Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Video Game Art Gallery Opens in Chicago

Logan Square, Multimedia, News etc., Prints No Comments »
"Battleship Bay" from Irrational Games, digital art print, 39" x 70"

“Battleship Bay” from Irrational Games, digital art print, 39″ x 70″

When Chaz Evans and Jonathan Kinkley met while studying art history at UIC a few years ago, they embarked on a dream to start a gallery project that celebrated the work of artists who create the spectacular visual experiences in video games. On August 8, they will launch the new Video Game Art Gallery, with their first exhibition hosted by Galerie F in Logan Square. This initial foray into a physical show of fine art prints is part of VGA’s work across their online platform as well as through exhibition programming. In an email, Evans explains, “We are working with this hybrid model as it fits well with the media we are showing: it exists both as live software but also as framed images.” The gallery’s website is set up so that collectors can purchase prints that range in price from $75 to $400. Some of the games from which the inkjet prints have been drawn are widely popular, such as “BioShock: Infinite.” But Evans and Kinkley also hope to introduce audiences to visually stunning hidden gems like “MirrorMoon EP,” a first-person puzzler by Santa Ragione with concept art by Gabriele Brombin. Playable demos of these and other games will complement the prints on view at Galerie F in August. Other future pop-up exhibitions are currently in the works.

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Review: Nicholas Gottlund/Paris London Hong Kong

Installation, Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Nicholas Gottlund. "Always," installation view

Nicholas Gottlund. “Always,” installation view


Featuring both screen-prints and sculptures, Pennsylvania native Nicholas Gottlund’s “Always” is a sixth-generation printmaker and publisher’s examination of the nature of reproduction. The seven large-scale screen-prints that dominate the diminutive space are enlargements from the pages of Gottlund’s 2013 self-published book “Printing Always Printing,” which is itself comprised of images culled from H. Winslow Fegley’s 1972 photo-essay on the Pennsylvania Dutch titled “Farming, Always Farming.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Printers Ball at Year Ten Is Bigger Than Ever

Comics, News etc., Performance, Prints No Comments »
photo by Cynthia Post

Photo: Cynthia Post

Celebrating its tenth year, this Saturday’s Printers Ball grows to include thirty-one free programs such as readings, workshops, exhibitions, performances, a DJed dance party and ongoing marketplaces of print goods throughout the day. Since the ball’s move to Spudnik Press at Hubbard Street Lofts last year, more organizations have joined up to collaborate and host its expansion into a greater variety of featured events that celebrate blurred spaces between the literary and the visual. Eight different sites in and around the lofts will host the events. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago’s Risograph Revolution

Prints No Comments »
Will Bryant for Tan & Loose Press

Will Bryant, “Drawings Based on Sculptures Based on Drawings,” 2013, Tan & Loose Press

By Jason Foumberg

In 1970 the Xerox Corporation founded a technology think tank called the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and soon invited artists-in-residence, and gave them free reign to copy machines and computers, spawning the “new media” art boom.

But Xerox’s competitor, RISO, from Japan, planned no such artful scheme. They just wanted to get low-cost copy machines to their customers. But, artists found RISO, and with fervor. They found them on Craigslist, in libraries, at used-office-technology warehouses. The Risograph was designed to spit out thousands of school newsletters and church bulletins at a fraction of Xerox’s cost—in color. Over the past five years, self-publishing has thrived in Chicago thanks to RISO. The machine is seemingly made-to-order for alternative printmaking.

About the size and shape of a copy machine, the RISO is more like a screen-printing machine (but less of a mess) and can churn out color prints quickly using stencil technology. Risograph prints are decidedly lo-fi, inky, small and inexpensive to produce. I’ve seen prints sell from $2 to $50. The image style depends on the artist. I’ve seen Bauhaus-like geometries, psychedelic comics and designer broadsides. Comic artists, graphic designers, conceptual artists, zine producers, illustrators—everyone gets in on RISO, especially artists going the independent or self-published route. RISO is very much part of the “graphic arts” movement we’re currently experiencing in contemporary art. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Rebecca Gray Smith

Artist Profiles, Loop, Prints No Comments »
"L - Legal, Law," intaglio print on Somerset cream paper, 2014

“L – Legal, Law,” intaglio print on Somerset cream paper, 2014

Rebecca Gray Smith’s suite of black-and-white etchings currently on display at Bert Green Fine Art took nearly twenty-five years to complete. Personal histories, comedy and spirituality are infused into each of the intricate prints that feature a letter of the alphabet along with skeletal beings that act out foreboding narratives. The engravings, originally intended as a response to the AIDS crisis, evolved over time into an examination of all death and became a cathartic process for Smith’s grief after losing her husband to lung cancer. “The whole fact of death is absurd to me,” she says. “I still can’t believe that these people I loved so much aren’t here any more.” Smith also grapples with her father’s death and mother’s suicide in her work.

