Mickalene Thomas. Installation view of “I was born to do great things”
Mickalene Thomas is a master of the ode, of placing ephemera of her muse (her recently deceased mother, Sandra Bush) on actual pedestals in galleries and museums where the black female body and experience is not typically upheld and celebrated. The bronzing of Ms. Bush’s house shoes and an old sweater, the display of her bra, jeans, earrings and bare body make Thomas’ mother into the supermodel she always hoped to be. Not in a morbid way, this is a celebration of what Zora Neale Hurston might say is a “will to adorn” working women who have style for days, despite economics. Read the rest of this entry »
Luis Gonzalez Palma. “Mesa Rio,” 2009
digital print on transparency, gold leaf on board, red paper
As the veteran globalized A-list Guatemalan photographer Luis Gonzalez Palma enters his late fifties, he persists in his lifelong struggle to overcome the sadness in his heart through enduring a long series of unsuccessful attempts to affirm life fully by expressing his agonies and contradictions in his photo-art. His latest body of work, “Mobius,” leaves him where he started, only, as always through each iteration, more intense and more accomplished. Still posing native Guatemalan models for deep gold-toned portraits on which he sometimes strategically and elegantly paints, and setting up telling magical-realist scenarios, Gonzalez Palma has simplified his representations of his subjects by taking head shots of them that accentuate the moods and expressive emotions with which he endows them. Read the rest of this entry »
Helen Maurene Cooper. “Untitled #2,” 2014, archival pigment print
Having gained attention for her lush and exquisitely beautiful color studies of nail art, which both document the extravagant and elegant ways in which some people adorn their nails, and place those works of body art against luscious soft and liquid backgrounds, Helen Maurene Cooper now shows herself to be a versatile photographer who is at home in several diverse genres in her exhibition “Raiment in Horto.” Along with two of the nail shots, Cooper’s early survey of her artistic output offers formal color portraits of pit-bull dogs (they are quite cute), diptychs pairing murky miniature tintype portraits of drag queens (who have pulled off looking like young women) and still lifes of rough flowers in vases, and dynamic black-and-white street photos of sidewalk performances. Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of Nayland Blake and Claire Pentecost’s “Polypersephony” at Iceberg Projects
A libidinous wit roils on the surface of “Polypersephony,” a collaborative installation by Nayland Blake and Claire Pentecost at Iceberg Projects. The title is a portmanteau combining the musical term “polyphony” (voice versus voice) with “Persephone,” the famous underworld abductee of myth.
The dimly lit space has an underworld feel, not of a cave but of the secret back room of a subterranean nightclub. Light strobes through a doorway hung with a curtain of tinsel, behind which transpires a bacchanalian gathering of garden gnomes. The tinsel allows perspective but not access, ensuring that viewers participate only in the (important) role of voyeur. The wall that encloses the space is violated by an intrusion and a protrusion. What appear at first as chthonic, genital proxies reveal themselves to be the molds from which the gnomes were cast. Read the rest of this entry »
Karen Kilimnik. “the summer house,” 2011, water soluble oil color on canvas (Barbara Mathes Gallery, Booth #312)
I won’t be going out to the fair today. I imagine, though, that some of the Expo population will find their way out to Oak Park for an opening at the Suburban, for brats, beer, backyard chatter that just might be more about the Packers than an art fair packed to its rafters with haute consumption. From 2pm-4pm, the Chicago area’s favorite run-from-home alt gallery will present Pat Collier, Dennis Kowalski and Drew Heitzler’s work. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to those proportions, that scale, this town.
By late morning on Wednesday, after the unveiling of Judy Ledgerwood’s Florida-inspired billboards, I was enjoying asking “So are you from Chicago?” much more than “Where are you traveling from?” Asked the former, many a gallerina or vaguely multi-ethnic fellow in a flamboyantly patterned shirt would scoff, grunt, answer quickly, “No, I live in New York/LA/not here.” Zachary Cahill told me Friday night that a favorite part of Expo, a quintessential Chicago aspect, is that hike through the mini-mall ruckus that comprises a typical day at Navy Pier. And definitely that stretch before reaching the exhibition hall is a great way to check yourself on how seriously you take any of this. Read the rest of this entry »
Amir George. “The Hood We Live In,” 3-channel video installation
Prompted by unarmed Trayvon Martin being shot to death in 2012, curator La Keisha Leek assembled a cadre of artists that address negative depictions of black experience in the news media while also considering the images that African Americans hold of themselves. The titular “Hood” is a multiplicity for Leek: neighbor-hood, object-hood, person-hood, Negro-hood and woman-hood. Within these multilayered spheres identity is fluid, a stark opposition to the monolithic representation of African Americans culturally generated around Martin and more recently Ferguson, Missouri. Read the rest of this entry »
Eric May. “Eat in the Streets,” 2011 (Booth #740)
Bag of raw almonds for energy boost, false lashes stowed in my handbag for evening-wear eye-drama boost, press badge and a prayer for stamina: Expo Chicago’s press preview yesterday rolled directly into the Vernissage party that dispersed across town to a boat party, a disco dance and dishes of art world gossip: which gallery’s staff is jumping ship? who’s leaving their long-term gallery representation? who’s been exploring her ‘lesbian side’? who’s pregnant? and so on. Thursday’s kickoff to the fair was over-stimulating and today’s shaping up the same. I stopped for lunch and worked out some thoughts about patterns in the artworks exhibited, highlights and rare occasions for profundity for Expo visitors who are art lovers if not big-time collectors. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel,” Los Angeles, 1980, printed 2012, No. 14 of 14 from the series Stills.
Programming across the city set to coincide with Expo Chicago began on Wednesday with rooftop parties, previews and lectures. Speaking to a near-capacity crowd at the Art Institute of Chicago’s stately Fullerton Hall, artists Liz Deschenes, Laurie Simmons and Sara VanDerBeek were joined by activist Kate Linker Wednesday evening for a wide-ranging discussion of the life and work of the late photographer Sarah Charlesworth in conjunction with the opening of “Stills,” the artist’s first solo museum show in fifteen years. Read the rest of this entry »
Shannon Benine. “The Traitor in Room 14”
Behind a streaked and scratched surface, as though we were looking through a distressed pane of glass, we see a man standing in the woods dressed for winter in a heavy coat, jeans, and thick boots. He is holding a long tree branch and appears to be keeping guard next to a sign posted on a tree, reading “PRIVATE PROPERTY KEEP OUT.” An inverted plastic pail covers his head. Paul Thulin’s black-and-white “Cervantes’ Shadow” is the banner image in “This May Have Happened,” the remarkably coherent juried exhibition that is part of the annual Filter Photo Festival. Read the rest of this entry »
Sandra Binion. “At Window,” 2014,
archival pigment print, 18 x 24 inches
In sixteen muted color photographic studies taken in the French provinces, Sandra Binion’s “Distillé” seeks to evoke the world in which nineteenth-century novelist Gustave Flaubert placed his famous anti-heroine, Madame Bovary. Bathed in fog or shrouded in shadows, indistinct, often distressed, and sometimes illegible, Binion’s images are directed to engendering a mood that might best be characterized as somber. In the most telling piece in the show, in which Binion comes the closest to making a direct connection to Emma Bovary, whose loneliness and consequent delusions fostered by romantic literature led her to a disastrous dalliance, we see, from behind, a silhouetted woman in a darkened room standing before the sliver of a window, the rest of which is obscured by floral-patterned drapes, revealing an unremitting, almost glaring light-gray sky. Read the rest of this entry »