“Composition 10,” 2012. 4 x 4 inches, gouache on paperboard.
Even in the world of miniature paintings, the work of Nicholas Sistler is rather small. Every piece in his current exhibition measures four inches on a side. There’s no way his paintings are going to enter your world; you’ve got to focus in on his. As gallery trippers may recall, his 2012 show at Firecat Projects featured interior scenes with suggestions of sexual anxiety. The neat, nondescript, smooth surfaces in strong primary colors echoed the décor of fast-food restaurants, and human figures appeared as flat images tacked up on the imaginary walls, often suggesting furtive sexual obsession, depicted with the off-kilter angularity of a comic-book crime scene. Oh, for a breath of fresh air!
Such representational imagery is mostly absent from this exhibition, but the intensity is still there. The artist has moved into a kind of geo-form abstraction where a community of distinct patterns, sometimes more suggested than completed, happily coexist even as they move outward toward the edges to escape their confinement. Isn’t this a fine metaphor for modern, secular, creative urban life? Read the rest of this entry »
Bill Traylor (1854-1949) may be the most accidental of accidental artists. Born into slavery on the Traylor plantation of Alabama, at the age of eighty-five he was homeless in Montgomery, spending his days on the street, making drawings with found materials. Eventually, some artists, dealers and folklorists found him, and posthumously he became an iconic figure in American outsider art. I’m not sure that the pieces now being shown at Carl Hammer Gallery, who first brought his work to Chicago thirty years ago, would have established that reputation. They’re mostly simple, quick sketches of one or two figures, less complex than his multi-figure narratives. Read the rest of this entry »
avery r young, “lady sings de blue(s) or billie head was bleevin at carnegie hall”
By B. David Zarley
Sharing a dedication to the arts and yet diametrically opposed—one bathed in the warm glow of gentrification, under the aegis of the University of Chicago, the other in Washington Park on the periphery of the cluster of shops and street violence murals (“Spray paint, not bullets”) that have sprung up like foxglove in the shadows of the Green Line on Garfield Boulevard—one would be hard pressed to find a better dyadic home for “The Distance Between,” the consummation of the artists-in-residence for the Arts+Public Life/Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture, than the Logan Center for the Arts and the Arts Incubator.
Separated from one another by the verdant expanse of Washington Park, the environs surrounding Logan and the Incubator ably reflect the Janus-like face of the South Side; “The Distance Between” revels in, pontificates upon and avails itself to said space. At the recent “Park Crossing” event, live music from resident artists LeRoy Bach and Tomeka Reid straddled the park, most notably in “Washington Park Suite,” which featured cellists Reid and Fred Lonberg-Holm playing ad-hoc, simultaneous improvisational movements from across the park, their individual contributions manipulated and reflected to each other in real time across the space by Todd Carter and Alex Inglizian. Read the rest of this entry »
Modernism was about fifty-years-old when Laszlo Moholy-Nagy reconvened the Bauhaus school of design on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1937, but he still was promoting a dynamic, fearless, forward-looking “new vision” for the modern age, a vision that continued through the first decade of that institution as it was reconstituted in 1944 as the Institute of Design. But now, nearly seventy years later, it does feel safely buried in the past, especially in this current exhibition. Organized by the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art together with the Bauhaus Chicago Committee, no attempt has been made at an innovative, provocative design for the exhibit itself. The walls are cluttered with furniture, pictures and photographs, while assorted catalogs, magazines, knick-knacks and jewelry are spread out on long folding tables. It feels more like a flea market than an art museum gallery. It also seems that diversity, rather than quality, was the guiding principle in selection. But, as flea markets go, this is a very good one, including some of the very first covers of Playboy magazine, whose first art director, Art Paul, a graduate of I.D., also designed the Playboy rabbit logo. Read the rest of this entry »
For at least thirty years, the conversation surrounding geometric abstraction has been mired in the shop-worn rhetoric of early twentieth-century modernism, its relationship to utopian ideals, a critique of said modernism, or some combination thereof. Besides being played out, I’ve never found these approaches particularly illuminating. Far more provocative possibilities emerge when one encounters geometric painting as it truly is: a form of sculpture, subject to the pressures and demands of the discipline.
