Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Luis Sahagun/Kruger Gallery Chicago

Installation, Lakeview, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Luis Sahagun. "Imprints of a Broken Lover" 2015 chain and fabric on concrete

Luis Sahagun. “Imprints of a Broken Lover” 2015
chain and fabric on concrete

RECOMMENDED

Appropriately titled “Escombros” or “rubble,” what Luis Sahagun’s new show at Kruger Gallery lacks in formal elegance, it effectively delivers in expressive force. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, this Chicago-based artist conjures a remarkable variety of sculptural form from the damaged and discarded. Wood, metal, plaster, concrete and copious amounts of cardboard are fused into ungainly objects that suggest their origin as urban detritus while obliquely pointing to Sahagun’s experiences as an undocumented immigrant. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Evanston Biennial Solo Shows/Evanston Art Center

Collage, Evanston, Installation, Painting, Sculpture 1 Comment »
Noelle Allen. "Henry's Rainbow", 2014 resin, 23" x 32" x 2"

Noelle Allen. “Henry’s Rainbow”, 2014
resin, 23″ x 32″ x 2″

RECOMMENDED

This May, the Evanston Art Center will end its forty-eight year residence at the former Harley Clarke mansion and move into a newly renovated space one mile away. For the final exhibition within its historic location that blossoms with organic design and motifs, the center has selected three artists whose practices are deeply rooted in the natural world: Noelle Allen, Jennifer Yorke and Robert Porazinski. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Stand in the Sun

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Erin Jane Nelson. "Monk Behind Bars," 2015 Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

Erin Jane Nelson. “Monk Behind Bars,” 2015
Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

By Matt Morris

I’ve really only been making photographs for the past couple of years, and thinking seriously about their medium for an even briefer span. What began as a lighthearted impulse to get men to undress for me was challenged into a more cogent form through recognizing the violence of the cropping frame on eroticized bodies (see Kobena Mercer), the draining echo chamber of the photograph’s reproduction (see Sherrie Levine), and the image and its circulation’s complicity in capital (see Hito Steyerl). Last month, when I tried to get a roll of film developed at this or that drugstore, none still had that equipment (“We just took our developing machine out yesterday,” one clerk told me); this older accessibility to the medium of photography is nearly extinct, succeeded by even more broadly used means of iPhone cameras, selfies, dick pics, Instagram and Google image search. We find ourselves in a torrent (all meanings of the word) of image production, and yet their reliability to represent has been utterly compromised (see David Joselit in the February Artforum linking the Staten Island grand jury’s failure to indict the policeman who murdered Eric Garner to the visual evidence—video footage of a brutal cop pile-on—failing to be allowed to represent these bodies and their violences). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mariana Sissia/The Mission

Drawings, Installation, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Mariana Sissia. "Mental Landscape #1," 2015 graphite on rice paper 98.5" x 27" each

Mariana Sissia. “Mental Landscape #1,” 2015
graphite on rice paper
98.5″ x 27″ each

RECOMMENDED

Delicate, gauzy rice paper sheets and scrolls hang throughout the compact storefront gallery. From a slight distance, the sheets appear to be topographical maps or, more likely, aerial black-and-white photographs of ambiguous terrain. Patterns of lightness and darkness roil over the soft surfaces of the rice paper, resolving into firm peaks of dense graphite just as easily as they dissolve into faint valleys of dull metallic traces. Do they represent mountains or deserts, hazy cloud cover or the surface of an ocean? The scale and materials recall Chinese scroll painting, but other associations just as easily come to mind. Last summer, the Art Institute exhibited World War I reconnaissance photographs of the Allied front in France taken by an American military brigade commanded by Edward Steichen. In their intransigent abstraction and grayscale gradients, Mariana Sissia’s drawings appear much the same. How to discern anything of use from such immaterial forms? Steichen’s problem became our pleasure, and Sissia yields all the more fully to the tactile and sensate in the matter of abstract geographies. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Angharad Davies/Devening Projects

Drawings, Garfield Park, Installation, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Angharad Davies. "Cast I and Cast II (hedge)," 2015 digital print, gold leaf, gouache mounted on board

Angharad Davies. “Cast I and Cast II (hedge),” 2015
digital print, gold leaf, gouache mounted on board

RECOMMENDED

“When I first split myself in two,” the first line of the central video projection, is a statement that resonates throughout Angharad Davies’ multimedia installation built from reproductions of images, depicting decontextualized objects and their mirror-selves.

