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The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.
By Elliot J. Reichert
The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.
Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »
Rodrigo Lara Zendejas. “Installation components / componentes de la instalación,” 2015. Ceramic, 24 x12 x12 inches each, photo: Michael Tropea.
This modest exhibition of new, site-specific work by Mexican artist Rodrigo Lara Zendejas brings to light a shameful and little known piece of United States history. From 1929 to 1939, the federal government authorized the repatriation of nearly one million people of Mexican descent because these so-called freeloading, disease-ridden, illiterate people were taking away “American jobs for real Americans,” as President Hoover’s campaign slogan stated. Mexicans, who comprised the largest immigrant population at the time, were understood to be a particularly potent threat during the inordinate economic hardship of the Great Depression. Zendejas’ counter-memorials evoke this time. His sculpted traces of human likeness on thumb-shaped objects and a sculptural interpretation of an identification card help us face this dark past and understand its legacy in the present.
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Dimitri Pavlotsky. “Making Music,” 2013.
Oil on canvas, 42 x 68 inches.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was mostly a disaster for its state-funded visual artists, who were thoroughly trained to celebrate a social and aesthetic order whose appeal did not outlive its demise. Fortunately, many of them have landed in the Chicago area, where their skills in heroic, naturalistic narrative were banished from American art for so long that they can now appear fresh. Read the rest of this entry »
A rendering from A Squared Architectural Design of the gallery interior of ACRE’s new facility
ACRE Residency (Artists’ Cooperative Residency & Exhibitions) is planning a move in central Pilsen. Growing out of their 400-square-foot “white cube” in the same neighborhood, they envision the new space, a former funeral home, at 2,200 square feet, as an extension of the Wisconsin program. The new site aims to cement their reach in the Chicago arts community, acting as a complement to the off-site residency space and bridging a new chapter in ACRE’s story. Read the rest of this entry »
Assaf Evron. “Untitled (Athens and Oraibi)”
In this compact exhibition curated by Allison Glenn, landscape serves as a metaphorical ground for four artists’ expansive manipulations of imaginary sites. Each of the works evince traces of fragmentation, collapse and compression, processes that appear here as gestures enacted on sites that are more the spaces of memory and history than they are physical terrains. Read the rest of this entry »
Terry Dowd and general manager at Mana Contemporary Chicago, Micha Lang
Terry Dowd, Incorporated (TDI) recently announced the relocation of their operations and storage facilities from 2501 West Armitage to Mana Contemporary Chicago’s headquarters at 2233 South Throop. While TDI has not yet opened its doors for business at their new home, their move has already commenced, occupying a total of 20,000 square feet at Mana already, whose nine-level building spans a total of 400,000 square feet. They are scheduled to be fully operating by April of 2015 and will debut a new logo and website in the next few months. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Installation view of Ji Soo Hong’s collages in “Thick slide, decadent ration,” at Slow
The current exhibition at Slow, “Thick slice, decadent ration,” features work by Ji Soo Hong and Matthew Kayhoe Brett. Their works carry a studied meditation on process and composition, as their solid use of texture and color lend vibrancy and subtlety to the banal.
Ji Soo Hong approaches each slab of encased meat in her illustrative collages with a careful curiosity. Hong’s hand is in each of her works as her layered illustrations create collages of a subject matter that beckons to Francis Bacon and a voluptuously meaty still life tradition. The large white sheets mimic the display cases of a butcher shop, framing each assortment as studies in color and detail. A mélange of conté crayon and ink, chopped up and collaged, are drawing techniques imitative of the additive recipes of the sausages and hard meats Hong illustrates in her enlivened still-life works. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago Urban Art Society’s new creative space in McKinley Park
At the start of December, Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS) completed its move from its location in the East Pilsen neighborhood to 3636 South Iron in McKinley Park. The move is seen as a homecoming for the exhibition gallery and creative-use space: executive director Lauren M. Pacheco and gallery co-founder and director Peter Kepha are siblings who grew up in nearby Brighton Park. In addition to changing locations for the opportunity at working with a larger space, the new spot interconnects areas that have large Latino communities such as Back of the Yards, Bridgeport, Brighton Park and McKinley Park, allowing CUAS to work in accord with their fundamental commitment to serving Southwest Side Latino communities. “The Southwest Side of Chicago is an art desert,” says Pacheco. “We hope to provide a much needed resource and to continue our advocacy work for more arts and cultural spaces that push innovative practice and discourse in Latino communities and the South Side.” Kepha seconds that notion saying, “In 2015, I am extremely excited to present a curatorial practice that involves new visual voices who are able to think differently about space, community and production.” Read the rest of this entry »
Milton Resnick. “X Space,” 2001, acrylic on paper,
22 ½” x 30 ½”
Buried beneath the viscous layers of paint, crusted and hardened like the scab on a skinned knee, a preternatural light seems to issue forth from Milton Resnick’s titanic “U and Me.” The light is scattered at first, dappling the edges of two figures—themselves little more than heaving gestures of mottled paint—building in intensity until it finally rains down from the body of a yellow serpent lurking along the painting’s top edge.
It’s a haunting moment in a thoroughly haunted exhibition. Despite the best efforts of our materialist society to rid the world of anything that can’t be quantified, measured and easily referenced, the belief that signs, symbols and images possess a special kind of power is still pervasive. Resnick’s paintings are suffused with this otherworldly magnetism, and nowhere is it more visible than in his many late works-on-paper. Read the rest of this entry »