Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Sarah Charlesworth/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Photography No Comments »
Sarah Charlesworth. "Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles," 1980, printed 2012

Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles,” 1980, printed 2012

RECOMMENDED

The Art Institute of Chicago has embarked on a nine-month celebration titled “Photography Is_________,” commemorating the department of photography’s establishment in 1974. Sarah Charlesworth, who figured among the Pictures Generation of artists, appropriated photos from newspapers that documented people falling from tall buildings. The resulting images meld photojournalistic and fine art photography techniques, creating conceptual documentations of a moment laced with kinetic energy. Measuring over six feet tall, these compositions show mortality tinged with an intense sense of freedom. These are people jumping or falling to their deaths, some showing momentum and violence, while others look serene as these active moments transform into portraits. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways/Smart Museum of Art

Hyde Park, Sculpture No Comments »
"Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways," installation view, Smart Museum of Art

“Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways,” installation view, Smart Museum of Art

RECOMMENDED

“Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways” plays to the museum’s strengths in depth and breadth of visual and cultural material, transforming the entire museum into an inquiry into “the essential qualities that define sculpture.” The show’s opening gambit errs heavily on the side of tradition, exhibiting mostly modern European figurative works in bronze, stone and clay. A cast concrete architectural fragment by Frank Lloyd Wright is the sole exception, though its pairing with an abstracted Lipchitz bronze figure seems to argue for the legitimacy of the former via the aura of sanctified modernism. The exhibition continues at this pace through several galleries, showing Picasso, Calder, Moore, Arp and a host of other twentieth-century Europeans and Americans. A single non-Western piece, a Guinean carved wood mask, questions the well-trodden claim linking African “primitivism” to Western developments in abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Milton Resnick/Mana Contemporary

Painting, Pilsen No Comments »
Milton Resnick. "X Space," 2001, acrylic on paper,  22 ½" x 30 ½"

Milton Resnick. “X Space,” 2001, acrylic on paper,
22 ½” x 30 ½”

RECOMMENDED

Buried beneath the viscous layers of paint, crusted and hardened like the scab on a skinned knee, a preternatural light seems to issue forth from Milton Resnick’s titanic “U and Me.” The light is scattered at first, dappling the edges of two figures—themselves little more than heaving gestures of mottled paint—building in intensity until it finally rains down from the body of a yellow serpent lurking along the painting’s top edge.

It’s a haunting moment in a thoroughly haunted exhibition. Despite the best efforts of our materialist society to rid the world of anything that can’t be quantified, measured and easily referenced, the belief that signs, symbols and images possess a special kind of power is still pervasive. Resnick’s paintings are suffused with this otherworldly magnetism, and nowhere is it more visible than in his many late works-on-paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Whitney Bedford/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Whitney Bedford. "Ships (Inviting Catastrophe)," 2014, ink and oil on canvas on panel, 72" x 120". Photo by Evan Bedford

Whitney Bedford. “Ships (Inviting Catastrophe),” 2014, ink and oil on canvas on panel, 72″ x 120″. Photo by Evan Bedford

RECOMMENDED

There’s a lot of turbulence happening on the smooth white walls of Carrie Secrist Gallery right now. In her current solo show, Whitney Bedford turns calmly rendered seas and skies into apocalyptic landscapes and flaming sonatas.

Within the paintings of expansive seascapes and intricate vessels, the artist’s combination of ink and oil paint create a hybrid of mediums that do not cohesively blend together, but instead build compositions with varying parts and dimensions. Knotty ink lines erect the masts and sails of the ships, while brushstrokes work to construct an atmospheric environment. The low horizon lines in the compositions grant a powerful impression of expansiveness to the air and water, which in turn make the ships appear small and even vulnerable. The expressionistically rendered, volatile waters engulf the boats like a type of unexpected, sudden and inescapable volcanic eruption. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Josef Strau/Renaissance Society

Ceramics, Hyde Park, Installation No Comments »
Josef Strau. "Raft," 2014

Josef Strau. “Raft,” 2014

RECOMMENDED

The application referenced in the title of Josef Strau’s first museum exhibition in the United States, “The New World Application for Turtle Island,” is a fantastical art-and-text alternative to the formal procedures for a green card, and Turtle Island is a name given to the North American continent by its indigenous peoples. The Renaissance Society is filled with the Austrian-born nomad’s sensitively indulgent bricolage of Americana used to deconstruct histories of European invasion and colonization alongside his more personal accounts of exploring the United States and Mexico. Strau poses uneasy questions about the ethics and aesthetics that accompany cultural trade, not least of all his globetrotting presence as an after-effect of prior violent usurpations of place. His knowingly disjointed installation grapples with the conditions of being an outsider—and perhaps more confounding, an insider—in these places he holds dear. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives

Art Books No Comments »
From left to right: Virgie Tovar, Nia King (editor), Magnoliah Black and Ryka Aoki. Photo by Pendarvis Harshaw.

