Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Showcase/Schneider Gallery

Photography, River North No Comments »
Rebecca Memoli. “The Mess We've Made,”  inkjet and acrylic on canvas, 15” x 10"

Rebecca Memoli. “The Mess We’ve Made,”
inkjet and acrylic on canvas, 15” x 10″

RECOMMENDED

Among the nine photographers and photo-artists on display in Schneider Gallery’s clean new space, two newcomers, Rebecca Memoli and Doug McGoldrick, offer the most magnetic and arresting images by taking the timeworn move of painting or drawing on photos in new and provocative directions. Memoli, who does constructed tabletop still lifes, paints so finely and precisely on her base photographic image, which she has printed on canvas, that she succeeds in taking revenge on photo-realist painting, to the point of leaving indiscernible traces of the bare base image to show through the facade. The photo-realists simulated photography, whereas Memoli simulates painting. She also composes beguiling arrangements of objects, such as in “The Mess We’ve Made,” where we see a kitchen counter filled with dishes and utensils, some unwashed, lying on their sides in an elegant jumble, presided over by a poster of the bygone crooner, Mario Lanza. This is a scenario at which to stare in order to experience its humor. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Gallery 2506 Opens in Logan Square

Galleries & Museums, Logan Square, News etc. No Comments »
The recently opened Gallery 2506, located in Logan Square.

The recently opened Gallery 2506, located in Logan Square

Last week, longtime friends Kathleen Burnett and Teresa Grammatke opened the doors to Gallery 2506, a commercial gallery in Logan Square. The launch of their “Perception” exhibition, which runs through May 29, marked its grand opening. This show, and those that follow, focuses on beauty—a key component of Gallery 2506’s mission.

Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Artists 2015: Chicago’s Next Generation of Image Makers

Artist Profiles, Breakout Artists 1 Comment »
Cover by Matthew Hoffman, Breakout Artist 2006. Photo: Cheryl Hinman

Cover by Matthew Hoffman, Breakout Artist 2006. Photo: Cheryl Hinman

Breakout Artists is our annual showcase of Chicago artists we think you should know. This is our twelfth edition.

Lists like these always risk reduction, betray biases and can say more about the limits of their host publication’s scope than about the worthiness of artists—those mentioned or not. They persist as conversation starters: their value isn’t solely in what is printed here, but in the excited discussions and debates that proceed from them. Our circulation spikes around these featured lists, and so does the mail we receive. Understanding those contexts is an important part of appreciating what a list like our annual Breakout Artists can and can’t do.

But while many lists of this sort are ranked or correspond to particular forms of prestige, our Breakout Artists have always been determined by a more mysterious (and certainly subjective) calculus. I had to begin by wondering out of what these artists were meant to be breaking. This year, we are celebrating and advocating for ten artists’ practices who have seen breakthroughs in their work and are breaking out into higher stakes, wider visibility, a broader range of media, or expansions of what art can accomplish. Their practices subvert racial and gender stereotypes, crisscross into adjacent fields like illustration and design, enmesh studio work with curating and other socially engaged creative moves, run amuck in traditional mediums like painting and sculpture, while also finding ways to work in new places outside galleries or on the web.

The artists we’ve selected are at different stages of their careers; this is not an emerging artist list, although a couple have recently completed BFAs. If there is a common feature, it is one that shows the continued gravitational pull of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on the arts cultivated in this town. Despite being one of the most expensive college educations in the country (for art or anything else) and in the face of perpetual wondering about the relevance of higher education, each of this year’s Breakout Artists have brushed through SAIC—whether studying there or, like me, teaching there. These artists’ work happens not only in sanctioned art world temples, but in apartment spaces far out on the Green Line, in the neighborhoods surrounding Cook County Jail, from Rogers Park to Washington Park, and sometimes in Canada. Whether in major arts institutions or in the dispersed expanded field of where creative exploration can happen, these are artists worth knowing about and watching out for the great things they are doing. (Matt Morris)

Eye Exam: If the Lions Aren’t Cowardly, Who Is?

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Charl Landvreugd. "Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe," 2014 archival inkjet print

Charl Landvreugd. “Atlantic Transformerz: Faidherbe,” 2014
archival inkjet print

By Matt Morris

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) is presently host to a fashion parade poised in lithe contestation of dominant racist portrayals of the contemporary urban black man as a streetwise predator, marked as such by codes of dress that lie between stereotypes of gangster, pimp and deadbeat. Enter the “Dandy Lion,” a cultural phenomenon curator Shantrelle P. Lewis here examines as a counterpoint to the sagging cliché. A fetish for fine tailoring, nostalgic forms of menswear interpreted through the performances and rituals of dress found variously in African cultures, an elegant, highly crafted self-image, and adept showmanship: these are among a dandy lion’s hallmarks. As Lewis notes in her curator’s statement, “[T]he African Diasporan dandy cleverly manipulates clothing and attitude to exert his agency rather than succumb to the limited ideals placed on him by society. He performs identity. Most importantly, an integral part of this rebellion entails posing before a camera.” Read the rest of this entry »

News: Irving Stenn Jr. Gifts Personal Collection of 105 Drawings to Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Loop, Michigan Avenue, News etc. No Comments »
Ken Price. "Green Rock Cup," 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.

Ken Price. “Green Rock Cup,” 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.

