Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Iterations/Alibi Fine Art

Galleries & Museums, Photography, Ravenswood No Comments »
Asia Kepka. "Flowers 2," 2013. Digital archival print, 20 x 24 inches.

Asia Kepka. “Flowers 2,” 2013.
Digital archival print, 20 x 24 inches.


Approaching photographic art as a philosophy of life, curator Adam Holtzman brings together three self-portraitists: Allison Barnes, a twenty-something; Rachel Hulin, who is in her thirties and recently gave birth; and Asia Kepka, who is at mid-life in her forties. His aim is to show how each artist understands herself in visual form at her present “iteration.” For Holtzman, life is a process in which each of us makes and undergoes changes in ourself that retrospectively coalesce into autobiographical periods. In this group show, each body of work is intentionally individualized, so the artists here provide intimate revelations of particular experiences, not generalized reflections on the stages of life.

The most accomplished, rich and resonant series is Kepka’s, which is marked by a cutting wistfulness about the fading of life’s bloom. In her most probing image, we see her nude torso from behind and her head tilted in slight profile. She is wreathed in an unsteady garland of flowers around her neck and a single red rose petal on her back. Her head is bent, and she stands before a vase filled with flowers, petals of which have fallen on the table on which the vase rests. The work is one of profound visual poetry that intensely personalizes one of the great themes of existence.

At the other side of the arc of adulthood, Barnes offers muted black-and-white studies that radiate despondency and uncertainty. In one, she sits in the opening of a shed next to a potted plant, most of which is denuded. Hulin, shooting in lush color befitting the prime of her life, portrays herself as nearly Amazonian in her head shot, and glorying in the life of her baby in the others. In the next room of the shared gallery space, Manifold presents Polly Yates’ collection of found, vintage black-and-white snapshots in which she has effaced the subjects, rendering them ghostlike. The show goes on with new players. (Michael Weinstein)

Through October 31 at Alibi Fine Art, 4426 North Ravenswood

News: Graphic Designer Jason Pickleman Opens Collection-based Gallery Lawrence & Clark

Curator Profiles, Design, Installation, Multimedia, News etc., Painting, Photography, Ravenswood No Comments »
Pickleman amidst some of his collection.

Pickleman amidst some of his collection.

Graphic designer Jason Pickleman has opened up a gallery at 4755 North Clark that he is calling Lawrence & Clark (L&C). Pickleman is no stranger to the arts, as a practicing artist and a graphic designer who has created iconic logos for Avec, the Wit Hotel and many more. A rare breed in these times, L&C will be a collection-based gallery, showcasing work that Pickleman owns, the majority of which he purchased in Chicago over more than thirty years of living and working here. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dan Farnum/Alibi Fine Art

Photography, Ravenswood No Comments »
Dan Farnum. "Open Fire Hydrant, Detroit," 2012 archival pigment print, 15” x 19”

Dan Farnum. “Open Fire Hydrant, Detroit,” 2012
archival pigment print, 15” x 19”


It’s all about social class in Dan Farnum’s color street portraits of mainly youth in his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan and the outskirts of Detroit. Farnum is middle class and in his thirties, an early Millennial on the cusp between X and Y; and his subjects, white and black, come from the lower rungs of the economic ladder, though not abjectly poor. When he was young, Farnum heard and saw all the stories about tough and gritty Saginaw, a victim of deindustrialization, but he didn’t experience it directly. Now he is drawn to that site to come closer to the life that had been mediated to him so that he can connect with it more intimately and to test the sensibility of “prestige from below.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: David Akiba/Alibi Fine Art

Photography, Ravenswood No Comments »
David Akiba. "Sand and Stones S/R #2," 2000  vintage gelatin silver print, 10" x 10" each, diptych

David Akiba. “Sand and Stones S/R #2,” 2000
vintage gelatin silver print, 10″ x 10″ each, diptych


In David Akiba’s homage to the celebrated late-modernist photographer Harry Callahan, he takes up the tradition of the straight black-and-white abstraction that defined the frontiers of art photography in the post-World War II expressionist outburst, when Chicago was at the center of the movement at the fabled Institute of Design. Akiba’s series, done in 2000 and receiving a well-deserved revival here, comprises eleven diptychs of images of small stones that he gathered on the lake shore near Charlevoix, Michigan, which he brought home to Boston, Massachusetts, where he arranged assortments of them into assemblages and photographed them so that they took up the entire frame, betraying no context beyond them. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: In the Neighborhood

Artist Profiles, Design, Ravenswood No Comments »

Photo: Nolan Feeney

That’s one small step for Ravenswood, one giant leap for Ork Posters.

The company behind the typographic neighborhood posters of Chicago opened its new studio at the end of September—and it’s about four blocks away from its last home.