Virgie Tovar, Nia King (editor), Magnoliah Black and Ryka Aoki/Photo: Pendarvis Harshaw.

RECOMMENDED

“Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives” is a collection of sixteen interviews with artists working in the performing, literary and visual arts. In the foreword, writer Toi Scott states, “Gathering and sharing our stories—expressing our voices through art—is and always has been necessary for queer and trans people of color’s survival.” This book is a survival guide for queer and trans artists of color and for all artists, especially those living and working on the margins. Read the rest of this entry »

News: New Season of ART21 Airs Tonight

Artist Profiles, Multimedia, News etc., Video No Comments »
Tania Bruguera. "Museum of Arte Útil," featured in Season 7 of Art21

Tania Bruguera. “Museum of Arte Útil,” featured in Season 7 of Art21

The seventh season of the groundbreaking documentary series that interviews contemporary artists working at the forefront of their field will air on public television station WTTW starting tonight, Friday, October 24, at 10pm. This season will include segments about Tania Bruguera, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Leonardo Drew, Omer Fast, Katharina Grosse, Thomas Hirschhorn, Elliott Hundley, Graciela Iturbide, Joan Jonas, Wolfgang Laib, Trevor Paglen and Arlene Shechet.
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News: Call for $20,000 Public Art Commission at Chinatown Public Library

News etc., Public Art No Comments »
Concept rendering of the planned Chinatown Public Library

Concept rendering of the planned Chinatown Public Library

Two weeks remain before the deadline to submit interest in being considered for a new public artwork commission to be installed in the new Chinatown Branch Library that will be built at the intersection of Archer and Wentworth Avenues. The total project budget is $20,000 to be awarded to an artist or team of artists to realize a work in any media sited anywhere within the building. All applications are due on November 6, 2014. Semi-finalists will be selected by mid-November 2014 who will be paid honoraria to develop proposals by mid-January 2015, with the targeted completion of the artwork in July 2015. Call details available here.
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Review: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

RECOMMENDED

The story of Renaissance painting begins with innovations in naturalism that were a welcome liberation from the schematic strictures of the Byzantine style. Or at least, that’s how the leading art historians of the last century, like Ernst Gombrich, told it. Perhaps that’s why this is the first special exhibition devoted exclusively to Byzantine art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 124 years. But as this exhibition proves, the best Byzantine figurative art in painting, sculpture and mosaic was no less fresh, expressive and exciting than subsequent art periods are known to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wangechi Mutu/Block Museum of Art

Collage, Drawings, Evanston, Installation, Video No Comments »
Wangechi Mutu. "The End of eating Everything," (still), 2013, animated video (color, sound), 8:00 minute loop

Wangechi Mutu. “The End of eating Everything,” (still), 2013, animated video (color, sound), eight-minute loop

RECOMMENDED

Images are ideological constructions that serve the social function of representing political and global interactions. For Wangechi Mutu’s collages in her survey “A Fantastic Journey” the artist sources imagery from National Geographic, pornographic and fashion magazines to undercut disparaging assumptions about the black female body. “Le Noble Savage” is a wry collage that demonstrates the historic weight of this misnomer. It was a term coined in the seventeenth century that designated non-Europeans as primitive and served as a reason to discredit their accomplishments. A female figure marked with dark sores wears a raffia-patterned skirt reminiscent of traditional Kuba textile from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mutu’s Afrofuturist aesthetic is evident in the figure’s skin. Her diseased flesh refers to the victims of crises in Africa, the interpolating global politics of war, the illegal trades of bodies, minerals, bullets and more recently the Ebola epidemic—one that the Western press ignored until two American missionaries were infected with the virus. The figure reaches up to the sky holding high a fern populated by many birds showing that there is more to Africa than just the pervasive reductive binary of casting it as a “dark” continent or the emblem of the “cradle of civilization.” Read the rest of this entry »