Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Gordon Matta-Clark/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Collage, Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Gordon Matta-Clark. "Circus," 1978 silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4" x 73 1/4"

Gordon Matta-Clark. “Circus,” 1978
silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4″ x 73 1/4″


In 1978, the Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned artist Gordon Matta-Clark to execute one of his trademark “building cut” projects in a recently acquired brownstone on Ontario Street. The result, “Circus or The Caribbean Orange,” a series of large-scale circular lacerations that radically altered the structure’s interior, would sadly be the artist’s last major statement before his untimely death at age thirty-five. What remains of the epic scale of this ephemeral project are a series of the artist’s captivating photocollages. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Changes in Threewalls Leadership as Shannon Stratton Leaves for New York

Galleries & Museums, News etc., West Loop No Comments »
Threewalls founder Shannon Stratton, photo by Clare Britt

Threewalls founder Shannon Stratton/Photo: Clare Britt

In a heartfelt letter addressed to friends and supporters of Threewalls on March 26, founder and executive director Shannon Stratton announced that she has been appointed the William and Mildred Lasdon chief curator at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York City. Stratton will be leaving after twelve years as executive director at Threewalls and will begin her position at MAD on June 15, 2015.

In an email exchange, Stratton nostalgically reminisces on some of her most prized moments at Threewalls. “It’s hard to really choose just one thing I’m proud of. I am mostly just incredibly happy that the organization will outlive its founder(s)—that is, stand on its own three feet with a staff and board that isn’t drawn from the organization’s original team. My most beloved success is curating Faith Wilding’s retrospective.” At MAD, Stratton will be a senior management team member, responsible for leading museum strategy for collections and exhibitions as well as for setting the artistic vision for the museum in collaboration with MAD director Glenn Adamson, explains Stratton. “There is plenty to look forward to with this move, but very personally, I am excited to be working full time as a curator, join a team I respect and get to refocus on the intersections between contemporary art, craft and design.” Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Stand in the Sun

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Erin Jane Nelson. "Monk Behind Bars," 2015 Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

Erin Jane Nelson. “Monk Behind Bars,” 2015
Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

By Matt Morris

I’ve really only been making photographs for the past couple of years, and thinking seriously about their medium for an even briefer span. What began as a lighthearted impulse to get men to undress for me was challenged into a more cogent form through recognizing the violence of the cropping frame on eroticized bodies (see Kobena Mercer), the draining echo chamber of the photograph’s reproduction (see Sherrie Levine), and the image and its circulation’s complicity in capital (see Hito Steyerl). Last month, when I tried to get a roll of film developed at this or that drugstore, none still had that equipment (“We just took our developing machine out yesterday,” one clerk told me); this older accessibility to the medium of photography is nearly extinct, succeeded by even more broadly used means of iPhone cameras, selfies, dick pics, Instagram and Google image search. We find ourselves in a torrent (all meanings of the word) of image production, and yet their reliability to represent has been utterly compromised (see David Joselit in the February Artforum linking the Staten Island grand jury’s failure to indict the policeman who murdered Eric Garner to the visual evidence—video footage of a brutal cop pile-on—failing to be allowed to represent these bodies and their violences). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Andreas Fischer/Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Andreas Fischer. "Monument," 2015 oil, acrylic, pencil on canvas, 21 x 18"

Andreas Fischer. “Monument,” 2015
oil, acrylic, pencil on canvas, 21 x 18″


Andreas Fischer’s “The Ghost in Your Shoe” is a satisfying meditation on representation delivered as a set of strange, charming little paintings. The subject matter is familiar. Each picture is of something everyday—a horse, for example, simply titled “Horse.” The paintings are rendered dreamily, as if painted, not even from memory, but from the storehouse of the mind wherein objects are classified. How might a horse appear in the mind’s eye? This is the look of Fischer’s paintings. They spring from an interior space complete with a washy white emptiness around each object, as if the object and only the object were being held aloft and examined in a neutral region, stripped of as much context as possible. We see not renderings but impressions, fleeting notions arrested. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure/Chicago Artists Coalition

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Lori Felker. "A Trip to Always Falls," 2015, video projection and headphones, 17 minute loop

Lori Felker. “A Trip to Always Falls,” 2015,
video projection and headphones, seventeen-minute loop


“Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure” declares its ethos with clarity and directness in advance of any art. There is no irony in this claim nor in the work, a diverse presentation of mixed media that represents the culmination of six artists’ recent Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH residencies. Curated by HATCH resident Erin Toale, the exhibition meditates on David Foster Wallace’s notion of the “anti-rebel,” an imagined figure whose earnest and dogged effort, Foster suggests, might be the much needed antidote to all that is too cool in today’s hip culture. Accordingly, the artists here are visibly struggling, not with the quest of “making it” but with questions of practice and identity, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Threewalls Announces 2015 Edition of Community Supported Art Chicago

Architecture, News etc., Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Julia Klein, “Stand/Statuette.” Mock-up of the planned editions. Edition of 25 + 6 artist proofs. All thirty-one are unique in terms of exact measurements and color. Cast bronze, steel and paint.

