Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Luftwerk/The Franklin

Garfield Park, Installation No Comments »
"Into and Out of," site-responsive Mylar panel installation

“Into and Out of,” site-responsive Mylar panel installation

RECOMMENDED

Luftwerk, the collaborative endeavor of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, typically uses sound, light and projection to trick the eye and imbue the senses with soft and welcomed confusion. For “Into and Out of,” their exhibition at The Franklin, the two artists installed work that retreated from their usual repertoire of projection-based trickery, instead augmenting the outdoor gallery’s architecture. Intended to complicate the perception of perspectival space, a dozen Mylar-coated panels are installed both inside and outside the Franklin’s lattice-like structure. Those inside are connected to the ceiling with the ability to subtly sway, while the companion works along the exterior are secured firmly to the ground, transfixed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Simon Starling/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture No Comments »
Simon Starling. "Bird in Space," imported Romanian steel plate, inflatable jacks, and helium, 2004

Simon Starling. “Bird in Space,” imported Romanian steel plate, inflatable jacks, and helium, 2004

RECOMMENDED

In “Metamorphology,” British artist Simon Starling’s survey of photographs, installations and film, you do not mind having to read the accompanying wall texts—you actually look forward to it. This is a testament to the intrinsic inveiglement of Starling’s explorations of the titular phenomena; rarely does work so heavily dependent upon exposition avoid coming off as pedagogic so finely as Starling does here. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: We do what we like and we like what we do/Western Exhibitions

Drawings, Installation, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
nicholas frank1

Nicholas Frank. “Nicholas Frank Biography, page 302 (First Edition),” printed book page, 6 ¼ x 4 ½ inches, custom-milled walnut frame, 10 x 8 inches, 2014

RECOMMENDED

This rambling celebration on the occasion of the gallery’s ten-year anniversary as a bricks-and-mortar space is cheekily titled after the eponymous Andrew W.K. anthem, “Party Hard.” The moniker adds both an air of revelry and defiance to the works exhibited, implying that director Scott Speh and the artists on his roster are fueled by passion and vision rather than a pursuit of conventional success.

The show is an exercise in polarity, oscillating between extremes in scale and tone. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted by the first of two sigil paintings by Elijah Burgher. Fresh from the Whitney Biennial, these painted drop cloths are installed back to back, dominating the initial visual field. Situated in the corner of the same room are two bongs, “Uncle Sam/Old Yeller” by Ben Stone. They seem slightly out of place in an area otherwise devoted to minimalist and conceptual works but add levity while reiterating the rebellious tone set by the title. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Nicholas Gottlund/Paris London Hong Kong

Installation, Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Nicholas Gottlund. "Always," installation view

Nicholas Gottlund. “Always,” installation view

RECOMMENDED

Featuring both screen-prints and sculptures, Pennsylvania native Nicholas Gottlund’s “Always” is a sixth-generation printmaker and publisher’s examination of the nature of reproduction. The seven large-scale screen-prints that dominate the diminutive space are enlargements from the pages of Gottlund’s 2013 self-published book “Printing Always Printing,” which is itself comprised of images culled from H. Winslow Fegley’s 1972 photo-essay on the Pennsylvania Dutch titled “Farming, Always Farming.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mindy Rose Schwartz/Queer Thoughts

Craft Work, Installation, Pilsen 1 Comment »
“You will live each day in Springtime,”  potter's wheel, wood, paper, papier-mâché, nylon, gold thread, linen cord, iridescent paint, song, 2014

“You will live each day in Springtime,” potter’s wheel, wood, paper, papier-mâché, nylon, gold thread, linen cord, iridescent paint, song, 2014

RECOMMENDED

Mindy Rose Schwartz’s recent exhibition of sculptures at Pilsen’s Queer Thoughts walks the messy border between the fine arts and craft. Schwartz, who teaches the Extreme Craft course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has a history of complicating this border, teasing exciting formal, historical and affective possibilities out of parallel craft and fine arts practice. “Windsong stays on my mind,” a dream catcher in which one spies the outlines of birds, faces, evil-eyes and popsicle-stick musings is dotted with costume jewelry, rhinestones and false flowers. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Macon Reed

Artist Profiles, Installation, Painting, Pilsen, Sculpture No Comments »
Macon Reed and the gymnasts who performed "Team Spirited" in her installation "Physical Education." Photo by Mat Wilson

Macon Reed and the gymnasts who performed “Team Spirited” in her installation “Physical Education”/Photo: Mat Wilson

