Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Monica Rezman/Packer Schopf Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
untitled, charcoal, paint, paper and glue, 2013

untitled, charcoal, paint, paper and glue, 2013

RECOMMENDED

About half of the seventeen pieces in Monica Rezman’s exhibition “The Pollen Path” are straightforward acrylic and charcoal works-on-paper. Those familiar with this Chicago artist’s oeuvre will note that, though her driving obsession with hair is still present, it’s not always front and center. In this show, the black serpentine marks that once appeared to be her works’ sole raison d’être are tempered by the inclusion of flatly colored geometric shapes. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Bronzeville’s Second Renaissance

Artist Profiles, Bronzeville, Hyde Park No Comments »
Samantha Hill's "Great Migration" installation at the Southside Hub of Production

Samantha Hill’s “Great Migration” installation at the Southside Hub of Production

Samantha Hill claims there is a cultural renaissance occurring in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. “There is palpable new energy circulating here amongst organizers, educators and residents that isn’t yet defined.” Determined to capture and engage in this revival, for her first solo exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center, Hill presents “Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance.”

Originally from Philadelphia, Hill has been naturally drawn toward and deeply involved in the cultural activities of the South Side since her arrival in the city ten years ago. She has organized happenings, held residencies and taught art courses at the South Side Community Art Center and Chicago State University. As a social art practitioner, bringing people together and facilitating conversations is at the heart of heart of what she does, and it is through working in these neighborhoods that Hill has been able to get to know people at the forefront of Bronzeville’s new momentum, record their stories and discover the spirit of the neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jane Freilicher/Poetry Foundation and Valerie Carberry Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
"Portrait of Kenneth Koch,"  oil on linen, c. 1966

“Portrait of Kenneth Koch,” oil on linen, c. 1966

RECOMMENDED

Jane Freilicher is a poet’s painter or at least that’s how her poet friends from the 1950s have characterized her. As the current exhibit at the Poetry Foundation demonstrates, Freilicher returned the favor, rendering portraits of each of them, beginning with a full-figure oil portrait of Frank O’Hara. The year was 1951. Freilicher was twenty seven, O’Hara was twenty five, and avant-garde poetry, jazz and painting were erupting all over the Lower East Side of postwar New York. Frank wrote Jane a letter about an essay that was “really lucid about what’s bothering us both besides sex.” It was Paul Goodman’s manifesto that summer in the Kenyon Review, touting the “advance-guard artist” who is “especially concerned with dissolving the introjected (imperfect, unsatisfactory) society.” That letter, as well as other correspondence and collaborations with poet friends, is now also on display at the Poetry Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Emmett Kerrigan/Linda Warren Projects

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
“Racine SW,” oil on canvas, 2013

“Racine SW,” oil on canvas, 2013

RECOMMENDED

Emmett Kerrigan climbed onto the roof of his home and photographed views of his West Town neighborhood. Then he put those urban scenes into paint—the uniformly thick paint preferred by some self-taught artists and those who study that technique to deliver a sense of gut-felt immediacy rather than objective observation. And he handled it beautifully, even as the black power lines cut deep furrows through the billowing thick pigment. A sameness of focus throughout the visual field helps create a world that feels safe, lovable and familiar. Every red brick and every green leaf delivered me right back to a happy childhood in an aging city neighborhood not much different from his. Soft, clumpy waves of foliage nicely complement the hard edges of the buildings, producing an effect that is dreamy and mesmerizing. But that spell is absent in another group of paintings, where Kerrigan paints that same foliage all by itself, as single trees against a black background. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Faith Wilding/Threewalls

Drawings, Performance, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view. Photo: Clare Britt

Installation view. Photo: Clare Britt

RECOMMENDED

The comedian Brian Regan once recalled describing his symptoms to the doctor: “It feels like everything on my inside wants to be on my outside.” Switch that from physical to emotional feelings and you have the work of prominent feminist, writer, teacher and artist, Faith Wilding, whose impressive sampling of her enormous life’s work is on display in a retrospective exhibition.

In 1972, Wilding participated in the groundbreaking feminist exhibition Womanhouse, the first public showcase of feminist art, in Los Angeles. There she performed “Waiting,” a highly influential piece that continues to have resonance today. Wilding’s work has been shown in major feminist art exhibitions over the last forty years and continues to hold sway in contemporary feminist discourse. Because of her accomplishments, the Women’s Caucus for Art is awarding her a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Inevitably, Wilding’s renowned feminist background coats the show with political and historical overtones. However, her artwork also stands tall on a separate stage: that of Faith Wilding’s impassioned journey through life. Bodies, plants, moths and horses memorialize loss, catharsis, transformation and renewal. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Zoe Nelson/Western Exhibitions

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
"Holes in Memory Create Colors in my Mind," 2012

“Holes in Memory Create Colors in my Mind,” oil on cut and collaged canvas and stretcher bars, 2012

RECOMMENDED

It looks like everything that’s happening in this young painter’s life is beautiful—or, at least, now that she has turned thirty that’s how she can see it, even if she’s cut, torn and shredded her canvases in the process. Nelson’s energy is ferocious, so it’s a wonder that any cloth is left on the stretchers at all—but yes, fragments are still there, and they are as wantonly eye-catching as tropical fish, and composed like a cat that has fallen out a window, acrobatically twisting through the air on the way down, and then elegantly walking away after a perfect landing. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bill Rauhauser/Carl Hammer Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
"Snake Girl," circa 1960

