Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Nora Schultz/The Renaissance Society

Hyde Park, Sculpture No Comments »
"Speechbubble 3" from "parrottree—building for bigger than real" (installation view), 2014. Photo: Tom Van Eynde

“Speechbubble 3″ from “parrottree—building for bigger than real” (installation view), 2014. Photo: Tom Van Eynde


In Nora Schultz’s solo exhibition “Parrottree—Building for Bigger Than Real,” steel rods, metal plating, paned glass, newspaper, tinfoil, wire and discarded industrial materials are borrowed generously from the storage facilities of the Renaissance Society, nearby hardware stores and unassuming locations in the Hyde Park neighborhood—all areas in close proximity to the site of the exhibition. Disassociating them from their surroundings, the scavenged objects are assimilated by the artist into a new context, used as raw material for sculptures to be mounted, hoisted, painted, cut or printed upon. Schultz pulls the found materials into the exhibition space, exalting them, raising them into the air. The works are suspended above, perched in the rafters, nested. They are motionless yet nonetheless precarious, embodying the anxiety of a towering house of cards. Gazes are commanded upwards as if a constellation, a high-rise or a Wall Street ticker board resides there. Text phrases, themselves seemingly poached from an unspecified source, are inscribed in black marker along thin railings of scrap steel, pressure-clamped overhead to the interior structure of the exhibition space, at times reaching to the floor. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Bronzeville’s Second Renaissance

Artist Profiles, Bronzeville, Hyde Park No Comments »
Samantha Hill's "Great Migration" installation at the Southside Hub of Production

Samantha Hill’s “Great Migration” installation at the Southside Hub of Production

Samantha Hill claims there is a cultural renaissance occurring in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. “There is palpable new energy circulating here amongst organizers, educators and residents that isn’t yet defined.” Determined to capture and engage in this revival, for her first solo exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center, Hill presents “Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance.”

Originally from Philadelphia, Hill has been naturally drawn toward and deeply involved in the cultural activities of the South Side since her arrival in the city ten years ago. She has organized happenings, held residencies and taught art courses at the South Side Community Art Center and Chicago State University. As a social art practitioner, bringing people together and facilitating conversations is at the heart of heart of what she does, and it is through working in these neighborhoods that Hill has been able to get to know people at the forefront of Bronzeville’s new momentum, record their stories and discover the spirit of the neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Bridges: “The Distance Between” Tries to Connect the University of Chicago with its Community

Hyde Park, Multimedia No Comments »
avery r young, "lady sings de blue(s) or billie head was bleevin at carnegie hall," 2013, 12x18 in., Paper wood ink gauze tape vinyl graphite glue assemblage

avery r young, “lady sings de blue(s) or billie head was bleevin at carnegie hall”

By B. David Zarley

Sharing a dedication to the arts and yet diametrically opposed—one bathed in the warm glow of gentrification, under the aegis of the University of Chicago, the other in Washington Park on the periphery  of the cluster of shops and street violence murals (“Spray paint, not bullets”) that have sprung up like foxglove in the shadows of the Green Line on Garfield Boulevard—one would be hard pressed to find a better dyadic home for “The Distance Between,” the consummation of the artists-in-residence  for the Arts+Public Life/Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture, than the Logan Center for the Arts and the Arts Incubator.

Separated from one another by the verdant expanse of Washington Park, the environs surrounding Logan and the Incubator ably reflect the Janus-like face of the South Side; “The Distance Between” revels in, pontificates upon and avails itself to said space. At the recent “Park Crossing” event, live music from resident artists LeRoy Bach and Tomeka Reid straddled the park, most notably in “Washington Park Suite,” which featured cellists Reid and Fred Lonberg-Holm playing ad-hoc, simultaneous improvisational movements from across the park, their individual contributions manipulated and reflected to each other in real time across the space by Todd Carter and Alex Inglizian. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: AfriCOBRA/Logan Center for the Arts

Hyde Park, Painting, Prints No Comments »
Barbara Jones-Hogu, “I’m Better Than These Motherfuckers and They Know It," circa 1970

Barbara Jones-Hogu, “I’m Better Than These Motherfuckers,” circa 1970


“Let a new earth rise,” wrote Margaret Walker in For My People. “Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace be written in the sky.” The closing stanza of this rousing militant poem provided the title for Barbara Jones-Hogu’s 1971 silkscreen series, “Rise and Take Control.” Two of these images, a symmetrical semi-abstract triple portrait fractured with flowing acid-rock text, appear in the Logan Center for the Arts’ retrospective of the fierce, vivid work of AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), a group of Black Power-era Chicago artists who came together to represent and promote a resistant Afrocentric message through (and beyond) visual art. Jones-Hogu’s “I’m Better Than These Motherfuckers” is an even more direct statement, and an even more densely and exquisitely printed piece, centering on a black woman sitting on the beach among melanin-deficient figures seemingly dissolving in the sunlight. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: William Pope.L/Renaissance Society

Drawings, Hyde Park, Sculpture No Comments »



In a multimedia exhibition of both two- and three-dimensional works, the one most important to William Pope.L’s “Forlesen” is actually the fourth; time, in all its idiosyncrasies, brutalities and inevitabilities, lays at the exhibition’s heart.

“There’s nothing that necessarily ties the episodes together except time,” said Pope.L in regard to Gene Wolfe, the science fiction author who wrote the novella “Forlesen” (1974), and from that one observation the seemingly disparate pieces of Pope.L’s exhibition take on a (somewhat) coherent form.

