Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: 2nd Terrain Biennial Sprawls Far Beyond the Suburbs

Architecture, Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, News etc., Oak Park, Performance, Public Art, Sculpture 1 Comment »
"Night Terrain" by artist Kate McQuillen and curated by Claudine Ise for the 2nd Terrain Biennial. Located at 817 South Highland Avenue, Oak Park.

“Night Terrain” by artist Kate McQuillen and curated by Claudine Ise for the 2nd Terrain Biennial. Located at 817 South Highland Avenue, Oak Park.

Playfully eschewing stereotypes of pink flamingos and garden gnomes, the 2nd Terrain Biennial is dedicated to featuring interventions into the conventional landscape of front yards by emerging as well as established artists who have been invited to create site-specific works. Founded in 2011 by Chicago artist Sabina Ott, contributing artists are selected for their ability to challenge the space between public and private, function and decoration and figure and ground.

This year’s biennial takes an international scale, but remains centered in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park across from Longfellow Middle School on Highland Avenue. Unlike many alternative exhibitions, these public artworks will be accessible at all times. According to Ott, one of the goals of the exhibition was to engage pedestrians, visitors, teachers, students and neighbors with myriad forms of contemporary art. Another goal with “Terrain 2.0” was to expand the scope beyond Oak Park. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rodrigo Lara Zendejas/National Museum of Mexican Art

Activist Art, Ceramics, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Pilsen, Sculpture No Comments »
Rodrigo Lara Zendejas, "Deportable Aliens," 2015.

Rodrigo Lara Zendejas. “Installation components / componentes de la instalación,” 2015. Ceramic, 24 x12 x12 inches each, photo: Michael Tropea.

RECOMMENDED

This modest exhibition of new, site-specific work by Mexican artist Rodrigo Lara Zendejas brings to light a shameful and little known piece of United States history. From 1929 to 1939, the federal government authorized the repatriation of nearly one million people of Mexican descent because these so-called freeloading, disease-ridden, illiterate people were taking away “American jobs for real Americans,” as President Hoover’s campaign slogan stated. Mexicans, who comprised the largest immigrant population at the time, were understood to be a particularly potent threat during the inordinate economic hardship of the Great Depression. Zendejas’ counter-memorials evoke this time. His sculpted traces of human likeness on thumb-shaped objects and a sculptural interpretation of an identification card help us face this dark past and understand its legacy in the present.

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Review: Out of Office/Museum of Contemporary Art

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville No Comments »
Hugh Scott-Douglas. "Untitled," 2014. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field's by exchange.

Hugh Scott-Douglas. “Untitled,” 2014.
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field’s by exchange.

RECOMMENDED

“Out of Office” culls five works from the MCA collection to inquire about labor and financial transactions. The show’s title cannily suggests that the office has expanded. We’re always at the office, even while on lunch break.

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News: Luftwerk to Debut High Tech, Site-Specific Installations at Garfield Park Conservatory

Design, Digital Art, Garfield Park, Installation, Multimedia, News etc., Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Rendering of “Florescence," 2015. Luftwerk Studio.

Luftwerk Studio. Rendering of “Florescence,” 2015.

Five technology-infused and site-specific installations will populate the Garfield Park Conservatory in a year-long exhibition titled “solarise: a sea of all colors” debuting in September. Each immersive installation invites viewers to interact with nature, color and light while exploring the Conservatory grounds. “Garfield Park Conservatory has long been known as a Chicago cultural anchor,” remarked Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “and this interactive art installation will underscore the conservatory’s cultural legacy while engaging residents in new ways.”

Created by Luftwerk, an art practice co-founded by Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, the installations respond to the philosophies of Jens Jensen, the landscape architect who designed the conservatory, who believed in the importance of public access to nature in the city. Each of the five installations—“The Beacon,” “Portal,” “Florescence,” “Seed of Light,” and “Prismatic”—emphasize and supplement the conservatory’s natural spaces. With the installations, Luftwerk aims “to instill in visitors an increased sense of wonder, while they roam the gardens and vegetation rooms. [We hope to] inspire visitors to take a closer look at how nature, art, and technology can interact.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ask the Oracle/Heaven Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Ann Gaziano, "Pan, Dot and Sofa." Used baking pans, plate hangers, velour fabric, wood.

Ann Gaziano, “Pan, Dot and Sofa.” Used baking pans, plate hangers, velour fabric, wood.

RECOMMENDED

An oracle, similar to a Magic 8 Ball, ascertains and communicates the unknown and introduces an abrupt epiphany, offering a glimpse of the future and providing calm in the face of uncertainty. This group exhibition focuses on supernatural phenomena such as mediums, possession and artificial divination through painting, sculpture and performance.

During the opening, Claire Arctander performed “Magic Act,” in which she challenged the traditional role of the turn-of-the-century male magician. By choosing volunteers in the crowd, Arctander encouraged individuals to “participate in togetherness” and then, calmly but forcibly, tied their shoelaces together as they stood in a congested circle. Arctander’s performance challenged the comfort of intimacy for the handful of participants that were selected and created a meaningful disconnect from the surrounding audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Nolan Simon and Dylan Spaysky/Night Club

Avondale, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Sculpture No Comments »
Nolan Simon and Dylan Spasky. "Fights," at Night Club.

Nolan Simon and Dylan Spasky. “Fights,” at Night Club.

RECOMMENDED

As Chicago swelters in the high eighties, Nolan Simon and Dylan Spaysky have installed the gallery at Night Club with fans made from banal household items: candle lighters, antennae, pine branches, and carpet. This show deigns to beat the heat.

Painted on these fold-out facsimiles are images of police violence and displacement, migrant travails and riot shields. All but one of the fans are displayed with only the front in view, and the only fan with a visible back declares one word: “NO.” This refusal—of another side, or of the viewer herself—mirrors the painted fronts in a tone of accusation. By locating state repression on handheld fans, the artists fan political flames and bring the war home through their artifacts of everyday construction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Hardcore Architecture/The Franklin

Architecture, Design, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Installation, Multimedia, Performance, Photography No Comments »
"Suburban Mutilation. The address given for their untitled cassette, in Green Bay, WI 54301. Source: MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, issue no. 8, September, 1983. Street view date: August, 2012"

Suburban Mutilation. The address given for their untitled cassette, in Green Bay, WI 54301. Source: MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, issue no. 8, September, 1983. Street view date: August, 2012″

RECOMMENDED

Started as a Tumblr project by Marc Fischer and Public Collectors, “Hardcore Architecture” explores the surprisingly suburban outposts of hardcore underground bands from the 1980s, juxtaposing names like Suburban Mutilation and Crimes Against Humanity with cookie-cutter homes, two-car garages, and well-maintained lawns. The exhibition is housed at The Franklin, a home with its own two-car garage and well-maintained lawn, and includes the Google Street View images Fischer culled alongside zines and a display of T-shirts and tapes from the artist’s own collection. Read the rest of this entry »

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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