Several series of paintings and inkjet prints mirror original photographs with modifications that serve to emphasize their mode of making and their alteration. Index cards mounted on wood appear to be postcards of paintings of used soaps. A pair of severely sculpted bushes are turned on end and mounted on the wall—one is a printed photograph, and the other a gilded shadowy shape. Echoing these captured photographs and constructed shapes are photographs of a Chinese vase with brass volutes. The photographs are altered through adding pen to a Xeroxed copy, another adornment for these ancient vases that were altered by the addition of gilt handles in seventeenth-century France before being brought to the Getty. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Daniel Luedtke and Ben Seamons/Roots & Culture

Installation, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Daniel Luedtke. "Automatic Thoughts," 2015 oil, pencil, resin, gouache, foam board, wood, dead vibrating bullets extinguished by Liz Rosenfeld, Ana Raba and Joel Parsons 47'' x 57''

Daniel Luedtke. “Automatic Thoughts,” 2015
oil, pencil, resin, gouache, foam board, wood, dead vibrating bullets extinguished by Liz Rosenfeld, Ana Raba and Joel Parsons
47” x 57”

RECOMMENDED

Daniel Luedtke’s “Automatic Thoughts” takes up nearly an entire wall at the back of “Spine, Crack, Transfigure,” a piece appearing like a resin-coated recycling symbol with a messy composition that looks hand-drawn. The three arrows comprising the sculpture surround a circle, and contain three vibrating bullets fixed at about twelve, two and six o’clock respectively. The sex toys were depleted of their battery power by Ana Raba, Liz Rosenfeld and Joel Parsons, the absent users who enacted elements of this work. The vibratory ghosts limply hang as the expired record of the collaborators’ pleasure. They are almost hidden save for a cord dangling within the circle or “O,” a way to place a physical act into the diagram-like form. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Documentia/SideCar

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Bertram Litoff. "Untitled," c. 2003-2005, digital photographs of paused live television, 4" x 7" prints.

Bertram Litoff. “Untitled,” c. 2003-2005, digital photographs of paused live television, 4″ x 7″ prints.

RECOMMENDED

The group show “Documentia,” which explores the drive to document from meditative to compulsory, feels right at home in SideCar, an old residential house that has been converted into exhibition space. The most remarkable work was not created by a trained artist but rather found by curator Erik Wenzel: digital photographs of still-frame prime-time television taken by amateur photographer Bertram Litoff. Displayed in simple clear sleeves in rows of three, many of the images focus on TV news personalities reminiscent of Robert Heinecken’s 1980s “Newswomen,” but Litoff’s inclusion of random animal scenes confuses any linear narrative for his hunting. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Doris Salcedo/Museum of Contemporary Art

Gold Coast/Old Town, Installation, Sculpture No Comments »
Doris Salcedo. “Untitled" works, 1989-2008, wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

Doris Salcedo. “Untitled” works, 1989-2008,
wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

RECOMMENDED

The very first retrospective of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s thirty-year career begins with her recent “Plegaria Muda,” a maze of more than one-hundred upended tables sandwiching a thick layer of dirt between their backs and appearing as coffins. Tiny blades of grass grow out from between the wood planks, a subtle indication of the time poured into the growing and crafting of each blade and table. “Plegaria Muda” is created from Salcedo’s research into gang violence in Los Angeles combined with viewing the mass graves of grieving mothers’ sons in Colombia. The piece is a meditative entrance into Salcedo’s content, an attempt to erase the anonymity of those disappeared in her home country and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Hard to See

Digital Art, Drawings, Installation, Loop, Multimedia, Performance No Comments »
Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image

By Matt Morris

Seeing is not a solitary activity, and it’s not simple. Perception is first of all dependent on context, not only because the specificities of an experience are ascertained through contrast, but also due to the ways each of our unique acculturations informs how we see. Comprehending visual information then turns out to be a social activity, evidenced most clearly in the debates that arise when we don’t see things the same way. And of course, these turbulent discourses around what is perceived are at the expense of appreciating just how much goes unseen—through suppression, movement beyond our sensory faculties, or systemically strategic elisions in how the seen social is structured. This then is one of the often tacit but urgent responsibilities of visual culture and art: to pressure and interrogate the boundaries of perception, to render the invisible visible. Changing how we see is first perceptual but actually political work, and it’s being done across viral Internet memes, sharp-witted turns in how organizations understand multicultural diversity, and artistic research into invisibility. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure/Chicago Artists Coalition

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Lori Felker. "A Trip to Always Falls," 2015, video projection and headphones, 17 minute loop

Lori Felker. “A Trip to Always Falls,” 2015,
video projection and headphones, seventeen-minute loop

RECOMMENDED

“Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure” declares its ethos with clarity and directness in advance of any art. There is no irony in this claim nor in the work, a diverse presentation of mixed media that represents the culmination of six artists’ recent Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH residencies. Curated by HATCH resident Erin Toale, the exhibition meditates on David Foster Wallace’s notion of the “anti-rebel,” an imagined figure whose earnest and dogged effort, Foster suggests, might be the much needed antidote to all that is too cool in today’s hip culture. Accordingly, the artists here are visibly struggling, not with the quest of “making it” but with questions of practice and identity, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »