Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Richard Hawkins/Art Institute of Chicago

Collage, Loop No Comments »

"Urbis Paganus IV.9.I. (Posterity title)," 2009, Mixed media on matte board. Courtesy of Greene Naftali Gallery, New York


“Third Mind,” a mid-career survey of LA-based artist Richard Hawkins’ art work, opened this October at the Art Institute of Chicago, and will travel in early spring to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The exhibition reveals Hawkins’ breadth and variety of media, including drawing, collage, assemblage, inkjet prints and painting. Two abstract paintings, “Pink Feather” and “Bad Medicine,” are collages of used clothes and towels covered in thick swaths of color. Each canvas dawns a feather protruding from their sides reminiscent of Joan Miró’s “Man, Women, and Bull” of 1935 in the Art Institute’s collection.

Hawkins’ works deals insightfully with male queerness by representing its negotiation with a system that encourages both its assimilation and its exploitation in media imagery. Hawkins moves through various cultural examples, from John Wayne Gacy (a painting by the incarcerated killer sent to Hawkins is shown in the museum’s library), to male heavy-metal icons, to native peoples in various states of cultural loss, to the puritanically censored sexuality within classical sculpture. In this task the methods of his collage, bluntly combining handwritten text, abstract mark-making and printed images, serve him well. The slipshod quality of magazine cutouts brazenly paperclipped to their destination affects a directness that reads as the unmitigated activity of an individual, thereby reclaiming the subject matter as the act of an actual human being. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: John Parot/Western Exhibitions

Collage, Drawings, Painting, West Loop No Comments »


John Parot’s exhibition, “Hobbies,” addresses the game of pursuit in gay online dating. In his figurative and abstract works on paper, panel and canvas, Parot makes a sardonic jab at the homogeneity of online dating profiles.

In his collage piece, “Total Eclipse,” Parot combines magazine cutouts in a composition reminiscent of online profiles. Heads float on a flat black background, magazine cutouts allude to common idols and makeshift horoscopes identify a popular cast of gay characters like “the disco dreamer missing brunch” and the “Faux Hawk forever on trend.” Yet his work goes beyond a play on stereotypes. Sculptural work, such as a wooden striped black-and-white paddle, “Haze Him,” pushes the viewer to consider not only the characters associated with online dating but also the possible commodities and behaviors of its players. Parot’s pieces, riddled with allusions to whiskey and nights spent bar hopping, may exclude other possible romantic interactions, taking on the it-is-what-it-is approach to online dating.

Undercut with Parot’s own profile is a more poetic, if not romantic piece, “Self-Portrait, Infrared.” Here, Parot charts minute lists of personal likes on black triangular canvas:  “six pack of Diet Coke and a bottle of Jack,” “tacos after midnight,” “late night bike rides.” Although mostly common and unrevealing, the confessions point to a desire for a romantic connection regardless of the flawed medium. (Beatrice Smigasiewicz)

Through June 12 at Western Exhibitions, 119 North Peoria.

Review: Get It Together Again/Chicago Tourism Center Gallery

Collage, Loop No Comments »

Peter Skvara, "Asteroids #8"


Co-curators Chad Kouri and Ed Marszewski successfully “get it together” for their second group show focusing on collage, assemblage and collaboration. Inviting artists from their 2009 show at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, they extended their lineup to include national and international artists as well. “We curated the artists, not the work,” said Kouri, referring to the fact that many of the pieces were created specifically for the show. “These are the kind of people you don’t have to micromanage.” The result is an enjoyable blend of contemporary two-dimensional and three-dimensional work ranging from traditional paper collage to mixed media, installation and sculpture. The works’ arrangement emphasizes its diversity while retaining continuity. A show featuring collage might overwhelm visitors with imagery overload; instead the space is open and inviting, and a nice visual balance exists between pieces. Matthew Rich’s colorful geometric abstracts provide relief after viewers finish scrutinizing the many details of Jordan Martins’ collage works; a linear work by Ron Ewert uses empty space to create a “corner” in the middle of the room. The show’s collaborative aspect might be the least perceptible. The majority of pieces are created by single artists (one notable exception being an entire “grocery store” shelf facsimile by Adrianne Goodrich and Ellen Kirk displaying well-known food products constructed of paper and color pencil) and the majority of the work doesn’t lend itself to contextual readings of collaboration. However, viewers are encouraged to collaborate as well by creating their own work using collage materials provided. (Patrice Connelly)

Through April 6 at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery, 72 E. Randolph.

