Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Rim Lee/Japonais

Painting, Photography, River North No Comments »
Rim Lee. "Beyond Max Ernst No. 1."

Rim Lee. “Beyond Max Ernst No. 1.”

The subterranean “Blue Room Lounge” at Japonais is a dark, sleek, somewhat claustrophobic space, currently host to three photographs by Rim Lee, a project organized by Kasia Kay Gallery that shares in the space’s qualities. Each one centers on a pair of nude and nubile female torsos that sharply defines a sexual, but not a personal, identity. Like celebrants at a masked ball, their faces are not shown, so the various hips and breasts belong to a world of psychosexual fantasy more than to any particular person. In one image, the faces are turned away, staring at the artist’s own painting which depicts a disembodied, non-gendered human face emerging above a flaccid pillar. It’s an obvious reference to the work of Max Ernst, after whom this work, and the entire exhibition, has been named. But it may also represent an awkward self identity that hasn’t yet caught up with the sexual maturity of the figures staring at it. Indeed, there is something girlish about all three photographs that seem to rest between the comfortable, well-ordered world of a happy childhood—and the confusing, sometimes dangerous, world of adults. In the other two images, giant bird masks cover the heads of the two attractive nudes. Covered with fluffy down instead of feathers, the birds are more like oversized chicks than adults who have already flown the nest. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Archibald Motley/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Painting No Comments »
Archibald J. Motley Jr. "Hot Rhythm," 1961 oil on canvas, 40" x 48.375"

Archibald J. Motley Jr. “Hot Rhythm,” 1961
oil on canvas, 40″ x 48.375″


American life continues to be dominated by friction between its European and African diasporas. Possibly no American artist has been as immersed in that unfolding drama as Archibald Motley (1891-1981), among the first African Americans to address that theme with a thorough training in European pictorial space. As suggested by the thousand-mile-stare in his two self-portraits, wariness is the key to his response. He was too dark for the boardrooms of middle-class America, too well educated for the streets of Bronzeville, and too concerned with African-American identity for trendy galleries of modernist art. So he was probably uncomfortable in every public setting—except the dance halls in Jazz Age Harlem where urban sophisticates of all backgrounds mingled. His visualization of that world is ecstatic. It is also masterful, in both narrative and design, comparing well with the dance halls depicted by Renoir, Lautrec and Picasso, but with a greater emphasis on the congenial interaction between characters. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Todd Kelly and Morgan Mandalay/LVL3

Installation, Painting, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Morgan Mandalay. "Still Life of Flowers and Red Curtains," 2015 oil paint and spray paint on b.o.g.o. canvas 12" x 16" each

Morgan Mandalay. “Still Life of Flowers and Red Curtains,” 2015
oil paint and spray paint on b.o.g.o. canvas
12″ x 16″ each


The works by Todd Kelly and Morgan Mandalay in “Happy Little” help bring the concept of the still life into the twenty-first century. Kelly’s pieces are the more straightforward of the two, with influences ranging from Dutch and French masters from seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to a visual representation of the gravitational pull of the planets. The Brooklyn-based artist uses oil and spray paint and collage to layer materials over one another, often creating expertly composed work that almost appears three-dimensional, as in “Theory of Gravity Still Life 13.” These complex pieces contain collaged shapes of abstract and representational elements, such as a Christmas tree or the artist’s initials. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Imaginary Landscapes/Mana Contemporary

Installation, Painting, Photography, Pilsen, Sculpture, Textiles No Comments »
Assaf Evron. “Untitled (Athens and Oraibi)”

Assaf Evron. “Untitled (Athens and Oraibi)”


In this compact exhibition curated by Allison Glenn, landscape serves as a metaphorical ground for four artists’ expansive manipulations of imaginary sites. Each of the works evince traces of fragmentation, collapse and compression, processes that appear here as gestures enacted on sites that are more the spaces of memory and history than they are physical terrains. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Australian Artists from Ukraine/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Maximilian Feuerring. “The Artist’s Studio,” c. 1955 – 60,  oil on board, 21” x 30”

Maximilian Feuerring. “The Artist’s Studio,” c. 1955 – 60,
oil on board, 21” x 30”


