Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Eldzier Cortor/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
Eldzier Cortor. "L’Abbatoire I," 1950s, woodblock print

Eldzier Cortor. “L’Abbatoire I,” 1950s,
woodblock print

RECOMMENDED

In recognition of his lifetime achievement, a selection of Eldzier Cortor’s prints are now on display at the Art Institute. The earliest series, “L’abbatoire” (slaughterhouse), 1955-1980, documents the artist’s dismay over the violent politics of Haiti, where he once lived. The “Dance” series, 1978, presents the nubile female form in a kind of decorative pattern that recalls the murals of ancient Crete or Egypt. The “Jewels/Theme” series, 1985, encases those same graceful women in brilliant, sharply cut gemstones. The “Sepia Odalisque” series, 1998, sets them, as sultry pairs, into a Turkish harem. Read the rest of this entry »

News: ThingStead Press Releases New Publication on February 26

Art Books, Art Schools, News etc., Prints No Comments »
Chris Reeves and Aaron Walker's ThingStead press on view at UIC's Gallery 400 lobby

Chris Reeves and Aaron Walker’s ThingStead press on view at UIC’s Gallery 400 lobby

Next time you’re on or near the UIC campus, stop into Gallery 400 and pick up a copy of ThingStead, PhD art history candidate Chris Reeves and MFA candidate Aaron Walker’s small-press print installation project in the lobby. The two took over the space, which is already bustling with daily foot traffic, and turned it into a checkout lane where patrons can peruse and “take-away” a copy of their latest publication. Each booklet is composed of “reimagined drafts and excerpts” from artists and writers on a specific topic, theme or work to create an amalgamation of ideas or “excursus,” as they like to call it.

“Legend and History,” by Columbus, Ohio-based artist, Ryland Wharton is released today, February 26. Reeves describes the book as “mystical concrete poetry,” as it is a reproduction of passages from M. Caron and S. Hutin’s “The Alchemists.”
Read the rest of this entry »

News: Christie’s to Auction Ruth Horwich’s Collection

Design, News etc., Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Ruth Horwich’s collection of Alexander Calder jewelry to be offered at auction. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Ruth Horwich’s collection of Alexander Calder jewelry to be offered at auction. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and John Chamberlain are a few names from Ruth Horwich’s collection featured in the upcoming First Open sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s in New York on March 6, 2015.

Influential leaders and one of Chicago’s resident power couples, Ruth and her late husband Leonard impacted our region’s art scene not only with loaned and gifted artworks to many of our prominent local institutions—including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Smart Museum of Art—but also as two of MCA’s founders and champions for major public artworks such as Jean Dubuffet’s “Monument with Standing Beast” outside the Thompson Center. Leonard died in 1983, and given Ruth’s death in July 2014, twenty-four pieces from their collection will be offered for sale. An exhibition will precede the auction at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries, from February 28 to March 3, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Ten x Ten 2015 Pairs Improvisations by Musicians and Artists

Multimedia, News etc., Performance, Prints 1 Comment »
Ten x Ten Preview 2013

Ten x Ten Preview 2013

The 2015 round of Ten x Ten collaborations between musicians and visual artists will start with a kickoff event this Sunday, February 8. Under the curatorial supervision of three diverse Chicago organizations—Elastic Arts, Homeroom and Spudnik Press—this fourth iteration of Ten x Ten has grown into four events over the next eight months hosted at several venues: Spudnik Press Cooperative, Constellation and Elastic Arts. It’s a definite scaling up from past years, which consisted of only one event. With Elastic Arts Foundation as guest curators—which includes saxophonist Dave Rempis and composer Paul Giallorenzo—the 2015 project highlights jazz and probes how artists working across different media interpret improvisation. The series organizers musician and visual artist Jordan Martins with bassoonist and composer Katherine Young will start this cycle’s inaugural event with a free lecture addressing improvisation and the use of visual symbols outside the boundaries of traditional music notation. About the project, Martins writes on his personal website, “I‘m pleased to be participating in this event, which is a partnership with some of my favorite Chicago powerhouses.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec/Block Museum of Art

Evanston, Prints No Comments »
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. "May Milton," 1895 lithograph, 31 1/4" x 24"

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. “May Milton,” 1895
lithograph, 31 1/4″ x 24″