“We were basically at capacity over there,” says founder and designer Jenny Beorkrem, who plans to open her old Ravenswood location as a retail store in November. “We couldn’t add more shelving.”

Ork Posters has come a long way since Beorkrem first started making prints in 2007. When she began, Chicago was her only design, and she learned to screen print so she could produce prints in small quantities, like her inaugural run of twenty posters. Now with twice the square footage of her old place, the twenty-nine-year-old sells more than twenty posters a day and has nearly two-dozen designs. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Shirley Nannini/WithInSight Gallery

Ravenswood No Comments »

Shirley Nannini, “Surge,” in collaboration with Candace Wark


Photographic abstraction has recently made a comeback, with a new generation of artists experimenting with novel approaches to wresting beguiling forms out of ordinary objects that leave everyday perception far behind. Shirley Nannini is at the forefront of this movement, placing her subjects (rocks, rulers and plates, for example) in a wind tunnel, mixing some smoke into the atmosphere and shooting the effects in color. The images depict curving, swirling and undulating forms that run wild as they fold in upon themselves and spike out in patterns that we have never before glimpsed. The closest approximations in the real world to the shapes that Nannini presents to us are complex involuted sea shells, like the chambered nautilus; yet those are static, whereas hers have burst their bounds and sprawl, twist and spread, as though the tiny creature confined in its prison had become Prometheus unbound. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Joseph Sterling/Alibi Fine Art

Lincoln Square, Photography, Ravenswood No Comments »








If you’ve never been to Taste of Chicago, don’t worry; you’ll be right there in the thick of it when you see Joe Sterling’s black-and-white photographs of the gustatory festival, taken between 1988 and 1990; and, if you’re a devotee of the affair, you’ll be brought back to the experience of being engulfed by hordes of fellow citizens and tourists snarfing up corn on the cob, watermelon, and meats and sweets of all varieties. Sterling’s images work so well, because they are so intimate in their depictions of a mass phenomenon. His strategy of using a panoramic lens, which widens the visual field horizontally and shortens it vertically, gives viewers a look that is very close to what they actually would see if they were there—a gaping mouth taking a big bite, or a tangle of legs punctuated by a girl intent on consuming her victuals kneeling in their midst. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Time and Materials/Manifold Gallery

Ravenswood No Comments »


It’s been nearly a hundred years since the Weimar Bauhaus sought to remove the class distinctions that put a barrier between craftsman and artist. Walking into the “Time and Materials” exhibition at Manifold, it’s clear to see how the art/design, craft/production dualities are still communicating, perhaps not across class lines but along ideological ones.

Formerly operating as metal+works in Pilsen for ten years, Ross and Elizabeth Fiersten relocated their manufacturing workshop to a Ravenswood storefront, paired it with a gallery, and renamed it Manifold. Their new exhibition, “Time and Materials,” was conceived as a reflection on the way precise measurements could lead to uncertain outcomes. The show features new works by the Fierstens and Manifold workshop residents Bridgette Buckley Studio and Merkled Studio, as well as a specially commissioned artwork by James Jankowiak. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Justin Thomas Leonard/Alibi Fine Art

Photography, Ravenswood No Comments »


It’s tornado season hereabouts and Justin Thomas Leonard just goes gaga over those thunderheads that incubate and generate the twisters, so much so that he goes out into the roiling gray-black miasma that fills the air, yearning to capture in color, not a funnel cloud (though he gets close), but people who didn’t honor their better judgment and went into the meteorological wilderness to watch, transfixed. The thunderstorm is the epitome of the sublime, and people want to feel the awe, judging by their focused stances, because Leonard almost always shoots them from behind. Only once does he go head on; his subject is a young man, wreathed by the clouds, his gaze unwavering and his lips closed and blissful. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: R&D/Manifold

Ravenswood, Sculpture No Comments »


The inaugural exhibition at Manifold, “R&D,” or Research & Development, attempts to interpret a term most frequently associated with biotech companies. Housed adjacent to their metal furniture and accessories industrial design shop, it is a logical juxtaposition for the owners to stage an exhibition of work that speaks to the often methodical, research-oriented process of creation. In artistic terms, R&D involves a systematic process in which research is undertaken to expand on and reinterpret unique applications of creation from a technical, stylistic, and intellectual standpoint.

The enormous tapestry piece by Mike Andrews, titled “Let It,” is an amazing conglomeration of colorful yarn. Cascading skeins of bright colors form a yarn waterfall of sorts and it is tempting to inspect this closely to see how it is pieced together technically. The tapestry packs a punch, working on a purely visual level, as well as effectively fulfilling the R&D premise by simultaneously referencing and usurping the traditional connotation of yarn as a hobby medium. Read the rest of this entry »