Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

EXPO Special Coverage: Critics’ Picks, Lee Ann Norman

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Sung Jang, In-Situ at EXPO Chicago 2015.

Sung Jang, In-Situ at EXPO Chicago 2015.

Newcity will run selective live coverage of EXPO Chicago: The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art throughout the weekend of the fair, September 17-20, 2015.

1. Von Lintel Gallery/Booth #302
Von Lintel specializes in the standard mediums of painting, photography and other works on paper, but the art presented is anything but average. The gallery’s artists explore the possibilities of material and method, creating otherworldly images through abstraction and a focus on detail. Edward Burtynsky’s C-print “Colorado River Delta #6, Salinas, Baja, Mexico” (2012) is akin to a hand-drawn map, while Canan Tolon’s painting “Untitled 8.3” (2013) could easily pass as a meticulously structured collage. The booth provides a good mix of artists creating subtle abstractions and visual surprises that are worth a longer look. Read the rest of this entry »

EXPO Special Coverage: Daniel Buren’s EXPO and the Conceptual Abstraction that Accompanies

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Daniel Buren at EXPO Chicago.

Daniel Buren at EXPO Chicago.

By Matt Morris

When I find myself cringing at the brutalizing means of display paintings suffer at expansive art fairs like EXPO, I have to remind myself that what we call “salon style” hanging of artworks recalls the crammed walls of the Salon de Paris of yesteryear. Or think of Jean-Antoine Watteau’s “L’Enseigne de Gersaint,” 1720-1721, when a well-dressed group looks at pictures hung edge to edge, and in some places stacked in front of one another. In the centuries since, one could trace painting’s shift toward a defiant posture, one that argues a position of autonomy (or at least the appearance of it) within the bustling arts-and-culture (or do I mean arts-and-entertainment?) spheres in which these canvases circulate. Read the rest of this entry »

EXPO Special Coverage: Modern Masters at the Fair

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Wifredo Lam. “Untitled–[Arcane Dreams],” 1955.

Newcity will run selective live coverage of EXPO Chicago: The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art throughout the weekend of the fair, September 17-20, 2015.

It was still possible in 1956, the year I was born, to produce pictures based on moral conviction. Johns and Rauschenberg were little known, Warhol was a successful designer (and that’s all), and Lichtenstein was teaching at Ohio State University. Irony was a minority rhetoric, and the most ambitious art aspired, as Rothko said, to the condition of the “tragic and timeless.” It wasn’t that the Abstract Expressionists represented fraught subjects but that they painted as if the fate of mankind hinged on their every brush stroke.

There were dozens of other artists nearly as achieved as Rothko, de Kooning, Pollock, Newman, Kline and Motherwell, who never gained the same renown. Many of them happened to be on exhibition in EXPO Chicago this year. Their names are evocative of the rich, immigrant mix of New York from the 1930s to sixties and the legacy of European modernism: Robert Natkin, Michael Goldberg, Hans Burkhardt, Friedel Dzubas, Theodoros Stamos, Conrad Marca-Relli, Louis Guglielmi, Perle Fine and others. Read the rest of this entry »

EXPO Special Coverage: Critics’ Picks by Alan Pocaro

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John Zurier, "Héra?sdalur 16 (Listening to Grieg)," 2014. Oil on jute 19 × 15 × 0.5 inches.

John Zurier, “Héraosdalur 16 (Listening to Grieg),” 2014.
Oil on jute, 19 × 15 × 0.5 inches.

Newcity will run selective live coverage of EXPO Chicago: The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art throughout the weekend of the fair, September 17-20, 2015.

1. John Zurier at Anglim Gilbert Gallery/Booth #416
Possessed of an emotional depth lacking in much of the glitz and glamour at this year’s fair, these three deeply hued but modestly sized works are understated and serene. Berkeley-based artist John Zurier’s work is heir to the expansive space of both Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park” series as well as Matisse’s early experiments with Cubism—think “Open Window, Collioure.” Reproductions simply do not do them justice, the luscious satin surface of these monochromatic distemper on linen paintings are a slow read; a welcome respite from the rapidly consumed art-product readily available elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

EXPO Special Coverage: Talking Shop at /Dialogues

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Duncan MacKenzie and Laylah Ali in conversation at EXPO Chicago, 2015.

Newcity will run selective live coverage of EXPO Chicago: The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art throughout the weekend of the fair, September 17-20, 2015.

