Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Richard Hunt and Lois Weisberg Among Fifth Star Awards Recipients Announced Today

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Sculptor Richard Hunt, one of the Fifth Star Awards honorees

Sculptor Richard Hunt, one of the Fifth Star Awards honorees

Today the City of Chicago announced the recipients of the inaugural Fifth Star Awards in a press conference at the Chicago Cultural Center. Five Chicago artists, arts advocates and cultural institutions will be honored by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) in a free live show at the Pritkzer Pavilion in Millennium Park on Wednesday, September 17 at 7pm. The honorees are as follows: Lou Conte, Richard Hunt, Ramsey Lewis, Lois Weisberg and The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. The event has been scheduled in the same week as EXPO Chicago and the accompanying EXPO Art Week, when the city is a major destination for art lovers, dealers and collectors. A full roster of performers and schedule of events for the September 17 show will be released soon.

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Review: Larry Snider/Douglas Dawson Gallery

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Larry Snider. "Cleaning Mosque, India," 2013

Larry Snider, “Cleaning Mosque, India,” 2013

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Taking clear and deceptively unassuming straight color images, globetrotting photographer Larry Snider has divided his most recent work between posed portraits of Tibetans in China and mainly depopulated interiors of old public buildings from the USA, Denmark, Cuba and India. The highlights of the show are the interiors, in which Snider has positioned his camera to capture intriguing designs composed of architectural details, displaying up-front a formalist side of his vision that he had previously subsumed under a concern with emotional content that characterizes his humanist portraits. Whereas in the past, it was important to know where Snider had shot his images since they function as documents of the life of a particular place, that is less significant now, because the interest of his interiors resides in the internal arrangement of photographic values (light, texture, line and shape, for example) rather than in their external references. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jaume Plensa/Millennium Park and Richard Gray Gallery

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"Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda," polyester resin and marble dust, 2012. Photo by Tom Van Eynde

“Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda,” polyester resin and marble dust, 2012. Photo by Tom Van Eynde

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Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa designed his first gigantic head, “Dream,” in 2009 on the site of an abandoned coal mine to help a former mining town, as his website puts it, “fill the void left by the colliery since its closure.” Since then, similar heads have popped up in cities around the world, with four now installed in Millennium Park. All of them are derived from digitally modified 3D photographs of girls on the verge of puberty. All have their eyes closed, as if peacefully looking inward.

The shining white, thirty-nine foot “Looking into my dreams, Awilda” serves well as the Madison Street gateway, inviting the public into what is essentially a contemporary art amusement park. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ethel Stein/Art Institute of Chicago

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Ethel Stein. "No to Indian Point," 1997

Ethel Stein. “No to Indian Point,” 1997

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With her mastery of craftsmanship and design, Ethel Stein, born 1917, might now be the master weaver at the Bauhaus had it endured as long she has. This retrospective, spanning 1982 through 2008, suggests that her primary concern in those years was the pictorial potential of work produced on an old-fashioned drawloom, photographs of which are prominently displayed beside her work. Responding to personal, community and art world concerns, she did things with a loom that have more often been done with brush, paint and canvas. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Hebru Brantley/Chicago Cultural Center

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Hebru Brantley. "O.M.G."

Hebru Brantley. “O.M.G.”

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The large-scale canvases in Hebru Brantley’s “Parade Day Rain” document the travails and revelries of his iconic character The Fly-Boy and his accompanying crew of poly-cultural homies: all vibrant, active, bruised and soaring. Here is an incredibly fresh assemblage of a makeshift community of young people who traverse emotional territory and urban landscape with hope and heartbreak.

