Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Web Exclusive Interview: Naomi Beckwith in Conversation about Richard Hunt

Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962 Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt gathering scrap in a junk yard at Clybourn and Sheffield Avenues, Chicago, 1962
Photo courtesy of Richard Hunt

By Matt Morris

Could you set up your take as the curator on what the Richard Hunt exhibition at the MCA is?
The show from the MCA starts from the premise of our collection. It’s part of what we call our MCA DNA series, and those are dossier shows—small jewel-box shows—that are about highlights from the MCA holdings that most people don’t even know that we have. So for instance we have another beautiful one up right now featuring Alexander Calder; there’s a huge collection of that in Chicago, many of them right here in this building. Another wonderful one that we put up recently was a collection of Dieter Roth art books that I hadn’t even known were in the collection. The DNA series is a chance for us as a museum to really highlight works of significance that most folks don’t know are here.

I found out that Richard Hunt was turning eighty this year. I realized the best way that we could honor him was to do an exhibition and—oh, my goodness—there are these works in the collection. I knew that the museum had a long history of helping organize the inclusion of a work of his at the White House. It’s a work called “Farmer’s Dream” that was exhibited in D.C. during the Clinton administration, and then when it came back from D.C. it went into Seneca Park, which is the park straight across west of the MCA. It was there for many years and then acquired by the MCA. These kinds of stories I knew, but I didn’t know that we had some of his early work from the sixties here, and we have some works on paper in the collection. The show is really compact, and is set to show the breadth of Richard’s work from his earliest days—the earliest work is from ’57 when he was finishing school—to a work made in, I believe, 2012.

Was the MCA show coordinated with the Cultural Center show?
Would you believe that it was a happy coincidence. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: A Hard-Won Hunt for the Means to Fly

Galleries & Museums, Gold Coast/Old Town, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Richard Hunt, photographed by Thomas McCormick

Richard Hunt/Photo: Thomas McCormick

By Matt Morris

Two concurrent exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Cultural Center crown the sculptor Richard Hunt’s eightieth year. To date, Hunt has produced more public sculpture than any other artist in the United States, with 125 currently on view, thirty-five of which are in Chicago. Hunt completed his studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1957 at a time when other black artists were scarce and the approach to welded metal sculpture Hunt had started to pursue wasn’t supported by the school’s studio facilities. Footage playing at the Cultural Center’s exhibition shows a dashingly handsome young Hunt setting up shop in his parents’ basement. By 1971 he had been honored with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and his diligent efforts have been continually rewarded throughout his career. Taken together, the exhibitions offer audiences examples of early investigations, to-scale maquettes for larger outdoor commissions, and a breadth of two- and three-dimensional works that ground flighty abstractions in a gravitas tempered by the struggles and victories of modern life. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sarah and Joseph Belknap/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Sarah and Joseph Belknap. "Deflated Exoskin (1)" (left) and "Deflated Moon Skin (1)" (right), 2014.

Sarah and Joseph Belknap. “Deflated Exoskin (1)” (left) and “Deflated Moon Skin (1)” (right), 2014.

RECOMMENDED

No longer couched in the intimacy which so defined their exhibition at the Franklin, Sarah and Joseph Belknap’s predominately sculptural cosmological survey finds itself perhaps even more sharply defined in the abyssal expanse of the MCA, wherein it must contest with the terrible scope that has caused our empyreal urges to exsanguinate, lacking the will to continue screaming into the vacuum. Space rhetoric cannot help but be romantic; the gaps are so wide, the voids so vast—and filled, with cruel meagerness, by objects we laughingly named for gods—that the only way it can be comfortably expressed and understood is through either math or poetry, both of which are known for their simple complexity and necessary shattering of the real into vicious abstractions. Blunted by being born into an age where science fiction is a lame pantomime of progress, eyes upcast today cannot even see the moon, and barely alight upon Mars, Mars!, once the most lust-inducing of all heavenly bodies. That with their silicone and “simulated lunar regolith” sculptures the Belknaps drag said bodies down from the heavens and present them to us, in gross textual intimacy, is therefore their eponymous exhibition’s great strength; by forgoing both the admeasurement and aspartame with which we see the universe, they make it possible to engage with it personally, even with the vaginal breadth of the museum’s staircase yawning at our backs. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kendall Babl and Manuel Rodriguez/PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Garfield Park, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Manuel Rodriguez. "Capsule 1969-1981," National Geographic magazines, thermoelectric coolers, Tyvek, plywood, Plexiglas, cables, steel, soil sample from a depth of 40 feet at Latitude : 41.878114 |Longitude : -87.629798

Manuel Rodriguez. “Capsule 1969-1981,”
National Geographic magazines, thermoelectric coolers, Tyvek, plywood, Plexiglas, cables, steel, soil sample from a depth of 40 feet at Latitude : 41.878114 |Longitude : -87.629798

RECOMMENDED

How can mapping be a spiritual process? This sparse installation of two complementary works began as a conversation between two artists interested in an innate sense of remoteness, observation and exploration. The show developed through long-distance communication between Southeast Ohio, Puerto Rico and Chicago about shared conceptual vantage points embedded in technology and landscape. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ji Soo Hong and Matthew Kayhoe Brett/Slow

Collage, Drawings, Installation, Pilsen, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of Ji Soo Hong's collages in "Thick slide, decadent ration," at Slow

Installation view of Ji Soo Hong’s collages in “Thick slide, decadent ration,” at Slow

RECOMMENDED

The current exhibition at Slow, “Thick slice, decadent ration,” features work by Ji Soo Hong and Matthew Kayhoe Brett. Their works carry a studied meditation on process and composition, as their solid use of texture and color lend vibrancy and subtlety to the banal.

