John Phillips. “Bob,” 2001.
oil on panel
When I walked up to the five-story loft building that houses John Phillips’ studio, he was standing outside in the cold waiting for me. “This place was a brick shell when we moved in,” he reminisced as I followed him up the stairs and through his doorway. Soaring ceilings and white walls rose to greet me, meticulously renovated by Phillips’ own hands and brimming with his artwork and that of his friends. Shelves loaded with neatly organized rows of books and records occupied his living room, as did a skinny and very outgoing brown cat.
He offered me tea, then paused and added beer as an option. I accepted the latter and we headed downstairs to his studio. Located directly below his living space and with a floor plan just as large, Phillips is granted 24/7 access to his own artistic playground. Read the rest of this entry »
Vesna Jovanovic. “Spinal Cord Stimulator,” 2014 ink and graphite on polypropylene, 80″ x 60″
There is a baseball-sized gallbladder stone living inside Vesna Jovanovic’s studio. The stone that once violently grew within an unfortunate party’s body now rests peacefully behind a glass display case on the third floor of the Museum of Surgical Science, where Vesna comes each week to work. As the museum’s artist-in-residence since October 2013, Jovanovic is granted daily access to the abundance of tools and historical objects that reside in the exhibition rooms. While the physicality of the artifacts does in part fuel her study and practice, it is the persons, stories and records behind them that really move her. Read the rest of this entry »
Ryan M Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz
Artists Ryan M Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz’s focus falls emphatically on collaborative action. The duo draws simultaneously, sitting across from each other and working over the same sheet of paper, arranging a mélange of seductive archetypes from the visual history of the West. Their collaborative drawings register caprices and negotiations; marks intermingle and become impossible to assign to any single collaborator. Various mystical, religious and cultural icons coalesce in busy, textured cadres—woodcuts from volumes of Sade, archaeological records, Pietas and Venus idols, or Hans Bellmer’s fetishistic photographs. Their repurposed, blended imagery has all the tellings of an expert bibliography. The compositions are stages on which the duo’s investigations into alchemy, ancient art and eroticism are performed as drawing.
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Jeff Gibson. “Product (detail),” 2014,
ink-jet wallpaper, dimensions variable
Jeff Gibson culls images from the internet’s massive store, choosing JPEGs of products silhouetted against white backgrounds, highlighted perfectly by their surrounding vacuous atmosphere. When combined, the images call out to each other in a fashion not immediately recognizable, playing against the objects’ shiny machinery or garish design. “My roots are in pop and conceptualism so a lot of my subject matter is from popular culture and bears that stain, and I am only happy to rub the world’s nose in,” says Gibson. Gibson views all his images as products, calling attention to the aesthetics of consumerism via visual taxonomies. Read the rest of this entry »
Tania Bruguera. “Museum of Arte Útil,” featured in Season 7 of Art21
The seventh season of the groundbreaking documentary series that interviews contemporary artists working at the forefront of their field will air on public television station WTTW starting tonight, Friday, October 24, at 10pm. This season will include segments about Tania Bruguera, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Leonardo Drew, Omer Fast, Katharina Grosse, Thomas Hirschhorn, Elliott Hundley, Graciela Iturbide, Joan Jonas, Wolfgang Laib, Trevor Paglen and Arlene Shechet.
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Lise Haller Baggesen. “Mothernism,” 2013-14,
mixed media audio installation
By Matt Morris
I’m the sort of queer person who hangs out in places where you hear the word “breeder” tossed around; this isn’t really a unifying trait of these places, actually, because I’m often the one saying it. I’m dubious about moves to increase visibility for the material conditions of parents and families. I usually remain unconvinced that these agendas to further elucidate the particulars of family life can resist being co-opted by a forceful patriarchy that rigidly orders gender roles to align with the reproductive determinations of our bodies. It’s a particularly fraught conversation within the art world at least in part because advancements to naturalize current norms threatens cultural producers who aim to innovate and imagine more possibilities for how to live than we’ve previously been offered.
