Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Rim Lee/Japonais

Painting, Photography, River North No Comments »
Rim Lee. "Beyond Max Ernst No. 1."

Rim Lee. “Beyond Max Ernst No. 1.”

The subterranean “Blue Room Lounge” at Japonais is a dark, sleek, somewhat claustrophobic space, currently host to three photographs by Rim Lee, a project organized by Kasia Kay Gallery that shares in the space’s qualities. Each one centers on a pair of nude and nubile female torsos that sharply defines a sexual, but not a personal, identity. Like celebrants at a masked ball, their faces are not shown, so the various hips and breasts belong to a world of psychosexual fantasy more than to any particular person. In one image, the faces are turned away, staring at the artist’s own painting which depicts a disembodied, non-gendered human face emerging above a flaccid pillar. It’s an obvious reference to the work of Max Ernst, after whom this work, and the entire exhibition, has been named. But it may also represent an awkward self identity that hasn’t yet caught up with the sexual maturity of the figures staring at it. Indeed, there is something girlish about all three photographs that seem to rest between the comfortable, well-ordered world of a happy childhood—and the confusing, sometimes dangerous, world of adults. In the other two images, giant bird masks cover the heads of the two attractive nudes. Covered with fluffy down instead of feathers, the birds are more like oversized chicks than adults who have already flown the nest. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: European Edge/Berlanga Fine Art

Photography, River North No Comments »
Jan Saudek. "Ilary Make Up," 1983

Jan Saudek. “Ilary Make Up,” 1983

RECOMMENDED

For the inaugural exhibition at his new photography gallery, Paul Berlanga has put together works of five leading European modernists: Lucien Clergue, György Kepes, Jan Saudek, Petra Skoupilová and Rutger ten Broeke, all in black and white, with the addition in Saudek’s case of subtle coloring. The “edge” referred to in the show’s title is decidedly surrealist, with the contributors using different strategies, approaches, and concepts to convey the visual strangeness, bordering and often falling into eeriness, that is surrealism’s hallmark.

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Review: Showcase/Schneider Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Rebecca Memoli. “The Mess We've Made,”  inkjet and acrylic on canvas, 15” x 10"

Rebecca Memoli. “The Mess We’ve Made,”
inkjet and acrylic on canvas, 15” x 10″

RECOMMENDED

Among the nine photographers and photo-artists on display in Schneider Gallery’s clean new space, two newcomers, Rebecca Memoli and Doug McGoldrick, offer the most magnetic and arresting images by taking the timeworn move of painting or drawing on photos in new and provocative directions. Memoli, who does constructed tabletop still lifes, paints so finely and precisely on her base photographic image, which she has printed on canvas, that she succeeds in taking revenge on photo-realist painting, to the point of leaving indiscernible traces of the bare base image to show through the facade. The photo-realists simulated photography, whereas Memoli simulates painting. She also composes beguiling arrangements of objects, such as in “The Mess We’ve Made,” where we see a kitchen counter filled with dishes and utensils, some unwashed, lying on their sides in an elegant jumble, presided over by a poster of the bygone crooner, Mario Lanza. This is a scenario at which to stare in order to experience its humor. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bill Frederick/Printworks Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
Bill Frederick. "Lightning, Port Austin," 2015 watercolor and ink, 38" x 71"

Bill Frederick. “Lightning, Port Austin,” 2015 watercolor and ink, 38″ x 71″

RECOMMENDED

Bill Frederick takes us on a Midwestern road trip. But as in his previous shows, rather than showing us unusual or scenic vistas, we get the ordinary places that are impossible to avoid, like gas stations and strip-mall parking lots. Landscape painting usually offers an escape from the daily grind, where the human footprint, if any, fits smoothly into the natural order of things. But Frederick’s landscapes do not escape the jagged ends of human existence, and no matter how deep into the north woods he drives, he never gets far from the car. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jungjin Lee/Andrew Bae Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Jungjin Lee. "Unnamed Road 014," 2011 archival pigment print  40 x 78.5 inches Ed. of 3

Jungjin Lee. “Unnamed Road 014,” 2011
archival pigment print, 40 x 78.5 inches, ed. of 3

RECOMMENDED

Printing her large-format black-and-white landscape photographs on Korean rice paper, on which she has meticulously and elegantly brushed photographic emulsion, and then made digital prints of the images, Jungjin Lee produces haunting and faded yet distinct impressions of the deserts of Israel and the West Bank of Palestine in her “Unnamed Roads” series. There is not a hint of the political conflict that wracks the region in Lee’s work. Indeed, she has removed as much context as possible from her images by naming each one with only the exhibition’s title, although they sometimes depict cities, ruins and distinctive rock formations. Lee’s point is that current events are merely rippling sand swirls on the surface of an immovable human condition, in which past contingencies leave their marks that are subsumed under persistent particularized forms that she captures with her view camera. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: John Gossage/Stephen Daiter Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
John Gossage. "Wihelmstr., (Berlin in the Time of the Wall)," 1988

