Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Chicago Art News Bits

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Jessica Stockholder at Kavi Gupta Gallery

Jessica Stockholder at Kavi Gupta Gallery

By Jason Foumberg

Woman Made Gallery Director Steps Down
Beate Minkovski is retiring as executive director of the not-for-profit Woman Made Gallery. In 1992 Minkovski co-founded the small institution, which is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary woman artists. During Minkovski’s twenty-two-year tenure, she oversaw the exhibition of more than 7,500 woman artists (and several men), and initiated an art outreach program called 20 Neighborhoods. The River West gallery is currently searching for a new director.

An Artists’ Grant Foundation Comes to Town
United States Artists has relocated to Chicago from Los Angeles, at the behest of new CEO Carolina Jayaram, who formerly headed the Chicago Artists Coalition. The philanthropic organization annually awards $50,000 unrestricted grants to individual artists in various disciplines, including the visual arts. Chicago artists David Hartt and Theaster Gates were both recent recipients. Artists must be nominated by a peer panel in order to apply for the $50,000 grant. United States Artists is partly funded by philanthropists, including local art collectors Helen Zell and Jack Guthman. The next round of grants will occur toward the end of the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: A Gutsy Whitney Biennial

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still from Steve Reinke's "Rib Gets In the Way," 2014.

still from Steve Reinke’s “Rib Gets In the Way,” 2014.

By Jason Foumberg

I trust artists who upset me. I like to feel confused. There is so much I don’t know, and so much to learn.

This was my way of mind after watching the fifty-three minutes of Steve Reinke’s video “Rib Gets In the Way” at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The important survey of contemporary American art features a record number of Chicago artists, including Reinke, a professor of art at Northwestern University who premiered an epic, unsettling video artwork. It is essentially a nature documentary—human nature, that is. Narrating with the cadence and candor of Carl Sagan, Reinke tours the black market of the soul. Behold, he seems to say, this is how to make art as a prophylaxis against death.

I wish my review could solely be about Reinke’s video, for the more I revisit it, the more it wrenches my brain and heart. There is so much art to like in this edition of the Whitney Biennial, a packed exhibition with as many points of entry as there are complicated objects. Reinke’s video exemplifies a type of emotional intelligence demanded by many of the works on display. The energy to observe these artworks could equal the labor of their creation. Viewing the exhibition is like unwrapping a hundred psyches by a hundred artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Spring Break! with Chicago Artists

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Jenny Kenlder, "Camouflage X (Deflector Prototype for Endangered Coppery-bellied Puffleg Hummingbird)," 2013

Jenny Kendler, “Camouflage X (Deflector Prototype for Endangered Coppery-bellied Puffleg Hummingbird),” 2013

By Jason Foumberg

I caught up with two dozen Chicago artists for recommendations on getting into the swing of spring.

How to beat the winter freeze:
Lion Stout (from Sri Lanka, 8.5 ABV) —Laura Davis
Water my plants —Dianna Frid
King Spa for a massage, salt sauna, and spicy Korean food —Gwendolyn Zabicki
Whine and Wine —Magalie Guerin
Hot yoga —several artists
I’m not gonna lie…you can’t escape. —Mariano Chavez

How are you preparing for spring?
Walking around Bill O’Brien’s show at the MCA. —Karolina Gnatowski
Cranking out as many new paintings as I can before my new exhibitions. —several artists
Just got a new bike. —Kirsten Leenaars Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Networking-ism

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By Jason Foumberg

Networking used to be a dreaded activity. It was the thing you did awkwardly once a year in the carpeted halls and hotel bars of the College Art Association conference. Over the years, though, you gained more knowledge about the art world from hanging out in those hallways than from the academic papers being read behind the conference room doors. It turns out that you’re not alone in this realization. In fact, networking—socializing, chatting, partying, hanging out—has become the defining art form of this generation’s artists.

The freshest art ideas no longer germinate in the artist’s studio, but in the pub. The most relevant artists don’t make objects; they DJ an event or cook a large meal for other makers to attend. In any city with a high density of artists but little art market support, one-night-only, artist-run events can be more inspiring than a stroll through the gallery district.

