Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: DOGS CHASE BALLS/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Art Books, Installation, Painting, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Josh Reames. "Infinite Scroll (#1)" and "Infinite Scroll (#2)," both 2014, acrylic on canvas

Josh Reames. “Infinite Scroll (#1)” and “Infinite Scroll (#2),” both 2014, acrylic on canvas

RECOMMENDED

DOGS CHASE BALLS is a show for, (occasionally) by, and about our four-legged companions, with many of the works situated low to the ground for convenience of canine access and interaction (dogs are welcome and frequently present in the gallery throughout the run of the show). NO SPACE, the Mexico-based duo comprised of cool kids Débora Delmar and Andrew Birk, curated this group effort and contributed two pieces. Tennis balls stenciled with their logo are scattered throughout the gallery; evidence of interaction exists in the form of ricochet marks on Secrist’s white walls. A video loop showing happy pups using these props projects onto the floor, harkening to the curatorial impetus for the show (witnessing the unadulterated joy of a dog playing with a ball). The film is a virtual who’s who of Chicago’s art pupperati: breakout stars are Vincent Uribe’s Milo and Wolfie Rawk’s Rudi. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman/Roman Susan

Ceramics, Installation, Painting, Rogers Park, Textiles No Comments »
Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman. "Living to Work Together," installation view at Roman Susan

Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman. “Living to Work Together,” installation view at Roman Susan

RECOMMENDED

“Please take off your shoes” welcomes viewers as they enter Roman Susan to seek refuge from the barren cold. Playfully enhanced with black painted bubble letters and animated stick-like legs, the five words sprawl across the front wall of the gallery. Their placement is not only a polite request for compliance, but also an invitation to actively participate. Take off your shoes, as to not ruin the floor. Take off your shoes, so your feet may stand where ours have.

In Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neurman’s collaborative room-sized installation piece, “Living to Work Together,” a mixture of primary colors and bold shapes have been stitched, painted, stapled and strung across all facades of the space, beginning with the floor. The carpeting has been transformed into a type of jigsaw puzzle composed of large triangular pieces of felt that have been first fitted and then visibly sewn together. The sharp shapes further reinforce the abnormal, angular floor plan of the gallery, as do a series of patterned ceramic pieces that politely form a line on a shelf that stretches diagonally in front of the gallery’s storefront window. In the window hang three large-scale felt tapestries that lack the calculated, flat appearance of the floor; instead their odd shapes and snippets of varying colors layer atop each other like unmixed paint on a canvas. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mathias Poledna/Renaissance Society

Architecture, Hyde Park, Installation, Video No Comments »
Mathias Poldena. "Substance," 2014, 33mm color film with optical sound, 6:40 min

Mathias Poldena. “Substance,” 2014, 33mm color film with optical sound, 6:40 minutes

RECOMMENDED

From a single pew, viewers absorb Mathias Poledna’s new, luscious projected 35mm film “Substance,” 6:40 minutes looped: abstract washes of gold, close-up shots of three rotating hands, a shiny, beveled dial, and the signature crown revealing the identity of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Finally shown in full, the desired timepiece floats away into a black void, with no semblance of place to distract from adoration. An enveloping percussive soundtrack heightens the film’s seduction. The familiar yet hard-to-place music recalls an intense action movie sequence or urban nightclub, its heavy beat lending a dogmatic tempo.
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Review: Philip Vanderhyden /Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Installation, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Philip Vanderhyden. "Volatility Smile, 2014, installation view at Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Philip Vanderhyden. “Volatility Smile, 2014, installation view at Andrew Rafacz Gallery

RECOMMENDED

In economics, a volatility smile is a buckling curve that appears in certain graphs that trace the hypothetical prices of commodity exchanges in a fluctuating market. As the title of Philip Vanderhyden’s dual channel video installation, the ambiguous moniker seems to imply a sinister joy in the chaos of complex economies. The video repeats over nine flat-screens hung in a zigzagging row across the long wall of the gallery. In a seamless fifteen-minute loop, these several screens glow with the sleek and shiny surfaces of hypothetical pleasure objects: copper-hued cubes, silver-clad slabs and crumbled porcelain sheets glide with seductive ease across the long plasma terrain like an iPhone billboard set in motion. The slick on-screen movement of these imaginary things recalls the tactile displays of electronic visual technologies, pointing toward the strange collapse of image and object in the contemporary moment of touchscreen everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Even Formalist Artistry Is for Living

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Suburban, West Loop No Comments »
Edmund Chia. "Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin," 2013

Edmund Chia. “Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin,” 2013

By Matt Morris

This is not a roundup of fiber art exhibitions currently on view around town, though that temptation perpetually lingers because at any given moment in Chicago there are plenty of artists exhibiting smart hybrids of textile and painting, fiber art and installation. This is no doubt attributable in part to the Fiber and Material Studies department at SAIC—still a rarity with few comparable programs around the country—and more generally the deconstructive, interdisciplinary thrust of most of the fine arts programs to be found here. The aftereffects of Modernism in Chicago aren’t really the Greenbergian isolation and purification of a medium’s potential; instead, painting’s frequent conflation with sewing is a recurrent signal of a Modernist project to apply the arts broadly across other parts of life—keenly designed forms for living integrated with art-making as was seen in the De Stijl and Bauhaus (and its offspring, Chicago’s New Bauhaus begun in the late 1930s). Modest and succinct or madly layered, a few artists’ current projects carry us into this new year with propositions for art’s visual and material elements brought in various proximities of closeness to the lives being lived around its production. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sarah and Joseph Belknap/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Sarah and Joseph Belknap. "Deflated Exoskin (1)" (left) and "Deflated Moon Skin (1)" (right), 2014.

