Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Erik Weisenburger/Perimeter Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
Erik Weisenburger. "Fourteen Point Staghorn Sumac," 2014 oil on panel

Erik Weisenburger. “Fourteen Point Staghorn Sumac,” 2014
oil on panel

RECOMMENDED

These sixteen visions of life in the north woods take us into that cheerfully lonely natural world once celebrated in Thoreau’s “Walden.” But there’s more whimsy than morality here, with no sense of the heroic in either the rustic environment or the souls who inhabit it. Erik Weisenburger’s technique is more about building an imaginative oil painting in the studio than in re-experiencing a view of actual fields and woods. His images glow with the inner light of early Northern European painting, and share that genre’s fanatical attention to detail, as if infinite time had been taken to perfect the design and execution of every square inch. No act of concentrated focus goes unrewarded. As with early German painters like Albrecht Altdorfer, he often offers the delicious effect of black, tangled, sharply drawn branches silhouetted against a glowing blue sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Paula Henderson/Linda Warren Projects

Drawings, Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Paula Henderson. "Traffic Patterns," 2012 acrylic and ink on canvas

Paula Henderson. “Traffic Patterns,” 2012
acrylic and ink on canvas

RECOMMENDED

The brutal abstraction of the human body is among the most beautiful and appalling motifs one could hope to work in or imbibe; there are images online, untold millions of them, people made into pieces, and these ghoulish tableau are debrided, are rendered by the mind, instantaneously, as corn syrup and food coloring and irrigation tubing, because the alternative is simply beyond benign processing. Beautiful violence is real, if maligned; surely I cannot be the only one who views a list of “Photoshop fails!” and is overcome by a desire to steer into the spin, to take the neck-elongating, rib-removing joint floating all the way to the screaming bloody edge and drape our finest fashions on plasticine horrors, Jean Paul Gaultier-cum-John Carpenter; surely the line between pulchritude and terror is thin, as thin as the flesh rent in its creation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: DOGS CHASE BALLS/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Art Books, Installation, Painting, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Josh Reames. "Infinite Scroll (#1)" and "Infinite Scroll (#2)," both 2014, acrylic on canvas

Josh Reames. “Infinite Scroll (#1)” and “Infinite Scroll (#2),” both 2014, acrylic on canvas

RECOMMENDED

DOGS CHASE BALLS is a show for, (occasionally) by, and about our four-legged companions, with many of the works situated low to the ground for convenience of canine access and interaction (dogs are welcome and frequently present in the gallery throughout the run of the show). NO SPACE, the Mexico-based duo comprised of cool kids Débora Delmar and Andrew Birk, curated this group effort and contributed two pieces. Tennis balls stenciled with their logo are scattered throughout the gallery; evidence of interaction exists in the form of ricochet marks on Secrist’s white walls. A video loop showing happy pups using these props projects onto the floor, harkening to the curatorial impetus for the show (witnessing the unadulterated joy of a dog playing with a ball). The film is a virtual who’s who of Chicago’s art pupperati: breakout stars are Vincent Uribe’s Milo and Wolfie Rawk’s Rudi. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: James Ensor/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
James Ensor. "The Temptation of Saint Anthony," 1887

James Ensor. “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887

RECOMMENDED

James Ensor’s six-foot-tall drawing “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887, is the exhibition’s thematic and physical centerpiece, set like an altarpiece at the end of a dark, chapel-like corridor. It’s a dense tangle of scary figures and texts, and a teeming universe of references to the artist’s life. The Art Institute wisely bought it in 2006; it hasn’t been shown in sixty years. Composed of fifty-one separate sheets mounted on canvas, it’s a conservation triumph. Stylistically, it’s a cross between Northern Renaissance art and the cramped doodles of underground comics. Indeed, Ensor’s drawing-based art was expressed in almost every two-dimensional media, including the then-new manufactured color pencils. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman/Roman Susan

Ceramics, Installation, Painting, Rogers Park, Textiles No Comments »
Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman. "Living to Work Together," installation view at Roman Susan

Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neuman. “Living to Work Together,” installation view at Roman Susan

RECOMMENDED

“Please take off your shoes” welcomes viewers as they enter Roman Susan to seek refuge from the barren cold. Playfully enhanced with black painted bubble letters and animated stick-like legs, the five words sprawl across the front wall of the gallery. Their placement is not only a polite request for compliance, but also an invitation to actively participate. Take off your shoes, as to not ruin the floor. Take off your shoes, so your feet may stand where ours have.

