Exhibitions of successive generations of artists from the same family unavoidably document the change of fashion, but the three generations of artists from the Livchitz family also straddles two different cultures, Soviet and American. As a member of the Soviet Artist’s Union, the grandfather, Chaim (1912–1994), did what most professional artists have done throughout history: glorify the ideology of rulers and priests. Though we might disparage that as propaganda, it’s hard to find a society, including our own, that has survived without it, and Chaim convincingly, if predictably, imagines men of action as strong, intelligent and reliable. His work reminds us that such positive images have been unpopular from the mainstream American art world for several generations. His American-born grandson, Jacob, is predictably ironic as he creates monumental, pseudo-propaganda for that monster of the Cambodian killing fields, Pol Pot. Read the rest of this entry »
John A. Kurtz
Meet three wild and crazy Chicago guys from the generation that grew up in the 1950s and sixties, back when the language of art had not yet been deconstructed and the Beatles had not yet met the Maharishi. Although John Kurtz, Paul Lamantia and Bruce Thorn are introspective, their artworks are hardly private, and rather than inviting you into their own pictorial world, the energy of each picture is always pushing into the world of the viewer. Read the rest of this entry »
After three decades producing contemplative oil paintings and sumi-e ink studies, Terri Zupanc’s latest source of meditation is the land around his family’s cottage on Paint Lake in Upper Peninsula Michigan. The artist’s first exhibition at Jean Albano Gallery, “Paint Lake” contains wood bark and occasional animal shells categorized as “found objects” alongside misty, black-and-white photographs of nudes frolicking through the forest. Zupanc found and chose the curving and twisting bark to place in the gallery as biological readymades, and these sculptures indeed draw the viewer to reflect on the wood’s beauty and natural patterning. Read the rest of this entry »
Kate Levant first rose to prominence in 2009 while still a graduate student at Yale University. In a prime example of silver-lining’s good fortune (or incredibly well placed connections), a proposed blood-drive-as-performance piece denied by the university’s administration was brought to the attention of New York dealer Zach Feuer. A summer show curated by the young Chicago native quickly ensued and since then, Levant has ascended to art-world heights at rapid pace, with solo shows in New York, inclusion in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, and a two-year stint as artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie Amsterdam.
Like the late Robert Rauschenberg, Levant’s practice is omnivorous and her mixed-media installations embrace the materials of everyday life without prejudice. Fabric, corrugated plastic, thread, even the remnants of a burned-out Detroit home have all made appearances in the artist’s oeuvre. The bent, twisted, tattered and colorless materials that comprise the forms in “Inhuman Indifference” are no different, frequently having been altered in idiosyncratic and engaging ways, but remaining eminently, and recognizably themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s not all that surprising that a man whose work takes jabs at power symbols and the concept of reverence would have the chutzpah to bring live horses into the esteemed Hyde Park Art Center.
Though not present when I visited (they will make scheduled appearances during the show’s run), horses clearly influence Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford’s sprawling, ambitious installation. Throughout human history, horses have enabled human movement, from the physical, moving humans across continents, to the ideological, as culture spread as a byproduct of warfare. Horses also mean dominance. Cities around the world are dotted with statues of Great Men sitting astride their noble mounts, usually erected out of some immutable material like bronze or marble because their significance is meant to be permanent and unchanging. The Chicago-based sculptor spent seven months constructing his meditation on what happens to monuments when the unquestionable greatness they represent crumbles in the face of a society that no longer believes in such a thing. “Hall of Khan” is the result, and it doesn’t disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jason Foumberg
It’s an exciting moment for sculpture in Chicago. I’ve tracked a few patterns in contemporary object-making through these nine current exhibitions.
Jun Kaneko at Millennium Park
The newest addition of public art to Millennium Park (for seven months) are dozens of large glazed ceramic sculptures by Jun Kaneko, a Japanese-born, Omaha-based artist who should be familiar to Chicagoans (he’s shown here seventeen times in the past thirty years, but not since 2003.) All of the ceramic sculptures are graphically painted (polka dots, mummy tape) in bright colors. On the Randolph Street side are standing figures, tall and fat as taxidermied bears, but with pig faces and Looney Tunes eyes. There’s a hoard of them, and they’re a little freaky (one has blue nipples). On the Monroe Street side are tablet-shaped objects, the size of tombs, similarly painted. I almost scorned these sculptures—they verge on Cows on Parade kitsch—until I read the artist’s description. The figures are Tanuki, or mythical Japanese trickster characters with jazzy skin and desperate smiles. They’re pleasurably sinister, and a little more non-denominational than the Buddha heads spouting all over Chicago, by Indira Johnson.
