Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Salvage Art Institute/Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia No Comments »
No Longer Art: Salvage Art Institute. Installation view, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 2015

No Longer Art: Salvage Art Institute. Installation view, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 2015

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The claim that any object may be a work of art by way of the subjective declaration of the artist has been fraught with discord since Marcel Duchamp proposed a readymade urinal as his entry to a group exhibition in New York City in 1917. In many ways, the ongoing project of the Salvage Art Institute (SAI), now on view at the Neubauer Collegium, is the logical retort to nearly a century of debate over the question of “What Is Art?” Considering the vast expansion of both artistic production and its attending market, the SAI grapples with a terrain that has shifted drastically since the status of art was radically—and yet merely—defined as anything deemed as such by the artist. Even the question itself has changed: It is now: “What Is No Longer Art?” And the answer comes not from the artist, but the insurance company that determines whether or not a damaged work has fallen into the category of “total loss,” at which point its status as an art object, herein assessed in terms of its monetary value, is beyond repair. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rim Lee/Japonais

Painting, Photography, River North No Comments »
Rim Lee. "Beyond Max Ernst No. 1."

Rim Lee. “Beyond Max Ernst No. 1.”

The subterranean “Blue Room Lounge” at Japonais is a dark, sleek, somewhat claustrophobic space, currently host to three photographs by Rim Lee, a project organized by Kasia Kay Gallery that shares in the space’s qualities. Each one centers on a pair of nude and nubile female torsos that sharply defines a sexual, but not a personal, identity. Like celebrants at a masked ball, their faces are not shown, so the various hips and breasts belong to a world of psychosexual fantasy more than to any particular person. In one image, the faces are turned away, staring at the artist’s own painting which depicts a disembodied, non-gendered human face emerging above a flaccid pillar. It’s an obvious reference to the work of Max Ernst, after whom this work, and the entire exhibition, has been named. But it may also represent an awkward self identity that hasn’t yet caught up with the sexual maturity of the figures staring at it. Indeed, there is something girlish about all three photographs that seem to rest between the comfortable, well-ordered world of a happy childhood—and the confusing, sometimes dangerous, world of adults. In the other two images, giant bird masks cover the heads of the two attractive nudes. Covered with fluffy down instead of feathers, the birds are more like oversized chicks than adults who have already flown the nest. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: European Edge/Berlanga Fine Art

Photography, River North No Comments »
Jan Saudek. "Ilary Make Up," 1983

Jan Saudek. “Ilary Make Up,” 1983

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For the inaugural exhibition at his new photography gallery, Paul Berlanga has put together works of five leading European modernists: Lucien Clergue, György Kepes, Jan Saudek, Petra Skoupilová and Rutger ten Broeke, all in black and white, with the addition in Saudek’s case of subtle coloring. The “edge” referred to in the show’s title is decidedly surrealist, with the contributors using different strategies, approaches, and concepts to convey the visual strangeness, bordering and often falling into eeriness, that is surrealism’s hallmark.

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Portrait of the Artist: Esau McGhee

Collage, Garfield Park, Logan Square, Photography No Comments »
Esau McGhee in his East Garfield Park studio

Esau McGhee in his East Garfield Park studio

“My collage work is about this collective experience that we all share with public spaces,” explains Esau McGhee. “It doesn’t matter, you could be a fifty-year-old white Jewish chick or a young Latino male. It’s not my space, it’s not your space, it’s really ours, and it’s going through an evolution as dictated by us and our shared experience with it.”

As an African-American man who grew up as a self-proclaimed “ghetto kid” and ended up a professional artist by way of high-end, private fine art programs at SAIC and Northwestern, McGhee thinks a lot about how people from different races and economic classes relate to one another. He believes that people from different backgrounds can connect with one another through their shared visual experiences. With a studio based in the quintessentially urban East Garfield Park, McGhee’s practice intuitively incorporates the patterns of city landscapes, evoking a mood that city dwellers from all backgrounds could relate to—and with his most recent exhibitions being in the very different Elastic Arts, Union League Club and the Hyde Park Art Center, people from all different backgrounds have had a chance to.
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Review: Luftwerk/Silent Funny

Humboldt Park, Installation, Multimedia, Video No Comments »
Luftwerk's "FLOW" installation at Silent Funny video projected onto water and interior architecture photo by Marc Perlish

Luftwerk’s “FLOW” installation at Silent Funny
video projected onto water and interior architecture
photo by Marc Perlish

RECOMMENDED

For their current installations at budding arts space Silent Funny in West Humboldt Park, Luftwerk—the collaborative comprised of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero—were inspired by how light travels through water to create visceral connections for viewers, working with excerpts from previous outdoor projects reimagined for the space’s cavernous interior.

