The exhibition begins outdoors with Sabina Ott’s fountain, a glittery, Styrofoam-encrusted circulating water tank the size of a bathtub, titled “Pleasure for the Poor” (2010). As its title suggests, it would be suitable for the landscape architecture of a place where people must live on impossible dreams. Defying any sense of space, form or proportion, the fountain is as comforting as a giant, melting, multi-flavor ice-cream sundae. That sense of down-scale comfort is projected by the rest of Ott’s pieces in this exhibit—all of them pastel-tinted conglomerations of glass and metal stuck together with sprayed Styrofoam. Absent any visual tension, and with a sweet, then more sweet esthetic, there’s a sense of fun that summons a hilarious party—which is exactly what the artist did, inviting other artist friends and colleagues to participate. Each were asked to contribute something that, like her pieces, is prominently colored white. The variety of responses is fascinating, but mostly they function like the strainer at the bottom of a kitchen sink, catching the random detritus of human experience. Read the rest of this entry »
Dread Scott, “Money to Burn,” 2010
The sound of the artist Dread Scott chanting “money to burn—money to burn” in a rhythmic cadence accompanies the visitor for the duration of their visit to the group exhibition “It’s the Political Economy, Stupid.” It is the soundtrack to a recorded performance in which Scott offered passersby on Wall Street the opportunity to actually burn bills, which were affixed to the artist’s body. The curators were wise to carry Scott’s singsong cry through the entire show. It is a vaguely irrational and simultaneously reassuring aural message.
“Money to Burn” is one of more than ten videos in this diverse collection of work interrogating what the organizers of the exhibition, Gregory Sholette and Oliver Ressler, call “our present day circumstances of unrelenting economic crisis, authoritarian drift and rapidly failing states.”
A catalogue of techniques, from talking heads to animation, lures viewers into various understandings of how capital works: why banks and economies collapse, resistance to austerity and a variety of political critiques of what most contributors to the exhibit see as floundering systems. Read the rest of this entry »
“I want things to be a little difficult so you have to confront these images and negotiate your own stakes and the ways you are implicated in them,” explains Lauren Edwards on the eve of her upcoming exhibition “In the Turn.” Edwards, who completed her MFA at UIC earlier this year, uses found images she sources from the Internet and sculptural installations that aim to consider the psychological ways images are apprehended and used to script an understanding of one’s environment. Often employing pictures of nondescript landscapes, Edwards aims to call attention to how viewers create meaning and context for what they encounter. “These things are totally unspecific,” she says. “Using these images of nonspecific places is a way to underscore this liminal threshold space.” Read the rest of this entry »
Artists have depicted struggle for centuries. From political and religious strife to the struggle within the artists’ wormwood-pocked mind, these days some of the most alluring paintings do not depict struggle as much as they embody it. Paint itself can appear tortured: scraped, smeared, erased, diluted, sanded and dug into.
Diane Christiansen’s current exhibition, cleverly titled “Cup Freaketh Over,” embraces the struggle between the artist and her medium, but ever so gracefully and intentionally. Her oil on plaster works have a worn aesthetic—perhaps a nod to Renaissance-era fresco paintings, but feel very fresh and contemporary through the artists’ tentative application and unique palette. An unsteady line forms a corpse-like forearm, reaching out of a deep blue swirl of paint, clutching something unrecognizable. An acorn hangs, cradled in an elastic ribbon, pulled down from a clumsy cluster of red, pink, brown and ochre loops of paint, pulling forth from the plaster ground which seems to want to suck up the pigment as it has in so many other areas on the painting. These works are simultaneously playful and painful, often with bodily titles like “Hairy Eyeball” and “Amphetamines,” and each with a distinct air of anxiety. Read the rest of this entry »
“I bet most of the people here,” including most of the artists, “have been to lock-up at some point. And I bet there are a lot of undercover cops here,” remarked an acquaintance and one of the participants in “Paint Paste Sticker: Chicago Street Art” at the opening of the exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. That remark points to a big part of the success of the exhibition: the palpable tension among the art on view, the anti-vandalism laws of the city, and the intensely official civic institution that hosts the exhibition.
