Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

Eye Exam: Cutting Back, Dropping Out

Activist Art, Art Schools, Design, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, News etc., Suburban No Comments »
Illinois State Museum in Springfield. Photo by Mike Linksvayer.

Illinois State Museum in Springfield/Photo: Mike Linksvayer

By Elliot J. Reichert

Last week, a bipartisan Illinois legislative commission rejected Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposal to close the Illinois State Museum system. The vote of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is a non-binding but weighty gesture against the efforts of the state’s Executive Office to reduce Illinois’ massive budget deficit through severe and uneven cuts in public spending. The Illinois State Museum is a network of five sites that serve distinct but complementary purposes in the preservation and cultivation of Illinois history and culture: a natural history and art museum in Springfield, an on-site archaeological museum of Native American history at Dickson Mounds, a contemporary art museum inside of a repurposed riverfront warehouse in Lockport, a gallery and artisan shop in downtown Chicago, and a museum and gallery in the southern community of Rend Lake. The cuts would reduce the projected $6.29 million annual operating budget of the museum system to $1.5 million, saving Illinois approximately $4.8 million in the next fiscal year. The retained funds would be spent maintaining the facilities and collections of nearly 13.5 million objects housed by the museums during their indefinite closure. Illinois will continue to keep rare and precious artworks and artifacts related to the heritage and history of the state, but the taxpayers who pay for the care of these things will no longer be able to access them. Read the rest of this entry »

News: David Wallace Haskins’ “Skycube” Premieres at the Elmhurst Art Museum

Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, News etc., Public Art, Sculpture, Suburban No Comments »
David Wallace Haskins. Rendering of “Skycube.” Copyright 2015.

David Wallace Haskins. Rendering of “Skycube.” Copyright 2015.

David Wallace Haskins’ “Skycube,” an outdoor installation that reflects and focuses the ever-changing three-dimensional sky, will debut on August 11 outside of the Elmhurst Art Museum. This three-ton cube (eight by eight by eight feet) will include a square aperture that brings the sky to a viewer’s eye level.

Haskins, a Chicago-based artist, works with a team of experts in various fields, including physics, ecology and psychology, to investigate and experiment with sound, time, light and space. Artists such as J.M.W. Turner and René Magritte have grappled with the sky in artwork, Haskins acknowledges in a phone interview, but with “Skycube,” Haskins invites viewers to participate in a phenomenological experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: New American Paintings: Midwest Edition/Elmhurst Art Museum

Painting, Suburban No Comments »
Rachel Hellmann. "Window to Lean on," 2014 acrylic polymer on panel, 17" x 14" x 3"

Rachel Hellmann. “Window to Lean on,” 2014
acrylic polymer on panel, 17″ x 14″ x 3″


Like any number of shows that offer viewers a representative slice of trends in contemporary art, “New American Paintings: Midwest Edition” at the Elmhurst Art Museum strikes a conciliatory balance between abstraction, representation and their respective hybrids while including a few “genre challenging” works that are fun, but categorically not painting. The effect is a show that, while occasionally meandering for lack of focus, has a little something for everyone. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »