Dan Schreck, “Vert”
You have surely noticed, most likely just in passing, the intricate designs printed on the insides of envelopes, especially those that come from financial institutions. Dan Schreck has taken more than just a glance at those patterns, using them as the base for powerful photographic abstractions. For his compositions, Schreck cuts and tears up several envelopes with different designs—in black-and-white and blue—and then puts the pieces together into constructions, which he then photographs in color. The results are beguiling, involving and edgy in a visual sense (rough, straight, jagged and smooth) and psychologically (abrupt confrontations of dynamic shapes blocking each other in tension-filled force fields). Read the rest of this entry »
Casey Sills, untitled #117
A deceptively straightforward, straight-shooting and crystal-clear color photographer of the rural Midwest, Casey Sills turns out, on a well-deserved closer look, to have a complex sensibility in which the lure of color draws the eye into elaborate compositions that verge on abstraction. If he had to be classified, Sills might best be tabbed as an architectural photographer who eschews the documentary approach for the play of line and form for its own sake. He is drawn to weathered walls, ramshackle silos, garish outbuildings, and—in his banner image—a scruffy field to be planted with hops under a canopy of wires (to align the plants when they grow) that are held up by tilted wooden “anchor” poles. Read the rest of this entry »
As conservative ideologues have always bemoaned “the attack” on this or that hallowed ideal, a perennial leftist theme has been “the crisis.” Last summer, local activist writer and artist Daniel Tucker participated in a group residency at the Alternative Press Center, a library of left-leaning books and periodicals located in the In These Times magazine office and gallery space at 2040 North Milwaukee. The goal was to document images of crisis in the center’s 300 available periodicals, which stretched from 2007 to 2012. A searchable web archive is an ultimate goal, but so far Tucker has organized his 750 images into thirty-five binders, organized iconographically by recurrent motifs such as “Pyramids,” “Globes,” “Banks” and “Greenspan.” Laser prints focusing in on many of the documented illustrations, tacked to the wall and propped on tables, take up the main gallery space, along with mounted photos of grouped publications and a shelf containing the “Crisis Image Archive” binders. Corollary hallway displays include samples of poetry responding to the archive, and political cartoons, photos and covers culled from the history of In These Times. Read the rest of this entry »
Graphic design duo Sonnenzimmer once again flexes their fine art muscle with an ambitious exhibition of slick abstract paintings, each layered with various application techniques. Some marks, which look like gestural brushstrokes, reveal themselves to be carefully screenprinted upon closer inspection, only to be mostly obliterated by literal strokes, smears and sprays of watery paint. On the floor, Sonnenzimmer debuts a collection of exciting sculptural works as well. Delving into the tradition of textiles, they’ve merged hand-woven, hand-painted and screenprinted fabric into a series of quilts, which are strategically stretched and draped over clever wooden structures constructed by Club Club, an award-winning architectural collaborative. With this addition of the third dimension, Sonnenzimmer’s careful compositions are accentuated and their forms come to life. Unexpected color choices and an impeccable eye for detail draw us in, make us scratch our heads and keep us looking. (Kelly Reaves)
Through June 7 at Public Works Gallery, 1539 North Damen. Artist lecture on Friday, May 17 at 7pm.
Up three flights of stairs from Milwaukee Avenue, beyond the trendy Wicker Park shops, is LVL3 Gallery. The current exhibition, “Transposed Planes,” brings together three artists working on parallel problems in abstract painting, found art and sculpture from Baltimore, Brooklyn and Bloomington, Indiana. The gallerists choose the artists—Seth Adelsberger, Stacy Fisher and Peter Shear—from websites, social media and studio visits, so the process of choosing artists and artwork for display shifts from mining local connections and affiliations to finding affinities from nodes on the web. Read the rest of this entry »
“Ring Ring, Too Fat Me (The Japanese Corner)”
Collage artist Lou Beach—whose nom de guerre is a clever Anglicization of the Polish surname Lubicz—has a great sense of humor. A longtime illustrator with a client list that includes the New York Times, Wired and Time, Beach’s humble beginnings (a child of immigrants) and youthful sojourns across the continent have endowed him with a sagacious insight into the American character. His gaze, like his wit, is razor sharp.
For his new solo show at AdventureLand, the Los Angeles-based artist has assembled a fine assortment of biting, surrealist-inspired works. Culled from the pages of the past, Beach’s source material is part Little Golden Book, part Sunday missal, combined in striking, and sometimes disturbing ways. Careful inspection yields numerous visual delights, such as the figure in “Honey, Please” whose Cigar-Indian head nose and landscape mouth elicit laughter and revulsion. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s too bad that sharp figure drawing, bold design and lurid eroticism aren’t enough to rise to the top of our contemporary art world. If Gabriel Vormstein had been born a century earlier, he might have been selected for the “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibition of 1937, the greatest tribute ever paid to German Expressionism, and his work might now be hanging between Ernst Kirchner and Emil Nolde in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Obviously, he’s been impressed by Egon Schiele, but he’s less linear, less dramatic, and seems to have a healthier personality that’s not as fascinated with what people have between their legs. Read the rest of this entry »
Jonee Cocchia, “Night Blooms”
A versatile street photographer who stays on the quiet side, but with telling and intense effect, and shoots in black and white, Jonee Cocchia moves effortlessly from portraits, through signage, breathtaking architectural studies, and elegantly composed groups of objects like lines of news boxes, and finally to involved abstracted details. Composition is Cocchia’s high visual card, and he plays it through all his forays without overwhelming his subjects and their emotional evocations in feats of form. Cocchia’s most affecting images are shot at night on lonely Chicago thoroughfares bathed in the glare of streetlights. In “Night Blooms,” we look from the sidewalk across an empty street, cut by a viaduct, at a gleaming white wall festooned with aerosol art and an ad for McDonald’s line of coffee-shop-style drinks. We are drawn into the scene as though we had been making solitary night moves and had been suddenly transported into a postmodern installation. Read the rest of this entry »
No one has sacrificed a bull to a Greek god in a very long time. Although priests and devotees have taken their worship elsewhere, artists have been depicting the Olympic pantheon for collectors ever since the Renaissance. Why have these de-sanctified deities remained so appealing? Possibly because they’ve allowed us to think about ourselves without self pity, guilt, hypocrisy or despair. We can see ourselves as both terrible and beautiful through a figurative tradition that has cultivated both the real and the ideal.
James Mesple has cut and pasted some ideas and images from that tradition to create a visual mythology and a world of fantasy that feels more like wishful thinking than divine revelation or confrontation with reality. His paintings feel pre-Renaissance but also post-Hellenic, most closely resembling the decorative arts of the late Roman Empire, which, coincidentally, are now on special exhibit at the Art Institute. Read the rest of this entry »
Artist Ian J. Whitmore knows “nowhere” quite well. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he also completed his undergraduate degree, and then moving to Bloomington, Indiana for an MFA in photography, the Midwesterner can quickly spot the public, commercial landscape of malls, industrial parks and corporate offices that feel eerily familiar yet completely void of meaning. In his solo exhibition, “Nowhere” at Johalla Projects, he explores the ubiquitous nature of those spaces emptied of meaning. His solo exhibition coincides with the unveiling of his photographs at the Damen Blue Line stop in Chicago’s Wicker Park area, which in and of itself is a “nowhere” space—a portal that people move through on a regular basis, yet forget even exists outside of the utilitarian function it serves. Read the rest of this entry »