Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: The Suburban Reopens Gallery Space This Weekend

News etc., Oak Park No Comments »
The newly mended structure of the Suburban in Oak Park

The newly mended structure of the Suburban in Oak Park

Over the past two weeks, Michelle Grabner has been sending me image updates on the reconstruction taking place on the small freestanding building that serves as one of the two gallery spaces for the Suburban, the prominent humble-but-mighty exhibition space she operates in her backyard with her husband and collaborator, the painter Brad Killam. I’ve received word that the building has been refurbished just in time to resume being used in presenting artwork this weekend. On Sunday, November 2, they will open exhibitions of work by Alan Belcher and Joel Otterson with a reception from 2pm-4pm. The Green Gallery Oak Park, a third small room in the architectural cluster in which the smartly curated Milwaukee space presents artist projects, will open an exhibition with Jennifer Bolande. These exhibitions will remain on display through December 12, viewable by appointment after the opening.
Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sarah Charlesworth/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Photography No Comments »
Sarah Charlesworth. "Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles," 1980, printed 2012

Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles,” 1980, printed 2012

RECOMMENDED

The Art Institute of Chicago has embarked on a nine-month celebration titled “Photography Is_________,” commemorating the department of photography’s establishment in 1974. Sarah Charlesworth, who figured among the Pictures Generation of artists, appropriated photos from newspapers that documented people falling from tall buildings. The resulting images meld photojournalistic and fine art photography techniques, creating conceptual documentations of a moment laced with kinetic energy. Measuring over six feet tall, these compositions show mortality tinged with an intense sense of freedom. These are people jumping or falling to their deaths, some showing momentum and violence, while others look serene as these active moments transform into portraits. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways/Smart Museum of Art

Hyde Park, Sculpture No Comments »
"Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways," installation view, Smart Museum of Art

“Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways,” installation view, Smart Museum of Art

RECOMMENDED

“Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways” plays to the museum’s strengths in depth and breadth of visual and cultural material, transforming the entire museum into an inquiry into “the essential qualities that define sculpture.” The show’s opening gambit errs heavily on the side of tradition, exhibiting mostly modern European figurative works in bronze, stone and clay. A cast concrete architectural fragment by Frank Lloyd Wright is the sole exception, though its pairing with an abstracted Lipchitz bronze figure seems to argue for the legitimacy of the former via the aura of sanctified modernism. The exhibition continues at this pace through several galleries, showing Picasso, Calder, Moore, Arp and a host of other twentieth-century Europeans and Americans. A single non-Western piece, a Guinean carved wood mask, questions the well-trodden claim linking African “primitivism” to Western developments in abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Milton Resnick/Mana Contemporary

Painting, Pilsen No Comments »
Milton Resnick. "X Space," 2001, acrylic on paper,  22 ½" x 30 ½"

Milton Resnick. “X Space,” 2001, acrylic on paper,
22 ½” x 30 ½”

RECOMMENDED

Buried beneath the viscous layers of paint, crusted and hardened like the scab on a skinned knee, a preternatural light seems to issue forth from Milton Resnick’s titanic “U and Me.” The light is scattered at first, dappling the edges of two figures—themselves little more than heaving gestures of mottled paint—building in intensity until it finally rains down from the body of a yellow serpent lurking along the painting’s top edge.

It’s a haunting moment in a thoroughly haunted exhibition. Despite the best efforts of our materialist society to rid the world of anything that can’t be quantified, measured and easily referenced, the belief that signs, symbols and images possess a special kind of power is still pervasive. Resnick’s paintings are suffused with this otherworldly magnetism, and nowhere is it more visible than in his many late works-on-paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Whitney Bedford/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Whitney Bedford. "Ships (Inviting Catastrophe)," 2014, ink and oil on canvas on panel, 72" x 120". Photo by Evan Bedford

Whitney Bedford. “Ships (Inviting Catastrophe),” 2014, ink and oil on canvas on panel, 72″ x 120″. Photo by Evan Bedford

RECOMMENDED

There’s a lot of turbulence happening on the smooth white walls of Carrie Secrist Gallery right now. In her current solo show, Whitney Bedford turns calmly rendered seas and skies into apocalyptic landscapes and flaming sonatas.

