Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Luis Sahagun/Kruger Gallery Chicago

Installation, Lakeview, Sculpture, Video No Comments »
Luis Sahagun. "Imprints of a Broken Lover" 2015 chain and fabric on concrete

Luis Sahagun. “Imprints of a Broken Lover” 2015
chain and fabric on concrete


Appropriately titled “Escombros” or “rubble,” what Luis Sahagun’s new show at Kruger Gallery lacks in formal elegance, it effectively delivers in expressive force. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, this Chicago-based artist conjures a remarkable variety of sculptural form from the damaged and discarded. Wood, metal, plaster, concrete and copious amounts of cardboard are fused into ungainly objects that suggest their origin as urban detritus while obliquely pointing to Sahagun’s experiences as an undocumented immigrant. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Ethan Gill/Julius Caesar

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »
Ethan Gill. "Cosmonauts,"  oil on canvas

Ethan Gill. “Cosmonauts,”
oil on canvas


“Mean On Sunday,” Ethan Gill’s exhibition of paintings of football players at Julius Caesar, is cultural criticism through American pastime. Goalposts loom in the deep distance functioning as they would in set paintings on a stage—dressings included for context but removed from the action of the moment.

The scenes have only a nominal relationship to the ordered ritual of a football game. In “No Good,” mutant protagonists, torsos fused side-by-side and three-wide, simultaneously set up for a field goal and knock-out a member of the opposing team—the only player of color in view—in a play as implausible as the conjoined uniform of the triplets. The fumbler of “Fumble” discharges a column of smoke from his mouth in a scene that reads more as an industrial wasteland than a sports field. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Gordon Matta-Clark/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Collage, Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Gordon Matta-Clark. "Circus," 1978 silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4" x 73 1/4"

Gordon Matta-Clark. “Circus,” 1978
silver dye bleach print (Cibachrome), 29 1/4″ x 73 1/4″


In 1978, the Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned artist Gordon Matta-Clark to execute one of his trademark “building cut” projects in a recently acquired brownstone on Ontario Street. The result, “Circus or The Caribbean Orange,” a series of large-scale circular lacerations that radically altered the structure’s interior, would sadly be the artist’s last major statement before his untimely death at age thirty-five. What remains of the epic scale of this ephemeral project are a series of the artist’s captivating photocollages. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Cody Tumblin/Devening Projects

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »
Cody Tumblin. "Probably Gonna Roll on Through," dye and watercolor on hand-dyed cotton, 60" × 46"

Cody Tumblin. “Probably Gonna Roll on Through,”
dye and watercolor on hand-dyed cotton, 60″ × 46″


The sizes and shapes of Cody Tumblin’s paintings in “Tell Tale” resemble those of books, albeit ones with beautiful covers. Most have in fact been made to fit the dimensions of meaningful books in the artist’s personal collection. The biblio theme extends to many of the dyed and painted pieces in Tumblin’s show, from bands of color on the left side of the paintings approximating binding to the smaller works leaning on shelves as if on display in a store.
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Review: Imani Amos/Beauty & Brawn

Logan Square, Photography No Comments »
Imani Amos. "Untitled," 2014 photographic print on matte heavyweight cardstock, 30" x 19.5"

Imani Amos. “Untitled,” 2014
photographic print on matte heavyweight cardstock, 30″ x 19.5″


With the much promoted “conversation” on race relations in America getting into high gear post-Ferguson, Missouri, there could be no more genial and thought-provoking contribution to that discussion than Imani Amos’ exhibition of fifty black-and-white “mug shots” of young-adult and middle-age African-American men taken against police lineup sheets as they hold up signs composed by themselves listing their accomplishments, attitudes and proclivities. In “Humanizing America’s Most Hunted,” Amos is out to explode prejudice in its strictest sense, the mindset that labels African-American men as “derelicts” on sight without knowing anything about them. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Evanston Biennial Solo Shows/Evanston Art Center

Collage, Evanston, Installation, Painting, Sculpture 1 Comment »
Noelle Allen. "Henry's Rainbow", 2014 resin, 23" x 32" x 2"

Noelle Allen. “Henry’s Rainbow”, 2014
resin, 23″ x 32″ x 2″


This May, the Evanston Art Center will end its forty-eight year residence at the former Harley Clarke mansion and move into a newly renovated space one mile away. For the final exhibition within its historic location that blossoms with organic design and motifs, the center has selected three artists whose practices are deeply rooted in the natural world: Noelle Allen, Jennifer Yorke and Robert Porazinski. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Shaker in Chicago/Loyola University Museum of Art

Design, Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture 1 Comment »
A Pine "Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840" from New Lebanon, New York.