With its wavy ribbons of flagrant magenta, hot orange and cool aqua, only one of these paintings feels typically Australian. With its flat, Byzantine, icon-like figuration, only one feels especially Ukrainian. But all twenty-seven have a luminosity, an intensity of craftsmanship, and a sense of looking out, rather than within, to celebrate the modern world. There’s often a feeling of tumult, but it’s never grim, and it’s always overcome. There’s never a sense of being overwhelmed or lost in self-doubt. Ludwik Dutkiewicz has the one piece that’s closest to Abstract Expression—but still it’s basically a landscape, its defiant gestures depicting the sky above, the earth below. Like the Ukrainian-American artists in the UIMA permanent collection, they appear unaffected by Surrealism and the irony-inflected trends of the New York art world, though all these paintings were done between 1950 and 1980. Like many of the early modernists, they are building a modern world in which they would like to live—as far from the horrors of the 1940s as Australia is from central Europe, a world somewhere in between the Arcadian sensuality of Matisse, and the neo-Medieval piety of Rouault. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Chicago-based Artist Sabina Ott Receives 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship

Installation, Multimedia, News etc., Painting, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of Sabina Ott's “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

Installation view of Sabina Ott’s “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (GMF) announced earlier this month that they have awarded 173 fellowships (two of which are joint fellowships) to diverse artists, scholars and scientists. In the foundation’s ninety-first competition for the United States and Canada, this year’s recipients were chosen from a pool of over 3,100 applicants. Among that talented group spanning over fifty-one disciplines with recipients ranging in age from twenty-nine to eighty-three is Sabina Ott, a Chicago-based painter and sculptor who is a professor of art at Columbia College Chicago. With the Guggenheim award, Ott intends to expound the scope upon her most recent work “here and there pink melon joy,” a site-oriented installation of paintings and sculptures completed in August of 2014 that was on display at the Chicago Cultural Center until January 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mika Horibuchi and Dan Rizzo-Orr/Heaven Gallery

Installation, Painting, Prints, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Dan Rizzo-orr. “Horse Statuette North” and “Horse Statuette Northeast," installation view

Dan Rizzo-orr’s “Horse Statuette North” and “Horse Statuette Northeast,”
with Mika Horibuchi’s “Screen/Screen,” installation view


Mika Horibuchi and Dan Rizzo-Orr worked closely to present “View with a Room” as a project specific to the gallery space. The mostly painted work of the two artists interlocks with ease across two rooms despite wildly various subject matter and technical methods. Visual approaches reflect neatly onto three-dimensional objects, the sculptures orienting the space in turn. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ethan Gill/Julius Caesar

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »
Ethan Gill. "Cosmonauts,"  oil on canvas

Ethan Gill. “Cosmonauts,”
oil on canvas


“Mean On Sunday,” Ethan Gill’s exhibition of paintings of football players at Julius Caesar, is cultural criticism through American pastime. Goalposts loom in the deep distance functioning as they would in set paintings on a stage—dressings included for context but removed from the action of the moment.

The scenes have only a nominal relationship to the ordered ritual of a football game. In “No Good,” mutant protagonists, torsos fused side-by-side and three-wide, simultaneously set up for a field goal and knock-out a member of the opposing team—the only player of color in view—in a play as implausible as the conjoined uniform of the triplets. The fumbler of “Fumble” discharges a column of smoke from his mouth in a scene that reads more as an industrial wasteland than a sports field. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Cody Tumblin/Devening Projects

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »
Cody Tumblin. "Probably Gonna Roll on Through," dye and watercolor on hand-dyed cotton, 60" × 46"

Cody Tumblin. “Probably Gonna Roll on Through,”
dye and watercolor on hand-dyed cotton, 60″ × 46″


The sizes and shapes of Cody Tumblin’s paintings in “Tell Tale” resemble those of books, albeit ones with beautiful covers. Most have in fact been made to fit the dimensions of meaningful books in the artist’s personal collection. The biblio theme extends to many of the dyed and painted pieces in Tumblin’s show, from bands of color on the left side of the paintings approximating binding to the smaller works leaning on shelves as if on display in a store.
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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″


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 »