Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Portrait of the Artists: Miller & Shellabarger

Artist Profiles, Drawings, Installation, Loop No Comments »
Miller & Shellabarger. "Again Gone," installation view

Miller & Shellabarger. “Again Gone,” installation view

“Western Exhibitions shows all three of us,” say Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, meaning the Chicago gallery separately represents Dutes, Stan and S&M, their collaborative practice as Miller & Shellabarger. The two met as undergraduates studying ceramics and organically began to work together on artistic projects. Twenty-one years later, the couple shares an Irving Park home and studio where individual art practices continue to grow alongside joint projects. Teaming up as Miller & Shellabarger periodically dominates their individual practices, while at other times independent work demands a hiatus from the collaborative. They have found an effortless ebb-and-flow, and three is not a crowd in this household.

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Review: We do what we like and we like what we do/Western Exhibitions

Drawings, Installation, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
nicholas frank1

Nicholas Frank. “Nicholas Frank Biography, page 302 (First Edition),” printed book page, 6 ¼ x 4 ½ inches, custom-milled walnut frame, 10 x 8 inches, 2014

RECOMMENDED

This rambling celebration on the occasion of the gallery’s ten-year anniversary as a bricks-and-mortar space is cheekily titled after the eponymous Andrew W.K. anthem, “Party Hard.” The moniker adds both an air of revelry and defiance to the works exhibited, implying that director Scott Speh and the artists on his roster are fueled by passion and vision rather than a pursuit of conventional success.

The show is an exercise in polarity, oscillating between extremes in scale and tone. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted by the first of two sigil paintings by Elijah Burgher. Fresh from the Whitney Biennial, these painted drop cloths are installed back to back, dominating the initial visual field. Situated in the corner of the same room are two bongs, “Uncle Sam/Old Yeller” by Ben Stone. They seem slightly out of place in an area otherwise devoted to minimalist and conceptual works but add levity while reiterating the rebellious tone set by the title. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: C.J. Pyle/Carl Hammer Gallery

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"Tete a Tete," pencil, ink, colored pencil, on verso of LP cover, 2014

“Tete a Tete,” pencil, ink, colored pencil, on verso of LP cover, 2014

RECOMMENDED

C.J. Pyle’s exhibition, “Saints and Sinners” is a meditation on detail and texture. To create these complex portraits, he needs only a few simple materials: ballpoint pens, Paper Mate pencils, and LP or book covers. He says no paper compares to that of 1970s and 1980s LP covers and the uniqueness of each pencil in a pack giving him a breadth of possibilities with line.

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Review: Surrealism and War/National Veterans Art Museum

Drawings, Sculpture No Comments »

 

Bea Nettles, Steve Kostell, and Megan Diddie. "#30 The Exquisite Corpse of Victor F. Nettles," one of the thirty-nine drawings that comprise "Exquisite Corpse of the Unknown Veteran," 2014

Bea Nettles, Steve Kostell, and Megan Diddie. “#30 The Exquisite Corpse of Victor F. Nettles,” one of the thirty-nine drawings that comprise “Exquisite Corpse of the Unknown Veteran,” 2014

The face of Guillaume Apollinaire, the storied Surrealist poet who was wounded in WWI and later died of his injuries appears, sideways, in one of the most powerful series of exquisite corpses I have ever seen. In the National Veterans Art Museum’s exhibition “Surrealism and War,” artists collaborated on a set of drawings that cover parts of two walls. The form was invented by the Surrealists after many of them were profoundly changed by combat in WWI, and aspires to autonomous creation, suspending the rational mind to release dismembered and painful images by bringing them together with corresponding fragments in the hearts and minds of a group of collaborators. Artists who contributed to this Exquisite Corpse—veterans, their relatives, and other local artists—are given a folded piece of paper and directed to draw a head, torso or lower legs and feet without seeing their partner’s contribution. The exquisite corpse drawings are dedicated to dead and injured veterans and anonymous victims of war, such as The Unknown Corpse of a Child in Kosovo. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Scott Wolniak/Valerie Carberry Gallery

Drawings, Sculpture No Comments »
"Current,," acrylic, ink, watercolor, chalk and graphite on plaster with wire mesh on plywood, 2014

“Current,,” acrylic, ink, watercolor, chalk and graphite on plaster with wire mesh on plywood, 2014

RECOMMENDED

“Fields” is the title of Scott Wolniak’s exhibition at Valerie Carberry, but translation seems to be a linking theme between the two distinct bodies of work on view. Lining the left wall of the gallery is a tableau of chunky, predominantly plaster works that the artist has scraped, cut and etched into, occasionally revealing their burlap and wire armatures—a hint of how they bridge and translate elements of painting/bas relief/sculpture. Consisting of very simple, usually one word titles, these works hint at natural themes, such as in “Falls” and “A Garden,” but appear as unrecognizable abstractions. The whorls, lines and grids cut into these works sgraffito-style delineate the areas of subdued colors and seems to create an internal vocabulary of shapes and line that the viewer is not privileged to understand. Coupled with their emphatic tablet-ness, viewing these works feels somewhat akin to looking at ancient artifacts—the Sumerian cylinder seals held at the Oriental Institute come to mind along with the Rosetta Stone—though one feels a sense of doubt that within this abstraction there is in fact an actual, hidden language. And perhaps it’s more pleasant just to enjoy the abstraction rather than to try to parse it for a literal meaning. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Imaging/Imagining: The Body as Art/Smart Museum of Art

