Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Stranger Danger/Adult Contemporary

Logan Square, Sculpture No Comments »


Adult Contemporary, a new artist-run apartment gallery (formerly Murdertown) in Logan Square, recently kicked off their programming with a two-person show. “Stranger Danger” features a site-specific installation comprised of several sculptural artworks, from hanging tapestries to strategically placed trinkets made, some collaboratively, by Karolina Gnatowski and Judith Brotman.

The work is delicately constructed and placed around the relatively large, creamy-walled apartment, which features no shortage of wood trim and peculiar, decorative architectural details. There are a lot of individual pieces in the show but they have plenty of breathing room in the space, which is split into three rooms. And breathe they do—their organic shapes and wispy construction gives them the sense that they are alive, gently humming, sighing, whistling, whispering—like Gnatowski’s “Badge,” a woven leather piece adorned with childlike jewelry and beads spelling out a Kid Cudi lyric: “Pretty Green Bud / All In My Blunt / Oh I Need It / We Can Take Off Now / Oooh I Wanna / Marijuana.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Emiliano Cerna-Rios/The Storefront

Logan Square, Painting No Comments »

Emiliano Cerna-Rios, “Colorchartness”


In retrospect, antagonisms are reconciled and oppositions are synthesized, so that Stalin and Hitler were pretty much the same thing. Ditto Romans and Christians, astrophysics and particle physics, ballet and tap, tomato to-mah-toe. But what if, asks Slavoj Zizek, we could “enact a parallax shift” in order to perceive antagonisms in their “positive” role?

Such tensions are massaged quite satisfyingly in “Colorchartness,” Emiliano Cerna-Rios’ agglomeration of twenty-eight canvases on view at The Storefront, which has emerged rehabilitated from a major fire this past summer. Painted with acrylic, oil and house paint, the canvases lean in the gallery’s several odd corners. Each painting is masked off with eight rectangles of varying hue, mostly framed in dull silver, evoking Gerhard Richter’s color grids and Sol LeWitt’s wall paintings—but only loosely. The measurements are eyeballed, the masking is approximate, and the color swatches themselves are far from uniform, with streaks of contrasting tones, clumps of medium, and ceramic fragments disrupting the depthlessness of pure chroma. The bravura is so pronounced, even erupting at one spot into a representational tree branch that translucently transgresses the grid’s boundaries, making the gridded seriality seem like a premise for gesture and process, or an attempt to organize a studio experiment. The composite artwork commands the room with intensity and autonomy. Its image easily overflows through the picture window onto California Avenue passersby. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wyatt Grant, Lionel Guzman and Jared Silbert/Hungryman Gallery

Logan Square, Multimedia, Painting No Comments »

"Autumn with Drawings" by Wyatt Grant


The title of New York-based artist Lionel Guzman’s light-box sculpture, “Synthetic,” operates in a few registers. First, a single visual impression is created from disparate elements, by arranging cutouts, rotating color filter gels, a microcontroller, a fan and LEDs inside a stereo speaker case and behind a layer of Plexiglas and vintage graph paper. Guzman’s grid-curtained window shows rows of rectangular lights, like glowing flickering screens, receding into an illusory distance. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Aidan Fitzpatrick and Kasia Houlihan/Comfort Station

Logan Square, Photography, Video No Comments »

Kasia Houlihan, "Tender," 2011


No one doubts that we are living in hard times, especially young artists. Video and photo-artist Kasia Houlihan and photographer Aidan Fitzpatrick draw us into their discontent, the first with a sense of futility and the second with a sentiment of existential unease. Houlihan’s video “Hold On” shows her young female model jump-running aimlessly around a mowed field in a random, abrupt and staccato motion, exhausting herself and looking it—wasting herself. In a color photo, we see the model sitting in her panties on a slightly rumpled white sheet covering a bed, her head turned over one shoulder and one of her hands fingering the edge of a lobster-red sunburn, a doleful expression on her lips and her eyes shut. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mary Ellen Croteau/Art on Armitage

Logan Square, Sculpture No Comments »


The title of Mary Ellen’s Croteau’s eight-by-seven-foot bottle-cap mosaic self-portrait is “Close,” a reference to Chuck Close, whose giant gridded portraits captivate museum-goers with their scale and verisimilitude. In this case, however, the medium is the message, as Croteau’s clever repurposing of seven thousand multicolored bottle caps not only captivates us with its sleight of hand and representational skill, it embodies and envisions a green worldview. Croteau produced a complex shifting texture out of these lowly materials by nesting the bottle caps to create depth and nuances of color. The portrait gazing out at passersby on Armitage Avenue is direct and at the same time lacking a sense of presence: it seems to be an image transposed from a photograph. Hovering at the edge of art and craft, like a giant needlepoint in its display of patience and meticulous skill, but without needlepoint’s connotations of luxury calling up a lost upper class feminine world of handmade textiles, her portrait evokes nothing so much as human condition on the northwest side of Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Beauty Ritual/Pentagon Gallery

Logan Square, Photography No Comments »

Mac Katter, "Double Back," 2010


“Beauty Ritual” is a group show of photographs by Billy Buck, Hani Eid, Mac Katter and Olivia Swider, whose work gives an unspoken shape to the titular concept: the ritual capture, construction and dismantling of “beauty.”

Swider’s work suggests a rite of preparation, after which she hunts and traps existing beauty with the lens. The elegant composition of “The Clicking of Bones” transforms manicured lawns into a geometric suburban jungle where a prowling housecat is stalked by the photographer.

