Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Venerable Roy Boyd Gallery Closes After Forty-two Years

News etc., River North 1 Comment »
A lively social gathering for one of Marco Casentini's exhibitions at Roy Boyd Gallery

A lively social gathering for one of Marco Casentini’s exhibitions at Roy Boyd Gallery

Roy Boyd Gallery will close its doors after forty-two years on October 15. This venerable exhibition space in River North has shown Chicago artists along with a number of artists from the West Coast and around the world. Along with several decades of exhibiting artists in his Chicago gallery, Boyd also ran a second space in Los Angeles from 1981 until 1993. In these last days of the River North location at 739 North Wells, the gallery is presenting a panoply of art objects from its remaining inventory, a salon of works comprised of touchstones from across the space’s lifetime, in particular the Boyds’ devotion to abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »

Art World’s Big Weekend 2014: Comprehensive Listing of Gallery Openings for September 4–7 [updated]

Andersonville, Bronzeville, Collage, Drawings, Edgewater, Evanston, Fall Preview, Garfield Park, Installation, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, River North, Sculpture, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Video, West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »
Andrew Falkowski. "Pink Monochrome," 2014

Andrew Falkowski. “Pink Monochrome,” 2014

Thursday, September 4


Dan Ramirez, painting
Union League Club of Chicago, 65 West Jackson
Opening reception: 5:30pm-7pm, through September 30
(Members only opening, viewing by appointment only)


Anthony Iacuzzi and Christopher Schneberger, photography
Perspective Gallery, 1310-1/2B Chicago Avenue, Evanston
Opening reception: 5pm-8pm, through September 28

Amy Vogel, mixed-media survey exhibition
Cleve Carney Art Gallery at College of DuPage, Fawell and Park Boulevards, Glen Ellyn
Opening reception: 12pm-2pm, through October 25

Taehoon Kim and Barbara Diener, large scale sculpture and photographic installation
Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 West College, Palos Hills
Opening reception: 3pm–5pm, through September 18 and October 23 respectively Read the rest of this entry »

Review: C.J. Pyle/Carl Hammer Gallery

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"Tete a Tete," pencil, ink, colored pencil, on verso of LP cover, 2014

“Tete a Tete,” pencil, ink, colored pencil, on verso of LP cover, 2014


C.J. Pyle’s exhibition, “Saints and Sinners” is a meditation on detail and texture. To create these complex portraits, he needs only a few simple materials: ballpoint pens, Paper Mate pencils, and LP or book covers. He says no paper compares to that of 1970s and 1980s LP covers and the uniqueness of each pencil in a pack giving him a breadth of possibilities with line.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bill Rauhauser/Carl Hammer Gallery

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"Snake Girl," circa 1960

“Snake Girl,” circa 1960


Back in the day when Detroit was Motown, making Thunderbirds and coating the cosmos with pop soul, Bill Rauhauser was out on the streets with his camera, funky as one can get, shooting freak-show signage, a Shriners parade, teenagers cavorting in the lake, ordinary undignified people and musicians plying their trade, all in black and white, and all with an indulgent tongue-in-cheek smile. Those were the days, it would seem, although the other sixties—the riots and the protests—presaged the post-industrial pit into which the city has fallen, at least in the public mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: David Sharpe/Carl Hammer Gallery

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Chicago-trained, NYC-based artist David Sharpe has been painting cosmic spectaculars for many decades—a thrilling example from about thirty years ago recently hung in the Koffler collection at the DePaul Art Museum. Within that magnificence, the artist has often placed crudely rendered human figures that now feel less like the defiant scrawls of a schoolboy and more like the angry frustration of a mid-life crisis set in the sophisticated, pictorial world of early twentieth-century modernism.

His backgrounds resemble the bright, upbeat Arcadian interiors of Matisse, sometimes complete with the serpentine edges of philodendron leaves. They encompass angular female figures—sisters of the big-foot monster-women and angry wives of Picasso. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bill Traylor/Carl Hammer Gallery

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BT 179_small1


Bill Traylor (1854-1949) may be the most accidental of accidental artists. Born into slavery on the Traylor plantation of Alabama, at the age of eighty-five he was homeless in Montgomery, spending his days on the street, making drawings with found materials. Eventually, some artists, dealers and folklorists found him, and posthumously he became an iconic figure in American outsider art. I’m not sure that the pieces now being shown at Carl Hammer Gallery, who first brought his work to Chicago thirty years ago, would have established that reputation. They’re mostly simple, quick sketches of one or two figures, less complex than his multi-figure narratives. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Mary Lou Zelazny/Carl Hammer Gallery

Painting, River North 2 Comments »


