Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Art Break: Bauhaus versus IKEA

Architecture, Bridgeport, Sculpture No Comments »

"Convalescent Home"

“I’ve been to IKEA ten, maybe twelve times, for this project,” remarks Jeff Carter as we survey his current installation arching across the western corner of Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology. His gaze drifts over the modified IKEA products, and a small smile splays open his lips as he reflects on those trips, “I now know that modernist mecca far better than anyone should.”

While his current work, “The Common Citizenship of Forms,” isn’t Carter’s first use of the mega-store’s materials, it may be his most thoughtful. Carter establishes a formal dialogue between common representatives of modernist design—IKEA and the Bauhaus—through a series of large-scale architectural models, composing a microenvironment that represents the layout of demolished buildings from the Michael Reese Hospital Campus. Former Bauhaus director Walter Gropius had created a master plan for its 28-building campus in 1946 as part of a post-war urban renewal effort to revitalize its surrounding Bronzeville neighborhood, as well as designed the eight structures that Carter chose to recreate. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Susan Clinard/Art Matrix Gallery

Bridgeport, Sculpture No Comments »


Impressionism never caught on with sculpture the way it did with painting, probably because spontaneity is so much more problematic in three dimensions. The tempestuous surface of Rodin is still much admired but very difficult to imitate, while the sentimental, soft-focus wax surfaces of his contemporary Medardo Rosso went almost immediately out of fashion in an era that was responding to the power of archaic classical and primitive art, and reviving direct carving. But former Chicago sculptor Susan Clinard is bringing Medardo’s style back with a number of small, well-modeled clay figures framed within the wunderkammers that she has built for them.

The nooks within these cabinets of curiosities seem to reflect the compartmentalization of the artist’s own body as well as her life as mother, wife and artist, while also feeling like a display of odd relics in a very remote, rustic museum. They contain pieces of wood, stone and metal, as well as small, wax-covered clay figures, and the entire effect is the sadness of something lost before it was ever quite understood.

By themselves, many of the figures express a joyous and remarkable facility of modeling.  Clinard has a magic touch for making lumps of clay come alive as human heads, hands and postures. A dozen or more small portrait caricatures have escaped the cabinets and are displayed on a table beside them. One wishes that more figures would break free from their compartments, slough off the sentimentality of the soft-focus wax, and defiantly command the space of a room. (Chris Miller)

Through May 15 at Art Matrix Gallery, Zhou B. Art Center, 1029 West 35th.

Eye Exam: Fair Play

Art Fairs, Bridgeport No Comments »

photo by Marian Frost

By Laura Fox

In a day and a half in Bridgeport last weekend, connections both professional and personal formed between local art groups and artists. The catalyst was the new MDW Fair.

The fair’s genesis itself is a bit of a feat in community-building. In February, Ed Marszewski, the founder of The Co-Prosperity Sphere, Version festival and Public Media Institute, asked threewalls and Roots and Culture if they wanted to help host an art fair focused on Chicago artists and art organizations. In two months and with less than $10,000, the three partners recruited sixty-plus exhibitors to fill 25,000 square feet of exhibition space in the Geolofts warehouse, plus a separate sculpture garden. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Get Real: New Figurative Realism in Chicago/33 Collective Gallery

Bridgeport, Painting No Comments »

Jennifer Cronin


There are at least a dozen very good but very different shows that could be called “New Figurative Realism in Chicago,” drawing from the many living historic styles and ethnic identities in our area. Sergio Gomez, artist and curator of 33 Collective Gallery, has admirably reached out beyond the members of his own organization to find nine painters whom he finds promising and, not surprisingly, like his own work they confront an individual protagonist with the modern world. Most dramatically, there is Jennifer Cronin’s “Peculiar Manifestation of Paint in my Everyday Life,” an epic-sized canvas depicting what must be the artist herself applying makeup in front of her bathroom mirror, while behind her, a monstrous swirl of ugly green paint is reaching out to tap her on the shoulder. More intimate confessional imagery is presented by Rory Coyne’s “Another (Conversation),” where a vigorous but startled young man confronts the large pink rabbit head emerging from his own chest. But most compelling is Ryan Shultz’ “Self Portrait with Christmas Lights.” As the string of holiday needle lights is fading, Christmas (and Christianity?) is definitely over, while the artist’s searching eyes stare out from the cruciform features of his own face and naked shoulders. (By the way, Ryan survived up to episode seven in Bravo’s “Work of Art” reality program last year—quite an achievement for such an old-school painter). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Joe Compean/33 Collective Gallery

Bridgeport, Photography No Comments »

"La Vendedora," Valles City, Mexico. 35mm slide projection


Traveling from the U.S. border south to Oaxaca on a mission to shoot portraits of the Mexican people, Chicago photographer Joe Compean was guided by his uncle’s dictum: “Shove a camera in a Mexican’s face and they’ll wipe their smile off and look dead into the lens; that’s the Mexican look.” Although Compean sought to find and capture that look, his clear and lustrous color slide projections, one of them stereoscopic, prove that his uncle was dead wrong. Try as they might to be stoical, each of Compean’s subjects betrays intense emotion through the cracks in the facade. In his banner image, a woman tending an open-air dress shop sits cramped and huddled in a chair surrounded by mannequins in open stances with insouciant expressions, whereas she, in stark contrast, radiates worry, distress, discomfort and self-closure. Compean makes it plain that people are emotional beings who can never avoid disclosing their sentiments. (Michael Weinstein)

Through September 12 at 33 Collective Gallery, 1029 West 35th

Review: Corporate Psychedelia/Co-Prosperity Sphere

Bridgeport, Prints No Comments »


Jason Pickleman discovered dozens of psychedelic silkscreen prints from the sixties and seventies tucked away in flat files he purchased two years ago from a now-defunct art gallery. “Corporate Psychedelia” marks the first time his collection has been displayed in its entirety.

