Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Feminism (n.): Plural/Woman Made Gallery

Multimedia, Photography, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Frances F. Denny. "Friendship,"  archival pigment print, 32" × 21"

Frances F. Denny. “Friendship,”
archival pigment print, 32″ × 21″


“We can all be feminists,” is the emerging motto of today’s feminism, and it rings clear in “Feminism (n.): Plural,” curated by recently appointed director Claudine Isé. The exhibition was inspired by Roxane Gay’s 2014 book “Bad Feminist.” She proclaims, “When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.” The exhibition displays a range of issues pertinent to women today, across borders, race, age and personal experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Salvage Art Institute/Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia No Comments »
No Longer Art: Salvage Art Institute. Installation view, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 2015

No Longer Art: Salvage Art Institute. Installation view, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 2015


The claim that any object may be a work of art by way of the subjective declaration of the artist has been fraught with discord since Marcel Duchamp proposed a readymade urinal as his entry to a group exhibition in New York City in 1917. In many ways, the ongoing project of the Salvage Art Institute (SAI), now on view at the Neubauer Collegium, is the logical retort to nearly a century of debate over the question of “What Is Art?” Considering the vast expansion of both artistic production and its attending market, the SAI grapples with a terrain that has shifted drastically since the status of art was radically—and yet merely—defined as anything deemed as such by the artist. Even the question itself has changed: It is now: “What Is No Longer Art?” And the answer comes not from the artist, but the insurance company that determines whether or not a damaged work has fallen into the category of “total loss,” at which point its status as an art object, herein assessed in terms of its monetary value, is beyond repair. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rim Lee/Japonais

Painting, Photography, River North No Comments »
Rim Lee. "Beyond Max Ernst No. 1."

Rim Lee. “Beyond Max Ernst No. 1.”

The subterranean “Blue Room Lounge” at Japonais is a dark, sleek, somewhat claustrophobic space, currently host to three photographs by Rim Lee, a project organized by Kasia Kay Gallery that shares in the space’s qualities. Each one centers on a pair of nude and nubile female torsos that sharply defines a sexual, but not a personal, identity. Like celebrants at a masked ball, their faces are not shown, so the various hips and breasts belong to a world of psychosexual fantasy more than to any particular person. In one image, the faces are turned away, staring at the artist’s own painting which depicts a disembodied, non-gendered human face emerging above a flaccid pillar. It’s an obvious reference to the work of Max Ernst, after whom this work, and the entire exhibition, has been named. But it may also represent an awkward self identity that hasn’t yet caught up with the sexual maturity of the figures staring at it. Indeed, there is something girlish about all three photographs that seem to rest between the comfortable, well-ordered world of a happy childhood—and the confusing, sometimes dangerous, world of adults. In the other two images, giant bird masks cover the heads of the two attractive nudes. Covered with fluffy down instead of feathers, the birds are more like oversized chicks than adults who have already flown the nest. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: European Edge/Berlanga Fine Art

Photography, River North No Comments »
Jan Saudek. "Ilary Make Up," 1983

Jan Saudek. “Ilary Make Up,” 1983


For the inaugural exhibition at his new photography gallery, Paul Berlanga has put together works of five leading European modernists: Lucien Clergue, György Kepes, Jan Saudek, Petra Skoupilová and Rutger ten Broeke, all in black and white, with the addition in Saudek’s case of subtle coloring. The “edge” referred to in the show’s title is decidedly surrealist, with the contributors using different strategies, approaches, and concepts to convey the visual strangeness, bordering and often falling into eeriness, that is surrealism’s hallmark.

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Portrait of the Artist: Esau McGhee

Collage, Garfield Park, Logan Square, Photography No Comments »
Esau McGhee in his East Garfield Park studio

Esau McGhee in his East Garfield Park studio

“My collage work is about this collective experience that we all share with public spaces,” explains Esau McGhee. “It doesn’t matter, you could be a fifty-year-old white Jewish chick or a young Latino male. It’s not my space, it’s not your space, it’s really ours, and it’s going through an evolution as dictated by us and our shared experience with it.”

As an African-American man who grew up as a self-proclaimed “ghetto kid” and ended up a professional artist by way of high-end, private fine art programs at SAIC and Northwestern, McGhee thinks a lot about how people from different races and economic classes relate to one another. He believes that people from different backgrounds can connect with one another through their shared visual experiences. With a studio based in the quintessentially urban East Garfield Park, McGhee’s practice intuitively incorporates the patterns of city landscapes, evoking a mood that city dwellers from all backgrounds could relate to—and with his most recent exhibitions being in the very different Elastic Arts, Union League Club and the Hyde Park Art Center, people from all different backgrounds have had a chance to.
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Review: Luftwerk/Silent Funny

Humboldt Park, Installation, Multimedia, Video No Comments »
Luftwerk's "FLOW" installation at Silent Funny video projected onto water and interior architecture photo by Marc Perlish

Luftwerk’s “FLOW” installation at Silent Funny
video projected onto water and interior architecture
photo by Marc Perlish


For their current installations at budding arts space Silent Funny in West Humboldt Park, Luftwerk—the collaborative comprised of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero—were inspired by how light travels through water to create visceral connections for viewers, working with excerpts from previous outdoor projects reimagined for the space’s cavernous interior.

