Bag of raw almonds for energy boost, false lashes stowed in my handbag for evening-wear eye-drama boost, press badge and a prayer for stamina: Expo Chicago’s press preview yesterday rolled directly into the Vernissage party that dispersed across town to a boat party, a disco dance and dishes of art world gossip: which gallery’s staff is jumping ship? who’s leaving their long-term gallery representation? who’s been exploring her ‘lesbian side’? who’s pregnant? and so on. Thursday’s kickoff to the fair was over-stimulating and today’s shaping up the same. I stopped for lunch and worked out some thoughts about patterns in the artworks exhibited, highlights and rare occasions for profundity for Expo visitors who are art lovers if not big-time collectors. Read the rest of this entry »
In 1703 Peter the Great built a new capital for his Eurocentric government in Saint Petersburg, nicknamed Russia’s “window to the West.” More recently the shutters flung open after the Soviet Union collapsed, and today the blinds oscillate under Putin’s regime. Manifesta’s presence in the city this year revealed rifts in Russia’s politics and public, with views divided on more than just contemporary art.
The iconic State Hermitage Museum celebrated its 250th anniversary this year by inviting a European biennale, an example of director Mikhail Piotrovsky’s leadership in rejoining the international arts community. In its nascent five-year existence, the museum’s contemporary art department opened new galleries, started collecting, and held thirty-two exhibitions—bringing Louise Bourgeois, Chuck Close and Cy Twombly to Saint Petersburg while officially recognizing Russia’s own Ilya Kabakov and Timur Novikov. The public has been less welcoming to contemporary art after a hiatus of more than seventy years under the Soviet Union. Putin’s government seems to capitalize on public hesitation to promote its neo-conservative agenda, stamping age sixteen-plus ratings on Manifesta when “protect our children” ads hang on Saint Petersburg’s boulevards.
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Featuring fifteen artists and an incendiary press release that decries what it sees as the preeminence of “soulless” and “anemic” abstraction, “New Image Painting” at Shane Campbell Gallery is a stinging riposte to the kind of contemporary abstract painting that merely serves as “a placeholder for value” and “needs to get out of the way.” In its place, the show presents an alternative vision of art’s recent past that locates figuration and personal narrative front and center.
Many of the thirty paintings on display are self-consciously “bad” in the sense that multiple artists’ seek spatial and proportional “incorrectness” as a means of arriving at visual authenticity. Henry Taylor’s “Where are my brothers keepers” and Torey Thornton’s “Barged Gator” are ham-fisted in their depiction of figures, boats and busses. But their superficial clumsiness, which can be traced back to Matisse via Guston, belies a compositional sophistication that is studied and—paradoxically—abstract. Similarly, William J. O’Brien’s playful works on paper trade in the kind of frenzied “my kid could do that” aesthetic that baffles casual viewers, but delights connoisseurs of gestural abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »
Thursday, September 4
Dan Ramirez, painting
Union League Club of Chicago, 65 West Jackson
Opening reception: 5:30pm-7pm, through September 30
(Members only opening, viewing by appointment only)
Anthony Iacuzzi and Christopher Schneberger, photography
Perspective Gallery, 1310-1/2B Chicago Avenue, Evanston
Opening reception: 5pm-8pm, through September 28
Amy Vogel, mixed-media survey exhibition
Cleve Carney Art Gallery at College of DuPage, Fawell and Park Boulevards, Glen Ellyn
Opening reception: 12pm-2pm, through October 25
Taehoon Kim and Barbara Diener, large scale sculpture and photographic installation
Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 West College, Palos Hills
Opening reception: 3pm–5pm, through September 18 and October 23 respectively Read the rest of this entry »
I do not say that I believe in magic, just as I do not say that I believe in art. From a molar perspective, belief is only ever provisionally employed as a tool; otherwise, criticality is too easily short-circuited. I cannot separate the two—magic and art. One can speculate on their tangled roots, on the one hand; and verify in experience that they are two aspects of the same crucial faculty, imagination, on the other. I like Aleister Crowley’s definition of magic best: “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” Will is the keyword here. Desire. Intention. Read the rest of this entry »
Why does the evocation of light from painting pervade the medium’s extensive history? It seems like a nonstarter to grind up and smear colored mud across a substrate in the attempt to produce luminosity. While peers in the loosely delineated movement of Light and Space in California from the 1960s onward abandoned painting in favor of more immaterial installation strategies, Norman Zammitt made a career of reasoned, deliberate canvases informed by floaty sensorial aspirations. His small paintings at Andrew Rafacz are rewarding to viewers precisely because of the tension between their physicality and the optical trickery that their composed horizontal bands of nuanced color excite in the eyes of viewers. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, the Art Institute of Chicago published the first two of their online scholarly catalogues. Monet: Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago and Renoir: Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago are densely informative, interactive, close studies of the works of the two Impressionists held in the Institute’s permanent collection. Over the past couple of days, I’ve explored the catalogues; certainly the powerfully detailed zoom options allow viewers to observe details at a closeness that would not be available standing before the paintings in the museum, as well as details of how canvases are stretched, views of their reverse sides and photomicrographs that cross section the paintings’ grounds to see exactly how gesso and paint sit on the surface of the weave of the canvas. Entries on each of the two painters’ work in the collection are accompanied by in-depth curatorial essays, as well as technical reports (very compelling stuff not only for conservationists but artists and others interested in exacting accounts of how an artwork was made) as well as exhaustive accounts of provenance and exhibition history. That such detailed information about even one work is now freely available to the public is astonishing, but collected in the two books are forty-seven works by Monet and twenty-five by Renoir—a massive amount of information about some of the most precious holdings in the Institute’s collection.
“I’m bored with illustration, deluged with images, self-promotions, egocentric edifice, proclamations of spirituality, decorations, displays, novelties, identity politics, one-liners, banal humor and obfuscating art speak.” That proclamation, recently published by Chicago painter Bruce Thorn, pretty much describes my reaction to most of the cartoonish collection on view in the tenth annual National Self-Portrait Exhibition at Zhou B Art Center. None of these self-portraits make you feel like you’re actually meeting and engaging a real person. All of them express the artist’s self with some clever conceit rather than relying on painterly qualities to present the interior contradictions of a more complex personal reality. Read the rest of this entry »
California-based painters Greg Gong and Jon Pestoni have, through unifying abstract forms over a variety of ground materials and techniques, developed complementary methods that result in layered, petrified paint. They do well to show together as the stakes over which they struggle are not only a work’s surface but what physically lies beneath. Read the rest of this entry »
The archive is a reminder, a catalogue of documents that help us imagine and encounter the past. DePaul Art Museum’s “Fires Will Burn: Politically Engaged Art from the Permanent Collection,” features works that explore social justice issues from the 1930s to the present—an era shaped by Roosevelt-backed New Deal programs and other social activism that has targeted relief, recovery and reform.
For “Fires Will Burn,” the works are grouped loosely by geography, highlighting the overarching complexities—historical, political and emotional—that constitute their conception. Most of the works shown are print media: etching, lithograph and screenprints by many politically motivated artists. Roger Shimomura’s artistic practice was prompted by his experience in the Minidoka internment camp during WWII. His “Yellow No Same” series borrows traditional Japanese costumed actors from wood-block prints who are shown separated by barbed wire from Japanese Americans. Negar Ahkami’s painting “As I Sit Here Musing, Fires Will Burn” is an examination of the Iranian-American artist’s overlapping cultures. In the ornamental painting on paper, the role of women is prominent: a burqa-clad figure wearing high heels is contrasted with a nude woman with a football head, surrounded by imagery from both of her cultures. Read the rest of this entry »