Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Manish Nai/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Architecture, Collage, Craft Work, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Manish Nai. "Untitled," 2015 Dyed burlap, 90" x 4"

Manish Nai. “Untitled,” 2015
Dyed burlap, 90″ x 4″


The work of Mumbai-based Manish Nai makes a viewer reconsider the limits of an artistic medium. He doesn’t use traditional media, such as heavy metals and wood, oil or acrylic. Instead, Nai uses everyday materials—cardboard, jute, newspaper and even his family’s used clothing—to sculpt, mark and render.

For his first solo exhibition in the United States, Nai has created wall hangings, photographic prints, sculptures and four site-specific works, including a gallery pillar wrapped in jute, a burlap-like material that is abundant in India, and a heat-transferred mural that will slowly disappear during the course of the exhibition. His use of traditional artistic processes, such as weaving or drawing and sculpting by hand, in conjunction with contemporary rendering techniques borrowed from digital and new media art, design and architecture give these objects a surprising new dynamism. By combining the old and the new, Nai’s work is thoroughly international even as it remains fully Indian.
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Point of Origin: Mapping the Arts in Detroit

Architecture, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Performance, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Olayami Dabls, N'Kisi House, 2007, wood, glass, tile, bricks, paint, MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit, MI. Photo credit: Charlene Uresy

Olayami Dabls, N’Kisi House, 2007,
wood, glass, tile, bricks, paint, MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit/Photo: Charlene Uresy

By Allison Glenn

The twenty-first century has brought with it the re-emergence of contemporary conceptual artists engaged with penumbral zones. These artists are interested in site, positing new ideas for usage of once-inhabited homes and urban spaces. Whether the middle of the desert or the center of a blighted neighborhood, these sites exist on the theoretical—albeit times physical—margins of society. Artistic engagement with these interstitial spaces is on a material level, with art and architecture converging to create radical and experimental approaches to living. Positing ideas for architecture, technology, space and the body’s relation to it, artists are projecting utopic ideals for the future of the quotidian urban environment. What emerges from this are hybrid works of art and cultural production. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Hyde Park Art Center Breaks Ground on New Wing Sunday April 19

Architecture, Hyde Park, Multimedia, News etc. No Comments »
Hyde Park Art Center - Guida Family Creative Wing Schematic Detail.

Hyde Park Art Center – Guida Family Creative Wing Schematic Detail

The new Guida Family Creative Wing at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) will open in fall 2015, thanks to a successful 75th Anniversary Campaign in 2014 and $750,000 gift from John, Julie and Angelina Guida. On Sunday, April 19, celebration of their groundbreaking will coincide with a reception with multiple exhibitions on view, including resident artist Susan Giles’ exhibition, “Scenic Overlook” and Nancy Lu Rosenheim’s “Swallow City.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Threewalls Announces 2015 Edition of Community Supported Art Chicago

Architecture, News etc., Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Julia Klein, “Stand/Statuette.” Mock-up of the planned editions. Edition of 25 + 6 artist proofs. All thirty-one are unique in terms of exact measurements and color. Cast bronze, steel and paint.

Julia Klein, “Stand/Statuette.” Mock-up of the planned editions. Edition of 25 + 6 artist proofs. All thirty-one are unique in terms of exact measurements and color. Cast bronze, steel and paint.

Threewalls, one of Chicago’s non-profit art leaders in pro-artist programming, is launching the 2015 edition of its Community Supported Art Chicago (CSA) series: “The Tabletop Collection.” Using the theme of a sculpture garden reimagined for a tabletop, the collection will be available as a set with works by five Chicago-based artists: Laura Davis, Assaf Evron, Julia Klein, Sabina Ott and Stephen Reber. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mathias Poledna/Renaissance Society

Architecture, Hyde Park, Installation, Video No Comments »
Mathias Poldena. "Substance," 2014, 33mm color film with optical sound, 6:40 min

Mathias Poldena. “Substance,” 2014, 33mm color film with optical sound, 6:40 minutes


From a single pew, viewers absorb Mathias Poledna’s new, luscious projected 35mm film “Substance,” 6:40 minutes looped: abstract washes of gold, close-up shots of three rotating hands, a shiny, beveled dial, and the signature crown revealing the identity of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Finally shown in full, the desired timepiece floats away into a black void, with no semblance of place to distract from adoration. An enveloping percussive soundtrack heightens the film’s seduction. The familiar yet hard-to-place music recalls an intense action movie sequence or urban nightclub, its heavy beat lending a dogmatic tempo.
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Eye Exam: Public Displays of Artistic Affection

Architecture, Textiles No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

As the art world shifts interest away from loner studio practices, it is relationships—long-distance relationships, no-strings-attached relationships, contractual relationships—that make an excellent metaphor for the relevancy of art in our lives. Three exhibitions this week make transparent some interpersonal, artistic relations for all to see.

Messing with Mies

The iconic modernist glass house in Plano, Illinois, could be the banner image for the state of modern privacy. Designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and sited sixty miles southwest of Chicago, the Farnsworth House, a home with glass exterior walls, reveals all of its insides, a fact that the home’s original owner, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, found to be “unbearably oppressive,” wrote architecture historian Joan Ockman. Farnsworth felt like a hamster in a cage or an actor on a stage while she inhabited her second home from 1951-71.

