Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: James Ensor/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
James Ensor. "The Temptation of Saint Anthony," 1887

James Ensor. “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887

RECOMMENDED

James Ensor’s six-foot-tall drawing “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887, is the exhibition’s thematic and physical centerpiece, set like an altarpiece at the end of a dark, chapel-like corridor. It’s a dense tangle of scary figures and texts, and a teeming universe of references to the artist’s life. The Art Institute wisely bought it in 2006; it hasn’t been shown in sixty years. Composed of fifty-one separate sheets mounted on canvas, it’s a conservation triumph. Stylistically, it’s a cross between Northern Renaissance art and the cramped doodles of underground comics. Indeed, Ensor’s drawing-based art was expressed in almost every two-dimensional media, including the then-new manufactured color pencils. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Orr Menirom/Aspect Ratio

Video, West Loop No Comments »
Still from Orr Menirom's "Limited Speech Holds Endless Misunderstandings" 2013 single channel HD video 9 min 55 sec TRT

Still from Orr Menirom’s “Limited Speech Holds Endless Misunderstandings” 2013 single channel HD video 9 min 55 sec TRT

RECOMMENDED

Orr Menirom’s first American solo show presents a rigorous and challenging work of video collage that begins with excerpts from a 2010 interview between Noam Chomsky and Dana Weiss, a television journalist for the Israeli Channel 2 media network. Having attempted to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territories to give a lecture at Birzeit University near Ramallah, Chomsky was turned away by Israeli border control officials and put on a plane to Amman, Jordan, where he sat for the interview with Weiss that is the material of Menirom’s digital manipulations. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Museum of Contemporary Photography Now Accepting Submissions for Third Year of Snider Prize

Loop, News etc., Photography No Comments »
Hyounsang Yoo. "The Celebration," 2013

Hyounsang Yoo. “The Celebration,” 2013

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) has begun accepting submissions for the third iteration of the Snider Prize. Sponsored by MoCP patrons Lawrence K. and Maxine Snider, the Snider Prize is a purchase award given to emerging artists who are on the cusp of leaving graduate school and is open to MFA students who are currently in their final year of study at an accredited program in the US. One artist is awarded a sum of $2,000, the funds of which will be used toward purchasing pieces of work that will be supplemented to MoCP’s permanent collection. Additionally, two honorable mentions will receive $500 each. Submissions for the 2015 Snider Prize will be accepted from January 15 through April 1, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman/Roman Susan

Ceramics, Installation, Painting, Rogers Park, Textiles No Comments »
Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman. "Living to Work Together," installation view at Roman Susan

Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman. “Living to Work Together,” installation view at Roman Susan

RECOMMENDED

“Please take off your shoes” welcomes viewers as they enter Roman Susan to seek refuge from the barren cold. Playfully enhanced with black painted bubble letters and animated stick-like legs, the five words sprawl across the front wall of the gallery. Their placement is not only a polite request for compliance, but also an invitation to actively participate. Take off your shoes, as to not ruin the floor. Take off your shoes, so your feet may stand where ours have.

In Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neurman’s collaborative room-sized installation piece, “Living to Work Together,” a mixture of primary colors and bold shapes have been stitched, painted, stapled and strung across all facades of the space, beginning with the floor. The carpeting has been transformed into a type of jigsaw puzzle composed of large triangular pieces of felt that have been first fitted and then visibly sewn together. The sharp shapes further reinforce the abnormal, angular floor plan of the gallery, as do a series of patterned ceramic pieces that politely form a line on a shelf that stretches diagonally in front of the gallery’s storefront window. In the window hang three large-scale felt tapestries that lack the calculated, flat appearance of the floor; instead their odd shapes and snippets of varying colors layer atop each other like unmixed paint on a canvas. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Kruger Gallery Chicago Reopens in New Lakeview Location

Lakeview, News etc., Painting No Comments »
Installation view of Heather Green's upcoming exhibition in Kruger Gallery Chicago's new location

Installation view of Heather Green’s upcoming exhibition in Kruger Gallery Chicago’s new location

This Friday, January 16, Kruger Gallery Chicago (KGC) reopens in its new 1,300-square-foot space in Lakeview at 3709 North Southport with a solo exhibition of new work by Chicago-based artist Heather Green. Kruger was previously located in River North where, owner and director Mikelle Kruger explains, it has been dedicated to an avant-garde model that art can be a mediator for political and social change and showcasing emerging artists working with an array of design and media. After an initial six-month run in 2011 as a sort of pop-up gallery in the River North arts district, Kruger took three years off to focus on siting a more permanent home. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mathias Poledna/Renaissance Society

