Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Ania Jaworska/Museum of Contemporary Art

Architecture, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville No Comments »
Ania Jaworska. "Saint," 2015. Screen print on folio paper; 30 x 22 inches.

Ania Jaworska. “Saint,” 2015.
Screen print on folio paper; 30 x 22 inches.


Chicago, priapic King-Hell capital of exceptionalist, heaven-penetrating architecture; birthplace of The Reach, there could be no better place—and no better museum—for Ania Jaworska’s exploration of how our monuments commune with ourselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: LUMA at 10: Greatest Hits/Loyola University Museum of Art

Activist Art, Art Books, Ceramics, Collage, Craft Work, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville, Video No Comments »
"LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits, "Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and "Paranirvana (Self Portrait)" by Lewis deSoto. / Photo: Loyola University Chicago.

“LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits,” Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and “Paranirvana (Self Portrait)” by Lewis deSoto./Photo: Loyola University Chicago


Religion is often the apparent culprit in today’s war-torn world, so an exhibition with a spiritual undertone may seem unnerving. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Leader of the Moment: Naomi Beckwith, Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art

Art 50, Curator Profiles, Galleries & Museums, Streeterville No Comments »

Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

By Elliot J. Reichert

In this year’s Art 50, we focus on the power players who shape Chicago’s art landscape. Naomi Beckwith, a Hyde Park native, brings an insider’s knowledge of the city to her role as the Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In just over four years, she’s crafted some of the museum’s most timely exhibitions, including a major outdoor sculptural commission by Yinka Shonibare MBE and the MCA’s current headliner, “The Freedom Principle,” which she co-curated with Dieter Roelstraete. I spoke with her about the art of research, what it means to be a nerd in the art world and what’s next for this rising Chicago art star.

Being born and raised in Chicago, how has this city influenced your work as a curator?
Many people know that I had initially considered a career in the sciences. For my first twenty years, I was academically focused on those disciplines, but two signifiant things changed all that. One was the ethos of this city and its commitment to public spaces, which always included art: festivals, programs, art fairs and museums. I am a very proud child of Chicago Public Schools, which has an amazing field trip program that includes these destinations. This early access to both the formal art space of museums and also informal spaces, like the Hyde Park [57th Street] Art Fair or the African Festival of the Arts in Washington Park, left deep imprints on me. 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: Out of Office/Museum of Contemporary Art

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville No Comments »
Hugh Scott-Douglas. "Untitled," 2014. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field's by exchange.

Hugh Scott-Douglas. “Untitled,” 2014.
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field’s by exchange.


“Out of Office” culls five works from the MCA collection to inquire about labor and financial transactions. The show’s title cannily suggests that the office has expanded. We’re always at the office, even while on lunch break.

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Review: Allison Smith/Arts Club of Chicago

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, Streeterville, Textiles No Comments »
Allison Smith. "Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia," 2014

Allison Smith. “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia,” 2014


Smith is known for lovingly handcrafting Americana—costumes, furniture and artifacts—with which to interrogate the spectacle of historical recreation. In this she is indeed like a theatrical “set dresser,” someone who designs and arranges props.

Many of these recent works are photographs of objects of material culture from American living-history sites. Printed on fabric, the pictures take on a rustic look, akin to the objects they depict. But they contain powerful autobiographical elements, too. The lovely rainbow-colored skeins of yarn seen hanging in “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg,” 2014, is a trenchant feminist statement on several levels while recalling Morris Louis’ stain paintings. Within a large, oval, walnut frame handcrafted by a master Massachusetts artisan, “Mirror,” 2014, shows a field of nubby linen on which a photograph of a mirror’s reflection has been printed. It’s a visual riddle, a twenty-first century version of the modern artist’s abiding fascination with mirrors. Less puzzling perhaps, but no less elegant, two tilt-top tables are covered in silk printed with photos of quilt patterns. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Chicago Art Open and Dali Lamb Museum/River East Art Center

Art Fairs, Streeterville No Comments »

Joseph Kim

What if you’re an artist but nobody wants to show your work? Every artist has probably faced this challenge in the modern era, at some point in their career. It was especially challenging for early modernists in Chicago, who felt categorically excluded from commercial galleries. Thus was born the “No Jury” shows of the 1920s. Today’s version is called the Chicago Art Open, sponsored by the Chicago Artists Coalition, and this year the show is held at the elegant, recently developed River East Art Center. Unlike the earlier versions, the 2010 show does have a jury of local art experts (including an editor, a gallery owner, a former non-profit director and a university photography teacher). Their job was not to keep artists out, but to highlight the best work and give it a room of its own.

