In 2010, the anonymous graffiti crew Made U Look (MUL) executed a graffiti bombing of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. Under cover of snowfall, they painted a vibrant, text-based fifty-foot mural bookended by the phrases “Modern Art… Made You Look.” This unsanctioned act of institution critique challenged accessibility while calling attention to exclusion of graffiti from the canon of contemporary art. Steppenwolf for Young Adults, the revered ensemble’s teen-focused offshoot, has revisited the event that sparked these debates, concluding its revolution-focused season with “This Is Modern Art (based on true events).”
Vicious tenebrous gods of Subjectivity! There’s no real reason, that I could find, for castigating Wyatt Grant’s “Dreamer Gets Another Dream,” a collection of collages and paintings and bantam sculptures; only that they fail both conceptually and aesthetically—”aesthetic” here not to be confused with “beautiful”—and therefore holistically. What is it saying, when the most attractive pieces are abstract works that embody the supposed theme of the show the least, wherein the colors and shapes and lines and spaces are arranged just so in a purified neo-plastic way? (This is how, by the way, a work of art succeeds aesthetically.) Meanwhile, the finest piece of quasi-representational work is one wherein the abstraction runs high and fast—a tartan face, a floating eye, a hulking hourglass form—and sits in a pile next to the gallery assistant, ready and willing to be taken home with you (not an indictment; personally, I love how my favorite piece can live with me, and me it). Read the rest of this entry »
“Drunken Geometry,” the new collaborative exhibition by Leslie Baum and Allison Wade, is a risky proposition. By tackling the classic conventions and traditions associated with the still life, these two Chicago-based artists seek to extend our preexisting notions of the genre by, in effect, taking them apart. The approach is as pregnant with possibility as it is fraught with travails.
Sculptural formulations are particularly susceptible to problems inherent to deconstruction since a table displayed without substantive transformation remains merely a table, an artifact of our mundane world rather than an active agent in the world of art. Though reasonable people can (and should) disagree, objects placed within the environs of gallery are not art by default. The wall-mounted “Many Things Conspired #1” as well as the floor-bound “New Things (the persistence of ordered objects) #1,” which both seem a little too self-satisfied as minimally altered objects, are the most problematic in this regard. Read the rest of this entry »
Painter and School of the Art Institute of Chicago MFA candidate Lynn Basa has opened Corner, a new art gallery in the Avondale neighborhood located at 2912 North Milwaukee. Basa has owned the building at the corner of Drake and Milwaukee since 2008 where her studio also resides. Because she can only work on one painting at a time, Basa wanted to make use of the remaining 400-square-foot space by doing something she found meaningful. We met for an interview in which she says, “I just felt like I could bring more value to my life by creating a connection with the community. Studio work is notoriously isolating and so I wanted to not only start connecting with other artists, but also experiment because I feel like the whole language of gallery space is to keep people out and I started thinking about how this very building was designed to bring people in.” Read the rest of this entry »
Among the four wildly diverse approaches to representing the human body photographically on display here, Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s is the most inventive, although not the most meaningful. Dewey-Hagborg picks up cigarette butts and discarded chewing gum off the city sidewalks (depicted in her color shots), subjects the detritus to DNA analysis, runs the genetic profiles through a facial algorithm, and produces 3D resin portraits that presumably resemble the people who left the remains of their consumption for the scavenger-artist to appropriate (the droppings also grace her mini-installation). The three particular subjects whose faces look out at us from the gallery wall are all young, attractive and relentlessly clean, with an airbrushed appearance that belies the butts and gum from which they have been reconstructed. Read the rest of this entry »
Updating Barry Schwabsky’s 2012 label “retromodernism,” Colby Chamberlain coined the term “domestic modernism” to describe Margaret Lee’s recent installation of facsimiles depicting twentieth-century art and design icons. Noting that, “apparently Brancusi duplicates are trending,” Chamberlain compared Lee’s model of Brancusi’s “Endless Column” to another shown by Josephine Meckseper in 2013, highlighting their affinity in evoking department store displays. Now featured in the group show “MetaModern” at the Krannert Museum, William Cordova’s tribute to the Brancusi monument—a column of lampshades inverted in an alternating rhythm and lit from within—similarly evokes a retail aura. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle also replicates a Brancusi phallus, but with a more aeronautical thrust; his nine-foot “Bird in Space” is fabricated from carbon fiber, Kevlar and steel, and seems ready to blow a Sputnik out of the sky. Read the rest of this entry »
Argentinian artist Jaime Davidovich moved to a New York teeming with ideas, conversations and possibilities during the 1960s and seventies, when it was gritty, dangerous and artists could afford a building in SoHo. Whereas Gordon Matta-Clark, Donald Judd and the Judson Dance Theater give the period its experimental flavor, Davidovich’s pioneering efforts in artist-run public television never received recognition like abstract video artists Stan Brackhage or Paul Sharits. Read the rest of this entry »
Between studio time, gallery shows and public projects, rising Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley is quite the busy fellow. His latest project is in conjunction with the city’s brand new CTA Green Line Station at McCormick Place. Using transit investment funds and tax-increment-financing funds, the fifty-million-dollar new station will include the Motor Row entertainment district, a convention center and hotels, and showcases eight public art panels of Brantley’s work. Read the rest of this entry »
By Matt Morris
Is art that appears to be “about art” ever only limited to that scope of investigation? I’d say it’s doubtful, mostly because mechanisms of power reproduce themselves throughout social institutions, so to reflect upon the constitutive components of an artistic medium (as well as its historical and contemporary contexts) possesses at least the potential of a transferrable method by which one might fashion new freedoms—not through a rebellion from upheld traditional forms but through critical relationships to them. The monochrome continues to do this. Distilled to an uninterrupted plane, color, texture, scale and the tools for applying material (all usually in some way present in most artworks) are amplified, inviting investigation into the parts that comprise the art. In the best of cases, consideration of the conditions of display is inspired as well. The monochrome as a form also holds up under projections: historically used for such diverse conceptual conceits as Suprematism, color field painting, the “radical painting group,” and most recently one of several working modes bizarrely attributed by Ken Johnson to “soccer mom” aesthetics. A century after Kazimir Malevich painted his canvas “Black Square” in 1915, artists continue figuring out how to take apart the language of art-making so that the parsed vocabulary can speak to the power of the entire system. Read the rest of this entry »
Set in the smart spaces of the Poetry Foundation, this exhibition of the British artist-illustrator Trevor Winkfield (born 1944) highlights his paintings, cover designs and limited-edition books. It’s a small-scale show—five paintings and four vitrines—but the bright, punchy images are themselves like welcome book illustrations against the ashen modernist environment of the still-newish John Ronan building.
Winkfield’s mother read picture books to him as a tot. Afterwards texts always provoked accompanying images from him. Raised in Leeds, he came to America in 1969 and quickly became part of the collaboration-happy New York School. Not “merely a brush for hire,” he said, he had true partnerships with major poets like Ron Padgett and John Ashbery. Collaboration, he reflected, was “one of the quickest ways of allowing me to see myself as others saw me.” Read the rest of this entry »