Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Zachary Cahill/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Painting No Comments »
Zachary Cahill. painting from the installation "USSA 2012 Wellness Center"

Zachary Cahill. painting from the installation “USSA 2012 Wellness Center”

RECOMMENDED

Zachary Cahill’s current exhibition, “USSA 2012: Wellness Center,” reflects on the contemporary dilemma of wellness in general and the healing potential of art in particular. Staging a physical retreat for therapeutic refuge in the third-floor enclave of the Museum of Contemporary Art that recalls European sanatoriums of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this highly referential exhibition of painting, sculpture and writing finds itself most cogent on the wall. Paintings often dressed in synthetic palettes and textual epigrams act in Cahill’s institution as optically prescriptive pseudo-pharmaceutical compositions with a desired effect on the viewer, a crooked analogue of the canonical canvases of romanticism they uncannily suggest.

The works center on health, wellness and care, topics as political and provocative as they come, instinctively relevant on a global scale, yet problematic as if by design. Health transcends the everyday, at once at the forefront of our collective consciousness and buried deep within it, a perennial victim of its own ubiquity. The industries of wellness wrestle with sizable points of contention, from intellectual property to the ethics of access. And the spaces of caregiving continue to provide rich ground to consider a question as genuinely human, ageless and pertinent today as any other, one found here, scribed in acrylic: what does it mean to be healthy? Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artists: Miller & Shellabarger

Artist Profiles, Drawings, Installation, Loop No Comments »
Miller & Shellabarger. "Again Gone," installation view

Miller & Shellabarger. “Again Gone,” installation view

“Western Exhibitions shows all three of us,” say Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, meaning the Chicago gallery separately represents Dutes, Stan and S&M, their collaborative practice as Miller & Shellabarger. The two met as undergraduates studying ceramics and organically began to work together on artistic projects. Twenty-one years later, the couple shares an Irving Park home and studio where individual art practices continue to grow alongside joint projects. Teaming up as Miller & Shellabarger periodically dominates their individual practices, while at other times independent work demands a hiatus from the collaborative. They have found an effortless ebb-and-flow, and three is not a crowd in this household.

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News: Johalla Projects Curates Art at Pitchfork Music Festival

News etc., Public Art No Comments »
"Geometric Village" being installed earlier this week

“Geometric Village” being installed earlier this week

The West Town gallery Johalla Projects returns to the Pitchfork Music Festival, held in Union Park, this weekend to present “Geometric Village,” an installation by Heather Gabel and Chad Kouri. Two A-frame architectural structures fifteen feet tall and nine feet wide are joined by an additional set of smaller chairs or stools scattered around these forms. The two triangular structures will house smaller works by the two artists that will be available for sale. Gabel will have packs of postcards available for $15 and Kouri will exhibit a set of prints he created with Tan & Loose Press which are available for $15 each. This installation will be accessible to festival attendees; tickets are currently $60 a day, or $110-$130 for a three-day pass. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Cities Built Within Galleries

Installation, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Diane Simpson. "Window Dressing" at Monique Meloche

Diane Simpson. “Window Dressing: Apron 1,” oil stain on MDF, polyester fabric; and “Window Dressing: Bib-doodle,” gatorfoam board, hardboard, wallpaper, enamel, ink

By Matt Morris

It’s often said around town that Chicago has two seasons: winter and construction. The architectural epicenter where we reside explodes into transformation in the warm months, as buildings, roads and public spaces undergo restructuring. A few exhibitions on view right now conspire to reflect this construction condition by taking built environments and our habitation of them as points of departure. The artworks’ proximity to source materials is a useful measurement in distinguishing where a quirky meta-criticality is achieved, and where sometimes the experience at hand is burdened by its references. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Matthew Girson/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Painting No Comments »
Matthew Girson. "The Painter's Other Library," installation view

Matthew Girson. “The Painter’s Other Library,” installation view

RECOMMENDED

A vexatious cloud hangs low over Matthew Girson’s new exhibition “The Painter’s Other Library.” Depicting endless shelves of meticulously placed books, the artist’s many compositions are executed in a brooding, almost impenetrable palette. At first blush, they read simply as black. As the eyes adjust to the paintings’ hushed tones, book after book, arranged to echo the precision and symmetry of modernist geometric abstraction, slowly emerge from the oleaginous mire. The beguiling tension within these works is heightened by the stark white walls and cathedral-like atmosphere of the Chicago Cultural Center. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wassily Kandinsky/Milwaukee Art Museum

Painting No Comments »
Wassily Kandinsky. Panel design for the “Juryfreie” exhibition, Wall A (Entwurf für das Wandbild in der Juryfreien Kunstschau: Wand A), gouache on black paper, 1922

Wassily Kandinsky. Panel design for the “Juryfreie” exhibition, Wall A (Entwurf für das Wandbild in der Juryfreien Kunstschau: Wand A), gouache on black paper, 1922

RECOMMENDED

The Centre Pompidou’s Kandinsky collection, currently in Milwaukee, offers a rare opportunity to see work that both precedes and follows the painter’s Blaue Reiter period (1911-1914) that is so well represented at the Art Institute of Chicago. But limited as it is to pieces that the Kandinsky family could not or would not sell, it’s not the kind of retrospective that assembles the best art.

