Dread Scott, “Money to Burn,” 2010
The sound of the artist Dread Scott chanting “money to burn—money to burn” in a rhythmic cadence accompanies the visitor for the duration of their visit to the group exhibition “It’s the Political Economy, Stupid.” It is the soundtrack to a recorded performance in which Scott offered passersby on Wall Street the opportunity to actually burn bills, which were affixed to the artist’s body. The curators were wise to carry Scott’s singsong cry through the entire show. It is a vaguely irrational and simultaneously reassuring aural message.
“Money to Burn” is one of more than ten videos in this diverse collection of work interrogating what the organizers of the exhibition, Gregory Sholette and Oliver Ressler, call “our present day circumstances of unrelenting economic crisis, authoritarian drift and rapidly failing states.”
A catalogue of techniques, from talking heads to animation, lures viewers into various understandings of how capital works: why banks and economies collapse, resistance to austerity and a variety of political critiques of what most contributors to the exhibit see as floundering systems. Read the rest of this entry »
“I want things to be a little difficult so you have to confront these images and negotiate your own stakes and the ways you are implicated in them,” explains Lauren Edwards on the eve of her upcoming exhibition “In the Turn.” Edwards, who completed her MFA at UIC earlier this year, uses found images she sources from the Internet and sculptural installations that aim to consider the psychological ways images are apprehended and used to script an understanding of one’s environment. Often employing pictures of nondescript landscapes, Edwards aims to call attention to how viewers create meaning and context for what they encounter. “These things are totally unspecific,” she says. “Using these images of nonspecific places is a way to underscore this liminal threshold space.” Read the rest of this entry »
Artists have depicted struggle for centuries. From political and religious strife to the struggle within the artists’ wormwood-pocked mind, these days some of the most alluring paintings do not depict struggle as much as they embody it. Paint itself can appear tortured: scraped, smeared, erased, diluted, sanded and dug into.
Diane Christiansen’s current exhibition, cleverly titled “Cup Freaketh Over,” embraces the struggle between the artist and her medium, but ever so gracefully and intentionally. Her oil on plaster works have a worn aesthetic—perhaps a nod to Renaissance-era fresco paintings, but feel very fresh and contemporary through the artists’ tentative application and unique palette. An unsteady line forms a corpse-like forearm, reaching out of a deep blue swirl of paint, clutching something unrecognizable. An acorn hangs, cradled in an elastic ribbon, pulled down from a clumsy cluster of red, pink, brown and ochre loops of paint, pulling forth from the plaster ground which seems to want to suck up the pigment as it has in so many other areas on the painting. These works are simultaneously playful and painful, often with bodily titles like “Hairy Eyeball” and “Amphetamines,” and each with a distinct air of anxiety. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Genovese’s linear wall reliefs mimic the everyday cracks in pavement, walls and other human structures that surround us; they also serve as traces and indexes of the less tangible fractures around us. His current exhibition at Paris, London, Hong Kong (the new gallery’s second show), “Joliet,” references the city that brands itself the “crossroads of Mid-America” and has historically served as both a railway transportation hub and a site for adult and juvenile prisons. Genovese, originally from Chicago, uses these local associations to his advantage, giving the slick, nickel-plated, mirror-polished steel cracks that crawl across the gallery space more political and historical weight. But the formalisms of the cracks themselves stand alone as repositories for abstract imagery from natural and invented worlds: like stitched seams, imagined lines of constellations, and uncanny growth of strange plant life, they seem filled with forces of gravity and grace, dripping down walls or attempting to scale and branch. The overall effect recalls Charles Ray’s famous declaration about “Hinoki,” on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, that he was trying to Read the rest of this entry »
“I Got High and Never Got Back (Revisited)”
Cody Hudson is one of Chicago’s most prolific and highly regarded artists. Navigating the murky (and possibly irrelevant) borderlands between fine art and commercial design, Hudson is known for creating everything from one-off bags for Whole Foods to installations and album covers via his design house Struggle Inc. The artist’s compositions are clean-cut, chromatically harmonious, and brimming with a laid-back sense of quiet confidence.
For “Salad Days Days” at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Hudson draws upon his background in graphic media to create a series of paintings that aptly demonstrate simplicity’s myriad virtues. Employing a restrained color palette that sticks close to cool blues and greens with the occasional black or golden accent, a single, almost obsessively repeated pear-shaped form dominates these square supports, becoming both figure and ground in works such as the regally hued “I Got High and Never Got Back (Revisited).” Read the rest of this entry »
“Bucket Eye View (Path)”
Like most Americans, I keep the idea of death’s unforgiving grasp safely confined to the periphery of my subconscious via a gentle stream of sex, alcohol and vaguely pointless amusement. Our society, pathologically ill-equipped to deal with grief in any kind of serious way, allows for little else. So it should come as no surprise that Conrad Freiburg’s fun-loving memento mori, “Before the Grave and Constant” at Linda Warren Projects, fits neatly into this bitter-pill-washed-down-with-mountains-of-sugar cultural ethos.
Echoing a giant game of Mouse Trap, the various ropes and pulleys that populate this gallery-sized installation set steel bearings into motion along divergent channels that always end in the dark void of the proverbial (and literal) bucket. Symbolizing decision and consequence, life’s travails and its inevitable end, Freiburg’s take on death is also inherently materialist and occidental, portraying it as the final destination on a linear journey, with no hint of an afterlife, or even reincarnation. The problem—if you want to call it that—is that the interactive installation is just too fun to take very seriously. Read the rest of this entry »
Queer-studies icon Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick named as “the homosocial” the cycle of self-consumption and regeneration within masculinity. A variety of manly tensions are borne out by the juxtapositions in the group show “Weird Dude Energy,” now at Heaven. There’s Jesse Butcher’s provisional nailed-together stands for found objects, one bearing a leather jacket and the framed (Black Flag song title) “My War” and the other an image of a guy in a skull mask next to labeled moral-hygiene film reels, playing off against Mike Rea’s impeccable all-wood construction of a tall boom mic stand inside a partial jail cell and hanging over a wall incised with William Blake’s scene of God creating with a golden compass. There’s the Picassoid swagger of Ethan Gill’s large painterly canvas (“No You Don’t Ethan, Ethan No You Don’t!”) versus Auggie Oz’s delicate floral still-life (“Abstract Painting”). In video, the hypnotic Big Brother/big brother grimacings and donut enticements of Casey McGonagle offset the femme-y Milli Vanilli-focused fabrication montage by Benji Pearson and the failed ladder-balancing performance by Sebura and Gartelmann. Read the rest of this entry »
Shane Rodems, “30′ Keystone w/Slideouts, Has To Be Moved,”2013
Around this time of year the torrent of new exhibitions that gives the spring season its step rapidly gives way to the summer’s starved trickle. That doesn’t mean that good shows aren’t out there, but in many cases you’ll have to look a little harder to find the gold. Case-in-point: Shane Rodems’ “Nifty Thrickel” at Peter Miller Gallery, a taught exhibition of mixed-media works that slipped quietly into the West Loop space last month with little fanfare and not even a formal press release.
The seven works on display by this downstate native are a cheery concoction of image and artifact, capricious line, brilliant color and obtuse form. Inspired by the pages of the Thrifty Nickel—a sort of Deep South AutoTrader that features classified ads for everything from firearms to wedding DJs—Rodems’ constructions, some kinetic but most static, feel awkward and homemade, reflecting the discordant aesthetic of the magazine’s variously juxtaposed items. But these shaped supports, whose surfaces are forged from large-format photographs of chaotic interiors staged by the artist, are anything but haphazard. Read the rest of this entry »
“Circuit Landscape: No. IV,” 1973, oIl stick on canvas
Shortly before creating the paintings in “Ghost: Rhythms,” in the early 1970s, McArthur Binion became the first African American to receive an MFA from Cranbrook Art Academy. The eleventh child of Mississippi tenant farmers, the painter’s uncomplicated aesthetic came to the attention of Minimalist luminaries Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre, and in 1973 the young painter was included in a significant exhibition at New York’s renowned Artist Space. Read the rest of this entry »
Todd Diederich works as a cultural documentarian, moving around Chicago as directed by the cosmos, finding sources of unusual effervescent energy and pointing his camera at them. His lush, immaculately composed and focused color photographs demonstrate an interest in somewhat marginalized but certainly not repressed cultures and their odd artifacts.
“Luminous Flux” at Johalla Projects is a fairly small collection of fairly large, unfussy photographs of the “real” Chicago. A giant neon cross adorns the front of a church, likely in Pilsen, the artist’s Mexi-Catholic stomping grounds. A mangy but cheerful plant grows out of a re-purposed PowerWheels convertible. A shadowed figure holds a pigeon in his hands, its wings regally spread to reveal in the sunlight a grandeur we normally don’t acknowledge. Wings are, after all, magnificent feats of natural engineering—even, and perhaps especially, when they’re on pigeons. Read the rest of this entry »