Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: David Schalliol/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Architecture, Design, Galleries & Museums, Lincoln Park, Photography, Public Art No Comments »
David Schalliol. "The Rise of the 606 and its Bloomingdale Trail," 2015.

David Schalliol. “The Rise of the 606 and its Bloomingdale Trail,” 2015.


One of the most inspired recent additions to Chicago’s public spaces is The 606, a trail that follows the tracks of the once-abandoned elevated Bloomingdale train line that runs in a straight line through Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Wicker Park and Bucktown. To be on the trail is to be transported to a world that is apart from and above the city, yet is immersed in it, as the tops of buildings at times form walls on both sides. The experience is invigorating and empowering, especially because the line has been left in a partly rough state. It is a place where people can jog, stroll and walk down to several ground-level parks that dot the route. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

News: 2nd Terrain Biennial Sprawls Far Beyond the Suburbs

Architecture, Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, News etc., Oak Park, Performance, Public Art, Sculpture 1 Comment »
"Night Terrain" by artist Kate McQuillen and curated by Claudine Ise for the 2nd Terrain Biennial. Located at 817 South Highland Avenue, Oak Park.

“Night Terrain” by artist Kate McQuillen and curated by Claudine Ise for the 2nd Terrain Biennial. Located at 817 South Highland Avenue, Oak Park.

Playfully eschewing stereotypes of pink flamingos and garden gnomes, the 2nd Terrain Biennial is dedicated to featuring interventions into the conventional landscape of front yards by emerging as well as established artists who have been invited to create site-specific works. Founded in 2011 by Chicago artist Sabina Ott, contributing artists are selected for their ability to challenge the space between public and private, function and decoration and figure and ground.

This year’s biennial takes an international scale, but remains centered in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park across from Longfellow Middle School on Highland Avenue. Unlike many alternative exhibitions, these public artworks will be accessible at all times. According to Ott, one of the goals of the exhibition was to engage pedestrians, visitors, teachers, students and neighbors with myriad forms of contemporary art. Another goal with “Terrain 2.0” was to expand the scope beyond Oak Park. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Luftwerk to Debut High Tech, Site-Specific Installations at Garfield Park Conservatory

Design, Digital Art, Garfield Park, Installation, Multimedia, News etc., Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Rendering of “Florescence," 2015. Luftwerk Studio.

Luftwerk Studio. Rendering of “Florescence,” 2015.

Five technology-infused and site-specific installations will populate the Garfield Park Conservatory in a year-long exhibition titled “solarise: a sea of all colors” debuting in September. Each immersive installation invites viewers to interact with nature, color and light while exploring the Conservatory grounds. “Garfield Park Conservatory has long been known as a Chicago cultural anchor,” remarked Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “and this interactive art installation will underscore the conservatory’s cultural legacy while engaging residents in new ways.”

Created by Luftwerk, an art practice co-founded by Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, the installations respond to the philosophies of Jens Jensen, the landscape architect who designed the conservatory, who believed in the importance of public access to nature in the city. Each of the five installations—“The Beacon,” “Portal,” “Florescence,” “Seed of Light,” and “Prismatic”—emphasize and supplement the conservatory’s natural spaces. With the installations, Luftwerk aims “to instill in visitors an increased sense of wonder, while they roam the gardens and vegetation rooms. [We hope to] inspire visitors to take a closer look at how nature, art, and technology can interact.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: David Wallace Haskins’ “Skycube” Premieres at the Elmhurst Art Museum

Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, News etc., Public Art, Sculpture, Suburban No Comments »
David Wallace Haskins. Rendering of “Skycube.” Copyright 2015.

David Wallace Haskins. Rendering of “Skycube.” Copyright 2015.

David Wallace Haskins’ “Skycube,” an outdoor installation that reflects and focuses the ever-changing three-dimensional sky, will debut on August 11 outside of the Elmhurst Art Museum. This three-ton cube (eight by eight by eight feet) will include a square aperture that brings the sky to a viewer’s eye level.

Haskins, a Chicago-based artist, works with a team of experts in various fields, including physics, ecology and psychology, to investigate and experiment with sound, time, light and space. Artists such as J.M.W. Turner and René Magritte have grappled with the sky in artwork, Haskins acknowledges in a phone interview, but with “Skycube,” Haskins invites viewers to participate in a phenomenological experience. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Out of Site 2015 Begins this Weekend

Art Fairs, Multimedia, Performance, Public Art, Street Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Michal Samama. "Lament of Plastic," performance. Photo by Guy Kremnitzer.

Michal Samama. “Lament of Plastic,” performance/Photo: Guy Kremnitzer

It’s going to get confrontational in Wicker Park/Bucktown, beginning Saturday, July 25. The mission behind Out of Site is “to create unexpected encounters of public performance,” a take-it-to-the-streets art festival embarking on its fifth year of public performance art programming. Artists create whimsical disruptions for people as they go about their daily routines, choosing sites around the neighborhood that resonate with their practice.

The series launches this weekend with three performances in collaboration with the Wicker Park Fest. Sheryl Oring, an artist from North Carolina, will invite the public to write letters to the President of the United States as part of her piece “I Wish to Say,” previously performed at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the Berlin Wall Memorial and other locations. To date, over 2,000 letters have been transcribed on a typewriter and submitted to the White House.