In Alex Bradley Cohen and Marissa Neurman’s collaborative room-sized installation piece, “Living to Work Together,” a mixture of primary colors and bold shapes have been stitched, painted, stapled and strung across all facades of the space, beginning with the floor. The carpeting has been transformed into a type of jigsaw puzzle composed of large triangular pieces of felt that have been first fitted and then visibly sewn together. The sharp shapes further reinforce the abnormal, angular floor plan of the gallery, as do a series of patterned ceramic pieces that politely form a line on a shelf that stretches diagonally in front of the gallery’s storefront window. In the window hang three large-scale felt tapestries that lack the calculated, flat appearance of the floor; instead their odd shapes and snippets of varying colors layer atop each other like unmixed paint on a canvas. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Kruger Gallery Chicago Reopens in New Lakeview Location

Lakeview, News etc., Painting No Comments »
Installation view of Heather Green's upcoming exhibition in Kruger Gallery Chicago's new location

Installation view of Heather Green’s upcoming exhibition in Kruger Gallery Chicago’s new location

This Friday, January 16, Kruger Gallery Chicago (KGC) reopens in its new 1,300-square-foot space in Lakeview at 3709 North Southport with a solo exhibition of new work by Chicago-based artist Heather Green. Kruger was previously located in River North where, owner and director Mikelle Kruger explains, it has been dedicated to an avant-garde model that art can be a mediator for political and social change and showcasing emerging artists working with an array of design and media. After an initial six-month run in 2011 as a sort of pop-up gallery in the River North arts district, Kruger took three years off to focus on siting a more permanent home. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Even Formalist Artistry Is for Living

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Suburban, West Loop No Comments »
Edmund Chia. "Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin," 2013

Edmund Chia. “Diagram 02 for New Architecture with David Salkin,” 2013

By Matt Morris

This is not a roundup of fiber art exhibitions currently on view around town, though that temptation perpetually lingers because at any given moment in Chicago there are plenty of artists exhibiting smart hybrids of textile and painting, fiber art and installation. This is no doubt attributable in part to the Fiber and Material Studies department at SAIC—still a rarity with few comparable programs around the country—and more generally the deconstructive, interdisciplinary thrust of most of the fine arts programs to be found here. The aftereffects of Modernism in Chicago aren’t really the Greenbergian isolation and purification of a medium’s potential; instead, painting’s frequent conflation with sewing is a recurrent signal of a Modernist project to apply the arts broadly across other parts of life—keenly designed forms for living integrated with art-making as was seen in the De Stijl and Bauhaus (and its offspring, Chicago’s New Bauhaus begun in the late 1930s). Modest and succinct or madly layered, a few artists’ current projects carry us into this new year with propositions for art’s visual and material elements brought in various proximities of closeness to the lives being lived around its production. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ben Herr/McCormick Gallery

Collage, Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Ben Herr. "Transformation Ritual," 2006, oil and collage on canvas, 31 3/4" x 32"

Ben Herr. “Transformation Ritual,” 2006,
oil and collage on canvas, 31 3/4″ x 32″

RECOMMENDED

This exhibition is about Abstract Expression as a lifestyle. After beginning a promising art career in the 1950s, Ben Herr (born 1935) moved back to rural Lancaster Pennsylvania in 1960 to pursue a different profession and better provide for his growing family. But his life in painting continued, and over the past few years has come back as strong as ever, recalling the antic playfulness of Paul Klee and the jazzy intensity of Romare Bearden. This is his first one-person commercial gallery show in more than thirty years. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lucy McKenzie/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Painting, Video No Comments »
Lucy McKenzie. "Quodlibet XXXII," 2014

Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014

RECOMMENDED

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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Review: Clare E. Rojas/Kavi Gupta

Painting, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Clare E. Rojas. "Untitled," 2014, oil on linen, and "Untitled," 2014, fabric paint on French vintage linen farm dress

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 »