Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: New Catalogue/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »
New Catalogue. "Book (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley): Images for a New Golden Record," 2014 ink jet print, 10" x 10", print; 12.75" x 12.75", framed.

New Catalogue. “Book (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley): Images for a New Golden Record,” 2014
ink jet print, 10″ x 10″, print; 12.75″ x 12.75″, framed.

RECOMMENDED

In 1977, celebrity astronomer Carl Sagan realized his conceit of sending into outer space on NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, a “Golden Record” composed of aural snippets of human culture and slices of life, accompanied by greetings, to be received by any extraterrestrial beings that might come across it and make something of it. The conventional humanism of Sagan’s project got conceptual photographers Luke Batten and Jonathan Sadler, who collaborate under the name New Catalogue, thinking of how they would represent humanity today to other intelligent life forms in the great beyond, and came up with a grid of sixteen small black-and-white shots of hands holding up familiar objects like a pencil, a hammer and a banana, against white backgrounds. The artists recruited Judd Greenstein to compose generally placid contemporary classical viola music, which is piped into their exhibit, and put text on the walls of the gallery’s front room transcribing some of the tracks on the original Golden Record, including the cloying greetings. Read the rest of this entry »

News: DCASE Hosts REVIVAL over Four Nights Pritzker Pavilion

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Performance, Public Art No Comments »
Documentation from REVIVAL 2013

Documentation from REVIVAL 2013

Tomorrow night is the start of “REVIVAL 2015: Source Evolution,” four evenings of interactive performance experience at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion Stage at Millennium Park, located at 201 East Randolph as part of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ (DCASE) OnEdge performance series. REVIVAL has received a two-week residency at the Pavilion during which collaborators Eric Hoff and Jesse Young present a line of exploration for their artists and attendees to consider: “We can go back home. Can we go forward home?” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Erik Weisenburger/Perimeter Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
Erik Weisenburger. "Fourteen Point Staghorn Sumac," 2014 oil on panel

Erik Weisenburger. “Fourteen Point Staghorn Sumac,” 2014
oil on panel

RECOMMENDED

These sixteen visions of life in the north woods take us into that cheerfully lonely natural world once celebrated in Thoreau’s “Walden.” But there’s more whimsy than morality here, with no sense of the heroic in either the rustic environment or the souls who inhabit it. Erik Weisenburger’s technique is more about building an imaginative oil painting in the studio than in re-experiencing a view of actual fields and woods. His images glow with the inner light of early Northern European painting, and share that genre’s fanatical attention to detail, as if infinite time had been taken to perfect the design and execution of every square inch. No act of concentrated focus goes unrewarded. As with early German painters like Albrecht Altdorfer, he often offers the delicious effect of black, tangled, sharply drawn branches silhouetted against a glowing blue sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Web Exclusive Interview: Naomi Beckwith in Conversation about Richard Hunt

Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962 Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962
Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

By Matt Morris

Could you set up your take as the curator on what the Richard Hunt exhibition at the MCA is?
The show from the MCA starts from the premise of our collection. It’s part of what we call our MCA DNA series, and those are dossier shows—small jewel-box shows—that are about highlights from the MCA holdings that most people don’t even know that we have. So for instance we have another beautiful one up right now featuring Alexander Calder; there’s a huge collection of that in Chicago, many of them right here in this building. Another wonderful one that we put up recently was a collection of Dieter Roth art books that I hadn’t even known were in the collection. The DNA series is a chance for us as a museum to really highlight works of significance that most folks don’t know are here.

I found out that Richard Hunt was turning eighty this year. I realized the best way that we could honor him was to do an exhibition and—oh, my goodness—there are these works in the collection. I knew that the museum had a long history of helping organize the inclusion of a work of his at the White House. It’s a work called “Farmer’s Dream” that was exhibited in D.C. during the Clinton administration, and then when it came back from D.C. it went into Seneca Park, which is the park straight across west of the MCA. It was there for many years and then acquired by the MCA. These kinds of stories I knew, but I didn’t know that we had some of his early work from the sixties here, and we have some works on paper in the collection. The show is really compact, and is set to show the breadth of Richard’s work from his earliest days—the earliest work is from ’57 when he was finishing school—to a work made in, I believe, 2012.

