Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Matthew Bender and Justin Nolan/Schneider Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Photography, River North No Comments »
Matthew Bender, "Piano, Penn Hills Resort," Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 30"

Matthew Bender. “Piano, Penn Hills Resort,” 2014
Archival Pigment Print, 24″ x 30″


In a self-conscious pairing of aesthetically similar bodies of photographic work with seemingly radically different sensibilities, this exhibit brings together Justin Nolan, who takes pictures of simulated faux nostalgic glamour (think of the interiors of Las Vegas commercial palaces—the very inspiration for postmodernism), and Matthew Bender, who shoots the insides of derelict buildings. The first impression upon entering the gallery space is that one is looking at a solo show. The images are all in color, limpid, clear and luscious, with elegant plays of light and shadow.  Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Nina Chanel Abney

Artist Profiles, Galleries & Museums, Painting, Public Art, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney stands in front of a large auditorium full of people. It’s 2011, and she’s just been welcomed to the stage of Washington D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, where she’s giving a visiting-artist lecture. “I’m a little nervous, but it’s been very humbling to be a part of the ‘30 Americans’ exhibition,” she begins. “Just four years ago, I was in school and I signed up for an artist studio tour and we went to Kehinde Wiley and Wangechi Mutu’s studios—and now I’m in a show with them and it’s a little bit weird.” With a smiling mouth and quivering voice, she continues. “This is my first lecture, so I hope I do a good job for you guys.”

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Review: Brandon Anschultz/Regards Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Brandon Anschultz. "Spearmint," 2015 oil, watercolor, gouache on canvas, 11" x 8.5" / Photo by Eileen Mueller.

Brandon Anschultz. “Spearmint,” 2015
oil, watercolor, gouache on canvas, 11″ x 8.5″/Photo: Eileen Mueller


Contemporary art so often pursues the aesthetics of surprise that it takes a willful suspension of disbelief to find anything unexpected. In this way, the curation of the Brandon Anschultz exhibition is not especially surprising. A large wooden plank hangs casually over a balcony as if it had not yet been installed. A small sculpture is hidden away on a remote window sill; another has been placed in a dark corner on the floor, though an attached wire indicates that it was fabricated to hang from above. None of this seems unusual, nor do the drippy-glob sculptures that were made by dipping ordinary objects, like shoes, repeatedly into buckets of thick paint. So much of the world is messy and chaotic, there is nothing strange about one more room of it.

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News: Logan Center Announces New Exhibitions Curator

Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park, News etc. No Comments »
Yesomi Umolu, photo courtesy Trumpie Photography.

Yesomi Umolu/Photo: Trumpie Photography

After a worldwide search, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago has appointed Yesomi Umolu as Exhibitions Curator. Beginning in August, Umolu will oversee exhibitions in the Logan Center Gallery and other spaces throughout the multidisciplinary arts building. Previously, this position was held by Monika Szewczyk, who left the center that she had helped establish to join the curatorial team for documenta, an exhibition of modern and contemporary art held every five years in Kassel, Germany.

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Review: Manish Nai/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Architecture, Collage, Craft Work, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Manish Nai. "Untitled," 2015 Dyed burlap, 90" x 4"

Manish Nai. “Untitled,” 2015
Dyed burlap, 90″ x 4″


The work of Mumbai-based Manish Nai makes a viewer reconsider the limits of an artistic medium. He doesn’t use traditional media, such as heavy metals and wood, oil or acrylic. Instead, Nai uses everyday materials—cardboard, jute, newspaper and even his family’s used clothing—to sculpt, mark and render.

For his first solo exhibition in the United States, Nai has created wall hangings, photographic prints, sculptures and four site-specific works, including a gallery pillar wrapped in jute, a burlap-like material that is abundant in India, and a heat-transferred mural that will slowly disappear during the course of the exhibition. His use of traditional artistic processes, such as weaving or drawing and sculpting by hand, in conjunction with contemporary rendering techniques borrowed from digital and new media art, design and architecture give these objects a surprising new dynamism. By combining the old and the new, Nai’s work is thoroughly international even as it remains fully Indian.
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Review: Dont Fret/Johalla Projects

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Painting, Public Art, Street Art, West Town No Comments »
Dont Fret. "Saturday Night Fever," 2015. Acrylic on paper.

