Bertram Litoff. “Untitled,” c. 2003-2005, digital photographs of paused live television, 4″ x 7″ prints.
The group show “Documentia,” which explores the drive to document from meditative to compulsory, feels right at home in SideCar, an old residential house that has been converted into exhibition space. The most remarkable work was not created by a trained artist but rather found by curator Erik Wenzel: digital photographs of still-frame prime-time television taken by amateur photographer Bertram Litoff. Displayed in simple clear sleeves in rows of three, many of the images focus on TV news personalities reminiscent of Robert Heinecken’s 1980s “Newswomen,” but Litoff’s inclusion of random animal scenes confuses any linear narrative for his hunting. Read the rest of this entry »
Jungjin Lee. “Unnamed Road 014,” 2011
archival pigment print, 40 x 78.5 inches, ed. of 3
Printing her large-format black-and-white landscape photographs on Korean rice paper, on which she has meticulously and elegantly brushed photographic emulsion, and then made digital prints of the images, Jungjin Lee produces haunting and faded yet distinct impressions of the deserts of Israel and the West Bank of Palestine in her “Unnamed Roads” series. There is not a hint of the political conflict that wracks the region in Lee’s work. Indeed, she has removed as much context as possible from her images by naming each one with only the exhibition’s title, although they sometimes depict cities, ruins and distinctive rock formations. Lee’s point is that current events are merely rippling sand swirls on the surface of an immovable human condition, in which past contingencies leave their marks that are subsumed under persistent particularized forms that she captures with her view camera. Read the rest of this entry »
Lori Felker. “A Trip to Always Falls,” 2015,
video projection and headphones, seventeen-minute loop
“Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure” declares its ethos with clarity and directness in advance of any art. There is no irony in this claim nor in the work, a diverse presentation of mixed media that represents the culmination of six artists’ recent Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH residencies. Curated by HATCH resident Erin Toale, the exhibition meditates on David Foster Wallace’s notion of the “anti-rebel,” an imagined figure whose earnest and dogged effort, Foster suggests, might be the much needed antidote to all that is too cool in today’s hip culture. Accordingly, the artists here are visibly struggling, not with the quest of “making it” but with questions of practice and identity, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »
Alison Ruttan in her installation “A Line in the Sand,” at the Chicago Cultural Center
“My husband says the FBI knows what I’m doing because I have a heat signature constantly going,” chuckles artist Alison Ruttan as she leads me into the basement of her cozy Oak Park home. We pass from her living room lined with artworks by Ruttan’s husband Scott Stack and neighbor Sabina Ott into a series of chamber-like rooms with low ceilings and cement floors, all brimming with remnants of unused pieces from “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” which occupies the Cultural Center’s three Michigan Avenue galleries. Read the rest of this entry »
John Gossage. “Wihelmstr., (Berlin in the Time of the Wall),” 1988
A visual poet, practicing photography in the classical modernist tradition of straight urban street studies, John Gossage has continued that line for more than three decades, not so much altering the genre as adding to its richness with technical embellishments and by projecting his particular sensibility into his images. Among Gossage’s many bodies of work, gallerist Stephen Daiter has chosen to display the artist’s black-and-white silver gelatin impressions of Berlin, Germany in the 1980s, and his current series of color photos, shot in Italy, of found arrangements of common objects—recalling still lifes—with a decidedly ramshackle and disordered look. Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of Creeping Toward The Light at Julius Caesar
Described as a “collaboration” between organizer and artist, rather than a straightforward comparison, “Creeping Toward The Light” at Julius Caesar features artist Stevie Hanley alongside one of JC’s directorial personalities, Roland Miller. The small exhibition space, dominated by Hanley’s large, banner-like assemblies, has the effect of a curious, colorful maze.