Contemporary art’s social turn is at the heart of “what it means to be an active participant in the art world today,” writes Lane Relyea in his new book, “Your Everyday Art World.” Relyea’s main conceit is that social gatherings of like-minded makers are the driving force for the most important outlets of contemporary art, from local apartment galleries to international biennial exhibitions. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Too Many Privileged White Curators in U.S. Museums

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The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

By Jason Foumberg

A new initiative at five U.S. art museums intends to diversify the curatorial ranks at major art museums. A two-million-dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports the initiative, the first of its kind in the U.S. The program connects college sophomores from marginalized backgrounds with curators at the five participating museums. Over four years, the students will receive professional mentoring and paid fellowships in an effort to make art museum curatorial offices as  diverse as the communities they serve.

The participating museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, cite two reports on workplace diversity produced by the American Alliance of Museums, a museum advocacy group, from 2008 and 2010. Of the museum curators employed in the U.S., and the students enrolled in museum studies programs, over eighty percent are white, one study reported. “It is easy to see that curatorial and conservation staff in museums are not diverse,” said Mariët Westermann, vice president of the Mellon Foundation and an art historian, when reached for comment on the telephone. “We have more than enough evidence to know that underrepresentation is very real,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2013: Art

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Top 5 Art Exhibitions
Amalia Pica at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Haseeb Ahmed and Daniel Baird at Roots & Culture
Slow Read at Glass Curtain Gallery
Terry Adkins at the Block Museum of Art
Josiah McElheny at the Arts Club of Chicago
—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Art Trends of 2013
Stock photography
Dropcloths
Vertical stripes
Ontology
Artifacts
—Jason Foumberg Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: My Top Art Picks for Chicago and the Midwest 2013

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Cindy Tower's “Nest Egg” (detail) at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis

Cindy Tower’s “Nest Egg” (detail) at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis

By Pedro Vélez

1. Cindy Tower, “Nest Egg,” at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis
What does class inequality and the financial meltdown look like through the eyes of the proverbial starving artist? Cindy Tower’s “Nest Egg” had the answer in a gargantuan visual diagram on how the rich have gotten richer. In Tower’s sculptural (and metaphorical) visualization, philanthropy is suspect in the tax-dodging structure that’s indirectly facilitated by art institutions.

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Newcity congratulates contributing writer Pedro Vélez

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Newcity is thrilled to acknowledge that contributing writer Pedro Vélez has been selected as a participating artist in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Vélez has contributed criticism to Newcity’s art section since 2010. He will join sixteen other Chicago-based artists in the forthcoming exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. You can read a selection of his writing by clicking: here. Congrats Pedro!

Eye Exam: Galleries Out, Curators In, and Other Artist News

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Laura Letinsky's dinner service from Artware Editions

Laura Letinsky’s dinner service from Artware Editions

By Jason Foumberg

Threewalls Relocation Hiccup
This summer the artist-run non-profit gallery and cornerstone of the West Loop district Threewalls shuttered its exhibition programming to search for a new, expanded location. They hosted a ten-year-anniversary fundraising party to do so, but have been unable to secure a space. Executive director Shannon Stratton says there have been “real possibilities and fairly involved negotiations that fell through” on real estate, including a promising space west of the West Loop near Union Park. Threewalls plans to continue looking for a new location and be moved in by September of 2014. Meanwhile, they remain at 119 North Peoria, with a Faith Wilding retrospective opening in January.

A Funeral for Roxaboxen
The artist-run Pilsen gallery housed in a former funeral parlor, “with a piqued façade that makes it look like a little castle,” is closing after three years of exhibition programming. Roxaboxen, founded in 2009 by Liz McCarthy, Kyle Stephens and Miranda Stokes, was a live/work space with artist studios, yoga classes and stitching parties. They hosted dozens of solo and group exhibitions of original programming, such as the “Splay” and “Grow in the Dark” shows, ACRE resident exhibitions, and participated in the MDW fair. Read the rest of this entry »

In Memoriam: Ellen Lanyon

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By Jason Foumberg

The first time I met Ellen Lanyon she told me I asked too many questions. “It’s better to leave those questions here,” she said, tapping her noggin. In the five years following, I met with Ellen many more times, in coffee shops and in her painting studio, and learned that she was more than willing to open the encyclopedia of Chicago art history that resided in her head and relate its content—but when it came to talking about her own art, she liked to keep things a little mysterious. Like the Victorian-era gadgets and contraptions that she collected and depicted in her paintings, only Ellen knew how they worked; only Ellen knew what they really meant.

Ellen never retired from being an artist. At eighty-six-years-old, she continued an active painting and printmaking practice. She passed away unexpectedly on her return from a week at The Print Studio in Cambridge, England, where she was creating a new series of four prints, titled “Curiosities.” Read the rest of this entry »