Was the MCA show coordinated with the Cultural Center show?
Would you believe that it was a happy coincidence. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: A Hard-Won Hunt for the Means to Fly

Galleries & Museums, Gold Coast/Old Town, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt, photographed by Thomas McCormick

Richard Hunt/Photo: Thomas McCormick

By Matt Morris

Two concurrent exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Cultural Center crown the sculptor Richard Hunt’s eightieth year. To date, Hunt has produced more public sculpture than any other artist in the United States, with 125 currently on view, thirty-five of which are in Chicago. Hunt completed his studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1957 at a time when other black artists were scarce and the approach to welded metal sculpture Hunt had started to pursue wasn’t supported by the school’s studio facilities. Footage playing at the Cultural Center’s exhibition shows a dashingly handsome young Hunt setting up shop in his parents’ basement. By 1971 he had been honored with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and his diligent efforts have been continually rewarded throughout his career. Taken together, the exhibitions offer audiences examples of early investigations, to-scale maquettes for larger outdoor commissions, and a breadth of two- and three-dimensional works that ground flighty abstractions in a gravitas tempered by the struggles and victories of modern life. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Paula Henderson/Linda Warren Projects

Drawings, Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Paula Henderson. "Traffic Patterns," 2012 acrylic and ink on canvas

Paula Henderson. “Traffic Patterns,” 2012
acrylic and ink on canvas

RECOMMENDED

The brutal abstraction of the human body is among the most beautiful and appalling motifs one could hope to work in or imbibe; there are images online, untold millions of them, people made into pieces, and these ghoulish tableau are debrided, are rendered by the mind, instantaneously, as corn syrup and food coloring and irrigation tubing, because the alternative is simply beyond benign processing. Beautiful violence is real, if maligned; surely I cannot be the only one who views a list of “Photoshop fails!” and is overcome by a desire to steer into the spin, to take the neck-elongating, rib-removing joint floating all the way to the screaming bloody edge and drape our finest fashions on plasticine horrors, Jean Paul Gaultier-cum-John Carpenter; surely the line between pulchritude and terror is thin, as thin as the flesh rent in its creation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wes Carson/ARC Gallery

Photography, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Wes Carson. "Biscayne  and NE 17th, Omni"

Wes Carson. “Biscayne and NE 17th, Omni”

In a series of “narrative portraits” taken on the streets of a relentlessly sunny Miami, Florida, Wes Carson seeks to capture a “particular moment” in the city’s “cultural history”—the scene of our times. Reflective to a fault about his practice, Carson’s shots are candid, because he is going for “authentic moments,” which means that he has to shoot at middle distance, forsaking intimacy in order to avoid his subjects performing for the camera. That strategy could have been fruitful had Carson looked for telling juxtapositions and ironies as street photographers of the classic tradition do (and he does some of that with the play between subjects and signage); but most of Carson’s fourteen photos catch ordinary people doing ordinary things—sitting outside or idling on the sidewalk, some of them absorbed in cell-phone conversations. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Upcoming Free Days at Twenty-one Chicago Museums

Galleries & Museums, News etc. No Comments »
George Bellows. "Love of Winter," 1914.  Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

George Bellows. “Love of Winter,” 1914.
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

Winter can be a dreary month, with all its slushy snow, bitter cold, and flamboyantly merry couples. So if the skating rink in Millennium Park is causing your seasonal affective disorder to spike you and the various coffee shops around the city are filled to capacity, why not warm those frozen paws by taking advantage of the free admission days at our splendid museums? Here is a compilation of free museum days at twenty-one art, cultural and history museums to keep your brain active, eyes mesmerized, and your seasonal affective disorder at bay. (Mahjabeen Syed) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: DOGS CHASE BALLS/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Art Books, Installation, Painting, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Josh Reames. "Infinite Scroll (#1)" and "Infinite Scroll (#2)," both 2014, acrylic on canvas

Josh Reames. “Infinite Scroll (#1)” and “Infinite Scroll (#2),” both 2014, acrylic on canvas

RECOMMENDED

DOGS CHASE BALLS is a show for, (occasionally) by, and about our four-legged companions, with many of the works situated low to the ground for convenience of canine access and interaction (dogs are welcome and frequently present in the gallery throughout the run of the show). NO SPACE, the Mexico-based duo comprised of cool kids Débora Delmar and Andrew Birk, curated this group effort and contributed two pieces. Tennis balls stenciled with their logo are scattered throughout the gallery; evidence of interaction exists in the form of ricochet marks on Secrist’s white walls. A video loop showing happy pups using these props projects onto the floor, harkening to the curatorial impetus for the show (witnessing the unadulterated joy of a dog playing with a ball). The film is a virtual who’s who of Chicago’s art pupperati: breakout stars are Vincent Uribe’s Milo and Wolfie Rawk’s Rudi. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: James Ensor/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
James Ensor. "The Temptation of Saint Anthony," 1887

James Ensor. “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887

RECOMMENDED

James Ensor’s six-foot-tall drawing “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887, is the exhibition’s thematic and physical centerpiece, set like an altarpiece at the end of a dark, chapel-like corridor. It’s a dense tangle of scary figures and texts, and a teeming universe of references to the artist’s life. The Art Institute wisely bought it in 2006; it hasn’t been shown in sixty years. Composed of fifty-one separate sheets mounted on canvas, it’s a conservation triumph. Stylistically, it’s a cross between Northern Renaissance art and the cramped doodles of underground comics. Indeed, Ensor’s drawing-based art was expressed in almost every two-dimensional media, including the then-new manufactured color pencils. Read the rest of this entry »