The floor is chrome throughout, treated with a foil wrapping. Miller has installed several slightly larger-than-life-sized prints of women cut out and affixed directly to the wall. Their color and visual texture is glitched, implying inversions, blow-outs and missing data. Brilliance and lurid aesthetic moments become occlusions—obnoxious, pink rhinestones are glued to the picture glass floated just a hair above a collage by Miller, covering a serial repetition of sexual penetrations. Glints that blind, rather than illuminate. That these explicit moments are not totally concealed gives way to that naughty impulse to peak around the glittery censor. Read the rest of this entry »
Garth and Pierre. “HEAD(S),” 2014
photographs mounted to bank pins
Among the four wildly diverse approaches to representing the human body photographically on display here, Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s is the most inventive, although not the most meaningful. Dewey-Hagborg picks up cigarette butts and discarded chewing gum off the city sidewalks (depicted in her color shots), subjects the detritus to DNA analysis, runs the genetic profiles through a facial algorithm, and produces 3D resin portraits that presumably resemble the people who left the remains of their consumption for the scavenger-artist to appropriate (the droppings also grace her mini-installation). The three particular subjects whose faces look out at us from the gallery wall are all young, attractive and relentlessly clean, with an airbrushed appearance that belies the butts and gum from which they have been reconstructed. Read the rest of this entry »
Jordi Colomer. “Anarchitekton (Barcelona, Bucharest, Brasilia, Osaka),” 2002–04
4 single channel video projection, silent
Barcelona: 5 min; Bucharest: 3 min; Brasilia: 3 min 49 sec; Osaka: 1 min 49 sec
Updating Barry Schwabsky’s 2012 label “retromodernism,” Colby Chamberlain coined the term “domestic modernism” to describe Margaret Lee’s recent installation of facsimiles depicting twentieth-century art and design icons. Noting that, “apparently Brancusi duplicates are trending,” Chamberlain compared Lee’s model of Brancusi’s “Endless Column” to another shown by Josephine Meckseper in 2013, highlighting their affinity in evoking department store displays. Now featured in the group show “MetaModern” at the Krannert Museum, William Cordova’s tribute to the Brancusi monument—a column of lampshades inverted in an alternating rhythm and lit from within—similarly evokes a retail aura. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle also replicates a Brancusi phallus, but with a more aeronautical thrust; his nine-foot “Bird in Space” is fabricated from carbon fiber, Kevlar and steel, and seems ready to blow a Sputnik out of the sky. Read the rest of this entry »
Carrie Schneider. “Burning House (March, sunset),” 2011,
Our historically brief presence on this earth is owed to a fact of geologic consent. Time, heat and pressure, the primordial forces that shape our world, have, for the past 250,000 years, granted us a reprieve from the destructive dance that constantly forms and renews this planet. “Lands End” reveals how humankind has taken up where these tectonic forces have left off.
Curated by Zach Cahill and Katherine Harvath, works by thirteen artists variously envision the contemporary landscape as contested political terrain, a site of environmental degradation, the source of precious commodities we lust after, and a place of mystery, fear and wonder. In all of the works on display, time is the underlying element; either we have too much of it, or not nearly enough. Read the rest of this entry »
Harun Farocki. “War at a Distance” (still), 2003, video, 54 min.
Balanced between informative, terrifying and hypnotizing, Trevor Paglen’s large format stills and Harun Farocki’s videos expose arcane arenas of knowledge within the realm of armed-forces operations with imagery that emphasizes the marriage of human and machine vision.
Paglen is invested in revealing our current historical condition, the “bureaucratic sublime,” through exposing covert US satellites, drones over the Nevada desert, concealed military bases, and contractual documents from private aeronautical companies that attest to persistent governmental subterfuge. Landscapes and skies of striking beauty point abstractly to military surveillance. A tiny speck of drone shares the light of the sun with the immense moon in “Dead Military Satellite (DMSP 5D-F11) Near the Disk of the Moon,” 2010. Other satellites are indicated by a contrast of orbital direction in time-lapses of celestial stars and stripes. Paglen also turns the telescope earthwards. “Canyon Hangars and Unidentified Vehicle; Tonopah Test Range, NV; Distance Approx. 18 miles; 12:45pm, 2006” is photographed using a telescopic lens from eighteen miles away. Far off in the desert, the light waves captured by the camera are further distorted by heat, creating a painterly image that conveys not only an inability to accurately apprehend, but suggests a location of imagination, a site for projecting impressions of power or fear. Read the rest of this entry »