Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Sebastian Black and India Donaldson/Queer Thoughts

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"Living with Potpourri," wood and potpourri, 2014.

“Living with Potpourri,” wood and potpourri, 2014.


Just as Fashion Week wrapped up in Paris, Queer Thoughts in Pilsen opened a new exhibition of collaborative works by Sebastian Black and India Donaldson that simulates the culture of simulated (read: knockoff) fashion and luxury goods. More specifically, Black explains in the press release that they are interested in objects produced in the authentic factory, but outside of official working hours, which are then smuggled into the world. What might have been a heavily burdened ontological premise plays lightly in a blushingly sweet, sparsely hung installation of clothing-like sculpture, a video and a work on paper. Like the artist Sturtevant has done with her conceptual forgeries of modern and contemporary art, Black and Donaldson’s works slink right up to the difference between original and copy, showing off that distinction is more a matter of the mind than any hard ruling. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Hoofprint Workshop Brings Printmaking to Pilsen

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Liz Born and Gabe Hoare. Photo: Michael Herbert.

Liz Born and Gabe Hoare/Photo: Michael Herbert

Pilsen’s growing art community has a new addition. Hoofprint Workshop, a gallery, printmaking press and studio sited in a repurposed funeral home, is the brainchild of local printmakers and teachers Liz Born and Gabe Hoare.

The pair’s first curated installation, on display through November 23, is an explosion of styles, themes and techniques, held together by a mutual commitment to cross-disciplinary collaboration.

“We have worked with four artists this past year as a part of our Collaborative Publishing Project,” says Born, including John Himmelfarb, Polly Yates, Sandra Perlow and Gabriel Villa. “Works from this endeavor are displayed on the south wall of the gallery, alongside non-print works by the same artists. The north wall of the gallery features artists who we’d like to work with more closely in the future. We chose to display their work not only because we think it’s fantastic, but also to give viewers at our opening an idea of what the future holds; something to really sink their teeth into.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rehearsal Attire/Slow

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Meg Duguid

Meg Duguid


“Rehearsal Attire,” now on view at Slow, is a good-spirited summer haunting. The four artists in the exhibition have contributed works that reexamine some previous aspect of their own practices, in some cases directly deconstructing or recreating artworks.

In Meg Duguid’s “Produced By, Hole for Shaking Hands,” the artist has hacked apart a wall in which she had previously cut a glory hole intended for hand-shaking at the gallery last year. Only the small pieces of drywall where the former work had been patched and plugged remain. The wall’s remnants have been packed into black suitcases, also on view. By excavating the architecture of the exhibition space, Duguid calls attention to the complicity of conventions of display in the presentation of any artwork in a gallery setting by dredging the secrets and histories buried within the walls of Slow. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kaoru Arima/Queer Thoughts

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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 »

Review: Medley/Chicago Urban Art Society

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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 »

Portrait of a Gallery: Queer Thoughts

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 Sam Lipp and Luis Miguel Bendaña. photo by Ratko Radojcic.

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 »

Review: Portraits and Ofrenda for Francisco Mendoza/National Museum of Mexican Art

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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 »

Review: Chaz Bojorquez/National Museum of Mexican Art

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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 »

Review: Benjamin Bellas/Slow Gallery

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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 »

Art Break: Walking in Podville

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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 »