Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Lucy McKenzie/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Painting, Video No Comments »
Lucy McKenzie. "Quodlibet XXXII," 2014

Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014

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Lucy McKenzie’s largest American exhibition to date unravels like a postmodern mystery novel. The show begins outside of the gallery, where the artist has taken advantage of the floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the Griffin Courtyard of the Modern Wing to construct a window display befitting State Street’s finest stores. A female mannequin in a gymnast suit sits on a glass-topped steel table as mechanized signs whir whimsically beneath a hand-painted title bearing the artist’s signature as if it were a venerable house of fashion. Once inside, the focus becomes painting, though one recalls that Warhol and Rauschenberg dressed department-store windows too. Four floor-to-ceiling panels display massive Tiffany-esque motifs of glowing skies and turbulent clouds drifting behind screens of leafy branches. The pictures within each are oddly cropped to describe the contours of the walls and ceiling of a fictional bar in an imaginary film in which these panels would hang as trompe l’oeil scenery. Indeed, McKenzie has trained in antiquated techniques of decorative painting, which include hyper-realistic depictions of landscape and still life meant to fool the eye in to perceiving representation as reality.

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Review: Sandro Miller/Catherine Edelman

Photography, River North No Comments »
Sandro Miller. "Annie Leibovitz / John Lennon and Yoko Ono (1980)," 2014

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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Expo Dispatches: Blah Blah Blah, Bright Inclusions in Expo and Edition, and Champagne Bubbles

Art Fairs, Collage, Installation, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, West Loop 1 Comment »
Eric May. "Eat in the Streets," 2011

Eric May. “Eat in the Streets,” 2011 (Booth #740)

Bag of raw almonds for energy boost, false lashes stowed in my handbag for evening-wear eye-drama boost, press badge and a prayer for stamina: Expo Chicago’s press preview yesterday rolled directly into the Vernissage party that dispersed across town to a boat party, a disco dance and dishes of art world gossip: which gallery’s staff is jumping ship? who’s leaving their long-term gallery representation? who’s been exploring her ‘lesbian side’? who’s pregnant? and so on. Thursday’s kickoff to the fair was over-stimulating and today’s shaping up the same. I stopped for lunch and worked out some thoughts about patterns in the artworks exhibited, highlights and rare occasions for profundity for Expo visitors who are art lovers if not big-time collectors. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: MCA DNA: Warhol and Marisol/Museum of Contemporary Art

Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
Marisol Escobar, "Six Women," 1965-66.

Marisol Escobar, “Six Women,” 1965-66.

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Marisol’s place in the public consciousness of fine art—if such a thing can be said to exist, somewhere between the Old Masters and Basquiat-obsessed rappers—seems mostly to be as a personification of good friend Andy Warhol’s hoary prophecy in regards to the approaching ubiquity, and short duration, of fame; the minuscule collecting of the two artist’s works at the MCA—just three apiece—instead seeks to explore the more reciprocal aspects of their relationship, even leaning a bit toward the sculptor’s side.

The fledgling influences of Pop art manifest themselves in Marisol’s sculptures in ways both esoteric—the use of primary colors; prolificness of found objects, although she avails herself to these for the context they can add to her works, oftentimes being private possessions of the subjects, rather than the abstraction driven by their presentation removed from their frames of reference—and blatantly, intimately obvious, most notably her portrait of Warhol himself, in the shape of a throne. Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Confusion: “Out of Site” Presents Public Art to Wicker Park/Bucktown

News etc., Performance, Public Art, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »

By Harrison Smith

More often than not, public performance art is a confusion. The term itself is a necessary muddle, a combination of “public art,” which seems to imply an art for the uninitiated, in contrast to that “private art” that gets displayed at galleries and museums, and “performance art,” that vague category of art that could be reasonably stretched to include everything from Andy Warhol’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” to the street performance of a man painted silver and disguised as a statue—at which point the better label might be “outsider public performance art” or, alternatively, “busking.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Phantom Limb/Museum of Contemporary Art

Michigan Avenue, Painting No Comments »

Sigmar Polke, "Ashes to Ashes," 1992

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Painting still has the power to quicken my pulse—Sigmar Polke’s huge “Ashes to Ashes,” 1992, hanging at the entrance to an exhibition of contemporary painting from the MCA’s own and private collections is a good example. Curator Michael Darling organizes this small show of large paintings with the conceit of a phantom limb. Contemporary painting discourse swings back and forth, from distrusting the gestures, skill and quality of the painter’s hand to privileging readymade, often industrial images or marks. This exhibition conflates the two tendencies, summoning the “phantom limb” of the technologically extended artist who both paints and uses non-painting processes. Polke, for example, created his work out of polka-dotted and screen-printed consumer materials without any gestures whatsoever. In the same gallery space but on a completely different scale hangs one of the museum’s Warhols, the long narrow “Jackie Frieze,” set off to good advantage in this exhibition where we can admire how Warhol’s subject emerges from the mixture of screened images and paint. Jack Kennedy peers up and out of the layered mix of cultural information in the Rauschenberg beside it. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Andy Warhol/DePaul Art Museum

