Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Michael Dinges, Victoria Fuller, Geoffry Smalley and Karen Savage/Packer Schopf Gallery

Collage, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Geoffry Smalley. "Catskill Creek, Citi Field," acrylic on inkjet print, 2012

Geoffry Smalley. “Catskill Creek, Citi Field,” acrylic on inkjet print, 2012


The group of shows at Packer Schopf Gallery ruminates on intrusion. There is technological and environmental encroachment, and the intrusive mythos of masculine and feminine ideals.

Michael Dinges’ “Lifeboat: The Wreck of the Invisible Hand” hangs center stage as a retired boat and a lesson. Made with vinyl siding, the scrimshaw declarations ring around this dramatic piece as if conversing with Victoria Fuller’s work across the room. Her piece, “Deep Down,” meditates on the inherent commingling in nature: a snake, an earthworm, and roots rise from the dirt to touch the air. At the same time, some of her materials, like gas pipe and metal tubing, interrupt the state of the nature she presents. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: John Sparagana, Arturo Herrera and Jackie Saccoccio/Corbett vs. Dempsey

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Jackie Saccoccio, "Portrait: Circuit," oil and mica on linen, 2013

Jackie Saccoccio, “Portrait: Circuit,” oil and mica on linen, 2013


These are three image-makers who glory in destruction.

New York-based Jackie Saccoccio’s first show in Chicago includes her large and beautiful “portraits.” They’re not the kind of portraits that offer recognizable human facial expressions—but contemporary people are so complex; do facial features really matter much anyway? She’s put something like a big, empty, faceless, voluminous head smack in the middle of the canvas, and then wrapped it into a fantastic swirl of colors and textures. Saccoccio loves the infinitely spacious, visual sensuality of sixteenth-century European portraiture, but those are the only qualities she’s taken from it. These are portraits of unidentifiable but happily blown minds. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Matt Rich/Devening Projects + Editions

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"Face," acrylic and spray paint on cut paper, and linen tape, 2013

“Face,” acrylic and spray paint on cut paper, and linen tape, 2013


When I saw Matt Rich’s exhibition “Razors & Vapors,” I experienced a deep sense of déjà vu. I had never seen Rich’s work before, but there was something familiar about his paintings, something recognizable yet unexpected. His paintings are collages (or maybe his collages are paintings) of cutout pieces of paper. They are geometric and colorful. Roughly cut triangles and circles and squares are the foundations of this exhibition. The shapes are smeared and flecked with paint, and there are tears in some of them. Up close, the textures of these cutouts—little bumps and globs of dried acrylic—jut out from the paper. (An element of haphazardness pervades the work, and while there is a slapdash feel to the brushstrokes, the overall shape and color of the paintings are fluid and rich.) Take a few steps back and the smears and adjoining pieces of paper blend together, and the image of the painting comes together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Medley/Chicago Urban Art Society

Collage, Pilsen No Comments »


What first comes to mind when I think of collage? I picture adhesives and ephemera being used in a two-dimensional scale. Unfortunately, I also think about Pinterest and capitalism, and how the general population has hijacked the collage, turning the medium into a selfish “board” of desires. Chicago Urban Art Society’s second installment of the group show “Medley” is a much needed palate cleanse for me. It reminds that collage is much more than nostalgia and ephemera ((I promised (promised!) myself I wouldn’t use the word “ephemera” in this review, and now I’ve already done it twice.)). “Medley” shows that the art form of assemblage is amorphous and untethered. This is the good side of collage.

Here, there are three-dimensional artworks composed of bike reflectors, destroyed iPhones, nuts and bolts, and metal springs. There are unframed collages where cutout photographs of animals project outward like a pop-up book. Some of the artwork has been coated in resin, giving it the sheen of a tabletop in a diner. There are collages that step away from analog techniques, digitally printed pieces that are surreal and meticulously detailed. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lou Beach/AdventureLand Works on Paper

Collage, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
"Ring Ring, Too Fat Me (The Japanese Corner)"

“Ring Ring, Too Fat Me (The Japanese Corner)”


Collage artist Lou Beach—whose nom de guerre is a clever Anglicization of the Polish surname Lubicz—has a great sense of humor. A longtime illustrator with a client list that includes the New York Times, Wired and Time, Beach’s humble beginnings (a child of immigrants) and youthful sojourns across the continent have endowed him with a sagacious insight into the American character. His gaze, like his wit, is razor sharp.

For his new solo show at AdventureLand, the Los Angeles-based artist has assembled a fine assortment of biting, surrealist-inspired works. Culled from the pages of the past, Beach’s source material is part Little Golden Book, part Sunday missal, combined in striking, and sometimes disturbing ways. Careful inspection yields numerous visual delights, such as the figure in “Honey, Please” whose Cigar-Indian head nose and landscape mouth elicit laughter and revulsion. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mark Wagner/Western Exhibitions

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Mark Wagner, “Mr. Handshake’s Last Gasp,” 2010


While the rest of the country was completely consumed by a bitter election that gained the dubious honor of being the most expensive ever at the cost of over six billion dollars, you would never know it if you took a trip around the West Loop galleries a weekend or two before the election. The art on view seemed blissfully unaware of the outside world to the point of bordering on irrelevancy.