Nevertheless, the quality of his early landscapes is surprising. Kandinsky was sensitive to the textures of paint and his colors were already well tuned. Even when painting a nearly monochrome stretch of sandy beach, his sharp drawing makes the scene snap with excitement.

His Blaue Reiter pieces in this collection, the “Improvisations” of 1909 and 1911, are overwhelmed by the raw excitement of Franz Marc’s “Large Blue Horses,” from 1911, hanging beside them. But if this show had drawn from other collections, Kandinsky’s four ecstatic Campbell panels from MOMA, for example, would have reversed the comparison. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: René Magritte/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Painting No Comments »
René Magritte. "Clairvoyance (La Clairvoyance)," oil on canvas, 1936

René Magritte. “Clairvoyance (La Clairvoyance),” oil on canvas, 1936

RECOMMENDED

A girl devours a bird; feet morph into shoes; a nude female torso reads as a face. “René Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938,” the Art Institute of Chicago’s summer blockbuster, showcases the most important period of the Surrealist who precisely painted a new and disturbing reality. The exhibition is a collaboration between Houston’s Menil Collection, MoMA and the AIC.

It has a narrow focus—just a dozen years—when Magritte painted his “breakthrough” images. (The floating bowler-hatted men with umbrellas were later.) But many of his most famous pictures are here: ones that defined Surrealism and modern art, such as “The Treachery of Images” (“Ceci n’est-pas une pipe”) and “The Lovers” (a kissing couple with shrouded heads). Even though Magritte’s paintings operate as illustrations—he was a professional illustrator, after all—this show restores their status as paintings rather than as posters or jpegs. The works’ scale may surprise, as will the immaculate strokes and the saturated colors.

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Review: Gordon Hall/Night Club

Installation No Comments »
Gordon Hall. "MIDDLE DOUBLE," installation view

Gordon Hall. “MIDDLE DOUBLE,” installation view

RECOMMENDED

“MIDDLE DOUBLE,” a site-specific exhibition by up-and-coming New York-based artist Gordon Hall, is on display at Night Club, a relatively new apartment gallery in Bucktown. Hall, whose work covers a lot of ground including sculpture, writing and performance, is deeply concerned with platforms and the range of corporeal possibilities that objects and spaces have to offer. Having spent two weeks working on the show in the “gallery space”—a small yet well-lit repurposed bedroom—they present a set of understated sculptures and architectural interventions that function to subtly change our perception of its interiors.

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Review: Susan Aurinko and Tammy Kohl/Takohl Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Susan Aurinko. “Je suis cy envoiee de par Dieu, le roi du ciel”

Susan Aurinko. “Je suis cy envoiee de par Dieu, le roi du ciel”

RECOMMENDED

Joan of Arc. Who was Joan of Arc, the teenage Christian visionary who led armies against the English invaders of France in the fifteenth century, and was killed by them at the age of nineteen in 1431? There are no images of her from the time she lived, but there are statues and figurines representing her made over the succeeding centuries. In a photographic quest driven by a sense of connection to the remarkable heroine, Susan Aurinko has sought out those objects and shot them as portraits, each one expressing a different mood, but all of them unified by what Tammy Kohl, who has enriched the exhibit by her jewelry referencing Joan’s time, calls “strength.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Luftwerk/The Franklin

Garfield Park, Installation No Comments »
"Into and Out of," site-responsive Mylar panel installation

“Into and Out of,” site-responsive Mylar panel installation

RECOMMENDED

Luftwerk, the collaborative endeavor of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, typically uses sound, light and projection to trick the eye and imbue the senses with soft and welcomed confusion. For “Into and Out of,” their exhibition at The Franklin, the two artists installed work that retreated from their usual repertoire of projection-based trickery, instead augmenting the outdoor gallery’s architecture. Intended to complicate the perception of perspectival space, a dozen Mylar-coated panels are installed both inside and outside the Franklin’s lattice-like structure. Those inside are connected to the ceiling with the ability to subtly sway, while the companion works along the exterior are secured firmly to the ground, transfixed.

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