Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Art 50 2014: Chicago’s Artists’ Artists

Art 50 3 Comments »


If you’ve spent any amount of time observing or participating in visual art in Chicago, you know it’s more community oriented and inclusive than competitive or exclusive. In Chicago, everybody’s in, and no one is out. That said, Newcity publishes this ranked list of influential artists every other year in order to celebrate the accomplishments of a few people who work hard and smart, and who happen to call Chicago their home. The Art 50 also serves as a primer for newcomers—know these names and their practices and you can start to understand Chicago art pretty quick. This year we rotated out a bunch of artists who made the pick in 2012. This doesn’t mean we don’t care for their artwork anymore; we just wanted to open up the list for more voices to be heard. (Jason Foumberg)

Art 50 was written by Jason Foumberg, Matt Morris, Kate Sierzputowski, Anastasia Karpova Tinari, Maria Girgenti, Erin Toale, Abraham Ritchie, Collin Pressler and B. David Zarley.

All photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at the Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago. Top photo in front of Judy Ledgerwood’s “Chromatic Patterns.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Cody Hudson/Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
"I Got High and Never Got Back (Revisited)"

“I Got High and Never Got Back (Revisited)”


Cody Hudson is one of Chicago’s most prolific and highly regarded artists. Navigating the murky (and possibly irrelevant) borderlands between fine art and commercial design, Hudson is known for creating everything from one-off bags for Whole Foods to installations and album covers via his design house Struggle Inc. The artist’s compositions are clean-cut, chromatically harmonious, and brimming with a laid-back sense of quiet confidence.

For “Salad Days Days” at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Hudson draws upon his background in graphic media to create a series of paintings that aptly demonstrate simplicity’s myriad virtues. Employing a restrained color palette that sticks close to cool blues and greens with the occasional black or golden accent, a single, almost obsessively repeated pear-shaped form dominates these square supports, becoming both figure and ground in works such as the regally hued “I Got High and Never Got Back (Revisited).” Read the rest of this entry »

Art 50: Chicago’s Artists’ Artists

Art 50, Artist Profiles 6 Comments »

Artwork and Photo by Matthew Hoffman ( )
Matthew is a 2006 Newcity Breakout Artist

“A friend recently confessed to me that he secretly ranks the participants in Chicago’s art world according to their importance,” wrote artist Molly Zuckerman-Hartung in this publication. Molly’s friend doesn’t work at Newcity; although we annually rank half-a-hundred scenesters of the stage and page, this is our first line-up of visual artists. But everyone intimately knows Molly’s secret friend—the shuffler of the big rolodex, the line cutter, who maybe crept through a Deb Sokolow conspiracy, who buys all your friends’ artworks but never yours. Guess who? It’s you. You made this list and you ranked it and you live in it. You’re either on this list or you’re a product of this list or you’re on this list’s parallel universe (maybe, the Top Fifty People Who Read Lists list). Congrats!

We agree that a linear fifty names is simplistic. Instead, picture this list as a family tree that’s been trimmed into an MC Escher hedge maze. Or see the names as intersecting circles, a cosmic Venn diagram, or raindrops hitting a lake. There could be a list of fifty (or 500) best painters, or a new list for every week we publish this newspaper. For now, here are fifty people who have made an impression on other peoples’ lives.

Who are these people? They are mentors, magnets, peers, alchemists, art mothers, Chicago-ish, artists’ artists, evangelicals, alive today, polarizing, underrated, retired, workhorses and teachers. Lots of teachers. If you’re an artist in Chicago it’s likely that a handful of these artists trained you, or showed you that art was even a possibility. The bonus of local legends is that we can learn from them, face to face. Many lead by example.

About the selection process: Artists only for this list. (Power curators and other hangers-on get their own list, next year). To rank these artists we surveyed hundreds of local living artists, racked our brains, had conversations, wrote emails, canvassed the streets with art critics, cast votes, then recalls, called important curators in London who promptly hung up on us, drank pumpkin latte, checked emails and then finally wrote it all down. And now, we present to you, the Art 50. (Jason Foumberg)

The Art 50 was written by AJ Aronstein, Janina Ciezadlo, Stephanie Cristello, Alicia Eler, Pat Elifritz, Jason Foumberg, Amelia Ishmael, Anastasia Karpova, Harrison Smith, Bert Stabler, Pedro Velez, Katie Waddell and Monica Westin. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Plugging In

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Cody Hudson

While the summertime draws music lovers out into the sunshine, artists traditionally use the hiatus from school and gallery shows to retreat to wilderness residencies, and so the city seems emptied of its artists while all other scenes thrive. Within the summer’s lull, Jennifer Keats saw an opportunity to create a new artist residency in Columbia College’s digital photography lab. Keats is the digital lab’s facilities coordinator, and instead of letting her machines idle, Keats contacted a couple of artists to spend a month in the lab, in collaboration with the summer crew, to make big, beautiful digital prints.