In “Cheap and Easy,” Buck performs his ritual at the helm of a computer. He repurposes a Photoshop filter normally used to perfect an unruly image into a tool that warps and foreshortens a mundane image of a stack of sponges into a funhouse deconstruction of focus and aperture.

The two untitled works by Hani Eid answer Buck’s method with sly acts of sleight-of-lens. Eid suggests manipulation where there is none, toying with his own authorship; what appears to be a dusty print of a gaudy sunset is in fact an extreme enlargement of a license plate smattered with the carapaces of highway insects. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Opening the Floodgate

Logan Square, News etc. No Comments »

Jason C. Hawk; Salvatore "Sal" Dominguez; Lloyd Mandelbaum, and Eric Gushee. Amy Hilber, their fifth member, is not pictured.

By Jaime Calder

Earlier this summer, five twenty-something artists, frustrated with what they considered a lack of fresh work within the current art scene and looking to develop a new artistic community, packed up their apartments, picked up some nail guns, and moved themselves into a 4,150-square-foot warehouse in Logan Square and began to set up shop. With fewer than five months under its belt, Red Gate is out not only to make a name for itself—but for a whole new group of artists investing themselves in a new aesthetically minded, cooperative society.

“Three and a half years ago, I was feeling really kind of disillusioned with the way school was going,” says sculptor and painter Jason Hawk. “Everyone was very involved in their own little world. So what I started thinking was, ‘How I could build some sort of an active community in this really isolationist place?’” Hawk wasn’t alone. As he spent more and more of his nights (and wee morning hours) in the studios at the School of the Art Institute, he found that a few of these late-night workers shared in his feelings of disaffection. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Uncrumpling This Much Crumpled Thing/The Exhibition Agency

Logan Square, Multimedia No Comments »

Anna Krachey, "Bonobo"


Under the broad umbrella of falsely representational art, seven artists from Austin, Chicago and New York are situated within the tidy, manicured apartment rooms of The Exhibition Agency. Housed in the same space as the short-lived Concertina Gallery, Corinna Kirsch’s newest curatorial project brings together a pleasant array of sculpture, photography, painting, video and sound, many of which reuse functional materials in slyly unexpected ways.

The show’s title comes from a line in a Wallace Stevens poem, “Le Monocle de Mon Oncle” (1918), and serves as Kirsch’s link between the works. With the title she proposes that representative art is an overused, “crumpled thing,” but that these seven artists in particular have uniquely attempted to grapple with creating new methods of representing reality. The strangest and most compelling revisions of representation in this exhibition can be seen in the work of Anna Krachey and Christopher Bradley. Krachey’s visceral, sexualized photographs, “Bonobo” and “Floral Market,” depict fleshy objects obscured by a crumpled, semi-transparent plastic film. Bradley, with “Stupid #2,” has created an absurd sculpture of precariously placed paint rollers and beer bottles, grounded by a man’s right shoe. A constant stream of water shoots from the center of the piece into a cooler filled with empty beer bottles on the floor. Amidst these functional objects, the shoe enables us to see a human representation, and thus it becomes—crudely—a portrait of a man taking a piss in the middle of the room. (Julia V. Hendrickson)

Through September 25 at The Exhibition Agency, 2351 North Milwaukee, second floor

Review: Aaron Fowler/Hungryman Gallery

Logan Square, Photography No Comments »

"Ocean," 2009


Not extreme enough to be surrealist and not nonsensical enough to be dada, Aaron Fowler’s black-and-white and color photos—tacked and pasted modestly on the gallery’s walls—depict odd juxtapositions of objects and bodies that are as likely to provoke a smile as a frisson. For the show’s title image, “Ocean,” Fowler proffers a conch shell with a cell phone protruding from its cavity that rests on a wavy deep blue woolen blanket covering a capacious bed. The abounding cross-references and visual puns and metaphors in that picture seduce us into attempting to affix a single meaning to it, yet we are inevitably reduced to failure. Fowler is also capable of being direct, as when he presents, in “Pun kin,” a bright grinning orange jack-o’-lantern with one of its teeth tied to a string, the other end of which is wrapped around a door knob in obvious ominous preparation for a primitive dental extraction. Fowler’s hallmark is the gentle edge that his studies project on life. (Michael Weinstein)

Through July 11 at Hungryman Gallery, 2135 N. Rockwell

Preview: Damian Abraham/Concertina Gallery

Drawings, Logan Square No Comments »


Punk rock purists will argue that “Epics in Minutes” (2004), the first full-length album by Canadian band Fucked Up, was their best output to date, let alone one of the best punk records of the past decade. With little difficulty, the group became underground scene favorites due to their near-perfect execution of the age-old hardcore-punk paradigm: fast, loud and powerful.

With eccentric lead vocalist Damian Abraham, a.k.a. “Pink Eyes,” at the helm, Fucked Up’s saga began to take a few unforeseen turns following their early underground success. The band continued to gain in popularity; Vice magazine jumped onboard, they signed to Matador Records, became born-again Christians and—as the cumulative result of all three occurrences—saw their punk-rock credibility vaporize. Like the great punk-rock front men of days gone by, Abraham’s solo live performances revel in chaos. The 300-pound lead vocalist routinely strips into the nude, and draws his own blood. More recently, his personal life has become punctuated by unpredictable exploit. In 2009, Abraham began making regular appearances on Fox News’ notoriously conservative program “Red Eye,” as an unofficial liberal color-commentator. Read the rest of this entry »