While the details surrounding some performances are clear, the vast majority of performances are only yet known by a date, a time, a location, and an artist’s name. Ballenarca, a troupe from Puerto Rico via Austin, Texas, will take place at the intersection of Milwaukee and Evergreen, near the new 606 walking path. Without giving it away, passersby can expect to behold a large, bespectacled mobile sculpture come to life. “The Wisdom Box” by Duff Norris immediately follows. The public can anticipate this work by looking online for records of a previous performance called “Infinity Box,” but if you really want to know more you’ll just have to show up.

Sheryl Oring. "I Wish to Say," performance. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.

Sheryl Oring. “I Wish to Say,” performance/Photo: Dhanraj Emanuel

Out of Site was founded by artist Carron Little as she was “thinking about how wonderful it would be if people were to come home from a long week in the office and come across a unique surprise,” Little said in an email conversation with Newcity. She continued, “I was also invited onto the WPB Arts Committee to rethink how we fund art locally [after] having written a piece about how all the local funding had gone to a consulting firm. So it was part of a broader initiative to fund performance artists who seemed to be doing a lot of work for free.”

The vision for Out of Site goes beyond the scope of providing simple entertainment to a consumer public. “Public performance is vital for every city landscape; building moments that are out of the ordinary can bring joy and wonder to people,” Little remarked. “This is imperative in our workaholic culture. We need things that take us out of the monotony.  The New Situationists in Paris talk about the city being a new Babylon. Le Corbusier founded the modern city discussing ideas of productivity and circulation to build economy, but if people aren’t happy they bring that sadness to work.”

In previous iterations, curators didn’t tell people where the performances would take place. There are no tickets to purchase with a start and end time. Be there or be square, or better yet, you might be there anyway.

Out of Site runs daily at different locations throughout Wicker Park & Bucktown from Saturday, July 25, through Sunday, September 6. (Whitney Richardson)

Portrait of the Artist: Nina Chanel Abney

Artist Profiles, Galleries & Museums, Painting, Public Art, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney stands in front of a large auditorium full of people. It’s 2011, and she’s just been welcomed to the stage of Washington D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, where she’s giving a visiting-artist lecture. “I’m a little nervous, but it’s been very humbling to be a part of the ‘30 Americans’ exhibition,” she begins. “Just four years ago, I was in school and I signed up for an artist studio tour and we went to Kehinde Wiley and Wangechi Mutu’s studios—and now I’m in a show with them and it’s a little bit weird.” With a smiling mouth and quivering voice, she continues. “This is my first lecture, so I hope I do a good job for you guys.”

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Review: Dont Fret/Johalla Projects

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Painting, Public Art, Street Art, West Town No Comments »
Dont Fret. "Saturday Night Fever," 2015. Acrylic on paper.

Dont Fret. “Saturday Night Fever,” 2015.
Acrylic on paper.


“There are only two seasons in Chicago,” reads the poster pasted on a utility box, “Winter and construction.” The last time that I encountered the work of Dont Fret in the wild there was snow on the ground. Summer finds the artist moving from works on the street back into the gallery with little difficulty, but some trepidation.

At Johalla Projects, a group of works on paper cover one wall, each of them functioning individually, but all fitting together as a conceptual whole. Mixed in are purposely ham-fisted, muddy-colored abstractions with phrases like “Hi, I’m an idea based painting” or “I like his early work better.” These are perhaps a nod to the “zombie formalism” debates from last year and including a good bit of the artist’s own anxiety about his place in the art ecosystem. He needn’t worry about the art world silliness. Dont Fret is still at his best in his depictions of Chicago life and Chicagoans. The details and insights in his art can only come from years spent observing the changes to the city and the people, and from those quiet moments of profundity that come from a history of experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Point of Origin: Mapping the Arts in Detroit

Architecture, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Performance, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Olayami Dabls, N'Kisi House, 2007, wood, glass, tile, bricks, paint, MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit, MI. Photo credit: Charlene Uresy

Olayami Dabls, N’Kisi House, 2007,
wood, glass, tile, bricks, paint, MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit/Photo: Charlene Uresy

By Allison Glenn

The twenty-first century has brought with it the re-emergence of contemporary conceptual artists engaged with penumbral zones. These artists are interested in site, positing new ideas for usage of once-inhabited homes and urban spaces. Whether the middle of the desert or the center of a blighted neighborhood, these sites exist on the theoretical—albeit times physical—margins of society. Artistic engagement with these interstitial spaces is on a material level, with art and architecture converging to create radical and experimental approaches to living. Positing ideas for architecture, technology, space and the body’s relation to it, artists are projecting utopic ideals for the future of the quotidian urban environment. What emerges from this are hybrid works of art and cultural production. Read the rest of this entry »

Blocks of Art and Stuff: Taking in the Heidelberg Project, East Detroit’s Spectacle of Transformation and Perseverance

Installation, Outsider Art, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Views from Amy Danzer's visit to the Heidelberg Project

Photo: Amy Danzer

When you first pull up to the open-air art installation on Heidelberg Street in East Detroit, you’re struck by the remnants of houses that have recently been set afire by arsonists. Twelve blazes have gutted six installations in the last two years. The devastation and loss are felt at once, never absent throughout the exhibit, and serve as commentary on the plight of Detroit’s inner city. But Tyree Guyton and his volunteers continue to clear the ash and debris, create new works, and transform the space into one that persists in provoking thought, inciting imagination, and drawing in people from all over the country and world. Read the rest of this entry »