“If you find Buddhist art in a monastery, take it” might well have been an early twentieth-century variation on the koan made famous by Sheldon Kopp, as Western scholars scoured South Asia for artifacts. Gallery signage tells us that what Professor Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984) called a garbage dump, local monks considered a repository of sacred relics. Shame on him, but without his acquisition, four magnificent eleventh-century folios would not now be showing at the Block Museum. And they really have the sharp perfection of world-class illumination and calligraphy. Then there was Walter Koelz (1895-1989), a zoologist at the University of Michigan who collected whatever caught his eye. At the Likir monastery, he proudly bargained down the price on two seventeenth-century painted fabrics. Without them, the third, left behind, could no longer perform a ritual function. They don’t kick you in the gut like the dharma-defender hanging nearby, but Koelz’s Buddhist divinities have plenty of grace and power one would not experience without his questionable efforts. Such appropriation by Western collectors is one thing that may happen to sacred art, centuries after it was made. Alternatively, these works could be collected by devotees, where they might influence the art and religious practice of other lands. Those are some of the rather predictable kinds of stories this exhibition tells about the legacies of Buddhist art from Kashmir. Read the rest of this entry »
Printing her large-format black-and-white landscape photographs on Korean rice paper, on which she has meticulously and elegantly brushed photographic emulsion, and then made digital prints of the images, Jungjin Lee produces haunting and faded yet distinct impressions of the deserts of Israel and the West Bank of Palestine in her “Unnamed Roads” series. There is not a hint of the political conflict that wracks the region in Lee’s work. Indeed, she has removed as much context as possible from her images by naming each one with only the exhibition’s title, although they sometimes depict cities, ruins and distinctive rock formations. Lee’s point is that current events are merely rippling sand swirls on the surface of an immovable human condition, in which past contingencies leave their marks that are subsumed under persistent particularized forms that she captures with her view camera. Read the rest of this entry »
“Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure” declares its ethos with clarity and directness in advance of any art. There is no irony in this claim nor in the work, a diverse presentation of mixed media that represents the culmination of six artists’ recent Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH residencies. Curated by HATCH resident Erin Toale, the exhibition meditates on David Foster Wallace’s notion of the “anti-rebel,” an imagined figure whose earnest and dogged effort, Foster suggests, might be the much needed antidote to all that is too cool in today’s hip culture. Accordingly, the artists here are visibly struggling, not with the quest of “making it” but with questions of practice and identity, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »
After a dreary trek through Pilsen’s sludge-laden sidewalks, I’m happy to see Meg Duguid waving enthusiastically to me from inside the fogged windows of Slow. Paul, the gallery’s director, stands to her left and Yesterday, the gallery’s canine mascot, faithfully on her right.
On an evening just as dreary in 2005, Duguid entered a tiny bookshop in Brooklyn. Browsing for nothing but a way to kill some time between her side jobs and studies, she happened across a book that contained a screenplay James Agee wrote for Charlie Chaplin in 1947. Inspired and intrigued, she sent an unsolicited letter to the Agee foundation, requesting to bring to life the script that had—for whatever reason—remained unproduced. The foundation’s answer was no, and Duguid moved on.
Flashing forward in time and back to the Midwest, the backsides of fifteen stacked televisions rise to greet me as I enter Slow. Large blue and orange extension cords twist and tangle their way toward electrical outlets on either side of the gallery, powering the luminescent glow coming from the anterior of the electrical blockade. The piece is silent, save for a high-pitched drone coming from the circuitries. Read the rest of this entry »
The Joyce Foundation recently announced the four collaborative teams that are the recipients of the 2015 Joyce Awards, receiving an award in the sum of $50,000 each. The four partnerships are between artists of color and prominent arts and cultural organizations within the Great Lakes region in order to present new work specifically designed to engage with the communities where the projects will take root, while also serving as a model for the rest of the country.
This year’s awardees hail from boisterous art cities and include Helado Negro (moniker for musician and composer Roberto Carlos Lange) pairing with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series from the Twin Cities, Jamaican-born artist Nari Ward and Detroit’s Power House Productions, Colombian-American actress and playwright Sandra Delgado in collaboration with Chicago’s Teatro Vista and interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Read the rest of this entry »
Soil is a catalyst for riveting conversations at the DePaul Art Museum’s current exhibition “Rooted in Soil.” Environmental awareness, life cycles and science are a few of the ideas explored in this captivating exhibition co-curated by a mother-daughter team, Laura and Farrah Fatemi. This multi-sensorial and interactive show consists of thirty-seven artworks by fifteen artists, and emphasizes an often overlooked—but essential—part of life: soil.
“Soil is undervalued,” Laura Fatemi explained in an interview. “People recognize you need clean air and water. But do they recognize that soil needs to be free of pollutants to be healthy?” The show’s interactive component tactfully answers this question. Read the rest of this entry »
Threewalls, one of Chicago’s non-profit art leaders in pro-artist programming, is launching the 2015 edition of its Community Supported Art Chicago (CSA) series: “The Tabletop Collection.” Using the theme of a sculpture garden reimagined for a tabletop, the collection will be available as a set with works by five Chicago-based artists: Laura Davis, Assaf Evron, Julia Klein, Sabina Ott and Stephen Reber. Read the rest of this entry »
“My husband says the FBI knows what I’m doing because I have a heat signature constantly going,” chuckles artist Alison Ruttan as she leads me into the basement of her cozy Oak Park home. We pass from her living room lined with artworks by Ruttan’s husband Scott Stack and neighbor Sabina Ott into a series of chamber-like rooms with low ceilings and cement floors, all brimming with remnants of unused pieces from “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” which occupies the Cultural Center’s three Michigan Avenue galleries. Read the rest of this entry »
As evinced by the prevalence of “Zombie Formalism,” abstraction is currently coasting: reanimating movements without contributing new ideas. Paintings by Michelle Bolinger, Samantha Bittman and Anna Kunz are a refreshing contrast to lifeless painting that threatens visual communication itself in a hunger for conceptual novelty. Together they confirm that a voice can still be found in purely formal painting about the process of abstraction itself. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s hard to believe that just over seventy years ago Henri Matisse was something of a has-been. Considered by many to be little more than a thoughtful, polite decorator of bourgeoisie interiors, his radical stature long eclipsed by that other giant of twentieth century art. While in 2015 one might plausibly forget that Picasso ever existed, so little is his impact seen and felt in contemporary painting, the influence of Matisse is now inescapable. From massively attended retrospectives of his late work, to artists (like John McAllister) who have made whole careers out of unabashedly aping his look, Matisse might well be regarded as the single most prominent influence of our time. Read the rest of this entry »