Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Eldzier Cortor/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
Eldzier Cortor. "L’Abbatoire I," 1950s, woodblock print

Eldzier Cortor. “L’Abbatoire I,” 1950s,
woodblock print

RECOMMENDED

In recognition of his lifetime achievement, a selection of Eldzier Cortor’s prints are now on display at the Art Institute. The earliest series, “L’abbatoire” (slaughterhouse), 1955-1980, documents the artist’s dismay over the violent politics of Haiti, where he once lived. The “Dance” series, 1978, presents the nubile female form in a kind of decorative pattern that recalls the murals of ancient Crete or Egypt. The “Jewels/Theme” series, 1985, encases those same graceful women in brilliant, sharply cut gemstones. The “Sepia Odalisque” series, 1998, sets them, as sultry pairs, into a Turkish harem. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Doris Salcedo/Museum of Contemporary Art

Gold Coast/Old Town, Installation, Sculpture No Comments »
Doris Salcedo. “Untitled" works, 1989-2008, wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

Doris Salcedo. “Untitled” works, 1989-2008,
wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

RECOMMENDED

The very first retrospective of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s thirty-year career begins with her recent “Plegaria Muda,” a maze of more than one-hundred upended tables sandwiching a thick layer of dirt between their backs and appearing as coffins. Tiny blades of grass grow out from between the wood planks, a subtle indication of the time poured into the growing and crafting of each blade and table. “Plegaria Muda” is created from Salcedo’s research into gang violence in Los Angeles combined with viewing the mass graves of grieving mothers’ sons in Colombia. The piece is a meditative entrance into Salcedo’s content, an attempt to erase the anonymity of those disappeared in her home country and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Hard to See

Digital Art, Drawings, Installation, Loop, Multimedia, Performance No Comments »
Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

By Matt Morris

Seeing is not a solitary activity, and it’s not simple. Perception is first of all dependent on context, not only because the specificities of an experience are ascertained through contrast, but also due to the ways each of our unique acculturations informs how we see. Comprehending visual information then turns out to be a social activity, evidenced most clearly in the debates that arise when we don’t see things the same way. And of course, these turbulent discourses around what is perceived are at the expense of appreciating just how much goes unseen—through suppression, movement beyond our sensory faculties, or systemically strategic elisions in how the seen social is structured. This then is one of the often tacit but urgent responsibilities of visual culture and art: to pressure and interrogate the boundaries of perception, to render the invisible visible. Changing how we see is first perceptual but actually political work, and it’s being done across viral Internet memes, sharp-witted turns in how organizations understand multicultural diversity, and artistic research into invisibility. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Telephone Starring in Video Game to Make an Appearance at Nightingale

Multimedia, News etc. No Comments »
Weird Telephone, Only Dials One Number. Black, Western Electric model 2500. Photo credit: VGA Gallery.

Weird Telephone, Only Dials One Number. Black, Western Electric model 2500.

A phone that only dials one number—(270)301-5797—may be useless to most people. But such a phone is at the heart of Video Game Art (VGA) Gallery’s one-day exhibition, “Weird Telephone, Only Dials One Number.” Curiosity may lure people to The Nightingale, the event’s host, this Saturday, March 21; visitors could also be drawn to the partnerships between several organizations sharing similar interests. Together, this collaboration can elicit discoveries, interactions and new experiences among attendees in The Nightingale’s interdisciplinary, mixed-use space. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 100 Faces of War/National Veterans Art Museum

Albany Park, Painting No Comments »
Matt Mitchell. "Mariela Meylan, In Recovery, From Livermore, California and Costa Rica," painting part of Mitchell's 100 Faces of War Experience" series.

Matt Mitchell. “Mariela Meylan, In Recovery, From Livermore, California and Costa Rica,” painting part of Mitchell’s 100 Faces of War Experience” series.

RECOMMENDED

Amherst artist Matt Mitchell took nine years to complete a hundred oil portraits of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. A sociologist helped him find a representative sample according to gender, race, age, service branch, rank and home state. Thus, each picture represents 25,000 personnel. Here are pictures of hapless teen enlistees, nurses, career soldiers, administrators and even some casualties. The diverse faces of these citizen-soldiers peer out, some proudly, others barely concealing their psychic wounds. Mitchell aimed to conclude the project by the official end of hostilities in Afghanistan. About the more or less continuous war since 9/11, one veteran observes wryly, “It only took four years to win WWII.” Working from photos Mitchell himself took during interviews with his sitters, the life-size portraits are identical in scale and treatment. A pathetic beauty emerges from the rosy faces and detailed clothing, all rendered in an old masters technique. They need to be seen in person for they do not reproduce well. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Varda Caivano/The Renaissance Society

Hyde Park, Painting No Comments »
Varda Caivano. "Untitled," 2015 acrylic, charcoal and oil on canvas 70 7/8" x 47 1/4"

Varda Caivano. “Untitled,” 2015
acrylic, charcoal and oil on canvas
70 7/8″ x 47 1/4″

