Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Gates of the Lord: The Tradition of Krishna Paintings/Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Sculpture No Comments »
"Dauji II Performing Arati on Sharada Purnima?," First quarter of the 19th century. Nathdwara, Rajasthan, India. Amit Ambalal Collection. / Photo: Anuj Ambalal.

“Dauji II Performing Arati on Sharada Purnima,” First quarter of the nineteenth century. Nathdwara, Rajasthan, India. Amit Ambalal Collection/Photo: Anuj Ambalal


Every encyclopedic collection of world art has at least one depiction of Krishna, the most lovable god of the Hindu pantheon. Read the rest of this entry »

Art 50 2015: Chicago’s Visual Vanguard

Art 50 No Comments »


Long heralded as a mecca for alternative practices, collectivity and socially engaged art, Chicago increasingly finds itself among the most visible international art destinations precisely because of its distinct character and openness to change and growth. What makes this city fertile ground for launching new talent and sustaining confirmed genius? A complex and ever-changing network of curators, collectors, administrators, critics, dealers, educators and other enthusiasts cultivate Chicago’s artistic vitality and diversity. The Art 50 is Newcity’s annual snapshot of Chicago’s art ecosystem. This year, we track the power players who shape the terrain in which we thrive.

The Art 50 was written by Elliot J. Reichert, Maria Girgenti, Abraham Ritchie, Kate Sierzputowski and B. David Zarley.

Cover and interior photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago 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: Cutting Back, Dropping Out

Activist Art, Art Schools, Design, Galleries & Museums, Media & Genres, News etc., Suburban No Comments »
Illinois State Museum in Springfield. Photo by Mike Linksvayer.

Illinois State Museum in Springfield/Photo: Mike Linksvayer

By Elliot J. Reichert

Last week, a bipartisan Illinois legislative commission rejected Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposal to close the Illinois State Museum system. The vote of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is a non-binding but weighty gesture against the efforts of the state’s Executive Office to reduce Illinois’ massive budget deficit through severe and uneven cuts in public spending. The Illinois State Museum is a network of five sites that serve distinct but complementary purposes in the preservation and cultivation of Illinois history and culture: a natural history and art museum in Springfield, an on-site archaeological museum of Native American history at Dickson Mounds, a contemporary art museum inside of a repurposed riverfront warehouse in Lockport, a gallery and artisan shop in downtown Chicago, and a museum and gallery in the southern community of Rend Lake. The cuts would reduce the projected $6.29 million annual operating budget of the museum system to $1.5 million, saving Illinois approximately $4.8 million in the next fiscal year. The retained funds would be spent maintaining the facilities and collections of nearly 13.5 million objects housed by the museums during their indefinite closure. Illinois will continue to keep rare and precious artworks and artifacts related to the heritage and history of the state, but the taxpayers who pay for the care of these things will no longer be able to access them. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: David Hartt: Interval/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Photography, Video No Comments »
David Hartt. "Interval V," 2014

David Hartt. “Interval V,” 2014


David Hartt’s “Interval” is a visually stunning multimedia installation of photography, video, sculpture and sound that approximates distances—physical, temporal, historical and sonic—to examine uneven development among geographic and economic peripheries and the global forces that centralize capital accumulation. Set to a haunting score and evocatively documented in high-definition video and large-format photographs, Hartt’s camera records everyday moments in Sakhalin Island—a historically contested territory between mainland Russia and Japan—and the city of Whitehorse, the frontier capital of the Yukon Territory in Canada. With an ambivalent stillness that is neither voyeuristic nor detached, the videos and photographs portray these places as simultaneously restless and static as they are caught between an unhappy present and an uncertain future. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Charles Ray: Sculpture 1997-2014/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Charles Ray. "Huck and Jim," 2014.  Installation view at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Charles Ray. “Huck and Jim,” 2014.
Installation view at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Charles Ray’s figurative sculptures sparsely populate the second floor of the Modern Wing in this major midcareer retrospective. Walls were removed to give the nineteen works plenty of breathing room. The pieces, cast in white and silver materials, create a cool, calming effect. Combined with the hushed atmosphere, examining the work feels like sneaking up on someone, as in “Sleeping Woman,” where a stainless-steel rendering of a homeless woman naps on a public bench. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Liz Larner/Art Institute of Chicago

Installation, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture No Comments »
Installation view of Liz Larner,  on the Bluhm Family Terrace, the Art Institute of Chicago

Installation view of Liz Larner, on the Bluhm Family Terrace, the Art Institute of Chicago


In Liz Larner’s current exhibition on the Art Institute’s Bluhm Terrace, two freestanding stainless steel sculptures have been placed at a diagonal to each other. While the generous amount of space between the works engenders but a faint conversation between them, the expansive wooden stage upon which they rest unites the pieces together as a pair. The urban lumber platform, constructed by Larner’s hands and held together by countless golden screws, is made from unflashy materials that would typically appear discreet—however, the large expanse of ash-wood boards fitted tightly together boldly contrast the terrace’s industrialized cityscape with a warm, simplistic rawness. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Gallery 2506 Opens in Logan Square

Galleries & Museums, Logan Square, News etc. No Comments »
The recently opened Gallery 2506, located in Logan Square.

The recently opened Gallery 2506, located in Logan Square

Last week, longtime friends Kathleen Burnett and Teresa Grammatke opened the doors to Gallery 2506, a commercial gallery in Logan Square. The launch of their “Perception” exhibition, which runs through May 29, marked its grand opening. This show, and those that follow, focuses on beauty—a key component of Gallery 2506’s mission.

Read the rest of this entry »

News: Irving Stenn Jr. Gifts Personal Collection of 105 Drawings to Art Institute of Chicago

Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Loop, Michigan Avenue, News etc. No Comments »
Ken Price. "Green Rock Cup," 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.

Ken Price. “Green Rock Cup,” 1972. Gift to the Art Institute of Chicago of the Irving Stenn Jr. Drawings Collection in memory of Marcia Stenn.

The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) recently announced collector Irving Stenn Jr.’s gift of 105 pivotal contemporary drawings by renowned artists. Considered to be one of the most significant contributions of drawings to have ever been given to the museum, the encompassing and vast body of work heavily focuses on works from the 1960s, to which Stenn was keenly attracted. The gifts were exhibited a couple years ago at AIC but will now be part of their permanent collection, put on display on occasion when their inclusion is appropriate to the exhibitions. When asked in a phone interview about why he decided to donate the drawings now, Stenn says, “The timing seems right, the Art Institute of Chicago is wonderful, and these drawings belong in the public hand.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Eldzier Cortor/Art Institute of Chicago

Loop, Michigan Avenue, Painting, Prints No Comments »
Eldzier Cortor. "L’Abbatoire I," 1950s, woodblock print

Eldzier Cortor. “L’Abbatoire I,” 1950s,
woodblock print


In recognition of his lifetime achievement, a selection of Eldzier Cortor’s prints are now on display at the Art Institute. The earliest series, “L’abbatoire” (slaughterhouse), 1955-1980, documents the artist’s dismay over the violent politics of Haiti, where he once lived. The “Dance” series, 1978, presents the nubile female form in a kind of decorative pattern that recalls the murals of ancient Crete or Egypt. The “Jewels/Theme” series, 1985, encases those same graceful women in brilliant, sharply cut gemstones. The “Sepia Odalisque” series, 1998, sets them, as sultry pairs, into a Turkish harem. Read the rest of this entry »