Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Political Clay/Chicago Ceramic Center

Bridgeport, Ceramics, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres No Comments »
Margaret Israel. Untitled, undated. Earthenware.

Margaret Israel. Untitled, undated. Earthenware.


As one might have predicted, the attitudes promoted in this exhibit are politically correct, projecting an exhausted despair concerning the fate of civilization and the planet. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: John Knight/Art Institute of Chicago

Ceramics, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Loop, Media & Genres No Comments »
John Knight, "Plate #28," from "Museotypes" series, 1983.

John Knight, “Plate #28,” from “Museotypes” series, 1983.


To mark the Renaissance Society’s centennial, the Art Institute installed John Knight’s “Museotypes,” a series of sixty commemorative plates ostensibly honoring the museum. Hung in three stacked rows of twenty each, each gold-rimmed bone-china plate (the hue is just warmer than gallery white) sports the silhouetted footprint of a high-caliber museum in black glaze. Altogether, the abstract similarity shared by the graphics condenses art-housing architecture into minimalist logos that are less salable than museum facades, but no worse at making an icon of an institution. Read the rest of this entry »

International Dispatch: Disproving Silence at the 2015 Istanbul Biennial

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Ceramics, Collage, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Public Art, Sculpture, Street Art, Textiles, Video No Comments »
Theaster Gates. "The Anthem of Mu," 2015. Performance on the Bosphorus for "Saltwater: A Theory of Forms." /Photo: Mehmet Girgin.

Theaster Gates. “The Anthem of Mu,” 2015.
Performance on the Bosphorus for “Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms”/Photo: Mehmet Girgin

By Mariam Al Askari

“Guglielmo Marconi said every sound we ever make is still out there. Once generated, it fades but never dies away completely.” This idea not only encapsulates the work by Susan Philipsz for which it was written—the work features sounds of dripping water and underwater beacons—but also the 2015 Istanbul Biennial as a whole, which features countless artists and other collaborators, several of which hail from Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: LUMA at 10: Greatest Hits/Loyola University Museum of Art

Activist Art, Art Books, Ceramics, Collage, Craft Work, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville, Video No Comments »
"LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits, "Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and "Paranirvana (Self Portrait)" by Lewis deSoto. / Photo: Loyola University Chicago.

“LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits,” Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and “Paranirvana (Self Portrait)” by Lewis deSoto./Photo: Loyola University Chicago


Religion is often the apparent culprit in today’s war-torn world, so an exhibition with a spiritual undertone may seem unnerving. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rodrigo Lara Zendejas/National Museum of Mexican Art

Activist Art, Ceramics, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Pilsen, Sculpture No Comments »
Rodrigo Lara Zendejas, "Deportable Aliens," 2015.

Rodrigo Lara Zendejas. “Installation components / componentes de la instalación,” 2015. Ceramic, 24 x12 x12 inches each, photo: Michael Tropea.


This modest exhibition of new, site-specific work by Mexican artist Rodrigo Lara Zendejas brings to light a shameful and little known piece of United States history. From 1929 to 1939, the federal government authorized the repatriation of nearly one million people of Mexican descent because these so-called freeloading, disease-ridden, illiterate people were taking away “American jobs for real Americans,” as President Hoover’s campaign slogan stated. Mexicans, who comprised the largest immigrant population at the time, were understood to be a particularly potent threat during the inordinate economic hardship of the Great Depression. Zendejas’ counter-memorials evoke this time. His sculpted traces of human likeness on thumb-shaped objects and a sculptural interpretation of an identification card help us face this dark past and understand its legacy in the present.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Cyrus Tang Hall of China/Field Museum of Natural History

Ceramics, Craft Work, Design, Galleries & Museums, Museum Campus, Sculpture No Comments »

Statue of Wei Tuo/The Field Museum


Museums such as the Field face significant challenges in their efforts to liven up old collections while accounting for significant developments in historical and anthropological scholarship. The 9,000 square feet of exhibition space in the newly opened Cyrus Tang Hall of China is entertaining enough to captivate visitors of all ages, but it can only provide a cursory introduction to 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, though a much more serious and informative story about earth and its creatures might be told online, where there is infinite space for interactive audios, visuals and texts. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Julie Green/Block Museum of Art

Activist Art, Ceramics, Evanston, Installation No Comments »
Julie Green. "The Last Supper," 2000-ongoing. Installation view of 357 plates in the 2009 exhibition "Counter Intelligence," California State University, Los Angeles.

