Meredith Zielke and Yoni Goldstein, from “The Jettisoned”
We all have our visions of medical hell that grow out of traumatic childhood memories that we would rather forget, but that haunt us throughout our lives. Meredith Zielke and Yoni Godstein have unsparingly confronted their painful pasts, merging them in a set of color photographic scenarios taken in a dark and dank derelict Chicago soap factory, that they have combined in a slow-motion video loop, which should not be seen by the faint hearted or overly sensitive. Reminiscent of a latter-day Hieronymus Bosch deploying real people, Zielke and Goldstein populate their tableaux with dense arrays of subjects administering, suffering and observing various disconnected procedures featuring tubes and seeping fluids in decidedly less-than-antiseptic settings. The artists propose to offer the “possibility of abject recognition,” and their work definitely delivers on that promise. They perform the service of alerting us to the underside of life if we are strong enough to tolerate their harsh visual medicine, which is never palliative. Read the rest of this entry »
For nearly two decades, German artist Thomas Demand has explored the divergence of truth and appearance in a provocative series of photographs that depict familiar interior spaces meticulously reconstructed. Simultaneously recalling the unreality of a psychedelic experience and the ersatz nature of a television set, these works directly challenge the hegemony of lens-based media as the supreme authority on the depiction of reality.
The current exhibition at the Graham Foundation signals a change in the artist’s scope but not in practice. In “Model Studies,” Demand still presents his customary large-scale photographs of miniature constructions, but they’re no longer solely his handiwork. The starting point is the preparatory modeling of twentieth-century architect John Lautner, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and proponent of Organic Architecture. Read the rest of this entry »
In what is perhaps a cautionary tale, Alison Carey makes dioramas of future landscapes; populates them with organisms, made out of “flesh-like” materials, that have evolved from humanly engineered life-forms, which have taken over the earth; and shoots the set-ups in color. From the perspective of our species, the creatures that have issued from our experiments and have displaced us are not particularly attractive—sinuous, wormlike beings that are hybrids of plants and body parts, and have decidedly raw and sensuous associations. Although Carey assures us that they are “benign, ” she is “unsettled ” by the prospect of fabricated life reproducing itself with abandon. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the great neglected achievements of twentieth-century culture was Soviet modernist architecture, which created an alternative to the German-American modernism that envelops us all. We now get a chance to rectify the inattention with Richard Pare’s comprehensive color photographic documentation of the structures that are still standing in “The Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32,” giving us a sense of what our architectural environment might have been had Communism triumphed. The basics of modernism are all present in its Soviet variant—clean lines, curves when called for, interesting layering effects, and an aversion to the ornate. What is not the same? Read the rest of this entry »
Shooting in black and white, and achieving both the most subtle and the most glaring tones, German-born Chicagoan Mechthild Op Gen Oorth is an architectural street photographer who melds the designs of the cityscape with the intimacy of the wandering observer’s personal look. The attraction of Oorth’s studies of stolid buildings, glistening rain-coated cobblestone streets, sculptural passageways, and shop windows is her effort—often successful—to put the contrasting values of her sensibility into a single image evincing a clear though complex emotion. Read the rest of this entry »
An ambitious retrospective of fin-de-twentieth-siecle art, architecture and design at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum illuminates the dreamlike nature of the “postmodern” moment, a dizzying refraction of hedonistic anarchy and abject terror. In her review of the exhibition, Artforum editor Elizabeth Schambelan sets “beguiling images of playful incongruity” against Fredric Jameson’s notion of “hyperspace” as an “anti-map, its incomprehensibility figuring the dark mysteries of global capital.”
