Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Bruce Thorn/Koehnline Museum of Art

Painting, Suburban No Comments »
Bruce Thorn. "Nightsong," detail view, 2010

Bruce Thorn. “Nightsong,” detail view, 2010


It’s hard to think of these paintings coming from anywhere but Chicago. They’re not figurative, but if the bizarre characters depicted by Karl Wirsum or Ed Paschke were wallpapering the den, these are the kinds of abstract patterns they might seek. As if to boyishly say “here’s a finger in your eye,” the designs start with the aggressive colors and annoying energy found on the walls of a fast-food restaurant. Then, they’re ramped up to that jarring intensity often seen in collectible outsider art. Picture frames are irrelevant because there’s no architectural space in which they can visually belong. Like infections or strip malls, they seem to have started growing on their own, suggesting no human activity higher than the microbial—that frantic, infinitely complex level where everything fights for existence, regardless of whatever dreams and ideals humans may pursue. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: MetaModern/Krannert Art Museum

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Suburban, Video No Comments »
Jordi Colomer. "Anarchitekton (Barcelona, Bucharest, Brasilia, Osaka)," 2002–04 4 single channel video projection, silent Barcelona: 5 min; Bucharest: 3 min; Brasilia: 3 min 49 sec; Osaka: 1 min 49 sec

Jordi Colomer. “Anarchitekton (Barcelona, Bucharest, Brasilia, Osaka),” 2002–04
4 single channel video projection, silent
Barcelona: 5 min; Bucharest: 3 min; Brasilia: 3 min 49 sec; Osaka: 1 min 49 sec


Updating Barry Schwabsky’s 2012 label “retromodernism,” Colby Chamberlain coined the term “domestic modernism” to describe Margaret Lee’s recent installation of facsimiles depicting twentieth-century art and design icons. Noting that, “apparently Brancusi duplicates are trending,” Chamberlain compared Lee’s model of Brancusi’s “Endless Column” to another shown by Josephine Meckseper in 2013, highlighting their affinity in evoking department store displays. Now featured in the group show “MetaModern” at the Krannert Museum, William Cordova’s tribute to the Brancusi monument—a column of lampshades inverted in an alternating rhythm and lit from within—similarly evokes a retail aura. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle also replicates a Brancusi phallus, but with a more aeronautical thrust; his nine-foot “Bird in Space” is fabricated from carbon fiber, Kevlar and steel, and seems ready to blow a Sputnik out of the sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Even Formalist Artistry Is for Living

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Suburban, West Loop No Comments »
Edmund Chia. "Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin," 2013

Edmund Chia. “Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin,” 2013

By Matt Morris

This is not a roundup of fiber art exhibitions currently on view around town, though that temptation perpetually lingers because at any given moment in Chicago there are plenty of artists exhibiting smart hybrids of textile and painting, fiber art and installation. This is no doubt attributable in part to the Fiber and Material Studies department at SAIC—still a rarity with few comparable programs around the country—and more generally the deconstructive, interdisciplinary thrust of most of the fine arts programs to be found here. The aftereffects of Modernism in Chicago aren’t really the Greenbergian isolation and purification of a medium’s potential; instead, painting’s frequent conflation with sewing is a recurrent signal of a Modernist project to apply the arts broadly across other parts of life—keenly designed forms for living integrated with art-making as was seen in the De Stijl and Bauhaus (and its offspring, Chicago’s New Bauhaus begun in the late 1930s). Modest and succinct or madly layered, a few artists’ current projects carry us into this new year with propositions for art’s visual and material elements brought in various proximities of closeness to the lives being lived around its production. Read the rest of this entry »

Art World’s Big Weekend 2014: Comprehensive Listing of Gallery Openings for September 4–7 [updated]

Andersonville, Bronzeville, Collage, Drawings, Edgewater, Evanston, Fall Preview, Garfield Park, Installation, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, River North, Sculpture, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Video, West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »
Andrew Falkowski. "Pink Monochrome," 2014

Andrew Falkowski. “Pink Monochrome,” 2014

Thursday, September 4


Dan Ramirez, painting
Union League Club of Chicago, 65 West Jackson
Opening reception: 5:30pm-7pm, through September 30
(Members only opening, viewing by appointment only)


Anthony Iacuzzi and Christopher Schneberger, photography
Perspective Gallery, 1310-1/2B Chicago Avenue, Evanston
Opening reception: 5pm-8pm, through September 28

Amy Vogel, mixed-media survey exhibition
Cleve Carney Art Gallery at College of DuPage, Fawell and Park Boulevards, Glen Ellyn
Opening reception: 12pm-2pm, through October 25

Taehoon Kim and Barbara Diener, large scale sculpture and photographic installation
Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 West College, Palos Hills
Opening reception: 3pm–5pm, through September 18 and October 23 respectively Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Stephen Dinsmore/Anne Loucks Gallery

Painting, Suburban No Comments »
"Reader with Pint," oil on canvas

“Reader with Pint,” oil on canvas


The Midwest is so solid, steady and predictable that creative people tend to either move away or dive deep into the wacky world of the subconscious with their artwork. But not Stephen Dinsmore, the Nebraska native who has never strayed far from home. Even when he paints a beach in Florida, it feels more like a calendar photo above a desk in Omaha, just as his floral tributes to Matisse feel more like the reproductions sold in local frame shops.

