Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Out of Site 2015 Begins this Weekend

Art Fairs, Multimedia, Performance, Public Art, Street Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Michal Samama. "Lament of Plastic," performance. Photo by Guy Kremnitzer.

Michal Samama. “Lament of Plastic,” performance/Photo: Guy Kremnitzer

It’s going to get confrontational in Wicker Park/Bucktown, beginning Saturday, July 25. The mission behind Out of Site is “to create unexpected encounters of public performance,” a take-it-to-the-streets art festival embarking on its fifth year of public performance art programming. Artists create whimsical disruptions for people as they go about their daily routines, choosing sites around the neighborhood that resonate with their practice.

The series launches this weekend with three performances in collaboration with the Wicker Park Fest. Sheryl Oring, an artist from North Carolina, will invite the public to write letters to the President of the United States as part of her piece “I Wish to Say,” previously performed at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the Berlin Wall Memorial and other locations. To date, over 2,000 letters have been transcribed on a typewriter and submitted to the White House.

While the details surrounding some performances are clear, the vast majority of performances are only yet known by a date, a time, a location, and an artist’s name. Ballenarca, a troupe from Puerto Rico via Austin, Texas, will take place at the intersection of Milwaukee and Evergreen, near the new 606 walking path. Without giving it away, passersby can expect to behold a large, bespectacled mobile sculpture come to life. “The Wisdom Box” by Duff Norris immediately follows. The public can anticipate this work by looking online for records of a previous performance called “Infinity Box,” but if you really want to know more you’ll just have to show up.

Sheryl Oring. "I Wish to Say," performance. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.

Sheryl Oring. “I Wish to Say,” performance/Photo: Dhanraj Emanuel

Out of Site was founded by artist Carron Little as she was “thinking about how wonderful it would be if people were to come home from a long week in the office and come across a unique surprise,” Little said in an email conversation with Newcity. She continued, “I was also invited onto the WPB Arts Committee to rethink how we fund art locally [after] having written a piece about how all the local funding had gone to a consulting firm. So it was part of a broader initiative to fund performance artists who seemed to be doing a lot of work for free.”

The vision for Out of Site goes beyond the scope of providing simple entertainment to a consumer public. “Public performance is vital for every city landscape; building moments that are out of the ordinary can bring joy and wonder to people,” Little remarked. “This is imperative in our workaholic culture. We need things that take us out of the monotony.  The New Situationists in Paris talk about the city being a new Babylon. Le Corbusier founded the modern city discussing ideas of productivity and circulation to build economy, but if people aren’t happy they bring that sadness to work.”

In previous iterations, curators didn’t tell people where the performances would take place. There are no tickets to purchase with a start and end time. Be there or be square, or better yet, you might be there anyway.

Out of Site runs daily at different locations throughout Wicker Park & Bucktown from Saturday, July 25, through Sunday, September 6. (Whitney Richardson)

Review: Frances Stark/Art Institute of Chicago

Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Photography, Video 1 Comment »
Frances Stark. "From therealstarkiller #1298," 2015 Archival inkjet print, 7" x 7". Courtesy the artist.

Frances Stark. “From therealstarkiller #1298,” 2015
Archival inkjet print, 7″ x 7″. Courtesy the artist.


Intimism, a term associated with paintings of domestic scenes filled with family and friends, expertly describes the video and digital offerings in this expansive, beautiful and playful show. Leave it to Stark, best known for “My Best Thing,” a video animation of a relationship formed on Chatroulette, to shed light on the contrast between private and public in our digitized lives.

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Review: Matthew Bender and Justin Nolan/Schneider Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Photography, River North No Comments »
Matthew Bender, "Piano, Penn Hills Resort," Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 30"

Matthew Bender. “Piano, Penn Hills Resort,” 2014
Archival Pigment Print, 24″ x 30″


In a self-conscious pairing of aesthetically similar bodies of photographic work with seemingly radically different sensibilities, this exhibit brings together Justin Nolan, who takes pictures of simulated faux nostalgic glamour (think of the interiors of Las Vegas commercial palaces—the very inspiration for postmodernism), and Matthew Bender, who shoots the insides of derelict buildings. The first impression upon entering the gallery space is that one is looking at a solo show. The images are all in color, limpid, clear and luscious, with elegant plays of light and shadow.  Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Nina Chanel Abney

Artist Profiles, Galleries & Museums, Painting, Public Art, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney stands in front of a large auditorium full of people. It’s 2011, and she’s just been welcomed to the stage of Washington D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, where she’s giving a visiting-artist lecture. “I’m a little nervous, but it’s been very humbling to be a part of the ‘30 Americans’ exhibition,” she begins. “Just four years ago, I was in school and I signed up for an artist studio tour and we went to Kehinde Wiley and Wangechi Mutu’s studios—and now I’m in a show with them and it’s a little bit weird.” With a smiling mouth and quivering voice, she continues. “This is my first lecture, so I hope I do a good job for you guys.”

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Review: Brandon Anschultz/Regards Gallery

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Brandon Anschultz. "Spearmint," 2015 oil, watercolor, gouache on canvas, 11" x 8.5" / Photo by Eileen Mueller.

