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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
By Jason Foumberg
It was the last place in the world I wanted to be on a sunny autumn afternoon, but the thrill of discovery pulled me into this cavern of moldering garbage. The warehouses of William H. Cooper Co. in West Humboldt Park have no electricity but plenty of running water, dripping from the ceilings and collecting in dank puddles at your feet. Light streams through the urine-tinted windows and cracked skylights to illuminate the wasteland that stretches before you. This is the site of “Two Histories of the World,” a temporary exhibition featuring four artists who were asked to create art from the rotting salvaged objects in the warehouses, which are exhibited on-site among the wreckage from whence they came. The artworks, if you can find them, are quietly subsumed back into the ruinous piles of debris by scavenging shoppers and fresh shipments of junk from newly dying industries. Read the rest of this entry »
One of Chicago’s neglected treasures, except by the denizens of the surrounding neighborhood, Humboldt Park is vast and filled with wildlife, greenery and waterways, all of which have beckoned photographer Dina Petrakis, who spent the year of 2009 there to create a “naturalist photo essay” inspired by conservationist Aldo Leopold. Shooting in color, Petrakis goes close up to capture intimate details and draws back to frame panoramas, arranging her shots in groups and grids, and deploying large and small formats in order to communicate the full experience of the park when it opens up to the solitary walker. Petrakis’ banner photo-work is her 4×3 grid depicting the same view of the scenic and sinuous Prairie River in each month of the seasonal cycle, from the icy barren winter, through spring’s blush, summer’s lushness, and bittersweet autumn, to winter again, now sporting its snowy white mantle. If Petrakis and a stroll in Humboldt Park do not convince you to become a habitué, you are insensible to the wonders of the world next door. (Michael Weinstein)
Through October 29 at the Humboldt Park Boat House, 1359 North Sacramento
Drawn to the recesses of densely wooded public parks, Jennifer Ray seeks out evidence of male sexual encounters—a spent condom, a pair of briefs, a Styrofoam cup—and shoots the tell-tale details in color, so that they are small, yet obtrusive elements of the larger verdant scene. Eric Bessel takes color portraits of women posed in gestures and sporting expressions that betray distress, bitterness or hostility. Helen Maurene Cooper dolls women up in kitschy costumes, places them against decorative mannerist backgrounds, and snaps them in color as they vogue like fashion models, sometimes tough, sometimes dreamy. Grant Ray puts ordinary objects into compositions suggesting “pseudo-scientific experiments,” as when he goes into the wooded glen, plants an electrical gizmo there, and shoots the scene in color, proving that you can do other things in the park than have sex. You can read the artists’ statements if you want an overdose of cultural theory, but their work boils down to crossing the boundary from the illusory world of normal certitude to the wilderness of the seamy psycho-dramas that surround the islands of sanity that we so painfully attempt to construct. (Michael Weinstein)
Through February 18 at Barbara & Barbara Gallery, 1021 N. Western
Given that the School of the Art Institute of Chicago served as the breeding grounds for nearly every locally grown artistic movement, from the Monster Roster through the Hairy Who to the Imagists and beyond, it is not unreasonable to consistently anticipate new and interesting developments from its students. So, what’s brewing on Michigan Avenue at the moment? These days we look to the latest outgrowth of apartment-gallery spaces around the city for a reliable answer.
Monument 2 Gallery, the latest example of this locally esteemed phenomenon, appeared this fall on the site of the former Camp Gay space in Logan Square, but like most domestic gallery spaces, don’t expect it to be around long. Acknowledging the tendency of such spaces to appear and disappear with the changing seasons—or in this case, leasing-cycles—the gallery’s proprietor, Michael Thibault, envisioned his endeavor strictly as a one-year operation, having “no interest in owning a sustainable gallery.” When the lease is up next August, he’ll move on to something else, but not without leaving an exhibition history richly colored by his friends and classmates. Read the rest of this entry »
Szu-Han Ho and Jesse Vogler
For “Exhibition 2.10242009,” directors Daniel Baird, Jamie Keesling and Bret Schneider called upon eight artists to prepare site-specific interventions into the live/work space. This past August, the partners resurrected the apartment gallery formerly known as COMA, or California Occidental Museum of Art. Truly an artist-run space, Mvsevm also holds a concert series, titled Home Listening, and plan to launch a publication for print and web called How Moving.
Joe Cruz’s installation demands the most real estate at Mvsevm. Ravenous taxidermal squirrels pounce onto a burlap sack of ill-gotten fruit cinched by a bird in ten milliseconds; the time it takes for a synapse to fire. Cruz describes the piece as an allegory on the immediate failure of utopia; the polyphony of enterprising wildlife. The fruit mountain bears signage referencing the United Fruit Company, a neo-colonialist empire importing fruit from third-world countries throughout the twentieth-century, eventually becoming the Chiquita Brands International.
A pair of conjoined ceiling fans, titled “Foreclosure,” meets the goals of the exhibition most precisely, as prepared by North Room, a moniker for collaborations between Szu Han Ho and Jesse Vogler. The piece is part of an ongoing series, Home Improvements, a series of domestic sculptures made from household appliances. Read the rest of this entry »