The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) recently announced collector Irving Stenn Jr.’s gift of 105 pivotal contemporary drawings by renowned artists. Considered to be one of the most significant contributions of drawings to have ever been given to the museum, the encompassing and vast body of work heavily focuses on works from the 1960s, to which Stenn was keenly attracted. The gifts were exhibited a couple years ago at AIC but will now be part of their permanent collection, put on display on occasion when their inclusion is appropriate to the exhibitions. When asked in a phone interview about why he decided to donate the drawings now, Stenn says, “The timing seems right, the Art Institute of Chicago is wonderful, and these drawings belong in the public hand.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Eric Ruschman/Circa Modern

Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
CRIBS, 2015 Installation view

CRIBS, 2015
Installation view

RECOMMENDED

Eric Ruschman paints directly onto woodworked panels, his abstractions sloping around softly rounded edges. The visibility of his hand varies; at points brush strokes are visibly staccato while the opacity and quality of craftsmanship precludes human production in others. It’s finish-fetish at its finest. A diptych titled “After Tonight, They Will Never Forget My Name (Chairface Chippendale)” smartly reveals the unfinished MDF surface peeking out between the painted-on wood grain; the pattern wraps generously around the sides of the panel. This painting’s companion, a smooth off-white circle hung high above it, is the only piece in the show that seems extraneous. While some works are playful and polite, others betray conceptual darkness and grit. Something nefarious lurks in “I Want To Believe In Deepthroat,” a Roger Brown-esque diptych the lower left corner of which has a large X slashed out of it. The whimsical title (both a double entendre and meta “X-Files” reference) is an exemplar of the pop-culture current that runs throughout his solo exhibition, “Cribs.” Through titles and imagery, Ruschman harkens to nineties sitcoms perhaps consumed during the production of the paintings (or underneath their place of final repose). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A History of Coal/Corner

Art Books, Avondale, Installation, Multimedia, Video No Comments »
Philip Hartigan. "Diorama,"  paper, cardboard, clay, acrylic, paper-litho transfers, electric motors. Photo by Adam Liam Rose

Philip Hartigan. “Diorama,”
paper, cardboard, clay, acrylic, paper-litho transfers, electric motors.
Photo by Adam Liam Rose

RECOMMENDED

That coal is extracted from veins speaks to its intractable relationship with modern civilization, of which it provided for no small part of the modernization; it is the precious dead resource, requisite for (what we now deem to be) life, and one imagines the jugular running within the rugose hillside, a lacing through tellurian viscera, the ancient refuse of violent nascence and convection-driven tumult, a black line drawn hard through bone and hewed through blood and running right up the sides into the head of Philip Hartigan’s grandfather. Corrugated as his environs, the head crowns a dioramic vignette, in one of Corner’s welcoming windows, which comprises the sculptural component of Hartigan’s installation concerning the coal running through his own veins. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Debriefing Milwaukee’s MarKEt/Forward Symposium

Milwaukee No Comments »
Niki Johnson and Claudia Arzeno deliver “Unpacking Curation - Connecting Community and Narrative through Art”

Niki Johnson and Claudia Arzeno deliver “Unpacking Curation – Connecting Community and Narrative through Art”

On March 27, I found myself in Milwaukee at the Pfister Hotel for “MarKEt/Forward,” a series of seven lectures by local community organizers and arts professionals. The programing was produced by Niki Johnson, an artist who created work within the hotel for a year as a part of the Pfister Artist-in-Residence program. Attracted by its proximity to Chicago and the possibilities that the discussions therein would bear upon specific issues in the arts faced by midwestern cities like ours, I’d hoped for more than confirmation from the day’s speakers that “a healthy art practice starts with a strong community.” The burgeoning non-profit MarKEt (MKE capitalized as a gesture to Milwaukee)—purveyor of events, art walks and symposia—organized the program aimed at “new opportunities, education and professional development for the self-made artist.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Todd Kelly and Morgan Mandalay/LVL3

Installation, Painting, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Morgan Mandalay. "Still Life of Flowers and Red Curtains," 2015 oil paint and spray paint on b.o.g.o. canvas 12" x 16" each

Morgan Mandalay. “Still Life of Flowers and Red Curtains,” 2015
oil paint and spray paint on b.o.g.o. canvas
12″ x 16″ each

RECOMMENDED

The works by Todd Kelly and Morgan Mandalay in “Happy Little” help bring the concept of the still life into the twenty-first century. Kelly’s pieces are the more straightforward of the two, with influences ranging from Dutch and French masters from seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to a visual representation of the gravitational pull of the planets. The Brooklyn-based artist uses oil and spray paint and collage to layer materials over one another, often creating expertly composed work that almost appears three-dimensional, as in “Theory of Gravity Still Life 13.” These complex pieces contain collaged shapes of abstract and representational elements, such as a Christmas tree or the artist’s initials. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Imaginary Landscapes/Mana Contemporary

Installation, Painting, Photography, Pilsen, Sculpture, Textiles No Comments »
Assaf Evron. “Untitled (Athens and Oraibi)”

Assaf Evron. “Untitled (Athens and Oraibi)”

RECOMMENDED

In this compact exhibition curated by Allison Glenn, landscape serves as a metaphorical ground for four artists’ expansive manipulations of imaginary sites. Each of the works evince traces of fragmentation, collapse and compression, processes that appear here as gestures enacted on sites that are more the spaces of memory and history than they are physical terrains. Read the rest of this entry »