Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Liz Larner/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of Liz Larner,  on the Bluhm Family Terrace, the Art Institute of Chicago

Installation view of Liz Larner, on the Bluhm Family Terrace, the Art Institute of Chicago

RECOMMENDED

In Liz Larner’s current exhibition on the Art Institute’s Bluhm Terrace, two freestanding stainless steel sculptures have been placed at a diagonal to each other. While the generous amount of space between the works engenders but a faint conversation between them, the expansive wooden stage upon which they rest unites the pieces together as a pair. The urban lumber platform, constructed by Larner’s hands and held together by countless golden screws, is made from unflashy materials that would typically appear discreet—however, the large expanse of ash-wood boards fitted tightly together boldly contrast the terrace’s industrialized cityscape with a warm, simplistic rawness. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Josh Dihle/Valerie Carberry Gallery

Michigan Avenue, Painting No Comments »
Josh Dihle. "Erratica," 2015 oil on canvas over panel, 20" x 16"

Josh Dihle. “Erratica,” 2015
oil on canvas over panel, 20″ x 16″

RECOMMENDED

Featuring a lively mix of high and low sensibilities (modernist austerity, shark’s teeth and disembodied anuses) fused in nervous and unpredictable ways, the fourteen works in artist Josh Dihle’s “Inland Antic” at Valerie Carberry cover an abundance of visual terrain. From uncanny sci-fi landscapes to nonobjective abstractions, to a heavily incised sculptural object, the show’s multifaceted approach to pictorial space is simultaneously its strength and its vulnerability. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: If the Lions Aren’t Cowardly, Who Is?

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Charl Landvreugd. "Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe," 2014 archival inkjet print

Charl Landvreugd. “Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe,” 2014
archival inkjet print

By Matt Morris

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) is presently host to a fashion parade poised in lithe contestation of dominant racist portrayals of the contemporary urban black man as a streetwise predator, marked as such by codes of dress that lie between stereotypes of gangster, pimp and deadbeat. Enter the “Dandy Lion,” a cultural phenomenon curator Shantrelle P. Lewis here examines as a counterpoint to the sagging cliché. A fetish for fine tailoring, nostalgic forms of menswear interpreted through the performances and rituals of dress found variously in African cultures, an elegant, highly crafted self-image, and adept showmanship: these are among a dandy lion’s hallmarks. As Lewis notes in her curator’s statement, “[T]he African Diasporan dandy cleverly manipulates clothing and attitude to exert his agency rather than succumb to the limited ideals placed on him by society. He performs identity. Most importantly, an integral part of this rebellion entails posing before a camera.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Irving Stenn Jr. Gifts Personal Collection of 105 Drawings to Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Loop, Michigan Avenue, News etc. No Comments »
Ken Price. "Green Rock Cup," 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.

Ken Price. “Green Rock Cup,” 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.

The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) recently announced collector Irving Stenn Jr.’s gift of 105 pivotal contemporary drawings by renowned artists. Considered to be one of the most significant contributions of drawings to have ever been given to the museum, the encompassing and vast body of work heavily focuses on works from the 1960s, to which Stenn was keenly attracted. The gifts were exhibited a couple years ago at AIC but will now be part of their permanent collection, put on display on occasion when their inclusion is appropriate to the exhibitions. When asked in a phone interview about why he decided to donate the drawings now, Stenn says, “The timing seems right, the Art Institute of Chicago is wonderful, and these drawings belong in the public hand.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Inaugural Lake FX Summit + Expo – April 16-19

Art Fairs, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, News etc. No Comments »
Throughout Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, from 10am-4pm the Lake FX Expo at the Chicago Cultural Center will connect Chicago's creative community to the resources that can advance their career. Participants like Kickstarter, Inventables, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Kartemquin Films, Links Hall, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Fractured Atlas and others will be available in a trade show format for discussion with Expo visitors.

Throughout Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, from 10am-4pm the Lake FX Expo at the Chicago Cultural Center will connect Chicago’s creative community to the resources that can advance their career. Participants like Kickstarter, Inventables, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, Kartemquin Films, Links Hall, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Fractured Atlas and others will be available in a trade show format for discussion with Expo visitors.

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), an organization committed to bettering Chicago’s arts and culture, recently announced its full schedule for the inaugural Lake FX Summit + Expo, presented by Google and co-produced by CIMMfest and The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter, along with a host of sponsors. Geared toward artists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs, this free, four-day conference begins on April 16. It will include professional development panels, workshops, keynotes by industry leaders and a resource fair at the Chicago Cultural Center and various locations around the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Shaker in Chicago/Loyola University Museum of Art

Design, Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture 1 Comment »
A Pine "Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840" from New Lebanon, New York.

A Pine “Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840″ from New Lebanon, New York.

