Kaoru Arima likes to straddle the lines between control and surrender, formal and casual, revelatory and obscure, mindless and calculating, and, of course, art and non-art. What better place to show the results than in this tiny second-floor apartment gallery in Pilsen. It’s as randomly located as Arima’s own gallery in Inuyama, Japan (curiously named the Art Drug Center). The gallery’s white walls feel like the small areas of white paint splashed onto Japanese newspapers on which Kaoru executed the twenty-eight cartoonish line drawings in the collection of the Walker Art Center. Read the rest of this entry »
What first comes to mind when I think of collage? I picture adhesives and ephemera being used in a two-dimensional scale. Unfortunately, I also think about Pinterest and capitalism, and how the general population has hijacked the collage, turning the medium into a selfish “board” of desires. Chicago Urban Art Society’s second installment of the group show “Medley” is a much needed palate cleanse for me. It reminds that collage is much more than nostalgia and ephemera ((I promised (promised!) myself I wouldn’t use the word “ephemera” in this review, and now I’ve already done it twice.)). “Medley” shows that the art form of assemblage is amorphous and untethered. This is the good side of collage.
Here, there are three-dimensional artworks composed of bike reflectors, destroyed iPhones, nuts and bolts, and metal springs. There are unframed collages where cutout photographs of animals project outward like a pop-up book. Some of the artwork has been coated in resin, giving it the sheen of a tabletop in a diner. There are collages that step away from analog techniques, digitally printed pieces that are surreal and meticulously detailed. Read the rest of this entry »
Sam Lipp and Luis Miguel Bendaña/Photo: Ratko Radojcic
The name of Pilsen’s newest apartment gallery, Queer Thoughts, originated from its acronym rather than the other way around. Gallery directors Sam Lipp and Luis Miguel Bendaña dubbed it QT because the modest third-floor showroom off 18th Street is, well, cute. About the size of a walk-in closet, the room has pristine white walls and bright white fluorescents. A nearby closet functions as a video-screening room for the current exhibition by Thomas Schleinstein, a New York-based artist whose video shows hazy, unintelligible activity filmed through an ice cube. The main gallery appears empty at first glance, but further inspection reveals white spots intermittently painted on the white wall at eye level. Schleinstein sent specific installation instructions with the work: the circles were to be equally spaced at seventy-inch intervals.
Lipp describes the gallery’s program as focused on “post-identity” artwork. Post-identity is a relatively new buzzword that implies a sense of acknowledging one’s identity, be it sexual, racial or otherwise, and then moving on. Instead of looking through the lens of identity or pushing it aside altogether, post-identity art looks above it. Read the rest of this entry »
Francisco Mendoza (1958-2102) may not be remembered as a great American artist. He was devoted to the heroic style of Mexican muralism, but rather than confrontational and ecstatic, his public art was as gentle, friendly and ultimately forgettable as the elementary-school textbooks he used in his classroom at Cooper Elementary. But when you stand on the platform of the 18th Street el station and feel the whole neighborhood vibrating to the colorful, fantastic folkloric images in the murals he created there, you realize the impact of his contribution. He was helping to build a community, not just an art world, and many other artists from that community have come together at the National Museum of Mexican Art to celebrate his life as part of that museum’s annual Dia De Los Muertos exhibition. Read the rest of this entry »
Graffiti Mandala, 1999
Chaz Bojorquez, born in 1949, was a cholo tagger in the 1960s, but he wasn’t just marking territory for street gangs in East L.A. He also developed a skull-in-fedora icon, Señor Suerte, that became a badge of honor for many young men whose prospects were limited to death or prison. Over the past decade, Bojorquez has applied that same talent to niche-marketed consumer goods, creating distinctive designs for wine bottle labels, skateboards, running shoes, headgear and such. But as this exhibition demonstrates, he has also made some very exciting paintings, especially in the 1980s and early 1990s when his calligraphy created a dramatic vision suitable for the popular science fiction or video games that pit a heroic, indefatigable individual against a cruel, over-industrialized dystopian world. This was all done with lettering, in the foreground or background, creating a tempestuous, atmospheric stage for life and death. The feeling is dark and heavy. If the artist himself does not suffer from PTSD, his paintings certainly do. Read the rest of this entry »
Seeing Benjamin Bellas’ show at the storefront gallery known as Slow reminded me of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in L.A. Entering Slow, one encounters a long, gently curving pew that diagonally divides the small space into two neat regions. To the left is a lamp shining into an open silver-lined barrel with an image of a waterfall at the bottom. This is echoed a bit further along the wall by a boot containing a spider web standing on a heap of slate. On the far wall, facing the entrance, is a distorted video of the Chicago lakefront shot from above, set to a grand score. Walking up to the screen allows you to see the large dark printout, loosely hung from an adjoining wall, in which the dark outline of a door can be dimly made out, and a vinyl sticker of a shadow stretches along the floor behind the pew. Continuing back to the front door, a thick volume protrudes from the wall like a shelf, from which, a bookmark juts, on which, a roll of film is perched. Read the rest of this entry »
The International Sculpture Center’s 2011 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards exhibition at 932 South Halsted in Pilsen
For the past ten years, hundreds of art enthusiasts have gathered in Pilsen for the Annual Pilsen East Artists’ Open House to catch a glimpse of the Neo-Bohemian lifestyle. These self-guided tours, which usually take place in October, are no petty endeavor. They have the endorsement of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in conjunction with more than 200 partners. Among them this year was the ISC’s 23rd International Sculpture Conference (held October 4–6), and Chicago Art Department (CAD), a nonprofit organization with a mission of increasing community outreach programs. Read the rest of this entry »
Now showing at Roxaboxen are the efforts of three young painters to walk the well-trodden but tempting path of depicting paradise in an up-to-date visual matrix—and my response can’t help but be filtered through my feelings about what has come to be a contemporary post-post-post-Impressionist academic landscape style. Examples range from romantic, gestural semi-abstract canvases by Claire Sherman and Angelina Gualdoni, both represented in Chicago by Kavi Gupta Gallery, and older and flashier contemporaries like David Thorpe and Laura Owens. The problem in the end is not that our age is especially philistine, but that living in an image glut makes old-timey beauty seem more attainable. Read the rest of this entry »
"Hot Dog" by Peter Kepha
When he conceived of a collage exhibition seven months ago, Peter Kepha, co-founder of Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS), had three artists from Chicago in mind and wanted to bring together talent from around the country to show how diverse roots in media like design, graffiti, illustration and typography can apply to approaches in collage, creating a rich push-and-pull between structure and balance and the messiness of life evident in our ephemera.
The works in “Medley” are like a melodic composition, arranged yet providing a feeling of immediacy. While some of the works hint at cultural critique, the tone of the exhibition is not of critical image appropriation but rather engagement with source materials. Often it’s the dissonance between the property of the material and the image created that energizes these works. Read the rest of this entry »
A student makes art in the course, “Eye to Hand: Drawing Foundations” during Marwen’s Winter Term 2012. Photo: Courtesy of Marwen.
By Anastasia Karpova
Two important Chicago arts organizations, Marwen, in River North, and the National Museum of Mexican Art, in Pilsen, are celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversaries this year. The institutions are tied by their 1987 inception and by their missions to bring arts education to underserved communities.
Marwen provides free art courses and college and career services to students in grades six through twelve at no cost. Founded by Steve Berkowitz, the program has grown from a handful of students to 600-800 students per year coming from fifty-five of Chicago’s fifty-seven zip codes, and is supported by an almost completely privately funded operating budget of $2.5 million. Read the rest of this entry »