Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Karsten Lund/The Franklin

Collage, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Installation, Media & Genres, Photography No Comments »
Karsten Lund. "Distal Zone, installation view at the Franklin, 2015.

Karsten Lund. “Distal Zone,” installation view at the Franklin, 2015.


Hannah Hoch once said that “[t]he process of remounting, cutting up, sticking down, activating—that is to say, alienating—took hold in all different forms of art.” The technique of combining and reshaping media spans music, literature, poetry and quite particularly, collage. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Christopher Michlig, Amy Yoes/Devening Projects + Editions

Collage, Design, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Prints No Comments »
Amy Yoes. "Structural 004," 2014. Mixed media collage, 14 × 16 inches.

Amy Yoes. “Structural 004,” 2014. Mixed media collage, 14 × 16 inches.


Dan Devening, proprietor of the eponymous ‘projects + editions,’ painter, curator and faculty at SAIC, has a good eye for pairing artists. While his Garfield Park gallery typically runs concurrent solo shows in separate rooms within the same space, the aesthetic frisson generated by the works’ proximity is almost always palpable and the dialogue between them inescapable. Case in point: Christopher Michlig’s “To Everyone” and Amy Yoes’ “Structurals and Sightlines.”

In Yoes’ multi-paneled installation, an initial feeling of cool intellectualism (possibly provoked by the works’ lack of color) gives way to something more primitive, more vigorously physical. As hard-edged geometric shapes collide head-on with snippets of casual brush strokes and glued-down half-tone dots, the vertiginous spaces they create exact a tidal pull upon the body forcing the viewer to move in close and then take several large steps back in order to reckon with the arrangement. In contrast, her stop-motion animation “Sightlines” literally brings the paintings’ forms to life, but at the cost of our kinesis; we cease moving and instead merely watch.

Christopher Michlig. "To Everyone V," 2015. Collage, high-gloss enamel on poly-coated poster paper, 22 × 14 inches.

Christopher Michlig. “To Everyone V,” 2015. Collage, high-gloss enamel on poly-coated poster paper, 22 × 14 inches.

While Yoes’ “Structurals and Sightlines” rapidly shift from passive to aggressive, the collages in Michlig’s “To Everyone” move in the opposing direction. What begins as an assertive display of hyper-saturated, West Coast color yields a more deliberate exploration of duplication, theme and variation. Based on screen-printed reproductions from a 1961 André Bloc exhibition catalogue, Michlig’s pieces reverse engineer objects that have been reduced to code back into objects again. This process is most apparent in the nine paper constructions whose simple geometry—embellished with stylized drips—resembles a kind of 3D clip art. Immediately appealing, over time the works in “To Everyone” become more ambivalent.

Michlig’s luminous collages and constructions hit fast then slow down, while Yoes’ achromatic modular panels seem reserved but then get bossy. On the face of it, these works seem designed to accentuate their differences. But both shows underscore a shared sense of art’s history, an appreciation of the visual language of reproduced imagery and the fusion of different forms of “touch” through collage as a quintessentially contemporary medium. (Alan Pocaro)

Through December 12 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 West Carroll.

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mom & Pops: Family Business in Art and Life/Arts Incubator

Activist Art, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Installation view. "Mom & Pops," at the Arts Incubator. Photo: Sarah Pooley.

Installation view. “Mom & Pops,” at the Arts Incubator. Photo: Sarah Pooley.


Dining at local “mom and pop” restaurants or frequenting family-run businesses is increasingly uncommon in the United States. Corporations, such as Walmart, Panera and McDonald’s, are making it difficult for these businesses to survive. That being so, a longing for a former way of life in the midst of a changing American Dream is one way to see the five artworks that occupy the storefront gallery at the Arts Incubator.

“Mom & Pops” is nostalgic for the past it evokes: a time when immigrants flocked to America, especially during the twentieth century, in pursuit of the American Dream. Some may have opened a family business, like a tailor shop or a restaurant, to achieve this dream. Hyeon Jung Kim’s “Labyrinth,” a circular structure filled with business shirts covered in clear plastic bags, suggests a family-owned dry cleaning store. The business shirts reflect a time when more Americans dressed up for work, unlike today’s casual professional attire.

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News: Luftwerk to Debut High Tech, Site-Specific Installations at Garfield Park Conservatory

Design, Digital Art, Garfield Park, Installation, Multimedia, News etc., Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Rendering of “Florescence," 2015. Luftwerk Studio.

Luftwerk Studio. Rendering of “Florescence,” 2015.

