Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure/Chicago Artists Coalition

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Lori Felker. "A Trip to Always Falls," 2015, video projection and headphones, 17 minute loop

Lori Felker. “A Trip to Always Falls,” 2015,
video projection and headphones, seventeen-minute loop

RECOMMENDED

“Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure” declares its ethos with clarity and directness in advance of any art. There is no irony in this claim nor in the work, a diverse presentation of mixed media that represents the culmination of six artists’ recent Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH residencies. Curated by HATCH resident Erin Toale, the exhibition meditates on David Foster Wallace’s notion of the “anti-rebel,” an imagined figure whose earnest and dogged effort, Foster suggests, might be the much needed antidote to all that is too cool in today’s hip culture. Accordingly, the artists here are visibly struggling, not with the quest of “making it” but with questions of practice and identity, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Meg Duguid

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Pilsen, Video No Comments »
Meg Duguid standing with her installation "Supercomputer" at Slow in Pilsen.

Meg Duguid standing with her installation “Supercomputer” at Slow in Pilsen.

After a dreary trek through Pilsen’s sludge-laden sidewalks, I’m happy to see Meg Duguid waving enthusiastically to me from inside the fogged windows of Slow. Paul, the gallery’s director, stands to her left and Yesterday, the gallery’s canine mascot, faithfully on her right.

On an evening just as dreary in 2005, Duguid entered a tiny bookshop in Brooklyn. Browsing for nothing but a way to kill some time between her side jobs and studies, she happened across a book that contained a screenplay James Agee wrote for Charlie Chaplin in 1947. Inspired and intrigued, she sent an unsolicited letter to the Agee foundation, requesting to bring to life the script that had—for whatever reason—remained unproduced. The foundation’s answer was no, and Duguid moved on.

Flashing forward in time and back to the Midwest, the backsides of fifteen stacked televisions rise to greet me as I enter Slow. Large blue and orange extension cords twist and tangle their way toward electrical outlets on either side of the gallery, powering the luminescent glow coming from the anterior of the electrical blockade. The piece is silent, save for a high-pitched drone coming from the circuitries. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rooted in Soil/DePaul Art Museum

Installation, Lincoln Square, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Claire Pentecost. "Our Bodies, Our Soil," installation view

Claire Pentecost. “Our Bodies, Our Soil,” 2014-2015, installation view

RECOMMENDED

Soil is a catalyst for riveting conversations at the DePaul Art Museum’s current exhibition “Rooted in Soil.” Environmental awareness, life cycles and science are a few of the ideas explored in this captivating exhibition co-curated by a mother-daughter team, Laura and Farrah Fatemi. This multi-sensorial and interactive show consists of thirty-seven artworks by fifteen artists, and emphasizes an often overlooked—but essential—part of life: soil.

“Soil is undervalued,” Laura Fatemi explained in an interview. “People recognize you need clean air and water. But do they recognize that soil needs to be free of pollutants to be healthy?” The show’s interactive component tactfully answers this question. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Threewalls Announces 2015 Edition of Community Supported Art Chicago

Architecture, News etc., Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Julia Klein, “Stand/Statuette.” Mock-up of the planned editions. Edition of 25 + 6 artist proofs. All thirty-one are unique in terms of exact measurements and color. Cast bronze, steel and paint.

Julia Klein, “Stand/Statuette.” Mock-up of the planned editions. Edition of 25 + 6 artist proofs. All thirty-one are unique in terms of exact measurements and color. Cast bronze, steel and paint.

Threewalls, one of Chicago’s non-profit art leaders in pro-artist programming, is launching the 2015 edition of its Community Supported Art Chicago (CSA) series: “The Tabletop Collection.” Using the theme of a sculpture garden reimagined for a tabletop, the collection will be available as a set with works by five Chicago-based artists: Laura Davis, Assaf Evron, Julia Klein, Sabina Ott and Stephen Reber. 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 »

Review: Formal | Loose | Painting/Ralph Arnold Gallery

Installation, Painting, Rogers Park, Textiles No Comments »
Anna Kunz. "Peel," latex on all and fabric, latex and enamel on canvas

Anna Kunz. “Peel,” latex on all and fabric, latex and enamel on canvas

RECOMMENDED

As evinced by the prevalence of “Zombie Formalism,” abstraction is currently coasting: reanimating movements without contributing new ideas. Paintings by Michelle Bolinger, Samantha Bittman and Anna Kunz are a refreshing contrast to lifeless painting that threatens visual communication itself in a hunger for conceptual novelty. Together they confirm that a voice can still be found in purely formal painting about the process of abstraction itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ryan Fenchel/Carrie Secrist Gallery

West Loop No Comments »
Ryan Fenchel. "Arcade Ex.," 2014 chalk pastel and oil pastel on paper mounted to panel

Ryan Fenchel. “Arcade Ex.,” 2014
chalk pastel and oil pastel on paper mounted to panel

RECOMMENDED

It’s hard to believe that just over seventy years ago Henri Matisse was something of a has-been. Considered by many to be little more than a thoughtful, polite decorator of bourgeoisie interiors, his radical stature long eclipsed by that other giant of twentieth century art. While in 2015 one might plausibly forget that Picasso ever existed, so little is his impact seen and felt in contemporary painting, the influence of Matisse is now inescapable. From massively attended retrospectives of his late work, to artists (like John McAllister) who have made whole careers out of unabashedly aping his look, Matisse might well be regarded as the single most prominent influence of our time. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Deadline for Art Institute and Threadless T-shirt Competition March 10

Design, Galleries & Museums, News etc. No Comments »
Salvador Dalí. "City of Drawers," 1936.

Salvador Dalí. “City of Drawers,” 1936.

The first in a series of t-shirt design challenges sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) and the t-shirt company Threadless is quickly drawing to a close, with a March 10 deadline for submissions. When two globally recognized entities like these join forces in the name of art, beautiful things can happen. This is the first in an ongoing series of art-inspired t-shirt design challenges where artists from all over the world have been asked to create a piece of art inspired by the works of the museum and submit their designs. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: John Gossage/Stephen Daiter Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
John Gossage. "Wihelmstr., (Berlin in the Time of the Wall)," 1988

John Gossage. “Wihelmstr., (Berlin in the Time of the Wall),” 1988

RECOMMENDED

A visual poet, practicing photography in the classical modernist tradition of straight urban street studies, John Gossage has continued that line for more than three decades, not so much altering the genre as adding to its richness with technical embellishments and by projecting his particular sensibility into his images. Among Gossage’s many bodies of work, gallerist Stephen Daiter has chosen to display the artist’s black-and-white silver gelatin impressions of Berlin, Germany in the 1980s, and his current series of color photos, shot in Italy, of found arrangements of common objects—recalling still lifes—with a decidedly ramshackle and disordered look. 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 »