“I lived outside for a year in my mid-twenties,” says Macon Reed. This was communal full-time camping in Santa Cruz’s redwood forests. We are speaking by phone while she is on a road trip, and she exuberantly tells me that she is calling from another forest along their travel route. A few years after this outdoor social experiment, Reed founded Camp Out in 2012, a summer camp outside Portland, Oregon, for campers aged eighteen to twenty-three who self-identify as female. Their only requirement to participate is that each of them had to teach a workshop on any topic they chose. “People brought what they needed to the camp,” Reed says. “I think of structures that create community as a medium.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: SpotLight/Elmhurst Art Museum

Installation, Multimedia No Comments »
Jeroen Nelemans, "Mondrian 2," 2011

Jeroen Nelemans, “Mondrian 2,” 2011

RECOMMENDED

“SpotLight” casts a wide net to emphasize how light plays a varied role in several contemporary artists’ practices. This exhibition presents light as its subject while employing it as its medium to comment on art history, memory, the artistic process and transformation. At a time when technology and materials are overabundant, the goal of “SpotLight” is to use one of the simplest tools to speak to our contemporary moment. Light is a critical tool to any art form, whether it is used as a tool to examine a subject or as a means to produce an image.

Jeroen Nelemans’ laser light interpretations of two well-known Piet Mondrian paintings are perhaps the most striking examples of the ephemeral nature of light, even if in this case the light is completely artificial. Employing a small army of laser levels, Nelemans recreates the paintings’ angles using nothing more than the red beam of light. The pieces hover above the surface of the gallery wall, giving the works a false sense of dimension and depth. As the batteries wear down in each laser level, the lines connecting the work together slowly dissipate, and the relationship to the original painting dissolves as well.
Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Luftwerk Shines a Light on Modernist Architecture

Installation No Comments »

Shift 1

The sun hung low in the sky December 10, 1777, as German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe descended from the shroud of mist that enveloped the highest peak of the Harz mountain range. For a fleeting moment, he observed his shadow cast blue on the white snow. Isaac Newton had theorized shadows as the absence of light but Goethe perceived within the darkness a myriad of hues. Color was born in the space between darkness and light.

The new media exhibition, “Shift,” by the collaborative Luftwerk at the Chicago Cultural Center, extends an exploration into the phenomenology of color. During a residency at the Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred University, artists Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero studied the science of light. “We immersed ourselves in research into the color theories of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Itten and Josef Albers,” Bachmaier says. The additive color system mixes primary colors red, green and blue to create cyan, magenta and yellow. “It is painting 101,” she laughs. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Tracy Marie Taylor

Installation No Comments »

9-11-57-2

An undulating mirrored moonscape of curves and climbs, the multimedia installation “9-11-57” is something of a lateral step for Tracy Marie Taylor, both in media and message. Taylor is a product of the American West; her Colorado heritage comes replete with a cowboy grandfather who would ride to roundup three-thousand head of horses, and family members she fondly describes as wearing cowboy boots and handlebar mustaches as formal wear. Hair the color of adobe clay and an expansive, brilliant smile calls to mind the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert, where she studied at the University of New Mexico. Taylor’s work consistently mines this rich cultural vein for inspiration; what sets “9-11-57” apart, aside from being her first sculpture, is what aspect of the West she is choosing to reflect (literally, in this instance, with mirrors).

“9-11-57” is a USGS-quality, laser-cut topographic map of the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, where on September 11, 1857, Mormon militiamen, as well as deceived Paiute Indians, slaughtered 120 emigrants, including men, women and children, on their way to California from Arkansas in southern Utah. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Conrad Freiburg/Linda Warren Projects

Installation, West Loop No Comments »
"Bucket Eye View (Path)"

“Bucket Eye View (Path)”

RECOMMENDED

Like most Americans, I keep the idea of death’s unforgiving grasp safely confined to the periphery of my subconscious via a gentle stream of sex, alcohol and vaguely pointless amusement. Our society, pathologically ill-equipped to deal with grief in any kind of serious way, allows for little else. So it should come as no surprise that Conrad Freiburg’s fun-loving memento mori, “Before the Grave and Constant” at Linda Warren Projects, fits neatly into this bitter-pill-washed-down-with-mountains-of-sugar cultural ethos.

Echoing a giant game of Mouse Trap, the various ropes and pulleys that populate this gallery-sized installation set steel bearings into motion along divergent channels that always end in the dark void of the proverbial (and literal) bucket. Symbolizing decision and consequence, life’s travails and its inevitable end, Freiburg’s take on death is also inherently materialist and occidental, portraying it as the final destination on a linear journey, with no hint of an afterlife, or even reincarnation. The problem—if you want to call it that—is that the interactive installation is just too fun to take very seriously. Read the rest of this entry »