Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014
Lucy McKenzie’s largest American exhibition to date unravels like a postmodern mystery novel. The show begins outside of the gallery, where the artist has taken advantage of the floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the Griffin Courtyard of the Modern Wing to construct a window display befitting State Street’s finest stores. A female mannequin in a gymnast suit sits on a glass-topped steel table as mechanized signs whir whimsically beneath a hand-painted title bearing the artist’s signature as if it were a venerable house of fashion. Once inside, the focus becomes painting, though one recalls that Warhol and Rauschenberg dressed department-store windows too. Four floor-to-ceiling panels display massive Tiffany-esque motifs of glowing skies and turbulent clouds drifting behind screens of leafy branches. The pictures within each are oddly cropped to describe the contours of the walls and ceiling of a fictional bar in an imaginary film in which these panels would hang as trompe l’oeil scenery. Indeed, McKenzie has trained in antiquated techniques of decorative painting, which include hyper-realistic depictions of landscape and still life meant to fool the eye in to perceiving representation as reality.
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Clare E. Rojas. “Untitled,” 2014, oil on linen, and “Untitled,” 2014, fabric paint on French vintage linen farm dress
Over the past several years, San Francisco-based artist Clare E. Rojas has steadily expunged the visual elements her work was best known for: the cast of men, women and animals that populated her playful, folk-art-inspired narratives are gone. What remains are geometric abstractions distilled from the design-oriented stages upon which her fables once occurred. Dominated by negative space, only crisp passages of intense, often-primary color interrupt surfaces now rendered austere. Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of mixed media work in Motor Row Gallery’s inaugural group exhibition
The new Motor Row Gallery (MRG) has emerged on Chicago’s historic Near South Side in the heart of what is known as the Motor Row District. The fact that the gallery is sheltered in the unsuspecting venue of a U-Haul rental facility, well, that’s just the kind of inimitable type of beauty you’d expect to find in Chicago.
The gallery is cozily embedded inside of a Motor Row Lofts building owned by Suzanne Weaver, who has also been running a U-Haul business with her husband from there for the past two and a half years. Motor Row Gallery is an alternative gallery space curated by Weaver’s friend of thirteen years Pamela Staker with a special focus on pop-up art exhibitions and special events. For instance, Staker and Weaver have future plans to hold art expositions outdoors in the warmer months, making use of the extra U-Haul vans that aren’t rented out. Artists would rent a truck where they could display anything from paintings and sculptures to functional and installation work. Since the space would ultimately belong to the artists, they would have free reign on how they chose to present their work in their creative space.
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Dan Gunn. “Grand Amusement,”
dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire
In “Impromptu Airs,” Dan Gunn has crafted delights for the eye, deviating from his earlier projects that mirrored elements of recognizable architecture and design. A group of “Fans” assembled from laser-cut, wooden strips have been stained in a circus-tent palette of red and white. The standard motif in “Fan No. 9” of 2013 gets stretched into comically elongated and shrinking shapes in the works that flank it, fastidiously assembled trompe l’oeil constructions that imitate the ease of computer-manipulated imagery. “To Fan No. 2” winds a swerving pathway painted in lyrical, Paul Klee palettes. Its pensive, musical sensitivity evokes Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars’ collaborative artist book “Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France.” Thicker wood planks drape from two illusory nails in “Grand Amusement,” dyed in hand-mixed yellow, green, blue and pinks that turn its hard structure into gooey taffy pulled in a shop window. Neither fan nor drapery, “Broadway” contains candy-colored dots dancing in between rich navy parquetry panels. The piece calls to mind Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” as well as Michelle Grabner’s colored paper weavings, recently the center of inner art-world hullabaloo.