Lincoln Park, Photography No Comments »

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The polymath of Pop Art, Andy Warhol was big time into photography, along with everything else, pursuing it with his inveterate indefatigability through the late 1960s and early 1970s. Deploying a selection from a cache of images given to the DePaul Art Museum by the Warhol Foundation, curator Greg Harris shows us the artist-impresario’s studies of objects that he planned to paint, a sampling of thousands of snapshots intended to document his everyday life, and color Polaroid portraits. Unlike Malick Sidibe, across the seas in Mali, who turned his ordinary subjects into “stars,” Warhol was a celebrity shooting the social lions and lionesses who flocked to sit for him with a bit less of a glamorous sheen. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Warholian Summer

Painting, Photography 1 Comment »

Andy Warhol, "Self-Portrait," 1986, Polaroid Polacolor print. Collection of Helyn and Ralph Goldenberg.

By Jason Foumberg

A pilgrimage to view all the Andy Warhol exhibitions around Chicago this summer will take you from tourist-laden Streeterville to tree-lined Hyde Park to the suburban flatlands of Glen Ellyn. There was no citywide master plan to the coordinated showing of Warhol’s works (unlike the recent thematic, “The Soviet Experience”), but the concurrence evidences the artist’s durable popularity. Warhol is a go-to name brand that bodes well for museums and sits well with the public. The three exhibitions, though, focus on his later work, from the mid-1970s through the 1980s, well after the Marilyns and soup cans. Unlike last year’s “Andy Warhol: The Last Decade,” presented by the Milwaukee Art Museum, which surveyed the artist’s uneven career in the 1980s, the current exhibitions do well to hone in on smaller bodies of specific work, such as his documentary street photography and the shadow paintings series. These boutique exhibitions refine Warhol’s over-prolific output to pointed theses, revealing that, although everything and anything could be the subject of a Warhol artwork, he is enjoyably digested in small doses rather than a glut of a retrospective. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Actor Slash Artist

News etc. No Comments »

Abdi's painting

By Jason Foumberg

The lecture, “What not to paint and how not to paint it,” was cancelled. Art critic Barry Schwabsky was there, present behind the microphone, but he wasn’t going to deliver this lecture, not tonight. Schwabsky, who writes from London for Artforum and The Nation, baited me into the audience with the frisky lecture title and then switched it at the last moment for something about painting and Plato’s cave, a philosophy that’s been tossed around since Greek antiquity and which lives happily, if safely, in today’s grad-school seminars. Schwabsky left his courage in London, and I left the lecture shortly thereafter.

I wasn’t planning to revisit Schwabsky’s non-lecture but his misfire stirred in my memory while I watched a crash landing into the rules of painting, this time on a primetime televised art critique, on “Work of Art”—just another failed attempt to marry the art world and television. On episode eight, guest judge Ryan McGinness and artist contestant Abdi went head to head. Abdi defended his painting by deferring to that old story about Plato’s cave, although he misattributed it to Socrates. A forgivable accident, to be sure. Not buying it, McGinness got his blazer in a bunch. Abdi was getting a pretty negative review from the judges, and then this happened:

“What things would you like to see in the work,” Abdi asked of his painting, fishing for positive feedback. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Matt Saunders/The Renaissance Society

Hyde Park, Photography No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

“Parallel Plot,” Matt Saunders’ solo show at the Renaissance Society, features photographic prints and rotoscoped animations by the Berlin-based American artist. Saunders’ process, making use of photography, collage and painting, starts with film stills, Mylar, ink and oil to create prepared negatives for the darkroom. These negatives are in turn used to produce original prints ranging from the very small to the very large. Trained as a painter at Yale, it is not surprising to see that Saunders’ work runs the gamut of painting’s genres: landscape, interiors and portraits are the focus of this artist’s portfolio, though pure abstraction is equally at home in the work presented here. Of particular interest are large-format contact prints made by taking original paintings, taping them down to large sheets of photographic paper, and exposing them to light in the darkroom, resulting in x-ray-like images that compress the painted image and its support into a single layer. Many of the works presented here are altered portraits of actors and actresses who have departed popular memory, appropriate for Saunders’ ghostly images. The subjects refer to the traditions of representational painting and cinema, like Warhol before him. However, Saunders is working toward the opposite end of the Warholian conceptual spectrum: away from endless reproducibility and toward uniqueness; away from the glamour of film and toward the obscurity of history. Beautifully installed and conceptually rich, this show surely warrants a visit. (David Emanuel)

Through April 11 at The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 5811 South Ellis, (773)702-8670