Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Daniel Luedtke and Ben Seamons/Roots & Culture

Installation, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Daniel Luedtke. "Automatic Thoughts," 2015 oil, pencil, resin, gouache, foam board, wood, dead vibrating bullets extinguished by Liz Rosenfeld, Ana Raba and Joel Parsons 47'' x 57''

Daniel Luedtke. “Automatic Thoughts,” 2015
oil, pencil, resin, gouache, foam board, wood, dead vibrating bullets extinguished by Liz Rosenfeld, Ana Raba and Joel Parsons
47” x 57”

RECOMMENDED

Daniel Luedtke’s “Automatic Thoughts” takes up nearly an entire wall at the back of “Spine, Crack, Transfigure,” a piece appearing like a resin-coated recycling symbol with a messy composition that looks hand-drawn. The three arrows comprising the sculpture surround a circle, and contain three vibrating bullets fixed at about twelve, two and six o’clock respectively. The sex toys were depleted of their battery power by Ana Raba, Liz Rosenfeld and Joel Parsons, the absent users who enacted elements of this work. The vibratory ghosts limply hang as the expired record of the collaborators’ pleasure. They are almost hidden save for a cord dangling within the circle or “O,” a way to place a physical act into the diagram-like form. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Documentia/SideCar

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Bertram Litoff. "Untitled," c. 2003-2005, digital photographs of paused live television, 4" x 7" prints.

Bertram Litoff. “Untitled,” c. 2003-2005, digital photographs of paused live television, 4″ x 7″ prints.

RECOMMENDED

The group show “Documentia,” which explores the drive to document from meditative to compulsory, feels right at home in SideCar, an old residential house that has been converted into exhibition space. The most remarkable work was not created by a trained artist but rather found by curator Erik Wenzel: digital photographs of still-frame prime-time television taken by amateur photographer Bertram Litoff. Displayed in simple clear sleeves in rows of three, many of the images focus on TV news personalities reminiscent of Robert Heinecken’s 1980s “Newswomen,” but Litoff’s inclusion of random animal scenes confuses any linear narrative for his hunting. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Doris Salcedo/Museum of Contemporary Art

Gold Coast/Old Town, Installation, Sculpture No Comments »
Doris Salcedo. “Untitled" works, 1989-2008, wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

Doris Salcedo. “Untitled” works, 1989-2008,
wooden furniture, concrete, clothing, steel and glass

RECOMMENDED

The very first retrospective of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s thirty-year career begins with her recent “Plegaria Muda,” a maze of more than one-hundred upended tables sandwiching a thick layer of dirt between their backs and appearing as coffins. Tiny blades of grass grow out from between the wood planks, a subtle indication of the time poured into the growing and crafting of each blade and table. “Plegaria Muda” is created from Salcedo’s research into gang violence in Los Angeles combined with viewing the mass graves of grieving mothers’ sons in Colombia. The piece is a meditative entrance into Salcedo’s content, an attempt to erase the anonymity of those disappeared in her home country and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Collecting Paradise/Block Museum of Art

Drawings, Evanston, Painting, Sculpture, Textiles No Comments »

"White Tara Painting," Western Tibet, 16th-17th century painting on cloth, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology Koelz Collection of Himalayan Art, Koelz 17458 [K569]

“White Tara Painting,”
Western Tibet, sixteenth-seventeenth-century
painting on cloth, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology
Koelz Collection of Himalayan Art, Koelz 17458 [K569]

RECOMMENDED

“If you find Buddhist art in a monastery, take it” might well have been an early twentieth-century variation on the koan made famous by Sheldon Kopp, as Western scholars scoured South Asia for artifacts. Gallery signage tells us that what Professor Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984) called a garbage dump, local monks considered a repository of sacred relics. Shame on him, but without his acquisition, four magnificent eleventh-century folios would not now be showing at the Block Museum. And they really have the sharp perfection of world-class illumination and calligraphy. Then there was Walter Koelz (1895-1989), a zoologist at the University of Michigan who collected whatever caught his eye. At the Likir monastery, he proudly bargained down the price on two seventeenth-century painted fabrics. Without them, the third, left behind, could no longer perform a ritual function. They don’t kick you in the gut like the dharma-defender hanging nearby, but Koelz’s Buddhist divinities have plenty of grace and power one would not experience without his questionable efforts. Such appropriation by Western collectors is one thing that may happen to sacred art, centuries after it was made. Alternatively, these works could be collected by devotees, where they might influence the art and religious practice of other lands. Those are some of the rather predictable kinds of stories this exhibition tells about the legacies of Buddhist art from Kashmir. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure/Chicago Artists Coalition

Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Lori Felker. "A Trip to Always Falls," 2015, video projection and headphones, 17 minute loop

Lori Felker. “A Trip to Always Falls,” 2015,
video projection and headphones, seventeen-minute loop