Drawings, Hyde Park No Comments »
Giulio Cesare Casseri, "Tabulae anatomicae" (detail), 1627

Giulio Cesare Casseri, “Tabulae anatomicae” (detail), 1627

RECOMMENDED

Representations of the human body can never exist apart from the cultures and technologies that produce them. Two physicians—Mindy Schwartz and Brian Callender— mined the University of Chicago’s impressive collections to produce a compelling history of anatomical and medical imaging. Their findings stress the idea that medical illustrations are products of collaboration between physicians who need visualizations as guides to their practice and for teaching, and the artists who produce them. Although the exhibit begins with a woodcut in a book by the second-century Roman physician Galen, medical illustration really flourished in France because the technologies for reproduction—etching, lithography, the workshops and the craftspeople that produced and disseminated books and fine prints—were in place to record the progress of science.

Where there are artists, imagination will creep into the territories science might like to claim for observation. A large, haunting three-color engraving by Gautier D’Agoty from 1746 of the flayed back of a woman whose head is slightly turned to be available to the viewer was called the “flayed angel” by the Surrealists. The print reveals a woman’s back, and her muscle structure, while vividly dramatizing the complications of the medical gaze. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Edward Gorey/Loyola University Museum of Art

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Illustration (detail) from The Doubtful Guest, 1957, © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust. All rights reserved.

Illustration (detail) from The Doubtful Guest, 1957, © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust. All rights reserved.

RECOMMENDED

My first introduction to Edward Gorey’s playfully delicate drawings came during my childhood in the form of an illustrated 1982 edition of T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” Gorey’s drawings for the book jacket are included in the Loyola Museum of Art’s “Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey” and “G is for Gorey—C is for Chicago: The Collection of Thomas Michalak.” Taken together, LUMA triumphs in creating a rich, appealing total experience of Edward Gorey as an artist and the many roles he played in publishing. Gorey’s illustrated books are often coy treatments of sexuality and death, not so much intended for children as accessible to me and many others as an alternative to the more mainstream (and normative) comic-book culture of boyhood. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: William J. O’Brien/Museum of Contemporary Art

Drawings, Sculpture No Comments »
William J. O'Brien, untitled, ceramic, 2013

William J. O’Brien, untitled, ceramic, 2013

RECOMMENDED

This, these 120-plus works, organized into stanzas and spanning four dimensions, is exhibition as Legion, as Leviathan, as Lil B mixtape; color, form and shape in biblical proportions, driving amphibian rains and sloughed scales and torn shrouds; most all of them are untitled—the impression one gets, wandering about, is that all of them are untitled—named only per annum; a smattering of untitled little drawings splashed against a corner; a long, L-shaped table of untitled ceramic; untitled cosmological/mathematical dreamscapes of tessellation and curvature and human feature, color pencil scored by incandescent glitter. One, “Untitled, 2010,” an ultramarine square of infinitely deep texture, is studded and glistening with brilliant points so deliriously fucking bright that one’s thoughts instantly race to the sidereal, then to the pragmatic; how did he grind the universe into this? Capture the canicular? There are totems, screamingly colored and tumorous, a sort of art brut atavistic minimalism, and paintings the color of cuttlefish ink, which, when viewed—read?—first, as in the order on the docent’s program, serve as stark juxtaposition to what is otherwise a manic chromatic panoply. A word of advice, for the lay observer: wander in, be drowned, flayed alive. (B. David Zarley)

Through May 18 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago.

Review: Faith Wilding/Threewalls

Drawings, Performance, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view. Photo: Clare Britt

Installation view. Photo: Clare Britt

RECOMMENDED

The comedian Brian Regan once recalled describing his symptoms to the doctor: “It feels like everything on my inside wants to be on my outside.” Switch that from physical to emotional feelings and you have the work of prominent feminist, writer, teacher and artist, Faith Wilding, whose impressive sampling of her enormous life’s work is on display in a retrospective exhibition.

In 1972, Wilding participated in the groundbreaking feminist exhibition Womanhouse, the first public showcase of feminist art, in Los Angeles. There she performed “Waiting,” a highly influential piece that continues to have resonance today. Wilding’s work has been shown in major feminist art exhibitions over the last forty years and continues to hold sway in contemporary feminist discourse. Because of her accomplishments, the Women’s Caucus for Art is awarding her a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Inevitably, Wilding’s renowned feminist background coats the show with political and historical overtones. However, her artwork also stands tall on a separate stage: that of Faith Wilding’s impassioned journey through life. Bodies, plants, moths and horses memorialize loss, catharsis, transformation and renewal. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sandra Holubow and Judith Roth/Koehnline Museum of Art

Drawings, Painting, Suburban No Comments »
Judith Roth

Judith Roth

RECOMMENDED

Sandra Holubow and Judith Roth are two old friends whose paintings of local middle-class life neatly complement each other.

Roth is a figure painter and draftsman, the kind who hires a model and then brings her to life on paper or canvas. She mostly paints women, and she presents them as strong individuals who overwhelm their backgrounds and enter the space of the room where the painting is hung. The women are ready to open up the office, drive the kids to school, or teach an aerobics class. They also overwhelm the background when Roth draws them nude, and her large, bold, voluptuous contour-lines proudly assert their fleshiness rather than offering it up for the delectation of voyeurs. Every image seems to say, “I am proud to be woman.” Read the rest of this entry »