Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Ryan Fenchel/Carrie Secrist Gallery

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Ryan Fenchel. "Arcade Ex.," 2014 chalk pastel and oil pastel on paper mounted to panel

Ryan Fenchel. “Arcade Ex.,” 2014
chalk pastel and oil pastel on paper mounted to panel


It’s hard to believe that just over seventy years ago Henri Matisse was something of a has-been. Considered by many to be little more than a thoughtful, polite decorator of bourgeoisie interiors, his radical stature long eclipsed by that other giant of twentieth century art. While in 2015 one might plausibly forget that Picasso ever existed, so little is his impact seen and felt in contemporary painting, the influence of Matisse is now inescapable. From massively attended retrospectives of his late work, to artists (like John McAllister) who have made whole careers out of unabashedly aping his look, Matisse might well be regarded as the single most prominent influence of our time. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: DOGS CHASE BALLS/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Art Books, Installation, Painting, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Josh Reames. "Infinite Scroll (#1)" and "Infinite Scroll (#2)," both 2014, acrylic on canvas

Josh Reames. “Infinite Scroll (#1)” and “Infinite Scroll (#2),” both 2014, acrylic on canvas


DOGS CHASE BALLS is a show for, (occasionally) by, and about our four-legged companions, with many of the works situated low to the ground for convenience of canine access and interaction (dogs are welcome and frequently present in the gallery throughout the run of the show). NO SPACE, the Mexico-based duo comprised of cool kids Débora Delmar and Andrew Birk, curated this group effort and contributed two pieces. Tennis balls stenciled with their logo are scattered throughout the gallery; evidence of interaction exists in the form of ricochet marks on Secrist’s white walls. A video loop showing happy pups using these props projects onto the floor, harkening to the curatorial impetus for the show (witnessing the unadulterated joy of a dog playing with a ball). The film is a virtual who’s who of Chicago’s art pupperati: breakout stars are Vincent Uribe’s Milo and Wolfie Rawk’s Rudi. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Whitney Bedford/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Whitney Bedford. "Ships (Inviting Catastrophe)," 2014, ink and oil on canvas on panel, 72" x 120". Photo by Evan Bedford

Whitney Bedford. “Ships (Inviting Catastrophe),” 2014, ink and oil on canvas on panel, 72″ x 120″. Photo by Evan Bedford


There’s a lot of turbulence happening on the smooth white walls of Carrie Secrist Gallery right now. In her current solo show, Whitney Bedford turns calmly rendered seas and skies into apocalyptic landscapes and flaming sonatas.

Within the paintings of expansive seascapes and intricate vessels, the artist’s combination of ink and oil paint create a hybrid of mediums that do not cohesively blend together, but instead build compositions with varying parts and dimensions. Knotty ink lines erect the masts and sails of the ships, while brushstrokes work to construct an atmospheric environment. The low horizon lines in the compositions grant a powerful impression of expansiveness to the air and water, which in turn make the ships appear small and even vulnerable. The expressionistically rendered, volatile waters engulf the boats like a type of unexpected, sudden and inescapable volcanic eruption. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Medium Cool Book Fair Returns This Weekend

Art Books, Design, News etc., Prints, West Loop No Comments »
Andrew Holmquist.  Ten books in the conXion box set, offset printed books, 2014

Andrew Holmquist.
Ten books in the conXion box set, offset printed books, 2014

Now in its second year, Chicago’s young art book fair has expanded for its latest iteration this weekend, spread across two days, at two sites, with two different focuses. Founded by designer Ria Roberts, Medium Cool is one of the most recent additions to Chicago’s literati culture of fairs, independent presses and book-minded artist projects. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Carson Fisk-Vittori/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »
“Altostratus or Nimostratus. The Sun/Moon Can’t Be Seen,” 2013

“Altostratus or Nimostratus. The Sun/Moon Can’t Be Seen,” 2013


The photographs and sculptures of Carson Fisk-Vittori unabashedly employ the design tactics of advertising and commercial art. Artworks that contain shampoo bottles, hair sprays and dishwashing soap almost come across as absurdist product endorsements rather than works of fine art. The products are usually integrated with incongruous objects such as a potted plant, or are found placed on minimalist sculptures that act as shelves. On a wall painted entirely green is a photograph of a cellphone being held up by a plant-shaped stand, giving the impression that the phone is some kind of perverse yet natural outgrowth. In a nearby work, an oyster-shaped soap dish is placed on top of an image of a garden plant, which in turn is resting on women’s razor blades. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Painting Super Bodies

