Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Art World’s Big Weekend 2014: Comprehensive Listing of Gallery Openings for September 4-7

Andersonville, Bronzeville, Collage, Drawings, Edgewater, Evanston, Fall Preview, Garfield Park, Installation, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, River North, Sculpture, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Video, West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »

Thursday, September 4


Dan Ramirez, painting
Union League Club of Chicago, 65 West Jackson
Opening reception: 5:30pm-7pm, through September 30
(Members only opening, viewing by appointment only) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: David Rappeneau/Queer Thoughts

Drawings, Pilsen No Comments »
David Rappeneau. "Untitled," acrylic ballpoint pen, pencil, charcoal pencil, and fluorescent marker, 2014

David Rappeneau. “Untitled,” acrylic ballpoint pen, pencil, charcoal pencil, and fluorescent marker, 2014

The works in David Rappeneau’s exhibition “$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$” depict apathetic millennials looking bored and despondent. His drowsy partiers appear to have everything they could desire in a series of twenty-first-century vignettes where passing whims are instantly gratified by drug-induced daydreams and glowing smart phones. On the surface, the action is simple: figures shown in various states of excess, their bodies rounded and stark. These are works that ponder the pleasure and escapism promised by leisure, a classed enterprise made exclusive through wealth and position. Read the rest of this entry »

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


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

Drawings No Comments »
"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


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


“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


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

Drawings No Comments »
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.


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


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.