Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Sarah and Joseph Belknap/The Franklin

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

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


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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Eye Exam: The Hustle of Multi-hyphenates

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By Matt Morris

“They hop between revolving scenes, juggle various professional identities, seek out and improvise ever-new situations and contexts for staging what can be recognized and evaluated by their peers as art, all squeezed into schedules already bloated with myriad non-art activity.” This is how art critic and Northwestern professor Lane Relyea depicts the contemporary art laborer in his 2014 essay “Afterthoughts on D.I.Y. Abstraction,” a digestible think piece that shares the concerns he investigated at length in his 2013 book “Your Everyday Art World.”

His take is poignantly accurate. Our town (and increasingly more of the art world) runs on multi-hyphenate cultural producers who not only make art but also curate, write, teach and run alternative galleries. We’re embedded in a pervasive labor economy that has mutated into part-time work status, short-term contracts (or no contracts) and a demand for flexibility, availability and diversified skill sets. I’ve been writing this text along with two other articles and a grossly overdue catalogue essay this week, while teaching two courses at SAIC, troubleshooting shipping and consignments for an exhibition I’m curating, and stubbornly insisting on the better part of two days in my studio because I’m falling behind in my production schedule for an exhibition next year. My workload isn’t extraordinary or even varied beyond the status quo. It’s not exceptional that I slip between myriad roles; in fact it’s all day, everyday for most of us.

While Relyea’s analysis is useful in symptomatizing our labor and, indeed, we may all be acting out tacit directives that guarantee even more insidious modes of capitalism and lifetimes of instability for a burgeoning “precaritariat,” I’ve wanted to better understand artists’ presumed motives for working across disciplines in personally attuned panoplies of creative output. I wrote to a number of other folks in Chicago to hopefully compare notes and maybe commiserate. Everyone who replied was frankly honest about diversification as a means to make a living while also holding to the possibilities that these hybrids allow (or at least once allowed) for nimble forms of criticality and subversion. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Aron Gent/Devening Projects + Editions

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Aron Gent. Both works "Untitled," 2014,  Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Arches hot press watercolor paper,

Aron Gent. Both works “Untitled,” 2014,
Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Arches hot press watercolor paper,


“Pure Pictures, Perfect Prints,” Aron Gent’s solo exhibition at Devening Projects + Editions, is immediately pleasant, with its ample white space and idiosyncratic chintz of flowers, leaves, printers and arabesques, all rendered in a subdued palette. These images, culled from clip-art collections, are composed and then printed onto an ink-resistant material. This printout is then transferred onto watercolor paper by press, which squeezes and drags the beaded ink into the perfect drips that tress the features of each composition. Such painterly distortions give the sense of an individual hand at work, but of course, it is anything but. These gestures are dictated by blunt forces: the irregular texture of paper, the volume and viscosity of the ink, the magnitude and direction of the pressure exerted by the press. Read the rest of this entry »

Art World’s Big Weekend 2014: Comprehensive Listing of Gallery Openings for September 4–7 [updated]

Andersonville, Bronzeville, Collage, Drawings, Edgewater, Evanston, Fall Preview, Garfield Park, Installation, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, River North, Sculpture, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Video, West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »
Andrew Falkowski. "Pink Monochrome," 2014

Andrew Falkowski. “Pink Monochrome,” 2014

Thursday, September 4


Dan Ramirez, painting
Union League Club of Chicago, 65 West Jackson
Opening reception: 5:30pm-7pm, through September 30
(Members only opening, viewing by appointment only)


Anthony Iacuzzi and Christopher Schneberger, photography
Perspective Gallery, 1310-1/2B Chicago Avenue, Evanston
Opening reception: 5pm-8pm, through September 28

Amy Vogel, mixed-media survey exhibition
Cleve Carney Art Gallery at College of DuPage, Fawell and Park Boulevards, Glen Ellyn
Opening reception: 12pm-2pm, through October 25

Taehoon Kim and Barbara Diener, large scale sculpture and photographic installation
Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 West College, Palos Hills
Opening reception: 3pm–5pm, through September 18 and October 23 respectively Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Luftwerk/The Franklin

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"Into and Out of," site-responsive Mylar panel installation

“Into and Out of,” site-responsive Mylar panel installation


Luftwerk, the collaborative endeavor of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, typically uses sound, light and projection to trick the eye and imbue the senses with soft and welcomed confusion. For “Into and Out of,” their exhibition at The Franklin, the two artists installed work that retreated from their usual repertoire of projection-based trickery, instead augmenting the outdoor gallery’s architecture. Intended to complicate the perception of perspectival space, a dozen Mylar-coated panels are installed both inside and outside the Franklin’s lattice-like structure. Those inside are connected to the ceiling with the ability to subtly sway, while the companion works along the exterior are secured firmly to the ground, transfixed.

