The best shows at the Graham Foundation’s Madlener House communicate with the architecture of the Prairie-style Gold Coast mansion. “Barbara Kasten: Stages” uses the space to the fullest, from the brightly colored photographs in the stairwells to archival materials in the library to a gigantic video installation inspired by the building’s architecture. Read the rest of this entry »
Carole Feuerman’s hyperrealist sculpture is too elegant to feel like a joke, and no more critical of its subject matter than if it presented floral arrangements instead of attractive young women. Read the rest of this entry »
Stevie Hanley does not ask viewers what it might be like to taste a color or see a sound. Instead, the sculptures, installations and drawings embody the show’s titular experience of synesthesia, a phenomenon where multiple states of sensory perception are joined. Viewers are encouraged to use earplugs as they watch “Hairy Eyeball Love,” a single-channel video installation showing, among other things, a giant plush spider resting on top of similar neon-colored ear plugs. Nearby, a four-panel mixed media painting, “Ommatidia Quilt,” separates the ear plug cabinet from the video projection while emulating the jewel-hued view through a kaleidoscope.
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 »
Robert Morris’ sculpture “Untitled (Passageway),” of the MCA’s “S, M, L, XL,” is the epitome of what said exhibition explores: the corporeal relationship between observer and object. In its throttling of the viewer, its fearsome auguring in to compaction, “Passageway” puts the precedence not only on proximity to the audience, but their trepidation and/or courage. It is a self-contained hallway, a sculpture-cum-scorpion tail lit by the custard glow of naked bulbs; as one walks along the ecru curve, the walls quietly come together, their malevolence obfuscated by the gentle approach of the constriction, creeping forward, forcing an awkward step, a hesitation, a turning of the shoulder blades, a looming threat to the chest, until finally it becomes too much and one must turn around—fuck! too tight! slide back warily, as if an injured animal!—with the full intention of tearing through whatever callous museum goer may be blocking freedom as the drowning do the surface of the sea, fast and urgent with the dread animal exegesis to breathe … Read the rest of this entry »
A disorienting yet familiar feeling hovers over Keren Cytter’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Cytter, born in 1977, creates films, though to call her a filmmaker seems inadequate. Nine of Cytter’s films on view at the MCA conjure conventional narratives telling short stories of the human condition—love, heartbreak, murder, revenge.
Often filmed in Cytter’s own small apartment, actors speak in fractured, emotionless yet frank dialogue and rapidly exchange roles, at times switching languages and directly addressing the camera. Scenes repeat and loop back on themselves, masterfully overlaid with kitschy low-budget editing effects which force the viewer’s focus equally on how narrative is assembled as on the plot itself. Read the rest of this entry »
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, we sit at the large table inside Faheem Majeed’s piece “Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden.” Two museum patrons crash my interview for the chance to speak with the artist. Piece by piece, they share a dialogue about Majeed’s ideas and their impressions of his work. We are, he tells us, in a re-creation of the South Side Community Art Center, a space he ran for seven years. “It oozed into my being. I know everything about that space.” Read the rest of this entry »
Actually three separate exhibitions, this is altogether the most thorough presentation of Shaker culture ever seen in Chicago. More formally the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing,” the Shakers are the longest continually operating religious utopian community in America. At their height they numbered five thousand across twenty-two communities.
Nearly all the objects seen here were first collected in the 1920s and thirties by a passionate young American couple. But modernism itself owes a huge debt to the ornament-less functionality of Shaker design. “Beauty rests on utility,” is their maxim. Most people think furniture when they think Shaker, and visitors will certainly drool over the many fine pieces on display. Their famous ladder-back chairs—highly functional and quickly made—were the Ikea of their day. A cobbler’s bench has an ergonomic seat along with the patina of abundant use. Particularly charming are the dolls, the child’s rocker (originally priced at $3.25), and all the costume and textiles. But there are strange items here, too, such as an oddly humane adult cradle and an early electrostatic medical device (use unknown). Shaker road signs topped with scriptural warnings addressed trespassers, and fascinating “Gift Drawings” were the calligraphic version of speaking in tongues. Read the rest of this entry »
The very first retrospective of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s thirty-year career begins with her recent “Plegaria Muda,” a maze of more than one-hundred upended tables sandwiching a thick layer of dirt between their backs and appearing as coffins. Tiny blades of grass grow out from between the wood planks, a subtle indication of the time poured into the growing and crafting of each blade and table. “Plegaria Muda” is created from Salcedo’s research into gang violence in Los Angeles combined with viewing the mass graves of grieving mothers’ sons in Colombia. The piece is a meditative entrance into Salcedo’s content, an attempt to erase the anonymity of those disappeared in her home country and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »
There is a baseball-sized gallbladder stone living inside Vesna Jovanovic’s studio. The stone that once violently grew within an unfortunate party’s body now rests peacefully behind a glass display case on the third floor of the Museum of Surgical Science, where Vesna comes each week to work. As the museum’s artist-in-residence since October 2013, Jovanovic is granted daily access to the abundance of tools and historical objects that reside in the exhibition rooms. While the physicality of the artifacts does in part fuel her study and practice, it is the persons, stories and records behind them that really move her. Read the rest of this entry »