Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Duncan Oja/ARC Gallery

Photography No Comments »

Richmond2_sm

RECOMMENDED

We are always coming upon the world from the wrong side in Duncan Oja’s faded, clouded, black-and-white shots of the ordinary rural American roadside, taken on solitary cross-country car trips. Oja’s subjects are signs seen from behind so that we cannot know what kind of response they are trying to solicit from us. The signs are situated in the often scrubby and never manicured and opulent landscape, so that we encounter them as though we were actually present at the site on one of those all too familiar leaden gray days that when they happen seem to be the most central standard reality for which bright sunny and dark inclement days are bookends. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Pamela Hobbs and Margaret Wright/ARC Gallery

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"And Then..." by Pamela Hobbs

“And Then…” by Pamela Hobbs

RECOMMENDED

An emblematic representative of the most sophisticated contemporary photo-art, Pamela Hobbs combines a multitude of postmodern tactics (use of vintage photographic processes, embedded conceptual import, use of text, coloring her images) with surrealism, sentimentality and a decidedly serious feminist-modernist reflection on mortality. As improbable as the mixture might seem to be, Hobbs’ sepia and toned black-and-white prints of curio cases filled with the leavings of expired life—figurines, pictures, dolls, and Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jonee Cocchia and Amanda Aton/ARC Gallery

Photography, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Jonee Cocchia, "Night Blooms"

Jonee Cocchia, “Night Blooms”

A versatile street photographer who stays on the quiet side, but with telling and intense effect, and shoots in black and white, Jonee Cocchia moves effortlessly from portraits, through signage, breathtaking architectural studies, and elegantly composed groups of objects like lines of news boxes, and finally to involved abstracted details. Composition is Cocchia’s high visual card, and he plays it through all his forays without overwhelming his subjects and their emotional evocations in feats of form. Cocchia’s most affecting images are shot at night on lonely Chicago thoroughfares bathed in the glare of streetlights. In “Night Blooms,” we look from the sidewalk across an empty street, cut by a viaduct, at a gleaming white wall festooned with aerosol art and an ad for McDonald’s line of coffee-shop-style drinks. We are drawn into the scene as though we had been making solitary night moves and had been suddenly transported into a postmodern installation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: National Exposure/ARC Gallery

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Lauren La Rose

RECOMMENDED

In celebration of its fortieth anniversary, ARC Gallery has revived its “National Exposure Show,” a juried exhibition “examining the wide diversity of contemporary photography.” With Chicago photo-journalist Charles Osgood as the juror, the present installment remains true to its purpose, presenting fifty-nine images by forty-eight artists representing a variety of genres too numerous to mention, different approaches (modernist and postmodernist), and a plethora of formats and processes. There is no theme, which befits a survey; there is also nothing strikingly new that stands out as cutting edge, a sign of our times, at least in the USA. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Intimacy/ARC Gallery

Photography, River West No Comments »

Steven Bernas

RECOMMENDED

From Jean-Robert Franco’s black-and-white large-format full–frontal female nudes, standing and staring straight at us impassively; through Elena Elbe’s color studies of overlapping exposures of the same nude woman that illustrate the conceit of “Me, MYSELF, and I,” and Steven Bernas’ crazy-colored, distorted and ghoulish figures—constructed by projecting snippets of pornography and his own handiwork on images of nudes—who inhabit “tactile territory;” to Francoise Anger’s atmospheric, astral color abstractions of volatilized figures, we run a gamut of the wildly contrasting ways in which the human body can be represented to evoke whatever sense of existence with which an artist might like to conjure. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carleen Clifton Bragg/ARC Gallery

Photography, River West No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Unframed and tacked unpretentiously on the gallery wall, Carleen Clifton Bragg’s black-and-white street portraits—mostly candid—of down-and-out African Americans and wasted whites who live amongst us forswear indulgence in patronization, humanization or victimization; her subjects are for the most part depressed, as we see them when we venture into their neighborhoods. Sometimes homeless and holding signs, Bragg’s subjects are epitomized by a young man standing slumped under the weight of a backpack and bundled in a hoodie, with his head bowed and eyes closed—asleep on his feet—as he holds an outstretched Styrofoam cup in one hand and an appeal in the other in faded lettering that reads: “Please Help Me I Have Nothing.” An engaging, straightforward and thoughtful individual, Bragg says that she is “elated” when she takes her shots, because she loves “naturalness.” (Michael Weinstein)