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Review: Alain Biltereyst/Devening Projects + Editions

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For at least thirty years, the conversation surrounding geometric abstraction has been mired in the shop-worn rhetoric of early twentieth-century modernism, its relationship to utopian ideals, a critique of said modernism, or some combination thereof. Besides being played out, I’ve never found these approaches particularly illuminating. Far more provocative possibilities emerge when one encounters geometric painting as it truly is: a form of sculpture, subject to the pressures and demands of the discipline.

Unlike two-dimensional work, which offers us a glimpse into a credible alternative reality fashioned by the artist, sculpture projects itself outward, extending its influence into our world and transforming our physical relationship with it. By not demanding that we look “in” but instead inviting us to look “at” and “around,” the modestly scaled “signs” in Belgian artist Alain Biltereyst’s attractive new show, “Notes” at Devening Projects + Editions, accomplish such a feat.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rainer Spangl/Devening Projects + Editions

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spangl galleryRainer Spangl’s new show at Devening Projects + Editions is cool, calm and calculated. Adorning the walls of the Garfield Park space is a litany of tastefully arranged, pastel-hued paintings that evoke the architectural grandeur of an ornamental frieze. Beneath them, five chromatically gray interiors depict quiet corners of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. The paintings are as cultured as that city’s famed cafés. The urbanity, however, comes with a price. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 24 Hrs/25 Days/New Capital

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156699_407234622678632_1259019225_nAt the stroke of midnight on the twelfth of December, after twenty-five days of uninhibited twenty-four-hour activity, New Capital ended an ambitious exhibitionary undertaking and with it their two-year tenure as the cornerstone of a cluster of alternative contemporary art spaces on Chicago’s far West Side. Titled “24 Hrs/25 Days,” the durational exhibition project was a cacophony of immeasurable production and accelerated activity on display. New Capital founders Chelsea Culp and Ben Foch facilitated dozens of artists and collaborators in the continuous production of short-run exhibitions and performances at the bi-level warehouse gallery. New Capital’s visiting public was provided twenty-four hour access to the development and staging of this program. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kirsten Stoltmann and Mike Kloss/New Capital

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At the turn of the millennium, Kirsten Stoltmann’s decorated tumbleweeds and mystical levitation footage at Van Harrison Gallery, her slow-motion video of skateboarders intercut with pictures of flowers in the UIC MFA show and, at Donald Young Gallery, her two-channel projection of her Caucasian self singing Marvin Gaye and wandering like an invisible ghost through a gathering of well-heeled African-Americans, all offered satire that replaced smugness or maudlin pathos with a distanced feeling of loss. Since that time she has focused more on objects—in particular, graphic collages in which loaded words or familiar phrases are sometimes engulfed in a shimmering field of patterns and commercial images, and sometimes starkly scrawled over the artist’s ferociously autonomous body, both a bitter revisiting of eighties feminist text art and a scornful anticipation of visual one-liner memes on Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alison Ruttan/Adds Donna

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“Natural Disaster,” currently on view at Adds Donna, is a new collection of ceramic sculptures by Alison Ruttan from an ongoing project titled “A Bad Idea Seems Good Again.” Her sunken ceramic architectural maquettes are based on photographic evidence of sites of conflict across the Middle East, East Africa and Southeast Asia, miniaturizing scenes of manmade destruction. Diverse in style of depicted demolition—from partially collapsed midrise to debris-ridden car-bomb site—the maquette ruins occupy a tabletop terrain of charred plywood situated at the center of the exhibition space.

Ruttan uses photographic documentation from turbulent metropolitan areas (most frequently Beirut, Gaza and Baghdad) to construct and demolish each structure by hand, reenacting—on a less abrasive, personal scale—the process that yielded the aftermath she is citing. This positions “Natural Disaster” neatly alongside a previous project by Ruttan, “The Four Year War at Gombe,” informed by Jane Goodall’s investigation into strategic societal conflict among chimpanzees that produced a haunting echo of wars historically waged by humans. For the project, Ruttan reenacted and re-photographed, with human subjects, the conflicts documented by Goodall. Read the rest of this entry »