Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Jaime Davidovich/Threewalls

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Jaime Davidovich. "The Live! Show," 1980

Jaime Davidovich. “The Live! Show,” 1980

RECOMMENDED

Argentinian artist Jaime Davidovich moved to a New York teeming with ideas, conversations and possibilities during the 1960s and seventies, when it was gritty, dangerous and artists could afford a building in SoHo. Whereas Gordon Matta-Clark, Donald Judd and the Judson Dance Theater give the period its experimental flavor, Davidovich’s pioneering efforts in artist-run public television never received recognition like abstract video artists Stan Brackhage or Paul Sharits. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Authority, Affirmations and Other Nomenclature

Ceramics, Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Oak Park, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »
Nate Young. Installation view of "Untitled (Pulpit No. 1)," 2014, and "Untitled (Altar No. 1)," 2015

Nate Young. Installation view of “Untitled (Pulpit No. 1),” 2014, and “Untitled (Altar No. 1),” 2015

By Matt Morris

Is art that appears to be “about art” ever only limited to that scope of investigation? I’d say it’s doubtful, mostly because mechanisms of power reproduce themselves throughout social institutions, so to reflect upon the constitutive components of an artistic medium (as well as its historical and contemporary contexts) possesses at least the potential of a transferrable method by which one might fashion new freedoms—not through a rebellion from upheld traditional forms but through critical relationships to them. The monochrome continues to do this. Distilled to an uninterrupted plane, color, texture, scale and the tools for applying material (all usually in some way present in most artworks) are amplified, inviting investigation into the parts that comprise the art. In the best of cases, consideration of the conditions of display is inspired as well. The monochrome as a form also holds up under projections: historically used for such diverse conceptual conceits as Suprematism, color field painting, the “radical painting group,” and most recently one of several working modes bizarrely attributed by Ken Johnson to “soccer mom” aesthetics. A century after Kazimir Malevich painted his canvas “Black Square” in 1915, artists continue figuring out how to take apart the language of art-making so that the parsed vocabulary can speak to the power of the entire system. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Trevor Winkfield/Poetry Foundation

Collage, Drawings, Painting, River North 1 Comment »
Trevor Winkfield. "Sketch for Peter Gizzi," 2012 acrylic and collage on paper, 27.5" x 19.25"

Trevor Winkfield. “Sketch for Peter Gizzi,” 2012
acrylic and collage on paper, 27.5″ x 19.25″

RECOMMENDED

Set in the smart spaces of the Poetry Foundation, this exhibition of the British artist-illustrator Trevor Winkfield (born 1944) highlights his paintings, cover designs and limited-edition books. It’s a small-scale show—five paintings and four vitrines—but the bright, punchy images are themselves like welcome book illustrations against the ashen modernist environment of the still-newish John Ronan building.

Winkfield’s mother read picture books to him as a tot. Afterwards texts always provoked accompanying images from him. Raised in Leeds, he came to America in 1969 and quickly became part of the collaboration-happy New York School. Not “merely a brush for hire,” he said, he had true partnerships with major poets like Ron Padgett and John Ashbery. Collaboration, he reflected, was “one of the quickest ways of allowing me to see myself as others saw me.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The world is mystical, dangerous and delicious/Western Exhibitions

Collage, Drawings, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Dutes Miller. "Untitled," 2014 woven paper, glue, artist tape, 8" x 8"

Dutes Miller. “Untitled,” 2014
woven paper, glue, artist tape, 8″ x 8″

RECOMMENDED

Dedicated to dreams and ghosts, the various media of “The world is mystical, dangerous and delicious,” including sculptures, illustrations and collage, speak to their twin subjects with an admirable—and requisite—range; it does not require a particularly broad or tortured interpretation to understand ghosts and dreams as the driving factors behind not only art, but the whole panoply of human expression and existence. As desires become goals become actions, memories become comfort or tumult, all trail a phantom weight in fearful pursuit of their next, and it is these ghosts which one sees with most clarity here. Read the rest of this entry »

Web Exclusive Interview: Naomi Beckwith in Conversation about Richard Hunt

Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962 Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962
Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

By Matt Morris

Could you set up your take as the curator on what the Richard Hunt exhibition at the MCA is?
The show from the MCA starts from the premise of our collection. It’s part of what we call our MCA DNA series, and those are dossier shows—small jewel-box shows—that are about highlights from the MCA holdings that most people don’t even know that we have. So for instance we have another beautiful one up right now featuring Alexander Calder; there’s a huge collection of that in Chicago, many of them right here in this building. Another wonderful one that we put up recently was a collection of Dieter Roth art books that I hadn’t even known were in the collection. The DNA series is a chance for us as a museum to really highlight works of significance that most folks don’t know are here.

I found out that Richard Hunt was turning eighty this year. I realized the best way that we could honor him was to do an exhibition and—oh, my goodness—there are these works in the collection. I knew that the museum had a long history of helping organize the inclusion of a work of his at the White House. It’s a work called “Farmer’s Dream” that was exhibited in D.C. during the Clinton administration, and then when it came back from D.C. it went into Seneca Park, which is the park straight across west of the MCA. It was there for many years and then acquired by the MCA. These kinds of stories I knew, but I didn’t know that we had some of his early work from the sixties here, and we have some works on paper in the collection. The show is really compact, and is set to show the breadth of Richard’s work from his earliest days—the earliest work is from ’57 when he was finishing school—to a work made in, I believe, 2012.