Through March 26 at ARC Gallery, 832 West Superiorar

Review: Anat Pollack/ARC Gallery

Photography No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Seized with the purpose of revealing the archetypal and impossible longings exploited by television advertising, Anat Pollack photographs moments of commercials from the screen and processes them in the computer so that the original color images no longer bear traces of specific products and communicate only hazy hopes and phantasmic dreams. In one of Pollack’s most effective images, a car reduced to a blur of motion rounds a corner, radiating the sense of speed and control. Other studies are more bucolic and tranquilizing. If Pollack intends her series as a foray into cultural criticism, she fails, because her technique results in photo-works that are suffused with soft impressionism that renders the eye contemplative and absorbed in the aura of the ideal, rather than in questioning it. If Pollack aims at showing us that advertising manipulates deep-seated desires, she is stunning, but only after we have broken the spell that she casts and are aware of her program. (Michael Weinstein)

Through September 25 at ARC Gallery, 832 West Superior #204

Review: Wes Carson/ARC Gallery

Photography, River West No Comments »

Wes Carson, “201004240121”

RECOMMENDED

Ending up somewhere in a liquid world of surreal fantasy tinged with New Age, Wes Carson gets there by putting his willowy model through various paces, shooting her in the act of performing so that the resulting photo will be blurred, and then printing the image digitally in blue tones to make it look like a nineteenth-century cyanotype. Although we can discern her features—and then barely—in only one image, Carson’s subject is clearly a lithe and tough beauty who can stand up to any assignment, such as appearing to take off into the misty sky like a Greek goddess turned angel. What saves Carson from hackneyed sentimentality is the woman, whose strength dominates his images; etherealized as he mightily strives to make her, she will never morph into a water nymph radiating the incredible lightness of being or a foamy sprite. The model rises to her ultimate level of power when she appears emerging from an arch formed by two enormous wrench-like hands sprouting from the earth; her black garment and legs attenuated to shreds, she casts a ghostly overmastering presence. (Michael Weinstein)

Through July 17 at ARC Gallery, 832 W. Superior

Review: Shane Prine/ARC Gallery

Photography, River West No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Another of the army of redeemers of the ruins, Shane Prine shoots the interiors of derelict houses, finding in the copious rubble and refuse forms that—but for the fact that they are filthy—could pass for modernist sculptures and assemblages. Prine renders his subjects in black-and-white chiaroscuro, taking advantage of shadows and pools of light to show them forth in their ramshackle backgrounds. At an extreme pole of the photographic proclivity to alert us to the unrecognized beauty that lurks in the most unexpected places, Prine’s work insures that we will never look at a pile of construction trash the same way again—or at modernist sculpture. In Prine’s most powerful shot, he offers a view of the side of a chair looming up from the litter, its back lost in black, its upholstery torn and mended with duct tape, and a weathered board propped against its front—a gangplank to the throne. (Michael Weinstein)

Through April 24 at ARC Gallery, 832 W. Superior

Review: Michele Stutts/ARC Gallery

Multimedia No Comments »

IMG_4214RECOMMENDED

“Cabrini Green is beautiful,” the man in the film proudly declares, standing in front of a chain-link fence and graffiti-covered wall. And to him and many of the former Cabrini tenants, this seemingly contradictory statement is true. Michele Stutts captures their testimonials in a forty-five minute documentary. Juxtaposed against ten mixed-media pieces, the result is more reactionary than activist. The show serves as a frank record of the tenants’ personal loss of home and identity after the ten-year-long Cabrini transformation project that has forced tenants to relocate in an effort to create a new, safer, mixed-income neighborhood. The emotionally charged interviews, presented in informal dialogues in the tenants’ former homes, are contrasted against the mixed-media pieces’ visual depictions of the demolition. The former presents individual perspectives, while the latter treats Cabrini as a whole. Individual identities are lost in the abstracted depictions of the familiar red brickwork layered with blueprints, coin rubbings, and shredded dollar bills, a commentary on the Chicago Housing Authority’s long, strained relationship with the Cabrini project. More conceptually complex are Stutts’ found-object pieces. The objects’ tactility is further enhanced by their deterioration—a frayed, dirty fabric piece is woven around a rusty rake top—and they appear as if they could be the surviving remnants from the demolition’s aftermath. The contrasting textures careful compositions import a reverence for the discarded objects—the same reverence Cabrini community holds for their former home, no matter how infamous. (Patrice Connelly)

Through September 25 at ARC Gallery, 832 W. Superior, #204