Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

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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 »

Review: Other Planes of There/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Drawings, East Village, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
126

Sun Ra. “Other Planes of There,” 1966.
Ink on metallic silver paper, 14 x 14 inches.


RECOMMENDED

Loosely organized around formal parameters and an eponymous ink drawing by musician Sun Ra, this exhibition of paintings, prints and sculpture explores materials, space and the myriad permutations they assume in contemporary art. From digital printing to additive sculpture to oil on canvas, this stylistically wide-ranging show shifts direction and tone as boldly as Sun Ra changed directions in music.

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Review: The Freedom Principle/Museum of Contemporary Art

Activist Art, Collage, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Video No Comments »
Nick Cave. "Speak Louder," 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo: James Prinz Photography.

Nick Cave. “Speak Louder,” 2011.
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo: James Prinz Photography.

RECOMMENDED

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the Chicago-born kaleidoscope of experimental musicians, had a motto: “Ancient to Future.” That rallying call pervades the MCA’s “Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now.” The show animates the dawn of the black American avant-garde, born out of the Civil Rights era and African anti-colonial movements, and its legacy in contemporary society.

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Review: Look at Me Now!/Monique Meloche Gallery

Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Painting, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Hassan Hajjaj. "Miriam," 2010. Metallic lambda print on 3mm white dibond, 53 x 36 ¾ inches / Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Hassan Hajjaj. “Miriam,” 2010.
Metallic lambda print on 3mm white dibond, 53 x 36 ¾ inches/Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

RECOMMENDED

Revising the art historical canon to account for a variety of erasures is a commendable curatorial endeavor, but one is perpetually challenged to find new methods to add value to such well-worn conversations. This summer group exhibition takes on tropes related to race, gender and caste by offering fresh alternatives to the history of Western portraiture. Individually, the works of Rashayla Marie Brown, Hassan Hajjaj, Rashid Johnson, Ebony G. Patterson, Amy Sherald, William Villalongo and Nina Chanel Abney are colorful, multifaceted and visually complex; together, they feel oddly muted and restrained. Pronouncements of individual agitation rise up, but the gathering of disparate voices does not make for lively conversation.
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Eye Exam: What Good is Art?

Activist Art, Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view, "The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now," MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. Give us a Poem, 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. “Give us a Poem,” 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay,  MCA Chicago.

By Elliot J. Reichert

Each time I venture deeper into the tangled economy of art making and its contingent endeavors, I ask myself: What good is art? I am not an artist, but I work with artists and artworks every day. By all accounts, I should believe deeply in art, and yet I routinely question its value. As such, when I go to look at art, I often search in it for signs of doubt, and I am usually comforted to know that I am not alone in my questioning. For if contemporary art can be united under one banner, it would be doubt itself: doubt about politics, about social relations, about economic and class structures, about the very importance of human life. Ironically, this might be why I gravitate toward art in the first place, despite my ambivalence toward its significance. Art turns my fears into forms; it makes real what I cannot, or do not want, to imagine.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lora Fosberg/Linda Warren Projects

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Sculpture, West Town No Comments »
Laura Fosberg. "i love you anyway, too," 2015. Wood and gouache, 9.5 x 7 x 8.5 in.

Laura Fosberg. “i love you anyway, too,” 2015.
Wood and gouache, 9.5 x 7 x 8.5 in.

RECOMMENDED

Lora Fosberg saw her friend cut down, and she found beauty in the body. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Anthony Baab/Threewalls

Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Anthony Baab. "Cover the Earth 2," 2015. Marker, cardboard, glue. Dimensions vary. / Image: Clare Britt, courtesy of Threewalls.

Anthony Baab. “Cover the Earth 2,” 2015.
Marker, cardboard, glue. Dimensions vary./Image: Clare Britt, courtesy of Threewalls.

RECOMMENDED

An exhibition filled with cardboard boxes naturally speaks to today’s consumer culture. Rather than displaying tangible goods, the materials used to protect and transport commodities are on show here. The exhibition makes an apt critique of commodity culture, illustrating the constant re-branding efforts of corporations, as well as the vast spread of consumerism and its attendant waste. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney/Roman Susan Gallery

Craft Work, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Performance, Rogers Park No Comments »
Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Installation view, "Havoc and Tumbled, 2015. Courtesy of Roman Susan.

Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Installation view, “Havoc and Tumbled,” 2015.
Courtesy of Roman Susan.

RECOMMENDED

In “Havoc and Tumbled,” collaborators Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney packed Roman Susan’s little room with TVs and plants. Each monitor is different, ranging from 1970s-style sets to slick, hi-def screens. While each video has its own content, bits of scenes and clips bleed into other TVs, establishing them as parts of the same filmic project. Each screen is different, so things shift in quality, creating a fluctuation in visual textures in this glimpse of wildlife in this Rogers Park gallery.

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Eye Exam: Leaving Saturn’s Return

Digital Art, Drawings, Performance No Comments »
James Lee Byars. Pink letter, ca. 1982 Gold crayon on pink Japanese paper Collection of Michael Lowe and Kimberly Klosterman

James Lee Byars. Pink letter, ca. 1982
Gold crayon on pink Japanese paper
Collection of Michael Lowe and Kimberly Klosterman

By Matt Morris

“You’ve gotten so much more mystical this year,” said my twin during a recent phone call. We’d been talking horoscopes and tarot, and more generally about forms of reading that are predicated on alternatives to empirical reason. We’ve turned thirty this year, and now we’re completing a period astrologers call Saturn’s return. It’s the first time Saturn returns to its position at the time of your birth, and it’s said to accompany crisis and questioning—finding out what you’ve built so far, whether it’s strong enough to continue working, and what tumultuous deconstruction will radically reshape your life. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dont Fret/Johalla Projects

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Painting, Public Art, Street Art, West Town No Comments »
Dont Fret. "Saturday Night Fever," 2015. Acrylic on paper.

Dont Fret. “Saturday Night Fever,” 2015.
Acrylic on paper.

RECOMMENDED

“There are only two seasons in Chicago,” reads the poster pasted on a utility box, “Winter and construction.” The last time that I encountered the work of Dont Fret in the wild there was snow on the ground. Summer finds the artist moving from works on the street back into the gallery with little difficulty, but some trepidation.

At Johalla Projects, a group of works on paper cover one wall, each of them functioning individually, but all fitting together as a conceptual whole. Mixed in are purposely ham-fisted, muddy-colored abstractions with phrases like “Hi, I’m an idea based painting” or “I like his early work better.” These are perhaps a nod to the “zombie formalism” debates from last year and including a good bit of the artist’s own anxiety about his place in the art ecosystem. He needn’t worry about the art world silliness. Dont Fret is still at his best in his depictions of Chicago life and Chicagoans. The details and insights in his art can only come from years spent observing the changes to the city and the people, and from those quiet moments of profundity that come from a history of experience. Read the rest of this entry »