Review: John Fraser/Roy Boyd Gallery

Collage, Drawings, River North No Comments »

"Form with Suggested Content"


In the exhibition “Object Lesson,” John Fraser treats his own oeuvre, spanning twenty-something years, like a series of found objects from which to assemble a collage, offering a palimpsest of his career, revisiting past trends and former concerns in linen, mosaic and book-binding fragments. There is a haunting quality to many pieces—puttied-over traces of pulled staples, mottled glue along an eviscerated book spine)—but the show centers around “Form with Suggested Content,” a framed collage featuring a closed envelope. Here we have the unspoken enticement of narrative inherent in a found object, the jarring balance of collage, the shades of bottomless neutral washing from monochrome into subtle color play and, of course, the inlaid envelope itself, waiting for our response.

Fraser’s pieces sometimes pull optical tricks, oscillating positive and negative space. The inner edges of otherwise blank pages float to the foreground in “Westport Island Memory” while in “Composition with Similar Forms I” the sense of the immediately physical fades, leaving work more akin to landscape painting than collage. “(In The) Absense of Rhetoric,” a diptych of aligned canvas panels, achieves tricks through the stitching and asymmetry of affixed pieces of fabric. But this piece, with its weeping pigment and ghostly squares, striped in slate-blue, transfixes also because it is so elusively allusive. Is this a reference to the uniforms of the death camps or swatches of aprons from a lost childhood? The absence, here, of “sense,” of anything like “rhetoric” casts a heavy presence. A quiet painting, it whispers insistently.

“Object Lesson,” as a whole, tantalizes, like an unexpected letter of such promise, such possibility, that one keeps it sealed as long as possible, just to increase the anticipation. (Spencer Dew)

Through March 2 at Roy Boyd Gallery, 739 N. Wells.

Review: Chad Kouri and Netherland/Rotofugi

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Chad Kouri, "Concoction"

Chad Kouri, "Concoction"


The storefront Rotofugi, which does not carry ceramic one-eyed cats smoking, now holds around eighty original works by Chad Kouri and David “Netherland” van Alphen. Kouri, a member of local design collective Post Family, got off his computer and made a large body of collage work for this, his first solo exhibition. “Concoction” is a man’s drink, Kouri’s imagery calling me back to the pages of my father’s Playboys. Index cards tiled on handcrafted panels lay ground for cocktails of mid-century advertisements. An assortment of pin-up girls snuggle up to packs of Chesterfields and other products of yesteryear, clear references to Kouri’s source materials and other commercial-cum-fine artists like James Rosenquist or Tom Wesselman. The instruments of Kouri’s mash-ups also find a corner in the gallery, three sampling Casio keyboards and a dozen pairs of scissors, no doubt his weapon in mining through fifties Life magazines. Meanwhile a cluster of found-framed work encourages us to ‘slow down,’ literally in eight silkscreen letters, to investigate some smaller formal studies, while sections of library records seduce us with $20 price tags. Rotofugi gallery curator David van Alphen also offers us a bit of nostalgia. In the front gallery we find a series of leisure-suited vintage stereo equipment, collaged behind heavy resin or varnish, mounted alongside hand-painted skateboards. Their execution is super-human, candy-coated surfaces relegating them to the world of objects manufactured by machines, in some ways blurring the distinction from the anime wonderland in the shop next door. (Joe Jeffers)

Through January 24 at Rotofugi, 1953-55 W. Chicago.

Review: Scott Treleaven/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Collage, Drawings, Multimedia, West Loop No Comments »


Assuming it’s possible to distinguish an artist from a layperson based on abstract theoretical concerns alone: what cachet does an artist carry to distinguish them as such? An unaffected and unremitting tendency to indulge in one’s personal fancy—fantasy—must be it. In concert, Canadian-born, now Paris-based artist Scott Treleaven’s body of work traffics in strains of the fantastic wed inseparably to the individual. His earliest collages appealed to the steamiest type of fantasy, offering candid shots of young punk-rock boys, as if Penelope Spheeris’ seminal documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization” (1981) were set into homoerotic overdrive. Instead of watching a shirtless Darby Crash recounting his personal philosophies—or lack thereof—we see Treleaven seeing this scene, with the same somewhat-iconic figures played by a cast of anonymous young men.

