Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Feminism (n.): Plural/Woman Made Gallery

Multimedia, Photography, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Frances F. Denny. "Friendship,"  archival pigment print, 32" × 21"

Frances F. Denny. “Across the Universe,”
archival pigment print, 32″ × 21″

RECOMMENDED

“We can all be feminists,” is the emerging motto of today’s feminism, and it rings clear in “Feminism (n.): Plural,” curated by recently appointed director Claudine Isé. The exhibition was inspired by Roxane Gay’s 2014 book “Bad Feminist.” She proclaims, “When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.” The exhibition displays a range of issues pertinent to women today, across borders, race, age and personal experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rim Lee/Japonais

Painting, Photography, River North No Comments »
Rim Lee. "Beyond Max Ernst No. 1."

Rim Lee. “Beyond Max Ernst No. 1.”

The subterranean “Blue Room Lounge” at Japonais is a dark, sleek, somewhat claustrophobic space, currently host to three photographs by Rim Lee, a project organized by Kasia Kay Gallery that shares in the space’s qualities. Each one centers on a pair of nude and nubile female torsos that sharply defines a sexual, but not a personal, identity. Like celebrants at a masked ball, their faces are not shown, so the various hips and breasts belong to a world of psychosexual fantasy more than to any particular person. In one image, the faces are turned away, staring at the artist’s own painting which depicts a disembodied, non-gendered human face emerging above a flaccid pillar. It’s an obvious reference to the work of Max Ernst, after whom this work, and the entire exhibition, has been named. But it may also represent an awkward self identity that hasn’t yet caught up with the sexual maturity of the figures staring at it. Indeed, there is something girlish about all three photographs that seem to rest between the comfortable, well-ordered world of a happy childhood—and the confusing, sometimes dangerous, world of adults. In the other two images, giant bird masks cover the heads of the two attractive nudes. Covered with fluffy down instead of feathers, the birds are more like oversized chicks than adults who have already flown the nest. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: European Edge/Berlanga Fine Art

Photography, River North No Comments »
Jan Saudek. "Ilary Make Up," 1983

Jan Saudek. “Ilary Make Up,” 1983

RECOMMENDED

For the inaugural exhibition at his new photography gallery, Paul Berlanga has put together works of five leading European modernists: Lucien Clergue, György Kepes, Jan Saudek, Petra Skoupilová and Rutger ten Broeke, all in black and white, with the addition in Saudek’s case of subtle coloring. The “edge” referred to in the show’s title is decidedly surrealist, with the contributors using different strategies, approaches, and concepts to convey the visual strangeness, bordering and often falling into eeriness, that is surrealism’s hallmark.

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Portrait of the Artist: Esau McGhee

Collage, Garfield Park, Logan Square, Photography No Comments »
Esau McGhee in his East Garfield Park studio

Esau McGhee in his East Garfield Park studio

“My collage work is about this collective experience that we all share with public spaces,” explains Esau McGhee. “It doesn’t matter, you could be a fifty-year-old white Jewish chick or a young Latino male. It’s not my space, it’s not your space, it’s really ours, and it’s going through an evolution as dictated by us and our shared experience with it.”

As an African-American man who grew up as a self-proclaimed “ghetto kid” and ended up a professional artist by way of high-end, private fine art programs at SAIC and Northwestern, McGhee thinks a lot about how people from different races and economic classes relate to one another. He believes that people from different backgrounds can connect with one another through their shared visual experiences. With a studio based in the quintessentially urban East Garfield Park, McGhee’s practice intuitively incorporates the patterns of city landscapes, evoking a mood that city dwellers from all backgrounds could relate to—and with his most recent exhibitions being in the very different Elastic Arts, Union League Club and the Hyde Park Art Center, people from all different backgrounds have had a chance to.
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Review: Ian Pedigo/65GRAND

Digital Art, Installation, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Ian Pedigo, "Lights Have Gone Out," 2015 bone, plastic, metal, wood, paint, carpet, 60" x 65" x 30"

Ian Pedigo, “Lights Have Gone Out,” 2015
bone, plastic, metal, wood, paint, carpet, 60″ x 65″ x 30″

RECOMMENDED

Using found quotidian materials, Ian Pedigo assembles sculptural installations that lyricize banal details of our domestic and built environments. In his exhibition at 65Grand, “The Arrows Like Soft Moon Beams,” the New York-based artist reveals three larger-than-human-size totems which nod to Surrealism and resonate particularly well in Chicago, with its rich culture of spaces (6018North) and makers (Alberto Aguilar, Edra Soto) who turn the domestic into the poetic. In “From the Crown to the Earth” a six-foot-tall panel of black stone grounds the playful figural arrangement of a green plastic bowl lampshade with dangling disco ball earrings. Another grouping converts disembodied chair legs into a wing-like form, hung from a floorboard suspended upside down with a backdrop of blinds. “Lights Have Gone Out” features a candelabra painted matte-black which is simultaneously real, faux, classic and kitsch. Pedigo combines elements from different time periods and vacillates between natural and artificial materials, resulting in both visual stimulation and a sense of suspended timelessness.
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Review: Aimée Beaubien/Johalla Projects

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view of Aimeé Beaubien's "Twist-flip-tremble-trace" at Johalla Projects

Installation view of Aimeé Beaubien’s “Twist-flip-tremble-trace” at Johalla Projects

RECOMMENDED

There is a video-game term that applies to art making, called “leveling up.” It’s when you make it to the next round, when you discover something game-changing, when you go out on a limb and make such a big step in the right direction that you are suddenly on a higher plane. You leveled up.

