Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Andreas Fischer/Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Andreas Fischer. "Monument," 2015 oil, acrylic, pencil on canvas, 21 x 18"

Andreas Fischer. “Monument,” 2015
oil, acrylic, pencil on canvas, 21 x 18″

RECOMMENDED

Andreas Fischer’s “The Ghost in Your Shoe” is a satisfying meditation on representation delivered as a set of strange, charming little paintings. The subject matter is familiar. Each picture is of something everyday—a horse, for example, simply titled “Horse.” The paintings are rendered dreamily, as if painted, not even from memory, but from the storehouse of the mind wherein objects are classified. How might a horse appear in the mind’s eye? This is the look of Fischer’s paintings. They spring from an interior space complete with a washy white emptiness around each object, as if the object and only the object were being held aloft and examined in a neutral region, stripped of as much context as possible. We see not renderings but impressions, fleeting notions arrested. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bill Frederick/Printworks Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
Bill Frederick. "Lightning, Port Austin," 2015 watercolor and ink, 38" x 71"

Bill Frederick. “Lightning, Port Austin,” 2015 watercolor and ink, 38″ x 71″

RECOMMENDED

Bill Frederick takes us on a Midwestern road trip. But as in his previous shows, rather than showing us unusual or scenic vistas, we get the ordinary places that are impossible to avoid, like gas stations and strip-mall parking lots. Landscape painting usually offers an escape from the daily grind, where the human footprint, if any, fits smoothly into the natural order of things. But Frederick’s landscapes do not escape the jagged ends of human existence, and no matter how deep into the north woods he drives, he never gets far from the car. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Terry Dowd Relocates to Mana Contemporary Chicago

Logan Square, News etc., Pilsen No Comments »
Terry Dowd and general manager at Mana Contemporary Chicago Micha Lang.

Terry Dowd and general manager at Mana Contemporary Chicago, Micha Lang

Terry Dowd, Incorporated (TDI) recently announced the relocation of their operations and storage facilities from 2501 West Armitage to Mana Contemporary Chicago’s headquarters at 2233 South Throop. While TDI has not yet opened its doors for business at their new home, their move has already commenced, occupying a total of 20,000 square feet at Mana already, whose nine-level building spans a total of 400,000 square feet. They are scheduled to be fully operating by April of 2015 and will debut a new logo and website in the next few months. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Eldzier Cortor/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
Eldzier Cortor. "L’Abbatoire I," 1950s, woodblock print

Eldzier Cortor. “L’Abbatoire I,” 1950s,
woodblock print

RECOMMENDED

In recognition of his lifetime achievement, a selection of Eldzier Cortor’s prints are now on display at the Art Institute. The earliest series, “L’abbatoire” (slaughterhouse), 1955-1980, documents the artist’s dismay over the violent politics of Haiti, where he once lived. The “Dance” series, 1978, presents the nubile female form in a kind of decorative pattern that recalls the murals of ancient Crete or Egypt. The “Jewels/Theme” series, 1985, encases those same graceful women in brilliant, sharply cut gemstones. The “Sepia Odalisque” series, 1998, sets them, as sultry pairs, into a Turkish harem. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Doris Salcedo/Museum of Contemporary Art

Gold Coast/Old Town, Installation, Sculpture No Comments »
Doris Salcedo. “Untitled" works, 1989-2008, wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

Doris Salcedo. “Untitled” works, 1989-2008,
wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

RECOMMENDED

The very first retrospective of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s thirty-year career begins with her recent “Plegaria Muda,” a maze of more than one-hundred upended tables sandwiching a thick layer of dirt between their backs and appearing as coffins. Tiny blades of grass grow out from between the wood planks, a subtle indication of the time poured into the growing and crafting of each blade and table. “Plegaria Muda” is created from Salcedo’s research into gang violence in Los Angeles combined with viewing the mass graves of grieving mothers’ sons in Colombia. The piece is a meditative entrance into Salcedo’s content, an attempt to erase the anonymity of those disappeared in her home country and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Hard to See

Digital Art, Drawings, Installation, Loop, Multimedia, Performance No Comments »
Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

By Matt Morris

Seeing is not a solitary activity, and it’s not simple. Perception is first of all dependent on context, not only because the specificities of an experience are ascertained through contrast, but also due to the ways each of our unique acculturations informs how we see. Comprehending visual information then turns out to be a social activity, evidenced most clearly in the debates that arise when we don’t see things the same way. And of course, these turbulent discourses around what is perceived are at the expense of appreciating just how much goes unseen—through suppression, movement beyond our sensory faculties, or systemically strategic elisions in how the seen social is structured. This then is one of the often tacit but urgent responsibilities of visual culture and art: to pressure and interrogate the boundaries of perception, to render the invisible visible. Changing how we see is first perceptual but actually political work, and it’s being done across viral Internet memes, sharp-witted turns in how organizations understand multicultural diversity, and artistic research into invisibility. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 100 Faces of War/National Veterans Art Museum

Albany Park, Painting No Comments »
Matt Mitchell. "Mariela Meylan, In Recovery, From Livermore, California and Costa Rica," painting part of Mitchell's 100 Faces of War Experience" series.

