Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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: Clare E. Rojas/Kavi Gupta

Painting, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Clare E. Rojas. "Untitled," 2014, oil on linen, and "Untitled," 2014, fabric paint on French vintage linen farm dress

Clare E. Rojas. “Untitled,” 2014, oil on linen, and “Untitled,” 2014, fabric paint on French vintage linen farm dress

Over the past several years, San Francisco-based artist Clare E. Rojas has steadily expunged the visual elements her work was best known for: the cast of men, women and animals that populated her playful, folk-art-inspired narratives are gone. What remains are geometric abstractions distilled from the design-oriented stages upon which her fables once occurred. Dominated by negative space, only crisp passages of intense, often-primary color interrupt surfaces now rendered austere. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Material Gestures: Cut, Weave, Sew, Knot/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Sheila Hicks. "Dervish," 2011 steel, linen, wool

Sheila Hicks. “Dervish,” 2011
steel, linen, wool

RECOMMENDED

Rhona Hoffman brings together a group exhibition of works from the past thirty years that shows how fabric performs as a palimpsest of industrial and domestic worlds, transplanted from utilitarian to art contexts.

Karen Reimer’s “Endless Set #1399,” was originally developed as a site-specific installation for UIC’s Gallery 400. Digits cut from white cloth are sewn in 1399 patches, stacked in the shape of pillowcases on the corner of a wooden bed-shaped frame. The work privileges an unrelenting systematic approach over conceptual transparency. Beside this sparsely arranged numerical record is a more chaotic and carnal collage. Anne Wilson’s “Mourning Cloth” is a loosely hung shroud, matted with human hair and featuring a small hole lined like a made-up eye with tiny black stitches that diffuse outwards, suggesting a vacant cosmic gaze. Patches of stained and used tablecloth are sewn together to emphasize fissures. The dispersal and patchwork of materials permeated with an undisclosed domestic life suggests another kind of compulsive action, an attempt to mend, without eradicating the compound histories of the material. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Edra Soto/Lloyd Dobler Gallery

Installation, Sculpture, Textiles No Comments »
Edra Soto. “Say Everything,” 2014, installation view at The Lloyd Dobler Gallery mixed Media (flags, fans, plastic chairs, beach towels, tape, sand, cooler, pink light, latex paint). Photo by Michael Soto

Edra Soto. “Say Everything,” 2014,
installation view at The Lloyd Dobler Gallery
mixed Media (flags, fans, plastic chairs, beach towels, tape, sand, cooler, pink light, latex paint)/Photo: Michael Soto

RECOMMENDED

Unlike the fictional lead character, Lloyd Dobler, of the eighties teenage classic “Say Anything,” Soto’s rebellious carefree attitude in “Say Everything” is the result of mature and considered thinking, a deliberate expression of the ambiguous nature of desirable objects, and the figurative and administrative commonwealth.

Five verdant flags flutter in the gently constructed breeze issuing from brightly painted red fans that are variously standing or clipped to plastic lawn furniture upholstered with tiger-faced beach towels. A pink cooler, encrusted and filled with glittering pink sand, rests on a short floor-level plinth. Silver tape on the windows mimics the patterns of Puerto Rican fencing screens, a frequent subject for Soto, slicing the evening light into shadows that echo the patterns on the flags. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ethel Stein/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Textiles No Comments »
Ethel Stein. "No to Indian Point," 1997

Ethel Stein. “No to Indian Point,” 1997

RECOMMENDED

With her mastery of craftsmanship and design, Ethel Stein, born 1917, might now be the master weaver at the Bauhaus had it endured as long she has. This retrospective, spanning 1982 through 2008, suggests that her primary concern in those years was the pictorial potential of work produced on an old-fashioned drawloom, photographs of which are prominently displayed beside her work. Responding to personal, community and art world concerns, she did things with a loom that have more often been done with brush, paint and canvas. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: texttexttext/Woman Made Gallery

Multimedia, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Briar Craig. “Gluten-Free Poetry”

Briar Craig. “Gluten-Free Poetry”

RECOMMENDED

“Texttexttext” at Woman Made Gallery is a cogent and self-conscious group exhibition that effectively engages notions of language as ever-changing, the battle between public and private social spheres, and the presence of a self-consciousness that is so prevalent in our age of selfies, tweets and Facebook postings. The artists in this show work from these starting points to ponder the transparency of the twenty-first century using a neo-dadaist humor and a deep awareness of our world. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Public Displays of Artistic Affection

Architecture, Textiles No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

As the art world shifts interest away from loner studio practices, it is relationships—long-distance relationships, no-strings-attached relationships, contractual relationships—that make an excellent metaphor for the relevancy of art in our lives. Three exhibitions this week make transparent some interpersonal, artistic relations for all to see.