Into the midst of these chilly philosophical divides, artist and writer Lise Haller Baggesen strikes with “Mothernism”—a project comprised of both her traveling multimedia tent installation and a new book released this fall from Green Lantern Press and Poor Farm Press. With the excesses (and excessive generosity) of Baggesen’s artwork and book, she loosens the divide that would place motherhood at odds with a pursuit of rebelling against status quo oppression. As she writes in the book’s chapter “Mother of Demolition”: “Beginning with the old feminist premise of the female as ‘the second sex,’ and lesbianism as a third, I suggest that motherhood is a fourth… and hell, who knows? Maybe menopause is a fifth and so on… Because if we can accept motherhood as one sex among many, we can perhaps relieve the inevitable burden of motherhood perceived as a stagnant destination.” Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Beth Woods at work on nail-art-related projects
“I don’t actually care about painting people’s nails,” Sarah Beth Woods confesses. “I love making these little nail tips and adorning them. I love the material and the kind of bricolage aspect of it. But I really love what happens when you put it out in the world for people to interact with. I think so much can happen when there are other people putting them on and sharing their stories.”
Woods’ artistic practice bridges the fine-art world with the beauty shop. She creates elaborate, exaggerated braided headdresses and press-on nail tips, often bringing them into fine-art contexts to adorn visitors. Neon-pink nail tips are decorated with oversized gold dollar signs. Red and blue shower poufs have been deconstructed and then woven into intricate hair weaves. Her ghetto-fabulous aesthetic looks straight out of a Nicki Minaj music video, yet her personal appearance is surprisingly neat and conservative. She keeps her hair and nails short, her friendly smile decorated only with clear lip gloss.
Last month, Woods opened her exhibition “Bricoleur” with an event she described as a “collaborative, interactive fiber installation and hair braiding experience” at Azimuth Projects, an apartment gallery in Logan Square with hair braider Fatimata Traore. Visitors took turns having their hair braided and then “accented” with shiny door-knocker earrings and colorful tassels. Woods’ sculptural works comprised of hairpieces and jewelry remain on display in the space. Read the rest of this entry »
Tim Leeming at a recent exhibition opening/Photo: Kelcey Leeming
Tim Leeming paints to accommodate the world rather than escape or celebrate it. Though he shows with the Plein Air Painters of Chicago, his depictions of festering dumpsters beneath a gunmetal sky really don’t fit there. Rather than the qualities of sunlight and a nostalgic sense of place, he’s more about how life feels, and for the past five years he’s felt immersed in Chicago alleys, teeming with the energy of urban life, but not its bright and shiny side. As an attorney in the office of Cook County Public Defender, he’s more familiar with the world of drugs, murder, rape, robbery and mayhem.
While walking or driving through the city, Leeming hunts for views that satisfy his pursuit of compositional balance. When he can’t work on site, he snaps a photo, taking it back to the studio, a small corner in the basement of his family home, marked off by a strip of blue tape on the cement floor. He selects a limited, muted palette for each painting and then applies it in gutsy, calligraphic brush strokes to resolve whatever compositional elements are involved. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’ve spent any amount of time observing or participating in visual art in Chicago, you know it’s more community oriented and inclusive than competitive or exclusive. In Chicago, everybody’s in, and no one is out. That said, Newcity publishes this ranked list of influential artists every other year in order to celebrate the accomplishments of a few people who work hard and smart, and who happen to call Chicago their home. The Art 50 also serves as a primer for newcomers—know these names and their practices and you can start to understand Chicago art pretty quick. This year we rotated out a bunch of artists who made the pick in 2012. This doesn’t mean we don’t care for their artwork anymore; we just wanted to open up the list for more voices to be heard. (Jason Foumberg)
Art 50 was written by Jason Foumberg, Matt Morris, Kate Sierzputowski, Anastasia Karpova Tinari, Maria Girgenti, Erin Toale, Abraham Ritchie, Collin Pressler and B. David Zarley.
All photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at the Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago. Top photo in front of Judy Ledgerwood’s “Chromatic Patterns.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Comfort Station in Logan Square
My first exposure to Comfort Station coincided with Matthew Hoffman’s 2013 exhibition “Independence.” A mysterious placard was erected in the shadow of the Illinois Centennial Monument. Like most of Hoffman’s work, it was aggressively present on social networks. In the background of some of the photos was a puzzling Tudor-style building that looked comically out of place in trendy Logan Square. The text read: “A motivational sign in a grassy field is nice and all, but it’s not going to do the hard work for you. That’s up to you.”
This wording resonates with the ethos and initiative of Comfort Station. It is a unique architectural landmark that places equal emphasis on both programming and exhibitions. In a recent conversation I had with both of the directors, Jordan Martins characterized their vision as such: “We identify as an ‘art space’ not just due to the exhibitions, but through all of our programs as a totality. The most important thing for us is the plurality, multiplicity and simultaneity of these events and programs and how they activate the space.” Read the rest of this entry »