Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Funky Turns 40/DuSable Museum

Prints No Comments »
Josie And The Pussy Cats original production cel, 1970-71, Hanna-Barbera Productions, CBS

Josie And The Pussy Cats original production cel, 1970-71, Hanna-Barbera Productions, CBS

RECOMMENDED

“Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution” focuses on the Saturday morning cartoons of the 1970s that feature the first ever positive portrayals of African Americans in animation. Presenting original production cels and drawings of cartoons such as the popular “Jackson Five” animation and even “Josie and the Pussy Cats” (Valerie being the positive black character), the exhibition evokes nostalgia in anyone that has watched these shows while celebrating a significant moment in black history.

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Review: Valpuri Kylmänen and Ari Pelkonen/Western Exhibitions

Installation, Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view of "Helsingistä" at Western Exhibitions

Installation view of “Helsingistä” at Western Exhibitions

RECOMMENDED

Though they appear vigorous, the bold gestures and painterly strokes that evoke the heady days of 1950s expressionism in Ari Pelkonen’s paintings, currently on view in Western Exhibitions’ “Helsingistä,” are actually the result of woodblock printing: a slow and methodical technique antithetical to the heroic gestures it emulates. Evoking pop-artist Roy Lichtenstein—who pilloried the dramatic look of the “tenth street touch” in overblown satires such as “Big Painting No. 6”—Pelkonen’s take is refreshingly free of cynicism. Works such as the wine-stained “Hold” offer instead earnest explorations of surface and touch coupled with an interest in figuration versus abstraction and interpretation versus recognition.

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Review: Murmurs/Regards

Multimedia, Prints, Sculpture, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Andrea Longacre-White. "Untitled," 3-D printing, plaster, apple cords, electrical plates, Dimensions vary, 2013

Andrea Longacre-White. “Untitled,” 3-D printing, plaster, apple cords, electrical plates, Dimensions vary, 2013

RECOMMENDED

Regards’ inaugural exhibition “Murmurs” features clean, precise exercises in subtlety by eight different artists. The labored pieces featured speak to silent, meditative hours spent in the studio while the restrained execution of the show provokes consideration of the subtleties of interaction and communication. There is something slightly out of reach about most of the work, a whisper-like inaccessibility that intentionally frustrates the viewer. Christopher Aque obscures disquieting images of TSA pat-downs with thick layers of pigmented Vaseline. Lauren Spencer King’s silver leaf on glass panel “Moonlight” is unpredictable, reflecting the sunlight blindingly or disappearing into the gallery white walls entirely depending on the angle of observation. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Medium Cool Book Fair Returns This Weekend

Art Books, Design, News etc., Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Andrew Holmquist.  Ten books in the conXion box set, offset printed books, 2014

Andrew Holmquist.
Ten books in the conXion box set, offset printed books, 2014

Now in its second year, Chicago’s young art book fair has expanded for its latest iteration this weekend, spread across two days, at two sites, with two different focuses. Founded by designer Ria Roberts, Medium Cool is one of the most recent additions to Chicago’s literati culture of fairs, independent presses and book-minded artist projects. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Fires Will Burn/DePaul Art Museum

Activist Art, Painting, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Negar Ahkami. "As I Sit Here Musing, Fires Will Burn," coffee stains, acrylic, modeling paste, gesso, and glitter, 2003

Negar Ahkami. “As I Sit Here Musing, Fires Will Burn,” coffee stains, acrylic, modeling paste, gesso and glitter, 2003

RECOMMENDED

The archive is a reminder, a catalogue of documents that help us imagine and encounter the past. DePaul Art Museum’s “Fires Will Burn: Politically Engaged Art from the Permanent Collection,” features works that explore social justice issues from the 1930s to the present—an era shaped by Roosevelt-backed New Deal programs and other social activism that has targeted relief, recovery and reform.

For “Fires Will Burn,” the works are grouped loosely by geography, highlighting the overarching complexities—historical, political and emotional—that constitute their conception. Most of the works shown are print media: etching, lithograph and screenprints by many politically motivated artists. Roger Shimomura’s artistic practice was prompted by his experience in the Minidoka internment camp during WWII. His “Yellow No Same” series borrows traditional Japanese costumed actors from wood-block prints who are shown separated by barbed wire from Japanese Americans. Negar Ahkami’s painting “As I Sit Here Musing, Fires Will Burn” is an examination of the Iranian-American artist’s overlapping cultures. In the ornamental painting on paper, the role of women is prominent: a burqa-clad figure wearing high heels is contrasted with a nude woman with a football head, surrounded by imagery from both of her cultures. Read the rest of this entry »

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

RECOMMENDED

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

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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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