In the mid-1960s, a handful of young Chicago painters stunned the art world with rebellious, often disgusting, pop-cartoonish imagery that the art critic of the New York Times, John Canaday, called “greasy kid stuff.” Now, forty-five years later, as the current Jim Nutt retrospective might suggest, some of them have mellowed and aestheticized their practice. But not their fellow traveler Peter Saul (born 1934), whose latest work on view at Corbett vs. Dempsey is just as high-energy obnoxious as his earlier piece now showing along with Nutt at the MCA. The centerpiece of the show, his “Stupid Arguments,” in all its day-glo, cartoonish horror, feels like the cacophony of a dozen cheap radios tuned to different stations, many of which are angry talk shows, with all the fervent conviction of the ignorant and stupid. What a terrible world in which we live!
Which probably accounts for the vacant, withdrawn faces of the lost young women which artist Brian Calvin has depicted in the east wing of the gallery. While Saul’s work punches you in the face, Calvin invites you into his paintings to taste the flavors of local tones and colors. Stunned though they may be, Calvin’s young people do seem to live in a pleasant world, even if it’s a residential psychiatric treatment center. It’s all quite fun, and as well-crafted as the commercial images that inspired and, in Calvin’s case, have crept into the work. But it’s not recommended for those with weak stomachs, clinical depression or a fervent wish to avoid the banality of either the crass or the insipid that is supposed to characterize the world of late-capitalism. (Chris Miller)
Through March 12 at Corbett vs. Dempsey, 1120 North Ashland.