Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

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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 »

News: Visual Art Projects Now Open Along the 606

Humboldt Park, Logan Square, News etc., Performance, Public Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
A stampede of horses by Opera-Matic charge the 606 path on opening day

A stampede of horses by Opera-Matic charge the 606 path on opening day

“People were very curious, and they wanted to know what it meant…,” said Rob Lentz, executive director of Project Onward and liaison for artist Louis DeMarco, in an interview with Newcity about the public response to the temporary installation of “Cloud Chart” along the newly opened 606 trail, the 2.8-mile elevated parkway connecting four northwestern Chicago neighborhoods. DeMarco’s artworks are among the new installations that will be on view through June 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of a Gallery: Trunk Show

Design, Humboldt Park, Public Art No Comments »
Image from Lilli Carré for Trunk Show opening, photo courtesy Jason Lazarus.

Image from Lilli Carré for Trunk Show opening/Photo: Jason Lazarus

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, a few dozen people gathered near the boathouse in Humboldt Park for an opening of new work by Lilli Carré. The work was a bumper sticker reading “I’m for clarity” spelled out in Rebus, pictograms that spell words phonetically, for the mobile gallery Trunk Show. The puzzles-and-games theme of Carré’s project extended to the snacks on hand, “signifier” pasta salad, and the activities, lawn games.

Trunk Show, run by Jesse Malmed and Raven Falquez Munsell, unveils a new sticker each month on the couple’s well-worn 1999 Ford Taurus. They started in 2013, motivated by interests in alternative exhibition spaces and in offering the works as a subscription series. The stickers sell a la carte for five dollars, or collectors can subscribe and receive the whole season’s work. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Luftwerk/Silent Funny

Humboldt Park, Installation, Multimedia, Video No Comments »
Luftwerk's "FLOW" installation at Silent Funny video projected onto water and interior architecture photo by Marc Perlish

Luftwerk’s “FLOW” installation at Silent Funny
video projected onto water and interior architecture
photo by Marc Perlish


For their current installations at budding arts space Silent Funny in West Humboldt Park, Luftwerk—the collaborative comprised of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero—were inspired by how light travels through water to create visceral connections for viewers, working with excerpts from previous outdoor projects reimagined for the space’s cavernous interior.

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News: Three New Gallery Programs Start This Summer While Humboldt Park Art Hub Loses Its Lease

Galleries & Museums, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, News etc., Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
centered: Allison Reimus. "Yellow Rectangle," acrylic on wood, 2012. Hung above a teak sideboard by Hans Wegner for Ry Mobler Denmark, with other furnishings by Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Sarrinen and Jens Quistgaard.

Centered: Allison Reimus. “Yellow Rectangle,” acrylic on wood, 2012. Hung above a teak sideboard by Hans Wegner for Ry Mobler Denmark, with other furnishings by Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Sarrinen and Jens Quistgaard.

Earlier this week, Peanut Gallery, an exhibition space and art studio collective located in Humboldt Park announced that its lease would not be renewed in October. Peanut is one of several businesses at the corner of California Avenue and Augusta Boulevard that will be closing or relocating to make way for new developments being planned by landlord Gio Battaglia. Peanut Gallery co-owners Charlie Megna and Kelly Reaves took to the space’s Facebook page with a public explanation of their situation and future plans, “We ARE NOT CLOSING, just want to make that clear. But we are going to have to move come October and we may be taking some time off during the winter to figure out our game plan.  We will still be active in the arts community and will continue on.” In advance of shuttering their current location, several exhibitions are scheduled: opening July 13, “Ugly Smile” is a group show curated by Mike Rea and Geoffrey Todd Smith, then opening in August will be an exhibition of work by David Krofta. Peanut Gallery, 1000 North California.

Earlier this month, 4th Ward Project Space was opened by three SAIC graduates, Mika Horibuchi, James Kao and Valentina Zamfirescu. As the gallery’s name suggests, it is located in Chicago’s Fourth Ward—Hyde Park, in other words. 4WPS is a decidedly non-commercial venture with goals toward creating more opportunities for artists to explore their practices without the pressures of the marketplace. When reached for comment, Kao spoke to their motivations in starting an alternative gallery, “We understand the importance of community for artists, but we also understand how the attendant privileges of wealth, whiteness and patriarchy often steer the art community away from what matters most—namely, excellent art. 4WPS aims to provide a platform for artists who may be underrepresented or typically overseen to create and exhibit works that provoke critical discourse rather than monetary gain.” Their current exhibition of video installation by Greyson Hong is on view until July 4. 4WPS, 5338 South Kimbark. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Peace, War and More War/Out of Line Art Gallery

