Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Two Rules of Bad Mixtapes

Ceramics, Collage, Craft Work, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville, Textiles No Comments »
Installation view of "Pop Art Design" at the MCA Chicago. /Photo: Nathan Keay.

Installation view of “Pop Art Design” at the MCA Chicago/Photo: Nathan Keay

By Ruslana Lichtzier

I enjoy thinking about the structure of the museum as a mixtape. Within an expanded taste, different exhibitions are organized with loose connections in an evolving tempo, hopefully with a mutual understanding regarding the role of the institution. Back in the day, mixtapes were a tool of courting; in making one, the mixtape-maker demonstrated how cool they were, how broad, complex, versatile and surprising was their taste. The danger was, and still is, in them exposing themselves as being…well, not cool.

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Double Take: The “New Contemporary” at the Art Institute

Collage, Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Video 1 Comment »
Andy Warhol. "Big Electric Chair," 1967-68.

Andy Warhol. “Big Electric Chair,” 1967-68

In “Double Take,” Newcity Art commissions two or more critics to consider a single topic or exhibition in order to offer multiple perspectives on complex, timely matters in Chicago’s visual arts.

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Review: Lee Godie/Kohler Arts Center

Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Outsider Art, Photography, Sheboygan, Wisconsin No Comments »

Lee Godie. “Untitled,” no date. Gelatin silver print, 5 x 3 3/4 inches. /Photo: John Michael Kohler Arts Center


Crafting an image of oneself for the public world is a fact of daily life. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Art and Faith of the Crèche/Loyola Museum of Art

Ceramics, Craft Work, Galleries & Museums, Gold Coast/Old Town, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Photos of the Creche sculptures and/or figurines in the LUMA Creche exhibit. (Photo by Mark Patton)

Rachel Quinn. “Ireland (Sligo),” 2010 /Photo: Loyola University Chicago, Mark Patton


The crèche—a display of figures portraying the Nativity, Christ’s birth—is a common holiday feature across cultures, as “Art and Faith of the Crèche: The Collection of James and Emilia Govan” shows. A LUMA tradition for the past eight years, this year’s exhibition reveals the Govan family’s vast crèche collection from around the world, including a gallery devoted to crèches from Latin America. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: dRaw!/Intuit

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Outsider Art, River West No Comments »
Caroline Demangel. "Untitled," n.d. Mixed media on paper, 25 x 19 inches, Courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery. / Photo: Jurate Veceraite.

Caroline Demangel. “Untitled,” n.d. Mixed media on paper, 25 x 19 inches, Courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery. /Photo: Jurate Veceraite


A commanding survey of Outsider drawing, the show includes many of its premier examples, arguing convincingly that drawing is the elemental gesture of intuitive art. One might expect to see a room full of simple, crude scrawls, but here are carefully drafted images that speak a weird wisdom. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Comfort Station’s First Annual Vernacular Photography Festival Begins Today

Galleries & Museums, Logan Square, News etc., Outsider Art, Photography, Video No Comments »
An anonymous photograph from the Slattery collection.

An anonymous photograph from the Slattery collection

Comfort Station, the Logan Square multidisciplinary art space, will present an unprecedented twenty-three-day “Vernacular Photography Festival,” a rotating show celebrating the art of everyday and commonplace images throughout the month of August. The festival is curated by Ron Slattery, known as one of the three original collectors of the work of the late Vivian Maier. Maier was a noted street photographer who took more than 150,000 photographs of everyday people and architecture in Chicago and New York. Her work was not widely recognized until after her death in 2009, when Slattery and two other collectors began to circulate images from portions of her archive that they had purchased at auction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dont Fret/Johalla Projects

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Painting, Public Art, Street Art, West Town No Comments »
Dont Fret. "Saturday Night Fever," 2015. Acrylic on paper.

Dont Fret. “Saturday Night Fever,” 2015.
Acrylic on paper.


“There are only two seasons in Chicago,” reads the poster pasted on a utility box, “Winter and construction.” The last time that I encountered the work of Dont Fret in the wild there was snow on the ground. Summer finds the artist moving from works on the street back into the gallery with little difficulty, but some trepidation.

At Johalla Projects, a group of works on paper cover one wall, each of them functioning individually, but all fitting together as a conceptual whole. Mixed in are purposely ham-fisted, muddy-colored abstractions with phrases like “Hi, I’m an idea based painting” or “I like his early work better.” These are perhaps a nod to the “zombie formalism” debates from last year and including a good bit of the artist’s own anxiety about his place in the art ecosystem. He needn’t worry about the art world silliness. Dont Fret is still at his best in his depictions of Chicago life and Chicagoans. The details and insights in his art can only come from years spent observing the changes to the city and the people, and from those quiet moments of profundity that come from a history of experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Point of Origin: Mapping the Arts in Detroit

Architecture, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Performance, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Olayami Dabls, N'Kisi House, 2007, wood, glass, tile, bricks, paint, MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit, MI. Photo credit: Charlene Uresy

Olayami Dabls, N’Kisi House, 2007,
wood, glass, tile, bricks, paint, MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit/Photo: Charlene Uresy

By Allison Glenn

The twenty-first century has brought with it the re-emergence of contemporary conceptual artists engaged with penumbral zones. These artists are interested in site, positing new ideas for usage of once-inhabited homes and urban spaces. Whether the middle of the desert or the center of a blighted neighborhood, these sites exist on the theoretical—albeit times physical—margins of society. Artistic engagement with these interstitial spaces is on a material level, with art and architecture converging to create radical and experimental approaches to living. Positing ideas for architecture, technology, space and the body’s relation to it, artists are projecting utopic ideals for the future of the quotidian urban environment. What emerges from this are hybrid works of art and cultural production. Read the rest of this entry »

Blocks of Art and Stuff: Taking in the Heidelberg Project, East Detroit’s Spectacle of Transformation and Perseverance

Installation, Outsider Art, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Views from Amy Danzer's visit to the Heidelberg Project

Photo: Amy Danzer

When you first pull up to the open-air art installation on Heidelberg Street in East Detroit, you’re struck by the remnants of houses that have recently been set afire by arsonists. Twelve blazes have gutted six installations in the last two years. The devastation and loss are felt at once, never absent throughout the exhibit, and serve as commentary on the plight of Detroit’s inner city. But Tyree Guyton and his volunteers continue to clear the ash and debris, create new works, and transform the space into one that persists in provoking thought, inciting imagination, and drawing in people from all over the country and world. Read the rest of this entry »