“Chicago Style,” curated by Matthew Avignone (of The Coat Check gallery), this group show of sixty-eight images by thirty-four emerging photographers from Chicago and its surrounding region packs a hard visual punch—never easy, comfortable or conventional, but also never mordant, preachy, sentimental, nostalgic or horrific. There is no common sensibility; there is a shared vitality that left this viewer with a lasting infusion of energy, and an edge that is never softened by pictorialist dreaminess: This is Chicago as we often like to think of it. Ranging from straight realism to abstraction, all of the images are technically accomplished and most of all have involving and freshly rendered subjects that we have seen before but never as they appear here. The abstractions dominate the show, because they communicate the intensity that unifies it without diluting the impact with ordinary associations.
The most penetrating image is Debbie Carlos’ luminous color “Black Stone,” in which the subject is volatilized into a maelstrom of activity with veins crisscrossing and being rent by an amorphous form that could be an astral cloud or a wild, wounded animal hurtling through the cosmos. A contrasting and equally dynamic effect is produced by Clarissa Bonet’s three night shots of city lights that dissolve into constellations of dancing stars. For both Carlos and Bonet, the abstraction is not a means of stripping down the subject to its geometrical form, but an opportunity to transform the subject into a new phenomenon with its own integrity and excess of animation. They are the stars of the show only because they epitomize and body forth the energy in its most concentrated visual form, setting the tone for the “Chicago Style;” the other artists draw from the same source—the push associated with our city—but add elements of the world as we know it, giving rise to a variety of layers of interpretation. This is the most successful large general group show of the decade by virtue of its relentless impulsion and the manifold cogent expressions that it takes. (Michael Weinstein)
Through February 15 at David Weinberg Photography, 300 West Superior.