Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: The Freedom Principle/Museum of Contemporary Art

Activist Art, Collage, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Video No Comments »
Nick Cave. "Speak Louder," 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo: James Prinz Photography.

Nick Cave. “Speak Louder,” 2011.
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo: James Prinz Photography.

RECOMMENDED

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the Chicago-born kaleidoscope of experimental musicians, had a motto: “Ancient to Future.” That rallying call pervades the MCA’s “Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now.” The show animates the dawn of the black American avant-garde, born out of the Civil Rights era and African anti-colonial movements, and its legacy in contemporary society.

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Review: Look at Me Now!/Monique Meloche Gallery

Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Painting, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Hassan Hajjaj. "Miriam," 2010. Metallic lambda print on 3mm white dibond, 53 x 36 ¾ inches / Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Hassan Hajjaj. “Miriam,” 2010.
Metallic lambda print on 3mm white dibond, 53 x 36 ¾ inches/Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

RECOMMENDED

Revising the art historical canon to account for a variety of erasures is a commendable curatorial endeavor, but one is perpetually challenged to find new methods to add value to such well-worn conversations. This summer group exhibition takes on tropes related to race, gender and caste by offering fresh alternatives to the history of Western portraiture. Individually, the works of Rashayla Marie Brown, Hassan Hajjaj, Rashid Johnson, Ebony G. Patterson, Amy Sherald, William Villalongo and Nina Chanel Abney are colorful, multifaceted and visually complex; together, they feel oddly muted and restrained. Pronouncements of individual agitation rise up, but the gathering of disparate voices does not make for lively conversation.
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Eye Exam: What Good is Art?

Activist Art, Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view, "The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now," MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. Give us a Poem, 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. “Give us a Poem,” 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay,  MCA Chicago.

By Elliot J. Reichert

Each time I venture deeper into the tangled economy of art making and its contingent endeavors, I ask myself: What good is art? I am not an artist, but I work with artists and artworks every day. By all accounts, I should believe deeply in art, and yet I routinely question its value. As such, when I go to look at art, I often search in it for signs of doubt, and I am usually comforted to know that I am not alone in my questioning. For if contemporary art can be united under one banner, it would be doubt itself: doubt about politics, about social relations, about economic and class structures, about the very importance of human life. Ironically, this might be why I gravitate toward art in the first place, despite my ambivalence toward its significance. Art turns my fears into forms; it makes real what I cannot, or do not want, to imagine.  Read the rest of this entry »

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″

RECOMMENDED

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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Review: Phillip Maisel/Document Gallery

Collage, Design, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Phillip Maisel. "Serengeti Green (1836)," 2015 Archival Pigment Print and Scrim. 17" x 24"

Phillip Maisel. “Serengeti Green (1836),” 2015
Archival Pigment Print and Scrim. 17″ x 24″

RECOMMENDED

Repetition with minuscule change might be the hallmark of our day. Apps update regularly, new iPhones roll out yearly, movies reinvent themselves over and over again, all in a pursuit of user satisfaction. A good indicator of this is someone like Katy Perry—plastic bag, party girl, roaring tiger—in short, whatever we want or need her to be. This endless buffet of options suits our twenty-first-century needs but also keeps us fickle and anxious. Phillip Maisel’s photographs in his exhibition “Serengeti Green” use the vernacular of constant, minimal change that dictates this contemporary anxiety, asking us to slow down and consider these minor variations.

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Review: Albert Oehlen/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Collage, Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Albert Oehlen. "Untitled (cow 4)," 2011 paper on canvas, 59" x 72 3/4"

Albert Oehlen. “Untitled (cow 4),” 2011
paper on canvas, 59″ x 72 3/4″

RECOMMENDED

Cutting and collaging advertisements to fill the gallery with a herd of cattle—bright, cacophonous and just on the edge of perception—Oehlen’s new show at Corbett vs. Dempsey is called “Rawhide.” The cows-on-canvas (which seem intimidatingly large, though they’re almost all just shy of five feet by six) are rounded up for market, but Oehlen has confused the juxtaposed advertisements to the point of mere decoration, so they can’t sell us anything beyond themselves. True to “Rawhide,” the 1959-1966 TV series that saw cowboys lead a cattle drive to market, Oehlen is giving us cows neither here nor there: the bovines shimmer in and out of view, competing with the flashiness of billboards. The theme song incites us, like the collagist headed to market, to “Cut ’em out/ Ride ’em in.” Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Remembering Ruth and Her Revolutionary Art Worlds

Collage, Drawings, Loop, Painting, River North, Sculpture No Comments »
Don Baum. "Untitled Silhouette/Cut Out Portrait of Ruth Horwich," ca. 1980, paint by number painting and other mixed media, 18" x 14.5" x 11" On view at Carl Hammer Gallery

Don Baum. “Untitled Silhouette/Cut Out Portrait of Ruth Horwich,” ca. 1980,
paint by number painting and other mixed media,
18″ x 14.5″ x 11″
On view at Carl Hammer Gallery

By Michael Weinstein

There is a tinge and twinge of sadness attending the viewing of the three concurrent exhibits showcasing the fabled collection of artworks amassed by Ruth Horwich and her husband Leonard over the last half century.

One cannot escape the sense that an era has ended. The Horwich collection is being broken up and cast to the four winds in the aftermath of Ruth Horwich’s death in July, 2014 at the age of ninety-four, preceded by Leonard’s passing in 1983. Her estate seeks to monetize the art. The choice pieces, from the viewpoint of marketability, by Alexander Calder and Andy Warhol, for example, have already been handled by Christie’s. Now we have an opportunity to see the rest of the collection, the non-Western indigenous artifacts at Douglas Dawson Gallery, and the works of the Chicago artists from the second half of the twentieth century—the backbone of the collection—at Carl Hammer Gallery and Russell Bowman Art Advisory. Read the rest of this entry »

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: Gordon Matta-Clark/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Collage, Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Gordon Matta-Clark. "Circus," 1978 silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4" x 73 1/4"

Gordon Matta-Clark. “Circus,” 1978
silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4″ x 73 1/4″

RECOMMENDED

In 1978, the Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned artist Gordon Matta-Clark to execute one of his trademark “building cut” projects in a recently acquired brownstone on Ontario Street. The result, “Circus or The Caribbean Orange,” a series of large-scale circular lacerations that radically altered the structure’s interior, would sadly be the artist’s last major statement before his untimely death at age thirty-five. What remains of the epic scale of this ephemeral project are a series of the artist’s captivating photocollages. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Evanston Biennial Solo Shows/Evanston Art Center

Collage, Evanston, Installation, Painting, Sculpture 1 Comment »
Noelle Allen. "Henry's Rainbow", 2014 resin, 23" x 32" x 2"

Noelle Allen. “Henry’s Rainbow”, 2014
resin, 23″ x 32″ x 2″

RECOMMENDED

This May, the Evanston Art Center will end its forty-eight year residence at the former Harley Clarke mansion and move into a newly renovated space one mile away. For the final exhibition within its historic location that blossoms with organic design and motifs, the center has selected three artists whose practices are deeply rooted in the natural world: Noelle Allen, Jennifer Yorke and Robert Porazinski. Read the rest of this entry »