a modern sculptor, like Clinard, must be a solo act, responsible for inventing as well as mastering and marketing her own work, which now involves wire, as well as terra cotta and wood. As ancient artists had to the right to say, “this is us,” contemporary artists (especially those found in the Zhou Brothers Art Center) can only say “this is me—me, me, me” (Chris Miller)
Through January 31 at the Chicago Art Matrix Gallery, Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W. 35th St.