Dont Fret. “Saturday Night Fever,” 2015.
Acrylic on paper.


“There are only two seasons in Chicago,” reads the poster pasted on a utility box, “Winter and construction.” The last time that I encountered the work of Dont Fret in the wild there was snow on the ground. Summer finds the artist moving from works on the street back into the gallery with little difficulty, but some trepidation.

At Johalla Projects, a group of works on paper cover one wall, each of them functioning individually, but all fitting together as a conceptual whole. Mixed in are purposely ham-fisted, muddy-colored abstractions with phrases like “Hi, I’m an idea based painting” or “I like his early work better.” These are perhaps a nod to the “zombie formalism” debates from last year and including a good bit of the artist’s own anxiety about his place in the art ecosystem. He needn’t worry about the art world silliness. Dont Fret is still at his best in his depictions of Chicago life and Chicagoans. The details and insights in his art can only come from years spent observing the changes to the city and the people, and from those quiet moments of profundity that come from a history of experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Phillip Maisel/Document Gallery

Collage, Design, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Phillip Maisel. "Serengeti Green (1836)," 2015 Archival Pigment Print and Scrim. 17" x 24"

Phillip Maisel. “Serengeti Green (1836),” 2015
Archival Pigment Print and Scrim. 17″ x 24″


Repetition with minuscule change might be the hallmark of our day. Apps update regularly, new iPhones roll out yearly, movies reinvent themselves over and over again, all in a pursuit of user satisfaction. A good indicator of this is someone like Katy Perry—plastic bag, party girl, roaring tiger—in short, whatever we want or need her to be. This endless buffet of options suits our twenty-first-century needs but also keeps us fickle and anxious. Phillip Maisel’s photographs in his exhibition “Serengeti Green” use the vernacular of constant, minimal change that dictates this contemporary anxiety, asking us to slow down and consider these minor variations.

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Review: Cosmosis/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of "Cosmosis" at the Hyde Park Art Center. Photo by Tom Van Eynde.

Installation view of “Cosmosis” at the Hyde Park Art Center/Photo: Tom Van Eynde


The works presented in “Cosmosis” celebrate outer space’s contemporary moment while exploring the increasing overlap between popular culture, scientific inquiry and artistic production. The dense but balanced group show features muted 2D works which offset the scale and ambition of sculpture and media counterparts; great emphasis is placed in the ability of these images and objects to act as agents of communication and interpretation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Julie Green/Block Museum of Art

Activist Art, Ceramics, Evanston, Installation No Comments »
Julie Green. "The Last Supper," 2000-ongoing. Installation view of 357 plates in the 2009 exhibition "Counter Intelligence," California State University, Los Angeles.

Julie Green. “The Last Supper,” 2000-ongoing. Installation view of 357 plates in the 2009 exhibition “Counter Intelligence,” California State University, Los Angeles.


From a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, to the sentencing of Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death, our flawed criminal justice system is ever present in our lives. Julie Green’s set of 600 plates illustrating the final meals of U.S. death row inmates helps us remember the human lives behind the news. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Timothy J. Clark/Loyola University Museum of Art

Drawings, Michigan Avenue, Painting No Comments »
Timothy J. Clark. "Vernazza, 1994," 1994 watercolor on paper

Timothy J. Clark. “Vernazza, 1994,” 1994
watercolor on paper


Exemplified by Brunelleschi’s demonstration of one-point perspective in depicting the Baptistery in Florence 500 years ago, Renaissance pictorial space was built to encompass ecclesiastic architecture, and it’s been the standard for European painters to either meet or disrupt ever since. Watercolorist Timothy J. Clark has joined that tradition in his depictions of Baroque churches. Following Monet’s renditions of Rouen Cathedral, he has emphasized the qualities of light and shadow rather than space and volume. But the gravitas, once thought appropriate for such revered subjects, just isn’t there. Nor is the vibrant excitement that an Impressionist like John Singer Sargent could give to the effects of strong Mediterranean light falling on Italian buildings. Read the rest of this entry »