John A. Kurtz
Meet three wild and crazy Chicago guys from the generation that grew up in the 1950s and sixties, back when the language of art had not yet been deconstructed and the Beatles had not yet met the Maharishi. Although John Kurtz, Paul Lamantia and Bruce Thorn are introspective, their artworks are hardly private, and rather than inviting you into their own pictorial world, the energy of each picture is always pushing into the world of the viewer. Read the rest of this entry »
Harvard economist Richard Freeman has called this generation of twenty-somethings “lost,” which is a nice way to say screwed. Underemployed and underpaid, floundering in an anemic economy, it’s a terrifying time to start a business. Lisa Muscato and Sean Murty, the owners of the fledgling combination shop and art gallery Paperish Mess, don’t seem too worried.
Their project of opening a shop has a reckless bravery to it. The couple staked their own money in Paperish Mess, which features a lovingly curated collection of objects from more than seventy-five independent artists and a rotating art installation. Lisa and Sean have yet to draw paychecks from the store, but then again, “a paycheck was never something we wanted to base our lives around,” they say. Instead, they see themselves, and their shop, as serving a “greater good.”
“We’re building up a community of artists that will appeal to people… we want people to come in and be inspired… empowered to do whatever they want,” says Lisa. “Local businesses are better for vendors, for artists, for owners, for the community. We saw a lot of vacant spaces, not a lot of local businesses, and we want to invest in the neighborhood… Better a space like ours in a storefront than a corporation.” Read the rest of this entry »
Gun violence in America, as interwoven with life as race, religion, politics and economics, can easily function as a through-line between each, predicated by crashes, elections, divisive beliefs and social dissonance. Whether gun violence itself is increasing or our awareness of it simply expanding, it’s an issue impossible to wrap one’s arms around and equally impossible to ignore. Mississippi native Russ White—no stranger to firearms—has exhibited primarily sculpture since 2004, and confronts violence and fear with three distinct bodies of new drawings and paintings, each using a delicacy and precision that parallels the quality of his previous work.
“Thug Life” presents White’s alternate take on the Advanced Silhouette SP 83-A shooting-range target, aka “the Thug,” drawn originally by two NY police lieutenants in the mid-1960s and still widely used. This barrel-chested tough is remade, by White, in various daily tasks, from carrying groceries and shaving to holding a baby, his expression always menacing. Humanized by these brief comedic glimpses into his world, however, the villain suddenly commands sympathy and appears as less of a “bad guy” than an everyman, calling into question how little might separate us from the criminal. Read the rest of this entry »
Claire Wolf Krantz
It’s hard to figure just what Claire Wolf Krantz, Susan Sensemann and Michiko Itatani have in common other than living, teaching, and art-making in Chicago for the past thirty years—and, most importantly, each has consistently followed her own inner voice wherever it might lead. Claire Wolf Krantz, a critic and curator as well as artist, has now ventured into bold, symmetrical, bio-form designs that are not especially attractive, but do seem to assert the blunt resiliency of the life force that is going to keep thumping away regardless of any human intentions or understandings. Mostly, she employs large, simple shapes in these nine, unframed paintings of acrylic on paper. But in the ninth, she builds up to a feverish, complex intensity worthy of a Tibetan mandala. Meanwhile, her longtime friend Susan Sensemann, professor emerita from the University of Illinois, has moved into fabrics. She doesn’t weave them; she paints them with acrylic ink onto paper or canvas in a virtuosic display of craftsmanship. The illusionary effects are magical, and one imagines that if these were real fabrics that could be thrown over the shoulders, amazing things might happen. Read the rest of this entry »
Polish poster artist Henryk Tomaszewski (1914–2005) recalled: “We all agreed that the head of the State Film Agency should not expect us to design anything that resembled Japanese, American, Russian or Swiss posters—I was trying to find the essence of the film. I wanted to illustrate this essence with my own language, in my own way.” And so began the Polish Poster School that blossomed in the postwar era to express the magical allure that modern and especially American cinema held for people living in a severely repressed society. Now, fifty years later, the totalitarian empire is gone and so is the market for locally made movie posters, but the thrill of Polish graphic public expression lives on in Poland’s newest art school founded just two years ago in the Baltic city of Szczecin. Read the rest of this entry »
Imagine a performance by minimalist composer Philip Glass during which the calibrated algorithms are interrupted by a snoring philistine that turns out to be someone’s ringtone. The same effect occurs to the imperfectly adapted abstract futurisms in Andy Hall’s geometric sculptures and Kaylee Wyant’s painterly canvases, now on view at Roots & Culture. Recalling Jonathan Lasker, whose colorful squiggles are layered and cramped into confined sections, Wyant, in works such as “Shelbus Dominus” and “Eliza,” carefully stacks and masks areas of vivid chromatic smudges in order to exaggerate the expressionist visual pleasure of the violated edges. Her textures are more like blurry Ross Bleckner watercolors, even verging on faux-finished screensavers. Wyant even goes so far as to wallpaper a gallery nook in crumpled blue pieces of papier-mâché, against which her paintings “Jig” and “Jane” float like odd screen-glitches in a Google Earth view of the ocean. Read the rest of this entry »
Wilco fans have already seen Joanne Greenbaum’s work, though they might not know it. Greenbaum provided cover art for the band’s 2011 “The Whole Love,” as well as illustrations for a fifty-two-page booklet that accompanies the deluxe two-CD edition.
Her forty-two abstract paintings at Shane Campbell Gallery stand as her own kind of concept album. Together, the identically sized sixteen-by-twelve-inch canvases constitute a single experiment in the expressive capacities of gesture. At the same time, each of these pictures rewards close attention, as individual works convey different levels of complexity at the heart of those same gestures. Read the rest of this entry »
“New Formalisms 2” is curator Abraham Ritchie’s sequel to the 2009 exhibition “Beautiful Form,” presenting four young artists who, he claims, are taking “new directions in formal painting,” but who do seem to be using a playbook that’s been in university art departments for at least fifty years. Whether their work is compelling is another question. Most of the pieces would serve well in a technical textbook on the application of paint in simple, repetitive patterns: as delicately applied to a hand-woven support (Samantha Bittman), heavily applied in adjacent stripes (Todd Chilton) or, better yet, comparatively applied, thick on the left, thin on the right, in bilateral symmetry (Steven Husby). These are all pieces that, like the work of Sol LeWitt, could have been executed by a technician following the instructions of the artist, reminding us that, in the late twentieth-century, formalism became a kind of conceptual art, appealing more as idea than as aesthetic feeling. Read the rest of this entry »
photo by Sophia Nahli
Stickers are an idealized art medium—an attempt to connect with an audience through means not acceptable within traditional art institutions. Here, in a selected retrospective of sticker art, they are organized by theme and placed with some care behind glass, which is a type of presentation that could deflate the antagonistic allure key to their interest, but the exhibition at Maxwell Colette Gallery does a good job letting them tell their own stories. All anyone who stuck a sticker wanted anyway was to reflect themselves a little bit back into the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Susan Giles’ site-specific sculpture of the unbuilt Calatrava tower, toppled over inside The Mission, is a model of something unrealized. Although it might refer to the economic crash that scuttled the plans for the building, Giles’ “Crumpled Spire,” deftly built of wood, rests gracefully in the space, echoing the shapes of the windows, lighting grids and setting off the tin ceiling. Downstairs in the basement project room is an alluring and incisive set of photographs by Jeroen Nelemans that look beautiful at first glance but quickly assert a complex critical project that eludes the more poetic sculpture, upstairs. Read the rest of this entry »