Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Sabina Ott/Chicago Cultural Center

Installation, Loop, Multimedia No Comments »
Installation view of Sabina Ott's “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

Installation view of Sabina Ott’s “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

RECOMMENDED

Sabina Ott’s site-specific installation “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center intersperses highbrow with lowbrow sensibilities as a means of contemplating value. Spanning three rooms, each gallery is named after the levels Dante travels in the epic poem “The Divine Comedy.” Ott visualizes the work of Dante and a bibliography of vetted literary greats in an indulgent paean to manmade synthetics, vulgar taste and a preference for the saccharinely artificial. Conventions of value assignment are reconsidered therein. Each artwork is named after lines from Gertrude Stein’s writing, and the stream-of-consciousness, choppy build-up in Stein’s syntax plays similarly as Ott’s glut of attractive material accumulations.
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Review: Dan Gunn/Monique Meloche

Painting, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Dan Gunn. "Grand Amusement," dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire

Dan Gunn. “Grand Amusement,”
dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire

RECOMMENDED

In “Impromptu Airs,” Dan Gunn has crafted delights for the eye, deviating from his earlier projects that mirrored elements of recognizable architecture and design. A group of “Fans” assembled from laser-cut, wooden strips have been stained in a circus-tent palette of red and white. The standard motif in “Fan No. 9” of 2013 gets stretched into comically elongated and shrinking shapes in the works that flank it, fastidiously assembled trompe l’oeil constructions that imitate the ease of computer-manipulated imagery. “To Fan No. 2” winds a swerving pathway painted in lyrical, Paul Klee palettes. Its pensive, musical sensitivity evokes Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars’ collaborative artist book “Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France.” Thicker wood planks drape from two illusory nails in “Grand Amusement,” dyed in hand-mixed yellow, green, blue and pinks that turn its hard structure into gooey taffy pulled in a shop window. Neither fan nor drapery, “Broadway” contains candy-colored dots dancing in between rich navy parquetry panels. The piece calls to mind Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” as well as Michelle Grabner’s colored paper weavings, recently the center of inner art-world hullabaloo.
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Review: Material Gestures: Cut, Weave, Sew, Knot/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Sheila Hicks. "Dervish," 2011 steel, linen, wool

Sheila Hicks. “Dervish,” 2011
steel, linen, wool

RECOMMENDED

Rhona Hoffman brings together a group exhibition of works from the past thirty years that shows how fabric performs as a palimpsest of industrial and domestic worlds, transplanted from utilitarian to art contexts.

Karen Reimer’s “Endless Set #1399,” was originally developed as a site-specific installation for UIC’s Gallery 400. Digits cut from white cloth are sewn in 1399 patches, stacked in the shape of pillowcases on the corner of a wooden bed-shaped frame. The work privileges an unrelenting systematic approach over conceptual transparency. Beside this sparsely arranged numerical record is a more chaotic and carnal collage. Anne Wilson’s “Mourning Cloth” is a loosely hung shroud, matted with human hair and featuring a small hole lined like a made-up eye with tiny black stitches that diffuse outwards, suggesting a vacant cosmic gaze. Patches of stained and used tablecloth are sewn together to emphasize fissures. The dispersal and patchwork of materials permeated with an undisclosed domestic life suggests another kind of compulsive action, an attempt to mend, without eradicating the compound histories of the material. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Christian Vincent/Ann Nathan Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
Christian Vincent. "Peninsula," oil on canvas

Christian Vincent. “Peninsula,” oil on canvas

Christian Vincent’s recent figurative paintings are 2,000 miles removed from what has characterized Chicago figure painting for the past fifty years: invitational instead of confrontational, gently thematic instead of intensely personal, conventional instead of weird, cinematic instead of graphic, pleasant instead of disturbing. Painted in Los Angeles, they might even serve as storyboards for a Hollywood teenage romantic comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carson Fox/Linda Warren Projects

Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Carson Fox. "Rose Crystal," 2013, cast resin

Carson Fox. “Rose Crystal,” 2013, cast resin

RECOMMENDED

There is something inherently playful, yet disconcerting, when one first approaches Carson Fox’s “Mimesis.” The resin sculptures seem, at first blush, almost coquettish, climbing the walls, sitting upon pedestals, protruding in amaranth and aqua and palatinate, their familiar organic forms exaggerated, coated and made fantastically approachable. They dominate Linda Warren Projects; on every surface sans the ceiling, Fox approaches the installation as an integral aspect of the art itself—see “Orange Coral,” shades of heat, from tangerine to rosso corsa, which spreads across the back wall like an anatomist’s plastinated arterial system, impossibly similar to the real thing (if viewed from no deeper than a few fathoms, of course) down to their dimpled surface. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Aron Gent/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Prints No Comments »
Aron Gent. Both works "Untitled," 2014,  Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Arches hot press watercolor paper,

Aron Gent. Both works “Untitled,” 2014,
Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Arches hot press watercolor paper,

RECOMMENDED

“Pure Pictures, Perfect Prints,” Aron Gent’s solo exhibition at Devening Projects + Editions, is immediately pleasant, with its ample white space and idiosyncratic chintz of flowers, leaves, printers and arabesques, all rendered in a subdued palette. These images, culled from clip-art collections, are composed and then printed onto an ink-resistant material. This printout is then transferred onto watercolor paper by press, which squeezes and drags the beaded ink into the perfect drips that tress the features of each composition. Such painterly distortions give the sense of an individual hand at work, but of course, it is anything but. These gestures are dictated by blunt forces: the irregular texture of paper, the volume and viscosity of the ink, the magnitude and direction of the pressure exerted by the press. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums/Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee, Painting No Comments »
Carlo Dolci. "Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist," 1665–1970

Carlo Dolci. “Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist,” 1665–1970

These forty paintings may not be the best way to exemplify 500 years of Italian painting. They have the stylistic elements but usually not the powerful emotive achievements of that great tradition. There’s only one piece, and a rather decrepit one, done before 1480, so the devotional intensity of the Italian variety of Byzantine icon is hardly evident. Also absent is the bold excitement of the Caravaggisti who are represented here by Antiveduto Gramatica, one of Caravaggio’s teachers who later decided to imitate his famous student. He came up short, just as, in the same gallery, the eighteen-year-old Titian could not yet achieve his later glories. “Christ and the Adulteress” feels like nothing more than a conglomeration of figure and drapery studies. One figure has even been lopped off and reframed over the intervening centuries. Here, it hangs beside the original, and yes, it probably looks better that way. But it’s fascinating to see a powerful mind beginning to assemble the visual elements that Titian will eventually master, just as it’s fascinating to see Carlo Dolci’s life-size depiction of Salome hanging beside an example of his work done fifty years earlier. Dedicated to painting that, in his words, “would inspire the fruits of Christian piety,” Dolci is usually too saccharine for anyone but the faithful. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Josiah McElheny/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Sculpture, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Josiah McElheny. "End of a Love Affair," 2014, handblown and polished glass, douglas fir, speakers, amplifier, industrial audio player, electric wiring, cut and polished blue sheet glass, brass control knobs, felt, hardware, 55 x 43 x 23 inches

Josiah McElheny. “End of a Love Affair,” 2014,
handblown and polished glass, douglas fir, speakers, amplifier, industrial audio player, electric wiring, cut and polished blue sheet glass, brass control knobs, felt, hardware,
55 x 43 x 23 inches

Aided by a fake ID, I was baptized into the church of hard-bop sometime in the mid-nineties in one of Cleveland’s many hidden jazz spots; a cramped subterranean chamber where sound and smoke, perfume and sweat mixed freely in the dimly lit haze. The music was immediate: thundering drums coupled with blowing horns that rang-out joyous one moment, mournful the next. Spiritual by way of the body—the experience possessed a physicality so intense it was transcendent.

In contrast to that overwhelming sensuality, MacArthur award winner Josiah McElheny’s “Dusty Groove,” a meticulously crafted four-piece sculptural ode to some of the twentieth century’s great musical minds (among them jazz legends Wes Montgomery and Sun Ra), comes off coolly intellectual, even a little remote. Imagine jazz goes to grad school featuring Donald Judd as your thesis advisor, and you’re part way there. These pieces stimulate the mind, but they don’t necessarily stir the soul. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Stan Shellabarger/Western Exhibitions

Drawings, Installation, Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view of Stan Shellabarger at Western Exhibitions

Installation view of Stan Shellabarger at Western Exhibitions

RECOMMENDED

Stan Shellabarger’s most recent solo show at Western Exhibitions exhibits his durational work through which he contemplates the residue of time and the physical impressions left behind on materials such as paper, wood and steel. Throughout the galleries, he fully embraces each passing moment while creating a collective imagery that is focused, somber and quiet.

At the center of the show, there is the artist’s homage to Carl Andre’s “Plain” called “Untitled (Drypoint).” This work investigates pacing and time as the artist walked on steel plates he arranged to resemble Andre’s work while wearing heavy-grit sandpaper on his shoes. The work hovers on a plinth just above the gallery floor and is marked with a red snaking shape that sets the stage for the remaining pieces in the galleries. This work is the heart of the show, guiding visitors to also pace themselves with his command of minimalist formal strategies. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Pictures of the Year, International/Chicago Photography Center

Lakeview, Photography No Comments »
Photograph by National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer, one of the winners in the Chicago Photography Center's "Pictures of the Year International"

John Stanmeyer. “Signal”

RECOMMENDED

In its annual competition for the best photojournalistic images, “Pictures of the Year, International” received 52,000 submissions and selected 240 winners, fifty of which are on view here, for its 2014 traveling show. The exhibit shows that, despite the financial problems of newspapers and magazines, photojournalism is thriving: indeed, the quality of work is at least as good as it has ever been. The judges eschewed depictions of the rich and famous, and staged scenes in favor of hard-hitting, emotion-laden and power-packed shots that pull the viewer up short with searing glimpses of world hot spots like Afghanistan, Iraq-Syria and Ukraine; heat-of-the-action sporting moments; refugees and victims of abuse; natural disasters and touching slices of life. Read the rest of this entry »