RECOMMENDED

Actually three separate exhibitions, this is altogether the most thorough presentation of Shaker culture ever seen in Chicago. More formally the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing,” the Shakers are the longest continually operating religious utopian community in America. At their height they numbered five thousand across twenty-two communities.

Nearly all the objects seen here were first collected in the 1920s and thirties by a passionate young American couple. But modernism itself owes a huge debt to the ornament-less functionality of Shaker design. “Beauty rests on utility,” is their maxim. Most people think furniture when they think Shaker, and visitors will certainly drool over the many fine pieces on display. Their famous ladder-back chairs—highly functional and quickly made—were the Ikea of their day. A cobbler’s bench has an ergonomic seat along with the patina of abundant use. Particularly charming are the dolls, the child’s rocker (originally priced at $3.25), and all the costume and textiles. But there are strange items here, too, such as an oddly humane adult cradle and an early electrostatic medical device (use unknown). Shaker road signs topped with scriptural warnings addressed trespassers, and fascinating “Gift Drawings” were the calligraphic version of speaking in tongues. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Eldzier Cortor/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
Eldzier Cortor. "L’Abbatoire I," 1950s, woodblock print

Eldzier Cortor. “L’Abbatoire I,” 1950s,
woodblock print

RECOMMENDED

In recognition of his lifetime achievement, a selection of Eldzier Cortor’s prints are now on display at the Art Institute. The earliest series, “L’abbatoire” (slaughterhouse), 1955-1980, documents the artist’s dismay over the violent politics of Haiti, where he once lived. The “Dance” series, 1978, presents the nubile female form in a kind of decorative pattern that recalls the murals of ancient Crete or Egypt. The “Jewels/Theme” series, 1985, encases those same graceful women in brilliant, sharply cut gemstones. The “Sepia Odalisque” series, 1998, sets them, as sultry pairs, into a Turkish harem. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Alison Ruttan

Artist Profiles, Ceramics, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Alison Ruttan in her installation "A Line in the Sand," at the Chicago Cultural Center

Alison Ruttan in her installation “A Line in the Sand,” at the Chicago Cultural Center

“My husband says the FBI knows what I’m doing because I have a heat signature constantly going,” chuckles artist Alison Ruttan as she leads me into the basement of her cozy Oak Park home. We pass from her living room lined with artworks by Ruttan’s husband Scott Stack and neighbor Sabina Ott into a series of chamber-like rooms with low ceilings and cement floors, all brimming with remnants of unused pieces from “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” which occupies the Cultural Center’s three Michigan Avenue galleries. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Generative Bodies and Subverted Norms

Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia No Comments »
Jesús Rafael Soto.  "Pénétrable de Chicago," 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.

Jesús Rafael Soto. “Pénétrable de Chicago,” 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.

By Matt Morris

Friends of mine are used to me bristling against the word “normal,” and many of the art students I teach have opted to avoid it lest they elicit a mini-lecture that questions the production of normalcy as an underlying societal force. At issue is how normative conceptions of being come about in relation to what is deemed abnormal: this could be queer, minority or, as I’m considering here, the production of the category of disability. 2015 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), leaving me with questions of what the art world has done over these decades to not only comply with government-mandated civil rights law but to actively imagine modes of engagement that appreciate differently abled bodies and minds of both art audiences and artists as an opportunity to create new forms of meaningful experience.

In his 2011 essay “Beautiful Progress to Nowhere,” Chicago-based artist, writer and educator Joseph Grigely wonders, “…The arts need disabled people; but it’s not clear what exactly defines this need. Is it because difference is ‘good’? Or is it because the experience disables those who interact with us, thereby rewriting the tacit rules by which we share space together?”

Perhaps innovations in how art can be a place of interaction for low and non-sighted individuals, those who are deaf, people with special needs for mobility and other perhaps difficult to predict differences in bodies stresses the incommensurability of shared experiences in art: it’s not the same for any of us, no matter what shared abilities we might have. I spoke with Dr. Carrie Sandahl, head of the Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities at UIC, “Everybody can get some experience of the artwork with their own history and apparatus, but it doesn’t have to match. Why do we think that it’s ever going to match? Audiences are going to bring different things.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dorothy Dehner/Valerie Carberry

Drawings, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Dorothy Dehner. "Untitled," 1975 ink on paper

Dorothy Dehner. “Untitled,” 1975
ink on paper

RECOMMENDED

Dehner’s training in the twenties took her from Cleveland to both coasts, and included several renowned teachers. With her artist spouse, she was a fixture in the upstate New York art colony of Bolton Landing. After her divorce in the fifties, Dehner moved to Manhattan, where she remained for the rest of her long life. She suffered staggering losses. Her parents and only sister died by the time she was eighteen. A second husband died in 1974. The wrong prescription rendered her blind shortly before her death in a stairwell in 1994.
Read the rest of this entry »