Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Eye Exam: Mother of Invention

Activist Art, Artist Profiles, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Pilsen No Comments »
Lise Haller Baggesen. "Mothernism," 2013-14, mixed media audio installation

Lise Haller Baggesen. “Mothernism,” 2013-14,
mixed media audio installation

By Matt Morris

I’m the sort of queer person who hangs out in places where you hear the word “breeder” tossed around; this isn’t really a unifying trait of these places, actually, because I’m often the one saying it. I’m dubious about moves to increase visibility for the material conditions of parents and families. I usually remain unconvinced that these agendas to further elucidate the particulars of family life can resist being co-opted by a forceful patriarchy that rigidly orders gender roles to align with the reproductive determinations of our bodies. It’s a particularly fraught conversation within the art world at least in part because advancements to naturalize current norms threatens cultural producers who aim to innovate and imagine more possibilities for how to live than we’ve previously been offered.

Into the midst of these chilly philosophical divides, artist and writer Lise Haller Baggesen strikes with “Mothernism”—a project comprised of both her traveling multimedia tent installation and a new book released this fall from Green Lantern Press and Poor Farm Press. With the excesses (and excessive generosity) of Baggesen’s artwork and book, she loosens the divide that would place motherhood at odds with a pursuit of rebelling against status quo oppression. As she writes in the book’s chapter “Mother of Demolition”: “Beginning with the old feminist premise of the female as ‘the second sex,’ and lesbianism as a third, I suggest that motherhood is a fourth… and hell, who knows? Maybe menopause is a fifth and so on… Because if we can accept motherhood as one sex among many, we can perhaps relieve the inevitable burden of motherhood perceived as a stagnant destination.” Read the rest of this entry »

Lise Haller Baggesen’s Mothernism: Extended Web Exclusive Interview

Activist Art, Installation, Multimedia, Oak Park, Painting, Pilsen 1 Comment »
Lise Haller Baggesen. "Mothernism," 2013-14, mixed media audio installation, during one of the artist's readings at Ordinary Projects

Lise Haller Baggesen. “Mothernism,” 2013-14,
mixed media audio installation,
during one of the artist’s readings at Ordinary Projects


On October 2, I previewed Lise Baggesen’s “Mothernism” installation at Ordinary Projects in the Mana Contemporary building (2233 South Throop in Pilsen). We took off our shoes and climbed into the tent that serves as an interactive centerpiece to the exhibition. What follows is an abridged version of our rich conversation about Mothernism the book and the artwork. (Matt Morris)


Newcity: What compelled you to write Mothernism?

Lise Baggesen: The book grew out of my thesis project, and the funny thing was that actually at the time the book was not supposed to have been written, because I was trying to escape making a formal written thesis. Visual and Critical Studies is a part of Art History [at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago], so a lot of the people in it, probably half of the group, went through it in a purely theoretical, academic track, and a lot of them have moved on to PhDs now. The other half of us had studio practices, but I think I was the only one in the group with a really long studio practice before I came to VCS.

At some point I got really frustrated, particularly in the first year there was so much emphasis on the theory. They were still talking about this post-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary way, but they were more talking the talk than walking the walk, I found. And so I did a project in Joseph [Grigely]’s Research and Production class where I started using this alter ego. The first one was Alice B. Ross, and she’s more of a loner than the subsequent Queen Leeba. Leeba is more family-oriented than Alice is. Alice is more of a hermit recluse who will go back to the studio and make love only once, but dream and dream. Her notes to self really became about the studio practice as this space where your voices can live. She dabbles in theories about quantum physics and David Bowie and Doctor Seuss and ‘un-slumping’ yourself and how the studio practice can be that un-slumping’ and how it can also be the slump that you find yourself in.

That project really became an eye opener for me about how writing could become a part of my studio practice rather than just being the writing you do about your studio practice, through writing artist statements and all this stuff. Suddenly it was a point when the writing informed the work while it was being made and dared me to go places where I wouldn’t have done. For instance, Alice made these really big velvet Morris Louis glitter paintings. I was not sure about that, but Alice would totally do it. I was in conversation with this voice I’d put into the world that then became a type of daring.

The first half of writing the thesis in VCS is a lot of group talk, you know, group think—throwing it out there, pulling it apart. Kind of rigorous… I’ve just said ‘kind of rigorous’ which is terrible. What happened was that every time I brought motherhood into this kind of conversation, there were a lot of people among my peers that really wanted to shut the conversation down. They were like, ‘We don’t want to hear about this mothering here. You can’t bring it up as a feminist in art discourse. We don’t want to hear about it, and we don’t want to talk about it.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Roger Brown: Virtual Still Life/Russell Bowman Art Advisory

Painting, River North, Sculpture No Comments »
Roger Brown. "VSL # 8: Vases with a View," 1995, oil on canvas, mixed media

Roger Brown. “VSL # 8: Vases with a View,” 1995,
oil on canvas, mixed media

RECOMMENDED

The eleven examples at Russell Bowman Art Advisory of Chicago artist Roger Brown’s Virtual Still Life series, created before his death in 1997, consist of patterned oil landscapes with attached ledges that mostly hold a myriad of found ceramic containers. As an avid accumulator of artful tchotchkes, Brown was certainly no stranger to placing objects on shelves and these last works gather up parts of his collection to dwell with his paintings in the fine art world. Though Brown’s estate ultimately ended up safe in the hands of caring institutions, it is touching to see these hand-picked artifacts saved by their incorporation into paintings. Like heirlooms conferred to deserving children these objects were promised a continued life of appreciation beyond the loving eyes of their vanished curator. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Andrew Falkowski/Paris London Hong Kong

