Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Varda Caivano/The Renaissance Society

Hyde Park, Painting No Comments »
Varda Caivano. "Untitled," 2015 acrylic, charcoal and oil on canvas 70 7/8" x 47 1/4"

Varda Caivano. “Untitled,” 2015
acrylic, charcoal and oil on canvas
70 7/8″ x 47 1/4″

The seven blue-gray and gray-brown paintings in Varda Caivano’s “The Density of The Actions” rest easily on the Bergman Gallery’s sunlit walls. All untitled, their meandering charcoal lines and fluid, almost watercolor-like passages of acrylic paint seem fraught and indecisive. There’s a captivating immediacy to the manner in which these skeletal (and only tangentially descriptive) marks play tensely against the vertically elongated format of several of the works, but there’s also a thinness to these paintings that’s difficult to shake. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Donelle Woolford comes to Logan Center for the Arts [UPDATED]

Hyde Park, News etc., Performance No Comments »
Joe Scanlan (left) and Jennifer Kidwell (right/ Ian Douglas 2012).

Joe Scanlan (left) and Jennifer Kidwell (right/ Ian Douglas 2012).

The University of Chicago’s (UChicago) department of visual arts (DoVA) will bring Joe Scanlan and his controversial fictional character Donelle Woolford, who will be depicted by Jennifer Kidwell, to the Logan Center for the Arts this Thursday, February 19, at 7pm. Scanlan received a lot of heat during and after the 2014 Whitney Biennial for his Donelle Woolford project for which he, a white male Princeton professor, invented a black female artist character to assume responsibility for a body of work he created. Scanlan’s creation raises a multitude of convoluted questions, with words like “white male privilege,” and “conceptual black face” representing just a few of the issues raised in the uproar. In an email to Newcity, Scanlan writes, “Jennifer Kidwell and I let everyone else have their say about this project last year, from the United States to London to Capetown to Aukland. So now we’ll take a turn responding to our critics.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lands End/Logan Center Gallery

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Video 1 Comment »
Carrie Schneider. "Burning House (March, sunset)," 2011, C-print

Carrie Schneider. “Burning House (March, sunset),” 2011,
C-print

RECOMMENDED

Our historically brief presence on this earth is owed to a fact of geologic consent. Time, heat and pressure, the primordial forces that shape our world, have, for the past 250,000 years, granted us a reprieve from the destructive dance that constantly forms and renews this planet. “Lands End” reveals how humankind has taken up where these tectonic forces have left off.

Curated by Zach Cahill and Katherine Harvath, works by thirteen artists variously envision the contemporary landscape as contested political terrain, a site of environmental degradation, the source of precious commodities we lust after, and a place of mystery, fear and wonder. In all of the works on display, time is the underlying element; either we have too much of it, or not nearly enough. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Nuria Montiel/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Prints, Public Art No Comments »
Nuria Montiel. "AgriFarm," 2014,  monoprint, 25" x 18"

Nuria Montiel. “AgriFarm,” 2014,
monoprint, 25″ x 18″

For some art, a gallery acts less like a space that showcases living creativity and more like a funeral home where you go to stare at dead people. Just as that dead person you see laid-out before you was once bright and living in the world, the art so filled with promise and meaning in its proper context, now hangs lifeless, eviscerated by clean corridors, harsh lights and climate control. Like a lot of socially engaged art, sadly, this is the case with Nuria Montiel’s “Wxnder Wxrds” at the Hyde Park Art Center. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mathias Poledna/Renaissance Society

Architecture, Hyde Park, Installation, Video No Comments »
Mathias Poldena. "Substance," 2014, 33mm color film with optical sound, 6:40 min

Mathias Poldena. “Substance,” 2014, 33mm color film with optical sound, 6:40 minutes

RECOMMENDED

From a single pew, viewers absorb Mathias Poledna’s new, luscious projected 35mm film “Substance,” 6:40 minutes looped: abstract washes of gold, close-up shots of three rotating hands, a shiny, beveled dial, and the signature crown revealing the identity of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Finally shown in full, the desired timepiece floats away into a black void, with no semblance of place to distract from adoration. An enveloping percussive soundtrack heightens the film’s seduction. The familiar yet hard-to-place music recalls an intense action movie sequence or urban nightclub, its heavy beat lending a dogmatic tempo.
Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Races, Places and Art’s Useful Violence

Collage, Hyde Park, Installation, Photography, Public Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Kelly Lloyd. "I painted the elevator doors the color of my skin. C1, 21,1—E0,13,0—KX0,22,1—V0,37,0," 2014 acrylic on elevator doors

Kelly Lloyd. “I painted the elevator doors the color of my skin. C1, 21,1—E0,13,0—KX0,22,1—V0,37,0,” 2014, acrylic on elevator doors

by Matt Morris

I had been trying to muster the holiday cheer to write a whimsical column about winter window displays when I read the news that the St. Louis County grand jury tasked with the decision to indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot eighteen-year-old Michael Brown to death in August chose not to pursue justice. Since the announcement, I’ve been in vocal and incredulous discussions over the sadistically intricate ways that political and social suppression, economic disadvantage, the bizarre militarization of police forces and even President Obama’s muted responses to this and other murders of unarmed black people have conspired in a construction of an impossibly powerful systemic racism. I’ve felt the deep urge to run. In my mind I see the text “RUN” Rashid Johnson spray-painted in white across a mirror that was included in “Message to Our Folks,” his survey at the MCA two years ago. This is a run from lynch mobs and paramilitary cops and deplorably violent histories that span centuries of America’s past.

