Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

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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 »

News: Museum of Contemporary Photography will Receive $20,000 NEA Award

News etc., Photography, South Loop No Comments »
Students from the Picture Me program with museum staff. Photo credit: Jacob Boll.

Students from the Picture Me program with museum staff/Photo: Jacob Boll

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) at Columbia College Chicago will receive a $20,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to aid MoCP’s Picture Me after-school photography mentorship program for high-school students. Picture Me develops Chicago teenagers as independent artists by cultivating skills to produce creativity. This aim coincides with NEA’s commitment for “advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts,” as Jane Chu, NEA chairman, puts it in the press release. Read the rest of this entry »

News: CTA Unveils Hebru Brantley Artwork in New Green Line Station

News etc., Public Art, South Loop 1 Comment »
Hebru Brantley's original artworks installed as two of the eight panels on view at the new green line McCormick Place station

Hebru Brantley’s original artworks installed as two of the eight panels on view at the new CTA Green Line McCormick Place station

Between studio time, gallery shows and public projects, rising Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley is quite the busy fellow. His latest project is in conjunction with the city’s brand new CTA Green Line Station at McCormick Place. Using transit investment funds and tax-increment-financing funds, the fifty-million-dollar new station will include the Motor Row entertainment district, a convention center and hotels, and showcases eight public art panels of Brantley’s work. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Motor Row Gallery Opens its Doors with a Group Exhibition

Craft Work, Galleries & Museums, News etc., Painting, Sculpture, South Loop No Comments »
motor-gallery-space-3

Installation view of mixed media work in Motor Row Gallery’s inaugural group exhibition

The new Motor Row Gallery (MRG) has emerged on Chicago’s historic Near South Side in the heart of what is known as the Motor Row District. The fact that the gallery is sheltered in the unsuspecting venue of a U-Haul rental facility, well, that’s just the kind of inimitable type of beauty you’d expect to find in Chicago.

The gallery is cozily embedded inside of a Motor Row Lofts building owned by Suzanne Weaver, who has also been running a U-Haul business with her husband from there for the past two and a half years. Motor Row Gallery is an alternative gallery space curated by Weaver’s friend of thirteen years Pamela Staker with a special focus on pop-up art exhibitions and special events. For instance, Staker and Weaver have future plans to hold art expositions outdoors in the warmer months, making use of the extra U-Haul vans that aren’t rented out. Artists would rent a truck where they could display anything from paintings and sculptures to functional and installation work. Since the space would ultimately belong to the artists, they would have free reign on how they chose to present their work in their creative space.

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News: Major expansions for Kavi Gupta and Shane Campbell galleries

News etc., South Loop, West Loop No Comments »
Kavi Gupta Gallery's new production studio in Little Village

Kavi Gupta Gallery’s new production studio in Little Village

Two of Chicago’s most prominent galleries—Kavi Gupta and Shane Campbell—are expanding into larger spaces. Kavi Gupta has added an additional building to their Chicago properties, situated in the Little Village neighborhood. Shane Campbell Gallery will be relocating to the South Loop next spring. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir/Solti Garden

Public Art, South Loop No Comments »

garden

RECOMMENDED

Squeezed into a narrow stretch between Michigan Avenue and a ten-foot embankment, and dominated by the hawk-like gaze of Dame Elisabeth Frink’s monolithic bust of Sir Georg, Solti Garden was never an inviting urban space until filled this month with the life-size figure sculptures modeled by the Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir. Standing, sitting or kneeling throughout the park, the elegant, mysteriously introverted figures transform the lawn, paths and benches into a performance space that offers endless opportunities for interaction, especially with a camera. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Johanna Drucker/Center for Book and Paper Arts

Art Books, South Loop No Comments »

page 6 from “Simulant Portrait”