His latest body of work, on display in his third solo show with trans-local dealer Kavi Gupta, indulges in less-sultry, but perhaps more imaginative fantasies, trading the punk rockers for romantically elaborated visions of Paris and worlds beyond. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Playing with Pictures/Art Institute of Chicago

Collage, Photography No Comments »


Armed with paper-cutting knives, watercolor palettes and sticky pots of glue, the proper Victorian ladies who spent their leisure hours pasting cut-up family portraits into pointedly subjective new contexts were forces to be reckoned with. “Playing With Pictures” is a persuasively argued and richly engaging new exhibition that’s among the first to explore their activities in depth, showing how many of the era’s female aristocrats used photocollage not just as a creative outlet but as a canny form of autobiography that functioned as a tool for social advancement.

Many of the photocollages depict upper-class forms of recreation: fox hunts and garden parties, card games and chess matches played out in well-appointed drawing rooms. The background settings of these works were often drawn or painted by hand and populated with cutout photographs of friends and family, whose placement within the composition was always carefully considered. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lisa Rybovich Cralle

Collage, Multimedia, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »

Stark images and hyperbole accentuate the selective and emotional aspect of memory as Lisa Rybovich Cralle’s collages reflect on her native Florida. Her collage, “Land,” juxtaposes Hellenic male statues, a vacant crucifix, a mesh of snakes and swimmers on a beach to contrast objects both surreal and concrete. In other pieces, the dualities of known and unknown, fantastic and mundane, and grace and nefariousness are explored. Airplanes fly toward a mushroom cloud. A morose zombie-like figure stands opposite a pink-clad ballerina. A stately statue of a man has his head displaced with a strange-looking object that appears to have eyes. Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych, “Garden of Earthly Delights,” comes to mind with a chaotic aggression between humans and animals, the head of a bird attached to the body of a man. Cralle’s “Sequin Swamp” features a brilliant mass of golden sequins superimposed on a detailed black and white roller coaster. The contrast of detail and gaudiness may make the viewer consider which impression would be dominant upon reflection: the specific dimensions of an impressive ride, feelings of euphoria, or a mixture? (Ben Broeren) Through December 22 at Roots & Culture

Review: Andrea Myers

Collage, River West No Comments »


Andrea Myers’ show finds the artist nimbly using her familiar tools, albeit sparingly. Myers builds her work through the layering or stacking of tinted paper and fabric. Consisting of a floor piece and several screen-printed collages, the show leaves one wanting more. Some works, like “Burrowing,” a humble white collage with concentric, torn paper circles, benefit from their simplicity. Others don’t need their humility, such as the “Peeling Panorama,” another décollage evoking aging plaster walls, yet not billboard-sized. In the sole fabric piece, “Ripple,” she strikes a more complex color tone by jettisoning distinct colors instead of mingling them through screen-printing and finer, more abundant layering. The work calls to mind its namesake with ripples of brilliant fabric emanating from a central point. The chromatic linen waves spill over the plinth limply onto the floor giving the piece a charming animal-like quality. It is the most compelling moment of the show and it proves that Myers remains one of the best manipulators of material in Chicago. (Dan Gunn)

Andrea Myers shows at Lisa Boyle Gallery, 1821 West Hubbard, Second Floor, (773)655-5475, through December 15.

Review: Katharine Lion, “Synthesis”

Collage, Humboldt Park No Comments »

A piece of text from a hand painted store sign set the tone for Katharine Lion’s show at Old Gold. It read, “If you can’t stop, smile as you go by.” It is this form of wanderlust that Katharine Lion’s installation of digital prints and sculpture gives off. The digitally collaged images are ones of back alleys and beaches, trashcans and sunsets. Installed in a row and wrapping around the gallery, the images show an appreciation for small places and special moments. However, the frequent and clumsy use of exposed photo edges and contrasting subject matter (i.e. a sunset over graffitied concrete) makes some works read like clichés or simplistic statements. The best pieces take advantage of the collage format and make something out of the skips in the photograph as in “3 Sunsets” or “Moonscapes” or when the shift in image is submerged causing the curiosity of the situation to create the impetus to explore the photo, such as in “Winter Sun Settings” where a lakeside sunset is merged with light coming through the clouds. The effect is an exuberant and difficult beauty which most of Ms. Lion’s pictures exude when they are given the chance. (Dan Gunn) Through December 2 at Old Gold, 2022 N. Humboldt, (773)653-9956.