Five technology-infused and site-specific installations will populate the Garfield Park Conservatory in a year-long exhibition titled “solarise: a sea of all colors” debuting in September. Each immersive installation invites viewers to interact with nature, color and light while exploring the Conservatory grounds. “Garfield Park Conservatory has long been known as a Chicago cultural anchor,” remarked Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “and this interactive art installation will underscore the conservatory’s cultural legacy while engaging residents in new ways.”

Created by Luftwerk, an art practice co-founded by Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, the installations respond to the philosophies of Jens Jensen, the landscape architect who designed the conservatory, who believed in the importance of public access to nature in the city. Each of the five installations—“The Beacon,” “Portal,” “Florescence,” “Seed of Light,” and “Prismatic”—emphasize and supplement the conservatory’s natural spaces. With the installations, Luftwerk aims “to instill in visitors an increased sense of wonder, while they roam the gardens and vegetation rooms. [We hope to] inspire visitors to take a closer look at how nature, art, and technology can interact.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Hardcore Architecture/The Franklin

Architecture, Design, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Installation, Multimedia, Performance, Photography No Comments »
"Suburban Mutilation. The address given for their untitled cassette, in Green Bay, WI 54301. Source: MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, issue no. 8, September, 1983. Street view date: August, 2012"

Suburban Mutilation. The address given for their untitled cassette, in Green Bay, WI 54301. Source: MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, issue no. 8, September, 1983. Street view date: August, 2012″


Started as a Tumblr project by Marc Fischer and Public Collectors, “Hardcore Architecture” explores the surprisingly suburban outposts of hardcore underground bands from the 1980s, juxtaposing names like Suburban Mutilation and Crimes Against Humanity with cookie-cutter homes, two-car garages, and well-maintained lawns. The exhibition is housed at The Franklin, a home with its own two-car garage and well-maintained lawn, and includes the Google Street View images Fischer culled alongside zines and a display of T-shirts and tapes from the artist’s own collection. Read the rest of this entry »

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: Ethan Gill/Julius Caesar

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »
Ethan Gill. "Cosmonauts,"  oil on canvas

Ethan Gill. “Cosmonauts,”
oil on canvas


“Mean On Sunday,” Ethan Gill’s exhibition of paintings of football players at Julius Caesar, is cultural criticism through American pastime. Goalposts loom in the deep distance functioning as they would in set paintings on a stage—dressings included for context but removed from the action of the moment.

The scenes have only a nominal relationship to the ordered ritual of a football game. In “No Good,” mutant protagonists, torsos fused side-by-side and three-wide, simultaneously set up for a field goal and knock-out a member of the opposing team—the only player of color in view—in a play as implausible as the conjoined uniform of the triplets. The fumbler of “Fumble” discharges a column of smoke from his mouth in a scene that reads more as an industrial wasteland than a sports field. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Cody Tumblin/Devening Projects

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »
Cody Tumblin. "Probably Gonna Roll on Through," dye and watercolor on hand-dyed cotton, 60" × 46"

Cody Tumblin. “Probably Gonna Roll on Through,”
dye and watercolor on hand-dyed cotton, 60″ × 46″


The sizes and shapes of Cody Tumblin’s paintings in “Tell Tale” resemble those of books, albeit ones with beautiful covers. Most have in fact been made to fit the dimensions of meaningful books in the artist’s personal collection. The biblio theme extends to many of the dyed and painted pieces in Tumblin’s show, from bands of color on the left side of the paintings approximating binding to the smaller works leaning on shelves as if on display in a store.
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Eye Exam: Stand in the Sun

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Erin Jane Nelson. "Monk Behind Bars," 2015 Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

Erin Jane Nelson. “Monk Behind Bars,” 2015
Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

By Matt Morris

I’ve really only been making photographs for the past couple of years, and thinking seriously about their medium for an even briefer span. What began as a lighthearted impulse to get men to undress for me was challenged into a more cogent form through recognizing the violence of the cropping frame on eroticized bodies (see Kobena Mercer), the draining echo chamber of the photograph’s reproduction (see Sherrie Levine), and the image and its circulation’s complicity in capital (see Hito Steyerl). Last month, when I tried to get a roll of film developed at this or that drugstore, none still had that equipment (“We just took our developing machine out yesterday,” one clerk told me); this older accessibility to the medium of photography is nearly extinct, succeeded by even more broadly used means of iPhone cameras, selfies, dick pics, Instagram and Google image search. We find ourselves in a torrent (all meanings of the word) of image production, and yet their reliability to represent has been utterly compromised (see David Joselit in the February Artforum linking the Staten Island grand jury’s failure to indict the policeman who murdered Eric Garner to the visual evidence—video footage of a brutal cop pile-on—failing to be allowed to represent these bodies and their violences). Read the rest of this entry »