Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: What Good is Art?

Activist Art, Collage, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Painting, Performance, Photography, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view, "The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now," MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. Give us a Poem, 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Installation view, “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” MCA Chicago. July 11-November 22, 2015. Glenn Ligon. “Give us a Poem,” 2007. Black PVC and white neon. 75 5/8 x 74 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem, gift of the artist. Photo: Nathan Keay,  MCA Chicago.

By Elliot J. Reichert

Each time I venture deeper into the tangled economy of art making and its contingent endeavors, I ask myself: What good is art? I am not an artist, but I work with artists and artworks every day. By all accounts, I should believe deeply in art, and yet I routinely question its value. As such, when I go to look at art, I often search in it for signs of doubt, and I am usually comforted to know that I am not alone in my questioning. For if contemporary art can be united under one banner, it would be doubt itself: doubt about politics, about social relations, about economic and class structures, about the very importance of human life. Ironically, this might be why I gravitate toward art in the first place, despite my ambivalence toward its significance. Art turns my fears into forms; it makes real what I cannot, or do not want, to imagine.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lora Fosberg/Linda Warren Projects

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Sculpture, West Town No Comments »
Laura Fosberg. "i love you anyway, too," 2015. Wood and gouache, 9.5 x 7 x 8.5 in.

Laura Fosberg. “i love you anyway, too,” 2015.
Wood and gouache, 9.5 x 7 x 8.5 in.

RECOMMENDED

Lora Fosberg saw her friend cut down, and she found beauty in the body. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Anthony Baab/Threewalls

Design, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Anthony Baab. "Cover the Earth 2," 2015. Marker, cardboard, glue. Dimensions vary. / Image: Clare Britt, courtesy of Threewalls.

Anthony Baab. “Cover the Earth 2,” 2015.
Marker, cardboard, glue. Dimensions vary./Image: Clare Britt, courtesy of Threewalls.

RECOMMENDED

An exhibition filled with cardboard boxes naturally speaks to today’s consumer culture. Rather than displaying tangible goods, the materials used to protect and transport commodities are on show here. The exhibition makes an apt critique of commodity culture, illustrating the constant re-branding efforts of corporations, as well as the vast spread of consumerism and its attendant waste. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Manish Nai/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Architecture, Collage, Craft Work, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Manish Nai. "Untitled," 2015 Dyed burlap, 90" x 4"

Manish Nai. “Untitled,” 2015
Dyed burlap, 90″ x 4″

RECOMMENDED

The work of Mumbai-based Manish Nai makes a viewer reconsider the limits of an artistic medium. He doesn’t use traditional media, such as heavy metals and wood, oil or acrylic. Instead, Nai uses everyday materials—cardboard, jute, newspaper and even his family’s used clothing—to sculpt, mark and render.

For his first solo exhibition in the United States, Nai has created wall hangings, photographic prints, sculptures and four site-specific works, including a gallery pillar wrapped in jute, a burlap-like material that is abundant in India, and a heat-transferred mural that will slowly disappear during the course of the exhibition. His use of traditional artistic processes, such as weaving or drawing and sculpting by hand, in conjunction with contemporary rendering techniques borrowed from digital and new media art, design and architecture give these objects a surprising new dynamism. By combining the old and the new, Nai’s work is thoroughly international even as it remains fully Indian.
Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Cosmosis/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of "Cosmosis" at the Hyde Park Art Center. Photo by Tom Van Eynde.

Installation view of “Cosmosis” at the Hyde Park Art Center/Photo: Tom Van Eynde

RECOMMENDED

The works presented in “Cosmosis” celebrate outer space’s contemporary moment while exploring the increasing overlap between popular culture, scientific inquiry and artistic production. The dense but balanced group show features muted 2D works which offset the scale and ambition of sculpture and media counterparts; great emphasis is placed in the ability of these images and objects to act as agents of communication and interpretation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: After Today/Gallery 400

Activist Art, Installation, Multimedia, Photography, Sculpture No Comments »
Jan Tichy. "Chicago Nature (After Nauman)," 2014 neon, 62" x 62" x 10"

Jan Tichy. “Chicago Nature (After Nauman),” 2014
neon, 62″ x 62″ x 10″

RECOMMENDED

“After Today” purports a dichotomous nature in Chicago, a city overcome with struggles, but resilient and bent on improving the well-being of its inhabitants. A continuation of Gallery 400’s ongoing initiative “Standard of Living,” which delves into how we get by in today’s economy, the exhibition is an examination of Chicago’s present and future, the hardships of today and the aspirations for a better tomorrow.

Chicago’s wounds are not concealed. Poverty, violence and systemic injustice are unmistakable. Marianne Fairbanks’ “Patchwork Pall,” is a swing-set draped with a shroud dyed from the foliage encircling the houses of those forced to abandon them. The piece serves as a somber reflection of changing socio-economic and geo-political conditions, the mourning of a deceased community. 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 »

Review: Charles Ray: Sculpture 1997-2014/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Charles Ray. "Huck and Jim," 2014.  Installation view at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Charles Ray. “Huck and Jim,” 2014.
Installation view at the Art Institute of Chicago.

RECOMMENDED

Charles Ray’s figurative sculptures sparsely populate the second floor of the Modern Wing in this major midcareer retrospective. Walls were removed to give the nineteen works plenty of breathing room. The pieces, cast in white and silver materials, create a cool, calming effect. Combined with the hushed atmosphere, examining the work feels like sneaking up on someone, as in “Sleeping Woman,” where a stainless-steel rendering of a homeless woman naps on a public bench. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Remembering Ruth and Her Revolutionary Art Worlds

Collage, Drawings, Loop, Painting, River North, Sculpture No Comments »
Don Baum. "Untitled Silhouette/Cut Out Portrait of Ruth Horwich," ca. 1980, paint by number painting and other mixed media, 18" x 14.5" x 11" On view at Carl Hammer Gallery

Don Baum. “Untitled Silhouette/Cut Out Portrait of Ruth Horwich,” ca. 1980,
paint by number painting and other mixed media,
18″ x 14.5″ x 11″
On view at Carl Hammer Gallery

By Michael Weinstein

There is a tinge and twinge of sadness attending the viewing of the three concurrent exhibits showcasing the fabled collection of artworks amassed by Ruth Horwich and her husband Leonard over the last half century.

One cannot escape the sense that an era has ended. The Horwich collection is being broken up and cast to the four winds in the aftermath of Ruth Horwich’s death in July, 2014 at the age of ninety-four, preceded by Leonard’s passing in 1983. Her estate seeks to monetize the art. The choice pieces, from the viewpoint of marketability, by Alexander Calder and Andy Warhol, for example, have already been handled by Christie’s. Now we have an opportunity to see the rest of the collection, the non-Western indigenous artifacts at Douglas Dawson Gallery, and the works of the Chicago artists from the second half of the twentieth century—the backbone of the collection—at Carl Hammer Gallery and Russell Bowman Art Advisory. Read the rest of this entry »