RECOMMENDED

Book artist extraordinaire Johanna Drucker, who has done more than perhaps any other contemporary artist to increase the critical recognition of book as art form, is often most closely associated with language/concrete poetry and the avant-garde of the Bay Area scene in the 1970s and eighties; but her retrospective, “Druckworks,” at Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts evidences the astonishing depth and breadth of Drucker’s creative and critical work—and shows the artist and scholar deeply engaging with current aporias and future incarnations of the book as form. Some wall text—“We think we know what a book is… but a book is a snapshot, a slice across networked streams of conversations, ideas… a temporarily configured intervention in a living field”—could stand in for Drucker’s prolific career over the past forty years as she has been in conversation with poets, book artists, scholars, printers, graphic designers and cartographers nationally and internationally. Throughout, her primary concern with the visual and material dimension of text anchors the show as different threads (unreadable writing, ekphrasis, synesthesia, digital poetry, post-alphabetic writing in digital media) emerge from the dozens of books and works on paper, interrogating the relation between image and meaning from seemingly endless angles. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Field Day

Galleries & Museums, South Loop No Comments »

With its strong commitment to family entertainment, the Field Museum can hardly present cultural material as if it were an art museum. However, if you pick carefully through its current special exhibitions, you may find some worthwhile and even beautiful things, as I did in its “Opening the Vaults” exhibition of Egyptian and South American mummies. The focus of this show are CT-scans of corpses, and unfortunately, there is no historical context into which any of the material can be firmly placed, since it was all bought on the open market in 1893. Still, the cartoonish images on the three painted coffins are often whimsical and sometimes elegant, especially that of Lady Em-Hotep, which bears a strong resemblance to the twentieth-century Art Deco style that borrowed so heavily from ancient sources.

The exhibition focused on Genghis Khan is far more extensive, ambitious, and entertaining for children of all ages. It’s chock full of video, photographs and audio. None of the artists are identified, and most of the scene painting is subpar, but there is an exciting wall-sized image of the Mongolian fleet being destroyed by a storm off the coast of Japan. Typical for an exhibit aimed at twelve-year-olds, this episode is treated as a sound bite, and the fuller story of the protracted siege is not mentioned. A fascinating collection of objects made at Karakorum, the imperial city constructed to house the multinational skilled workers who served the ruling class, offers more detail. Whatever else might be said about these international marauders, they did have good taste in ceramic bowls and Buddhist paraphernalia. There are a few real treasures here from the Mongolian national museum, including a page from the precious sutra, Sanduin Jud, boasting solid gold calligraphy of the eight-thousand verses. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Our Origins/Museum of Contemporary Photography

Photography, South Loop No Comments »

Alison Ruttan, "Evered Is Interested (detail from Dean Sequence)," 2009

RECOMMENDED

Taking on the time-honored conundrum of the meaning of human life, curator Allison Grant brings together sixteen photo-artists, each of whom approaches the question from a different angle and distinctive strategy. Some of the contributors are smitten with contemporary science, others with their fantasies about it; some are straight documentarians of the survivals of primeval ages in our world, others set their fancies free in constructions and scenarios. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Charlie Shobe/National Veterans Art Museum

Painting, South Loop No Comments »

“Class of ‘67”

RECOMMENDED

In the 1960s, the baby boom generation was conscripted into a war in Southeast Asia that turned out to be as unnecessary as it was futile. In the early 1980s, some of those who served, especially artists who had seen combat, realized that they had unfinished business. Coming mostly from blue-collar backgrounds in small towns or inner-city neighborhoods, they had something to say about experiences that most Americans only knew as Hollywood entertainment. Exhibitions were organized to tour the country and eventually a national museum was established here in Chicago. One of the founders of that movement was Charlie Shobe (1940-2011), a Marine lieutenant from Petersburg, West Virginia. Shobe wrote, “My paintings are of the horror show that was Vietnam: butchery carried out for politicians, bureaucrats, and ambitious generals whose egos would not let them say ‘enough’; art for an indifferent public; art to honor those who lived and died there, and earned only a few hundred dollars a month. It would take a lifetime to paint it all.” And that’s what he did in the 1980s and nineties—not the romantic memorials that celebrate victory, but how it felt to have boots on the ground, and meditations on that ultimate insult to the invulnerability of youth: sudden and violent death. Read the rest of this entry »