The seven blue-gray and gray-brown paintings in Varda Caivano’s “The Density of The Actions” rest easily on the Bergman Gallery’s sunlit walls. All untitled, their meandering charcoal lines and fluid, almost watercolor-like passages of acrylic paint seem fraught and indecisive. There’s a captivating immediacy to the manner in which these skeletal (and only tangentially descriptive) marks play tensely against the vertically elongated format of several of the works, but there’s also a thinness to these paintings that’s difficult to shake. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Collecting Paradise/Block Museum of Art

Drawings, Evanston, Painting, Sculpture, Textiles No Comments »

"White Tara Painting," Western Tibet, 16th-17th century painting on cloth, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology Koelz Collection of Himalayan Art, Koelz 17458 [K569]

“White Tara Painting,”
Western Tibet, sixteenth-seventeenth-century
painting on cloth, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology
Koelz Collection of Himalayan Art, Koelz 17458 [K569]

RECOMMENDED

“If you find Buddhist art in a monastery, take it” might well have been an early twentieth-century variation on the koan made famous by Sheldon Kopp, as Western scholars scoured South Asia for artifacts. Gallery signage tells us that what Professor Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984) called a garbage dump, local monks considered a repository of sacred relics. Shame on him, but without his acquisition, four magnificent eleventh-century folios would not now be showing at the Block Museum. And they really have the sharp perfection of world-class illumination and calligraphy. Then there was Walter Koelz (1895-1989), a zoologist at the University of Michigan who collected whatever caught his eye. At the Likir monastery, he proudly bargained down the price on two seventeenth-century painted fabrics. Without them, the third, left behind, could no longer perform a ritual function. They don’t kick you in the gut like the dharma-defender hanging nearby, but Koelz’s Buddhist divinities have plenty of grace and power one would not experience without his questionable efforts. Such appropriation by Western collectors is one thing that may happen to sacred art, centuries after it was made. Alternatively, these works could be collected by devotees, where they might influence the art and religious practice of other lands. Those are some of the rather predictable kinds of stories this exhibition tells about the legacies of Buddhist art from Kashmir. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jungjin Lee/Andrew Bae Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Jungjin Lee. "Unnamed Road 014," 2011 archival pigment print  40 x 78.5 inches Ed. of 3

Jungjin Lee. “Unnamed Road 014,” 2011
archival pigment print, 40 x 78.5 inches, ed. of 3

RECOMMENDED

Printing her large-format black-and-white landscape photographs on Korean rice paper, on which she has meticulously and elegantly brushed photographic emulsion, and then made digital prints of the images, Jungjin Lee produces haunting and faded yet distinct impressions of the deserts of Israel and the West Bank of Palestine in her “Unnamed Roads” series. There is not a hint of the political conflict that wracks the region in Lee’s work. Indeed, she has removed as much context as possible from her images by naming each one with only the exhibition’s title, although they sometimes depict cities, ruins and distinctive rock formations. Lee’s point is that current events are merely rippling sand swirls on the surface of an immovable human condition, in which past contingencies leave their marks that are subsumed under persistent particularized forms that she captures with her view camera. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure/Chicago Artists Coalition

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Lori Felker. "A Trip to Always Falls," 2015, video projection and headphones, 17 minute loop

Lori Felker. “A Trip to Always Falls,” 2015,
video projection and headphones, seventeen-minute loop

RECOMMENDED

“Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure” declares its ethos with clarity and directness in advance of any art. There is no irony in this claim nor in the work, a diverse presentation of mixed media that represents the culmination of six artists’ recent Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH residencies. Curated by HATCH resident Erin Toale, the exhibition meditates on David Foster Wallace’s notion of the “anti-rebel,” an imagined figure whose earnest and dogged effort, Foster suggests, might be the much needed antidote to all that is too cool in today’s hip culture. Accordingly, the artists here are visibly struggling, not with the quest of “making it” but with questions of practice and identity, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Meg Duguid

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Pilsen, Video No Comments »
Meg Duguid standing with her installation "Supercomputer" at Slow in Pilsen.

Meg Duguid standing with her installation “Supercomputer” at Slow in Pilsen.

After a dreary trek through Pilsen’s sludge-laden sidewalks, I’m happy to see Meg Duguid waving enthusiastically to me from inside the fogged windows of Slow. Paul, the gallery’s director, stands to her left and Yesterday, the gallery’s canine mascot, faithfully on her right.

On an evening just as dreary in 2005, Duguid entered a tiny bookshop in Brooklyn. Browsing for nothing but a way to kill some time between her side jobs and studies, she happened across a book that contained a screenplay James Agee wrote for Charlie Chaplin in 1947. Inspired and intrigued, she sent an unsolicited letter to the Agee foundation, requesting to bring to life the script that had—for whatever reason—remained unproduced. The foundation’s answer was no, and Duguid moved on.

Flashing forward in time and back to the Midwest, the backsides of fifteen stacked televisions rise to greet me as I enter Slow. Large blue and orange extension cords twist and tangle their way toward electrical outlets on either side of the gallery, powering the luminescent glow coming from the anterior of the electrical blockade. The piece is silent, save for a high-pitched drone coming from the circuitries. Read the rest of this entry »