Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Art Break: Project Onward Moves On to Bridgeport

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Rob Lentz

Rob Lentz

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 »

Review: Multiple Exposures/Bridgeport Art Gallery

Bridgeport, Photography No Comments »

Mary Rafferty

Mary Rafferty

 

RECOMMENDED

Of the eleven gifted veteran Chicago art photographers whose work is on display here, running the gamut of genres, techniques and sensibilities, Mary Rafferty’s in-your-face color punk portraits against white backgrounds of roller derby queens, Jane Alt’s wild color shots of swirling smoky controlled (you wouldn’t know it) forest burns, and Susan Annable’s edgy mysterious atmospheric black-and-white studies of indistinct subjects deserve special mention; but Jessica Tampas outpaces the pack with her large-format color, close-up head shots of cracked, scarred and broken one-hundred-year-old dolls that stare at you as though they were animated, beseeching you to connect with them. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of a Gallery: Sofa King

Bridgeport, Gallerist profile No Comments »

2The phrase “sofa king” calls to mind that ubiquitous image of Homer Simpson, splayed out on his poop-brown living-room couch. It’s a Sunday afternoon in Springfield, of any state and town in the USA, and the pear-shaped Homer is clad only in white briefs; he balances a half-empty Duff beer on his belly while he snoozes and drools. The television blares the usual noise—news, sports, Itchy ‘n Scratchy. This everyman is king of the sofa for a day—or at least until Monday morning.

Christopher Smith decided to name his apartment gallery Sofa King in homage to this type of mundane existence. And with a generic, wholly American name like Christopher Smith, the artist believes in the power of the American man, whose name and habits may be indistinguishable from any other.

“When I Google image search my full name, I get mug shots of British criminals,” says Smith. “With a name like mine I have to find affirmation in the generic or I’m toast.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Has Beens & Wannabes/Zhou B Art Center

Bridgeport, Street Art 1 Comment »
Ruben Aguirre

Ruben Aguirre

RECOMMENDED

Despite the self-deprecating title, “Has Beens & Wannabes” accomplishes the hard task of gathering together the artists who once created the most significant graffiti art of the 1980s and nineties by showing their current studio-based work. The previous lives of these artists as graffiti writers manifests itself differently with each artist—many have moved on from their graffiti days, and a few even renounce their graffiti roots—and makes for a compelling tension. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: At Home with Juan Angel Chavez

Bridgeport, Sculpture No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

I asked for the grand tour of Juan Angel Chavez’s new gallery, and he outstretched his arms. “This is it!” he said with a smile, his fingertips just reaching either wall. The seventy-two-square-foot exhibition space, called The Marshfield Project, is the enclosed garden-level entryway to Chavez’s studio at 34th Street and South Marshfield Avenue in the McKinley Park neighborhood, adjacent to Bridgeport. It was co-founded with his wife, Jenna Leitner; upstairs is their home. The Marshfield Project is not, however, a conventional gallery for professional artists. Chavez presses this point. The inaugural exhibition this month will be Guadalupe Estrada’s debut solo show. She is Chavez’s mother.

The Marshfield Project was partially funded by the 3Arts Artist Projects grant program. It works a little like Kickstarter in that the artist names a project and fundraising goal, and supporters vote with their dollars, but 3Arts promises to contribute a third of the funds. Chavez and Leitner raised $3,170 with 3Arts’ help, for minor adjustments to the space and the publishing of a catalog on newsprint. 3Arts similarly funded Edra Soto and Dan Sullivan’s domestic exhibition structure, The Franklin, in the backyard of their East Garfield Park home on Franklin Boulevard. Soto’s father will have the second exhibition at The Marshfield Project, in February. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mario Gonzalez Jr./Zhou B. Art Center

