Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: The City Lost and Found/Art Institute of Chicago

Photography, Video No Comments »
Romare Bearden. "The Block II" (detail), 1972. Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans

Romare Bearden. “The Block II” (detail), 1972. Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans

RECOMMENDED

The dynamic urban landscapes of America’s three largest cities constitute the focus of “The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980,” a joint venture of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Architecture and Design and Photography departments and the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibition examines two decades of significant political, social and economic upheaval during which each of these cities emerged as barometers of major shifts in public consciousness subsequent to the suburban flight of the 1950s and before the economic boom of the 1980s. History and its discontents dominate the exhibition, but the show gives voice to a broad range of actors through an electric and all-inclusive range of makers and visual materials. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Pictures of the Year, International/Chicago Photography Center

Lakeview, Photography No Comments »
Photograph by National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer, one of the winners in the Chicago Photography Center's "Pictures of the Year International"

John Stanmeyer. “Signal”

RECOMMENDED

In its annual competition for the best photojournalistic images, “Pictures of the Year, International” received 52,000 submissions and selected 240 winners, fifty of which are on view here, for its 2014 traveling show. The exhibit shows that, despite the financial problems of newspapers and magazines, photojournalism is thriving: indeed, the quality of work is at least as good as it has ever been. The judges eschewed depictions of the rich and famous, and staged scenes in favor of hard-hitting, emotion-laden and power-packed shots that pull the viewer up short with searing glimpses of world hot spots like Afghanistan, Iraq-Syria and Ukraine; heat-of-the-action sporting moments; refugees and victims of abuse; natural disasters and touching slices of life. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carlos Javier Ortiz/David Weinberg Photography

Photography, River North No Comments »
Carlos Javier Ortiz. "Untitled," 2009, archival pigment print, 24" x 36"

Carlos Javier Ortiz. “Untitled,” 2009, archival pigment print, 24″ x 36″

RECOMMENDED

The real protagonists of Carlos Javier Ortiz’s black-and-white photo-documentary of the impact of gun violence in American cities today are the neighborhoods where it happens and is felt most directly. “We All We Got” is comprised of images of funerals, vigils, grieving families, commemorative artifacts, detention lock-ups, crime scenes and much more to create a comprehensive visual grasp of the phenomenon; but the places themselves and the sense of the stark realism of everyday life there overtake all the details. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sarah Charlesworth/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Photography No Comments »
Sarah Charlesworth. "Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles," 1980, printed 2012

Sarah Charlesworth. “Unidentified Man, Ontani Hotel, Los Angeles,” 1980, printed 2012

RECOMMENDED

The Art Institute of Chicago has embarked on a nine-month celebration titled “Photography Is_________,” commemorating the department of photography’s establishment in 1974. Sarah Charlesworth, who figured among the Pictures Generation of artists, appropriated photos from newspapers that documented people falling from tall buildings. The resulting images meld photojournalistic and fine art photography techniques, creating conceptual documentations of a moment laced with kinetic energy. Measuring over six feet tall, these compositions show mortality tinged with an intense sense of freedom. These are people jumping or falling to their deaths, some showing momentum and violence, while others look serene as these active moments transform into portraits. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mickalene Thomas/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Mickalene Thomas. Installation view of "I was born to do great things"

Mickalene Thomas. Installation view of “I was born to do great things”

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Luis Gonzalez Palma/Schneider Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Luis Gonzalez Palma. "Mesa Rio," 2009  digital print on transparency, gold leaf on board, red paper

Luis Gonzalez Palma. “Mesa Rio,” 2009
digital print on transparency, gold leaf on board, red paper

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Helen Maurene Cooper/Bert Green Fine Art

Loop, Photography No Comments »
Helen Maurene Cooper. "Untitled #2," 2014, archival pigment print

Helen Maurene Cooper. “Untitled #2,” 2014, archival pigment print

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Nayland Blake and Claire Pentecost/Iceberg Projects

Installation, Photography, Rogers Park, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of Nayland Blake and Claire Pentecost's "Polypersephony" at Iceberg Projects

Installation view of Nayland Blake and Claire Pentecost’s “Polypersephony” at Iceberg Projects

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Expo Dispatches: Time To Go Home

Art Fairs, Oak Park, Photography, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Karen Kilimnik. "the summer house," 2011, water soluble oil color on canvas (Barbara Mathes Gallery, Booth #312)

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 »

Review: How to Make A Hood/Arts Incubator

Activist Art, Multimedia, Photography, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Amir George. "“The Hood We Live In," 3-channel video installation

Amir George. “The Hood We Live In,” 3-channel video installation

RECOMMENDED

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 »