Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

Icon of St. Prokopios, 14th century. Byzantine; Greece, Veroia. Church of Saint Prokopios, Veroia.

RECOMMENDED

The story of Renaissance painting begins with innovations in naturalism that were a welcome liberation from the schematic strictures of the Byzantine style. Or at least, that’s how the leading art historians of the last century, like Ernst Gombrich, told it. Perhaps that’s why this is the first special exhibition devoted exclusively to Byzantine art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 124 years. But as this exhibition proves, the best Byzantine figurative art in painting, sculpture and mosaic was no less fresh, expressive and exciting than subsequent art periods are known to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action/Sullivan Galleries

Activist Art, Art Schools, Installation, Loop, Performance, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view with "Publishing Clearing House" by Temporary Services

Installation view with “Publishing Clearing House” by Temporary Services

RECOMMENDED

“A Proximity of Consciousness” inaugurates SAIC’s season of lectures, book releases and a symposium dedicated to the art of affecting social change. The exhibition is curated by Mary Jane Jacob and Kate Zeller and showcases new works by a powerhouse roster including Michael Rakowitz, Pablo Helguera, James Duignan, J. Morgan Puett, Paul Durica, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Dan Peterman, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Temporary Services, Rirkrit Tiravanija and many more collaborators. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Edra Soto/Lloyd Dobler Gallery

Installation, Sculpture, Textiles No Comments »
Edra Soto. “Say Everything,” 2014, installation view at The Lloyd Dobler Gallery mixed Media (flags, fans, plastic chairs, beach towels, tape, sand, cooler, pink light, latex paint). Photo by Michael Soto

Edra Soto. “Say Everything,” 2014,
installation view at The Lloyd Dobler Gallery
mixed Media (flags, fans, plastic chairs, beach towels, tape, sand, cooler, pink light, latex paint)/Photo: Michael Soto

RECOMMENDED

Unlike the fictional lead character, Lloyd Dobler, of the eighties teenage classic “Say Anything,” Soto’s rebellious carefree attitude in “Say Everything” is the result of mature and considered thinking, a deliberate expression of the ambiguous nature of desirable objects, and the figurative and administrative commonwealth.

Five verdant flags flutter in the gently constructed breeze issuing from brightly painted red fans that are variously standing or clipped to plastic lawn furniture upholstered with tiger-faced beach towels. A pink cooler, encrusted and filled with glittering pink sand, rests on a short floor-level plinth. Silver tape on the windows mimics the patterns of Puerto Rican fencing screens, a frequent subject for Soto, slicing the evening light into shadows that echo the patterns on the flags. 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: Roger Brown: Virtual Still Life/Russell Bowman Art Advisory

Painting, River North, Sculpture No Comments »
Roger Brown. "VSL # 8: Vases with a View," 1995, oil on canvas, mixed media

Roger Brown. “VSL # 8: Vases with a View,” 1995,
oil on canvas, mixed media

RECOMMENDED

The eleven examples at Russell Bowman Art Advisory of Chicago artist Roger Brown’s Virtual Still Life series, created before his death in 1997, consist of patterned oil landscapes with attached ledges that mostly hold a myriad of found ceramic containers. As an avid accumulator of artful tchotchkes, Brown was certainly no stranger to placing objects on shelves and these last works gather up parts of his collection to dwell with his paintings in the fine art world. Though Brown’s estate ultimately ended up safe in the hands of caring institutions, it is touching to see these hand-picked artifacts saved by their incorporation into paintings. Like heirlooms conferred to deserving children these objects were promised a continued life of appreciation beyond the loving eyes of their vanished curator. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Sarah Beth Woods

Artist Profiles, Logan Square, Performance, Sculpture No Comments »
Sarah Beth Woods at work on nail art related projects

Sarah Beth Woods at work on nail-art-related projects

“I don’t actually care about painting people’s nails,” Sarah Beth Woods confesses. “I love making these little nail tips and adorning them. I love the material and the kind of bricolage aspect of it. But I really love what happens when you put it out in the world for people to interact with. I think so much can happen when there are other people putting them on and sharing their stories.”

Woods’ artistic practice bridges the fine-art world with the beauty shop. She creates elaborate, exaggerated braided headdresses and press-on nail tips, often bringing them into fine-art contexts to adorn visitors. Neon-pink nail tips are decorated with oversized gold dollar signs. Red and blue shower poufs have been deconstructed and then woven into intricate hair weaves. Her ghetto-fabulous aesthetic looks straight out of a Nicki Minaj music video, yet her personal appearance is surprisingly neat and conservative. She keeps her hair and nails short, her friendly smile decorated only with clear lip gloss.

Last month, Woods opened her exhibition “Bricoleur” with an event she described as a “collaborative, interactive fiber installation and hair braiding experience” at Azimuth Projects, an apartment gallery in Logan Square with hair braider Fatimata Traore. Visitors took turns having their hair braided and then “accented” with shiny door-knocker earrings and colorful tassels. Woods’ sculptural works comprised of hairpieces and jewelry remain on display in the space. 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 »

Review: Burn It Down/Heaven Gallery

Installation, Painting, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Larry Lee's installation in Heaven Gallery's "Burn It Down"

Larry Lee. “Monument for Saul Alinsky as ribbed condominium,” 2014, polystyrene, enamel, acetate and Sharpie

RECOMMENDED

Why do so many of our riots end in flames? Why do we feel drawn to sit around a campfire? We burn, in part, because fire is what birthed civilization. Fire, like man, can destroy what is old, be the life-giver to something new, or consume us all. Curator of “Burn It Down” Paul Hopkin explores fire’s dualities, and our complex relationship to it.

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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 »