The prints are psychedelic in the strictest sense of the word, with unnatural color schemes and geometric yet strangely evocative forms. These works do not offer conventional portrayals of anything in particular. Like true psychedelic art, they attempt to transcend the mundane. They show what is not there as opposed to what is.

Though thoughtfully crafted, the pieces are compelling neither individually nor as a group. From either perspective, the shocking nature of psychedelia is lost; garish hues and abstract images become expected, like slight variations of the same image. However, the collection cannot be written off entirely—the intriguing, ambiguous nature of its provenance compensates for its banality. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Andy Resek and Johanna Wawro/Eastern Expansion Gallery

Bridgeport, Photography No Comments »

Andy Resek


It’s safe to say that Juggalos, the clown-makeup-wearing, Faygo-chugging misfit fans of Detroit-based rap metal groups Insane Clown Posse and Twiztid, are unlikely subjects for most artists, but not Andy Resek and Johanna Wawro.

“My Funhouse,” an audio-visual exploration of Juggalo subculture, is situated in a modest storefront gallery. Wawro’s snapshots of teenagers decked out like their heroes adorn bright purple walls. Empty cans of Faygo frame the windows. A big-screen television loops disorienting footage from a recent Twiztid gig, which Resek captured entirely on a Flip camera. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Four Course Tossed Salad

Bridgeport, Ceramics No Comments »

“RimWare” is a handmade, four-piece porcelain dinnerware set with inlaid drawings of gay rimjobs. On a small appetizer plate, a man washes his behind in the shower. As the meal moves on to salad, soup and dinner courses, the scene gets progressively dirtier. Assholes receive lickings. Each piece of flatware has a decorative gold mesh pattern around its lip.

Thirty years after Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party,” a gathering of thirty-nine vaginal-themed plates (on permanent display in the Brooklyn Museum of Art), over-sexed ceramics no longer seem that shocking—not that Dustin Yager’s “RimWare” needs to shock in order to be successful. Yager is after something different than sexual liberation, perhaps, even, critiquing its opposite. As gay sex practices shed their taboo associations, commemorative plates, such as the “RimWare” collection, codify the dream of domestic bliss. “Oh, what interesting china,” remarked the conservative senator’s wife in “The Birdcage,” from 1996; “it looks like young men playing leap frog.” Today, sodomy need not be reduced to ambiguous detail. As the gays love their home decorations, and home-decoration retailers know this all too well, the market for fashionable homoiserie grows with the force of a Viagra-laced boner. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Your Type of Show

Bridgeport, News etc. No Comments »

Whether you lament over reading Times New Roman or you find yourself searching for the colophon in the back of a book, you should find yourself at Bridgeport’s Co-Prosperity Sphere this Friday night. “TYPEFORCE: The Annual Chicago Show of Emerging Typographic Allstars” has its opening reception at 7pm and continues through March 14. Though the actual practice of typography is anything but new, its importance cannot be ignored. As local artist and contributor Margot Harrington puts it, “It’s just such a building block, a cornerstone of design history. For me, it really is one of the most basic fundamental parts of my background in graphic design.” Though it is held in high regard within the art world, the public has only really just recently re-embraced typography. “There has been a noticeable wave of lettering in popular culture in the last decade,” says Luke Williams, who will be making his Chicago debut. He posits that the availability of such programs as Adobe Illustrator have pushed typography back into the conversation. With around twenty local artists on display, the show is sure to be varied. Between Williams’ “set of vowels that embody a blend of high-class royalty, with whimsical 1960′s Americana themes” and Harrington’s screen-printed ampersands onto collages of vintage books and found paper, there is bound to be something for every fontophile. (Peter Cavanaugh)

411: A Time to Rebuild

Bridgeport, News etc., Pilsen No Comments »

On December 17 of last year an electrical fire destroyed much of Kenneth Morrison’s artist-destination The Whale. No one was hurt, but most of all of Morrison’s possessions—and those of Michelle Faust and Nat Ward, who along with Morrison run the art society Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lamprey—were destroyed. In an effort to rebuild, Bridgeport’s Co-Prosperity Sphere will be home to a benefit event February 5, featuring musical performances by Black Nag, Thin Man, Son of Cops and more. Tickets are ten bucks, and the evening doubles as a release party for the 114th issue of Lumpen. “In 2007 I came to a Lamprey meeting, and they were all kind of unfailingly generous and welcoming,” says Mairead Case, one of the event’s organizers. “[Morrison] sometimes says he’s met most of the people in the neighborhood in his kitchen.” (Tom Lynch)