John Gossage. “Wihelmstr., (Berlin in the Time of the Wall),” 1988

RECOMMENDED

A visual poet, practicing photography in the classical modernist tradition of straight urban street studies, John Gossage has continued that line for more than three decades, not so much altering the genre as adding to its richness with technical embellishments and by projecting his particular sensibility into his images. Among Gossage’s many bodies of work, gallerist Stephen Daiter has chosen to display the artist’s black-and-white silver gelatin impressions of Berlin, Germany in the 1980s, and his current series of color photos, shot in Italy, of found arrangements of common objects—recalling still lifes—with a decidedly ramshackle and disordered look. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Identify/Catherine Edelman Gallery

Digital Art, Installation, Photography, River North No Comments »
Garth and Pierre. "HEAD(S)," 2014 photographs mounted to bank pins

Garth and Pierre. “HEAD(S),” 2014
photographs mounted to bank pins

RECOMMENDED

Among the four wildly diverse approaches to representing the human body photographically on display here, Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s is the most inventive, although not the most meaningful. Dewey-Hagborg picks up cigarette butts and discarded chewing gum off the city sidewalks (depicted in her color shots), subjects the detritus to DNA analysis, runs the genetic profiles through a facial algorithm, and produces 3D resin portraits that presumably resemble the people who left the remains of their consumption for the scavenger-artist to appropriate (the droppings also grace her mini-installation). The three particular subjects whose faces look out at us from the gallery wall are all young, attractive and relentlessly clean, with an airbrushed appearance that belies the butts and gum from which they have been reconstructed. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Trevor Winkfield/Poetry Foundation

Collage, Drawings, Painting, River North 1 Comment »
Trevor Winkfield. "Sketch for Peter Gizzi," 2012 acrylic and collage on paper, 27.5" x 19.25"

Trevor Winkfield. “Sketch for Peter Gizzi,” 2012
acrylic and collage on paper, 27.5″ x 19.25″

RECOMMENDED

Set in the smart spaces of the Poetry Foundation, this exhibition of the British artist-illustrator Trevor Winkfield (born 1944) highlights his paintings, cover designs and limited-edition books. It’s a small-scale show—five paintings and four vitrines—but the bright, punchy images are themselves like welcome book illustrations against the ashen modernist environment of the still-newish John Ronan building.

Winkfield’s mother read picture books to him as a tot. Afterwards texts always provoked accompanying images from him. Raised in Leeds, he came to America in 1969 and quickly became part of the collaboration-happy New York School. Not “merely a brush for hire,” he said, he had true partnerships with major poets like Ron Padgett and John Ashbery. Collaboration, he reflected, was “one of the quickest ways of allowing me to see myself as others saw me.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Erik Weisenburger/Perimeter Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
Erik Weisenburger. "Fourteen Point Staghorn Sumac," 2014 oil on panel

Erik Weisenburger. “Fourteen Point Staghorn Sumac,” 2014
oil on panel

RECOMMENDED

These sixteen visions of life in the north woods take us into that cheerfully lonely natural world once celebrated in Thoreau’s “Walden.” But there’s more whimsy than morality here, with no sense of the heroic in either the rustic environment or the souls who inhabit it. Erik Weisenburger’s technique is more about building an imaginative oil painting in the studio than in re-experiencing a view of actual fields and woods. His images glow with the inner light of early Northern European painting, and share that genre’s fanatical attention to detail, as if infinite time had been taken to perfect the design and execution of every square inch. No act of concentrated focus goes unrewarded. As with early German painters like Albrecht Altdorfer, he often offers the delicious effect of black, tangled, sharply drawn branches silhouetted against a glowing blue sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 25th Anniversary/Schneider Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Cornelia Hediger. "05.29.10," C-Print, 30x30"

Cornelia Hediger. “05.29.10,”
C-Print, 30″ x 30″

RECOMMENDED

A look at the fifteen photo-artists whom gallerist Martha Schneider has included in her twenty-fifth anniversary show, which ends her run at Franklin Street before she moves to 770 North Lasalle in 2015, reveals how her space has provided Chicagoans with the singular opportunity to see consistently the most advanced photography from throughout the world. The works here are representative of those of the hundreds of artists whom Schneider has shown: edgy, masterful in technique, and often shot through with existential emotions or depth-psychological import. Schneider has presented the existentialist side over the years particularly through Argentine photographers, whose country’s elite culture was smitten by that movement, which matched the native temperament. Read the rest of this entry »