The exhibition’s entrance greets visitors with one of the city’s recognizable bus shelters completely covered in spray-paint executed with a recognizable Zore design. Inside is a long wall covered in artist’s stickers, tags, paste-ups and other objects that you usually see on private property across the city. It’s a virtual who’s who of Chicago sticker art with artists adding their calligraphic, tagged signatures, quick sketches or small drawings to a variety of stickers that were intended for more mundane tasks like shipping, or gathering dust at the Post Office. The wall also includes signs from the CTA such as third-rail high-voltage warnings and public service messages. These might come off as cheesy in a street art exhibition, but in the context of a city-sponsored show, the appropriated signs have a sharp edge.
Displayed neatly framed on the chaos of the sticker wall, an anti-vandalism ad sums up the tension of the street art exhibition’s site on city property. Read the rest of this entry »
Liz Born and Gabe Hoare/Photo: Michael Herbert
Pilsen’s growing art community has a new addition. Hoofprint Workshop, a gallery, printmaking press and studio sited in a repurposed funeral home, is the brainchild of local printmakers and teachers Liz Born and Gabe Hoare.
The pair’s first curated installation, on display through November 23, is an explosion of styles, themes and techniques, held together by a mutual commitment to cross-disciplinary collaboration.
“We have worked with four artists this past year as a part of our Collaborative Publishing Project,” says Born, including John Himmelfarb, Polly Yates, Sandra Perlow and Gabriel Villa. “Works from this endeavor are displayed on the south wall of the gallery, alongside non-print works by the same artists. The north wall of the gallery features artists who we’d like to work with more closely in the future. We chose to display their work not only because we think it’s fantastic, but also to give viewers at our opening an idea of what the future holds; something to really sink their teeth into.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Mike and Doug,” 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.
Back in the day, as a young social photographer, Paul D’Amato went out into Chicago’s black and Hispanic neighborhoods with the wish of so many of the young middle-class white males of his generation: to connect with the homies or, as sociologists say, to get a shot of “prestige from below”—mean, tragic and vitalizing street style.
Now middle aged, D’Amato has continued to hang around the ‘hood, but he has shifted his approach to the more restrained and sedate project of shooting color portraits of its residents. D’Amato’s images place his subjects in their own environments, but they are decidedly formal and still, as though the subjects were in the studio.
D’Amato never became a homie; he stayed, but he retreated to the role of the photographer who comes to the scene with the practices from whence he came. That perhaps harsh judgment can be readily confirmed by examining the representation of D’Amato’s subjects. Read the rest of this entry »
“Ada with Blue Scarf,” 2012
I have been looking at Alex Katz paintings for nearly fifty years, but mostly as page-size reproductions in contemporary art magazines, where they stand out as rare attractive depictions of the real world, but this is the first time I have seen a roomful in all their original, full-sized splendor. Well, perhaps splendor is not the right word, even if these paintings are very well made.
Katz displays a well-studied discipline for design and execution. You can see the instantaneous pull of his brush through paint, as well as the dynamics and scale of the design within which it operates. The resulting decorative effect is almost like an eighteenth-century Japanese screen, except that its beauty is more like off-the-rack, ready-to-wear casual fashions from a mail-order catalog than a precious, unique kimono. Read the rest of this entry »
Project Onward is “finally completely independent” from the City of Chicago’s cultural programming office, says Rob Lentz, executive director of the gallery and studio that supports adult artists with mental and developmental disabilities. Project Onward “deserves to have its own identity,” he says, after being housed on the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center since 2004, and fully funded by a variety of city affiliates over those nine years.
Visitors to the first-floor studios and gallery at the Cultural Center could wander in and watch the artists at work in their open studios, get a portrait drawn by a resident artist, or buy some of their work in the shop. And they did, in droves. At the Cultural Center, “we had lots of foot traffic,” says Lentz; “tens and tens and tens of thousands” of visitors. Any artist would love that kind of exposure, but if it seemed like Project Onward were a zoo exhibit, then “the visitors were the animals,” says Lentz. Read the rest of this entry »
“My dreams came true the day I did hair for a fashion show,” 2013
Jennifer Greenburg is the Cindy Sherman of our post-feminist times. A consummate performance photographer, Greenburg has all of Sherman’s wit and irony, put to the purpose of a girl just trying to have fun. Of course, post-feminism was around way before that term came into fashion; think Cyndi Lauper. Greenburg has a different and decidedly visually delectable way of parading her seemingly inexhaustible personae. Make no mistake, the black-and-white images in her project of “revising history” put her as the star in her scenarios, with the other members of the cast playing supporting roles, though they never would have known that they would be drafted for that duty. What Greenburg has done is Read the rest of this entry »