Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Chicago’s New Realists/Zhou B Art Center

Bridgeport, Painting 1 Comment »
Elizabeth Claire. "Turning Away," 2014 oil on linen, 24" x 24"

Elizabeth Claire. “Turning Away,” 2014
oil on linen, 24″ x 24″


Though mostly an exhibition of current and former students of its curator, Ryan Shultz, several of these paintings would stand out in any selection of young Chicago painters. A Shultz oil painting typically applies a meticulous, flattened, Polaroid kind of photorealism to depict young adults, notably self-centered if not dissolute. One student, Sandra Stone, has got his intentions and techniques down so well that one might well believe Shultz had painted it himself. But most students have already taken their own directions.

Love of anything other than craft is absent from a Shultz portrait, but Elizabeth Claire has introduced a second figure to depict romantic angst in her stark “Turning Away.” Apparently a self-portrait with Shultz, it recalls Oskar Kokoschka’s painful depiction of himself beside Alma Mahler a hundred years ago. It’s raw, non-fantasy drama is rarely found in contemporary painting. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Chicago Urban Art Society Moves to New Location in McKinley Park

Bridgeport, Galleries & Museums, News etc., Pilsen No Comments »
Chicago Urban Art Society's new creative space in McKinley Park

Chicago Urban Art Society’s new creative space in McKinley Park

At the start of December, Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS) completed its move from its location in the East Pilsen neighborhood to 3636 South Iron in McKinley Park. The move is seen as a homecoming for the exhibition gallery and creative-use space: executive director Lauren M. Pacheco and gallery co-founder and director Peter Kepha are siblings who grew up in nearby Brighton Park. In addition to changing locations for the opportunity at working with a larger space, the new spot interconnects areas that have large Latino communities such as Back of the Yards, Bridgeport, Brighton Park and McKinley Park, allowing CUAS to work in accord with their fundamental commitment to serving Southwest Side Latino communities. “The Southwest Side of Chicago is an art desert,” says Pacheco. “We hope to provide a much needed resource and to continue our advocacy work for more arts and cultural spaces that push innovative practice and discourse in Latino communities and the South Side.” Kepha seconds that notion saying, “In 2015, I am extremely excited to present a curatorial practice that involves new visual voices who are able to think differently about space, community and production.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Makeovers for Sixty Inches From Center’s Magazine, Website and Headquarters

Bridgeport, News etc. No Comments »
:ast fall Sixty Inches from Center participated in Faheem Majeed's installation and event series "Shacks and Shanties."

Last fall, Sixty Inches from Center participated in Faheem Majeed’s installation and event series “Shacks and Shanties.”

In a letter from Sixty Inches From Center’s executive director Tempestt Hazel, she admits that the nonprofit online arts magazine “has been pretty quiet since 2014 began.” But now they’ve launched a new website, announced their new home at the Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport and embarked on the next chapter in their online magazine that shifts from the weekly publication of the last three years to a triannual format that builds content around selected themes with organized workshops, panel discussions and other events that aim to get at the tangible realities of art and its producers in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Version Fest and Mana Open House This Weekend

Bridgeport, News etc., Pilsen No Comments »
Chuck Buttons. "Prairie Shores," 1963. Part of Co-Prosperity Sphere's "ArchiGO 50 Years Later" exhibition, part of Version Fest with a reception on Friday, June 27

Chuck Buttons. “Prairie Shores,” 1963. Part of Co-Prosperity Sphere’s “ArchiGO 50 Years Later” exhibition, part of Version Fest with a reception on Friday, June 27

This year’s Version Fest—which runs from Saturday, June 21 through Sunday, June 29—starts with a summit and mini market at the Mana Contemporary building in Pilsen (2233 South Throop). All the weekend’s activities are free and open to the public. This year’s festival is called The Placemakers and will showcase programming that examines how public and private spaces are being transformed, revitalized and animated by a lineup of creative workers, gardeners, pop-up urbanists, artists and activists. The summit will be from 12:30pm to 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday, with presentations on diverse topics such as contested territories, graffiti, tactical urbanism, neofuturist architectural movement, city development and urban farming. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Project Onward Moves On to Bridgeport

Bridgeport 1 Comment »
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



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


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

Bridgeport, Painting No Comments »


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 »