Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Jaime Angelopoulos and Cody Tumblin/LVL3

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Painting, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Cody Tumblin. “Day Dreamer’s Folly, The Poison of Reason,” 2015.

Cody Tumblin. “Daydreamer’s Folly, The Poison of Reason,” 2015.


This show pairs the work of two artists whose evocative, organic forms and narrative titles situate their pieces in an intimate context. Toronto-based Angelopoulos’ brightly colored drawings and sculptures communicate with each other by way of subtle references. The two sculptural pieces, painted forms made of plaster, foam and steel, look like her layered drawings coming to life. While fantastical in color and shape, as in the blue-striped “Olympian,” the forms are meant to reference the human body in their scale and movement. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Chances Dances

Artist Profiles, Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park, Logan Square, Noble Square, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Chances Dances/Photo: Dan Paz.

Chances Dances/Photo: Dan Paz

The Chances Dances collective has been hosting queer dance parties in Chicago since 2005. What began as an inclusive dance night has since grown into multiple monthly events and an organizing body that runs a grant program for queer artists.

Latham Zearfoss and Bruce Wiest founded Chances Dances because they could not find anything like it in Chicago at the time: a safe place for the queer community to be able to go out and have fun. It was originally hosted in the back of Big Horse Lounge, a now-defunct taqueria in Wicker Park. In support of wanting to have a night for what Zearfoss calls “a lot of different bodies and dispositions,” the two intentionally chose a straight venue so the gathering did not come with preconceived notions.

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Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ask the Oracle/Heaven Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Ann Gaziano, "Pan, Dot and Sofa." Used baking pans, plate hangers, velour fabric, wood.

Ann Gaziano, “Pan, Dot and Sofa.” Used baking pans, plate hangers, velour fabric, wood.


An oracle, similar to a Magic 8 Ball, ascertains and communicates the unknown and introduces an abrupt epiphany, offering a glimpse of the future and providing calm in the face of uncertainty. This group exhibition focuses on supernatural phenomena such as mediums, possession and artificial divination through painting, sculpture and performance.

During the opening, Claire Arctander performed “Magic Act,” in which she challenged the traditional role of the turn-of-the-century male magician. By choosing volunteers in the crowd, Arctander encouraged individuals to “participate in togetherness” and then, calmly but forcibly, tied their shoelaces together as they stood in a congested circle. Arctander’s performance challenged the comfort of intimacy for the handful of participants that were selected and created a meaningful disconnect from the surrounding audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kevin Swallow/Firecat Projects

Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Painting, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »
Kevin Swallow. "Transit Skyline," 2014. Oil on panel, 18 x 24 inches.

Kevin Swallow. “Transit Skyline,” 2014.
Oil on panel, 18 x 24 inches.


Kevin Swallow likes the rooftop water tanks of Chicago, but he likes them less as an urban historian and more as a child who identifies with their willful isolation. With its bursting-proud tank high up on its tall, spindly legs, isn’t an old fashioned tank just like a wobbly two-year old, setting out to explore the world?

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Review: Look at Me Now!/Monique Meloche Gallery

Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Painting, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Hassan Hajjaj. "Miriam," 2010. Metallic lambda print on 3mm white dibond, 53 x 36 ¾ inches / Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Hassan Hajjaj. “Miriam,” 2010.
Metallic lambda print on 3mm white dibond, 53 x 36 ¾ inches/Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.


Revising the art historical canon to account for a variety of erasures is a commendable curatorial endeavor, but one is perpetually challenged to find new methods to add value to such well-worn conversations. This summer group exhibition takes on tropes related to race, gender and caste by offering fresh alternatives to the history of Western portraiture. Individually, the works of Rashayla Marie Brown, Hassan Hajjaj, Rashid Johnson, Ebony G. Patterson, Amy Sherald, William Villalongo and Nina Chanel Abney are colorful, multifaceted and visually complex; together, they feel oddly muted and restrained. Pronouncements of individual agitation rise up, but the gathering of disparate voices does not make for lively conversation.
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News: Out of Site 2015 Begins this Weekend

Art Fairs, Multimedia, Performance, Public Art, Street Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Michal Samama. "Lament of Plastic," performance. Photo by Guy Kremnitzer.

Michal Samama. “Lament of Plastic,” performance/Photo: Guy Kremnitzer

It’s going to get confrontational in Wicker Park/Bucktown, beginning Saturday, July 25. The mission behind Out of Site is “to create unexpected encounters of public performance,” a take-it-to-the-streets art festival embarking on its fifth year of public performance art programming. Artists create whimsical disruptions for people as they go about their daily routines, choosing sites around the neighborhood that resonate with their practice.

The series launches this weekend with three performances in collaboration with the Wicker Park Fest. Sheryl Oring, an artist from North Carolina, will invite the public to write letters to the President of the United States as part of her piece “I Wish to Say,” previously performed at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the Berlin Wall Memorial and other locations. To date, over 2,000 letters have been transcribed on a typewriter and submitted to the White House.

While the details surrounding some performances are clear, the vast majority of performances are only yet known by a date, a time, a location, and an artist’s name. Ballenarca, a troupe from Puerto Rico via Austin, Texas, will take place at the intersection of Milwaukee and Evergreen, near the new 606 walking path. Without giving it away, passersby can expect to behold a large, bespectacled mobile sculpture come to life. “The Wisdom Box” by Duff Norris immediately follows. The public can anticipate this work by looking online for records of a previous performance called “Infinity Box,” but if you really want to know more you’ll just have to show up.

Sheryl Oring. "I Wish to Say," performance. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.

Sheryl Oring. “I Wish to Say,” performance/Photo: Dhanraj Emanuel

Out of Site was founded by artist Carron Little as she was “thinking about how wonderful it would be if people were to come home from a long week in the office and come across a unique surprise,” Little said in an email conversation with Newcity. She continued, “I was also invited onto the WPB Arts Committee to rethink how we fund art locally [after] having written a piece about how all the local funding had gone to a consulting firm. So it was part of a broader initiative to fund performance artists who seemed to be doing a lot of work for free.”

The vision for Out of Site goes beyond the scope of providing simple entertainment to a consumer public. “Public performance is vital for every city landscape; building moments that are out of the ordinary can bring joy and wonder to people,” Little remarked. “This is imperative in our workaholic culture. We need things that take us out of the monotony.  The New Situationists in Paris talk about the city being a new Babylon. Le Corbusier founded the modern city discussing ideas of productivity and circulation to build economy, but if people aren’t happy they bring that sadness to work.”

In previous iterations, curators didn’t tell people where the performances would take place. There are no tickets to purchase with a start and end time. Be there or be square, or better yet, you might be there anyway.

Out of Site runs daily at different locations throughout Wicker Park & Bucktown from Saturday, July 25, through Sunday, September 6. (Whitney Richardson)

News: Visual Art Projects Now Open Along the 606

Humboldt Park, Logan Square, News etc., Performance, Public Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
A stampede of horses by Opera-Matic charge the 606 path on opening day

A stampede of horses by Opera-Matic charge the 606 path on opening day

“People were very curious, and they wanted to know what it meant…,” said Rob Lentz, executive director of Project Onward and liaison for artist Louis DeMarco, in an interview with Newcity about the public response to the temporary installation of “Cloud Chart” along the newly opened 606 trail, the 2.8-mile elevated parkway connecting four northwestern Chicago neighborhoods. DeMarco’s artworks are among the new installations that will be on view through June 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Eric Ruschman/Circa Modern

Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
CRIBS, 2015 Installation view

CRIBS, 2015
Installation view


Eric Ruschman paints directly onto woodworked panels, his abstractions sloping around softly rounded edges. The visibility of his hand varies; at points brush strokes are visibly staccato while the opacity and quality of craftsmanship precludes human production in others. It’s finish-fetish at its finest. A diptych titled “After Tonight, They Will Never Forget My Name (Chairface Chippendale)” smartly reveals the unfinished MDF surface peeking out between the painted-on wood grain; the pattern wraps generously around the sides of the panel. This painting’s companion, a smooth off-white circle hung high above it, is the only piece in the show that seems extraneous. While some works are playful and polite, others betray conceptual darkness and grit. Something nefarious lurks in “I Want To Believe In Deepthroat,” a Roger Brown-esque diptych the lower left corner of which has a large X slashed out of it. The whimsical title (both a double entendre and meta “X-Files” reference) is an exemplar of the pop-culture current that runs throughout his solo exhibition, “Cribs.” Through titles and imagery, Ruschman harkens to nineties sitcoms perhaps consumed during the production of the paintings (or underneath their place of final repose). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Todd Kelly and Morgan Mandalay/LVL3

Installation, Painting, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Morgan Mandalay. "Still Life of Flowers and Red Curtains," 2015 oil paint and spray paint on b.o.g.o. canvas 12" x 16" each

Morgan Mandalay. “Still Life of Flowers and Red Curtains,” 2015
oil paint and spray paint on b.o.g.o. canvas
12″ x 16″ each


The works by Todd Kelly and Morgan Mandalay in “Happy Little” help bring the concept of the still life into the twenty-first century. Kelly’s pieces are the more straightforward of the two, with influences ranging from Dutch and French masters from seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to a visual representation of the gravitational pull of the planets. The Brooklyn-based artist uses oil and spray paint and collage to layer materials over one another, often creating expertly composed work that almost appears three-dimensional, as in “Theory of Gravity Still Life 13.” These complex pieces contain collaged shapes of abstract and representational elements, such as a Christmas tree or the artist’s initials. Read the rest of this entry »