Architecture, Hyde Park, Installation, Video No Comments »
Mathias Poldena. "Substance," 2014, 33mm color film with optical sound, 6:40 min

Mathias Poldena. “Substance,” 2014, 33mm color film with optical sound, 6:40 minutes

RECOMMENDED

From a single pew, viewers absorb Mathias Poledna’s new, luscious projected 35mm film “Substance,” 6:40 minutes looped: abstract washes of gold, close-up shots of three rotating hands, a shiny, beveled dial, and the signature crown revealing the identity of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Finally shown in full, the desired timepiece floats away into a black void, with no semblance of place to distract from adoration. An enveloping percussive soundtrack heightens the film’s seduction. The familiar yet hard-to-place music recalls an intense action movie sequence or urban nightclub, its heavy beat lending a dogmatic tempo.
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Review: Shio Kusaka/Shane Campbell Gallery

Ceramics, West Loop No Comments »
Shio Kusaka. Installation of ceramic pots currently on view at Shane Campbell Gallery.

Shio Kusaka. Installation of ceramic pots currently on view at Shane Campbell Gallery.

RECOMMENDED

Japanese-born, American-trained ceramicist Shio Kusaka appears to be standing in both worlds. Formally, she’s one-hundred percent Japanese, making the cups and bowls of conventional Japanese pottery with a simple, gentle, flowing, balanced, slightly off-kilter, understated sense of design and craftsmanship. Every detail is rewarding—from the firm footing, through the delicate thin walls, up to the inviting, sharply drawn orifice. But conceptually, she’s a contemporary American artist, hunting for that mysterious, ever-alluring boundary between tiresome banality and unique revelation. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artists: Ryan M Pfeiffer + Rebecca Walz

Artist Profiles, Collage, Drawings, Rogers Park No Comments »
Ryan M Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz

Ryan M Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz

Artists Ryan M Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz’s focus falls emphatically on collaborative action. The duo draws simultaneously, sitting across from each other and working over the same sheet of paper, arranging a mélange of seductive archetypes from the visual history of the West. Their collaborative drawings register caprices and negotiations; marks intermingle and become impossible to assign to any single collaborator. Various mystical, religious and cultural icons coalesce in busy, textured cadres—woodcuts from volumes of Sade, archaeological records, Pietas and Venus idols, or Hans Bellmer’s fetishistic photographs. Their repurposed, blended imagery has all the tellings of an expert bibliography. The compositions are stages on which the duo’s investigations into alchemy, ancient art and eroticism are performed as drawing.

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Review: Philip Vanderhyden /Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Installation, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Philip Vanderhyden. "Volatility Smile, 2014, installation view at Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Philip Vanderhyden. “Volatility Smile, 2014, installation view at Andrew Rafacz Gallery

RECOMMENDED

In economics, a volatility smile is a buckling curve that appears in certain graphs that trace the hypothetical prices of commodity exchanges in a fluctuating market. As the title of Philip Vanderhyden’s dual channel video installation, the ambiguous moniker seems to imply a sinister joy in the chaos of complex economies. The video repeats over nine flat-screens hung in a zigzagging row across the long wall of the gallery. In a seamless fifteen-minute loop, these several screens glow with the sleek and shiny surfaces of hypothetical pleasure objects: copper-hued cubes, silver-clad slabs and crumbled porcelain sheets glide with seductive ease across the long plasma terrain like an iPhone billboard set in motion. The slick on-screen movement of these imaginary things recalls the tactile displays of electronic visual technologies, pointing toward the strange collapse of image and object in the contemporary moment of touchscreen everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Even Formalist Artistry Is for Living

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Suburban, West Loop No Comments »
Edmund Chia. "Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin," 2013

Edmund Chia. “Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin,” 2013

By Matt Morris

This is not a roundup of fiber art exhibitions currently on view around town, though that temptation perpetually lingers because at any given moment in Chicago there are plenty of artists exhibiting smart hybrids of textile and painting, fiber art and installation. This is no doubt attributable in part to the Fiber and Material Studies department at SAIC—still a rarity with few comparable programs around the country—and more generally the deconstructive, interdisciplinary thrust of most of the fine arts programs to be found here. The aftereffects of Modernism in Chicago aren’t really the Greenbergian isolation and purification of a medium’s potential; instead, painting’s frequent conflation with sewing is a recurrent signal of a Modernist project to apply the arts broadly across other parts of life—keenly designed forms for living integrated with art-making as was seen in the De Stijl and Bauhaus (and its offspring, Chicago’s New Bauhaus begun in the late 1930s). Modest and succinct or madly layered, a few artists’ current projects carry us into this new year with propositions for art’s visual and material elements brought in various proximities of closeness to the lives being lived around its production. Read the rest of this entry »