Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Morris Barazani/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Collage, Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
"Pinwheel, oil on canvas, 2009-10

“Pinwheel, oil on canvas, 2009-10


Morris Barazani’s kaleidoscopic painting retrospective at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art reveals an individual acutely sensitive to new artistic directions. Spanning the past six decades, the thirty-one selections on view run the gamut from raucous painterly surfaces to nuanced forays into collage and color-field abstraction. In an age where stylistic homogenization is a prerequisite for mainstream success, it’s clear from the outset that the persistent theme of Barazani’s career is openness to change. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Three New Gallery Programs Start This Summer While Humboldt Park Art Hub Loses Its Lease

Galleries & Museums, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, News etc., Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
centered: Allison Reimus. "Yellow Rectangle," acrylic on wood, 2012. Hung above a teak sideboard by Hans Wegner for Ry Mobler Denmark, with other furnishings by Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Sarrinen and Jens Quistgaard.

Centered: Allison Reimus. “Yellow Rectangle,” acrylic on wood, 2012. Hung above a teak sideboard by Hans Wegner for Ry Mobler Denmark, with other furnishings by Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Sarrinen and Jens Quistgaard.

Earlier this week, Peanut Gallery, an exhibition space and art studio collective located in Humboldt Park announced that its lease would not be renewed in October. Peanut is one of several businesses at the corner of California Avenue and Augusta Boulevard that will be closing or relocating to make way for new developments being planned by landlord Gio Battaglia. Peanut Gallery co-owners Charlie Megna and Kelly Reaves took to the space’s Facebook page with a public explanation of their situation and future plans, “We ARE NOT CLOSING, just want to make that clear. But we are going to have to move come October and we may be taking some time off during the winter to figure out our game plan.  We will still be active in the arts community and will continue on.” In advance of shuttering their current location, several exhibitions are scheduled: opening July 13, “Ugly Smile” is a group show curated by Mike Rea and Geoffrey Todd Smith, then opening in August will be an exhibition of work by David Krofta. Peanut Gallery, 1000 North California.

Earlier this month, 4th Ward Project Space was opened by three SAIC graduates, Mika Horibuchi, James Kao and Valentina Zamfirescu. As the gallery’s name suggests, it is located in Chicago’s Fourth Ward—Hyde Park, in other words. 4WPS is a decidedly non-commercial venture with goals toward creating more opportunities for artists to explore their practices without the pressures of the marketplace. When reached for comment, Kao spoke to their motivations in starting an alternative gallery, “We understand the importance of community for artists, but we also understand how the attendant privileges of wealth, whiteness and patriarchy often steer the art community away from what matters most—namely, excellent art. 4WPS aims to provide a platform for artists who may be underrepresented or typically overseen to create and exhibit works that provoke critical discourse rather than monetary gain.” Their current exhibition of video installation by Greyson Hong is on view until July 4. 4WPS, 5338 South Kimbark. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Charline von Heyl/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
"Green Duck," oil and charcoal on cardboard panel, 2013

“Green Duck,” oil and charcoal on cardboard panel, 2013


Charline von Heyl’s first Chicago solo exhibition, “Interventionist Demonstration (Why-A-Duck?),” now on view at Corbett vs. Dempsey, is made up of paintings inspired by a 1934 comic strip, “Krazy Kat,” by George Herriman that is also on display. The characters, Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Pupp appear in these paintings, while the accompanying catalogue has text appropriated by von Heyl from the strip.

