Hassan Hajjaj. “Miriam,” 2010.
Metallic lambda print on 3mm white dibond, 53 x 36 ¾ inches/Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.
Revising the art historical canon to account for a variety of erasures is a commendable curatorial endeavor, but one is perpetually challenged to find new methods to add value to such well-worn conversations. This summer group exhibition takes on tropes related to race, gender and caste by offering fresh alternatives to the history of Western portraiture. Individually, the works of Rashayla Marie Brown, Hassan Hajjaj, Rashid Johnson, Ebony G. Patterson, Amy Sherald, William Villalongo and Nina Chanel Abney are colorful, multifaceted and visually complex; together, they feel oddly muted and restrained. Pronouncements of individual agitation rise up, but the gathering of disparate voices does not make for lively conversation.
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Activist Art, Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Sculpture
Installation view, “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. “Give us a Poem,” 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay, MCA Chicago.
By Elliot J. Reichert
Each time I venture deeper into the tangled economy of art making and its contingent endeavors, I ask myself: What good is art? I am not an artist, but I work with artists and artworks every day. By all accounts, I should believe deeply in art, and yet I routinely question its value. As such, when I go to look at art, I often search in it for signs of doubt, and I am usually comforted to know that I am not alone in my questioning. For if contemporary art can be united under one banner, it would be doubt itself: doubt about politics, about social relations, about economic and class structures, about the very importance of human life. Ironically, this might be why I gravitate toward art in the first place, despite my ambivalence toward its significance. Art turns my fears into forms; it makes real what I cannot, or do not want, to imagine. Read the rest of this entry »
Pickleman amidst some of his collection.
Graphic designer Jason Pickleman has opened up a gallery at 4755 North Clark that he is calling Lawrence & Clark (L&C). Pickleman is no stranger to the arts, as a practicing artist and a graphic designer who has created iconic logos for Avec, the Wit Hotel and many more. A rare breed in these times, L&C will be a collection-based gallery, showcasing work that Pickleman owns, the majority of which he purchased in Chicago over more than thirty years of living and working here. Read the rest of this entry »
Nina Chanel Abney
Nina Chanel Abney stands in front of a large auditorium full of people. It’s 2011, and she’s just been welcomed to the stage of Washington D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, where she’s giving a visiting-artist lecture. “I’m a little nervous, but it’s been very humbling to be a part of the ‘30 Americans’ exhibition,” she begins. “Just four years ago, I was in school and I signed up for an artist studio tour and we went to Kehinde Wiley and Wangechi Mutu’s studios—and now I’m in a show with them and it’s a little bit weird.” With a smiling mouth and quivering voice, she continues. “This is my first lecture, so I hope I do a good job for you guys.”
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Brandon Anschultz. “Spearmint,” 2015
oil, watercolor, gouache on canvas, 11″ x 8.5″/Photo: Eileen Mueller
Contemporary art so often pursues the aesthetics of surprise that it takes a willful suspension of disbelief to find anything unexpected. In this way, the curation of the Brandon Anschultz exhibition is not especially surprising. A large wooden plank hangs casually over a balcony as if it had not yet been installed. A small sculpture is hidden away on a remote window sill; another has been placed in a dark corner on the floor, though an attached wire indicates that it was fabricated to hang from above. None of this seems unusual, nor do the drippy-glob sculptures that were made by dipping ordinary objects, like shoes, repeatedly into buckets of thick paint. So much of the world is messy and chaotic, there is nothing strange about one more room of it.
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Dont Fret. “Saturday Night Fever,” 2015.
Acrylic on paper.
“There are only two seasons in Chicago,” reads the poster pasted on a utility box, “Winter and construction.” The last time that I encountered the work of Dont Fret in the wild there was snow on the ground. Summer finds the artist moving from works on the street back into the gallery with little difficulty, but some trepidation.
At Johalla Projects, a group of works on paper cover one wall, each of them functioning individually, but all fitting together as a conceptual whole. Mixed in are purposely ham-fisted, muddy-colored abstractions with phrases like “Hi, I’m an idea based painting” or “I like his early work better.” These are perhaps a nod to the “zombie formalism” debates from last year and including a good bit of the artist’s own anxiety about his place in the art ecosystem. He needn’t worry about the art world silliness. Dont Fret is still at his best in his depictions of Chicago life and Chicagoans. The details and insights in his art can only come from years spent observing the changes to the city and the people, and from those quiet moments of profundity that come from a history of experience. Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of “Cosmosis” at the Hyde Park Art Center/Photo: Tom Van Eynde
The works presented in “Cosmosis” celebrate outer space’s contemporary moment while exploring the increasing overlap between popular culture, scientific inquiry and artistic production. The dense but balanced group show features muted 2D works which offset the scale and ambition of sculpture and media counterparts; great emphasis is placed in the ability of these images and objects to act as agents of communication and interpretation. Read the rest of this entry »
Timothy J. Clark. “Vernazza, 1994,” 1994
watercolor on paper
Exemplified by Brunelleschi’s demonstration of one-point perspective in depicting the Baptistery in Florence 500 years ago, Renaissance pictorial space was built to encompass ecclesiastic architecture, and it’s been the standard for European painters to either meet or disrupt ever since. Watercolorist Timothy J. Clark has joined that tradition in his depictions of Baroque churches. Following Monet’s renditions of Rouen Cathedral, he has emphasized the qualities of light and shadow rather than space and volume. But the gravitas, once thought appropriate for such revered subjects, just isn’t there. Nor is the vibrant excitement that an Impressionist like John Singer Sargent could give to the effects of strong Mediterranean light falling on Italian buildings. Read the rest of this entry »
Linnea Gabriella Spransy. “Repeat, Like Nothing Ever Has Been,” 2015
acrylic on canvas, 78″ x 72″
Aside from the obvious aesthetic concerns of making objects of lasting beauty, the central problem of abstraction has always been one of style and technique. More specifically, it has been the search for a technique that yields and animates an autographic or signature style as unique as the painter’s vision. It’s a lot harder than it sounds: as evidence, witness the cliché-ridden failures of abstract painting’s supposed “comeback” visible at any given art fair.
All the more reason then to celebrate the seven artists whose works comprise the concentrated, diverse and yet seamlessly integrated “Abstraction: A Visual Language” at Rhona Hoffman Gallery. That these artists are also women is a fact worth highlighting in its own right, but let’s be clear: these are damn good painters first and foremost who make singular works that defy easy categorization. Read the rest of this entry »
Claire Sherman. “Rock Wall,” 2015
oil on canvas, 84″ x 72″
Paint purists, oil enthusiasts and lovers of all things gooey can get their fix at Kavi Gupta right now. Claire Sherman’s current show, “Funeral Mountain” blends Romantic-era geological drama with mid-century action painting, modernizing it by default in the process. The show is comprised of six large paintings of rock walls and three of caves, each one simple and sophisticated but strikingly generous with its labor and beauty. Read the rest of this entry »