Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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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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 »

Review: Cosmosis/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of "Cosmosis" at the Hyde Park Art Center. Photo by Tom Van Eynde.

Installation view of “Cosmosis” at the Hyde Park Art Center/Photo: Tom Van Eynde

RECOMMENDED

The works presented in “Cosmosis” celebrate outer space’s contemporary moment while exploring the increasing overlap between popular culture, scientific inquiry and artistic production. The dense but balanced group show features muted 2D works which offset the scale and ambition of sculpture and media counterparts; great emphasis is placed in the ability of these images and objects to act as agents of communication and interpretation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: After Today/Gallery 400

Activist Art, Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Jan Tichy. "Chicago Nature (After Nauman)," 2014 neon, 62" x 62" x 10"

Jan Tichy. “Chicago Nature (After Nauman),” 2014
neon, 62″ x 62″ x 10″

RECOMMENDED

“After Today” purports a dichotomous nature in Chicago, a city overcome with struggles, but resilient and bent on improving the well-being of its inhabitants. A continuation of Gallery 400’s ongoing initiative “Standard of Living,” which delves into how we get by in today’s economy, the exhibition is an examination of Chicago’s present and future, the hardships of today and the aspirations for a better tomorrow.

Chicago’s wounds are not concealed. Poverty, violence and systemic injustice are unmistakable. Marianne Fairbanks’ “Patchwork Pall,” is a swing-set draped with a shroud dyed from the foliage encircling the houses of those forced to abandon them. The piece serves as a somber reflection of changing socio-economic and geo-political conditions, the mourning of a deceased community. Read the rest of this entry »