Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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

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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

Painting No Comments »
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 »
Geichman_Zoo_Toon0

“Zoo Toon”

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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

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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 »

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: Douglas C. Bloom/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »

"Repose in Black," 2011. Oil on canvas

It’s hard not to smile at each of Douglas C. Bloom’s visions of our modern world. Starting with the kind of rough, blurry, monochrome photo images that Luc Tuymans finds in old newspapers, Bloom manipulates them into clever little stories. Where Tuymans wants us to dread our sordid, ruthless era, Bloom interrupts or entwines those images with flat, often rectangular solid-color passages, making something like a comic-strip joke about the modern corporate landscape of shallow people and places, as if all modern life took place in a Holiday Inn.

Bloom is adept at both the selection and manipulation of images, and they look good big up on walls instead of just on the small computer screens where presumably they were designed. But they fit a bit too easily into the superficial corporate world that they’re spoofing, and seem best suited to cover the walls of a trade show display booth in the hospitality industry.

Bloom explains that “while destroying the painterly pictorial surface, a new photographic image is created” while engaging in “the destruction of traditional painting in favor of something new.” Haven’t we already had a hundred years of photo images manipulated by journalism, advertising and photo-based painting? How much more destruction is still needed? (Chris Miller)

Through April 12 at Carrie Secrist Gallery, 835 West Washington

Review: David Maisel and Kim Keever/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

David Maisel, "Lake Project 6," 2001, c-print

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No two approaches to landscape photography are in greater contrast than Kim Keever’s color images of garishly illuminated misty, craggy “nature” scenes that he painstakingly constructs in a 200-gallon tank filled with water, and David Maisel’s large-format black-and-white and color aerial shots of the land as it has been scarred by industrial civilization. As it turns out, Keever’s contrivances are deceptively realistic, whereas Maisel’s straight shots often border on abstractions, especially his “Lake Project” series, in which he documents Owens Lake, in California, which was devastated in the construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct in 1926. In his most arresting shot, “Lake Project 6,” Maisel captures, from high above, the desertified lake bed, broken up into multicolored segments; his image would warm the heart of a passionate abstractionist were it not for its filthy and scarred traces of all-too-obvious human spoliation. As different as they are, Keever and Maisel unite on the postmodern dictum that “nature is dead”—the viewer is left to choose among hells. (Michael Weinstein)

Through December 4 at Carrie Secrist Gallery, 835 West Washington.

Review: Angelo Musco/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

For a pure orgy of fantasia, check out Angelo Musco’s mammoth photo-works in which thousands of nude men and women disport themselves underwater in tangled conjunctures and simulations of schools of fish. Musco achieves his undeniably overpowering and shocking effect by taking countless shots of small groups of submerged people, combining them in the computer to compose his gargantuan images, and printing on metallic paper supported by aluminum and plexiglass. Two years in the making, the title work of Musco’s show, “Tehom” (Hebrew for abyss), tells the whole story. Measuring 12 x 48 feet, “Tehom” is ample enough for Musco to fill the surface with spinning vortices of bodies separated by a bevy of freer formations. Identifiable individuals pop out of the composition, bearing expressions that run the gamut of human emotion. Italian Renaissance philosophy championed the “coincidentia oppositorum,” the conjunction of opposites; Musco’s surrealism is right in that line. (Michael Weinstein)

Through July 10 and Carrie Secrist Gallery, 835 W. Washington

Review: Dana DeGiulio/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »

new-pic-dana-3RECOMMENDED

This show is a departure from the various “surrenders to Beauty” that have been on offer at Carrie Secrist Gallery for the past few years—big things by Eva Schlegel or Hiro Yokose, for example, that—these days, at least—evoke a Romantic sublime inflated by arcane financial instruments. DeGiulio, by contrast, works with pared-down, anxious lines, full of a mood of crisis. The paintings in “That House is On Fire” are mostly black-and-white, and are inscribed on a layer of soft wax, making the line look sculptural. The brush draws a mark on the soft wax and records a fugitive state. One recurring figure is that of a line terminating in a hook: a deflection, a retreat or détournement, signaling a hesitation, a rebuke; when gathered in one painting, these figures become arguing, contending voices, as can be seen in “Flush” (2008). Reiterated marks are effaced with white paint, and then more marks are made.

Most of the paintings in this show oscillate between representation and abstraction. The title of “Snowden” (2009) recalls the gunner in “Catch-22″ whose minor leg wound is carefully bandaged and re-bandaged, until Yossarian opens his flak jacket and Snowden’s intestines spill out. This picture is made up of painterly gestures towards technical drawing, but the re-bandaging with white paint is there too, layer upon layer, and suggests a body slowly going cold. The very creepy piece entitled “Needle” (2009) seems to allude to a stylus recording on wax or even flesh, as well as to a channel through which a new substance is introduced.

The paintings here enact things that are unexpected, unforeseen, singular. In DeGiulio’s work, the mark is something that has “come to pass,” something that has emerged only to pass away, leaving a mark of the event that asks to be acted upon—imaginatively or otherwise—every time it is encountered, as in the phrase, “That house is on fire.” (David Wise)

Through April 25 at Carrie Secrist Gallery, 835 W. Washington.