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Andrew Holmquist's "Give and Receive" and "Armature"

Andrew Holmquist’s “Give and Receive” and “Armature”

By Matt Morris

Chicago’s traditions and innovations in painting are often oriented to bodies and problems with their deconstruction. Perhaps due to the Imagists and their successors, many of our ongoing conversations in visual production bear consequences of how bodies, individuals and populations are identified, relate to our environments and express desire. Several recently opened exhibitions of painting and painting-adjacent projects employ color, pattern, figurative representations and material excess to advance contemporary notions of bodies.

In Andrew Holmquist’s exhibition “Marco (Polo)” at Carrie Secrist Gallery, the loony cartoon characters who have starred in the painter’s earlier work are all but absent, replaced by wide swaths of color and needling line-work that correspond to the linear structure of “Armature,” a lemony, powder-coated steel jungle-gym sculpture. If there is a body present in many of these works it is the fantastical author capable of these gestural brushstrokes enlarged beyond human scale into commanding and mechanized übermensch sensibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Judith Geichman/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Painting, West Loop 1 Comment »

“Zoo Toon”


Conventional wisdom has it that art, and the objects we can experience as art, is limitless. But frankly, I think limits are a good thing. Without the limitations imposed by size, support and medium, and the concomitant pressures they apply upon the artist, creative innovation just isn’t possible. Painter Judith Geichman must know this, and her new solo show at Carrie Secrist Gallery is testament to the beauty and necessity of limits.

Working within the sparest of parameters, Geichman’s paintings are thrilling displays of dexterity. Her square supports and strictly achromatic blend of acrylic and enamel paint evoke the kind of old-school, unabashedly mid-century abstraction that pulses with the vigor and vitality of the artist’s hand. The brash white gestures and viscous pools of black paint in canvases such as “Flash” and “Zoo Toon” elicit vaguely figurative references—while “Flow” throbs with a barely contained, almost erotic energy. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Living Book/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Art Books, Prints, West Loop No Comments »

Designed to represent an automated book-production facility, “Living Book” is a collaboration by Plural (the graphic design duo Jeremiah Chiu and Renata Graw) and Jonathan Krohn of The Center for Book Technology. The exhibition uses custom software designed by Michael Bingaman to capture images via an overhead camera, which are projected on a wall. Viewers may use an accompanying keyboard to make text appear over the projected images. In theory, a nearby printer would print out a page of the resulting text and images every sixty seconds for five hours a day, five days a week. However, a sound concept doesn’t always lead to flawless execution.

On a recent Saturday, the camera and keyboard were working with the images projected against the blank white wall, but the printer spat out blank page after blank page. A gallery attendant had to refill the paper tray just to demonstrate how the exhibit was intended to work. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: David Lefkowitz/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Drawings, Painting, West Loop 1 Comment »

"368 S. Michigan," watercolor on cardboard


David Lefkowitz’s exhibition, “Facilities and Grounds,” is a careful examination of the relationship between the natural world and the built environments we inhabit everyday. In his series of pristine watercolors on meticulously unfolded cardboard boxes, Lefkowitz depicts everything from grand views of a city, to sturdy-looking stone buildings, to airport terminals. The architecture, however, is completely nondescript; it seems to be no place in particular, just a sprawling expanse that could be any Midwestern city. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Andrew Holmquist/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »


It’s a wild and crazy world out there, and it seems to be the mandate of the School of the Art Institute to make sure we all know it. Defiance, despair, humor and social criticism are some of the predictable expressions. But the crazy-beautiful paintings of 2008 graduate Andrew Holmquist seem to be celebrating the chaos, as if to say, “yes, it’s a train wreck, but isn’t it a beautiful one?” Or, more like an explosion at a fireworks factory, brilliant colors in random patterns stream across the sky in a celebration of technology gone berserk. But the beauty of an aerial explosion vanishes in an instant. It’s only a few paintings that continue to feel that way for as long as they hold your attention. Holmquist has the rare talent to make that happen, whether by adding something unexpected, like a big, blue grid to one of his larger works, or by whipping together whatever he can paint, or find, in his small, daily studies. Interestingly enough, he credits some of his success to recent experiences with paintings by Titian and Rembrandt at the Louvre. Obviously he’s a guy who haunts art galleries. Read the rest of this entry »