Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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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Portrait of the Artist: Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera

Activist Art, Artist Profiles, Installation, Performance, Photography, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera. "In the Absence of a Body," 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera. “In the Absence of a Body,” 2015.
Performance./Courtesy of the artist

Early this July, internationally known Cuban artist Tania Bruguera received her passport from the Cuban government, which had confiscated it for more than six months. Bruguera’s freedom-to-travel marks a turning point in a long and tumultuous relationship with her home country. At the end of last year, she was detained in Havana for her performance “Tatlin’s Whisper #6,” an open-mic participatory event that encourages free speech, a problematic undertaking in the current political climate of Cuba. In the wake of this news and with a recent shift in official diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, it would appear that the future looks bright for the Cuban art community.

Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera, a Cuban-born artist now residing in Chicago, is cautiously optimistic about the changes he has seen. “It’s part of the process and it’s needed…this becomes a symbol for the end of the [Cold War]…but the social and political ways of thinking are the same as they were fifty years ago.”

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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: 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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News: Graphic Designer Jason Pickleman Opens Collection-based Gallery Lawrence & Clark

Curator Profiles, Design, Installation, Multimedia, News etc., Painting, Photography, Ravenswood No Comments »
Pickleman amidst some of his collection.

Pickleman amidst some of his collection.

Graphic designer Jason Pickleman has opened up a gallery at 4755 North Clark that he is calling Lawrence & Clark (L&C). Pickleman is no stranger to the arts, as a practicing artist and a graphic designer who has created iconic logos for Avec, the Wit Hotel and many more. A rare breed in these times, L&C will be a collection-based gallery, showcasing work that Pickleman owns, the majority of which he purchased in Chicago over more than thirty years of living and working here. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Frances Stark/Art Institute of Chicago

Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Photography, Video 1 Comment »
Frances Stark. "From therealstarkiller #1298," 2015 Archival inkjet print, 7" x 7". Courtesy the artist.

Frances Stark. “From therealstarkiller #1298,” 2015
Archival inkjet print, 7″ x 7″. Courtesy the artist.

RECOMMENDED

Intimism, a term associated with paintings of domestic scenes filled with family and friends, expertly describes the video and digital offerings in this expansive, beautiful and playful show. Leave it to Stark, best known for “My Best Thing,” a video animation of a relationship formed on Chatroulette, to shed light on the contrast between private and public in our digitized lives.

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Review: Brandon Anschultz/Regards Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Brandon Anschultz. "Spearmint," 2015 oil, watercolor, gouache on canvas, 11" x 8.5" / Photo by Eileen Mueller.

Brandon Anschultz. “Spearmint,” 2015
oil, watercolor, gouache on canvas, 11″ x 8.5″/Photo: Eileen Mueller

RECOMMENDED

Contemporary art so often pursues the aesthetics of surprise that it takes a willful suspension of disbelief to find anything unexpected. In this way, the curation of the Brandon Anschultz exhibition is not especially surprising. A large wooden plank hangs casually over a balcony as if it had not yet been installed. A small sculpture is hidden away on a remote window sill; another has been placed in a dark corner on the floor, though an attached wire indicates that it was fabricated to hang from above. None of this seems unusual, nor do the drippy-glob sculptures that were made by dipping ordinary objects, like shoes, repeatedly into buckets of thick paint. So much of the world is messy and chaotic, there is nothing strange about one more room of it.

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Review: Manish Nai/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Architecture, Collage, Craft Work, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Manish Nai. "Untitled," 2015 Dyed burlap, 90" x 4"

Manish Nai. “Untitled,” 2015
Dyed burlap, 90″ x 4″

RECOMMENDED

The work of Mumbai-based Manish Nai makes a viewer reconsider the limits of an artistic medium. He doesn’t use traditional media, such as heavy metals and wood, oil or acrylic. Instead, Nai uses everyday materials—cardboard, jute, newspaper and even his family’s used clothing—to sculpt, mark and render.

For his first solo exhibition in the United States, Nai has created wall hangings, photographic prints, sculptures and four site-specific works, including a gallery pillar wrapped in jute, a burlap-like material that is abundant in India, and a heat-transferred mural that will slowly disappear during the course of the exhibition. His use of traditional artistic processes, such as weaving or drawing and sculpting by hand, in conjunction with contemporary rendering techniques borrowed from digital and new media art, design and architecture give these objects a surprising new dynamism. By combining the old and the new, Nai’s work is thoroughly international even as it remains fully Indian.
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