Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: dRaw!/Intuit

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Outsider Art, River West No Comments »
Caroline Demangel. "Untitled," n.d. Mixed media on paper, 25 x 19 inches, Courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery. / Photo: Jurate Veceraite.

Caroline Demangel. “Untitled,” n.d. Mixed media on paper, 25 x 19 inches, Courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery. /Photo: Jurate Veceraite


A commanding survey of Outsider drawing, the show includes many of its premier examples, arguing convincingly that drawing is the elemental gesture of intuitive art. One might expect to see a room full of simple, crude scrawls, but here are carefully drafted images that speak a weird wisdom. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of a Gallery: Emanuel Aguilar and Julia Fischbach, Patron Gallery

Gallerist profile, River West No Comments »
Julia Fischbach and Emanuel Aguilar. / Photo: Sara Pooley.

Julia Fischbach and Emanuel Aguilar/Photo: Sara Pooley

As I stroll slowly into Patron Gallery, Emanuel Aguilar walks briskly up to greet me. With partially unpacked artworks leaning against the walls and the smell of fresh paint lingering in the air, the storefront gallery reeks of transition and anticipation. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

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 »

Review: Mr. Imagination/Intuit

Photography, River West, Sculpture No Comments »
"Mr. Imaginations Horse" by dimitre.

“Mr. Imagination’s Horse,” by Dimitre Photography Inc. Bethlehem, PA, July 2006


Mr. Imagination is a Chicago treasure—in the same rank as Chicago outsider artists Henry Darger and Vivian Maier—and this is his first Chicago retrospective. Raised in Maywood, Gregory Warmack (1948-2012) was shot in the stomach during a mugging and had art-inspiring visions while in a coma. Art dealer Carl Hammer began representing him in 1983 and throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Mr. I achieved national renown, winning major commissions. After a move to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a 2008 fire destroyed his studio (some fire-enhanced pieces are included here). North Siders may remember Mr. I’s studio on Clark with its sign: “Welcome to the World of Mr. Imagination,” the title of the present show. It’s a world of stern playfulness and a street spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: William Hawkins and Hawkins Bolden/Intuit

River West No Comments »

Hawkins Bolden


Some artists refuse to sign the face of their paintings, finding it intrusive to the overall image. William Hawkins (1895-1990) clearly did not participate in that dialogue of modernist painting, as each of his paintings features his name and birth date in bold, large font. Their prominence evokes the creator’s pride; despite his old age (Hawkins was in his eighties when he created these works), lack of formal training and possession of little more than a single brush, his creative vision surfaces in brightly colored paintings of American cities, religious motifs and natural themes.

Jan Petry, chair of Intuit’s exhibits committee, has paired William with another Hawkins: Hawkins Bolden (1914-2005), a Memphis outsider artist who became blind in childhood and felt his way through life by creating works from discarded materials. His sculptures combine metal, pierced pots and pans, and belt and carpet scraps. Bolden titled these “Scarecrows”—with holes for eyes and cloth fragments for tongues—and did use them to keep birds from his garden.

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Review: Shane Huffman/65Grand

River West No Comments »


Thousands of years of visual and literary attempts to define the human experience are littered with rigid dichotomies: love and hate, Apollonian and Dionysian, form and content. Pairs of apparent contradictions help us organize the world. Shane Huffman’s current exhibition, “Sense and Sensibility,” explores the interplay of chaos and order. On one side are several 16×20-inch silver-gelatin prints of grayscales with precise, mechanical striations. Part of his ongoing “Our Experience is the Accumulation of Exposure” project begun in 2002, Huffman creates the pictures sans camera, as photograms. In contrast to his composed and measured prints is “Statistics and Probability,” a hodge-podge wall installation with objects including a scribbled-over beer advertisement, various photographs, a cut and drawn-on poster of the moon’s phases (the moon figures prominently in Huffman’s work), a mirror painted black, and a balloon containing a single breath of air. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Heaven and Hell/Loyola University Museum of Art and Intuit

Michigan Avenue, Painting, River West No Comments »

Clementine Hunter


With its emphasis on The Word, Protestant Christianity has not had much use for visual narrative, and when it has been used, such as in Sunday-school texts, it has run between dry and anemic. However, the religion’s emphasis on individual salvation is a good match for those obsessed with personal visions, such as outsider artists, and nothing seems to have inspired them more than depictions of Heaven and Hell.

