Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Harold Mendez/Threewalls

West Loop No Comments »

but I sound better (newsletter)

RECOMMENDED

With a material list including “graphite, reclaimed exhaust hose, soot, food matter, vegetable oil, hand ground Cochineal insects and tri-directional foil,” you know you’re dealing with a special kind of artist.

Harold Mendez is a writer and no doubt an avid reader, and an artist working across several visual media. His conceptually driven work draws from Beckett, Basquiat, Simone de Beauvior and on, and on and on. Fascinated by narrative construction, Mendez is a text-heavy artist who gives titles to his works that are both loaded and vague. The exhibition, titled “But I Sound Better Since You Cut My Throat,” incorporates diverse techniques and materials, but all evince a dark, ambiguous spirit. Eerie pinhole photographs hum with deep blacks, lens flares, sparks and shadows. A couple of large-scale, mostly monochrome mixed-media pieces hang on the walls and a chunky, prehistoric-looking sculpture sits on the floor in the main gallery. It’s the piece with the hand ground Cochineal insects. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: HEAD/Western Exhibitions

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Richard Hull, "Human Arrangement," oil and wax on linen, 2013

Richard Hull, “Human Arrangement,” oil and wax on linen, 2013

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Western Exhibitions’ website claims that “HEAD” “features work that riffs on portraiture.” But this show—smart and wild, dark and dazzling—does more than this. It is less about riffing than ripping the head off of portraiture, countering it through a dismantling of the face. The “horror of the face,” according to French theorist Gilles Deleuze, resides in its imperialism: it imposes its own self-portrait, “overcoding” the libidinal depths of the body with legible surfaces and thereby domesticating the act of signification. But many of these works turn horror back onto the face, opening, animalizing, libidinizing and disorganizing it. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Monica Rezman/Packer Schopf Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
untitled, charcoal, paint, paper and glue, 2013

untitled, charcoal, paint, paper and glue, 2013

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About half of the seventeen pieces in Monica Rezman’s exhibition “The Pollen Path” are straightforward acrylic and charcoal works-on-paper. Those familiar with this Chicago artist’s oeuvre will note that, though her driving obsession with hair is still present, it’s not always front and center. In this show, the black serpentine marks that once appeared to be her works’ sole raison d’être are tempered by the inclusion of flatly colored geometric shapes. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Emmett Kerrigan/Linda Warren Projects

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
“Racine SW,” oil on canvas, 2013

“Racine SW,” oil on canvas, 2013

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Emmett Kerrigan climbed onto the roof of his home and photographed views of his West Town neighborhood. Then he put those urban scenes into paint—the uniformly thick paint preferred by some self-taught artists and those who study that technique to deliver a sense of gut-felt immediacy rather than objective observation. And he handled it beautifully, even as the black power lines cut deep furrows through the billowing thick pigment. A sameness of focus throughout the visual field helps create a world that feels safe, lovable and familiar. Every red brick and every green leaf delivered me right back to a happy childhood in an aging city neighborhood not much different from his. Soft, clumpy waves of foliage nicely complement the hard edges of the buildings, producing an effect that is dreamy and mesmerizing. But that spell is absent in another group of paintings, where Kerrigan paints that same foliage all by itself, as single trees against a black background. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Faith Wilding/Threewalls

Drawings, Performance, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view. Photo: Clare Britt

Installation view. Photo: Clare Britt

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The comedian Brian Regan once recalled describing his symptoms to the doctor: “It feels like everything on my inside wants to be on my outside.” Switch that from physical to emotional feelings and you have the work of prominent feminist, writer, teacher and artist, Faith Wilding, whose impressive sampling of her enormous life’s work is on display in a retrospective exhibition.

In 1972, Wilding participated in the groundbreaking feminist exhibition Womanhouse, the first public showcase of feminist art, in Los Angeles. There she performed “Waiting,” a highly influential piece that continues to have resonance today. Wilding’s work has been shown in major feminist art exhibitions over the last forty years and continues to hold sway in contemporary feminist discourse. Because of her accomplishments, the Women’s Caucus for Art is awarding her a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Inevitably, Wilding’s renowned feminist background coats the show with political and historical overtones. However, her artwork also stands tall on a separate stage: that of Faith Wilding’s impassioned journey through life. Bodies, plants, moths and horses memorialize loss, catharsis, transformation and renewal. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Zoe Nelson/Western Exhibitions

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
"Holes in Memory Create Colors in my Mind," 2012

“Holes in Memory Create Colors in my Mind,” oil on cut and collaged canvas and stretcher bars, 2012

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It looks like everything that’s happening in this young painter’s life is beautiful—or, at least, now that she has turned thirty that’s how she can see it, even if she’s cut, torn and shredded her canvases in the process. Nelson’s energy is ferocious, so it’s a wonder that any cloth is left on the stretchers at all—but yes, fragments are still there, and they are as wantonly eye-catching as tropical fish, and composed like a cat that has fallen out a window, acrobatically twisting through the air on the way down, and then elegantly walking away after a perfect landing. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ben Stone/Western Exhibitions

Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
"Heartlight," painted cast resin, 2013