“Snake Girl,” circa 1960

RECOMMENDED

Back in the day when Detroit was Motown, making Thunderbirds and coating the cosmos with pop soul, Bill Rauhauser was out on the streets with his camera, funky as one can get, shooting freak-show signage, a Shriners parade, teenagers cavorting in the lake, ordinary undignified people and musicians plying their trade, all in black and white, and all with an indulgent tongue-in-cheek smile. Those were the days, it would seem, although the other sixties—the riots and the protests—presaged the post-industrial pit into which the city has fallen, at least in the public mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ben Stone/Western Exhibitions

Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
"Heartlight," painted cast resin, 2013

“Heartlight,” painted cast resin, 2013

RECOMMENDED

The world out there is such a big dangerous place, it’s a good idea to protect children from it until they can fend for themselves—so often they are parked in bedrooms filled with toys that satisfy a yearning for adventure without taking any risks. Ben Stone has to be every boy’s favorite uncle—the kind who disappears into his workshop and two weeks later emerges with some clever, unique, imaginative toy that nobody else could have dreamed up, much less hand-crafted. Like a life-sized dog chasing a raccoon up a tree; or a floor-standing pair of baseball players swinging the same bat; or a three-masted schooner sailing across the floor; or an ornamental wall frieze of E.T. chatting up some children. Remember E.T.—the extra-terrestrial creature from a blockbuster film made thirty years ago? Maybe not, unless you’re as old as the artist and, actually, all of these toys seem to be more about the dreams and fantasies of his own childhood than anyone else’s, back before children could play in electronic, virtual realities. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Michael Rakowitz/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

West Loop No Comments »
"Study for The Breakup – Fantasy Objects," 2012, Get Back fantasy album and ephemera, 1970; Joe Orton, Up Against It, book; Live in Saratha fantasy album, 1969; Beatles signature in the hand of Paul McCartney, 1965; Yoko Ono, Now or Never LP, 1972; Yesterday and Today LP, butcher cover, 1966; Muammar Gaddafi stamp, 1986; fantasy concert ticket, 1965; Israeli currency for the Occupied Territories, never printed in Israel, 1967; Coins, never issued in California, 2010; Currency from Jordan, Syria and Egypt, 1967.

“Study for The Breakup – Fantasy Objects,” 2012, Get Back fantasy album and ephemera, 1970; Joe Orton, Up Against It, book; Live in Saratha fantasy album, 1969; Beatles signature in the hand of Paul McCartney, 1965; Yoko Ono, Now or Never LP, 1972; Yesterday and Today LP, butcher cover, 1966; Muammar Gaddafi stamp, 1986; fantasy concert ticket, 1965; Israeli currency for the Occupied Territories, never printed in Israel, 1967; Coins, never issued in California, 2010; Currency from Jordan, Syria and Egypt, 1967.

RECOMMENDED

Equal parts Middle East history lesson and VH1 “Behind the Music” episode, there’s precious little to dislike about Iraqi-American conceptual artist Michael Rakowitz’s “The Breakup” at Rhona Hoffman Gallery. Through a full-on multimedia presentation encompassing audio, video, collage, memorabilia and a limited-edition vinyl pressing, Rakowitz autopsies the slow dissolution of the world’s most famous pop band, The Beatles, in conjunction with an examination of contemporaneous events that led to the significantly more ruinous dissolution of Pan-Arab nationalism.

Replete with items such as a Lebanese pressing of the “Hey Jude”/”Revolution” forty-five record, various images of Yasser Arafat, old newspapers, a rock from Palestine (a reference to the 1987 Intifada) and bootleg LPs from Rakowitz’s personal collection, the sheer volume of objects and information takes time to adequately digest. And while these articles—and the associations Rakowitz draws among them—are of great interest, the cornerstones of the exhibition are undoubtedly the artist’s original radio broadcasts and film, both titled “The Breakup.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lora Fosberg/Linda Warren Projects

West Loop No Comments »
“We are alone in this together,” gouache, plaster and wax on panel, 2013

“We are alone in this together,” gouache, plaster and wax on panel, 2013

RECOMMENDED

In Lora Fosberg’s fifth solo exhibition at the gallery, man is pitted against nature in a clear-cut, post-industrial landscape. Trees are falling, cities are burning and tornados are rampant in her paintings. All the while, Lilliputian-sized lumberjacks continue on with their tasks, grappling with massive piles of felled wood and attempting to push them downstream. Fosberg presents humanity’s tenuous engagement with the natural world in a darkly comical fashion—an illustrative, cartoon-like style—that amplifies the divide between the subject matter and its portrayal.

Fosberg’s aptly titled exhibition “The End of Absurdity” pairs low-relief plaster panels and line drawings with small-scale found object sculptures. In all of Fosberg’s works, she presents depictions of a potential future in a world that resembles something very close to ours. In “I’M SO SORRY FOR EVERYTHING,” a purple psychedelic cloud swirls around a burning building that is ironically topped with a water tower. From a distance, this piece (and Fosberg’s other relief panels) appears to be drawn freehand, but upon closer inspection it is revealed that the lines that comprise Fosberg’s compositions are first etched into the smooth plaster surface prior to being filled with color. The textural quality (and inherent aggression therein) of the incised concentric smoke circles mimic those patterns found in Fosberg’s illustrations of crosscut lumber along with the physical logs protruding into the gallery space. Read the rest of this entry »