This two-venue exhibition, drawing from forty private and museum collections around the country, began as LUMA’s initial venture into the wild and wooly world of outsider art, for which they wisely brought in the expertise of the Intuit Center. Two curators, one from each institution, collaborated on making selections, and the display was split between the galleries, with, appropriately enough, the Jesuit university hosting Heaven and the outsider art gallery raising Hell. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Intimacy/ARC Gallery

Photography, River West No Comments »

Steven Bernas


From Jean-Robert Franco’s black-and-white large-format full–frontal female nudes, standing and staring straight at us impassively; through Elena Elbe’s color studies of overlapping exposures of the same nude woman that illustrate the conceit of “Me, MYSELF, and I,” and Steven Bernas’ crazy-colored, distorted and ghoulish figures—constructed by projecting snippets of pornography and his own handiwork on images of nudes—who inhabit “tactile territory;” to Francoise Anger’s atmospheric, astral color abstractions of volatilized figures, we run a gamut of the wildly contrasting ways in which the human body can be represented to evoke whatever sense of existence with which an artist might like to conjure. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Adam Pendleton/Shane Campbell Gallery

River West, Sculpture No Comments »

"System of Display, X (EXTENEDED/Jean-Luc Godard, Le Grand Escroc, episode from Les Plus Belles Escroqueries du Monde, 1964)," 2011, silkscreen on glass and mirror


Adam Pendleton isn’t afraid to cut, copy, erase or mark other people’s artwork, whether it’s a Jean-Luc Godard film still or a documentary photograph of the Congolese revolution. Shane Campbell Gallery shows selections from Pendleton’s recent work, “System of Display,” a series of three-inch-deep black shadowboxes that present this bold approach to appropriating and revising visual culture.

Pendleton encloses the top of each squared object with a glass surface imprinted with a simple letterform. These characters are remnants of words—such as “N” from “ancient” and “S” from “sullied”—Pendleton culled from poems. Removed from their original meaning, the letters become markers, seemingly signifying a defined logic to the object-forms hung in neat rows across the gallery space.

Inside each box, Pendleton placed a mirror displaying a grainy, blurred image of a female subject. Pendleton selected the women from film and photo sources, isolated the figures from their original settings, and then repeatedly Xeroxed each image to strip out details. In “G,” “C,” “E,” “U” and “X,” Pendleton telescopes on a solitary woman with her face partially concealed by the book she’s reading. Each iteration reinterprets the scene, alternately revealing the title of the book, more of her facial features, or fingers clasping the book’s corners. It’s unclear whether Pendleton intends to highlight minute stylistic manipulations, or a shifting voyeuristic gaze cast upon this unknowing subject’s private moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Barbara Crane/ThinkArt Salon

Photography, River West No Comments »

"Untitled (Coloma to Covert: Sandwich)," 1993/2006, archival pigment print


At 83 years old, Barbara Crane has achieved the rank of one of the leading photographic modernists of the second half of the twentieth century, but she is unwilling to rest on her laurels and has ventured forth into new and unfamiliar realms, transposing her love of nature into a digital key and producing color pictorialist images of flowers and leaves that sometimes burn with an orange ember glow, and sometimes embed us into green and pink bowers redolent of the Easter season. Once, by turns, an assertive provocateur showing various and sundry Israelis with Uzis, and the quintessence of Zen precision revealing the details of animal and vegetable forms, Crane has now surrendered to the siren song of imagined beauty, made objective through the offices of Photoshop enhancement (though not, at least, outright transformation). Crane had always been precise; now she is hazy and suggestive. Yet her edge peeks through, especially when she consumes the woodlands in an autumnal blaze. (Michael Weinsten)

Through April 30 at Think Art Salon, 670 West Hubbard