Messing with Mies

The iconic modernist glass house in Plano, Illinois, could be the banner image for the state of modern privacy. Designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and sited sixty miles southwest of Chicago, the Farnsworth House, a home with glass exterior walls, reveals all of its insides, a fact that the home’s original owner, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, found to be “unbearably oppressive,” wrote architecture historian Joan Ockman. Farnsworth felt like a hamster in a cage or an actor on a stage while she inhabited her second home from 1951-71.

Osvaldo Romberg at the Farnsworth House. Photo: Alia Pergala

Osvaldo Romberg at the Farnsworth House/Photo: Alia Pergala

Farnsworth expressed her anxiety of living in a glass box to House Beautiful magazine, in 1953. The white-steel-and-glass box has a patina of anxiety. It animates its character. Anyone who visits imagines herself living in the raw glass box, with its attendant discomforts.

For the next several weeks, the Farnsworth House has a guest living on its porch: the skeleton of the Melnikov House, an avant-garde Russian house from the 1920s. The floor plan of that Moscow home has been replicated to scale in wood, painted yellow, propped on sawhorses, and now abuts the Farnsworth House’s front yard at a perpendicular angle.

Typically a beacon of serene, solemn contemplation, nestled among cornfields and the Fox River, the Farnsworth House is now interrupted by the Melnikov House. Artist Osvaldo Romberg calls this a “translocation.” He has performed this sort of intervention at iconic architectural sites around the world.

“Forms happen, like love,” said Romberg on the steps of the Farnsworth Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Shelly Jyoti and Laura Kina/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Textiles No Comments »

INDIGO KinaApplied to a contemporary art exhibition, the saying about a tree falling in a forest might go something like this: If an artwork’s political or ideological import isn’t palpable in the work itself, does it have any repercussions? If the viewer can’t sense it, is it really there at all? Such questions have become increasingly important as artists who engage global capitalism and its discontents make the ethical dimensions and political ramifications of artistic production integral to their work, as do Shelly Jyoti and Laura Kina.

Jyoti a textile artist, and Kina, primarily a painter, tackle identity politics and post-colonialism through their respective mediums. They teamed up for “Indigo,” a collaborative exhibition of work featuring that particular murky shade of blue, named for the natural dye from which it’s derived. As the exhibition text explains, indigo has a rich, layered cultural and socioeconomic history. For Jyoti, the color signifies the struggles of Indian indigo farmers oppressed by British rule back in the nineteenth century. Her “Indigo Narratives” series adapts ancient embroidery and printing techniques in wall textiles and one giant, cascading mobile to contemporary images that symbolize India’s struggle under colonialism and subsequent non-violent rebellion. Kina’s “Devon Avenue Sampler Series” a “sampler” of both needlework and appropriation, combines textiles from Indian and Jewish traditions with text and commercial iconography native to Devon Avenue, a street that Chicago magazine once called “the most beguiling commercial strip in the city” due to its dizzying array of ethnically diverse restaurants and shops. While “Indigo” is billed as a collaboration between two professional artists, the gallery didactics acknowledge other hands at work—much of the material labor that went into the art on display was performed by Indian artisans belonging to a fair-trade women’s collective. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Josef Frank/Swedish American Museum

Andersonville, Design, Textiles No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

“Frank has designed a brothel” was one response to Josef Frank’s contribution to the Die Wohnung housing fair in Stuttgart in 1927. Like many progressive architects and designers, Josef Frank (1885-1967) was strongly opposed to the heavy opulence that we associate with the Victorian age. But unlike the Bauhaus designers, he did not eschew fantastic ornament, and indeed, the generous, diverse, out-sized sensuality of his fabrics would have served quite well in that capacity. This exhibition samples some of the 170 patterns that he designed until 1950, and you can see why so many of them remain in print. They’re wild and crazy, with a feeling of whimsical excitement and discovery meandering off into infinity. As Frank once declared, “one should design their surroundings as if they originated by chance,” and indeed, some of these designs do seem to have originated with a chance encounter the artist had with a book of American birds or a Chinese landscape seen while visiting the Metropolitan Museum. Frank only spent a few years in Manhattan, but it made quite an impression on his imagination. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ani Afshar/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Textiles No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Entering Ani Afshar’s exhibition, “Woven Gardens, Shredded Shadows,” currently on view at the Hyde Park Art Center, it is impossible to escape an acknowledgement of the history of craft. The selection of weavings on view, ranging in date from the 1980s to the present, demonstrate a telescoped view of Afshar’s vocabulary developed in tandem to her commercial line of functional textile décor and jewelry work, though the works have remained off exhibition for the past three decades in a traditional gallery setting. With an aesthetic that adopts stylistic traits of traditional Western weavings, the various hand-woven cloths that compose Afshar’s earthen-toned landscapes, whose elements are stitched, sewn and beaded together on passages of mohair and silk, speak to invention rather than history. Read the rest of this entry »