Local photographer Aimée Beaubien leveled up with her new body of work, “Twist-flip-tremble-trace.” She took her collages off the wall, weaving strips of photographs together to create the effect of psychedelic cobwebs, held together with dowels and clothespins so that they stand up and command space in the room. These Wonderlandian creatures are precariously perched on cartoonish furniture—an orange painted ironing board, a mirrored pedestal, a low, hot pink table, often incorporating ceramic jugs and glass bottles. Smaller works sit on shelves and hang on the walls, including some new, two-dimensional works, acting as satellites to their larger counterparts. The result is a dizzying installation of optically wiggling, animal-like forms. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Showcase/Schneider Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Rebecca Memoli. “The Mess We've Made,”  inkjet and acrylic on canvas, 15” x 10"

Rebecca Memoli. “The Mess We’ve Made,”
inkjet and acrylic on canvas, 15” x 10″

RECOMMENDED

Among the nine photographers and photo-artists on display in Schneider Gallery’s clean new space, two newcomers, Rebecca Memoli and Doug McGoldrick, offer the most magnetic and arresting images by taking the timeworn move of painting or drawing on photos in new and provocative directions. Memoli, who does constructed tabletop still lifes, paints so finely and precisely on her base photographic image, which she has printed on canvas, that she succeeds in taking revenge on photo-realist painting, to the point of leaving indiscernible traces of the bare base image to show through the facade. The photo-realists simulated photography, whereas Memoli simulates painting. She also composes beguiling arrangements of objects, such as in “The Mess We’ve Made,” where we see a kitchen counter filled with dishes and utensils, some unwashed, lying on their sides in an elegant jumble, presided over by a poster of the bygone crooner, Mario Lanza. This is a scenario at which to stare in order to experience its humor. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: If the Lions Aren’t Cowardly, Who Is?

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Charl Landvreugd. "Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe," 2014 archival inkjet print

Charl Landvreugd. “Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe,” 2014
archival inkjet print

By Matt Morris

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) is presently host to a fashion parade poised in lithe contestation of dominant racist portrayals of the contemporary urban black man as a streetwise predator, marked as such by codes of dress that lie between stereotypes of gangster, pimp and deadbeat. Enter the “Dandy Lion,” a cultural phenomenon curator Shantrelle P. Lewis here examines as a counterpoint to the sagging cliché. A fetish for fine tailoring, nostalgic forms of menswear interpreted through the performances and rituals of dress found variously in African cultures, an elegant, highly crafted self-image, and adept showmanship: these are among a dandy lion’s hallmarks. As Lewis notes in her curator’s statement, “[T]he African Diasporan dandy cleverly manipulates clothing and attitude to exert his agency rather than succumb to the limited ideals placed on him by society. He performs identity. Most importantly, an integral part of this rebellion entails posing before a camera.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Imaginary Landscapes/Mana Contemporary

Installation, Painting, Photography, Pilsen, Sculpture, Textiles No Comments »
Assaf Evron. “Untitled (Athens and Oraibi)”

Assaf Evron. “Untitled (Athens and Oraibi)”

RECOMMENDED

In this compact exhibition curated by Allison Glenn, landscape serves as a metaphorical ground for four artists’ expansive manipulations of imaginary sites. Each of the works evince traces of fragmentation, collapse and compression, processes that appear here as gestures enacted on sites that are more the spaces of memory and history than they are physical terrains. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mr. Imagination/Intuit

Photography, River West, Sculpture No Comments »
"Mr. Imaginations Horse" by dimitre.

“Mr. Imagination’s Horse,” by Dimitre Photography Inc. Bethlehem, PA, July 2006

RECOMMENDED

Mr. Imagination is a Chicago treasure—in the same rank as Chicago outsider artists Henry Darger and Vivian Maier—and this is his first Chicago retrospective. Raised in Maywood, Gregory Warmack (1948-2012) was shot in the stomach during a mugging and had art-inspiring visions while in a coma. Art dealer Carl Hammer began representing him in 1983 and throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Mr. I achieved national renown, winning major commissions. After a move to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a 2008 fire destroyed his studio (some fire-enhanced pieces are included here). North Siders may remember Mr. I’s studio on Clark with its sign: “Welcome to the World of Mr. Imagination,” the title of the present show. It’s a world of stern playfulness and a street spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »