Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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

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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

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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 »

Preview: Brain Frame Anniversary Party

Comics, Performance, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »

Krystal DiFronzo performing at BF5/Photo: Gillian Fry


Amidst the flashy cultural clusterfudge of one-off events at Wicker Park Fest, a noteworthy, regularly scheduled local happening will be having its first=anniversary party. “Brain Frame,” a venue for comics artists to present multimedia readings of their work, will be gathering in the intimate confines of Happy Dog Gallery to, as they always do, spruce up the traditionally minimal context of a reading with, at the very least, props and PowerPoint. But you never know—there could be puppet or human extras, audio and/or video, anything that could move the experience away from beat-poet bleakness toward performance-art fabulosity; videos on the “Brain Frame” blog attest to the variety of approaches engaged by these events. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: A Comic’s Wisdom

Comics 2 Comments »

Ivan Brunetti’s comic strip in the March 7 issue of The New Yorker illustrates the frustrations of an art teacher who, from the students’ perspective, teaches too much. It ends badly: a student asks if computers can be used on the homework assignment, and the teacher, exiting the class, mutters to himself, “I’m wasting my life.” It’s not a funny comic, exactly, but this is The New Yorker, and while Brunetti does admit to using computers in his own work, they only aid in the production stages, not the creative. With computers, “there is no discovery, only micro-managing,” writes Brunetti in his new book, “Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice.” The how-to cartoon manual, structured like his fifteen-week course of the same title at Columbia College, is full of Brunetti’s brand of self-effacing, wry perspectives on life and art, and it’s also a complete starter’s guide to creating comics—not just the slapstick and pulp fantasies of the Sunday funnies, but the diaristic, bittersweet realisms of contemporary life, a genre populated by Charles Schulz, Chris Ware, and Brunetti, of course.

Like David Hockney, who makes one drawing a day on his iPad—one of which is featured on that same The New Yorker’s cover (ah, irony)—Brunetti expounds the importance of keeping a daily drawing practice. There is no substitution, and no excuse, for not working daily on one’s craft. “Unfortunately, you will probably have to draw 100 bad pages before you draw a good one; there are no shortcuts,” he writes in “Cartooning.” Persistence will lead to consistency, which will lead to an individual style. Developing this craft is one of Brunetti’s main lessons in his cartooning manual. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago’s Current Comic Affairs

Andersonville, Comics, Evanston, Michigan Avenue No Comments »

Enrique Chagoya, "Return to Goya No. 9," 2010

By Julia V. Hendrickson

Comic and cartoon artists work quietly but profusely in Chicago, drawn, perhaps, to the functionality of its gridded streets, city blocks like frames on a page. Comic book and specialty bookstores like Quimby’s and Challengers flourish because there is an audience for experimental narratives and a vibrant community surrounding comic art. In reaction to such public interest, January brings a flurry of exhibitions related to comic and sequential narrative art.

For those interested in historical context, the Block Museum in Evanston offers a small but superb collection of prints in “The Satirical Edge,” with work from the 1950s to the present, all using graphic comic and cartoon imagery for socio-political commentary. The majority of this collection features a group of artists, the “Outlaw Printmakers,” who were part of a 2004 exhibition at Big Cat Gallery in New York. Most striking are Tom Huck’s series of small-town narratives depicted in large, hypnotically intricate woodcuts. A handful of R. Crumb comic books from the early 1970s are the only direct connection to comics, but the influence of comic art is evident in works like Richard Mock’s bug-eyed linocuts and Enrique Chagoya’s collaged accordion book.

Chagoya’s newer work is also prominently displayed, and includes an etching from his latest edition, a dancing, demon-chased Obama, a subtle revision of Goya’s “Los Caprichos.” The Block aptly compliments the “Satirical Edge” with a concurrent exhibition of prints by eighteenth-century caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson. Read the rest of this entry »