Brandon Anschultz. “Spearmint,” 2015
oil, watercolor, gouache on canvas, 11″ x 8.5″/Photo: Eileen Mueller


Contemporary art so often pursues the aesthetics of surprise that it takes a willful suspension of disbelief to find anything unexpected. In this way, the curation of the Brandon Anschultz exhibition is not especially surprising. A large wooden plank hangs casually over a balcony as if it had not yet been installed. A small sculpture is hidden away on a remote window sill; another has been placed in a dark corner on the floor, though an attached wire indicates that it was fabricated to hang from above. None of this seems unusual, nor do the drippy-glob sculptures that were made by dipping ordinary objects, like shoes, repeatedly into buckets of thick paint. So much of the world is messy and chaotic, there is nothing strange about one more room of it.

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Eye Exam: Leaving Saturn’s Return

Digital Art, Drawings, Performance No Comments »
James Lee Byars. Pink letter, ca. 1982 Gold crayon on pink Japanese paper Collection of Michael Lowe and Kimberly Klosterman

James Lee Byars. Pink letter, ca. 1982
Gold crayon on pink Japanese paper
Collection of Michael Lowe and Kimberly Klosterman

By Matt Morris

“You’ve gotten so much more mystical this year,” said my twin during a recent phone call. We’d been talking horoscopes and tarot, and more generally about forms of reading that are predicated on alternatives to empirical reason. We’ve turned thirty this year, and now we’re completing a period astrologers call Saturn’s return. It’s the first time Saturn returns to its position at the time of your birth, and it’s said to accompany crisis and questioning—finding out what you’ve built so far, whether it’s strong enough to continue working, and what tumultuous deconstruction will radically reshape your life. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Logan Center Announces New Exhibitions Curator

Galleries & Museums, Hyde Park, News etc. No Comments »
Yesomi Umolu, photo courtesy Trumpie Photography.

Yesomi Umolu/Photo: Trumpie Photography

After a worldwide search, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago has appointed Yesomi Umolu as Exhibitions Curator. Beginning in August, Umolu will oversee exhibitions in the Logan Center Gallery and other spaces throughout the multidisciplinary arts building. Previously, this position was held by Monika Szewczyk, who left the center that she had helped establish to join the curatorial team for documenta, an exhibition of modern and contemporary art held every five years in Kassel, Germany.

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Review: Manish Nai/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Architecture, Collage, Craft Work, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Sculpture, Textiles, West Loop No Comments »
Manish Nai. "Untitled," 2015 Dyed burlap, 90" x 4"

Manish Nai. “Untitled,” 2015
Dyed burlap, 90″ x 4″


The work of Mumbai-based Manish Nai makes a viewer reconsider the limits of an artistic medium. He doesn’t use traditional media, such as heavy metals and wood, oil or acrylic. Instead, Nai uses everyday materials—cardboard, jute, newspaper and even his family’s used clothing—to sculpt, mark and render.

For his first solo exhibition in the United States, Nai has created wall hangings, photographic prints, sculptures and four site-specific works, including a gallery pillar wrapped in jute, a burlap-like material that is abundant in India, and a heat-transferred mural that will slowly disappear during the course of the exhibition. His use of traditional artistic processes, such as weaving or drawing and sculpting by hand, in conjunction with contemporary rendering techniques borrowed from digital and new media art, design and architecture give these objects a surprising new dynamism. By combining the old and the new, Nai’s work is thoroughly international even as it remains fully Indian.
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Review: Dont Fret/Johalla Projects

Drawings, Installation, Multimedia, Outsider Art, Painting, Public Art, Street Art, West Town No Comments »
Dont Fret. "Saturday Night Fever," 2015. Acrylic on paper.

Dont Fret. “Saturday Night Fever,” 2015.
Acrylic on paper.


“There are only two seasons in Chicago,” reads the poster pasted on a utility box, “Winter and construction.” The last time that I encountered the work of Dont Fret in the wild there was snow on the ground. Summer finds the artist moving from works on the street back into the gallery with little difficulty, but some trepidation.

At Johalla Projects, a group of works on paper cover one wall, each of them functioning individually, but all fitting together as a conceptual whole. Mixed in are purposely ham-fisted, muddy-colored abstractions with phrases like “Hi, I’m an idea based painting” or “I like his early work better.” These are perhaps a nod to the “zombie formalism” debates from last year and including a good bit of the artist’s own anxiety about his place in the art ecosystem. He needn’t worry about the art world silliness. Dont Fret is still at his best in his depictions of Chicago life and Chicagoans. The details and insights in his art can only come from years spent observing the changes to the city and the people, and from those quiet moments of profundity that come from a history of experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Phillip Maisel/Document Gallery

Collage, Design, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Phillip Maisel. "Serengeti Green (1836)," 2015 Archival Pigment Print and Scrim. 17" x 24"

Phillip Maisel. “Serengeti Green (1836),” 2015
Archival Pigment Print and Scrim. 17″ x 24″


Repetition with minuscule change might be the hallmark of our day. Apps update regularly, new iPhones roll out yearly, movies reinvent themselves over and over again, all in a pursuit of user satisfaction. A good indicator of this is someone like Katy Perry—plastic bag, party girl, roaring tiger—in short, whatever we want or need her to be. This endless buffet of options suits our twenty-first-century needs but also keeps us fickle and anxious. Phillip Maisel’s photographs in his exhibition “Serengeti Green” use the vernacular of constant, minimal change that dictates this contemporary anxiety, asking us to slow down and consider these minor variations.

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