Pope.L’s decision to purposefully not re-read the story prior to beginning his work—therefore relying upon the residue of memory—firmly grounds “Forlesen” in the fourth dimension at its conception. Perhaps most important, if least obvious, is the foundational aspect allotted to the passage of time, and the obfuscation that ensues.

Less esoteric are the works that deal with decay; the sloughing of ketchup (foodstuff that once reminded Pope.L of hardship and fame, but is now a romantic reminiscence) and joint compound scales from “Curtain” present the viewer with an empirical example of time’s ravages, as do the black helium balloons of “Ellipsis.” Aloft when fresh, they inevitably hang from the rafters like narcoleptic ravens, or lay shriveled upon the ground like dreams deferred. Even the room-dominating sculpture “Quarter Shape (penis)” can be seen as an allegory for atrophy; what do men fear losing most as caducity approaches? Combine the phallus with the withered balloons, and a nightmarish image akin to Updike’s Ben Turnbull takes shape. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Sculpture No Comments »


It’s not all that surprising that a man whose work takes jabs at power symbols and the concept of reverence would have the chutzpah to bring live horses into the esteemed Hyde Park Art Center.

Though not present when I visited (they will make scheduled appearances during the show’s run), horses clearly influence Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford’s sprawling, ambitious installation. Throughout human history, horses have enabled human movement, from the physical, moving humans across continents, to the ideological, as culture spread as a byproduct of warfare. Horses also mean dominance. Cities around the world are dotted with statues of Great Men sitting astride their noble mounts, usually erected out of some immutable material like bronze or marble because their significance is meant to be permanent and unchanging. The Chicago-based sculptor spent seven months constructing his meditation on what happens to monuments when the unquestionable greatness they represent crumbles in the face of a society that no longer believes in such a thing. “Hall of Khan” is the result, and it doesn’t disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: John Neff/The Renaissance Society

Hyde Park, Photography No Comments »


On July 4, 1971, Michael Hart uploaded a text version of the United States Declaration of Independence onto the Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer at the University of Illinois Materials Research Lab. By allowing the shared file to be freely downloaded by any user that logged onto that particular Sigma V—one of fifteen node computers that made up ARPANET, later to become the Internet—Hart unknowingly introduced the first electronic book and heralded its immeasurable effect on how media is read. This effect was truly realized two decades later as affordable image scanners catalyzed the digitization of both text and image. A common flatbed scanner—modified by hand and outfitted to resemble a conventional photographic apparatus—allowed artist John Neff to produce a series of unassuming black-and-white images that make up his solo exhibition at the Renaissance Society. The long exposures travel conduits between a do-it-yourself photographic contraption and a personal computer running consumer-grade software before revealing themselves line-by-line with lateral distortion from glitched data and mechanical idiosyncrasies. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Tom Torluemke/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Painting No Comments »

tom torluemkeRECOMMENDED

“Fearsome Fable–Tolerable Truth,” the immersive, double-sided mural that lines the Hyde Park Art Center’s Gallery 4 is really two shows in one. Depending on your mood, you might confront either a smog-laden, fossil-fueled wasteland or a verdant, solar-powered paradise, as the painting’s composite sections can be carefully flipped by hand.

Artist Tom Torluemke conjures these contrary worlds with an abbreviated, just-the-facts style of brushwork consistent with the classic WPA murals that inspired this endeavor. The surfaces aren’t highly refined, but they don’t need to be. Like any mural, a respectable viewing distance yields the best results; imperfections vanish and color and form crackle with life. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Higher Art Education

Art Schools, Hyde Park No Comments »
Mnourse headshot by Jay Schroeder

Mike Nourse/Photo: Jay Schroeder

Artists must do more than just make art. Teaching, curating exhibitions, negotiating contracts, conducting studio visits and writing press releases are some of the professional practices that career artists can master, yet these skills are largely absent from college-level studio art curriculum.

Hoping to fill this void, the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, in collaboration with the Hyde Park Art Center, is offering a new visual arts certificate program. At twelve months long, the curriculum includes four courses plus a studio component. It is perhaps one of a kind among institutional peers.

“To my knowledge, we are unique,” said Dr. Kineret Jaffe, director of the Graham’s partnership office and a volunteer chair on the Hyde Park Art Center’s board. Jaffe met me, on the vert Schweinfurt carpet of the art center’s downstairs meeting space, to explain the program to me. We were joined by her office’s program coordinator, Nicole Yagoda, and HPAC’s director of education, Mike Nourse. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: R.H. Quaytman/The Renaissance Society

Hyde Park, Painting No Comments »


One of the distinguishing features of Chinese poetry is its commemorative function. It often celebrates a social occasion rather than expresses an individual state of mind. Along similar lines, R.H. Quaytman’s enigmatic, and possibly hermetic, restrained formalist paintings at the Renaissance Society honor Susanne Ghez’s forty years as director of this important gallery. In what might be an attempt to observe the prohibitions against painting posed by the discourse of contemporary art history and an institution that has deemed most species of painting to be obsolete or undesirable, Quaytman imposes a set of rules on her practice, structuring her oeuvre—past, present and future—as if it were a book. Each Quaytman exhibition is conceived as a chapter, so she can formulate and control spatial resonances and motifs as they accumulate and are repeated among the paintings in this chapter of the “book.” The subtle formal relationships accumulate meaning during an extended viewing in the gallery. Read the rest of this entry »