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Andrew Falkowski. "Arrow 1"

Andrew Falkowski. “Arrow 1″

RECOMMENDED

Lacking in brush strokes, with a few exceptions gracefully minimal, Andrew Falkowski exhibits a kind of meticulously designed beauty in “Light/Industry/Coating.” The squares seem to be less of color than from color, immaculately applied prismatic fields so perfect in their lacquering as to be almost completely absent of texture, superannuated medium plucked from the industrious hands of pharaonic hieroglyphers and applied with industrial precision and mechanical grace—a flat, faultless plane broken only by the viewer’s reflection. By the overt insertion of humanity, our own imperfections become the work’s, the faults in the machine beget by us. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Tim Leeming

Artist Profiles, Oak Park, Painting No Comments »
Ted Leeming at a recent exhibition opening. Photo by Kelcey Leeming.

Tim Leeming at a recent exhibition opening/Photo: Kelcey Leeming

Tim Leeming paints to accommodate the world rather than escape or celebrate it. Though he shows with the Plein Air Painters of Chicago, his depictions of festering dumpsters beneath a gunmetal sky really don’t fit there. Rather than the qualities of sunlight and a nostalgic sense of place, he’s more about how life feels, and for the past five years he’s felt immersed in Chicago alleys, teeming with the energy of urban life, but not its bright and shiny side. As an attorney in the office of Cook County Public Defender, he’s more familiar with the world of drugs, murder, rape, robbery and mayhem.

While walking or driving through the city, Leeming hunts for views that satisfy his pursuit of compositional balance. When he can’t work on site, he snaps a photo, taking it back to the studio, a small corner in the basement of his family home, marked off by a strip of blue tape on the cement floor. He selects a limited, muted palette for each painting and then applies it in gutsy, calligraphic brush strokes to resolve whatever compositional elements are involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jackie Tileston/Zg Gallery

Painting, River North No Comments »
Jackie Tileston."Recollection Station," mixed media on linen

Jackie Tileston.”Recollection Station,” mixed media on linen

RECOMMENDED

Jackie Tileston’s new paintings in “Field Guide to Elsewhere” look as if they are running along the walls of Zg Gallery. Canvas to canvas, she achieves motion with her use and command of several types of media including enamel, oil, Conté crayons, spray paint and dry pigment. In addition to the colorful, pyrotechnic landscapes that result from these materials and her studied use of them, the negative space further contributes to their kinetic feel. The landscapes are expanding and changing and these blank areas of the canvas, left only with residual washes of paint, furthers a sense of speedy movement and flight from a point of origin. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kim Piotrowski/Linda Warren Projects

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Kim Piotrowski. "Tide Tango, 2014, ink and flashe on gallery wall

Kim Piotrowski. “Tide Tango, 2014, ink and flashe on gallery wall

RECOMMENDED

The sheer intensity and level of attack sustained in painter Kim Piotrowski’s first solo show with Linda Warren Projects remained palpable days after I viewed it. In art, first impressions aren’t always reliable, and exhibitions that linger on in the back of your mind usually signal something deeper. Maybe what you initially thought was good really wasn’t, and what looked like failure was actually success in disguise.

Packed with evocative titles and equally suggestive shapes, the show’s twenty-plus works heave and ripple, yielding a sensory overload of glistening bodies enmeshed in an orgy of pleasure. Piotrowski’s slick black line is almost always upfront, potent and seductive, whipping the eye through multi-hued compositions while exposing fragmentary glimpses of any number of vaguely recognizable objects. In the wrong hands, this is the stuff of clichéd, rapidly deployed, easy-bake abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Magalie Guérin/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Painting, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Magalie Guérin. "Untitled (hat-profile), 2013-14, oil on canvas

Magalie Guérin. “Untitled (hat-profile),” 2013-14, oil on canvas

RECOMMENDED

Modest in size but not shy at all, five colorful oil paintings by Magalie Guérin dance with each other across Corbett vs. Dempsey’s west wing. The dance is a type of choreographed freestyle—alive, morphing and flirtatious, the canvases beckon toward viewers to come closer. Through the physicality of the paintings’ surfaces, one can easily trace the artist’s mark and extensive process of rework. Colorful shapes float, overlap and morph together at the mercy of the artist and the observation of the audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Burn It Down/Heaven Gallery

Installation, Painting, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Larry Lee's installation in Heaven Gallery's "Burn It Down"

Larry Lee. “Monument for Saul Alinsky as ribbed condominium,” 2014, polystyrene, enamel, acetate and Sharpie

RECOMMENDED

Why do so many of our riots end in flames? Why do we feel drawn to sit around a campfire? We burn, in part, because fire is what birthed civilization. Fire, like man, can destroy what is old, be the life-giver to something new, or consume us all. Curator of “Burn It Down” Paul Hopkin explores fire’s dualities, and our complex relationship to it.

Read the rest of this entry »