Julie Green. “The Last Supper,” 2000-ongoing. Installation view of 357 plates in the 2009 exhibition “Counter Intelligence,” California State University, Los Angeles.


From a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, to the sentencing of Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death, our flawed criminal justice system is ever present in our lives. Julie Green’s set of 600 plates illustrating the final meals of U.S. death row inmates helps us remember the human lives behind the news. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Alison Ruttan

Artist Profiles, Ceramics, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Alison Ruttan in her installation "A Line in the Sand," at the Chicago Cultural Center

Alison Ruttan in her installation “A Line in the Sand,” at the Chicago Cultural Center

“My husband says the FBI knows what I’m doing because I have a heat signature constantly going,” chuckles artist Alison Ruttan as she leads me into the basement of her cozy Oak Park home. We pass from her living room lined with artworks by Ruttan’s husband Scott Stack and neighbor Sabina Ott into a series of chamber-like rooms with low ceilings and cement floors, all brimming with remnants of unused pieces from “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” which occupies the Cultural Center’s three Michigan Avenue galleries. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Drunken Geometry/Devening Projects and Editions

Ceramics, Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Leslie Baum + Allison Wade. Drunken Geometry, installation view, February 2015.

Leslie Baum + Allison Wade. Drunken Geometry, installation view, February 2015.


“Drunken Geometry,” the new collaborative exhibition by Leslie Baum and Allison Wade, is a risky proposition. By tackling the classic conventions and traditions associated with the still life, these two Chicago-based artists seek to extend our preexisting notions of the genre by, in effect, taking them apart. The approach is as pregnant with possibility as it is fraught with travails.

Sculptural formulations are particularly susceptible to problems inherent to deconstruction since a table displayed without substantive transformation remains merely a table, an artifact of our mundane world rather than an active agent in the world of art. Though reasonable people can (and should) disagree, objects placed within the environs of gallery are not art by default. The wall-mounted “Many Things Conspired #1” as well as the floor-bound “New Things (the persistence of ordered objects) #1,” which both seem a little too self-satisfied as minimally altered objects, are the most problematic in this regard. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Authority, Affirmations and Other Nomenclature

Ceramics, Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Oak Park, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown 2 Comments »
Nate Young. Installation view of "Untitled (Pulpit No. 1)," 2014, and "Untitled (Altar No. 1)," 2015

Nate Young. Installation view of “Untitled (Pulpit No. 1),” 2014, and “Untitled (Altar No. 1),” 2015

By Matt Morris

Is art that appears to be “about art” ever only limited to that scope of investigation? I’d say it’s doubtful, mostly because mechanisms of power reproduce themselves throughout social institutions, so to reflect upon the constitutive components of an artistic medium (as well as its historical and contemporary contexts) possesses at least the potential of a transferrable method by which one might fashion new freedoms—not through a rebellion from upheld traditional forms but through critical relationships to them. The monochrome continues to do this. Distilled to an uninterrupted plane, color, texture, scale and the tools for applying material (all usually in some way present in most artworks) are amplified, inviting investigation into the parts that comprise the art. In the best of cases, consideration of the conditions of display is inspired as well. The monochrome as a form also holds up under projections: historically used for such diverse conceptual conceits as Suprematism, color field painting, the “radical painting group,” and most recently one of several working modes bizarrely attributed by Ken Johnson to “soccer mom” aesthetics. A century after Kazimir Malevich painted his canvas “Black Square” in 1915, artists continue figuring out how to take apart the language of art-making so that the parsed vocabulary can speak to the power of the entire system. Read the rest of this entry »