Installation view of “Helsingistä” at Western Exhibitions
Though they appear vigorous, the bold gestures and painterly strokes that evoke the heady days of 1950s expressionism in Ari Pelkonen’s paintings, currently on view in Western Exhibitions’ “Helsingistä,” are actually the result of woodblock printing: a slow and methodical technique antithetical to the heroic gestures it emulates. Evoking pop-artist Roy Lichtenstein—who pilloried the dramatic look of the “tenth street touch” in overblown satires such as “Big Painting No. 6”—Pelkonen’s take is refreshingly free of cynicism. Works such as the wine-stained “Hold” offer instead earnest explorations of surface and touch coupled with an interest in figuration versus abstraction and interpretation versus recognition.
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Ten books in the conXion box set, offset printed books, 2014
Now in its second year, Chicago’s young art book fair has expanded for its latest iteration this weekend, spread across two days, at two sites, with two different focuses. Founded by designer Ria Roberts, Medium Cool is one of the most recent additions to Chicago’s literati culture of fairs, independent presses and book-minded artist projects. Read the rest of this entry »
Jon Pestoni. “Tracksuit,”
oil and mixed media on panel, inset into wood frame, 2014
California-based painters Greg Gong and Jon Pestoni have, through unifying abstract forms over a variety of ground materials and techniques, developed complementary methods that result in layered, petrified paint. They do well to show together as the stakes over which they struggle are not only a work’s surface but what physically lies beneath. Read the rest of this entry »
Briar Craig. “Gluten-Free Poetry”
“Texttexttext” at Woman Made Gallery is a cogent and self-conscious group exhibition that effectively engages notions of language as ever-changing, the battle between public and private social spheres, and the presence of a self-consciousness that is so prevalent in our age of selfies, tweets and Facebook postings. The artists in this show work from these starting points to ponder the transparency of the twenty-first century using a neo-dadaist humor and a deep awareness of our world. Read the rest of this entry »
Susan Aurinko. “Je suis cy envoiee de par Dieu, le roi du ciel”
Joan of Arc. Who was Joan of Arc, the teenage Christian visionary who led armies against the English invaders of France in the fifteenth century, and was killed by them at the age of nineteen in 1431? There are no images of her from the time she lived, but there are statues and figurines representing her made over the succeeding centuries. In a photographic quest driven by a sense of connection to the remarkable heroine, Susan Aurinko has sought out those objects and shot them as portraits, each one expressing a different mood, but all of them unified by what Tammy Kohl, who has enriched the exhibit by her jewelry referencing Joan’s time, calls “strength.” Read the rest of this entry »
Nicholas Frank. “Nicholas Frank Biography, page 302 (First Edition),” printed book page, 6 ¼ x 4 ½ inches, custom-milled walnut frame, 10 x 8 inches, 2014
This rambling celebration on the occasion of the gallery’s ten-year anniversary as a bricks-and-mortar space is cheekily titled after the eponymous Andrew W.K. anthem, “Party Hard.” The moniker adds both an air of revelry and defiance to the works exhibited, implying that director Scott Speh and the artists on his roster are fueled by passion and vision rather than a pursuit of conventional success.
The show is an exercise in polarity, oscillating between extremes in scale and tone. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted by the first of two sigil paintings by Elijah Burgher. Fresh from the Whitney Biennial, these painted drop cloths are installed back to back, dominating the initial visual field. Situated in the corner of the same room are two bongs, “Uncle Sam/Old Yeller” by Ben Stone. They seem slightly out of place in an area otherwise devoted to minimalist and conceptual works but add levity while reiterating the rebellious tone set by the title. Read the rest of this entry »
Susan Giles. “Untitled (Humayun’s with Cultures),” drawing paper, 2013
In both Susan Giles and Jeroen Nelemans’ practices, video and sculptural works borrow content from tourism and art history as the basis for re-imagining the material representations of place.
Susan Giles’ video “Pulling Out the Words,” 2011, is a series of interviews with five subjects about favorite landscapes in which all of their spoken descriptions have been cut. Landscapes are conveyed only through the speakers’ gestures, stutters and breaths, with Giles’ camera tracking the speakers’ hands, upper body or face.
The perceptual shifts afforded by lacunae continues into the next small room with Nelemans’ Flavin-esque “from the Postcard Series, Untitled #3,” 2012. An enlarged postcard of Dutch tulip fields is sliced vertically and wrapped around slender fluorescent tubes. Colored diagonal lines illuminate the space in between the rows, neatly continuing the image as light spilling onto the wall. Nelemans, Dutch but Chicago-based, is interested in cultural pilfering: tulips originate from Turkey but are a national representation of The Netherlands. Read the rest of this entry »
Nicholas Gottlund. “Always,” installation view
Featuring both screen-prints and sculptures, Pennsylvania native Nicholas Gottlund’s “Always” is a sixth-generation printmaker and publisher’s examination of the nature of reproduction. The seven large-scale screen-prints that dominate the diminutive space are enlargements from the pages of Gottlund’s 2013 self-published book “Printing Always Printing,” which is itself comprised of images culled from H. Winslow Fegley’s 1972 photo-essay on the Pennsylvania Dutch titled “Farming, Always Farming.” Read the rest of this entry »
Geoffry Smalley. “Catskill Creek, Citi Field,” acrylic on inkjet print, 2012
The group of shows at Packer Schopf Gallery ruminates on intrusion. There is technological and environmental encroachment, and the intrusive mythos of masculine and feminine ideals.
Michael Dinges’ “Lifeboat: The Wreck of the Invisible Hand” hangs center stage as a retired boat and a lesson. Made with vinyl siding, the scrimshaw declarations ring around this dramatic piece as if conversing with Victoria Fuller’s work across the room. Her piece, “Deep Down,” meditates on the inherent commingling in nature: a snake, an earthworm, and roots rise from the dirt to touch the air. At the same time, some of her materials, like gas pipe and metal tubing, interrupt the state of the nature she presents. Read the rest of this entry »
“Baby Muscle,” resin and mixed media on panel, 2014
At Expo Chicago last year, Tony Tasset’s “Spill Paintings” were a good-natured critique of the slick resinous surfaces found in abundance throughout the flashy art fair. Deliciously hued puddles spread across white panels, issuing from emptied containers for food and cleaning supplies. These gags have now been expanded into a sly compendium of moves by abstract painters and conceptual artists alike from Pollock onward. Not unlike Tasset’s near exhaustive list of artists inscribed across “Artists Monument” that was included in this year’s Whitney Biennial, in these paintings, the more the merrier. Read the rest of this entry »