Sarah and Joseph Belknap. “Deflated Exoskin (1)” (left) and “Deflated Moon Skin (1)” (right), 2014.

RECOMMENDED

No longer couched in the intimacy which so defined their exhibition at the Franklin, Sarah and Joseph Belknap’s predominately sculptural cosmological survey finds itself perhaps even more sharply defined in the abyssal expanse of the MCA, wherein it must contest with the terrible scope that has caused our empyreal urges to exsanguinate, lacking the will to continue screaming into the vacuum. Space rhetoric cannot help but be romantic; the gaps are so wide, the voids so vast—and filled, with cruel meagerness, by objects we laughingly named for gods—that the only way it can be comfortably expressed and understood is through either math or poetry, both of which are known for their simple complexity and necessary shattering of the real into vicious abstractions. Blunted by being born into an age where science fiction is a lame pantomime of progress, eyes upcast today cannot even see the moon, and barely alight upon Mars, Mars!, once the most lust-inducing of all heavenly bodies. That with their silicone and “simulated lunar regolith” sculptures the Belknaps drag said bodies down from the heavens and present them to us, in gross textual intimacy, is therefore their eponymous exhibition’s great strength; by forgoing both the admeasurement and aspartame with which we see the universe, they make it possible to engage with it personally, even with the vaginal breadth of the museum’s staircase yawning at our backs. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Jeff Gibson

Artist Profiles, Digital Art, Installation, Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Jeff Gibson. "Product (detail)," 2014,  ink-jet wallpaper, dimensions variable

Jeff Gibson. “Product (detail),” 2014,
ink-jet wallpaper, dimensions variable

Jeff Gibson culls images from the internet’s massive store, choosing JPEGs of products silhouetted against white backgrounds, highlighted perfectly by their surrounding vacuous atmosphere. When combined, the images call out to each other in a fashion not immediately recognizable, playing against the objects’ shiny machinery or garish design. “My roots are in pop and conceptualism so a lot of my subject matter is from popular culture and bears that stain, and I am only happy to rub the world’s nose in,” says Gibson. Gibson views all his images as products, calling attention to the aesthetics of consumerism via visual taxonomies. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ji Soo Hong and Matthew Kayhoe Brett/Slow

Collage, Drawings, Installation, Pilsen, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of Ji Soo Hong's collages in "Thick slide, decadent ration," at Slow

Installation view of Ji Soo Hong’s collages in “Thick slide, decadent ration,” at Slow

RECOMMENDED

The current exhibition at Slow, “Thick slice, decadent ration,” features work by Ji Soo Hong and Matthew Kayhoe Brett. Their works carry a studied meditation on process and composition, as their solid use of texture and color lend vibrancy and subtlety to the banal.

Ji Soo Hong approaches each slab of encased meat in her illustrative collages with a careful curiosity. Hong’s hand is in each of her works as her layered illustrations create collages of a subject matter that beckons to Francis Bacon and a voluptuously meaty still life tradition. The large white sheets mimic the display cases of a butcher shop, framing each assortment as studies in color and detail. A mélange of conté crayon and ink, chopped up and collaged, are drawing techniques imitative of the additive recipes of the sausages and hard meats Hong illustrates in her enlivened still-life works. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lucy McKenzie/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Painting, Video No Comments »
Lucy McKenzie. "Quodlibet XXXII," 2014

Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014

RECOMMENDED

Lucy McKenzie’s largest American exhibition to date unravels like a postmodern mystery novel. The show begins outside of the gallery, where the artist has taken advantage of the floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the Griffin Courtyard of the Modern Wing to construct a window display befitting State Street’s finest stores. A female mannequin in a gymnast suit sits on a glass-topped steel table as mechanized signs whir whimsically beneath a hand-painted title bearing the artist’s signature as if it were a venerable house of fashion. Once inside, the focus becomes painting, though one recalls that Warhol and Rauschenberg dressed department-store windows too. Four floor-to-ceiling panels display massive Tiffany-esque motifs of glowing skies and turbulent clouds drifting behind screens of leafy branches. The pictures within each are oddly cropped to describe the contours of the walls and ceiling of a fictional bar in an imaginary film in which these panels would hang as trompe l’oeil scenery. Indeed, McKenzie has trained in antiquated techniques of decorative painting, which include hyper-realistic depictions of landscape and still life meant to fool the eye in to perceiving representation as reality.

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Review: Allison Smith/Arts Club of Chicago

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, Streeterville, Textiles No Comments »
Allison Smith. "Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia," 2014

Allison Smith. “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia,” 2014

RECOMMENDED

Smith is known for lovingly handcrafting Americana—costumes, furniture and artifacts—with which to interrogate the spectacle of historical recreation. In this she is indeed like a theatrical “set dresser,” someone who designs and arranges props.

Many of these recent works are photographs of objects of material culture from American living-history sites. Printed on fabric, the pictures take on a rustic look, akin to the objects they depict. But they contain powerful autobiographical elements, too. The lovely rainbow-colored skeins of yarn seen hanging in “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg,” 2014, is a trenchant feminist statement on several levels while recalling Morris Louis’ stain paintings. Within a large, oval, walnut frame handcrafted by a master Massachusetts artisan, “Mirror,” 2014, shows a field of nubby linen on which a photograph of a mirror’s reflection has been printed. It’s a visual riddle, a twenty-first century version of the modern artist’s abiding fascination with mirrors. Less puzzling perhaps, but no less elegant, two tilt-top tables are covered in silk printed with photos of quilt patterns. Read the rest of this entry »