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Review: Ian Pedigo/65GRAND

Digital Art, Installation, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Ian Pedigo, "Lights Have Gone Out," 2015 bone, plastic, metal, wood, paint, carpet, 60" x 65" x 30"

Ian Pedigo, “Lights Have Gone Out,” 2015
bone, plastic, metal, wood, paint, carpet, 60″ x 65″ x 30″


Using found quotidian materials, Ian Pedigo assembles sculptural installations that lyricize banal details of our domestic and built environments. In his exhibition at 65Grand, “The Arrows Like Soft Moon Beams,” the New York-based artist reveals three larger-than-human-size totems which nod to Surrealism and resonate particularly well in Chicago, with its rich culture of spaces (6018North) and makers (Alberto Aguilar, Edra Soto) who turn the domestic into the poetic. In “From the Crown to the Earth” a six-foot-tall panel of black stone grounds the playful figural arrangement of a green plastic bowl lampshade with dangling disco ball earrings. Another grouping converts disembodied chair legs into a wing-like form, hung from a floorboard suspended upside down with a backdrop of blinds. “Lights Have Gone Out” features a candelabra painted matte-black which is simultaneously real, faux, classic and kitsch. Pedigo combines elements from different time periods and vacillates between natural and artificial materials, resulting in both visual stimulation and a sense of suspended timelessness.
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Review: Aimée Beaubien/Johalla Projects

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view of Aimeé Beaubien's "Twist-flip-tremble-trace" at Johalla Projects

Installation view of Aimeé Beaubien’s “Twist-flip-tremble-trace” at Johalla Projects


There is a video-game term that applies to art making, called “leveling up.” It’s when you make it to the next round, when you discover something game-changing, when you go out on a limb and make such a big step in the right direction that you are suddenly on a higher plane. You leveled up.

Local photographer Aimée Beaubien leveled up with her new body of work, “Twist-flip-tremble-trace.” She took her collages off the wall, weaving strips of photographs together to create the effect of psychedelic cobwebs, held together with dowels and clothespins so that they stand up and command space in the room. These Wonderlandian creatures are precariously perched on cartoonish furniture—an orange painted ironing board, a mirrored pedestal, a low, hot pink table, often incorporating ceramic jugs and glass bottles. Smaller works sit on shelves and hang on the walls, including some new, two-dimensional works, acting as satellites to their larger counterparts. The result is a dizzying installation of optically wiggling, animal-like forms. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Collin Pressler Appointed Curator at the International Museum of Surgical Science

Galleries & Museums, Lincoln Park, News etc. No Comments »
Collin Pressler, recently appointed curator at the International Museum of Surgical Science.

Collin Pressler, recently appointed curator at the International Museum of Surgical Science

Collin Pressler, a Newcity art section contributor, has been appointed as curator at the International Museum of Surgical Science (IMSS). Pressler’s work in this position will engage with artists and scientific advisors as he manages the production of IMSS exhibitions, overseeing researching, conceptualizing, designing and financing.

Pressler, who has written for Newcity since June 2014, has curated projects previously at the 4th Ward Project Space in Hyde Park as well as at The Chicago Perch, and has additionally overseen exhibitions in various dimensions the past two years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Along with curating medically oriented exhibitions at IMSS, Pressler will also help grow art programs at the museum, including the Artist in Residence program and “Anatomy in the Gallery.” Justina Doyle, manager of education and events at IMSS, writes, “He will be working diligently to expand our newly opened Pathology exhibit, as well as exhibits on the work of Andreas Vesalius and Cardiology.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Archibald Motley/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Painting No Comments »
Archibald J. Motley Jr. "Hot Rhythm," 1961 oil on canvas, 40" x 48.375"

Archibald J. Motley Jr. “Hot Rhythm,” 1961
oil on canvas, 40″ x 48.375″


American life continues to be dominated by friction between its European and African diasporas. Possibly no American artist has been as immersed in that unfolding drama as Archibald Motley (1891-1981), among the first African Americans to address that theme with a thorough training in European pictorial space. As suggested by the thousand-mile-stare in his two self-portraits, wariness is the key to his response. He was too dark for the boardrooms of middle-class America, too well educated for the streets of Bronzeville, and too concerned with African-American identity for trendy galleries of modernist art. So he was probably uncomfortable in every public setting—except the dance halls in Jazz Age Harlem where urban sophisticates of all backgrounds mingled. His visualization of that world is ecstatic. It is also masterful, in both narrative and design, comparing well with the dance halls depicted by Renoir, Lautrec and Picasso, but with a greater emphasis on the congenial interaction between characters. Read the rest of this entry »