Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Tactical Formations/National Veterans Art Museum

Activist Art, Collage, Comics, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Portage Park, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
National Veterans Art Museum.

John Plunkett. “Battle (Left),” 1981. Graphite on canvas, 40 x 54 inches / National Veterans Art Museum.


“Your mind may be a thousand miles away. But your eyes and ears are right here!” reads the caption of “Night Listening Post” a mixed media piece by Dale Samuelson of the Vietnam Veterans Arts Group. The graphite sketch above the quote shows two soldiers lying flat on their stomachs, staring off into nothing as they listen, blending into the night. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alex Bradley Cohen and Steve Ruiz/Roots & Culture

Comics, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Noble Square, Painting, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Steve Ruiz. "Deep Street Breathing," 2015. Gouache, ink and ename on paper, 11 x 7.5 in.

Steve Ruiz. “Deep Street Breathing in New Orleans,” 2015.
Gouache, ink and enamel on paper, 11 x 7.5 in.


This two-person show is a perfect exhibition to check out as summer slowly comes to an end. Cohen and Ruiz are two rising, Chicago-bred artists who both use warm, vibrant colors and landscaped scenes to evoke memories of hot days spent outdoors. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Kavi Gupta Opens Art Bookstore in West Loop

Art Books, Comics, News etc., West Loop No Comments »
Kavi Gupta Gallery's new bookstore space Editions

Kavi Gupta Gallery’s new bookstore space Editions

Kavi Gupta Gallery (KGG) has announced that it will open Editions (not to be confused with Edition, the satellite art fair held in the West Loop during Expo Chicago), a curated art bookstore, next Friday, September 19 with a book launch for “Seen/Unseen” a new artist book project by Tavares Strachan. Editions will feature monographs, zines, theory and criticism, as well as rare artist editions and out-of-print art books by major contemporary artists. The store will carry books that KGG has played some part in producing, as well as work by artists on their roster including blanket, tote bag and plate editions by Mickalene Thomas; a 3D-printed rock produced by Glenn Kaino for the occasion of his exhibition at the gallery’s 219 North Elizabeth Street location; placemats designed by Jessica Stockholder; and artist books by Scott Treleaven. Along with art-theory powerhouses like semiotext(e), Editions will stock books from local publishers including Green Lantern Press, Poor Farm Press and Sara Ranchouse. The store is located in the same building as Kavi Gupta’s space at 835 West Washington, just down the hall from their exhibition space. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Free Month of Comic Illustration Classes in September

Comics, News etc. No Comments »
montage of artists' works from the International School of Comics

Montage of artists’ works from the International School of Comics

The International School of Comics (ISC) announced this week that, during the month of September, it will offer a series of workshops that are free and open to the public. Dubbed Freetember, the school will host classes in concept art, digital coloring, comic book cover design and watercolor, as well as introductions to techniques in building narratives, working methods and independent publishing. Many of the teachers of these free classes are also faculty in the ISC’s degree program, such as Robin McKay, who will be coaching participants through an After Effects Crash Course and Emma Rand, one of ISC’s adjunct professors, who has also organized the Freetember project. Guest artists are also on the Freetember roster, including Jenny Frison, who currently works as a Marvel cover artist and for Hasbro. For a full list of the classes offered visit ISC’s website, or see below. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Brain Frame Ends After Three Years

Comics, News etc., Performance, Pilsen No Comments »


Jo Dery performing at Brain Frame 17

Jo Dery performing at Brain Frame 17

This Saturday, August 9, Thalia Hall in Pilsen will host the nineteenth and final Brain Frame, a bimonthly show self-described as “performative comix readings.” Three years ago, cartoonist and filmmaker Lyra Hill began Brain Frame as an experimental space for comics-based works to be performed for live audiences. Projected slide shows, music, puppetry and other zany forms of theater have been the staples with which comic artists and authors have expanded on their illustrative universes into dynamic live events. In an email to Newcity, Hill writes, “These past three years of Brain Frame have been hugely influential to the underground scene (particularly the alt-comics scene) in Chicago, and an exhausting whirlwind for me. I’m really looking forward to celebrating Brain Frame’s success and calling for the community to sustain itself moving forward.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Hebru Brantley/Chicago Cultural Center

Comics, Loop, Painting No Comments »
Hebru Brantley. "O.M.G."

Hebru Brantley. “O.M.G.”


The large-scale canvases in Hebru Brantley’s “Parade Day Rain” document the travails and revelries of his iconic character The Fly-Boy and his accompanying crew of poly-cultural homies: all vibrant, active, bruised and soaring. Here is an incredibly fresh assemblage of a makeshift community of young people who traverse emotional territory and urban landscape with hope and heartbreak.

Based off The Tuskegee Airmen, Brantley’s Fly-Boy is a black comic-book superhero in a landscape where heroes are usually white, and criminals too often depicted as black. Often Brantley renders his characters in profile against dense pastiche backdrops filled with Nike symbols, bootleg Bart Simpsons, and Jack Johnson dropping lead fists on the head of white supremacy. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Printers Ball at Year Ten Is Bigger Than Ever

Comics, News etc., Performance, Prints No Comments »
photo by Cynthia Post

Photo: Cynthia Post

Celebrating its tenth year, this Saturday’s Printers Ball grows to include thirty-one free programs such as readings, workshops, exhibitions, performances, a DJed dance party and ongoing marketplaces of print goods throughout the day. Since the ball’s move to Spudnik Press at Hubbard Street Lofts last year, more organizations have joined up to collaborate and host its expansion into a greater variety of featured events that celebrate blurred spaces between the literary and the visual. Eight different sites in and around the lofts will host the events. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Daniel Clowes/Museum of Contemporary Art

Comics No Comments »
Eightball 18 (cover), 1997

Eightball 18 (cover), 1997


Comic-book illustration is a form that rewards intimacy; it is best unpacked, page by page, panel by panel, in the comforting embrace of a reader. While the Daniel Clowes survey “Modern Cartoonist” may obfuscate its understanding of this knowledge a bit, what with its lofted, haze-gray reproductions tucked flush to the ceiling, hovering, encircling eyes of Argus, and the monolithic murals of Chicago, resembling the flanks of a battleship, bookending the pleasingly nacreous exhibition space, this is still an exhibition best observed in its minutiae.

Original drawings from Clowes’ seminal comics—including “Ghost World,” “The Death-Ray” and “Art School Confidential,” all of which Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Anders Nilsen/Elmhurst Art Museum

Comics, Suburban No Comments »


A perceived relevance to “big questions” distinguishes serious art from all the other entertaining, decorative or otherwise useful things that people make for each other, and that was exactly the title of the 658-page graphic novel by Anders Nilsen that was published last summer. It has been acclaimed for its fresh, honest take on the human condition, as well as some very good drawing, and now some larger, even wall-size, versions of his work are on display in the Elmhurst Art Museum.

Though some are quite large, these still seem to be small, personal, child-like views, and though some characters are identified as Adam and Eve, they seem to  have been placed into a small, suburban back yard cluttered with animal toys instead of upon a cosmic stage inhabited by mythic creatures. Read the rest of this entry »