Parents often show love by giving us too many things, so even after we’ve grown older, nothing can be quite so comforting as the clutter of useless junk. And unlike everything that’s always changing, clutter can be permanent and reliable. Which may explain Mary Lou Zelazny’s pictorial world, where, as the “Cake Lady” herself, she offers up an armful of comfort food. We all know that the manufactured pastry, whose garish advertising images she has cut and pasted, is not very healthy, so one might conclude that she is also offering up a pointed critique of modern American life. But if eating chocolate cake makes you feel good about yourself, why stop? And feeling good about yourself seems to be this artist’s mission, especially in this exhibit of recent paintings that focus so often on the female face and body, not so much how it looks on the outside, but how it feels from within. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: William Wegman/Carl Hammer Gallery

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"Rubber Boy," 1998


Now that he has devoted his talents for upwards of four decades to taking absurdly humorous color photos of his Weimaraner dogs in various and sundry settings, you would think that William Wegman would have run that shtick into the pound. Think again. In his latest shaggy-dog romp, Wegman borrowed a passel of vintage sideshow posters from gallerist Carl Hammer, placed the pooches in front of them in appropriate dress, and posed them as—yes—the cutest sad-sack freaks this side of P.T. Barnum. Just imagine the bliss that the long-gone scaly-skinned Alligator Girl would have felt had she actually had one of those winsome Weimaraners, complete with an alligator snout, as her faithful consort. Wegman does that for her image posthumously. One can never accuse Wegman of being a one-trick puppy. He went to the dogs when postmodern photography seduced him and he never came back. (Michael Weinstein)

Through August 26 at Carl Hammer Gallery, 740 North Wells

Eye Exam: Familiar Object

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Joseph Yoakum, "Pleasure and Club House on Lake Placid near Sebring Florida on Indian Prairie Canal," 1964, ink and colored pencil on paper

By Jason Foumberg

In the 1990s, a huge range of contemporary art was categorized into some simple themes. There was a quick consensus that “the body” and “identity,” “memory” and “home” defined the queries and struggles of our contemporary era, as if the big world was so complex—and overburdened by art theory—that we needed to recompose ourselves using these basic building blocks of human life. These efforts at categorization promoted some excellent art works. In the “home” or “place” thematic category, Rachel Whiteread’s 1993 “House” and Gregor Schneider’s “Totes Haus ur” (1985-2003, in various iterations) defined a new genre of residential manipulation, with roots stretching back to Gordon Matta-Clark’s 1974 “Splitting” of a suburban home right in half, although Whiteread’s and Schneider’s large-scale installations were more of an effort to reconstruct the single-family home rather than destroy it.

The symbolism of the single-family home is resurging amid the American real estate bust, and a particular derivation is on view today in Chicago galleries. Where Whiteread and Schneider (and a host of others, including Do Ho Suh) investigated the site-specific qualities of “home,” the houses of today are generic and reduced to icons in the style drawn by children: a square with a triangle roof. As symbols, these houses are reductions to a universal essence of “home”; they speak about the safety of familiar objects, the comfort of domestic rituals and the fantasy of contained happiness. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Elizabeth Shreve/Carl Hammer Gallery

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Elizabeth Shreve, a former psychologist, mines the iconographic unconscious of our culture, tweaking the styles of grocery circulars and shoe-store catalogues. Female figures, birds and desserts predominate in paintings that are nothing if not overindulgent. Previously balancing buffets of glistening cold cuts with decapitated flowers and syrupy pancakes, Shreve mounted a full-frontal assault, turning desire into disgust. The current exhibition, “Fears and Desires Magnifique,” represents a new turn. In contrast to her previous top-heavy nauseating images, the new works offer, instead of indictment, a dreamy vision of bouquets and party hats, color wheels recapitulating Ferris wheels and all feeling playful, pleasurable.

“The pleasures of life were always at her fingertips and needed no explanation or judgment,” Shreve writes in one of the cartoons, “Jidjits,” collected alongside the new paintings, and it is a sentiment that speaks to the new tone in her work. The nude in “Four Birds” is defined by strength of stance and self-determining gaze. Populating a fantastic space brimming with food, flowers, cartoon bugs and a distant circus tent, her attention remains elsewhere. In the lower corner of the painting, at crotch level, a bee rises from a box, likewise undistracted by the chock-a-block visuals. As in its sister painting, “The Smile,” Shreve gives us the experience of pleasure in a world of boundless promise. Excess, after all, need not lead to gluttony. The cornucopias’ contents have been flung onto canvas, but the effect, rather than sickening or shameful, is exhilarating—perhaps best represented by the ever-present color wheels, exemplifications of the potentials of painting itself, the abundance of options to be fingered, tasted, and played with. Read the rest of this entry »