Based off The Tuskegee Airmen, Brantley’s Fly-Boy is a black comic-book superhero in a landscape where heroes are usually white, and criminals too often depicted as black. Often Brantley renders his characters in profile against dense pastiche backdrops filled with Nike symbols, bootleg Bart Simpsons, and Jack Johnson dropping lead fists on the head of white supremacy. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artists: Miller & Shellabarger

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Miller & Shellabarger. "Again Gone," installation view

Miller & Shellabarger. “Again Gone,” installation view

“Western Exhibitions shows all three of us,” say Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, meaning the Chicago gallery separately represents Dutes, Stan and S&M, their collaborative practice as Miller & Shellabarger. The two met as undergraduates studying ceramics and organically began to work together on artistic projects. Twenty-one years later, the couple shares an Irving Park home and studio where individual art practices continue to grow alongside joint projects. Teaming up as Miller & Shellabarger periodically dominates their individual practices, while at other times independent work demands a hiatus from the collaborative. They have found an effortless ebb-and-flow, and three is not a crowd in this household.

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Review: Matthew Girson/Chicago Cultural Center

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Matthew Girson. "The Painter's Other Library," installation view

Matthew Girson. “The Painter’s Other Library,” installation view

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A vexatious cloud hangs low over Matthew Girson’s new exhibition “The Painter’s Other Library.” Depicting endless shelves of meticulously placed books, the artist’s many compositions are executed in a brooding, almost impenetrable palette. At first blush, they read simply as black. As the eyes adjust to the paintings’ hushed tones, book after book, arranged to echo the precision and symmetry of modernist geometric abstraction, slowly emerge from the oleaginous mire. The beguiling tension within these works is heightened by the stark white walls and cathedral-like atmosphere of the Chicago Cultural Center. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Chicago Cultural Center Launches Residency for Artists and Curators

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CCC

Applications became available on July 11 for the Chicago Cultural Center’s Studio Artist and Curatorial Residency Program. It is the first program of its kind administered by the city. Six artists will be given a studio for the three-month residencies in the Cultural Center and a $2,000 per month, restriction-free stipend. Applications are due July 31. Emerging curators selected for the fellowship will work with DCASE staff to produce exhibitions in the Cultural Center. “It’s very much an experiment and a new program for us,” says Daniel Schulman, director of visual art, when reached for comment by phone. “There are a few goals with the program,” says Schulman. “It’s a way of bringing artists to us, it increases our interaction with artists, and it allows the Cultural Center to be more of an active hub.”

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Review: René Magritte/Art Institute of Chicago

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René Magritte. "Clairvoyance (La Clairvoyance)," oil on canvas, 1936

René Magritte. “Clairvoyance (La Clairvoyance),” oil on canvas, 1936

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A girl devours a bird; feet morph into shoes; a nude female torso reads as a face. “René Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938,” the Art Institute of Chicago’s summer blockbuster, showcases the most important period of the Surrealist who precisely painted a new and disturbing reality. The exhibition is a collaboration between Houston’s Menil Collection, MoMA and the AIC.

It has a narrow focus—just a dozen years—when Magritte painted his “breakthrough” images. (The floating bowler-hatted men with umbrellas were later.) But many of his most famous pictures are here: ones that defined Surrealism and modern art, such as “The Treachery of Images” (“Ceci n’est-pas une pipe”) and “The Lovers” (a kissing couple with shrouded heads). Even though Magritte’s paintings operate as illustrations—he was a professional illustrator, after all—this show restores their status as paintings rather than as posters or jpegs. The works’ scale may surprise, as will the immaculate strokes and the saturated colors.

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News: Chicago Design Museum Opens New Home in the Loop

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Gallery view of a pop-up exhibition by the Chicago Design Museum

Gallery view of a pop-up exhibition by the Chicago Design Museum

The Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM), an organization that began in Phoenix, Arizona, and evolved when co-founder Tanner Woodford relocated to Chicago, is opening a 5,000-square-foot permanent space on the third floor of the Block Thirty Seven building at 108 North State. For the past two years, ChiDM has held annual exhibitions in pop-up locations that have explored themes like dynamic uses of typography in Chicago’s urban landscape, and the ways that work and play are blurred within design as a professional field. With the opening of a permanent space, they also open their first exhibition of 2014, “Starts/Speculations: Graphic Design in Chicago Past and Future,” which runs from June 12 through September 30.

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