Humboldt Park No Comments »
Alfonso Nieves (detail)

Alfonso Nieves (detail)


Artists have been responding to modern life with horror and disgust for so long it’s hard to tell when they are addressing themselves specifically to personal struggles with violence and war. Some artists grew up in hell, others made one for themselves, and the artists in this exhibition seem to have done a bit of both, beginning with the show’s organizer, Israeli born artist/activist Dr. Ayala Leyser. A semi-retired psychologist and veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, she opened a gallery/studio in Humboldt Park where she makes outlandish sculpture and conducts a weekly salon to discuss life, art and our sad planet. The highlight of this show is the “End of the World” series by New York painter Doug Blanchard, whose exceptional blog, Counterlight’s Peculiars, brought him to her attention. A serious student and teacher of art history, Blanchard witnessed the Twin Towers burning from the rooftop of his building in Brooklyn and has borrowed the calm intensity of fourteenth-century Italian painting to comment on religious fanaticism in six panels that look like they belong on an altarpiece. Several of the other artists have also been effective in creating dark, chaotic worlds, especially in the turbulent abstract-expressionist paintings of another Israeli, Ruth Eckstein. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alberto Aguilar/The Franklin

Humboldt Park, Installation No Comments »


A white hammock and a black metal bed frame occupy much of the space inside The Franklin, a backyard artist-run gallery in East Garfield Park. Like the diagonal plywood cutouts of the gallery’s walls, and the hanging mini blinds there, the hammock’s netting perforates the space. Inside the hammock lays a chrome ashtray, stacked on an oval mirror, stacked on a framed portrait.

Alberto Aguilar’s site-specific installation, titled “(In) Between Out,” plays with spatial layering and the personal histories of found objects. Mirrors, hanging lights, cacti, a wire shopping basket, a black pineapple, and more—some brought to the space by Aguilar and some pulled from the home of the proprietors of The Franklin, whose backyard houses it. A few feet away, an artificial tree in a concrete planter left by The Franklin’s former resident artist, Rafael Vera, further pushes the inside/outside motif, and emphasizes Aguilar’s interest in personal networks, collaboration and play. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: The One-Month Lifespan of the Chicago Design Museum

Design, Humboldt Park, Prints No Comments »

Le's Signs

One thinks of a museum as a permanent civic fixture, existing to preserve its rare treasures for eternity. But the organizers of the newly hatched Chicago Design Museum understand that contemporary media is ephemeral, ubiquitous, and alive in the world, so their museum will have a temporary physical existence, from June 1-30, in a Humboldt Park loft space. The CHIDM takes cues from the modern museum exhibition format, as its five curated exhibits present poster designs in clean, neat arrangements. To isolate designed works in this way, as purely visual artifacts, diminishes their functional roles and contexts. Where an exhibition at MoMA might explore design’s influence on the way we live, the CHIDM seeks to momentarily dissociate design as an applied art, and to herald the visual creativity of designers. Although it will host many events during this month’s AIGA annual Design Week, the CHIDM is poised to attract the attention of artists and others who routinely visit art museums. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Antonio Martorell/Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture

Humboldt Park, Prints No Comments »


When art museums, universities or other American cultural institutions need someone to represent Puerto Rican culture, Antonio Martorell is a go-to guy, with appearances sponsored by the Smithsonian, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and recently at Harvard and Northwestern. Martorell is like a cultural ambassador, more concerned with building a cultural identity than exploring a personal vision. In his current year-long installation in Chicago, he transforms a gallery at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture into something of a community center with life-sized woodblock prints of community members, young and old. The old folks might be walking a dog or getting a haircut; the young people might be chatting on a cell phone or adjusting an earring. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wipe Out!/Peanut Gallery

Humboldt Park, Multimedia No Comments »

Chris Hodge, "Tower of Babel"


Attending an Apocalypse-themed art show is one way to start the new year, particularly if you follow the Mayan Calendar. Six artists’ responses to the subject are currently on view in “Wipe Out!” at Peanut Gallery.

Upon entering, one is confronted with a large white tree. Made of paper and found materials, the installation runs floor to ceiling along one corner of the gallery. Along the structure, bulbous clear plastic shapes disrupt its trunk. The edges fade into the surrounding walls, but the tree itself invades the gallery space, raising questions about its significance. An explanatory text can be found around the corner, paired with two framed fragments of the tree. This is Andrea Jablonski and Merje Veski’s conceived vision of a post-apocalyptic world: a barren landscape, with what the artists note are “Pompeian-like figures” melted into the body of the tree. Standing alone, the tree left me wanting a larger installation to truly immerse in their imagined world. Read the rest of this entry »