“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 »
Information is hard to kill. By now we all know the strange life of data: its capacity for infinite reproduction, the aesthetics of its compression and failure, and its litigious potential to topple our concept of a one true whatever. What is perhaps less explored is the question of data’s death—and, as Christopher Meerdo explores in his exhibition, “Anthology,” its resurrection.
When you delete a file on your computer, the data is not immediately destroyed. Instead, it remains until the storage is written over by something new. While there are programs that will replace your data rather than erase it, these are more of a specialty option for those rare cases between “Who cares who sees my homework?” and putting nails through your hard drive before the cops show up. In the case of magnetic storage, data leaves something behind, even if it’s a rusting pincushion at the bottom of the river. Read the rest of this entry »
“It was all Melissa’s doing,” eighty-five-year-old John Wehmer says by way of explanation, referring to Columbia, Missouri gallerist Melissa Williams. Last spring Williams visited Wehmer in his home on a hunch and eventually convinced him to unearth a body of two dozen large abstract paintings, many of which had been unseen in storage for decades, in a show that will now open at the McCormick Gallery this weekend after a stunningly successful showing in Missouri. The exhibition offers yet more evidence of the undersung role of Midwestern artists in mid-century abstract painting. Read the rest of this entry »
The center of Andrew Norman Wilson’s newest exhibition—or “town,” as he calls it—is its press release, a masterful cultural critique that is a “play” placing the artist at the center of the narrative of the exhibition’s conception to completion. Visitors to the town are faced with a collection of seemingly incongruous elements (including live Gloster canaries, a cat tree, orchids, FedEx boxes, hot dogs, baseball cards, bottled water, televisions, and two hired interns hawking bootlegged Ashton Kutcher movies in North Face) that parody the chaotic randomness of corporate branding and PR language. Read the rest of this entry »
Conventional wisdom has it that art, and the objects we can experience as art, is limitless. But frankly, I think limits are a good thing. Without the limitations imposed by size, support and medium, and the concomitant pressures they apply upon the artist, creative innovation just isn’t possible. Painter Judith Geichman must know this, and her new solo show at Carrie Secrist Gallery is testament to the beauty and necessity of limits.
Working within the sparest of parameters, Geichman’s paintings are thrilling displays of dexterity. Her square supports and strictly achromatic blend of acrylic and enamel paint evoke the kind of old-school, unabashedly mid-century abstraction that pulses with the vigor and vitality of the artist’s hand. The brash white gestures and viscous pools of black paint in canvases such as “Flash” and “Zoo Toon” elicit vaguely figurative references—while “Flow” throbs with a barely contained, almost erotic energy. Read the rest of this entry »
Ceramic art ain’t what it used to be. On a small table near the gallery entrance, six historic pots huddle together to remind us of the past. Though made by ancient hands from all over the planet (Rwanda, Peru, Cambodia and North America, among others), they all share a certain dignity. Rooted to the shelf beneath them, each stands tall and proud, asserting a simple though necessary function, and as strong, content, healthy, reliable, honest and handsome as one might wish sons and daughters to be. But don’t those qualities lead to a dead-end, low-pay job in today’s world? Ambition, cleverness, innovation, rule-breaking and unique virtuosity are required for success in our civilization, and are well represented by the five contemporary artists chosen to fill the rest of the gallery. Read the rest of this entry »
There are few spaces better suited to an encounter with the unknown than the faintly eerie, subterranean chamber at Packer Schopf Gallery. Like the crypt of some secular church, its exposed masonry and weathered cobblestones house curious objects; musings on death and rebirth personified by artist Lauren Levato’s ten spare, graphite-on-paper self-portraits.
Precisely drawn, the works in “Wunderkammer” envisage the body—only superficially the artist’s own—as time’s reservoir; a site where life’s events, both tragic and triumphant, accumulate and transform. Levato’s drawings achieve this emotional resonance by uncynically mining a rich vein of symbolic narrative that’s fast become an endangered species in more academic genres.
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“A Place of Execution”
If the November elections had turned out differently, Shay Kun’s new paintings would have belonged in the White House. The design and execution are flawless, as befits a presidential setting. But more than that, the vision of magnificent hot-air balloons floating above a hyper-Romantic Hudson River School landscape looks like an über-rich wet dream, conflating idealistic American history with personal ambition. Isn’t that how Malcolm Forbes related to his Fortune 500 clients? Captains of finance lofted above the workaday world in colorful, Victorian splendor, while far below the earthbound wage earners scurry about like ants on the concrete. But actually, just about everybody would like to float “up, up and away,” including this Israeli artist’s parents, both of whom narrowly escaped the Holocaust in Hungary and once gave their son a wooden airship to play with as a child. It’s escapism, pure and simple, and who doesn’t occasionally need it? Read the rest of this entry »
Mark Wagner, “Mr. Handshake’s Last Gasp,” 2010
While the rest of the country was completely consumed by a bitter election that gained the dubious honor of being the most expensive ever at the cost of over six billion dollars, you would never know it if you took a trip around the West Loop galleries a weekend or two before the election. The art on view seemed blissfully unaware of the outside world to the point of bordering on irrelevancy.
The exception was Mark Wagner’s “Voting with Your Pocketbook” at Western Exhibitions, where the simple acknowledgment of the events beyond the gallery walls felt like a breath of fresh air. Framing itself as “an exhibition of money art,” the work uses the dollar bill as its medium, which Wagner then collages, paints or draws over.
At other times and in other situations using the dollar might feel a bit facile and gimmicky; and though doubt never entirely disappears, against the backdrop of the election and disinterest of other galleries in current events, Wagner’s gesture comes off as both relevant and urgent. Indeed, the artist winks at art’s perennial detachment in several works. Looking like a conceptualist work from the seventies, “Ink Value Study” builds to full black-and-white over a sequence of six bills. Elsewhere, Twombly-esque scribbles and strokes appear atop their money medium.
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