All the more reason for another po-mo retrospective, this one being the exhibition showcasing the drawings and ephemera of contemporary Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman, now on display at the Graham Foundation, to adopt the Magritte-tweaking title “Ceci n’est pas une rêverie,“ or “This is not a dream.” Taking a cue from “The Titanic,” a 1978 Tigerman collage in which Mies van der Rohe’s ultra-rectilinear, ultra-Modernist Crown Hall sinks into Lake Michigan beneath a canopy of clouds, the grand Madlener mansion (which houses the Graham Foundation) is divided up into thematic “clouds” such as “utopia,” “division,” “identity,” “allegory,” “humor,” “death” and “drift.” Read the rest of this entry »
In the mid-1950s, Chicago was a center for magazine and book illustration, and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts was one of America’s leading commercial art schools. Drawn to that school and hoping for that kind of career, a young Canadian, Phillip Renaud (1934-2011), traveled here from Edmonton, Alberta not far from the village where his father ran a trading post. In the following decades, he got that career, putting illustrations into Playboy magazine, among others, and various grade-school textbooks. But his sharp, crisp design and sparse, minimal figure drawing is possibly more the result of his study at the Art Center in Pasadena, and those are the qualities that stand out in the current retrospective at the Palette and Chisel Academy, where he has been a popular instructor over the past decade. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jason Foumberg
Last Saturday night, the fifth annual Earth Hour (turn out your lights for one hour) met some blazing competition in the form of BYOB, or Bring Your Own Beamer, a group show of digital video art projected simultaneously and splatter-style on a Pilsen apartment’s walls, ceiling, floor, anywhere. Of the dozen or so projectors, only a couple overheated. The room was packed full of viewers and it was hard to avoid getting a beam of light shot into your eyes every now and then. Sometimes the effect of a projector throwing its image on a body perfectly captured the event’s energy and premise, of being made by and for the crowd.
Often, in video art installations, there is some glitchy tweaker noise or looped ambient music to accompany the projections. In the four video art shows I saw this weekend, all of them featured this type of soundtrack, amplifying the lights-off, hyper-sensory experience. Barbara Kasten’s “REMIX” at Applied Arts is accompanied by what used to be called intelligent dance music, by Lucky Dragons; Nicolas Grospierre’s “TATTARRATTAT” video at the Graham Foundation has a minimal soundtrack of softly hypnotic beats; Ben Russell’s sculpture of 16mm projectors at threewalls creates its own hissing and popping music; and a single ambient track blanketed all the videos at BYOB. Sometimes these soundtracks are intrusive, and sometimes they melt into the viewing experience, but they are always necessary; video art today is competing for your attention. Read the rest of this entry »
World-class postmodern scenario photographer Patrick Nagatani has also pursued a passion for chromatherapy—“healing with colored light”—for more than three decades. The marriage of his two devotions is made in aesthetic heaven, as his color photos documenting the practices and subjects of chromatherapy around the world exquisitely demonstrate. The play of light and hue—here muted and there brilliant, here revealing and there effacing and distorting—allows Nagatani to create intricate compositions that attract by their unfamiliarity, as though we were inside a hall of dazzling dreams festooned with apparatus; these are scenarios that were ready made for Nagatani’s imaginative vision. Three glowing nubile young women standing next to each other bathed in red, purple and green light, respectively, with their hands at their sides and their palms open are not artist models but the subjects of a “primary light test” at the Beijing Institute of Scientific Study, as the white-coated technician standing to the side makes plain. There is always a cutting edge to Nagatani’s photography, even when he embraces “non-invasive healing.” (Michael Weinstein)
Through August 20 at the International Museum of Surgical Science, 1524 North Lake Shore Drive.
“The Animal Series,” Rine Boyer’s newest drawings on view at the Old Town Art Center, attempts to describe the contentious concept of “hipster culture,” a term that’s by turns bafflingly ambiguous, vehemently denied and utterly unmistakable. More specifically, Boyer portrays the “perennial denizens of independent show spaces, dive bars, and alternative art festivals;” while the dozen or so intimate portraits seem to be named after friends, most actually portray strangers in poses she finds striking, whom she then draws and shades with obsessively repeated animal icons rather than crosshatching.
The drawings, made with colored pen on paper, are technically skilled depictions of recognizable archetypes (often with facial hair, big plastic glasses, artistic and alcoholic accoutrements) in pensive or confrontational stances. The blurred, overlapping shapes of the animals that form the portraits are mesmerizing and poignant when they dissolve into noise, and the animals, from unicorns to bears, all seem to match the subjects in a slightly disconcerting way. But what’s most striking about the show are the way the drawings are mounted: shellacked with thick layers of clear epoxy onto wooden boards, the figures resemble artifacts or cave paintings, lifted out of any sense of environment, context or culture. Many seem to be shrinking into the bottom corners of wood panels, or trapped, or pushing against the edges of their frames, which in combination with the noisiness of the patterns and sometimes unfinished nature of the drawings make the subjects appear deeply vulnerable and the series surprisingly touching. (Monica Westin)
Through April 2 at the Old Town Art Center, 1763 N. Park Ave.