If you’ve never been to Taste of Chicago, don’t worry; you’ll be right there in the thick of it when you see Joe Sterling’s black-and-white photographs of the gustatory festival, taken between 1988 and 1990; and, if you’re a devotee of the affair, you’ll be brought back to the experience of being engulfed by hordes of fellow citizens and tourists snarfing up corn on the cob, watermelon, and meats and sweets of all varieties. Sterling’s images work so well, because they are so intimate in their depictions of a mass phenomenon. His strategy of using a panoramic lens, which widens the visual field horizontally and shortens it vertically, gives viewers a look that is very close to what they actually would see if they were there—a gaping mouth taking a big bite, or a tangle of legs punctuated by a girl intent on consuming her victuals kneeling in their midst. Read the rest of this entry »
In the best conceptually conceived and curated photography show so far this year, gallerists Adam Holtzman and Lucas Zenk have brought together four of the most visually intelligent contemporary feminists, each of whom elucidates and illuminates the condition of being female with a tight and realized strategy. By making a purely photographic disheveled and ramshackle room from scanned straight shots manipulated in the computer, Jessie Seib creates a brilliant visual metaphor of the internal struggle to become an independent self. In her series on New York City prostitutes, Sebrina Fassbender transcends documentary and conventional portraiture by showing her subjects at their low points of despair, yet avoiding even a trace of pity or superiority. Dwelling in popular culture, Sigri Strand stages scenes straight out of film noir that garishly evince the witch-like image of the femme fatale. Convinced that childhood has been overrated in our myths, Jacqueline Langelier gives us a tween sitting at a table full of candy dishes that have overflowed into a full-blown cloying mess. None of these artists knew each other previously, but it is as though they were a juggernaut of a collective. (Michael Weinstein)
Through August 28 at Alibi Fine Art, 1966 West Montrose.
One of those rare photographers who balance the formal values of their medium—light, color, composition, texture and perspective—Joe Johnson is consumed by the beauty that surrounds and surprises us with delight if we are willing to look. Johnson’s sense of beauty is so generous that he does not have a favorite subject, environment or sensibility—he simply wants the viewer to be captivated as he has been. This is beauty for beauty’s sake, not as a support for meaning, mood, virtuosity or even meditation. When Johnson takes us down a gritty empty street in New Haven, Connecticut at dusk after a rain, pools of orange glint, telephone poles and leafless trees bend, and low industrial buildings recede. We ask for nothing but to stay and see. Johnson has endowed the straight representational photograph with the power of the tightest and most involved abstraction. (Michael Weinstein)
Through June 26 at Alibi Fine Art, 1966 West Montrose
By Justin Natale
“I guarantee you, somebody will get lost.” It is Saturday evening and, as I stand on the platform at the Belmont station, a CTA employee with a sense of humor boisterously informs people of re-routed station arrivals. Trains of all colors and directions converge on just one platform. It shouldn’t be so difficult, but as I look around, hedging my bets on who I believe most likely to take the wrong train, the dual meanings of ‘get lost’ seem, for the first time, equally accessible.
Somewhere between a four-course meal and the Belmont disarray was “GroupSOLO,” at Swimming Pool Project Space, a rotation of four exhibitions within a single gallery, each lasting just one hour. In between acts the curtain did not drop and the house lights did not dim. Two preparators employed by the Art Institute of Chicago, Aza Quinn-Brauner and Daniel Baird, brought their gear in full view. Any notion of the pristine white -cube gallery—though it barely exists in the blue-painted Pool—was totally dismantled. If you’ve ever shown art in any type of gallery at any point in your career, you know that it always seems to come down to the last minute. In “GroupSOLO,” there were four of these. Read the rest of this entry »
Twenty-two artists, all alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from the mid-late eighties, have come together for “End of the 80s,” a ‘reunion’ show, at the Avram Eisen Gallery. The exhibition is primarily curated by Laura Olear and Bruce Linn, both class of ‘88, with the group collectively dedicating the show to Ray Yoshida, a recently deceased professor and mentor to many participating artists.
A co-mingling of diverse styles can be expected in group shows of this proportion, and “End of the 80s” holds to that. There is unusual grace and also chatter. No obvious Yoshida ‘style’ is identifiable in the exhibition. “It was more a thing of his teaching, his demanding, his aggressiveness,” said Olear of his pedagogical approach. “Few of his students didn’t feel he’d a profound impact on them,” added Linn. Read the rest of this entry »
Laura Berger’s show, “Into the Out,” at Fill in the Blank Gallery creates what at first seem to be borderline-saccharine worlds of smiling tree stumps and dancing bearded woodland creatures, and certainly one of Berger’s strongest tropes is of an inviting nature (a print for sale features the slogan “go back outside”). The paintings also re-imagine the natural world as a space of infinite potential, inhabited by various beings—equal parts manga and Dr. Seuss—paddling through undefined expanses and trees unanchored from the earth. However, these slight scenes, almost all of which feature a small group of various people and creatures in charming relation to one and another and their benevolent little worlds, carry with them a dark undertone of loss and subtle threat behind such blank and wide-eyed gentleness; one painting, for example, features two figures holding hands and entering a stream that enters the gaping mouth of a tree from which there’s no way out on the other side. Even the ostensible emphasis on the joy of relationship is undermined; in the most striking painting, two girls attempt to send speech bubbles to one another, but they pass by silently and create an unease that’s far more captivating than the obvious signifiers of cuteness and purity would suggest at first pass. (Monica Westin)
Through May 30 at Fill in the Blank Gallery, 5038 N. Lincoln