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Review: Diane Thodos/Re-Invent Gallery

Painting, Prints, Suburban No Comments »
Diane Thodos High Res Black and White

“Skull,” etching, 2008

Diane Thodos’ paintings and prints represent the kind of modern spiritual art championed in the Blaue Reiter Almanac of 1912 more than the semiotic exercises of postmodernism that were played out across the subsequent century. The artworks don’t represent any classical or Christian creed, but still echo both with what Kandinsky called an “easily definable movement forward and upward,” expressing emotions more subtle than earthbound feelings like fear, lust, grief or maternal love. There are the stark black-and-white prints that visit the dark hour of the soul, often in contemplation of the human skull, as if buried in a crypt. But then there’s the rush of pure, clear colors in the oil paintings, as exciting but also as incomprehensible as an oracular revelation in the mountains at Delphi. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Left Front: Radical Art in the Red Decade/Block Museum of Art

Evanston, Prints No Comments »


The collapse of the world economy in 1929, accompanied by the apparent success of the new Soviet state, got many American artists fired up for drastic social change, if not outright revolution. This exhibition focuses on the members of the John Reed Club and the American Artists’ Congress, two organizations that promoted the ideals of Marx and world communism.

Since the exhibition is based on (but not limited to) the Block Museum’s own collection of prints, Chicago artists get the most wall space, especially Morris Topchevsky, Carl Hoeckner and Henry Simon. Without exception, their work is dramatic, figurative, hard-hitting and on message. But, that’s about all they had in common. Reflecting his study with Diego Rivera in Mexico, Topchevsky depicted worker/victims with the stately innocence found in fourteenth-century Italian fresco. Hoeckner was closer to German Expressionism, depicting the shocked and nearly zombified characters that would continue to appear in Chicago figurative art throughout the rest of the century. Simon was more theatrical, whimsical and entertaining. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: How Artists Dig

Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Tony Tasset, "Robert Smithson (Las Vegas)," 1995

Tony Tasset, “Robert Smithson (Las Vegas),” 1995

By Jason Foumberg

The exhibition begins on the left, and ends nowhere. The MCA’s expansive new group show, “The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology,” bores wormholes through the Rocky Mountains, to Baghdad and Belarus and over the North Pole, through the psyche and into the past. “The past is a foreign country,” wrote L. P. Hartley, and artists are explorers. This is the guiding theme of curator Dieter Roelstraete’s exhibition, which tasks itself with explaining nothing less than the history of the Western world—and who has access to it. The ambitious exhibition with an international roster of artists is “a philosophical speculation,” explained Roelstraete at the media preview. Roelstraete’s show proposes that artists create art, and make meaning, in a new way. That is, artists dig, uncover, exhume, mine, bring to light (and other “digging” synonyms) issues and characters from the past. What artists find (artifacts, secrets, ghosts) is of equal importance to how they found it (research, inquiries, investigations). There are no accidents in this show, only strategies. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dreams and Echoes: Drawings and Sculpture in the David and Celia Hilliard Collection/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Jan Toorop, "A Mysterious Hand Leads to Another Path," 1893. Promised gift of Celia and David Hilliard.

Jan Toorop, “A Mysterious Hand Leads to Another Path,” 1893. Promised gift of Celia and David Hilliard.


“If Girtin had lived, I would have starved,” declared J.M.W. Turner, one of the iconic painters of the nineteenth century. But who was Girtin? One of his watercolors can be found in the collection of David and Celia Hilliard, longtime Chicago collectors and Art Institute supporters, now on display in the Prints and Drawings gallery at the museum.  Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Hoofprint Workshop Brings Printmaking to Pilsen

Pilsen, Prints No Comments »
Liz Born and Gabe Hoare. Photo: Michael Herbert.

Liz Born and Gabe Hoare/Photo: Michael Herbert

Pilsen’s growing art community has a new addition. Hoofprint Workshop, a gallery, printmaking press and studio sited in a repurposed funeral home, is the brainchild of local printmakers and teachers Liz Born and Gabe Hoare.

The pair’s first curated installation, on display through November 23, is an explosion of styles, themes and techniques, held together by a mutual commitment to cross-disciplinary collaboration.

“We have worked with four artists this past year as a part of our Collaborative Publishing Project,” says Born, including John Himmelfarb, Polly Yates, Sandra Perlow and Gabriel Villa. “Works from this endeavor are displayed on the south wall of the gallery, alongside non-print works by the same artists. The north wall of the gallery features artists who we’d like to work with more closely in the future. We chose to display their work not only because we think it’s fantastic, but also to give viewers at our opening an idea of what the future holds; something to really sink their teeth into.” Read the rest of this entry »