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Review: Ian Pedigo/65GRAND

Digital Art, Installation, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Ian Pedigo, "Lights Have Gone Out," 2015 bone, plastic, metal, wood, paint, carpet, 60" x 65" x 30"

Ian Pedigo, “Lights Have Gone Out,” 2015
bone, plastic, metal, wood, paint, carpet, 60″ x 65″ x 30″

RECOMMENDED

Using found quotidian materials, Ian Pedigo assembles sculptural installations that lyricize banal details of our domestic and built environments. In his exhibition at 65Grand, “The Arrows Like Soft Moon Beams,” the New York-based artist reveals three larger-than-human-size totems which nod to Surrealism and resonate particularly well in Chicago, with its rich culture of spaces (6018North) and makers (Alberto Aguilar, Edra Soto) who turn the domestic into the poetic. In “From the Crown to the Earth” a six-foot-tall panel of black stone grounds the playful figural arrangement of a green plastic bowl lampshade with dangling disco ball earrings. Another grouping converts disembodied chair legs into a wing-like form, hung from a floorboard suspended upside down with a backdrop of blinds. “Lights Have Gone Out” features a candelabra painted matte-black which is simultaneously real, faux, classic and kitsch. Pedigo combines elements from different time periods and vacillates between natural and artificial materials, resulting in both visual stimulation and a sense of suspended timelessness.
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Review: Aimée Beaubien/Johalla Projects

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view of Aimeé Beaubien's "Twist-flip-tremble-trace" at Johalla Projects

Installation view of Aimeé Beaubien’s “Twist-flip-tremble-trace” at Johalla Projects

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There is a video-game term that applies to art making, called “leveling up.” It’s when you make it to the next round, when you discover something game-changing, when you go out on a limb and make such a big step in the right direction that you are suddenly on a higher plane. You leveled up.

Local photographer Aimée Beaubien leveled up with her new body of work, “Twist-flip-tremble-trace.” She took her collages off the wall, weaving strips of photographs together to create the effect of psychedelic cobwebs, held together with dowels and clothespins so that they stand up and command space in the room. These Wonderlandian creatures are precariously perched on cartoonish furniture—an orange painted ironing board, a mirrored pedestal, a low, hot pink table, often incorporating ceramic jugs and glass bottles. Smaller works sit on shelves and hang on the walls, including some new, two-dimensional works, acting as satellites to their larger counterparts. The result is a dizzying installation of optically wiggling, animal-like forms. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Archibald Motley/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Painting No Comments »
Archibald J. Motley Jr. "Hot Rhythm," 1961 oil on canvas, 40" x 48.375"

Archibald J. Motley Jr. “Hot Rhythm,” 1961
oil on canvas, 40″ x 48.375″

RECOMMENDED

American life continues to be dominated by friction between its European and African diasporas. Possibly no American artist has been as immersed in that unfolding drama as Archibald Motley (1891-1981), among the first African Americans to address that theme with a thorough training in European pictorial space. As suggested by the thousand-mile-stare in his two self-portraits, wariness is the key to his response. He was too dark for the boardrooms of middle-class America, too well educated for the streets of Bronzeville, and too concerned with African-American identity for trendy galleries of modernist art. So he was probably uncomfortable in every public setting—except the dance halls in Jazz Age Harlem where urban sophisticates of all backgrounds mingled. His visualization of that world is ecstatic. It is also masterful, in both narrative and design, comparing well with the dance halls depicted by Renoir, Lautrec and Picasso, but with a greater emphasis on the congenial interaction between characters. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Lagi Nadeau Collaborates with Kenyan Women on Accessories to Benefit Refugees

Design, News etc., Textiles No Comments »
Women from the Maisha Collective pose with their new jewelry designs made with Chicago designer Lagi Nadeau

Women from the Maisha Collective pose with their new jewelry designs made with Chicago designer Lagi Nadeau

Local fashion designer Lagi Nadeau has partnered with Heshima Kenya—an organization devoted to bettering the lives of young refugee women of Africa—to create a collaborative jewelry line together. Nadeau traveled to Kenya to mentor and work with forty teenage girls and bring her design concepts to life using the long flowing colorful handmade and dyed scarves from the girls of the Maisha Collective. Over the span of one week, Nadeau and the girls created seven designs that launch today on Etsy and will be sold with a majority of the proceeds going back to funding the various programs Heshima offers.

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Review: Showcase/Schneider Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Rebecca Memoli. “The Mess We've Made,”  inkjet and acrylic on canvas, 15” x 10"

Rebecca Memoli. “The Mess We’ve Made,”
inkjet and acrylic on canvas, 15” x 10″

RECOMMENDED

Among the nine photographers and photo-artists on display in Schneider Gallery’s clean new space, two newcomers, Rebecca Memoli and Doug McGoldrick, offer the most magnetic and arresting images by taking the timeworn move of painting or drawing on photos in new and provocative directions. Memoli, who does constructed tabletop still lifes, paints so finely and precisely on her base photographic image, which she has printed on canvas, that she succeeds in taking revenge on photo-realist painting, to the point of leaving indiscernible traces of the bare base image to show through the facade. The photo-realists simulated photography, whereas Memoli simulates painting. She also composes beguiling arrangements of objects, such as in “The Mess We’ve Made,” where we see a kitchen counter filled with dishes and utensils, some unwashed, lying on their sides in an elegant jumble, presided over by a poster of the bygone crooner, Mario Lanza. This is a scenario at which to stare in order to experience its humor. Read the rest of this entry »