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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
Cats are cute. That goes without saying. A lot of photographers are partial to shooting them, another no-brainer. The felines are decidedly cute under Mark Steinmetz’ lens, but only to a point; Steinmetz wanders the scruffy, scrubby environs of Athens, Georgia and snaps black-and-white street portraits of his subjects doing their things with their fabled indifference to lowly humanity. An enormous cat sits regally on top of a car, its mouth hugely agape and its teeth sharp as tacks, yawning monstrously. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in 2002, John Allen Muhammad, the “Washington Sniper,” captivated the country through his brief months of infamy as he made his way with his young accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo on a long and winding road from Washington state, through the Southwest and Deep South, to Maryland and Washington, D.C. gunning down twenty-seven random victims with his rifle. In 2005, photographer Joel W. Fisher retraced Muhammad’s journey, shooting with his camera the depopulated sites of the killer’s deeds. Read the rest of this entry »