Through November 3 at Millennium Park. Read the rest of this entry »
Quoting British artist Liam Gillick: “Art is a convenient term for a mid-space location where you don’t need cultural permission to carry out certain corrective tasks in relation to society in general.” As an artist known for his fences and screens, as well as public interventions, his work seems like a worthwhile point of departure for a high-art take on Edra Soto’s magnificent iron porch-screen, “Graft,” an outdoor re-creation at Oak Park’s Terrain space of similar decorative security fences on porches throughout Soto’s native Puerto Rico. The “corrective task” might be the integration of this semi-diverse neighborhood in a highly segregated region. And yet a fence, especially one that evokes a filigreed cage, clearly sends a message about boundaries. Thus the term “graft,” probably intended horticulturally, resonates nicely in a town where corruption perpetuates inequity. Read the rest of this entry »
You might not guess that Herbert Ferber (1906–1991) was a dentist by looking at his paintings and sculptures, yet it’s not hard to see the impact of one career upon the other. His metal sculptures have twisting sharp edges that slice through space, and his ominous paintings feature large saw teeth that seem immersed in a viscous, red or yellow streaked liquid. You couldn’t call him a hobbyist. He pursued an education and practice in both careers simultaneously from the very beginning, and since he was interested in gestural, abstract sculpture decades before it could become lucrative, he needed another source of income. Read the rest of this entry »
Home connotes familiarity, relaxation, comfort: a place where robes and sweatpants are appropriate attire. Alberto Aguilar’s art practice stirs that lull of relaxation as he transforms quotidian domestic objects into sculpture, and activities into performance. As part of his Elmhurst Art Museum residency, the artist borrowed objects from neighborhood homes to create compounded readymades. Each sculptural assemblage provides a glimpse into the household of their origin: a library of vintage books, kids’ hockey sticks, a wooden bread keeper and a quirky birdcage. Aguilar’s use of life as the material for his art points out artistic and performative possibilities of the everyday, and at Elmhurst, emphasizes the cultural predetermination of our own materials.
Stemming from the resident-artist’s interest in home life, the Elmhurst Art Museum’s winter exhibition, “Open House: Art About Home” gathers five other artists interested in the subject of home, supplementing the pre-existing conversation created by the nearby iconic Mies van der Rohe “McCormick House,” which the museum owns. In contrast to Aguilar’s multidimensional practice, the artwork curator Staci Boris has placed in contiguous galleries consist of two-dimensional painting and photography. In meticulously painted scenes of remembered interior spaces, Ann Toebbe employs the artistic conventions found in Ancient Egyptian art, privileging directness and detail over realistic depiction of space. In turn, Gabrielle Garland’s paintings could be Toebbe’s remembrances on acid, with skewed lighting and bulging forms. Read the rest of this entry »
Adult Contemporary, a new artist-run apartment gallery (formerly Murdertown) in Logan Square, recently kicked off their programming with a two-person show. “Stranger Danger” features a site-specific installation comprised of several sculptural artworks, from hanging tapestries to strategically placed trinkets made, some collaboratively, by Karolina Gnatowski and Judith Brotman.
The work is delicately constructed and placed around the relatively large, creamy-walled apartment, which features no shortage of wood trim and peculiar, decorative architectural details. There are a lot of individual pieces in the show but they have plenty of breathing room in the space, which is split into three rooms. And breathe they do—their organic shapes and wispy construction gives them the sense that they are alive, gently humming, sighing, whistling, whispering—like Gnatowski’s “Badge,” a woven leather piece adorned with childlike jewelry and beads spelling out a Kid Cudi lyric: “Pretty Green Bud / All In My Blunt / Oh I Need It / We Can Take Off Now / Oooh I Wanna / Marijuana.” Read the rest of this entry »