Was the MCA show coordinated with the Cultural Center show?
Would you believe that it was a happy coincidence. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Paula Henderson/Linda Warren Projects

Drawings, Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Paula Henderson. "Traffic Patterns," 2012 acrylic and ink on canvas

Paula Henderson. “Traffic Patterns,” 2012
acrylic and ink on canvas

RECOMMENDED

The brutal abstraction of the human body is among the most beautiful and appalling motifs one could hope to work in or imbibe; there are images online, untold millions of them, people made into pieces, and these ghoulish tableau are debrided, are rendered by the mind, instantaneously, as corn syrup and food coloring and irrigation tubing, because the alternative is simply beyond benign processing. Beautiful violence is real, if maligned; surely I cannot be the only one who views a list of “Photoshop fails!” and is overcome by a desire to steer into the spin, to take the neck-elongating, rib-removing joint floating all the way to the screaming bloody edge and drape our finest fashions on plasticine horrors, Jean Paul Gaultier-cum-John Carpenter; surely the line between pulchritude and terror is thin, as thin as the flesh rent in its creation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: James Ensor/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
James Ensor. "The Temptation of Saint Anthony," 1887

James Ensor. “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887

RECOMMENDED

James Ensor’s six-foot-tall drawing “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887, is the exhibition’s thematic and physical centerpiece, set like an altarpiece at the end of a dark, chapel-like corridor. It’s a dense tangle of scary figures and texts, and a teeming universe of references to the artist’s life. The Art Institute wisely bought it in 2006; it hasn’t been shown in sixty years. Composed of fifty-one separate sheets mounted on canvas, it’s a conservation triumph. Stylistically, it’s a cross between Northern Renaissance art and the cramped doodles of underground comics. Indeed, Ensor’s drawing-based art was expressed in almost every two-dimensional media, including the then-new manufactured color pencils. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artists: Ryan M Pfeiffer + Rebecca Walz

Artist Profiles, Collage, Drawings, Rogers Park No Comments »
Ryan M Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz

Ryan M Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz

Artists Ryan M Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz’s focus falls emphatically on collaborative action. The duo draws simultaneously, sitting across from each other and working over the same sheet of paper, arranging a mélange of seductive archetypes from the visual history of the West. Their collaborative drawings register caprices and negotiations; marks intermingle and become impossible to assign to any single collaborator. Various mystical, religious and cultural icons coalesce in busy, textured cadres—woodcuts from volumes of Sade, archaeological records, Pietas and Venus idols, or Hans Bellmer’s fetishistic photographs. Their repurposed, blended imagery has all the tellings of an expert bibliography. The compositions are stages on which the duo’s investigations into alchemy, ancient art and eroticism are performed as drawing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ji Soo Hong and Matthew Kayhoe Brett/Slow

Collage, Drawings, Installation, Pilsen, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of Ji Soo Hong's collages in "Thick slide, decadent ration," at Slow

Installation view of Ji Soo Hong’s collages in “Thick slide, decadent ration,” at Slow

RECOMMENDED

The current exhibition at Slow, “Thick slice, decadent ration,” features work by Ji Soo Hong and Matthew Kayhoe Brett. Their works carry a studied meditation on process and composition, as their solid use of texture and color lend vibrancy and subtlety to the banal.

Ji Soo Hong approaches each slab of encased meat in her illustrative collages with a careful curiosity. Hong’s hand is in each of her works as her layered illustrations create collages of a subject matter that beckons to Francis Bacon and a voluptuously meaty still life tradition. The large white sheets mimic the display cases of a butcher shop, framing each assortment as studies in color and detail. A mélange of conté crayon and ink, chopped up and collaged, are drawing techniques imitative of the additive recipes of the sausages and hard meats Hong illustrates in her enlivened still-life works. Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting Artist: Cauleen Smith

Activist Art, Drawings 1 Comment »
Cauleen Smith. "Play Your Part Series," 2012,  ink on graph paper

Cauleen Smith. “Play Your Part Series,” 2012,
ink on graph paper

This is our seventh installment of the Visiting Artist column in which we ask an artist to produce a text on a personal topic. Cauleen Smith here reflects on how racial injustice and white privilege and supremacy gets processed in America and in the art world.

This year ends with a whole lot of heartache, rage and the palpable desire for action.

But I suspect that there is a silent contingent of Chicago’s contemporary art community who do not feel emotionally wounded by the injustices we’ve been served; who feel as if offering “the other side” of the argument has no place in this scene. And so perhaps these folks are riding this thing out—waiting for the outrage and hand-wringing to blow over like Ken Johnson’s New York Times review of “Now Dig This” blew over, like Donelle Woolford blew over, like Exhibit B at the Barbican blew over, like Bjarne Melgaard’s remaking of Allen Jones’ bondage chairs blew over, so that they can get back to the business of pure art free from all this tired-ass identity politics stuff. I mean that is so nineties, right? Well guess what. This is not going anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »