Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Dan Gunn/Monique Meloche

Painting, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Dan Gunn. "Grand Amusement," dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire

Dan Gunn. “Grand Amusement,”
dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire

RECOMMENDED

In “Impromptu Airs,” Dan Gunn has crafted delights for the eye, deviating from his earlier projects that mirrored elements of recognizable architecture and design. A group of “Fans” assembled from laser-cut, wooden strips have been stained in a circus-tent palette of red and white. The standard motif in “Fan No. 9” of 2013 gets stretched into comically elongated and shrinking shapes in the works that flank it, fastidiously assembled trompe l’oeil constructions that imitate the ease of computer-manipulated imagery. “To Fan No. 2” winds a swerving pathway painted in lyrical, Paul Klee palettes. Its pensive, musical sensitivity evokes Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars’ collaborative artist book “Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France.” Thicker wood planks drape from two illusory nails in “Grand Amusement,” dyed in hand-mixed yellow, green, blue and pinks that turn its hard structure into gooey taffy pulled in a shop window. Neither fan nor drapery, “Broadway” contains candy-colored dots dancing in between rich navy parquetry panels. The piece calls to mind Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” as well as Michelle Grabner’s colored paper weavings, recently the center of inner art-world hullabaloo.
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Review: Material Gestures: Cut, Weave, Sew, Knot/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Sheila Hicks. "Dervish," 2011 steel, linen, wool

Sheila Hicks. “Dervish,” 2011
steel, linen, wool

RECOMMENDED

Rhona Hoffman brings together a group exhibition of works from the past thirty years that shows how fabric performs as a palimpsest of industrial and domestic worlds, transplanted from utilitarian to art contexts.

Karen Reimer’s “Endless Set #1399,” was originally developed as a site-specific installation for UIC’s Gallery 400. Digits cut from white cloth are sewn in 1399 patches, stacked in the shape of pillowcases on the corner of a wooden bed-shaped frame. The work privileges an unrelenting systematic approach over conceptual transparency. Beside this sparsely arranged numerical record is a more chaotic and carnal collage. Anne Wilson’s “Mourning Cloth” is a loosely hung shroud, matted with human hair and featuring a small hole lined like a made-up eye with tiny black stitches that diffuse outwards, suggesting a vacant cosmic gaze. Patches of stained and used tablecloth are sewn together to emphasize fissures. The dispersal and patchwork of materials permeated with an undisclosed domestic life suggests another kind of compulsive action, an attempt to mend, without eradicating the compound histories of the material. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Christian Vincent/Ann Nathan Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
Christian Vincent. "Peninsula," oil on canvas

Christian Vincent. “Peninsula,” oil on canvas

Christian Vincent’s recent figurative paintings are 2,000 miles removed from what has characterized Chicago figure painting for the past fifty years: invitational instead of confrontational, gently thematic instead of intensely personal, conventional instead of weird, cinematic instead of graphic, pleasant instead of disturbing. Painted in Los Angeles, they might even serve as storyboards for a Hollywood teenage romantic comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carson Fox/Linda Warren Projects

Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Carson Fox. "Rose Crystal," 2013, cast resin

Carson Fox. “Rose Crystal,” 2013, cast resin

RECOMMENDED

There is something inherently playful, yet disconcerting, when one first approaches Carson Fox’s “Mimesis.” The resin sculptures seem, at first blush, almost coquettish, climbing the walls, sitting upon pedestals, protruding in amaranth and aqua and palatinate, their familiar organic forms exaggerated, coated and made fantastically approachable. They dominate Linda Warren Projects; on every surface sans the ceiling, Fox approaches the installation as an integral aspect of the art itself—see “Orange Coral,” shades of heat, from tangerine to rosso corsa, which spreads across the back wall like an anatomist’s plastinated arterial system, impossibly similar to the real thing (if viewed from no deeper than a few fathoms, of course) down to their dimpled surface. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Aron Gent/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Prints No Comments »
Aron Gent. Both works "Untitled," 2014,  Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Arches hot press watercolor paper,

Aron Gent. Both works “Untitled,” 2014,
Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Arches hot press watercolor paper,

RECOMMENDED

“Pure Pictures, Perfect Prints,” Aron Gent’s solo exhibition at Devening Projects + Editions, is immediately pleasant, with its ample white space and idiosyncratic chintz of flowers, leaves, printers and arabesques, all rendered in a subdued palette. These images, culled from clip-art collections, are composed and then printed onto an ink-resistant material. This printout is then transferred onto watercolor paper by press, which squeezes and drags the beaded ink into the perfect drips that tress the features of each composition. Such painterly distortions give the sense of an individual hand at work, but of course, it is anything but. These gestures are dictated by blunt forces: the irregular texture of paper, the volume and viscosity of the ink, the magnitude and direction of the pressure exerted by the press. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums/Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee, Painting No Comments »
Carlo Dolci. "Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist," 1665–1970

Carlo Dolci. “Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist,” 1665–1970