If anyone was awake and on-time for the kickoff of EXPO Chicago’s /Dialogues series at the rough hour of 11:30am this Friday morning, they were likely not on the VIP party boat last night. Read the rest of this entry »

The Interview Project Interview: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

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Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

By Elliot J. Reichert

Hans Ulrich Obrist is an internationally renowned curator and co-director of the Serpentine Galleries in London. He is the author of The Interview Project, an ongoing collection of interviews with artists and other creatives, and a new book, “Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects.” At EXPO Chicago on September 19, 4pm, Obrist will conduct a live interview with Art Green, Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum, three members of the Hairy Who, an artist collective who began mounting group exhibitions after studying together at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Obrist spoke with us by phone from Johannesburg, South Africa, about his connections to Chicago, his interests in the Hairy Who and the larger group of Chicago Imagists, and the philosophy that inspires his interviews.

What draws your interest to Chicago and the Hairy Who at this moment?
My interest in the Hairy Who began with my interview projects, which are parallel to my curatorial practice. These interviews are an oral history of contemporary art, and they were actually inspired by Chicago. When I was in Chicago for the first time for a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art about fifteen years ago, I met the late Studs Terkel, the great oral historian. From then on, Terkel mentored my whole process of making these oral histories more systematic. He gave me a lot of advice, so it’s wonderful to bring the whole project back to Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

On In-Betweenness: An Interview with Solveig Øvstebø About The Renaissance Society’s Amazing Platform of Freedom on the Occasion of its Centennial

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Solveig Øvstebø at the Renaissance Society, 2015.


By Elliot Reichert

Solveig Øvstebø is the executive director and chief curator of The Renaissance Society, an institution devoted to the creation and presentation of contemporary art. This year, the Renaissance Society is celebrating its hundredth anniversary with exhibitions and events that examine the institution’s legacy and charts its future. Øvstebø spoke with us in her office at the University of Chicago, where she was overseeing the installation of new works by Irena Haiduk, whose exhibition will open the Centennial season.

 In your first two years in Chicago, what have you observed about Chicagos visual arts community, and how do you see the Renaissance Society fitting in to this art ecosystem?

Norway’s entire population is half the number of the population of Chicago, so that gives you an idea of what a different context I came from. Of course, the global art world is small, and Europe works with the American art scene a lot, but when you are a practitioner there are many things that are different between these places. I was eager to understand how things worked here. When I arrived in Chicago, I was so taken by the incredibly strong institutional ecosystem, and the support that these institutions have in the city. And I saw immediately how the universities and schools in Chicago cultivate strong student voices. Finally, I was amazed to find how robust the alternative scene is in Chicago.

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News: African Festival of the Arts Begins Today

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African Festival of the Arts. Photo: Isadore Howard.

African Festival of the Arts/Photo: Isadore Howard

Chicago’s twenty-sixth annual African Festival of the Arts (AFA) is taking place this Labor Day weekend in Washington Park. The AFA, one of the oldest and largest diaspora festivals in America, will convert the park into a “simulated African village” featuring art, music, food and entertainment. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

Reeders Digest: How Two Brothers Curated the School of the Art Institute’s 150th Anniversary Exhibition

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Scott Reeder in his Detroit studio

Scott Reeder in his Detroit studio

Tyson Reeder in his Chicago studio

By Brian Hieggelke

In a year of important anniversaries at major visual art entities in Chicago, none is more surprising, or significant, than the 150th birthday of the School of the Art Institute. Surprising, in that unlike so many of the city’s oldest leading cultural organizations which were founded in the 1890s and are thus a mere 125 years old or so, SAIC was founded as the Chicago Academy of Design in 1866, five years before the Great Chicago Fire. And its significance, already noteworthy in evolving into one of the top art educators in the world, is magnified by the fact that it was the school that later gave birth to the Art Institute of Chicago itself.

Among the various celebrations planned for this milestone, one of its centerpieces is an exhibition called “Civilization and Its Discontents: SAIC Alumni Exhibition, Selections from 1985–2015,” which runs September 1-October 24, and hosts its reception on Friday, September 18, 6pm-9pm, at the Sullivan Galleries, 33 South State, Seventh Floor. The exhibition, which features about three dozen artists who’ve graduated in the last thirty years, is curated by the brothers Scott and Tyson Reeder, both faculty members at the School, and both accomplished visual artists in their own right. I discussed their collaboration in person with Tyson and via telephone from Detroit with Scott.

The SAIC show you’re curating is a centerpiece of the school’s 150th anniversary but covers just the last three decades. How did the whole thing come together?
Scott: We wanted to focus on the last thirty years because that is a story that maybe isn’t told as much about the school. I think people know a lot about the Imagists, but then there’s that time after that is lesser known, especially outside of Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »