Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Susan Aurinko and Tammy Kohl/Takohl Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Susan Aurinko. “Je suis cy envoiee de par Dieu, le roi du ciel”

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 »

Review: We do what we like and we like what we do/Western Exhibitions

Drawings, Installation, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
nicholas frank1

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 »

Review: Susan Giles and Jeroen Nelemans/Aspect Ratio

Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Susan Giles. "Untitled (Humayun’s with Cultures)," drawing paper, 2013

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 »

Review: Nicholas Gottlund/Paris London Hong Kong

Installation, Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Nicholas Gottlund. "Always," installation view

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 »

Review: Michael Dinges, Victoria Fuller, Geoffry Smalley and Karen Savage/Packer Schopf Gallery

Collage, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Geoffry Smalley. "Catskill Creek, Citi Field," acrylic on inkjet print, 2012

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 »

Review: Tony Tasset/Kavi Gupta

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
"Baby Muscle," resin and mixed media on panel, 2014

“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 »

Review: Perle Fine and Lisa Nankivil/Thomas McCormick Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Perle  Fine. "Tantrum II," gouache and fold-over collage on paper, 1959

Perle Fine. “Tantrum II,” gouache and fold-over collage on paper, 1959

Though presented as separate exhibitions, the two concurrent shows at Thomas McCormick Gallery offer a brief history of abstract painting in its transition from an avant-garde to a traditional practice. Perle Fine (1908-1988) covers the first fifty years all by herself. A more complete retrospective would demonstrate how she was influenced by one artist after another, picking up whatever innovation fascinated her, from geo-form to bio-form, from tight to loose, from simple to complex, from whimsical to angry. She seems to have had a modest, if iron-willed, personality, that was far more interested in the potential of painting than she was in herself. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: David Schutter/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
"AIC C 224 4," oil on linen,  2014

“AIC C 224 4,” oil on linen, 2014


In just over four-hundred words, the press release for David Schutter’s excellent new show, “What Is Not Clear is Not French,” covers a lot of ground. In it we learn about an obscure eighteenth-century French writer, investigate “teleologically bound systems” and consider how the show’s eight oil-on-linen works evolved from Schutter’s process of re-performing encounters with specific, though unnamed, French paintings. Strangely, the exhibition’s overriding condition is never mentioned: these paintings are entirely abstract and they are all gray.

Grayness has long been regarded as symptomatic of nihilism—an aspect of the reductive materialism that’s become endemic to our culture and our art. But in Schutter’s paintings grayness is a doorway. In these enigmatically coded works (references to precise gallery locations at the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art assume the role of titles), grayness is not only the union of opposites such as black and white, grayness also symbolizes the transitory state between sleep and wakefulness, remembering and forgetting. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Anthony Adcock/Packer Schopf Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
"Wood Glue Apophanie," oil on aluminum, 2014

“Wood Glue Apophanie,” oil on aluminum, 2014


Anthony Adcock’s paintings appear so much like the actual sheets of metal or plywood that they represent that I’m not sure I could tell the difference if they were placed side-by-side. Other trompe-l’oeil paintings have never fooled me so completely. In that genre, there’s typically some area, large or small, that says something like, “this is not a pipe—or fly—or candy wrapper.” And even if one cannot sense the brush or paint in Adcock’s work, other trompe-l’oeil artists have used them to establish lyrical modulations of tone and pattern, and a strong sense that this is someone’s private, cherished world.

Adcock’s pieces feel just as impersonal as the panels would have felt before he began painting on them. Or, almost. There is a barely perceptible difference if you look up at the exposed rafters in the low ceiling of the gallery. The rough, dark surfaces of those old beams are so harsh, cold, and unfriendly that, by contrast, you can feel the warmth and softness in the paintings that hang just below them. It’s a very faint softness, but it’s Adcock’s voice—and that makes his paintings more compelling than an entire lumberyard full of actual building materials. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Thomas Killian Roach/Document Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »
"Oskar Werner," archival pigment print, 2014

“Oskar Werner,” archival pigment print, 2014


I was reading a little Judith Butler this week, and her ideas about the difference between expression and performance came back to me when I was thinking about Thomas Roach’s photographic work at Document. When I parse the five photos, I don’t come up with anything expressive. Roach’s images—technically, silver gelatin and archival pigment prints—are produced by placing a small television tuned to daytime programming and New Wave cinema on a flatbed scanner. They show spaces, text and a face that are broken along vertical lines, squeezed and interrupted by the oscillations of analog and digital information. The images have that remote, bloodless, mediated quality which characterizes so much art whose subjects are the processes and technologies of reproduction. When I learn from a gloss that Roach has produced thousands of these images, it is clear that whatever the images might represent, it is the process or the performance that is significant. The obsessive futile aphasiac activity that produced the five works on display is the meaning itself, despite the stylishly printed, two-thousand-word accompanying essay that name-drops a lot of influences and visual art allusions. Read the rest of this entry »