Dmitry Samarov has no mystic visions—he doesn’t travel to scenic spots, and no social, personal or philosophical issues seem to be troubling him. He just opens his eyes, and the visual world that envelops is so fascinating, he is compelled to respond in a style more expressive than descriptive, with ever increasing inventive facility. So, there’s nothing remarkably new in these paintings of domestic interiors, appropriately displayed in a West Town real estate office. Whether it’s his 2006 charcoal drawing of rumpled clothes in the closet or his 2013 watercolor of a jeep in a snowy driveway, the subject matter is as ordinary as the execution is virtuosic. Every nook and cranny of the visual field is filled with life—his life—which is calm, strong, joyful and assertive. That’s the same resilient, upbeat quality presented by American Regional painting from the 1930s—but this is not an “American Scene;” it’s Dmitry’s scene.
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“oa,” oil, latex, enamel and spray paint on cut linen and folded muslin, 2013
Molly Zuckerman-Hartung’s paintings are baffling. They’re not simply pretty messes, as so many gestural abstract paintings are these days. In some ways they’re like spilt milk or grass stains. They whisper, stretch, slip and stumble. Elegant details such as sewn pleats are obscured by hastily drizzled paint and globs of wax. Delicate patterns are smeared and smudged. Wet paint is smooshed. Nothing is sacred.
“Violet Fogs Azure Snot” is Zuckerman-Hartung’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. Nine new large-scale paintings are on canvas, linen, dropcloth and found fabric—folded, creased, patched and sewn. Creamy raw canvas, muted pink and black color blocking has replaced the neon splatters of former paintings. Her work appears matured, but still experimental. There is more space but plenty of texture. For every bold move there are fifty tiny marks. A stain here, a slice there: a couple paintings feature repetitive notch marks made with bleach and enamel paint. These are constant reminders of the artist’s eccentric, unsteady hand. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 is being canonized as abstract painting’s comeback year. In the past twelve months, Newcity alone has featured more than fifty articles related to abstract art and artists, and while this past fall’s EXPO Chicago was packed with painterly condo décor, the good stuff is getting harder and harder to find. Perhaps that’s why you’ll need to sojourn downstate to see one of this winter’s most compelling investigations of contemporary abstraction.
In “Kiosk” at Eastern Illinois University’s Tarble Arts Center in Charleston, artist Dan Devening—longtime professor of painting at SAIC, founder of Devening Projects + Editions and one of the minds behind the recently opened West Loop space Paris London Hong Kong—presents a series of twelve untitled colorful and loose (but decidedly conscious) abstractions that probe the limitations of conventional structure and illusory space. Read the rest of this entry »
“Drunken Devil,” oil on panel, 2013
“Wow! That’s wild,” seems to have been the thought behind each of Jeff Britton’s oil paintings. It could have been provoked by a huge construction crane parked outside Britton’s studio window, or by Peter Paul Rubens’ painting of “Saturn Devouring His Son,” or by the ragged edge of a weather-blasted field in winter. The artist doesn’t seem to be pursuing any particular direction other than a need to depict whatever has grabbed his attention. He likes to be grabbed—and then aggressively push back with a brash, expressive, gutsy expression in oil paint. Nervous, spontaneous dabs of paint are more dramatic on smaller panels, so several of these pieces are less than ten inches on a side. Read the rest of this entry »
“Bottles and Jars XXXIII,” oil on canvas, 2013
Peri Schwartz likes to paint bottles—not the curvaceous, off-white, mysterious kind painted by Giorgio Morandi, but the straight-edged, clear glass kind that reveals the solid bright colors of the liquid within—predominantly red, orange and yellow. She began her career with confrontational self-portraits back in the 1970s, and she seems to be continuing that project without the outer anatomy. Isn’t each human body an assembly of liquid filled containers? Schwartz’s rectangular containers are tightly ordered, but still there’s a restless quality suggesting that she’s never quite satisfied with them. Read the rest of this entry »
Painting Queer is one of only a handful of art courses being taught in Chicago’s colleges today that focuses on queer art. The undergraduate course was fashioned by instructor Matt Morris for the current semester at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Morris is an interdisciplinary artist and occasional contributor to this publication’s art section.
Where are we at with queer studies in contemporary art?
We’re at a turning point in academia where queer may be old-fashioned. This is an important time to circle the wagons and assess queer theory. The class is meant to address concerns larger than sexuality, such as race, class and other socially regulated categories. Read the rest of this entry »
untitled, charcoal, paint, paper and glue, 2013
About half of the seventeen pieces in Monica Rezman’s exhibition “The Pollen Path” are straightforward acrylic and charcoal works-on-paper. Those familiar with this Chicago artist’s oeuvre will note that, though her driving obsession with hair is still present, it’s not always front and center. In this show, the black serpentine marks that once appeared to be her works’ sole raison d’être are tempered by the inclusion of flatly colored geometric shapes. Read the rest of this entry »
“Portrait of Kenneth Koch,” oil on linen, c. 1966
Jane Freilicher is a poet’s painter or at least that’s how her poet friends from the 1950s have characterized her. As the current exhibit at the Poetry Foundation demonstrates, Freilicher returned the favor, rendering portraits of each of them, beginning with a full-figure oil portrait of Frank O’Hara. The year was 1951. Freilicher was twenty seven, O’Hara was twenty five, and avant-garde poetry, jazz and painting were erupting all over the Lower East Side of postwar New York. Frank wrote Jane a letter about an essay that was “really lucid about what’s bothering us both besides sex.” It was Paul Goodman’s manifesto that summer in the Kenyon Review, touting the “advance-guard artist” who is “especially concerned with dissolving the introjected (imperfect, unsatisfactory) society.” That letter, as well as other correspondence and collaborations with poet friends, is now also on display at the Poetry Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »
“Racine SW,” oil on canvas, 2013
Emmett Kerrigan climbed onto the roof of his home and photographed views of his West Town neighborhood. Then he put those urban scenes into paint—the uniformly thick paint preferred by some self-taught artists and those who study that technique to deliver a sense of gut-felt immediacy rather than objective observation. And he handled it beautifully, even as the black power lines cut deep furrows through the billowing thick pigment. A sameness of focus throughout the visual field helps create a world that feels safe, lovable and familiar. Every red brick and every green leaf delivered me right back to a happy childhood in an aging city neighborhood not much different from his. Soft, clumpy waves of foliage nicely complement the hard edges of the buildings, producing an effect that is dreamy and mesmerizing. But that spell is absent in another group of paintings, where Kerrigan paints that same foliage all by itself, as single trees against a black background. Read the rest of this entry »
“Holes in Memory Create Colors in my Mind,” oil on cut and collaged canvas and stretcher bars, 2012
It looks like everything that’s happening in this young painter’s life is beautiful—or, at least, now that she has turned thirty that’s how she can see it, even if she’s cut, torn and shredded her canvases in the process. Nelson’s energy is ferocious, so it’s a wonder that any cloth is left on the stretchers at all—but yes, fragments are still there, and they are as wantonly eye-catching as tropical fish, and composed like a cat that has fallen out a window, acrobatically twisting through the air on the way down, and then elegantly walking away after a perfect landing. Read the rest of this entry »