A Pine “Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840″ from New Lebanon, New York.


Actually three separate exhibitions, this is altogether the most thorough presentation of Shaker culture ever seen in Chicago. More formally the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing,” the Shakers are the longest continually operating religious utopian community in America. At their height they numbered five thousand across twenty-two communities.

Nearly all the objects seen here were first collected in the 1920s and thirties by a passionate young American couple. But modernism itself owes a huge debt to the ornament-less functionality of Shaker design. “Beauty rests on utility,” is their maxim. Most people think furniture when they think Shaker, and visitors will certainly drool over the many fine pieces on display. Their famous ladder-back chairs—highly functional and quickly made—were the Ikea of their day. A cobbler’s bench has an ergonomic seat along with the patina of abundant use. Particularly charming are the dolls, the child’s rocker (originally priced at $3.25), and all the costume and textiles. But there are strange items here, too, such as an oddly humane adult cradle and an early electrostatic medical device (use unknown). Shaker road signs topped with scriptural warnings addressed trespassers, and fascinating “Gift Drawings” were the calligraphic version of speaking in tongues. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Changes in Threewalls Leadership as Shannon Stratton Leaves for New York

Galleries & Museums, News etc., West Loop No Comments »
Threewalls founder Shannon Stratton, photo by Clare Britt

Threewalls founder Shannon Stratton/Photo: Clare Britt

In a heartfelt letter addressed to friends and supporters of Threewalls on March 26, founder and executive director Shannon Stratton announced that she has been appointed the William and Mildred Lasdon chief curator at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York City. Stratton will be leaving after twelve years as executive director at Threewalls and will begin her position at MAD on June 15, 2015.

In an email exchange, Stratton nostalgically reminisces on some of her most prized moments at Threewalls. “It’s hard to really choose just one thing I’m proud of. I am mostly just incredibly happy that the organization will outlive its founder(s)—that is, stand on its own three feet with a staff and board that isn’t drawn from the organization’s original team. My most beloved success is curating Faith Wilding’s retrospective.” At MAD, Stratton will be a senior management team member, responsible for leading museum strategy for collections and exhibitions as well as for setting the artistic vision for the museum in collaboration with MAD director Glenn Adamson, explains Stratton. “There is plenty to look forward to with this move, but very personally, I am excited to be working full time as a curator, join a team I respect and get to refocus on the intersections between contemporary art, craft and design.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Saccoccio, Metzger, Barazani/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Drawings, Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Jackie Saccoccio. "Square in Hole," 2014 oil and mica on linen, 79" x 79"

Jackie Saccoccio. “Square in Hole,” 2014
oil and mica on linen, 79″ x 79″


Part of their “March Trifecta” of exhibitions, Jackie Saccoccio’s new all-over paintings are unified by a concentrated hovering apparition. The subtractive process of layering paint passages evoke openly flayed nervous systems in controlled pours, drips and squeegeed treatments of indulgent color palettes. Saccoccio’s “Square in Hole” is an enthralling break from negotiating potentially formulaic x and y-axis of “portraits.” Vectors of negative space between drips are exuberantly dashed-in. Paintings hung strategically in succession push the threshold of what one wall should be made to carry. Expansiveness and restraint are emphasized. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Stand in the Sun

Garfield Park, Installation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
Erin Jane Nelson. "Monk Behind Bars," 2015 Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

Erin Jane Nelson. “Monk Behind Bars,” 2015
Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets

By Matt Morris

I’ve really only been making photographs for the past couple of years, and thinking seriously about their medium for an even briefer span. What began as a lighthearted impulse to get men to undress for me was challenged into a more cogent form through recognizing the violence of the cropping frame on eroticized bodies (see Kobena Mercer), the draining echo chamber of the photograph’s reproduction (see Sherrie Levine), and the image and its circulation’s complicity in capital (see Hito Steyerl). Last month, when I tried to get a roll of film developed at this or that drugstore, none still had that equipment (“We just took our developing machine out yesterday,” one clerk told me); this older accessibility to the medium of photography is nearly extinct, succeeded by even more broadly used means of iPhone cameras, selfies, dick pics, Instagram and Google image search. We find ourselves in a torrent (all meanings of the word) of image production, and yet their reliability to represent has been utterly compromised (see David Joselit in the February Artforum linking the Staten Island grand jury’s failure to indict the policeman who murdered Eric Garner to the visual evidence—video footage of a brutal cop pile-on—failing to be allowed to represent these bodies and their violences). Read the rest of this entry »