Rashid Johnson. "Run," 2008,  mirror with spray paint

Rashid Johnson. “Run,” 2008,
mirror with spray paint

Our society has been shaped without consideration to the personhood and value of nonwhite lives, therefore their sadness, outrage and even their deaths have not been permitted to have any impact. Confronted with this daunting problem built into the very structure of this country, my conviction that art has the potential to powerfully interject into the thick of restrictive, racist assumptions has been bolstered by several recent projects that investigate how visibility for people of color’s lives is situated into public and institutional spaces. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Debriefing the Unsuspending Disbelief Photo Symposium

Hyde Park, Photography No Comments »
Participants in panel "The Materiality of the Image." Panelists (from left to right) Daniel Gordon, Anthony Elms, Barbara Kasten and Shane Huffman. Being introduced by symposium organizer Laura Letinsky.

Participants in panel “The Materiality of the Image.” Panelists Daniel Gordon, Anthony Elms, Barbara Kasten and Shane Huffman being introduced by symposium organizer Laura Letinsky.

Can you trust a picture? This was the preeminent question to emerge from a daylong symposium on contemporary photographic practices hosted on November 21 at the University of Chicago. Organized by artist and UChicago faculty member Laura Letinsky, “Unsuspending Disbelief,” a symposium of three panels and several open discussions, took as its point of trajectory a conflicted ontological viewpoint of the photograph. What is the potential of a photograph to confirm what we want to believe, and to show us what we cannot see on our own? Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: The Hustle of Multi-hyphenates

Garfield Park, Hyde Park, Rogers Park, West Loop 1 Comment »

multi-hyphenate_web
By Matt Morris

“They hop between revolving scenes, juggle various professional identities, seek out and improvise ever-new situations and contexts for staging what can be recognized and evaluated by their peers as art, all squeezed into schedules already bloated with myriad non-art activity.” This is how art critic and Northwestern professor Lane Relyea depicts the contemporary art laborer in his 2014 essay “Afterthoughts on D.I.Y. Abstraction,” a digestible think piece that shares the concerns he investigated at length in his 2013 book “Your Everyday Art World.”

His take is poignantly accurate. Our town (and increasingly more of the art world) runs on multi-hyphenate cultural producers who not only make art but also curate, write, teach and run alternative galleries. We’re embedded in a pervasive labor economy that has mutated into part-time work status, short-term contracts (or no contracts) and a demand for flexibility, availability and diversified skill sets. I’ve been writing this text along with two other articles and a grossly overdue catalogue essay this week, while teaching two courses at SAIC, troubleshooting shipping and consignments for an exhibition I’m curating, and stubbornly insisting on the better part of two days in my studio because I’m falling behind in my production schedule for an exhibition next year. My workload isn’t extraordinary or even varied beyond the status quo. It’s not exceptional that I slip between myriad roles; in fact it’s all day, everyday for most of us.

While Relyea’s analysis is useful in symptomatizing our labor and, indeed, we may all be acting out tacit directives that guarantee even more insidious modes of capitalism and lifetimes of instability for a burgeoning “precaritariat,” I’ve wanted to better understand artists’ presumed motives for working across disciplines in personally attuned panoplies of creative output. I wrote to a number of other folks in Chicago to hopefully compare notes and maybe commiserate. Everyone who replied was frankly honest about diversification as a means to make a living while also holding to the possibilities that these hybrids allow (or at least once allowed) for nimble forms of criticality and subversion. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways/Smart Museum of Art

Hyde Park, Sculpture No Comments »
"Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways," installation view, Smart Museum of Art

“Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways,” installation view, Smart Museum of Art

RECOMMENDED

“Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways” plays to the museum’s strengths in depth and breadth of visual and cultural material, transforming the entire museum into an inquiry into “the essential qualities that define sculpture.” The show’s opening gambit errs heavily on the side of tradition, exhibiting mostly modern European figurative works in bronze, stone and clay. A cast concrete architectural fragment by Frank Lloyd Wright is the sole exception, though its pairing with an abstracted Lipchitz bronze figure seems to argue for the legitimacy of the former via the aura of sanctified modernism. The exhibition continues at this pace through several galleries, showing Picasso, Calder, Moore, Arp and a host of other twentieth-century Europeans and Americans. A single non-Western piece, a Guinean carved wood mask, questions the well-trodden claim linking African “primitivism” to Western developments in abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Josef Strau/Renaissance Society

Ceramics, Hyde Park, Installation No Comments »
Josef Strau. "Raft," 2014

Josef Strau. “Raft,” 2014

RECOMMENDED

The application referenced in the title of Josef Strau’s first museum exhibition in the United States, “The New World Application for Turtle Island,” is a fantastical art-and-text alternative to the formal procedures for a green card, and Turtle Island is a name given to the North American continent by its indigenous peoples. The Renaissance Society is filled with the Austrian-born nomad’s sensitively indulgent bricolage of Americana used to deconstruct histories of European invasion and colonization alongside his more personal accounts of exploring the United States and Mexico. Strau poses uneasy questions about the ethics and aesthetics that accompany cultural trade, not least of all his globetrotting presence as an after-effect of prior violent usurpations of place. His knowingly disjointed installation grapples with the conditions of being an outsider—and perhaps more confounding, an insider—in these places he holds dear. Read the rest of this entry »