Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

Review: Rodrigo Lara Zendejas/National Museum of Mexican Art

Activist Art, Ceramics, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Pilsen, Sculpture No Comments »
Rodrigo Lara Zendejas, "Deportable Aliens," 2015.

Rodrigo Lara Zendejas. “Installation components / componentes de la instalación,” 2015. Ceramic, 24 x12 x12 inches each, photo: Michael Tropea.


This modest exhibition of new, site-specific work by Mexican artist Rodrigo Lara Zendejas brings to light a shameful and little known piece of United States history. From 1929 to 1939, the federal government authorized the repatriation of nearly one million people of Mexican descent because these so-called freeloading, disease-ridden, illiterate people were taking away “American jobs for real Americans,” as President Hoover’s campaign slogan stated. Mexicans, who comprised the largest immigrant population at the time, were understood to be a particularly potent threat during the inordinate economic hardship of the Great Depression. Zendejas’ counter-memorials evoke this time. His sculpted traces of human likeness on thumb-shaped objects and a sculptural interpretation of an identification card help us face this dark past and understand its legacy in the present.

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Review: Out of Office/Museum of Contemporary Art

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville No Comments »
Hugh Scott-Douglas. "Untitled," 2014. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field's by exchange.

Hugh Scott-Douglas. “Untitled,” 2014.
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field’s by exchange.


“Out of Office” culls five works from the MCA collection to inquire about labor and financial transactions. The show’s title cannily suggests that the office has expanded. We’re always at the office, even while on lunch break.

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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 »

Review: Ask the Oracle/Heaven Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Ann Gaziano, "Pan, Dot and Sofa." Used baking pans, plate hangers, velour fabric, wood.

Ann Gaziano, “Pan, Dot and Sofa.” Used baking pans, plate hangers, velour fabric, wood.


An oracle, similar to a Magic 8 Ball, ascertains and communicates the unknown and introduces an abrupt epiphany, offering a glimpse of the future and providing calm in the face of uncertainty. This group exhibition focuses on supernatural phenomena such as mediums, possession and artificial divination through painting, sculpture and performance.

During the opening, Claire Arctander performed “Magic Act,” in which she challenged the traditional role of the turn-of-the-century male magician. By choosing volunteers in the crowd, Arctander encouraged individuals to “participate in togetherness” and then, calmly but forcibly, tied their shoelaces together as they stood in a congested circle. Arctander’s performance challenged the comfort of intimacy for the handful of participants that were selected and created a meaningful disconnect from the surrounding audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Nolan Simon and Dylan Spaysky/Night Club

Avondale, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Sculpture No Comments »
Nolan Simon and Dylan Spasky. "Fights," at Night Club.

Nolan Simon and Dylan Spasky. “Fights,” at Night Club.


As Chicago swelters in the high eighties, Nolan Simon and Dylan Spaysky have installed the gallery at Night Club with fans made from banal household items: candle lighters, antennae, pine branches, and carpet. This show deigns to beat the heat.

Painted on these fold-out facsimiles are images of police violence and displacement, migrant travails and riot shields. All but one of the fans are displayed with only the front in view, and the only fan with a visible back declares one word: “NO.” This refusal—of another side, or of the viewer herself—mirrors the painted fronts in a tone of accusation. By locating state repression on handheld fans, the artists fan political flames and bring the war home through their artifacts of everyday construction. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Other Planes of There/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Drawings, East Village, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »

Sun Ra. “Other Planes of There,” 1966.
Ink on metallic silver paper, 14 x 14 inches.


Loosely organized around formal parameters and an eponymous ink drawing by musician Sun Ra, this exhibition of paintings, prints and sculpture explores materials, space and the myriad permutations they assume in contemporary art. From digital printing to additive sculpture to oil on canvas, this stylistically wide-ranging show shifts direction and tone as boldly as Sun Ra changed directions in music.

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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 »

Review: Cyrus Tang Hall of China/Field Museum of Natural History

Ceramics, Craft Work, Design, Galleries & Museums, Museum Campus, Sculpture No Comments »

Statue of Wei Tuo/The Field Museum


Museums such as the Field face significant challenges in their efforts to liven up old collections while accounting for significant developments in historical and anthropological scholarship. The 9,000 square feet of exhibition space in the newly opened Cyrus Tang Hall of China is entertaining enough to captivate visitors of all ages, but it can only provide a cursory introduction to 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, though a much more serious and informative story about earth and its creatures might be told online, where there is infinite space for interactive audios, visuals and texts. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera

Activist Art, Artist Profiles, Installation, Performance, Photography, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera. "In the Absence of a Body," 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera. “In the Absence of a Body,” 2015.
Performance./Courtesy of the artist

Early this July, internationally known Cuban artist Tania Bruguera received her passport from the Cuban government, which had confiscated it for more than six months. Bruguera’s freedom-to-travel marks a turning point in a long and tumultuous relationship with her home country. At the end of last year, she was detained in Havana for her performance “Tatlin’s Whisper #6,” an open-mic participatory event that encourages free speech, a problematic undertaking in the current political climate of Cuba. In the wake of this news and with a recent shift in official diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, it would appear that the future looks bright for the Cuban art community.

Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera, a Cuban-born artist now residing in Chicago, is cautiously optimistic about the changes he has seen. “It’s part of the process and it’s needed…this becomes a symbol for the end of the [Cold War]…but the social and political ways of thinking are the same as they were fifty years ago.”

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