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Christian Vincent. “Peninsula,” oil on canvas
Christian Vincent’s recent figurative paintings are 2,000 miles removed from what has characterized Chicago figure painting for the past fifty years: invitational instead of confrontational, gently thematic instead of intensely personal, conventional instead of weird, cinematic instead of graphic, pleasant instead of disturbing. Painted in Los Angeles, they might even serve as storyboards for a Hollywood teenage romantic comedy. Read the rest of this entry »
Carlo Dolci. “Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist,” 1665–1970
These forty paintings may not be the best way to exemplify 500 years of Italian painting. They have the stylistic elements but usually not the powerful emotive achievements of that great tradition. There’s only one piece, and a rather decrepit one, done before 1480, so the devotional intensity of the Italian variety of Byzantine icon is hardly evident. Also absent is the bold excitement of the Caravaggisti who are represented here by Antiveduto Gramatica, one of Caravaggio’s teachers who later decided to imitate his famous student. He came up short, just as, in the same gallery, the eighteen-year-old Titian could not yet achieve his later glories. “Christ and the Adulteress” feels like nothing more than a conglomeration of figure and drapery studies. One figure has even been lopped off and reframed over the intervening centuries. Here, it hangs beside the original, and yes, it probably looks better that way. But it’s fascinating to see a powerful mind beginning to assemble the visual elements that Titian will eventually master, just as it’s fascinating to see Carlo Dolci’s life-size depiction of Salome hanging beside an example of his work done fifty years earlier. Dedicated to painting that, in his words, “would inspire the fruits of Christian piety,” Dolci is usually too saccharine for anyone but the faithful. Read the rest of this entry »
Eric Fischl. “Tumbling Woman, Study,” 2012,
glass, 12 x 18 x 14 in.
A bronze sculpture of cavorting figures in the gallery’s front window (“Ten Breaths: Congress of Wits, Study”) belies the artist’s reputation for edginess. By now Fischl (b. 1948) is an old master of contemporary art, famous for sexually provocative paintings like “Bad Boy,” 1981—the title of his recent memoir, incidentally—and for the controversy over “Tumbling Woman,” 2002, a commissioned sculpture for 9/11. This show features a dozen of the artist’s works from the last ten years. Read the rest of this entry »
Milton Resnick. “X Space,” 2001, acrylic on paper,
22 ½” x 30 ½”
Buried beneath the viscous layers of paint, crusted and hardened like the scab on a skinned knee, a preternatural light seems to issue forth from Milton Resnick’s titanic “U and Me.” The light is scattered at first, dappling the edges of two figures—themselves little more than heaving gestures of mottled paint—building in intensity until it finally rains down from the body of a yellow serpent lurking along the painting’s top edge.
It’s a haunting moment in a thoroughly haunted exhibition. Despite the best efforts of our materialist society to rid the world of anything that can’t be quantified, measured and easily referenced, the belief that signs, symbols and images possess a special kind of power is still pervasive. Resnick’s paintings are suffused with this otherworldly magnetism, and nowhere is it more visible than in his many late works-on-paper. Read the rest of this entry »
Whitney Bedford. “Ships (Inviting Catastrophe),” 2014, ink and oil on canvas on panel, 72″ x 120″. Photo by Evan Bedford
There’s a lot of turbulence happening on the smooth white walls of Carrie Secrist Gallery right now. In her current solo show, Whitney Bedford turns calmly rendered seas and skies into apocalyptic landscapes and flaming sonatas.
Within the paintings of expansive seascapes and intricate vessels, the artist’s combination of ink and oil paint create a hybrid of mediums that do not cohesively blend together, but instead build compositions with varying parts and dimensions. Knotty ink lines erect the masts and sails of the ships, while brushstrokes work to construct an atmospheric environment. The low horizon lines in the compositions grant a powerful impression of expansiveness to the air and water, which in turn make the ships appear small and even vulnerable. The expressionistically rendered, volatile waters engulf the boats like a type of unexpected, sudden and inescapable volcanic eruption. Read the rest of this entry »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.
The story of Renaissance painting begins with innovations in naturalism that were a welcome liberation from the schematic strictures of the Byzantine style. Or at least, that’s how the leading art historians of the last century, like Ernst Gombrich, told it. Perhaps that’s why this is the first special exhibition devoted exclusively to Byzantine art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 124 years. But as this exhibition proves, the best Byzantine figurative art in painting, sculpture and mosaic was no less fresh, expressive and exciting than subsequent art periods are known to be. Read the rest of this entry »