Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Chris Dorland/Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »

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Chris Dorland has been painting utopian architecture for several years now, creating pictures that indulge in gorgeously threatening baroque colorations, and that have a strange Piranesi-like splendor. And like most commercial architects’ renderings, they have those tiny little token people often seen going about their business—but in Dorland’s work the little people evoke dread, fear, fleeing crowds. Rhona Hoffman is showing a variation on this body of work in a series of “Simulations.” Appropriated photos are collaged and then painted, painstakingly, in the manner of Gerhard Richter. Complex arrangements of rectangular panels are painted in corrosive colors and bleached images. To call this series of paintings “simulations” nods to Baudrillard’s book of the same name, but this is not a recycled, art-school postmodernism; something different is going on here. These pictures have the aura of a performance, of technical experiments or tests. It is as if the artist has achieved Warhol’s desire of becoming a machine, and we are in the presence of some parody of the occult technical processes that lie behind the everyday world. (David Mark Wise)

At Rhona Hoffman Gallery, 118 North Peoria, through May 30.

Art Fair Hangover

Art Fairs, Installation, Multimedia No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

It’s too tempting to not report “overheard at the art fair.” In front of a painting by Neo Rauch, one shopper said to another, “The thing about art is you don’t have to like it.” You don’t even have to see it, either; just order it by name. “Names, names, names, darling!” (Okay, that one was from “Absolutely Fabulous,” but the sentiment holds.) For one whirlwind weekend we had to put our care for meaningful art practices on hold in the hope that Chicago could contribute to the still-thriving art market. Inviting investment collectors and shopaholics to Chicago was to be the nourishment that would sustain thoughtful and quietly productive practices for the rest of the year. The shop-‘til-you-drop atmosphere was further emphasized by the mall-like layout of the fair with rows of boutiques and impeccably dressed gallerinas. The art was almost as good as the people-watching.

Not everyone was distracted by price tags and designer-wear. Justin Polera, curator of last year’s Queer Fest Midwest, rushed me over to see a painting by Keith Haring of Mr. Softy, the 1980s brand icon for ice cream, here turned into a muscled gay icon in Haring’s hand. In the Next fair, artist John Parot swooned over works on paper by Jason Fox. Copies of Proximity, a new art-criticism magazine founded by Version Fest originators Ed and Rachel Marszewski, was being distributed freely despite us being, according to its editors, “in the throes of a recession.”

Printed to coincide with the fair weekend, Proximity highlights some of Chicago’s best alternative spaces such as the Suburban, Vonzweck and Deadtech. These are non-commercial art spaces that hardly have any relation to the huge art-fair commercial enterprise. Surprisingly, several of Chicago’s apartment galleries found their way into the fair, especially in the Goffo-curated arena, organized by Mike Andrews and Noah Singer of Imperfect Articles, the limited-edition artist t-shirt company. So, Old Gold, Green Lantern and Alogon Gallery, known for their usually experimental presentations of art and opening-night celebrations, looked like professional business ventures. Some of the strength of these spaces was drained by their lack of character. For instance, I’m used to Caroline Picard’s cats rubbing against my legs as I look at art in her apartment, and Old Gold’s artists seemed estranged without the wood-paneled basement. But the effort to mingle with the masses was well received. Exposure and accessibility was key for these spaces that don’t sit snugly in the usual gallery districts. Even ThreeWalls, the non-profit artist residency, was given a castoff stairwell space to feature an artist project. This refreshingly giving gesture by the fair’s organizers muted the pay-to-play scheme, even if only momentarily. Elizabeth Chodos called her space the coffee bean in the perfume shop, calming noses between wafts of scent.

Next door to the Goffo section was the Old Country bar, arguably my favorite place in the entire fair. This functioning temporary installation of a dive bar, provided by the Old Gold gallery owners, replicated a quintessential Chicago bar frequented by so many artists. With TV tuned to Nascar, lights dimmed, cheap beer and nachos, old wooden bar and booths, and plastic red-and-white gingham tablecloths, this could have been Inner Town Pub or Skylark. It was a great place to calm the eyes and engage in non-stressful conversation. It was easy to forget that you were in the midst of an art fair.

In the Next fair, the newest addition to the Artropolis conglomerate, small solo artist exhibitions broke up the pounding rhythm of the stalls, as did film screenings interspersed between the galleries. The solo shows, including some by Chicago artists Robert Davis and Michael Langlois, Matthew Girson and Terence Hannum, provided in-depth perspectives where we are otherwise often overloaded with too much to see.

Art about the environment and about war was present, but thankfully not in overkill. Large-format photography, conceptual practices, “unmonumental” sculpture, skulls and skeletons were in attendance en masse. Even Jonathan Schipper’s kinetic sculpture, presented by Pierogi gallery, of two hotrods smashing each other in tense slow-motion, seemed hedonistic even if it was titled, “The Slow and Inevitable Death of American Muscle.” Profound? Perhaps. Decadent? Delightfully so.

While Andy Warhol’s dollar sign still holds up as the dominant signifier for this type of event, Mark Wagner’s reconfigured collages of actual dollar bills, presented by Western Exhibitions, speak more to the creative depth that artists are willing to plunge into when interpreting the art/money relationship. Perhaps it is a flat relationship where desire is represented as that which will fulfill it (the Warholian scheme). But increasingly more artists and viewers are looking to reenergize the market, and their desires, with objects worthy of their wallets as well as their senses.

Review: Andy Warhol/Loyola University Museum of Art

Installation, Michigan Avenue No Comments »

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Currently installed at the Loyola University Museum of Art, “Silver Clouds” is a playful, spontaneous work by Andy Warhol, who claimed the work was his attempt to make a painting that floats. In 1966, Warhol conceived of this installation of helium-filled silver balloons to fill a room of Leo Castelli gallery in New York. The playful installation later became a set in a new dance, “RainForest,” by choreographer Merce Cunningham. The installation is accompanied by an exhibition of photography by Nat Finkelstein, a photojournalist who documented activity in and around Warhol’s Factory between 1964 and 1967, including the “Silver Clouds” installation at Castelli gallery. Additionally, a large projection of Cunningham’s “RainForest” accompanies the exhibition, and five local dance companies will create performances inspired by the piece. The collective presentation of these elements provides a multifaceted and unique glimpse into life in the Factory. (Kristin Brockman)

Andy Warhol, “Silver Clouds,” shows at Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 North Michigan, (312)915-7600, through April 27. 

Breakout Artists 2004: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

Artist Profiles, Breakout Artists No Comments »

By Michael Workman

Artists are made to break out, break away from convention. Artists break out of limits that are personal, financial, intellectual or social, to name a few examples. Not that swimming against a current of anti-ambition bias and a Midwestern kind of bunker mentality makes their task any easier. But these nine have successfully made a break for it, activating in spectacular ways a myriad of cultural and social networks for their own artistic purposes. They’re the ones to watch for what’s next in Chicago art. Read the rest of this entry »