The comical melancholia in her paintings has a tone much like Herriman’s work: the use of dark humor and absurdity as a way to philosophize the complexities of emotion and the world of the artists’ respective centuries. There is a dialogue that feels light despite its hefty content. “Green Duck,” hanging off to the side on a wall by itself, appears quite sad, furthering the tragicomic mood simmering throughout the gallery. At the back of the gallery, there is a grid of thirty-nine paintings of abstract forms and dark representations of a duck, a tree, a frowning face. Some feel like image fragments speaking with Herriman’s and some feel exclusively von Heyl, but they all have an air that deeply ponders perception. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Chicago’s Bauhaus Legacy/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Design, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Victor Skrebneski

Victor Skrebneski


Modernism was about fifty-years-old when Laszlo Moholy-Nagy reconvened the Bauhaus school of design on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1937, but he still was promoting a dynamic, fearless, forward-looking “new vision” for the modern age, a vision that continued through the first decade of that institution as it was reconstituted in 1944 as the Institute of Design. But now, nearly seventy years later, it does feel safely buried in the past, especially in this current exhibition. Organized by the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art together with the Bauhaus Chicago Committee, no attempt has been made at an innovative, provocative design for the exhibit itself. The walls are cluttered with furniture, pictures and photographs, while assorted catalogs, magazines, knick-knacks and jewelry are spread out on long folding tables. It feels more like a flea market than an art museum gallery. It also seems that diversity, rather than quality, was the guiding principle in selection. But, as flea markets go, this is a very good one, including some of the very first covers of Playboy magazine, whose first art director, Art Paul, a graduate of I.D., also designed the Playboy rabbit logo. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Guyth/Dos Perros Projects

Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »

Guyth a 2


Neither a group exhibition of individual expressions nor totally homogenized into a collaborative effort, Dos Perros’ “Guyth” is restlessly situated between self-interested poetics and mob mentality. The works on view by Luis Miguel Bendaña, Sam Lipp, Chloe Seibert and Alison Veit stage an adaptation of the French Revolution represented through listless pageantry, and in so doing consider the socialized body through themes of fashion and commodity, and the performed execution of a batch of éclairs. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Peter Brotzmann and Hedwig Eberle/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Hedwig Eberle, Untitled (2013), oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches

Hedwig Eberle, Untitled
(2013), oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches


Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain Bois’ eclectic collection of writings on twentieth-century art, “Formless: A User’s Guide,” separates the concept of the “formless” (Georges Bataille’s informe) from form and content, as traditionally understood.  The works now at Corbett vs. Dempsey seem to fit this mold. Artist and musician Peter Brotzmann’s box-based assemblages use odd metal items and wooden shapes, screen and wire, foam and paint, tape and string. They incompletely suggest miniature landscapes or faces, Cornell-ish curios or whimsical Calder contraptions. His washy sketches, some two-handed quasi-symmetrical drawings of plants, cups and hands, some semi-abstractions on found paper, seem more like mechanical exercises than compositions. Hedwig Eberle’s cryptic scribbles in smeary polychromatic oil-paint blobs could be compared to Jean Dubuffet portraits. But these engaging works by Brotzmann and Eberle are too simple and nonspecific to make comparisons stick; rather, they occupy a nebulous archaeological space, a paleo-post-industrial sublime… which perhaps, for some, makes them aesthetically suspicious.

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Review: Thomas Kapsalis/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Painting, Sculpture, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »



Time lets the air out of everybody’s tires, but that’s hardly noticeable in this exhibition of the last two decades of paintings and sculptures by Thomas Kapsalis, born 1925, and a longtime teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The paintings are just as playful and buoyant as ever. Occasionally his work has been contemplative of art history, but in his recent work he’s more like a kid who’s discovered a new playground and has to try out all the equipment, or like a Chinese acrobat trying to keep as many spinning plates in the air as possible. Anger, angst, dismay, self-doubt, irony, puzzlement, popular culture,  alienation—all that stuff  never seems to have interested Kapsalis—so it’s as if the last sixty years of contemporary art just never happened and the Bauhaus is still our house. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Subconscious Eye/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Painting, Sculpture, Ukrainian Village/East Village 1 Comment »
John A. Kurtz

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 »

Portrait of a Gallery: Paperish Mess

Gallerist profile, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »

paperishpplHarvard 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 »

Review: Russ White/Werkspace

Drawings, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »

Russ White Background CheckRECOMMENDED

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 »