Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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

RECOMMENDED

“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″

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Angharad Davies/Devening Projects

Drawings, Garfield Park, Installation, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Angharad Davies. "Cast I and Cast II (hedge)," 2015 digital print, gold leaf, gouache mounted on board

Angharad Davies. “Cast I and Cast II (hedge),” 2015
digital print, gold leaf, gouache mounted on board

RECOMMENDED

“When I first split myself in two,” the first line of the central video projection, is a statement that resonates throughout Angharad Davies’ multimedia installation built from reproductions of images, depicting decontextualized objects and their mirror-selves.

Several series of paintings and inkjet prints mirror original photographs with modifications that serve to emphasize their mode of making and their alteration. Index cards mounted on wood appear to be postcards of paintings of used soaps. A pair of severely sculpted bushes are turned on end and mounted on the wall—one is a printed photograph, and the other a gilded shadowy shape. Echoing these captured photographs and constructed shapes are photographs of a Chinese vase with brass volutes. The photographs are altered through adding pen to a Xeroxed copy, another adornment for these ancient vases that were altered by the addition of gilt handles in seventeenth-century France before being brought to the Getty. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Creeping Toward The Light/Julius Caesar

Collage, Drawings, Garfield Park, Installation, Photography No Comments »
Installation view of Creeping Towards The Light at Julius Caesar

Installation view of Creeping Toward The Light at Julius Caesar

RECOMMENDED

Described as a “collaboration” between organizer and artist, rather than a straightforward comparison, “Creeping Toward The Light” at Julius Caesar features artist Stevie Hanley alongside one of JC’s directorial personalities, Roland Miller. The small exhibition space, dominated by Hanley’s large, banner-like assemblies, has the effect of a curious, colorful maze.

The floor is chrome throughout, treated with a foil wrapping. Miller has installed several slightly larger-than-life-sized prints of women cut out and affixed directly to the wall. Their color and visual texture is glitched, implying inversions, blow-outs and missing data. Brilliance and lurid aesthetic moments become occlusions—obnoxious, pink rhinestones are glued to the picture glass floated just a hair above a collage by Miller, covering a serial repetition of sexual penetrations. Glints that blind, rather than illuminate. That these explicit moments are not totally concealed gives way to that naughty impulse to peak around the glittery censor. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Drunken Geometry/Devening Projects and Editions

Ceramics, Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Leslie Baum + Allison Wade. Drunken Geometry, installation view, February 2015.

Leslie Baum + Allison Wade. Drunken Geometry, installation view, February 2015.

RECOMMENDED

“Drunken Geometry,” the new collaborative exhibition by Leslie Baum and Allison Wade, is a risky proposition. By tackling the classic conventions and traditions associated with the still life, these two Chicago-based artists seek to extend our preexisting notions of the genre by, in effect, taking them apart. The approach is as pregnant with possibility as it is fraught with travails.

Sculptural formulations are particularly susceptible to problems inherent to deconstruction since a table displayed without substantive transformation remains merely a table, an artifact of our mundane world rather than an active agent in the world of art. Though reasonable people can (and should) disagree, objects placed within the environs of gallery are not art by default. The wall-mounted “Many Things Conspired #1” as well as the floor-bound “New Things (the persistence of ordered objects) #1,” which both seem a little too self-satisfied as minimally altered objects, are the most problematic in this regard. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Even Formalist Artistry Is for Living

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Suburban, West Loop No Comments »
Edmund Chia. "Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin," 2013

Edmund Chia. “Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin,” 2013

By Matt Morris

This is not a roundup of fiber art exhibitions currently on view around town, though that temptation perpetually lingers because at any given moment in Chicago there are plenty of artists exhibiting smart hybrids of textile and painting, fiber art and installation. This is no doubt attributable in part to the Fiber and Material Studies department at SAIC—still a rarity with few comparable programs around the country—and more generally the deconstructive, interdisciplinary thrust of most of the fine arts programs to be found here. The aftereffects of Modernism in Chicago aren’t really the Greenbergian isolation and purification of a medium’s potential; instead, painting’s frequent conflation with sewing is a recurrent signal of a Modernist project to apply the arts broadly across other parts of life—keenly designed forms for living integrated with art-making as was seen in the De Stijl and Bauhaus (and its offspring, Chicago’s New Bauhaus begun in the late 1930s). Modest and succinct or madly layered, a few artists’ current projects carry us into this new year with propositions for art’s visual and material elements brought in various proximities of closeness to the lives being lived around its production. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kendall Babl and Manuel Rodriguez/PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Garfield Park, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Manuel Rodriguez. "Capsule 1969-1981," National Geographic magazines, thermoelectric coolers, Tyvek, plywood, Plexiglas, cables, steel, soil sample from a depth of 40 feet at Latitude : 41.878114 |Longitude : -87.629798

Manuel Rodriguez. “Capsule 1969-1981,”
National Geographic magazines, thermoelectric coolers, Tyvek, plywood, Plexiglas, cables, steel, soil sample from a depth of 40 feet at Latitude : 41.878114 |Longitude : -87.629798

RECOMMENDED

How can mapping be a spiritual process? This sparse installation of two complementary works began as a conversation between two artists interested in an innate sense of remoteness, observation and exploration. The show developed through long-distance communication between Southeast Ohio, Puerto Rico and Chicago about shared conceptual vantage points embedded in technology and landscape. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sarah and Joseph Belknap/The Franklin

Garfield Park, Installation, Sculpture No Comments »
Sarah and Joseph Belknap. "Planetoids," installation view at The Franklin

Sarah and Joseph Belknap. “Planetoids,” installation view at The Franklin

RECOMMENDED

Sarah and Joseph Belknap have been working together as a singular multimedia artist-entity since 2008, making objects and happenings that examine and mimic grand experiences—the rare, magical moments in which we are able to comprehend our utter insignificance. Celestial bodies and giant earth formations are often shrunk to a manageable size, bringing our attention to the contrast between our human bodies and the infinite universe we live within. Their use of hyper-synthetic materials like silicone, polystyrene and fiberglass again acknowledges this man/nature duality.

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