Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Video Game Art Gallery Opens in Chicago

Logan Square, Multimedia, News etc., Prints No Comments »
"Battleship Bay" from Irrational Games, digital art print, 39" x 70"

“Battleship Bay” from Irrational Games, digital art print, 39″ x 70″

When Chaz Evans and Jonathan Kinkley met while studying art history at UIC a few years ago, they embarked on a dream to start a gallery project that celebrated the work of artists who create the spectacular visual experiences in video games. On August 8, they will launch the new Video Game Art Gallery, with their first exhibition hosted by Galerie F in Logan Square. This initial foray into a physical show of fine art prints is part of VGA’s work across their online platform as well as through exhibition programming. In an email, Evans explains, “We are working with this hybrid model as it fits well with the media we are showing: it exists both as live software but also as framed images.” The gallery’s website is set up so that collectors can purchase prints that range in price from $75 to $400. Some of the games from which the inkjet prints have been drawn are widely popular, such as “BioShock: Infinite.” But Evans and Kinkley also hope to introduce audiences to visually stunning hidden gems like “MirrorMoon EP,” a first-person puzzler by Santa Ragione with concept art by Gabriele Brombin. Playable demos of these and other games will complement the prints on view at Galerie F in August. Other future pop-up exhibitions are currently in the works.

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News: Censorship Accusations after Artwork Ousted from Exhibition

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"Milshire SRO Blanket," fleece blanket printed with original photography and memorial statement, 80" x 60". Part of Amie Sell's "Home Sweet Home" project that was removed from MAAF without her consent.

“Milshire SRO Blanket,” fleece blanket printed with original photography and memorial statement, 80″ x 60.” Part of Amie Sell’s “Home Sweet Home” project that was removed from MAAF without her consent.

This year’s Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival (MAAF) became a site for controversy when Amie Sell’s site-specific installation dealing with affordable housing and displacement through neighborhood development was taken down without the artist’s consent the day the show was meant to open. In a thorough account on Sell’s website, she states that it was Mark Fishman, a real estate developer who owns the building in which her work was to be shown, who was responsible for shutting down the exhibition. Fishman is directly criticized in “Home Sweet Home,” the ongoing project Sell intended to exhibit, and also sits on the I Am Logan Square board, the nonprofit organization that sponsors MAAF along with other cultural events and career development opportunities for artists.

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Review: Andy Karol/Beauty & Brawn

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"Alexandra," black-and-white archival inkjet print on metal

“Alexandra,” black-and-white archival inkjet print on metal


On a mission of social enlightenment, Andy Karol’s project “Eden: Expressions in Gender” seeks to create a photographic “human space” by taking small-format black-and-white “fine art nude portraits” in wooded areas around Chicago. The people depicted represent all conceivable variations on gender identity, and there are many more of those than the uninitiated might think. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Stranger Danger/Adult Contemporary

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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

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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

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"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

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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

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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

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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

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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 »