Julia Klein, “Stand/Statuette.” Mock-up of the planned editions. Edition of 25 + 6 artist proofs. All thirty-one are unique in terms of exact measurements and color. Cast bronze, steel and paint.

Threewalls, one of Chicago’s non-profit art leaders in pro-artist programming, is launching the 2015 edition of its Community Supported Art Chicago (CSA) series: “The Tabletop Collection.” Using the theme of a sculpture garden reimagined for a tabletop, the collection will be available as a set with works by five Chicago-based artists: Laura Davis, Assaf Evron, Julia Klein, Sabina Ott and Stephen Reber. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ryan Fenchel/Carrie Secrist Gallery

West Loop No Comments »
Ryan Fenchel. "Arcade Ex.," 2014 chalk pastel and oil pastel on paper mounted to panel

Ryan Fenchel. “Arcade Ex.,” 2014
chalk pastel and oil pastel on paper mounted to panel


It’s hard to believe that just over seventy years ago Henri Matisse was something of a has-been. Considered by many to be little more than a thoughtful, polite decorator of bourgeoisie interiors, his radical stature long eclipsed by that other giant of twentieth century art. While in 2015 one might plausibly forget that Picasso ever existed, so little is his impact seen and felt in contemporary painting, the influence of Matisse is now inescapable. From massively attended retrospectives of his late work, to artists (like John McAllister) who have made whole careers out of unabashedly aping his look, Matisse might well be regarded as the single most prominent influence of our time. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wyatt Grant/Paris London Hong Kong

Painting, Sculpture, West Loop 1 Comment »
Wyatt Grant. "Facade," 2014 gouache on wood

Wyatt Grant. “Facade,” 2014
gouache on wood

Vicious tenebrous gods of Subjectivity! There’s no real reason, that I could find, for castigating Wyatt Grant’s “Dreamer Gets Another Dream,” a collection of collages and paintings and bantam sculptures; only that they fail both conceptually and aesthetically—”aesthetic” here not to be confused with “beautiful”—and therefore holistically. What is it saying, when the most attractive pieces are abstract works that embody the supposed theme of the show the least, wherein the colors and shapes and lines and spaces are arranged just so in a purified neo-plastic way? (This is how, by the way, a work of art succeeds aesthetically.) Meanwhile, the finest piece of quasi-representational work is one wherein the abstraction runs high and fast—a tartan face, a floating eye, a hulking hourglass form—and sits in a pile next to the gallery assistant, ready and willing to be taken home with you (not an indictment; personally, I love how my favorite piece can live with me, and me it). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jaime Davidovich/Threewalls

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Video, West Loop 1 Comment »
Jaime Davidovich. "The Live! Show," 1980

Jaime Davidovich. “The Live! Show,” 1980


Argentinian artist Jaime Davidovich moved to a New York teeming with ideas, conversations and possibilities during the 1960s and seventies, when it was gritty, dangerous and artists could afford a building in SoHo. Whereas Gordon Matta-Clark, Donald Judd and the Judson Dance Theater give the period its experimental flavor, Davidovich’s pioneering efforts in artist-run public television never received recognition like abstract video artists Stan Brackhage or Paul Sharits. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Authority, Affirmations and Other Nomenclature

Ceramics, Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Oak Park, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »
Nate Young. Installation view of "Untitled (Pulpit No. 1)," 2014, and "Untitled (Altar No. 1)," 2015

Nate Young. Installation view of “Untitled (Pulpit No. 1),” 2014, and “Untitled (Altar No. 1),” 2015

By Matt Morris

Is art that appears to be “about art” ever only limited to that scope of investigation? I’d say it’s doubtful, mostly because mechanisms of power reproduce themselves throughout social institutions, so to reflect upon the constitutive components of an artistic medium (as well as its historical and contemporary contexts) possesses at least the potential of a transferrable method by which one might fashion new freedoms—not through a rebellion from upheld traditional forms but through critical relationships to them. The monochrome continues to do this. Distilled to an uninterrupted plane, color, texture, scale and the tools for applying material (all usually in some way present in most artworks) are amplified, inviting investigation into the parts that comprise the art. In the best of cases, consideration of the conditions of display is inspired as well. The monochrome as a form also holds up under projections: historically used for such diverse conceptual conceits as Suprematism, color field painting, the “radical painting group,” and most recently one of several working modes bizarrely attributed by Ken Johnson to “soccer mom” aesthetics. A century after Kazimir Malevich painted his canvas “Black Square” in 1915, artists continue figuring out how to take apart the language of art-making so that the parsed vocabulary can speak to the power of the entire system. Read the rest of this entry »