Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

Review: Formal | Loose | Painting/Ralph Arnold Gallery

Installation, Painting, Rogers Park, Textiles No Comments »
Anna Kunz. "Peel," latex on all and fabric, latex and enamel on canvas

Anna Kunz. “Peel,” latex on all and fabric, latex and enamel on canvas

RECOMMENDED

As evinced by the prevalence of “Zombie Formalism,” abstraction is currently coasting: reanimating movements without contributing new ideas. Paintings by Michelle Bolinger, Samantha Bittman and Anna Kunz are a refreshing contrast to lifeless painting that threatens visual communication itself in a hunger for conceptual novelty. Together they confirm that a voice can still be found in purely formal painting about the process of abstraction itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Generative Bodies and Subverted Norms

Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia No Comments »
Jesús Rafael Soto.  "Pénétrable de Chicago," 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.

Jesús Rafael Soto. “Pénétrable de Chicago,” 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.

By Matt Morris

Friends of mine are used to me bristling against the word “normal,” and many of the art students I teach have opted to avoid it lest they elicit a mini-lecture that questions the production of normalcy as an underlying societal force. At issue is how normative conceptions of being come about in relation to what is deemed abnormal: this could be queer, minority or, as I’m considering here, the production of the category of disability. 2015 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), leaving me with questions of what the art world has done over these decades to not only comply with government-mandated civil rights law but to actively imagine modes of engagement that appreciate differently abled bodies and minds of both art audiences and artists as an opportunity to create new forms of meaningful experience.

In his 2011 essay “Beautiful Progress to Nowhere,” Chicago-based artist, writer and educator Joseph Grigely wonders, “…The arts need disabled people; but it’s not clear what exactly defines this need. Is it because difference is ‘good’? Or is it because the experience disables those who interact with us, thereby rewriting the tacit rules by which we share space together?”

Perhaps innovations in how art can be a place of interaction for low and non-sighted individuals, those who are deaf, people with special needs for mobility and other perhaps difficult to predict differences in bodies stresses the incommensurability of shared experiences in art: it’s not the same for any of us, no matter what shared abilities we might have. I spoke with Dr. Carrie Sandahl, head of the Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities at UIC, “Everybody can get some experience of the artwork with their own history and apparatus, but it doesn’t have to match. Why do we think that it’s ever going to match? Audiences are going to bring different things.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Creeping Toward The Light/Julius Caesar

Collage, Drawings, Garfield Park, Installation, Photography No Comments »
Installation view of Creeping Towards The Light at Julius Caesar

Installation view of Creeping Toward The Light at Julius Caesar

RECOMMENDED

Described as a “collaboration” between organizer and artist, rather than a straightforward comparison, “Creeping Toward The Light” at Julius Caesar features artist Stevie Hanley alongside one of JC’s directorial personalities, Roland Miller. The small exhibition space, dominated by Hanley’s large, banner-like assemblies, has the effect of a curious, colorful maze.

The floor is chrome throughout, treated with a foil wrapping. Miller has installed several slightly larger-than-life-sized prints of women cut out and affixed directly to the wall. Their color and visual texture is glitched, implying inversions, blow-outs and missing data. Brilliance and lurid aesthetic moments become occlusions—obnoxious, pink rhinestones are glued to the picture glass floated just a hair above a collage by Miller, covering a serial repetition of sexual penetrations. Glints that blind, rather than illuminate. That these explicit moments are not totally concealed gives way to that naughty impulse to peak around the glittery censor. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Drunken Geometry/Devening Projects and Editions

Ceramics, Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Leslie Baum + Allison Wade. Drunken Geometry, installation view, February 2015.

Leslie Baum + Allison Wade. Drunken Geometry, installation view, February 2015.

RECOMMENDED

“Drunken Geometry,” the new collaborative exhibition by Leslie Baum and Allison Wade, is a risky proposition. By tackling the classic conventions and traditions associated with the still life, these two Chicago-based artists seek to extend our preexisting notions of the genre by, in effect, taking them apart. The approach is as pregnant with possibility as it is fraught with travails.

Sculptural formulations are particularly susceptible to problems inherent to deconstruction since a table displayed without substantive transformation remains merely a table, an artifact of our mundane world rather than an active agent in the world of art. Though reasonable people can (and should) disagree, objects placed within the environs of gallery are not art by default. The wall-mounted “Many Things Conspired #1” as well as the floor-bound “New Things (the persistence of ordered objects) #1,” which both seem a little too self-satisfied as minimally altered objects, are the most problematic in this regard. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Identify/Catherine Edelman Gallery

Digital Art, Installation, Photography, River North No Comments »
Garth and Pierre. "HEAD(S)," 2014 photographs mounted to bank pins

Garth and Pierre. “HEAD(S),” 2014
photographs mounted to bank pins

RECOMMENDED

Among the four wildly diverse approaches to representing the human body photographically on display here, Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s is the most inventive, although not the most meaningful. Dewey-Hagborg picks up cigarette butts and discarded chewing gum off the city sidewalks (depicted in her color shots), subjects the detritus to DNA analysis, runs the genetic profiles through a facial algorithm, and produces 3D resin portraits that presumably resemble the people who left the remains of their consumption for the scavenger-artist to appropriate (the droppings also grace her mini-installation). The three particular subjects whose faces look out at us from the gallery wall are all young, attractive and relentlessly clean, with an airbrushed appearance that belies the butts and gum from which they have been reconstructed. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: MetaModern/Krannert Art Museum

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Suburban, Video No Comments »
Jordi Colomer. "Anarchitekton (Barcelona, Bucharest, Brasilia, Osaka)," 2002–04 4 single channel video projection, silent Barcelona: 5 min; Bucharest: 3 min; Brasilia: 3 min 49 sec; Osaka: 1 min 49 sec

Jordi Colomer. “Anarchitekton (Barcelona, Bucharest, Brasilia, Osaka),” 2002–04
4 single channel video projection, silent
Barcelona: 5 min; Bucharest: 3 min; Brasilia: 3 min 49 sec; Osaka: 1 min 49 sec

RECOMMENDED

Updating Barry Schwabsky’s 2012 label “retromodernism,” Colby Chamberlain coined the term “domestic modernism” to describe Margaret Lee’s recent installation of facsimiles depicting twentieth-century art and design icons. Noting that, “apparently Brancusi duplicates are trending,” Chamberlain compared Lee’s model of Brancusi’s “Endless Column” to another shown by Josephine Meckseper in 2013, highlighting their affinity in evoking department store displays. Now featured in the group show “MetaModern” at the Krannert Museum, William Cordova’s tribute to the Brancusi monument—a column of lampshades inverted in an alternating rhythm and lit from within—similarly evokes a retail aura. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle also replicates a Brancusi phallus, but with a more aeronautical thrust; his nine-foot “Bird in Space” is fabricated from carbon fiber, Kevlar and steel, and seems ready to blow a Sputnik out of the sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jaime Davidovich/Threewalls

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Video, West Loop 1 Comment »
Jaime Davidovich. "The Live! Show," 1980

Jaime Davidovich. “The Live! Show,” 1980

RECOMMENDED

Argentinian artist Jaime Davidovich moved to a New York teeming with ideas, conversations and possibilities during the 1960s and seventies, when it was gritty, dangerous and artists could afford a building in SoHo. Whereas Gordon Matta-Clark, Donald Judd and the Judson Dance Theater give the period its experimental flavor, Davidovich’s pioneering efforts in artist-run public television never received recognition like abstract video artists Stan Brackhage or Paul Sharits. Read the rest of this entry »