The exception was Mark Wagner’s “Voting with Your Pocketbook” at Western Exhibitions, where the simple acknowledgment of the events beyond the gallery walls felt like a breath of fresh air. Framing itself as “an exhibition of money art,” the work uses the dollar bill as its medium, which Wagner then collages, paints or draws over.

At other times and in other situations using the dollar might feel a bit facile and gimmicky; and though doubt never entirely disappears, against the backdrop of the election and disinterest of other galleries in current events, Wagner’s gesture comes off as both relevant and urgent. Indeed, the artist winks at art’s perennial detachment in several works. Looking like a conceptualist work from the seventies, “Ink Value Study” builds to full black-and-white over a sequence of six bills. Elsewhere, Twombly-esque scribbles and strokes appear atop their money medium.

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Review: Medley/Chicago Urban Art Society

Collage, Pilsen No Comments »

"Hot Dog" by Peter Kepha


When he conceived of a collage exhibition seven months ago, Peter Kepha, co-founder of Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS), had three artists from Chicago in mind and wanted to bring together talent from around the country to show how diverse roots in media like design, graffiti, illustration and typography can apply to approaches in collage, creating a rich push-and-pull between structure and balance and the messiness of life evident in our ephemera.

The works in “Medley” are like a melodic composition, arranged yet providing a feeling of immediacy. While some of the works hint at cultural critique, the tone of the exhibition is not of critical image appropriation but rather engagement with source materials. Often it’s the dissonance between the property of the material and the image created that energizes these works. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Borrowing Time

Collage, Sculpture, Video No Comments »

Stacia Yeapanis, "Stairway to Heaven" (detail)

By Jason Foumberg

We are given time but it should be hard won. That is the reigning philosophy of artists who fill time with traces of their existence, with towering piles of process-laden materials. When an artist accumulates time and produces a labor-rich object, that object can be sent out into the world to do the work of time—a proxy self who, if it can stand up, succeeds in not just measuring and filling one’s time but extending it.

A standard wall clock is placed in Stacia Yeapanis’ solo exhibition as a reminder that art spaces, like failed time machines, are not time-exempt. Time is an insistent collaborator in “Over and Over Again,” Yeapanis’ showing of eight durational sculptures, collages and videos from a recent studio residency. The studio is certainly one place where time is dense, and Yeapanis treats it like a sculptural material, and questioningly, for she positions food and entertainment distractions into stacked columns, swirled patterns, loops and grids, evincing the emptiness that can come from so much accumulation. If ritual is supposed to give meaning to life, it is obsession that wears it down. Yeapanis inhabits this void to see if it can be a positive, productive space. Loneliness is a major theme here, manifest not only in the solo clock (an imperfect lover?) but also excellently in a pop-TV montage in the style of Christian Marclay. Titled “Solace Supercut,” dozens of fictional characters repeat the sobering phrase, “You don’t have to go through this alone,” and it is looped so that the lone warrior’s quest of self is eventually revealed to be absurd, even clichéd. Yeapanis toys with re-arranging familiar objects to transcend their sad banality—she stacks McNuggets into a “Stairway to Heaven”—confessing the fun of self-transformation burnout. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Stephen Eichhorn/Ebersmoore Gallery

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"Orchid Circle IV (Black)," collage on acrylic coated paper


If you’re reading this, I probably don’t have to introduce Stephen Eichhorn. The much-buzzed-about collage artist has been everywhere these past few years, appearing in group shows, solo shows, printed matter, residencies, and “Best Of” lists across the board. In his latest solo show, “Flowers, Eichhorn presents more of the same: botanical collages of images painstakingly extracted from books, magazines and vintage wallpaper to create gentle yet compelling Ikebana-esque arrangements. And while some of these images have been seen before, the vibrancy of these works is somehow amplified by the ability to see Eichhorn’s garden grow, incorporating richer images which, flawless in their construction, emerge specter-like from the vastness of their monochrome backgrounds. Eichhorn’s penchant for orchids is particularly fitting considering the flower’s parole of both virility and delicacy, of history and evolution. In “Yellow Orchid, these botanical assemblages exude a sense of control and deliberation that demand the viewer’s attention—not because of their forcefulness, but rather for their balance, the thoughtful coupling of the natural world with the void of space. “Floral Burst 1” calls to mind supernovas, lush bursts simultaneously chaotic and structural, reaching to the far edges of the paper. Such effects are likely the truest testament to Eichhorn’s ability as an artist: the power to infuse an image with such vibrancy that not only does it live, but indeed, it thrives. (Jaime Calder)

Through April 2 at Ebersmoore, 213 North Morgan, #3C.

Review: Richard Hawkins/Art Institute of Chicago

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"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 »