Matt Mitchell. “Mariela Meylan, In Recovery, From Livermore, California and Costa Rica,” painting part of Mitchell’s 100 Faces of War Experience” series.

RECOMMENDED

Amherst artist Matt Mitchell took nine years to complete a hundred oil portraits of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. A sociologist helped him find a representative sample according to gender, race, age, service branch, rank and home state. Thus, each picture represents 25,000 personnel. Here are pictures of hapless teen enlistees, nurses, career soldiers, administrators and even some casualties. The diverse faces of these citizen-soldiers peer out, some proudly, others barely concealing their psychic wounds. Mitchell aimed to conclude the project by the official end of hostilities in Afghanistan. About the more or less continuous war since 9/11, one veteran observes wryly, “It only took four years to win WWII.” Working from photos Mitchell himself took during interviews with his sitters, the life-size portraits are identical in scale and treatment. A pathetic beauty emerges from the rosy faces and detailed clothing, all rendered in an old masters technique. They need to be seen in person for they do not reproduce well. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Varda Caivano/The Renaissance Society

Hyde Park, Painting No Comments »
Varda Caivano. "Untitled," 2015 acrylic, charcoal and oil on canvas 70 7/8" x 47 1/4"

Varda Caivano. “Untitled,” 2015
acrylic, charcoal and oil on canvas
70 7/8″ x 47 1/4″

The seven blue-gray and gray-brown paintings in Varda Caivano’s “The Density of The Actions” rest easily on the Bergman Gallery’s sunlit walls. All untitled, their meandering charcoal lines and fluid, almost watercolor-like passages of acrylic paint seem fraught and indecisive. There’s a captivating immediacy to the manner in which these skeletal (and only tangentially descriptive) marks play tensely against the vertically elongated format of several of the works, but there’s also a thinness to these paintings that’s difficult to shake. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Collecting Paradise/Block Museum of Art

Drawings, Evanston, Painting, Sculpture, Textiles No Comments »

"White Tara Painting," Western Tibet, 16th-17th century painting on cloth, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology Koelz Collection of Himalayan Art, Koelz 17458 [K569]

“White Tara Painting,”
Western Tibet, sixteenth-seventeenth-century
painting on cloth, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology
Koelz Collection of Himalayan Art, Koelz 17458 [K569]

RECOMMENDED

“If you find Buddhist art in a monastery, take it” might well have been an early twentieth-century variation on the koan made famous by Sheldon Kopp, as Western scholars scoured South Asia for artifacts. Gallery signage tells us that what Professor Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984) called a garbage dump, local monks considered a repository of sacred relics. Shame on him, but without his acquisition, four magnificent eleventh-century folios would not now be showing at the Block Museum. And they really have the sharp perfection of world-class illumination and calligraphy. Then there was Walter Koelz (1895-1989), a zoologist at the University of Michigan who collected whatever caught his eye. At the Likir monastery, he proudly bargained down the price on two seventeenth-century painted fabrics. Without them, the third, left behind, could no longer perform a ritual function. They don’t kick you in the gut like the dharma-defender hanging nearby, but Koelz’s Buddhist divinities have plenty of grace and power one would not experience without his questionable efforts. Such appropriation by Western collectors is one thing that may happen to sacred art, centuries after it was made. Alternatively, these works could be collected by devotees, where they might influence the art and religious practice of other lands. Those are some of the rather predictable kinds of stories this exhibition tells about the legacies of Buddhist art from Kashmir. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jungjin Lee/Andrew Bae Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Jungjin Lee. "Unnamed Road 014," 2011 archival pigment print  40 x 78.5 inches Ed. of 3

Jungjin Lee. “Unnamed Road 014,” 2011
archival pigment print, 40 x 78.5 inches, ed. of 3

RECOMMENDED

Printing her large-format black-and-white landscape photographs on Korean rice paper, on which she has meticulously and elegantly brushed photographic emulsion, and then made digital prints of the images, Jungjin Lee produces haunting and faded yet distinct impressions of the deserts of Israel and the West Bank of Palestine in her “Unnamed Roads” series. There is not a hint of the political conflict that wracks the region in Lee’s work. Indeed, she has removed as much context as possible from her images by naming each one with only the exhibition’s title, although they sometimes depict cities, ruins and distinctive rock formations. Lee’s point is that current events are merely rippling sand swirls on the surface of an immovable human condition, in which past contingencies leave their marks that are subsumed under persistent particularized forms that she captures with her view camera. Read the rest of this entry »