Within the paintings of expansive seascapes and intricate vessels, the artist’s combination of ink and oil paint create a hybrid of mediums that do not cohesively blend together, but instead build compositions with varying parts and dimensions. Knotty ink lines erect the masts and sails of the ships, while brushstrokes work to construct an atmospheric environment. The low horizon lines in the compositions grant a powerful impression of expansiveness to the air and water, which in turn make the ships appear small and even vulnerable. The expressionistically rendered, volatile waters engulf the boats like a type of unexpected, sudden and inescapable volcanic eruption. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Josef Strau/Renaissance Society

Ceramics, Hyde Park, Installation No Comments »
Josef Strau. "Raft," 2014

Josef Strau. “Raft,” 2014

RECOMMENDED

The application referenced in the title of Josef Strau’s first museum exhibition in the United States, “The New World Application for Turtle Island,” is a fantastical art-and-text alternative to the formal procedures for a green card, and Turtle Island is a name given to the North American continent by its indigenous peoples. The Renaissance Society is filled with the Austrian-born nomad’s sensitively indulgent bricolage of Americana used to deconstruct histories of European invasion and colonization alongside his more personal accounts of exploring the United States and Mexico. Strau poses uneasy questions about the ethics and aesthetics that accompany cultural trade, not least of all his globetrotting presence as an after-effect of prior violent usurpations of place. His knowingly disjointed installation grapples with the conditions of being an outsider—and perhaps more confounding, an insider—in these places he holds dear. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Claudine Isé Appointed Executive Director of Woman Made Gallery

News etc., West Loop No Comments »
Claudine Isé

Newly appointed executive director of Woman Made Gallery, Claudine Isé

Last week Woman Made Gallery (WMG) announced that former Newcity contributor Claudine Isé has been appointed as the venerable exhibition space’s new executive director. Isé succeeds Beate Minkovski who is retiring after twenty years of service to the organization. In the gallery’s press release, Isé speaks to the important role Woman Made has performed in advancing social discourses around gender and justice, “I am deeply inspired by the Gallery’s unwavering commitment to the social and cultural ideals espoused by feminism, LGBTQ activism, and social justice movements. Woman Made Gallery is a vital resource for contemporary artists of all genders, and I am looking forward to working with its exceptional staff, board and funders to further the gallery’s mission.” Since its founding in 1992, WMG has hosted 378 exhibitions and exhibited more than 7,500 women artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

RECOMMENDED

The story of Renaissance painting begins with innovations in naturalism that were a welcome liberation from the schematic strictures of the Byzantine style. Or at least, that’s how the leading art historians of the last century, like Ernst Gombrich, told it. Perhaps that’s why this is the first special exhibition devoted exclusively to Byzantine art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 124 years. But as this exhibition proves, the best Byzantine figurative art in painting, sculpture and mosaic was no less fresh, expressive and exciting than subsequent art periods are known to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wangechi Mutu/Block Museum of Art

Collage, Drawings, Evanston, Installation, Video No Comments »
Wangechi Mutu. "The End of eating Everything," (still), 2013, animated video (color, sound), 8:00 minute loop

Wangechi Mutu. “The End of eating Everything,” (still), 2013, animated video (color, sound), eight-minute loop

RECOMMENDED

Images are ideological constructions that serve the social function of representing political and global interactions. For Wangechi Mutu’s collages in her survey “A Fantastic Journey” the artist sources imagery from National Geographic, pornographic and fashion magazines to undercut disparaging assumptions about the black female body. “Le Noble Savage” is a wry collage that demonstrates the historic weight of this misnomer. It was a term coined in the seventeenth century that designated non-Europeans as primitive and served as a reason to discredit their accomplishments. A female figure marked with dark sores wears a raffia-patterned skirt reminiscent of traditional Kuba textile from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mutu’s Afrofuturist aesthetic is evident in the figure’s skin. Her diseased flesh refers to the victims of crises in Africa, the interpolating global politics of war, the illegal trades of bodies, minerals, bullets and more recently the Ebola epidemic—one that the Western press ignored until two American missionaries were infected with the virus. The figure reaches up to the sky holding high a fern populated by many birds showing that there is more to Africa than just the pervasive reductive binary of casting it as a “dark” continent or the emblem of the “cradle of civilization.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action/Sullivan Galleries

Activist Art, Art Schools, Installation, Loop, Performance, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view with "Publishing Clearing House" by Temporary Services

Installation view with “Publishing Clearing House” by Temporary Services

RECOMMENDED

“A Proximity of Consciousness” inaugurates SAIC’s season of lectures, book releases and a symposium dedicated to the art of affecting social change. The exhibition is curated by Mary Jane Jacob and Kate Zeller and showcases new works by a powerhouse roster including Michael Rakowitz, Pablo Helguera, James Duignan, J. Morgan Puett, Paul Durica, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Dan Peterman, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Temporary Services, Rirkrit Tiravanija and many more collaborators. Read the rest of this entry »