Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

Portrait of the Artist: Meg Duguid

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Pilsen, Video No Comments »
Meg Duguid standing with her installation "Supercomputer" at Slow in Pilsen.

Meg Duguid standing with her installation “Supercomputer” at Slow in Pilsen.

After a dreary trek through Pilsen’s sludge-laden sidewalks, I’m happy to see Meg Duguid waving enthusiastically to me from inside the fogged windows of Slow. Paul, the gallery’s director, stands to her left and Yesterday, the gallery’s canine mascot, faithfully on her right.

On an evening just as dreary in 2005, Duguid entered a tiny bookshop in Brooklyn. Browsing for nothing but a way to kill some time between her side jobs and studies, she happened across a book that contained a screenplay James Agee wrote for Charlie Chaplin in 1947. Inspired and intrigued, she sent an unsolicited letter to the Agee foundation, requesting to bring to life the script that had—for whatever reason—remained unproduced. The foundation’s answer was no, and Duguid moved on.

Flashing forward in time and back to the Midwest, the backsides of fifteen stacked televisions rise to greet me as I enter Slow. Large blue and orange extension cords twist and tangle their way toward electrical outlets on either side of the gallery, powering the luminescent glow coming from the anterior of the electrical blockade. The piece is silent, save for a high-pitched drone coming from the circuitries. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rooted in Soil/DePaul Art Museum

Installation, Lincoln Square, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Claire Pentecost. "Our Bodies, Our Soil," installation view

Claire Pentecost. “Our Bodies, Our Soil,” 2014-2015, installation view

RECOMMENDED

Soil is a catalyst for riveting conversations at the DePaul Art Museum’s current exhibition “Rooted in Soil.” Environmental awareness, life cycles and science are a few of the ideas explored in this captivating exhibition co-curated by a mother-daughter team, Laura and Farrah Fatemi. This multi-sensorial and interactive show consists of thirty-seven artworks by fifteen artists, and emphasizes an often overlooked—but essential—part of life: soil.

“Soil is undervalued,” Laura Fatemi explained in an interview. “People recognize you need clean air and water. But do they recognize that soil needs to be free of pollutants to be healthy?” The show’s interactive component tactfully answers this question. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Alison Ruttan

Artist Profiles, Ceramics, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Alison Ruttan in her installation "A Line in the Sand," at the Chicago Cultural Center

Alison Ruttan in her installation “A Line in the Sand,” at the Chicago Cultural Center

“My husband says the FBI knows what I’m doing because I have a heat signature constantly going,” chuckles artist Alison Ruttan as she leads me into the basement of her cozy Oak Park home. We pass from her living room lined with artworks by Ruttan’s husband Scott Stack and neighbor Sabina Ott into a series of chamber-like rooms with low ceilings and cement floors, all brimming with remnants of unused pieces from “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” which occupies the Cultural Center’s three Michigan Avenue galleries. Read the rest of this entry »