Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014
Lucy McKenzie’s largest American exhibition to date unravels like a postmodern mystery novel. The show begins outside of the gallery, where the artist has taken advantage of the floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the Griffin Courtyard of the Modern Wing to construct a window display befitting State Street’s finest stores. A female mannequin in a gymnast suit sits on a glass-topped steel table as mechanized signs whir whimsically beneath a hand-painted title bearing the artist’s signature as if it were a venerable house of fashion. Once inside, the focus becomes painting, though one recalls that Warhol and Rauschenberg dressed department-store windows too. Four floor-to-ceiling panels display massive Tiffany-esque motifs of glowing skies and turbulent clouds drifting behind screens of leafy branches. The pictures within each are oddly cropped to describe the contours of the walls and ceiling of a fictional bar in an imaginary film in which these panels would hang as trompe l’oeil scenery. Indeed, McKenzie has trained in antiquated techniques of decorative painting, which include hyper-realistic depictions of landscape and still life meant to fool the eye in to perceiving representation as reality.
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Allison Smith. “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia,” 2014
Smith is known for lovingly handcrafting Americana—costumes, furniture and artifacts—with which to interrogate the spectacle of historical recreation. In this she is indeed like a theatrical “set dresser,” someone who designs and arranges props.
Many of these recent works are photographs of objects of material culture from American living-history sites. Printed on fabric, the pictures take on a rustic look, akin to the objects they depict. But they contain powerful autobiographical elements, too. The lovely rainbow-colored skeins of yarn seen hanging in “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg,” 2014, is a trenchant feminist statement on several levels while recalling Morris Louis’ stain paintings. Within a large, oval, walnut frame handcrafted by a master Massachusetts artisan, “Mirror,” 2014, shows a field of nubby linen on which a photograph of a mirror’s reflection has been printed. It’s a visual riddle, a twenty-first century version of the modern artist’s abiding fascination with mirrors. Less puzzling perhaps, but no less elegant, two tilt-top tables are covered in silk printed with photos of quilt patterns. Read the rest of this entry »
Kelly Lloyd. “I painted the elevator doors the color of my skin. C1, 21,1—E0,13,0—KX0,22,1—V0,37,0,” 2014, acrylic on elevator doors
by Matt Morris
I had been trying to muster the holiday cheer to write a whimsical column about winter window displays when I read the news that the St. Louis County grand jury tasked with the decision to indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot eighteen-year-old Michael Brown to death in August chose not to pursue justice. Since the announcement, I’ve been in vocal and incredulous discussions over the sadistically intricate ways that political and social suppression, economic disadvantage, the bizarre militarization of police forces and even President Obama’s muted responses to this and other murders of unarmed black people have conspired in a construction of an impossibly powerful systemic racism. I’ve felt the deep urge to run. In my mind I see the text “RUN” Rashid Johnson spray-painted in white across a mirror that was included in “Message to Our Folks,” his survey at the MCA two years ago. This is a run from lynch mobs and paramilitary cops and deplorably violent histories that span centuries of America’s past.
Rashid Johnson. “Run,” 2008,
mirror with spray paint
Our society has been shaped without consideration to the personhood and value of nonwhite lives, therefore their sadness, outrage and even their deaths have not been permitted to have any impact. Confronted with this daunting problem built into the very structure of this country, my conviction that art has the potential to powerfully interject into the thick of restrictive, racist assumptions has been bolstered by several recent projects that investigate how visibility for people of color’s lives is situated into public and institutional spaces. Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of current BOLT exhibition “PREVIEW4,” on display at the Chicago Artists Coalition until December 18. Photo courtesy Erik L. Peterson.
Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jane Chu announced last week that Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) was one of 919 nonprofit associations (out of 1,474 applicants) nationally to receive an NEA Art Works grant. Says CAC executive director Caroline Older in Newcity’s follow-up interview, “The grant helps the CAC ensure that the Midwest Artist Exchange [an annual initiative that promotes collaboration between BOLT residents and arts communities in adjoining Midwestern cities] can take place.” The core of the MAE is two weekend-long tours in which artists and organizations from Chicago and other Midwestern cities meet up for discussions, presentations and potlucks. Previous exchanges have been with Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Detroit.