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RECOMMENDED

The MOS (Meeting of Styles) international graffiti event will erupt in Chicago September 14-16, where Mario Gonzalez Jr., one of its organizers, is sure to be covering one of the many walls with his colorful arabesques. But in the weeks leading up to it, Zore (as he is known in the graffiti community) is also having a solo exhibition at the Zhou B. Art Center. His gallery work is just as assertive and eye-catching, but it’s also too eye-pleasing to be temporary. These pieces are as decorative as gold-leafed, lacquered Japanese screens, though they seem to have been made with materials found at a home-improvement center. He paints and draws on a variety of unprimed supports: paper, canvas, plywood and steel and, though he still has a deft wrist with a can of spray paint, he brushes and draws as well, in perfect control of the paint as it drips, globs, stains or breathlessly snakes in bold lines across the surface. He still can put out the bold icons of self-assertion that claim his rightful place in the community of taggers. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Field Static/Co-Prosperity Sphere

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Heather Mekkelson

RECOMMENDED

•Field: a constellation of objects, their relations forming a syntax. •Static: not as adjective (“fixed or stationary”), but as noun and object (“atmospheric electricity, interference”). •Ellen Rothenberg, “Constellations”: a wall hung with price tags flung like stars, clinging in clusters—cosmic economics. •“[T]he exhibition has become the basic unit” of meaning in art (Nicolas Bourriaud): a relational aesthetic of the object. •Heather Mekkelson, “Antenna with Belts”: a rooftop skeleton, an insect made up exclusively of appendages, joints sutured by belts: the everyday intersecting with the alien. •There are only peripheries here; the “center” gives way to relations. •Mark Booth, “I IMAGINE YOU SLEEPING…”: a shimmering sheet and looping lines of speech: the aural returning as the spectral. •A constellation of con-texts for re-vision: Michael Fried’s “Art and Objecthood,” Rosalind Krauss’ “Sculpture in an Expanded Field,” Walter Benjamin’s “Arcades Project,” Nicolas Bourriaud’s “Relational Aesthetics,” Bruno Latour’s “Reassembling the Social”…. •Curators Caroline Picard and Devin King: “…objects…embody a network…[blurring] the lines between life forms and inanimate material bodies…the realization and decay of magnetisms…” •Static and decay as necessary conditions for communication. •Rebecca Mir, “Iceberg Mountain”: conical web of rope anchored by rocks and cleats, a tensive monument of nodes and connections without a base. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Network: From Turin to Chicago/Zhou B. Art Center

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RECOMMENDED

By way of a cultural exchange, two exhibitions, one from Italy, the other from Chicago, are now showing side-by-side at the Zhou B. Art Center. And who would want to miss such a tempting opportunity to make a comparison? Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Celebrarte/Zhou B Art Center

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Sergio Gomez

RECOMMENDED

There’s no way to account for the objects in this exhibition except to point toward the large, glowing heart of its curator, Sergio Gomez, his own depiction of which is also on display. He loves art and artists, and since the opening of the Zhou B. Art Center in 2004, he’s been putting on shows of mostly figurative art in his 33 Gallery. Some of those artists share his Latino heritage, and in this exhibition, he joins them with many others from around the community to “celebrate Latino spirit, imagination and creative force in Chicago.” Rather than an attempt to identify the most important Chicago Latino artists, this is more like a cross-generational, community-building event, though it must be noted that most of Sergio’s community is Mexican, as only one Cuban and two Puerto Ricans are included. Some of the older artists Sergio has known for decades are included, beginning with Mario Castillo, who inspired him to become an artist at Joliet Junior College in 1990. But there are others that he has just met, like the graphic artist Dolores Mercado, who also works at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 7th Annual National Self-Portrait Exhibition/Zhou B. Art Center

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Marina Ross

Bigger is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to an exhibition where anything can be art and everyone is an artist. The latest edition of the National Self-Portrait Exhibition is 300-percent larger than last year and fills up the entire 12,000 square feet of the first floor of the Zhou B. Art Center. At this rate, curator Sergio Gomez, who first created the show seven years ago in his small 33 Collective Gallery (now 33 Contemporary), will eventually move a mile east and fill up all of Cellular Field. Yes, it’s fun to grab a glass of wine and wade through the carnival of all the wild-desperate-cranky-wacky self-presentations. But at some point, one has to ask whether any of these selves are especially worth knowing. Read the rest of this entry »