RECOMMENDED

This compact, one-room exhibition of a dozen and a half lithographs is a gem. Mounted by Northwestern upperclassmen and overseen by art-history professor S. Hollis Clayson, the works are drawn from the Andra and Irwin Press Collection. The students’ extended labels are well written and informative, and often reveal fresh insights. Smaller documentary images draw parallels to Japanese art, to photographs, and to then-contemporary art. One of these indicates how Picasso painted Lautrec’s poster of the chanteuse May Milton into the background of one of his own paintings. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Nuria Montiel/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Prints, Public Art No Comments »
Nuria Montiel. "AgriFarm," 2014,  monoprint, 25" x 18"

Nuria Montiel. “AgriFarm,” 2014,
monoprint, 25″ x 18″

For some art, a gallery acts less like a space that showcases living creativity and more like a funeral home where you go to stare at dead people. Just as that dead person you see laid-out before you was once bright and living in the world, the art so filled with promise and meaning in its proper context, now hangs lifeless, eviscerated by clean corridors, harsh lights and climate control. Like a lot of socially engaged art, sadly, this is the case with Nuria Montiel’s “Wxnder Wxrds” at the Hyde Park Art Center. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: James Ensor/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
James Ensor. "The Temptation of Saint Anthony," 1887

James Ensor. “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887

RECOMMENDED

James Ensor’s six-foot-tall drawing “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” 1887, is the exhibition’s thematic and physical centerpiece, set like an altarpiece at the end of a dark, chapel-like corridor. It’s a dense tangle of scary figures and texts, and a teeming universe of references to the artist’s life. The Art Institute wisely bought it in 2006; it hasn’t been shown in sixty years. Composed of fifty-one separate sheets mounted on canvas, it’s a conservation triumph. Stylistically, it’s a cross between Northern Renaissance art and the cramped doodles of underground comics. Indeed, Ensor’s drawing-based art was expressed in almost every two-dimensional media, including the then-new manufactured color pencils. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Jeff Gibson

Artist Profiles, Digital Art, Installation, Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Jeff Gibson. "Product (detail)," 2014,  ink-jet wallpaper, dimensions variable

Jeff Gibson. “Product (detail),” 2014,
ink-jet wallpaper, dimensions variable

Jeff Gibson culls images from the internet’s massive store, choosing JPEGs of products silhouetted against white backgrounds, highlighted perfectly by their surrounding vacuous atmosphere. When combined, the images call out to each other in a fashion not immediately recognizable, playing against the objects’ shiny machinery or garish design. “My roots are in pop and conceptualism so a lot of my subject matter is from popular culture and bears that stain, and I am only happy to rub the world’s nose in,” says Gibson. Gibson views all his images as products, calling attention to the aesthetics of consumerism via visual taxonomies. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Aron Gent/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Prints No Comments »
Aron Gent. Both works "Untitled," 2014,  Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Arches hot press watercolor paper,

Aron Gent. Both works “Untitled,” 2014,
Epson UltraChrome K3 ink on Arches hot press watercolor paper,

RECOMMENDED

“Pure Pictures, Perfect Prints,” Aron Gent’s solo exhibition at Devening Projects + Editions, is immediately pleasant, with its ample white space and idiosyncratic chintz of flowers, leaves, printers and arabesques, all rendered in a subdued palette. These images, culled from clip-art collections, are composed and then printed onto an ink-resistant material. This printout is then transferred onto watercolor paper by press, which squeezes and drags the beaded ink into the perfect drips that tress the features of each composition. Such painterly distortions give the sense of an individual hand at work, but of course, it is anything but. These gestures are dictated by blunt forces: the irregular texture of paper, the volume and viscosity of the ink, the magnitude and direction of the pressure exerted by the press. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Stan Shellabarger/Western Exhibitions

Drawings, Installation, Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view of Stan Shellabarger at Western Exhibitions

Installation view of Stan Shellabarger at Western Exhibitions

RECOMMENDED

Stan Shellabarger’s most recent solo show at Western Exhibitions exhibits his durational work through which he contemplates the residue of time and the physical impressions left behind on materials such as paper, wood and steel. Throughout the galleries, he fully embraces each passing moment while creating a collective imagery that is focused, somber and quiet.

At the center of the show, there is the artist’s homage to Carl Andre’s “Plain” called “Untitled (Drypoint).” This work investigates pacing and time as the artist walked on steel plates he arranged to resemble Andre’s work while wearing heavy-grit sandpaper on his shoes. The work hovers on a plinth just above the gallery floor and is marked with a red snaking shape that sets the stage for the remaining pieces in the galleries. This work is the heart of the show, guiding visitors to also pace themselves with his command of minimalist formal strategies. Read the rest of this entry »