“Heartlight,” painted cast resin, 2013

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The world out there is such a big dangerous place, it’s a good idea to protect children from it until they can fend for themselves—so often they are parked in bedrooms filled with toys that satisfy a yearning for adventure without taking any risks. Ben Stone has to be every boy’s favorite uncle—the kind who disappears into his workshop and two weeks later emerges with some clever, unique, imaginative toy that nobody else could have dreamed up, much less hand-crafted. Like a life-sized dog chasing a raccoon up a tree; or a floor-standing pair of baseball players swinging the same bat; or a three-masted schooner sailing across the floor; or an ornamental wall frieze of E.T. chatting up some children. Remember E.T.—the extra-terrestrial creature from a blockbuster film made thirty years ago? Maybe not, unless you’re as old as the artist and, actually, all of these toys seem to be more about the dreams and fantasies of his own childhood than anyone else’s, back before children could play in electronic, virtual realities. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Michael Rakowitz/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

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"Study for The Breakup – Fantasy Objects," 2012, Get Back fantasy album and ephemera, 1970; Joe Orton, Up Against It, book; Live in Saratha fantasy album, 1969; Beatles signature in the hand of Paul McCartney, 1965; Yoko Ono, Now or Never LP, 1972; Yesterday and Today LP, butcher cover, 1966; Muammar Gaddafi stamp, 1986; fantasy concert ticket, 1965; Israeli currency for the Occupied Territories, never printed in Israel, 1967; Coins, never issued in California, 2010; Currency from Jordan, Syria and Egypt, 1967.

“Study for The Breakup – Fantasy Objects,” 2012, Get Back fantasy album and ephemera, 1970; Joe Orton, Up Against It, book; Live in Saratha fantasy album, 1969; Beatles signature in the hand of Paul McCartney, 1965; Yoko Ono, Now or Never LP, 1972; Yesterday and Today LP, butcher cover, 1966; Muammar Gaddafi stamp, 1986; fantasy concert ticket, 1965; Israeli currency for the Occupied Territories, never printed in Israel, 1967; Coins, never issued in California, 2010; Currency from Jordan, Syria and Egypt, 1967.

RECOMMENDED

Equal parts Middle East history lesson and VH1 “Behind the Music” episode, there’s precious little to dislike about Iraqi-American conceptual artist Michael Rakowitz’s “The Breakup” at Rhona Hoffman Gallery. Through a full-on multimedia presentation encompassing audio, video, collage, memorabilia and a limited-edition vinyl pressing, Rakowitz autopsies the slow dissolution of the world’s most famous pop band, The Beatles, in conjunction with an examination of contemporaneous events that led to the significantly more ruinous dissolution of Pan-Arab nationalism.

Replete with items such as a Lebanese pressing of the “Hey Jude”/”Revolution” forty-five record, various images of Yasser Arafat, old newspapers, a rock from Palestine (a reference to the 1987 Intifada) and bootleg LPs from Rakowitz’s personal collection, the sheer volume of objects and information takes time to adequately digest. And while these articles—and the associations Rakowitz draws among them—are of great interest, the cornerstones of the exhibition are undoubtedly the artist’s original radio broadcasts and film, both titled “The Breakup.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lora Fosberg/Linda Warren Projects

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“We are alone in this together,” gouache, plaster and wax on panel, 2013

“We are alone in this together,” gouache, plaster and wax on panel, 2013

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In Lora Fosberg’s fifth solo exhibition at the gallery, man is pitted against nature in a clear-cut, post-industrial landscape. Trees are falling, cities are burning and tornados are rampant in her paintings. All the while, Lilliputian-sized lumberjacks continue on with their tasks, grappling with massive piles of felled wood and attempting to push them downstream. Fosberg presents humanity’s tenuous engagement with the natural world in a darkly comical fashion—an illustrative, cartoon-like style—that amplifies the divide between the subject matter and its portrayal.

Fosberg’s aptly titled exhibition “The End of Absurdity” pairs low-relief plaster panels and line drawings with small-scale found object sculptures. In all of Fosberg’s works, she presents depictions of a potential future in a world that resembles something very close to ours. In “I’M SO SORRY FOR EVERYTHING,” a purple psychedelic cloud swirls around a burning building that is ironically topped with a water tower. From a distance, this piece (and Fosberg’s other relief panels) appears to be drawn freehand, but upon closer inspection it is revealed that the lines that comprise Fosberg’s compositions are first etched into the smooth plaster surface prior to being filled with color. The textural quality (and inherent aggression therein) of the incised concentric smoke circles mimic those patterns found in Fosberg’s illustrations of crosscut lumber along with the physical logs protruding into the gallery space. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Curtis Mann/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »
"Blanket on Asphalt," cut photographic print, 2013

“Blanket on Asphalt,” cut photographic print, 2013

Curtis Mann’s latest exhibition is hung entirely backwards on the wall. That is, only the unprinted versos of his photographic prints face the viewer. All over these glossy white surfaces many semicircular slits have been sliced. Folded back, these slits reveal a fragmented view of the photo’s other side: scenes from the artist’s studio. The fluttery effect is that of peering through a textured window to glimpse a room’s interior.

The invention of photography more than two centuries ago caused art to undergo its most significant transformation, yet the medium itself is still susceptible to change. Mann continues to redefine photography, especially its material potential. The artist is previously known for his photographs of war in the Middle East that were featured in the 2010 Whitney Biennial. In these photographs he used physical processes of manipulation such as bleaching and dying to erase parts of the images and dramatize the violence. Read the rest of this entry »