Unlike two-dimensional work, which offers us a glimpse into a credible alternative reality fashioned by the artist, sculpture projects itself outward, extending its influence into our world and transforming our physical relationship with it. By not demanding that we look “in” but instead inviting us to look “at” and “around,” the modestly scaled “signs” in Belgian artist Alain Biltereyst’s attractive new show, “Notes” at Devening Projects + Editions, accomplish such a feat. Read the rest of this entry »
“Red Eye,” 2012
Outside the gallery world, graffiti is a common visual expression of youthful exuberance. Its isolated, calligraphic intensity is just like the young person who made it—demanding the recognition of personal self-expression, context be damned. That same reckless and almost unbearable intensity can be found in the first Chicago solo exhibition of Sarah Sohn, a recent MFA graduate from SAIC. Her brushwork is calligraphic, with a single, ornate character smack in the middle of a blank canvas, overwhelming the edges. But the aggressiveness is quite different. It’s less like the angry waving of an arm than the healthy, happy, slithering convolutions of an intestinal tract. The results are a bit disgusting, but her bravura brushwork is so suggestive and translucent, you can’t stop following it. It’s the love song of the inner organs. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Genovese’s linear wall reliefs mimic the everyday cracks in pavement, walls and other human structures that surround us; they also serve as traces and indexes of the less tangible fractures around us. His current exhibition at Paris, London, Hong Kong (the new gallery’s second show), “Joliet,” references the city that brands itself the “crossroads of Mid-America” and has historically served as both a railway transportation hub and a site for adult and juvenile prisons. Genovese, originally from Chicago, uses these local associations to his advantage, giving the slick, nickel-plated, mirror-polished steel cracks that crawl across the gallery space more political and historical weight. But the formalisms of the cracks themselves stand alone as repositories for abstract imagery from natural and invented worlds: like stitched seams, imagined lines of constellations, and uncanny growth of strange plant life, they seem filled with forces of gravity and grace, dripping down walls or attempting to scale and branch. The overall effect recalls Charles Ray’s famous declaration about “Hinoki,” on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, that he was trying to Read the rest of this entry »
“Verse Space – Ma and Ki – Violet”
Like Chicago’s resident Japanese-American master, Michiko Itatani, Keiko Hara was born in Asia and has enjoyed a long, productive career in the United States. But unlike Itatani, Hara carries more of the Shinto than the Buddhist tradition, as her paintings echo the abundance and resilience of nature. Murkiness and drippiness are her special delights. Unlike an Ab-Ex superstar like Cy Twombly, the apparently careless marks affirm rather than challenge an aesthetic of order and balance. Isn’t it more satisfying when the acrobat actually manages to stay aloft on the shaky tightrope? Hara often uses repetitive shapes—circles are her favorite—to measure space across the canvas and separate surface from background, but their variations and pattern are way too lively to be called minimalist. Her images recall the haphazard fall of raindrops on a dusty window, except that they’re not chaotic, they’re perfectly composed, with a sense of the miraculous in each piece, whether small or very, very large. Water seems to be beneath, within or dripping through all of her paintings. One large painting, “Verse Space—Ma and Ki—Violet,” feels like a rainy night in the city, with bright, colorful lights glowing through the moisture. As that title would suggest, Keiko is fluent with the empty space (“ma”) and undefined energy (“ki”) of Japanese aesthetics. Read the rest of this entry »
Friday, September 6
“Maleness to Manhood: Reclamation of the Young Black Man,” forty-five artists including Dawoud Bey, Hebru Brantley, Bernard Williams and others.
South Side Community Art Center, 3831 South Michigan.
Opening reception: 6pm-9pm. Through October 5.
“Beautiful Decay:” Jeffrey Allen Price, Lynn Basa, Charles Shotwell and Yvette Weijergang.
Chicago Art Source Gallery, 1871 North Clybourn, second floor.
Opening reception: 5pm-8pm. Through November 2.
Mark Brown and Kelly Vivanco, painting.
Rotofugi, 2780 North Lincoln.
Opening reception: 7pm-10pm. Through September 29.
Sean Mort: “United Prints of America,” screenprints.
Galerie F, 2381 North Milwaukee.
Opening reception: 6pm-10pm.
Read the rest of this entry »
A painting by Heimo Zobernig in “The Program” at Gallery 400
By Jason Foumberg
As the fall art season opens this weekend, Newcity is tracking some trends in the local art scene.
Chit-Chat: Artists Want to Talk with You
A visit to the Smart Museum of Art typically begins at the visitor information desk, and twice a month, through June 2014, visitors may find themselves at another sort of information desk. Exit the contemporary art galleries and you might find Matt Austin, a photographer and bookmaker, sitting in a cubicle, waiting for you. The conversationalist wants to talk with you about “your unique qualities as a person,” which he’ll jot down in a book-in-progress about his year-long run as the museum’s Interpreter in Residence. In return, he asks that you grab a sharp knife and carve something, anything into his wood desk. September 5, 10am-5 pm. Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 5550 South Greenwood. Read the rest of this entry »