The CAC’s 2014-2015 BOLT Residency is the specific focus of the $10,000 in grant support for which the organization has been recommended. The BOLT Residency is a highly competitive, juried, one-year artist studio residency program that gives contemporary emerging artists a chance to engage the Chicago arts community and its public in analytical discourse about contemporary art. “BOLT residents benefit from studio visits with prestigious artists, curators and arts professionals in the Chicago area and from discussions with their peers,” assures CAC director of exhibitions and residencies, Teresa Silva. Read the rest of this entry »
Clare E. Rojas. “Untitled,” 2014, oil on linen, and “Untitled,” 2014, fabric paint on French vintage linen farm dress
Over the past several years, San Francisco-based artist Clare E. Rojas has steadily expunged the visual elements her work was best known for: the cast of men, women and animals that populated her playful, folk-art-inspired narratives are gone. What remains are geometric abstractions distilled from the design-oriented stages upon which her fables once occurred. Dominated by negative space, only crisp passages of intense, often-primary color interrupt surfaces now rendered austere. Read the rest of this entry »
Jack Tworkov. “Untitled (Reclining Figure),” circa 1955, charcoal on paper
Jack Tworkov is best known for his gestural paintings of the 1950s. But his work runs the gamut of mid-century American genres: from Social Realism to Abstract Expressionism to Geo-form to Minimalism. You might say he jumped on every new bandwagon, but he stayed away from the irony and pop-culture tropes of postmodernism. This first-generation American seemed less interested in pushing the boundaries of art and taste than in exploiting every new opportunity for expressing and valorizing his restless, rootless self in an ever-changing world. Life drawing, quickly executed, gave him many such opportunities, as he moved back and forth between observational detail and compositional dynamic. Read the rest of this entry »
Bill Sosin. “Mirage”
Shooting the streets and sidewalks of Chicago in color, at any time of day and night, through the windows of his car when heavy and clinging rains are falling, Bill Sosin captures the miasma in which we are enveloped at those moments. If we are not too drenched and assaulted by the wind and the chill to notice, such scenes can have a rough yet melting beauty for us, with which Sosin is enthralled. Read the rest of this entry »
Participants in panel “The Materiality of the Image.” Panelists Daniel Gordon, Anthony Elms, Barbara Kasten and Shane Huffman being introduced by symposium organizer Laura Letinsky.
Can you trust a picture? This was the preeminent question to emerge from a daylong symposium on contemporary photographic practices hosted on November 21 at the University of Chicago. Organized by artist and UChicago faculty member Laura Letinsky, “Unsuspending Disbelief,” a symposium of three panels and several open discussions, took as its point of trajectory a conflicted ontological viewpoint of the photograph. What is the potential of a photograph to confirm what we want to believe, and to show us what we cannot see on our own? Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of Puppies Puppies’ “Gollum” at Courtney Blades
Producing two concurrent shows in one space, Puppies Puppies occupies the top and bottom of the building that houses Courtney Blades—“Bathroom” above and “Gollum” appropriately down below. What might have been a gimmicky, plain exhibition has been realized toward intriguing ends that reconcile stark understatements with excessively idiosyncratic fantasies. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah and Joseph Belknap. “Planetoids,” installation view at The Franklin
Sarah and Joseph Belknap have been working together as a singular multimedia artist-entity since 2008, making objects and happenings that examine and mimic grand experiences—the rare, magical moments in which we are able to comprehend our utter insignificance. Celestial bodies and giant earth formations are often shrunk to a manageable size, bringing our attention to the contrast between our human bodies and the infinite universe we live within. Their use of hyper-synthetic materials like silicone, polystyrene and fiberglass again acknowledges this man/nature duality.
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