Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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

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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

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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 »

Review: Mutuality/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »

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 »

Review: Art of Association: Modern Polish Posters/Polish Museum of America

Prints, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »

Marta Jagus


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 »

Review: Modern Model/Roots & Culture

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


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 »