Ji Soo Hong approaches each slab of encased meat in her illustrative collages with a careful curiosity. Hong’s hand is in each of her works as her layered illustrations create collages of a subject matter that beckons to Francis Bacon and a voluptuously meaty still life tradition. The large white sheets mimic the display cases of a butcher shop, framing each assortment as studies in color and detail. A mélange of conté crayon and ink, chopped up and collaged, are drawing techniques imitative of the additive recipes of the sausages and hard meats Hong illustrates in her enlivened still-life works. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Allison Smith/Arts Club of Chicago

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, Streeterville, Textiles No Comments »
Allison Smith. "Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia," 2014

Allison Smith. “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia,” 2014

RECOMMENDED

Smith is known for lovingly handcrafting Americana—costumes, furniture and artifacts—with which to interrogate the spectacle of historical recreation. In this she is indeed like a theatrical “set dresser,” someone who designs and arranges props.

Many of these recent works are photographs of objects of material culture from American living-history sites. Printed on fabric, the pictures take on a rustic look, akin to the objects they depict. But they contain powerful autobiographical elements, too. The lovely rainbow-colored skeins of yarn seen hanging in “Hand Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg,” 2014, is a trenchant feminist statement on several levels while recalling Morris Louis’ stain paintings. Within a large, oval, walnut frame handcrafted by a master Massachusetts artisan, “Mirror,” 2014, shows a field of nubby linen on which a photograph of a mirror’s reflection has been printed. It’s a visual riddle, a twenty-first century version of the modern artist’s abiding fascination with mirrors. Less puzzling perhaps, but no less elegant, two tilt-top tables are covered in silk printed with photos of quilt patterns. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Sarah and Joseph Belknap/The Franklin

Garfield Park, Installation, Sculpture No Comments »
Sarah and Joseph Belknap. "Planetoids," installation view at The Franklin

Sarah and Joseph Belknap. “Planetoids,” installation view at The Franklin

RECOMMENDED

Sarah and Joseph Belknap have been working together as a singular multimedia artist-entity since 2008, making objects and happenings that examine and mimic grand experiences—the rare, magical moments in which we are able to comprehend our utter insignificance. Celestial bodies and giant earth formations are often shrunk to a manageable size, bringing our attention to the contrast between our human bodies and the infinite universe we live within. Their use of hyper-synthetic materials like silicone, polystyrene and fiberglass again acknowledges this man/nature duality.

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News: Motor Row Gallery Opens its Doors with a Group Exhibition

Craft Work, Galleries & Museums, News etc., Painting, Sculpture, South Loop No Comments »
motor-gallery-space-3

Installation view of mixed media work in Motor Row Gallery’s inaugural group exhibition

The new Motor Row Gallery (MRG) has emerged on Chicago’s historic Near South Side in the heart of what is known as the Motor Row District. The fact that the gallery is sheltered in the unsuspecting venue of a U-Haul rental facility, well, that’s just the kind of inimitable type of beauty you’d expect to find in Chicago.

The gallery is cozily embedded inside of a Motor Row Lofts building owned by Suzanne Weaver, who has also been running a U-Haul business with her husband from there for the past two and a half years. Motor Row Gallery is an alternative gallery space curated by Weaver’s friend of thirteen years Pamela Staker with a special focus on pop-up art exhibitions and special events. For instance, Staker and Weaver have future plans to hold art expositions outdoors in the warmer months, making use of the extra U-Haul vans that aren’t rented out. Artists would rent a truck where they could display anything from paintings and sculptures to functional and installation work. Since the space would ultimately belong to the artists, they would have free reign on how they chose to present their work in their creative space.

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Review: Body Doubles/Museum of Contemporary Art

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Wu Tsang. "Mishima in Mexico," video still, 2012 high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation

Wu Tsang. “Mishima in Mexico,” video still, 2012
high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation

RECOMMENDED

Body double: an actor’s stand-in. Whether in a simulated car crash or simulated intercourse, the body double performs as a seamless break in the continuity of the lead—identity is momentarily transposed, often on a faceless agent. “Body Doubles” at the MCA, organized by curatorial fellow Michelle Puetz, opens up the logic of this cinematic trick. The same formal operation that multiplies the body is exhibited alongside embodied multiplicity. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dan Gunn/Monique Meloche

Painting, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »
Dan Gunn. "Grand Amusement," dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire

Dan Gunn. “Grand Amusement,”
dye, UV absorbent lacquer on plywood with nylon cord and wire

RECOMMENDED

In “Impromptu Airs,” Dan Gunn has crafted delights for the eye, deviating from his earlier projects that mirrored elements of recognizable architecture and design. A group of “Fans” assembled from laser-cut, wooden strips have been stained in a circus-tent palette of red and white. The standard motif in “Fan No. 9” of 2013 gets stretched into comically elongated and shrinking shapes in the works that flank it, fastidiously assembled trompe l’oeil constructions that imitate the ease of computer-manipulated imagery. “To Fan No. 2” winds a swerving pathway painted in lyrical, Paul Klee palettes. Its pensive, musical sensitivity evokes Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars’ collaborative artist book “Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France.” Thicker wood planks drape from two illusory nails in “Grand Amusement,” dyed in hand-mixed yellow, green, blue and pinks that turn its hard structure into gooey taffy pulled in a shop window. Neither fan nor drapery, “Broadway” contains candy-colored dots dancing in between rich navy parquetry panels. The piece calls to mind Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” as well as Michelle Grabner’s colored paper weavings, recently the center of inner art-world hullabaloo.
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