RECOMMENDED

“Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure” declares its ethos with clarity and directness in advance of any art. There is no irony in this claim nor in the work, a diverse presentation of mixed media that represents the culmination of six artists’ recent Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH residencies. Curated by HATCH resident Erin Toale, the exhibition meditates on David Foster Wallace’s notion of the “anti-rebel,” an imagined figure whose earnest and dogged effort, Foster suggests, might be the much needed antidote to all that is too cool in today’s hip culture. Accordingly, the artists here are visibly struggling, not with the quest of “making it” but with questions of practice and identity, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rooted in Soil/DePaul Art Museum

Installation, Lincoln Square, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Claire Pentecost. "Our Bodies, Our Soil," installation view

Claire Pentecost. “Our Bodies, Our Soil,” 2014-2015, installation view

RECOMMENDED

Soil is a catalyst for riveting conversations at the DePaul Art Museum’s current exhibition “Rooted in Soil.” Environmental awareness, life cycles and science are a few of the ideas explored in this captivating exhibition co-curated by a mother-daughter team, Laura and Farrah Fatemi. This multi-sensorial and interactive show consists of thirty-seven artworks by fifteen artists, and emphasizes an often overlooked—but essential—part of life: soil.

“Soil is undervalued,” Laura Fatemi explained in an interview. “People recognize you need clean air and water. But do they recognize that soil needs to be free of pollutants to be healthy?” The show’s interactive component tactfully answers this question. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Threewalls Announces 2015 Edition of Community Supported Art Chicago

Architecture, News etc., Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Julia Klein, “Stand/Statuette.” Mock-up of the planned editions. Edition of 25 + 6 artist proofs. All thirty-one are unique in terms of exact measurements and color. Cast bronze, steel and paint.

Julia Klein, “Stand/Statuette.” Mock-up of the planned editions. Edition of 25 + 6 artist proofs. All thirty-one are unique in terms of exact measurements and color. Cast bronze, steel and paint.

Threewalls, one of Chicago’s non-profit art leaders in pro-artist programming, is launching the 2015 edition of its Community Supported Art Chicago (CSA) series: “The Tabletop Collection.” Using the theme of a sculpture garden reimagined for a tabletop, the collection will be available as a set with works by five Chicago-based artists: Laura Davis, Assaf Evron, Julia Klein, Sabina Ott and Stephen Reber. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dorothy Dehner/Valerie Carberry

Drawings, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Dorothy Dehner. "Untitled," 1975 ink on paper

Dorothy Dehner. “Untitled,” 1975
ink on paper

RECOMMENDED

Dehner’s training in the twenties took her from Cleveland to both coasts, and included several renowned teachers. With her artist spouse, she was a fixture in the upstate New York art colony of Bolton Landing. After her divorce in the fifties, Dehner moved to Manhattan, where she remained for the rest of her long life. She suffered staggering losses. Her parents and only sister died by the time she was eighteen. A second husband died in 1974. The wrong prescription rendered her blind shortly before her death in a stairwell in 1994.
Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Wyatt Grant/Paris London Hong Kong

Painting, Sculpture, West Loop 1 Comment »
Wyatt Grant. "Facade," 2014 gouache on wood

Wyatt Grant. “Facade,” 2014
gouache on wood

Vicious tenebrous gods of Subjectivity! There’s no real reason, that I could find, for castigating Wyatt Grant’s “Dreamer Gets Another Dream,” a collection of collages and paintings and bantam sculptures; only that they fail both conceptually and aesthetically—”aesthetic” here not to be confused with “beautiful”—and therefore holistically. What is it saying, when the most attractive pieces are abstract works that embody the supposed theme of the show the least, wherein the colors and shapes and lines and spaces are arranged just so in a purified neo-plastic way? (This is how, by the way, a work of art succeeds aesthetically.) Meanwhile, the finest piece of quasi-representational work is one wherein the abstraction runs high and fast—a tartan face, a floating eye, a hulking hourglass form—and sits in a pile next to the gallery assistant, ready and willing to be taken home with you (not an indictment; personally, I love how my favorite piece can live with me, and me it). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Drunken Geometry/Devening Projects and Editions

Ceramics, Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Leslie Baum + Allison Wade. Drunken Geometry, installation view, February 2015.

Leslie Baum + Allison Wade. Drunken Geometry, installation view, February 2015.

RECOMMENDED

“Drunken Geometry,” the new collaborative exhibition by Leslie Baum and Allison Wade, is a risky proposition. By tackling the classic conventions and traditions associated with the still life, these two Chicago-based artists seek to extend our preexisting notions of the genre by, in effect, taking them apart. The approach is as pregnant with possibility as it is fraught with travails.

Sculptural formulations are particularly susceptible to problems inherent to deconstruction since a table displayed without substantive transformation remains merely a table, an artifact of our mundane world rather than an active agent in the world of art. Though reasonable people can (and should) disagree, objects placed within the environs of gallery are not art by default. The wall-mounted “Many Things Conspired #1” as well as the floor-bound “New Things (the persistence of ordered objects) #1,” which both seem a little too self-satisfied as minimally altered objects, are the most problematic in this regard. Read the rest of this entry »