Meanwhile, stroll down the hall of the River East Art Center and discover how an artist can avoid getting cut from the selection process: just buy the gallery yourself! Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sigmar Polke/The Arts Club

Painting, Streeterville No Comments »


Sigmar Polke’s series of “Lens Paintings,” which won the coveted Rubens Prize in 2007, seem more like experiments than masterworks. The German artist here developed a new surface for painting: a transparent, resin-based corrugated ‘screen’ that supports imagery both above and below, creating layers in flat relief. The technique is based on a lenticular optical device that allows still images to appear animated if either the image or the viewer changes position. While kitschy mass-produced postcards, and even the magic-eye posters that once hypnotized viewers in shopping malls, work more proficiently at creating a total optical illusion, Polke’s technique aids his painted philosophy—presumably his painting is far too serious to be entertaining; at one point in the show Polke negates the optical illusion by painting on the entire surface of the viewing device.

The oft-cited reference by both Polke’s historians and the artist himself is a 1685 Latin text on the telescope. Polke makes his privileged view into this text visible with illustrations of period-costumed gentlemen viewing a dragon. Their sight-lines extend from their eyes to the flying beast, mirroring the viewer’s own efforts to see the choppy images sandwiched in the resin. The corrugated dips and divots on the paintings’ surfaces split our eye into multiple lines of sight, and if we move to view the painting from an oblique angle, we’re rewarded with the otherwise invisible image below. This is a delight for anyone who enjoys optical tricks and holograms—although the pleasure is limited in Polke’s hands. The artist has little in common with the passionate Rubens, and more to do with fellow German painter Hans Holbein, whose 1533 oil painting “The Ambassadors” reveals a floating skull when viewers get on their knees—a reverential pose that viewers are often tricked into assuming. (Jason Foumberg)

Through April 17 at The Arts Club, 201 E. Ontario, (312)787-3997

Profile of the Artist: Costel Iarca

Artist Profiles, Painting, Streeterville, Suburban No Comments »

A native of Romania, artist Costel Iarca is known for developing a textured application method. His distinctive patented technique leaves the canvas three-dimensional with depth and definition.

At what point did you start going against established norms?

I gave more meaning to modern art, and I started to fall in love. Look… classical artwork presents the outside world. Abstract means the inside of a man. It means the spirit of a man. And the spirit is in different color, different energy. So it has another dimension. When you look to abstract you have to think, even if it’s disturbing. You have to go many, many times. You achieve the right color next to the right line, the right movement. It’s like composing music. It’s kind of poetry.
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Review: Sara Schnadt

Galleries & Museums, Multimedia, Streeterville No Comments »

In conjunction with the citywide “Festival of Maps,” Chicago-based artist Sarah Schnadt has transformed the 12×12 gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago into a literalized vision of an especially intangible technological development—the Internet. On one side of the gallery, Schnadt has installed a world map, and on the other, a more abstracted map composed of search terms grouped according to country. Throughout December, the artist will stage performances twice a week in which she literally connects various words to the countries where they were most popular as search parameters. In addition to Schnadt’s literalization, connections are complicated by the fact that they are created with materials traditionally associated with craft, such as yarn and wire. The translation from the alienated to the hands-on is made quite clearly—perhaps too overtly for some—but the resulting installation is interesting to examine in a number of terms, including the information it contains regarding the online activity of widely varying cultures. Additionally, the continual development of the piece invites the viewer to question the completeness of the work as it, like the Internet, is highly amorphous, shifting in response to the artist’s occasional presence and interaction. (Britany L. Salsbury) Through December 30 at Museum of Contemporary Art