He paints baseball games, flat landscapes and faceless people sitting in kitchens or diners. Some lonely scenes almost feel like Edward Hopper, but Dinsmore does not make sharp edges, leaving his shapes more cloud-like and dreamy. There’s less tension and foreboding in this daydream world with no anticipation of either joy or disaster. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Diane Thodos/Re-Invent Gallery

Painting, Prints, Suburban No Comments »
Diane Thodos High Res Black and White

“Skull,” etching, 2008

Diane Thodos’ paintings and prints represent the kind of modern spiritual art championed in the Blaue Reiter Almanac of 1912 more than the semiotic exercises of postmodernism that were played out across the subsequent century. The artworks don’t represent any classical or Christian creed, but still echo both with what Kandinsky called an “easily definable movement forward and upward,” expressing emotions more subtle than earthbound feelings like fear, lust, grief or maternal love. There are the stark black-and-white prints that visit the dark hour of the soul, often in contemplation of the human skull, as if buried in a crypt. But then there’s the rush of pure, clear colors in the oil paintings, as exciting but also as incomprehensible as an oracular revelation in the mountains at Delphi. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dan Devening/Tarble Arts Center

Painting, Suburban No Comments »



2013 is being canonized as abstract painting’s comeback year. In the past twelve months, Newcity alone has featured more than fifty articles related to abstract art and artists, and while this past fall’s EXPO Chicago was packed with painterly condo décor, the good stuff is getting harder and harder to find. Perhaps that’s why you’ll need to sojourn downstate to see one of this winter’s most compelling investigations of contemporary abstraction.

In “Kiosk” at Eastern Illinois University’s Tarble Arts Center in Charleston, artist Dan Devening—longtime professor of painting at SAIC, founder of Devening Projects + Editions and one of the minds behind the recently opened West Loop space Paris London Hong Kong—presents a series of twelve untitled colorful and loose (but decidedly conscious) abstractions that probe the limitations of conventional structure and illusory space. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sandra Holubow and Judith Roth/Koehnline Museum of Art

Drawings, Painting, Suburban No Comments »
Judith Roth

Judith Roth


Sandra Holubow and Judith Roth are two old friends whose paintings of local middle-class life neatly complement each other.

Roth is a figure painter and draftsman, the kind who hires a model and then brings her to life on paper or canvas. She mostly paints women, and she presents them as strong individuals who overwhelm their backgrounds and enter the space of the room where the painting is hung. The women are ready to open up the office, drive the kids to school, or teach an aerobics class. They also overwhelm the background when Roth draws them nude, and her large, bold, voluptuous contour-lines proudly assert their fleshiness rather than offering it up for the delectation of voyeurs. Every image seems to say, “I am proud to be woman.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sabina Ott/Riverside Arts Center Freeark Gallery

Sculpture, Suburban No Comments »

ott_pleasure for the poor

The exhibition begins outdoors with Sabina Ott’s fountain, a glittery, Styrofoam-encrusted circulating water tank the size of a bathtub, titled “Pleasure for the Poor” (2010). As its title suggests, it would be suitable for the landscape architecture of a place where people must live on impossible dreams. Defying any sense of space, form or proportion, the fountain is as comforting as a giant, melting, multi-flavor ice-cream sundae. That sense of down-scale comfort is projected by the rest of Ott’s pieces in this exhibit—all of them pastel-tinted conglomerations of glass and metal stuck together with sprayed Styrofoam. Absent any visual tension, and with a sweet, then more sweet esthetic, there’s a sense of fun that summons a hilarious party—which is exactly what the artist did, inviting other artist friends and colleagues to participate. Each were asked to contribute something that, like her pieces, is prominently colored white. The variety of responses is fascinating, but mostly they function like the strainer at the bottom of a kitchen sink, catching the random detritus of human experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Charles Szymkowicz/Koehnline Museum of Art

Painting, Suburban No Comments »



Large, bold, expressive paintings of celebrities are the stuff of summer art fairs. But as these many pairs of large eyes stare out from the wall, the subject is more often the modern world they’re confronting rather than any recognizable celebrity. There’s the ordinary daily horror before the terrified eyes of Andy Warhol, the divine mystery before the eyes of Isaac Bashevis Singer and all the human foibles seen by the cool, analytical eyes of Woody Allen, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. Not all of these famous people are Jewish men, but like the painter himself nearly half of them are. These are the famous writers, painters and politicians with whom the Belgian painter Charles Szymkowicz apparently most identifies. He also has a fascination with African Americans like Jimi Hendrix, Jean Michel Basquiat, Martin Luther King and especially Barack Obama.   There are five paintings of the current president; and four times he is looking away, presumably at that rat’s nest of American politics that has furrowed his brow in frustration. Only four women have been depicted, Read the rest of this entry »