Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: William Hawkins and Hawkins Bolden/Intuit

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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

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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

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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

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"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

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"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

Review: Chris Bradley/Shane Campbell Gallery

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Chris Bradley has created a Robert Gober-style sculptural constellation where common objects (pretzel sticks, potato chips, paint rollers) are cast in bronze, painted as real fakes, and presented as fractured icons extracted from a personal narrative. Where Gober’s icons are weighted with psychosexual trauma and Catholic guilt, Bradley’s objects are simply the products of boredom. Not that boredom is bad—Gober has shown us that we all have cages, and that we can dream ourselves out of them. Bradley’s cage is probably his studio, the home of his beer and chip stash. He balances the chips, beer, avocados, chewing gum and other foodstuffs onto lumber armatures and tops them with palm trees so that the shacks punctuate the gray-and-white gallery like little deserted islands. A line of pretzel sticks on the far wall form a horizon line, and there’s a piddling sound of trickling water from a makeshift fountain in a beverage cooler. The sense of a provisional existence is successful, but lacking any foreshadow of risk, magic, fear or fatality just compounds empty upon empty. Junk food totems—sculptural doodles, really—signal somebody captive within, and captivated by, their own life. (Jason Foumberg)

Through April 2 at Shane Campbell Gallery, 673 North Milwaukee.

Review: Carleen Clifton Bragg/ARC Gallery

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Unframed and tacked unpretentiously on the gallery wall, Carleen Clifton Bragg’s black-and-white street portraits—mostly candid—of down-and-out African Americans and wasted whites who live amongst us forswear indulgence in patronization, humanization or victimization; her subjects are for the most part depressed, as we see them when we venture into their neighborhoods. Sometimes homeless and holding signs, Bragg’s subjects are epitomized by a young man standing slumped under the weight of a backpack and bundled in a hoodie, with his head bowed and eyes closed—asleep on his feet—as he holds an outstretched Styrofoam cup in one hand and an appeal in the other in faded lettering that reads: “Please Help Me I Have Nothing.” An engaging, straightforward and thoughtful individual, Bragg says that she is “elated” when she takes her shots, because she loves “naturalness.” (Michael Weinstein)

Through March 26 at ARC Gallery, 832 West Superiorar

Review: Anthony Pearson/Shane Campbell Gallery

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Anthony Pearson, "Untitled (Tablet)," 2010. Bronze sculpture with silver nitrate patina. Courtesy of the artist; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York


Small is beautiful in Anthony Pearson’s show at Shane Campbell’s new gallery space on Milwaukee Avenue. This sparse exhibition consists mainly of Pearson’s abstract untitled photographs that are actually pictures of ink drawings the artist made on aluminum surfaces and then discarded. Pearson’s original drawings are also abstract with layered grids crisscrossed by quick brush strokes. By transforming these ink-wash drawings into photographs, Pearson reminds the viewer of the watery darkroom origins of his shimmering silver gelatin prints. The photographs are more than simply a reproduction of his drawings because Pearson solarizes his negatives, reversing the lights and darks, distancing the photographs from the original drawings. The result of this entire process is that Pearson supplants the tactile, textured drawings with their visual record—the relatively flat, low-contrast photographs. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Peter Anton

Artist Profiles, Outsider Art, River West 1 Comment »

I met artist Peter Anton just as he was about to have a life-long wish reach fruition: seeing his work installed for the very first time in a formal gallery space. This dream was a long time coming for Anton, who is now 78. His reaction revealed that the wait was worth it. Anton, who is wheelchair-bound, gazed up at his paintings and the photos of his work, grinning unabashedly, his eyes wide behind plastic-framed glasses. His first words were “Wow, wow, wow!”

For someone who has experienced many personal struggles (nearly dying from pneumonia at age 3, mourning his brother’s childhood death, being removed from his decaying home by social services), Anton is a rarity—affectionate, outrageously funny, unpretentious, and humbled by his own life and experiences.

“I promised God, until I’m finished, for my life to have purpose, to serve people,” Anton says. “I’ve had perseverance, you know what that is? You have to keep trying, keep trying.” Read the rest of this entry »