Jack Tworkov. “Untitled (Reclining Figure),” circa 1955, charcoal on paper
Jack Tworkov is best known for his gestural paintings of the 1950s. But his work runs the gamut of mid-century American genres: from Social Realism to Abstract Expressionism to Geo-form to Minimalism. You might say he jumped on every new bandwagon, but he stayed away from the irony and pop-culture tropes of postmodernism. This first-generation American seemed less interested in pushing the boundaries of art and taste than in exploiting every new opportunity for expressing and valorizing his restless, rootless self in an ever-changing world. Life drawing, quickly executed, gave him many such opportunities, as he moved back and forth between observational detail and compositional dynamic. Read the rest of this entry »
Bill Sosin. “Mirage”
Shooting the streets and sidewalks of Chicago in color, at any time of day and night, through the windows of his car when heavy and clinging rains are falling, Bill Sosin captures the miasma in which we are enveloped at those moments. If we are not too drenched and assaulted by the wind and the chill to notice, such scenes can have a rough yet melting beauty for us, with which Sosin is enthralled. Read the rest of this entry »
Participants in panel “The Materiality of the Image.” Panelists Daniel Gordon, Anthony Elms, Barbara Kasten and Shane Huffman being introduced by symposium organizer Laura Letinsky.
Can you trust a picture? This was the preeminent question to emerge from a daylong symposium on contemporary photographic practices hosted on November 21 at the University of Chicago. Organized by artist and UChicago faculty member Laura Letinsky, “Unsuspending Disbelief,” a symposium of three panels and several open discussions, took as its point of trajectory a conflicted ontological viewpoint of the photograph. What is the potential of a photograph to confirm what we want to believe, and to show us what we cannot see on our own? Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of Puppies Puppies’ “Gollum” at Courtney Blades
Producing two concurrent shows in one space, Puppies Puppies occupies the top and bottom of the building that houses Courtney Blades—“Bathroom” above and “Gollum” appropriately down below. What might have been a gimmicky, plain exhibition has been realized toward intriguing ends that reconcile stark understatements with excessively idiosyncratic fantasies. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah and Joseph Belknap. “Planetoids,” installation view at The Franklin
Sarah and Joseph Belknap have been working together as a singular multimedia artist-entity since 2008, making objects and happenings that examine and mimic grand experiences—the rare, magical moments in which we are able to comprehend our utter insignificance. Celestial bodies and giant earth formations are often shrunk to a manageable size, bringing our attention to the contrast between our human bodies and the infinite universe we live within. Their use of hyper-synthetic materials like silicone, polystyrene and fiberglass again acknowledges this man/nature duality.
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Installation view of mixed media work in Motor Row Gallery’s inaugural group exhibition
The new Motor Row Gallery (MRG) has emerged on Chicago’s historic Near South Side in the heart of what is known as the Motor Row District. The fact that the gallery is sheltered in the unsuspecting venue of a U-Haul rental facility, well, that’s just the kind of inimitable type of beauty you’d expect to find in Chicago.
The gallery is cozily embedded inside of a Motor Row Lofts building owned by Suzanne Weaver, who has also been running a U-Haul business with her husband from there for the past two and a half years. Motor Row Gallery is an alternative gallery space curated by Weaver’s friend of thirteen years Pamela Staker with a special focus on pop-up art exhibitions and special events. For instance, Staker and Weaver have future plans to hold art expositions outdoors in the warmer months, making use of the extra U-Haul vans that aren’t rented out. Artists would rent a truck where they could display anything from paintings and sculptures to functional and installation work. Since the space would ultimately belong to the artists, they would have free reign on how they chose to present their work in their creative space.
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Wu Tsang. “Mishima in Mexico,” video still, 2012
high definition video projection (color, sound) and programmed LED light installation
Body double: an actor’s stand-in. Whether in a simulated car crash or simulated intercourse, the body double performs as a seamless break in the continuity of the lead—identity is momentarily transposed, often on a faceless agent. “Body Doubles” at the MCA, organized by curatorial fellow Michelle Puetz, opens up the logic of this cinematic trick. The same formal operation that multiplies the body is exhibited alongside embodied multiplicity. Read the rest of this entry »
Sandro Miller. “Annie Leibovitz / John Lennon and Yoko Ono (1980),” 2014
Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich. Take a famous sixty-year-old actor and substitute him for the subjects of well-known, mainly celebrity, photographic portraits, duplicating the original scenarios as precisely as possible in the studio; shoot the setup, and you have Sandro Miller’s conceit in his collaboration with John Malkovich. It is somewhat dizzying to contemplate images that are at three removes from real human beings, who have morphed into images crafted by teams of managers that have been further altered by a gifted photographer, and that have finally been subverted by another celebrity who is simulating the original celebrity-images to humorous effect, whether intentional or not.
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By Matt Morris
“They hop between revolving scenes, juggle various professional identities, seek out and improvise ever-new situations and contexts for staging what can be recognized and evaluated by their peers as art, all squeezed into schedules already bloated with myriad non-art activity.” This is how art critic and Northwestern professor Lane Relyea depicts the contemporary art laborer in his 2014 essay “Afterthoughts on D.I.Y. Abstraction,” a digestible think piece that shares the concerns he investigated at length in his 2013 book “Your Everyday Art World.”
His take is poignantly accurate. Our town (and increasingly more of the art world) runs on multi-hyphenate cultural producers who not only make art but also curate, write, teach and run alternative galleries. We’re embedded in a pervasive labor economy that has mutated into part-time work status, short-term contracts (or no contracts) and a demand for flexibility, availability and diversified skill sets. I’ve been writing this text along with two other articles and a grossly overdue catalogue essay this week, while teaching two courses at SAIC, troubleshooting shipping and consignments for an exhibition I’m curating, and stubbornly insisting on the better part of two days in my studio because I’m falling behind in my production schedule for an exhibition next year. My workload isn’t extraordinary or even varied beyond the status quo. It’s not exceptional that I slip between myriad roles; in fact it’s all day, everyday for most of us.
While Relyea’s analysis is useful in symptomatizing our labor and, indeed, we may all be acting out tacit directives that guarantee even more insidious modes of capitalism and lifetimes of instability for a burgeoning “precaritariat,” I’ve wanted to better understand artists’ presumed motives for working across disciplines in personally attuned panoplies of creative output. I wrote to a number of other folks in Chicago to hopefully compare notes and maybe commiserate. Everyone who replied was frankly honest about diversification as a means to make a living while also holding to the possibilities that these hybrids allow (or at least once allowed) for nimble forms of criticality and subversion. Read the rest of this entry »
Installation view of Sabina Ott’s “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center
Sabina Ott’s site-specific installation “here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center intersperses highbrow with lowbrow sensibilities as a means of contemplating value. Spanning three rooms, each gallery is named after the levels Dante travels in the epic poem “The Divine Comedy.” Ott visualizes the work of Dante and a bibliography of vetted literary greats in an indulgent paean to manmade synthetics, vulgar taste and a preference for the saccharinely artificial. Conventions of value assignment are reconsidered therein. Each artwork is named after lines from Gertrude Stein’s writing, and the stream-of-consciousness, choppy build-up in Stein’s syntax plays similarly as Ott’s glut of attractive material accumulations.
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