Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

EXPO Special Coverage: Modern Masters at the Fair

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Wifredo Lam. “Untitled–[Arcane Dreams],” 1955.

Newcity will run selective live coverage of EXPO Chicago: The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art throughout the weekend of the fair, September 17-20, 2015.

It was still possible in 1956, the year I was born, to produce pictures based on moral conviction. Johns and Rauschenberg were little known, Warhol was a successful designer (and that’s all), and Lichtenstein was teaching at Ohio State University. Irony was a minority rhetoric, and the most ambitious art aspired, as Rothko said, to the condition of the “tragic and timeless.” It wasn’t that the Abstract Expressionists represented fraught subjects but that they painted as if the fate of mankind hinged on their every brush stroke.

There were dozens of other artists nearly as achieved as Rothko, de Kooning, Pollock, Newman, Kline and Motherwell, who never gained the same renown. Many of them happened to be on exhibition in EXPO Chicago this year. Their names are evocative of the rich, immigrant mix of New York from the 1930s to sixties and the legacy of European modernism: Robert Natkin, Michael Goldberg, Hans Burkhardt, Friedel Dzubas, Theodoros Stamos, Conrad Marca-Relli, Louis Guglielmi, Perle Fine and others. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: LUMA at 10: Greatest Hits/Loyola University Museum of Art

Activist Art, Art Books, Ceramics, Collage, Craft Work, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville, Video No Comments »
"LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits, "Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and "Paranirvana (Self Portrait)" by Lewis deSoto. / Photo: Loyola University Chicago.

“LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits,” Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and “Paranirvana (Self Portrait)” by Lewis deSoto./Photo: Loyola University Chicago


Religion is often the apparent culprit in today’s war-torn world, so an exhibition with a spiritual undertone may seem unnerving. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Remembering Ruth and Her Revolutionary Art Worlds

Collage, Drawings, Loop, Painting, River North, Sculpture No Comments »
Don Baum. "Untitled Silhouette/Cut Out Portrait of Ruth Horwich," ca. 1980, paint by number painting and other mixed media, 18" x 14.5" x 11" On view at Carl Hammer Gallery

Don Baum. “Untitled Silhouette/Cut Out Portrait of Ruth Horwich,” ca. 1980,
paint by number painting and other mixed media,
18″ x 14.5″ x 11″
On view at Carl Hammer Gallery

By Michael Weinstein

There is a tinge and twinge of sadness attending the viewing of the three concurrent exhibits showcasing the fabled collection of artworks amassed by Ruth Horwich and her husband Leonard over the last half century.

One cannot escape the sense that an era has ended. The Horwich collection is being broken up and cast to the four winds in the aftermath of Ruth Horwich’s death in July, 2014 at the age of ninety-four, preceded by Leonard’s passing in 1983. Her estate seeks to monetize the art. The choice pieces, from the viewpoint of marketability, by Alexander Calder and Andy Warhol, for example, have already been handled by Christie’s. Now we have an opportunity to see the rest of the collection, the non-Western indigenous artifacts at Douglas Dawson Gallery, and the works of the Chicago artists from the second half of the twentieth century—the backbone of the collection—at Carl Hammer Gallery and Russell Bowman Art Advisory. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Christie’s to Auction Ruth Horwich’s Collection

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Ruth Horwich’s collection of Alexander Calder jewelry to be offered at auction. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Ruth Horwich’s collection of Alexander Calder jewelry to be offered at auction. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and John Chamberlain are a few names from Ruth Horwich’s collection featured in the upcoming First Open sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s in New York on March 6, 2015.

Influential leaders and one of Chicago’s resident power couples, Ruth and her late husband Leonard impacted our region’s art scene not only with loaned and gifted artworks to many of our prominent local institutions—including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Smart Museum of Art—but also as two of MCA’s founders and champions for major public artworks such as Jean Dubuffet’s “Monument with Standing Beast” outside the Thompson Center. Leonard died in 1983, and given Ruth’s death in July 2014, twenty-four pieces from their collection will be offered for sale. An exhibition will precede the auction at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries, from February 28 to March 3, 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lucy McKenzie/Art Institute of Chicago

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Lucy McKenzie. "Quodlibet XXXII," 2014

Lucy McKenzie. “Quodlibet XXXII,” 2014


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.


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 »