Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

Review: David Akiba/Alibi Fine Art

Photography, Ravenswood No Comments »
David Akiba. "Sand and Stones S/R #2," 2000  vintage gelatin silver print, 10" x 10" each, diptych

David Akiba. “Sand and Stones S/R #2,” 2000
vintage gelatin silver print, 10″ x 10″ each, diptych

RECOMMENDED

In David Akiba’s homage to the celebrated late-modernist photographer Harry Callahan, he takes up the tradition of the straight black-and-white abstraction that defined the frontiers of art photography in the post-World War II expressionist outburst, when Chicago was at the center of the movement at the fabled Institute of Design. Akiba’s series, done in 2000 and receiving a well-deserved revival here, comprises eleven diptychs of images of small stones that he gathered on the lake shore near Charlevoix, Michigan, which he brought home to Boston, Massachusetts, where he arranged assortments of them into assemblages and photographed them so that they took up the entire frame, betraying no context beyond them. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Gordon Matta-Clark/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Collage, Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Gordon Matta-Clark. "Circus," 1978 silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4" x 73 1/4"

Gordon Matta-Clark. “Circus,” 1978
silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4″ x 73 1/4″

RECOMMENDED

In 1978, the Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned artist Gordon Matta-Clark to execute one of his trademark “building cut” projects in a recently acquired brownstone on Ontario Street. The result, “Circus or The Caribbean Orange,” a series of large-scale circular lacerations that radically altered the structure’s interior, would sadly be the artist’s last major statement before his untimely death at age thirty-five. What remains of the epic scale of this ephemeral project are a series of the artist’s captivating photocollages. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Imani Amos/Beauty & Brawn

Logan Square, Photography No Comments »
Imani Amos. "Untitled," 2014 photographic print on matte heavyweight cardstock, 30" x 19.5"

Imani Amos. “Untitled,” 2014
photographic print on matte heavyweight cardstock, 30″ x 19.5″

RECOMMENDED

With the much promoted “conversation” on race relations in America getting into high gear post-Ferguson, Missouri, there could be no more genial and thought-provoking contribution to that discussion than Imani Amos’ exhibition of fifty black-and-white “mug shots” of young-adult and middle-age African-American men taken against police lineup sheets as they hold up signs composed by themselves listing their accomplishments, attitudes and proclivities. In “Humanizing America’s Most Hunted,” Amos is out to explode prejudice in its strictest sense, the mindset that labels African-American men as “derelicts” on sight without knowing anything about them. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Stand in the Sun

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Erin Jane Nelson. "Monk Behind Bars," 2015 Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

Erin Jane Nelson. “Monk Behind Bars,” 2015
Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

By Matt Morris

I’ve really only been making photographs for the past couple of years, and thinking seriously about their medium for an even briefer span. What began as a lighthearted impulse to get men to undress for me was challenged into a more cogent form through recognizing the violence of the cropping frame on eroticized bodies (see Kobena Mercer), the draining echo chamber of the photograph’s reproduction (see Sherrie Levine), and the image and its circulation’s complicity in capital (see Hito Steyerl). Last month, when I tried to get a roll of film developed at this or that drugstore, none still had that equipment (“We just took our developing machine out yesterday,” one clerk told me); this older accessibility to the medium of photography is nearly extinct, succeeded by even more broadly used means of iPhone cameras, selfies, dick pics, Instagram and Google image search. We find ourselves in a torrent (all meanings of the word) of image production, and yet their reliability to represent has been utterly compromised (see David Joselit in the February Artforum linking the Staten Island grand jury’s failure to indict the policeman who murdered Eric Garner to the visual evidence—video footage of a brutal cop pile-on—failing to be allowed to represent these bodies and their violences). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Documentia/SideCar

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Bertram Litoff. "Untitled," c. 2003-2005, digital photographs of paused live television, 4" x 7" prints.

Bertram Litoff. “Untitled,” c. 2003-2005, digital photographs of paused live television, 4″ x 7″ prints.

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Jungjin Lee/Andrew Bae Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Jungjin Lee. "Unnamed Road 014," 2011 archival pigment print  40 x 78.5 inches Ed. of 3

Jungjin Lee. “Unnamed Road 014,” 2011
archival pigment print, 40 x 78.5 inches, ed. of 3

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure/Chicago Artists Coalition

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Lori Felker. "A Trip to Always Falls," 2015, video projection and headphones, 17 minute loop

Lori Felker. “A Trip to Always Falls,” 2015,
video projection and headphones, seventeen-minute loop

RECOMMENDED

“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 »

Portrait of the Artist: Alison Ruttan

Artist Profiles, Ceramics, Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Alison Ruttan in her installation "A Line in the Sand," at the Chicago Cultural Center

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 »