These forty paintings may not be the best way to exemplify 500 years of Italian painting. They have the stylistic elements but usually not the powerful emotive achievements of that great tradition. There’s only one piece, and a rather decrepit one, done before 1480, so the devotional intensity of the Italian variety of Byzantine icon is hardly evident. Also absent is the bold excitement of the Caravaggisti who are represented here by Antiveduto Gramatica, one of Caravaggio’s teachers who later decided to imitate his famous student. He came up short, just as, in the same gallery, the eighteen-year-old Titian could not yet achieve his later glories. “Christ and the Adulteress” feels like nothing more than a conglomeration of figure and drapery studies. One figure has even been lopped off and reframed over the intervening centuries. Here, it hangs beside the original, and yes, it probably looks better that way. But it’s fascinating to see a powerful mind beginning to assemble the visual elements that Titian will eventually master, just as it’s fascinating to see Carlo Dolci’s life-size depiction of Salome hanging beside an example of his work done fifty years earlier. Dedicated to painting that, in his words, “would inspire the fruits of Christian piety,” Dolci is usually too saccharine for anyone but the faithful. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The City Lost and Found/Art Institute of Chicago

Photography, Video No Comments »
Romare Bearden. "The Block II" (detail), 1972. Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans

Romare Bearden. “The Block II” (detail), 1972. Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans

RECOMMENDED

The dynamic urban landscapes of America’s three largest cities constitute the focus of “The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980,” a joint venture of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Architecture and Design and Photography departments and the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibition examines two decades of significant political, social and economic upheaval during which each of these cities emerged as barometers of major shifts in public consciousness subsequent to the suburban flight of the 1950s and before the economic boom of the 1980s. History and its discontents dominate the exhibition, but the show gives voice to a broad range of actors through an electric and all-inclusive range of makers and visual materials. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: The Freakiest Show

Multimedia No Comments »
Grand Finale Installation view, "David Bowie Is," MCA Chicago. September 23, 2014–January 4, 2015.  Photo: Nathan Keay. Courtesy of the MCA Chicago.

Grand Finale Installation view, “David Bowie Is,” MCA Chicago. September 23, 2014–January 4, 2015.
Photo: Nathan Keay. Courtesy of the MCA Chicago.

By Erin Toale

Bowiephiles rejoice: no expense was spared on the Museum of Contemporary Art’s iteration of this appropriately elaborate touring spectacle—a multi-chambered rumination on the many-petaled-flower of the living icon’s magnificence. This pageantry, situated on the virtually unrecognizable fourth floor of the MCA, includes memorabilia, archival materials, breathtaking costumes and some of Bowie’s own “art.” Evidence of the takeover exists throughout the building; nowhere can you escape the waft of his anthems, and even the security guards have been adorned with Bowie shirts. To co-opt the semantic organizational structure of the show, Bowie is… pervasive.

Chicago is the only U.S. destination for the show, which was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London. Bowie and his camp granted archive access to the curators, aided with fact-checking, and monitor the condition of objects but otherwise have been very hands-off, says MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, Michael Darling, who oversaw the Chicago installation. The exhibit feels very V&A-meets-MTV, replete with a show-stopping, toe-tapping grand-finale. There are moments when the voices of the MCA and Darling ring clear; the show succeeds in these quieter, more contemplative tableaus.
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Review: Eric Fischl/KM Fine Arts

Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Eric Fischl. "Tumbling Woman, Study," 2012, glass, 12 x 18 x 14 in.

Eric Fischl. “Tumbling Woman, Study,” 2012,
glass, 12 x 18 x 14 in.

RECOMMENDED

A bronze sculpture of cavorting figures in the gallery’s front window (“Ten Breaths: Congress of Wits, Study”) belies the artist’s reputation for edginess. By now Fischl (b. 1948) is an old master of contemporary art, famous for sexually provocative paintings like “Bad Boy,” 1981—the title of his recent memoir, incidentally—and for the controversy over “Tumbling Woman,” 2002, a commissioned sculpture for 9/11. This show features a dozen of the artist’s works from the last ten years. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Josiah McElheny/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Sculpture, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Josiah McElheny. "End of a Love Affair," 2014, handblown and polished glass, douglas fir, speakers, amplifier, industrial audio player, electric wiring, cut and polished blue sheet glass, brass control knobs, felt, hardware, 55 x 43 x 23 inches

Josiah McElheny. “End of a Love Affair,” 2014,
handblown and polished glass, douglas fir, speakers, amplifier, industrial audio player, electric wiring, cut and polished blue sheet glass, brass control knobs, felt, hardware,
55 x 43 x 23 inches

Aided by a fake ID, I was baptized into the church of hard-bop sometime in the mid-nineties in one of Cleveland’s many hidden jazz spots; a cramped subterranean chamber where sound and smoke, perfume and sweat mixed freely in the dimly lit haze. The music was immediate: thundering drums coupled with blowing horns that rang-out joyous one moment, mournful the next. Spiritual by way of the body—the experience possessed a physicality so intense it was transcendent.

In contrast to that overwhelming sensuality, MacArthur award winner Josiah McElheny’s “Dusty Groove,” a meticulously crafted four-piece sculptural ode to some of the twentieth century’s great musical minds (among them jazz legends Wes Montgomery and Sun Ra), comes off coolly intellectual, even a little remote. Imagine jazz goes to grad school featuring Donald Judd as your thesis advisor, and you’re part way there. These pieces stimulate the mind, but they don’t necessarily stir the soul. Read the rest of this entry »