Osvaldo Romberg at the Farnsworth House. Photo: Alia Pergala

Osvaldo Romberg at the Farnsworth House/Photo: Alia Pergala

Farnsworth expressed her anxiety of living in a glass box to House Beautiful magazine, in 1953. The white-steel-and-glass box has a patina of anxiety. It animates its character. Anyone who visits imagines herself living in the raw glass box, with its attendant discomforts.

For the next several weeks, the Farnsworth House has a guest living on its porch: the skeleton of the Melnikov House, an avant-garde Russian house from the 1920s. The floor plan of that Moscow home has been replicated to scale in wood, painted yellow, propped on sawhorses, and now abuts the Farnsworth House’s front yard at a perpendicular angle.

Typically a beacon of serene, solemn contemplation, nestled among cornfields and the Fox River, the Farnsworth House is now interrupted by the Melnikov House. Artist Osvaldo Romberg calls this a “translocation.” He has performed this sort of intervention at iconic architectural sites around the world.

“Forms happen, like love,” said Romberg on the steps of the Farnsworth Read the rest of this entry »

Architecture Break: No New Histories

Architecture No Comments »
Northwestern's Prentice Women's Hospital

Northwestern’s Prentice Women’s Hospital

By Paul Preissner

The raised temperature regarding the inevitable demise of one of Bertrand Goldberg’s contributions to Chicago, the former Prentice Women’s Hospital building, clarifies something problematic with Chicago today. This city is far from the haven of architectural health it proudly considers itself to be. In any thriving urban ecosystem the removal of premier architecture would cause some grief, but since there would most certainly be future replacements of considerable charm and character, as well as plenty remaining beloved buildings, the pain would seem to be temporary, mild and hardly worth creating a fuss over. In reality, Chicago is far from a city of design futures, and for some time now has long been populated with mostly marginal efforts and lame buildings. With so few significant new projects over the past twenty years that one can name them all with little difficulty. Try it! It’s frustratingly simple.  Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Burberry Dresses Up for Mag Mile

Architecture, Michigan Avenue No Comments »


The Magnificent Mile is not what it used to be. Although the site of prestigious and historic architecture like the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower and Drake Hotel, the pseudo-boulevard now seems more suburban than urban, with so many inward-turned shopping malls. In the mid-1990s, architecture critic Blair Kamin lamented the avenue’s “descent from exquisite ensemble of beaux-arts buildings to a crass visual jumble,” dubbing it the “Mediocre Mile.” Today, there is a budding renaissance happening on the strip, most vividly illustrated by the new Burberry flagship store, the best architectural addition to the district since the John Hancock Center nearly forty years ago.

The Burberry building is stunning, in that it fuses fashion with architecture. At five stories tall, dressed in black with an ornamental chrome tartan check, it stands like a model on the runway of Michigan Avenue. In contrast to the blank facades and anonymous awnings of neighboring competitors like Chanel and Gucci, the Burberry store demands attention and draws the eye—like anything exemplary among the ordinary. The structure has two massive, forty-foot vertical windows set back into the face, breaking up its mass and offering glimpses inside. A waterfall of light serves as backdrop for a sleek minimalist staircase rising on Ontario Street. The building’s elegance escalates when darkness falls as LED lights softly illuminate the chrome plaid from the rear, producing an outfit change into the enduring black-on-black. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Studio Gang/Art Institute of Chicago

Architecture, Loop No Comments »


Despite Jeanne Gang’s reputation as inheritor of the mantle worn by Sullivan, Wright, and Mies, “Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects,” which opened last week in the Art Institute’s Modern Wing, emphasizes the collaborative energy and achievements of the studio over those of the individual. Drawings, plans and proposals diffuse the old model of the architectural genius and his great static monuments to reveal the actual teamwork of the creative process, but not only among the members of her practice; a wealth of materials in the exhibition visualize the crucial dialogues and fluid synergies between a building and its site, the clients who commission, and the buildings’ future inhabitants. Studio Gang and the curators at the AIC have created a dynamic, interactive and graceful space, papering the walls with information—photographs, plans, drawings and models of several finished and unfinished proposals. The viewer leaves with renewed insight into the complexity and excitement of Studio Gang’s engagement with the problems and possibilities of our moment, and importantly, the centrality of good design to the future of cities and urban life. Aqua Tower is featured prominently among projects far-flung and local, from Hyderabad, India to Glencoe, Illinois. The Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, currently under construction at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, will make use of low-carbon, highly thermal construction materials and techniques. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wright’s Roots/Expo 72

Architecture, Loop, Photography No Comments »


In this lavish, elegant and expertly curated exhibit, we get a chance to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture whole as we go from one alcove to the next, each replete with photographs and drawings of, and artifacts from, a different one of his famous and more neglected buildings. Wright’s houses and public buildings, with which we have become familiar, are on view here, but we are also treated to his attempts at creating “affordable” housing for the working class that incorporated touches that raised the structures above the drab tenement. Read the rest of this entry »