Last summer, Keats inaugurated the Digital Artist-In-Residence program by inviting Stephen Eichhorn into the lab for a month, and this month ended the current residency session with Cody Hudson. Both artists create photo-based work, that is, they scan and cut and re-imagine photographs that already exist in the world, culled from vintage books and Internet images, but neither Eichhorn nor Hudson are strictly photographers, which is what the digital lab specializes in processing, so the residency so far has been an experiment in heightening the quality of each artists’ work by introducing them to new methods or providing technology to make it shine. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: While All Such Things End

Pilsen, Street Art No Comments »


Appropriately sited next to Pilsen’s Salvation Army store, a group of outdoor sculptures composed of found objects took shape under the moniker “While All Such Things End,” or WASTE. Some colored strips of rag were tied to chain-link. A yard of fabric with an ambiguous, body-sized shape cutout lay on the dirt. These discards were selected by Kyle Schlie for their formal potential, as found geometries and abstractions. It is likely that these impromptu sculptures no longer exist today, just days after their assembly, for many were propped in an active and muddy driveway and on the outside wall of a small warehouse. As far as Scatter Art goes, it was great to finally not see it in a gallery setting. Instead, these pieces retained the urgency of the city. The WASTE sculptures were born of the city’s excretions and returned to it, one and the same with the rattling elevated train, the decrepit brick wall, the Latina transsexual with exaggerated makeup passing on Western Avenue. In essence, these sculptures were successful as experiential, rather than contemplative, like past great street sculptures by Cody Hudson and Juan Angel Chavez. The effect is altogether different than tagging or murals. The unexpected objects on the street were clearly constructed with the combined senses of active curiosity and aesthetic imagination. (Jason Foumberg)

“While All Such Things End” was located at 2014 South Western. Read the rest of this entry »

At Zeroes End: Art in Chicago, 2000–2009

News etc. 4 Comments »


By Jason Foumberg

Jin Lee, "Ice 2," 2008. Courtesy devening projects + editions, Chicago

Jin Lee, "Ice 2," 2008. Courtesy devening projects + editions, Chicago

Art is long, but institutional memory is short. In many ways, Chicago’s art history is written as it occurs, in situ, by the people who produce it. Artists toil in their studios, heads-down. Apartment galleries open and close as briskly as the seasons change. We consume one-night-only events by the half-dozen, like so many bottles of free Grolsch beer. Even as new art blogs proliferate, with more scenes being represented than ever before, the snapshot commentary and weekly content often feels dated by week’s end. And yet, paintings aren’t bubblegum summer jams; they’re codified slabs of culture, philosophy and style. We seek dialogue, inspiration and long-term change. In short, we seek longevity, with lasting importance for our work and our peers’—but who has time to write contemporary history while we’re in the midst of making it?

That said, Chicago loves its art history. Outsiders, Imagists, Modernists and firebrands—memorize their precepts and you’re halfway to an MFA degree (however, please don’t leave Chicago once you earn the other half). Our traditions always feel in danger of becoming tinder for the next great fire, so we hand-cobble our history and share the stories orally like a rite of passage. This is to our strength and our detriment. History is our bind. We don’t trash Paschke or cold-shoulder Mies because we’ve worked so hard to carry their legacies. In many global art centers, successive generations of artists break with the past like rebellious teenagers, but Chicagoans do not. Here, innovation comes from influence and education. Doing otherwise, it would feel as if the whole thing could unravel.

As we approach the end of the century’s first decade, it’s time to take census of our situation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Public Works/Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Multimedia, West Loop 1 Comment »


“Public Works,” a collaboration between four renowned graphic artists with roots in Chicago’s independent art and music scenes—Chris Eichenseer, Justin Fines, Cody Hudson and Andy Mueller—combines fine and commercial art in ways experienced in the artists’ careers.

At the show’s core, a dense collage of the artists’ commercial work (largely musical in nature) serves as a collective retrospective, making relative the new works that surround it. There is a notable difference between works old and new, however. Unlike the concentrated wall of past designs, the new works, freed from meeting commercial ends, carry more critical weight.

Perhaps stemming from the show’s title alone, aspects of this inaugural show of “Public Works” evoke an association with social art from the early to mid-twentieth century.  With current economic-political crises-responses what they are, the work that came out of the WPA (an artistic program initiated by the New Deal) comes to mind. Works Progress, Public Works…there’s something there, whether linguistic or otherwise. Considering the overlapping influences of commercial and fine art, it is fitting that social content pervades in varying degrees. When dichotomies of fine/commercial art collapse, so do public/private and communal/individual, enabling design to become didactic. From Andy Mueller’s playful screen prints to Cody Hudson’s Constructivist-recalling designs, the works combine to illustrate the possibilities for art to literally design our communal perspective.

“Public Works,” self-described as a series of shows and events based on enriching communities through creative occupations is as clear as its mantra: “When art makes work and work makes art, everyone benefits.” With graphic design—among today’s most socially profound and prolific mediums—at the heart of “Public Works,” this exhibition holds true to its intent. Moreover, like the artists it showcases, the show simply works. (Justin Natale)

Through August 29 at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, 835 W. Washington

Fashion Forward: Imperfect Articles celebrates five years of art t-shirts

Art Fairs 1 Comment »
HuskMitNavn, untitled (2009)

HuskMitNavn, untitled (2009)

Imperfect Articles was launched five years ago when artists Mike Andrews and Noah Singer took their love of t-shirts (and, in Singer’s case, a growing obsession with the art of custom hand-dying) and turned it into a collective enterprise whose goal is to promote the work of artists they love, and to offer that work to people at a reasonable price and in an eminently wearable form. Their first collection, which included shirts designed by Chicago-area artists like Adam Scott, Danielle Gustafson-Sundell, Josh Mannis and others, sold like proverbial hotcakes when Singer and Andrews brought them to the first Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago. “We were kind of shocked,” Singer recalls. “After that we got invited to the Volta show at Basel. Once we went to Basel we did Nada in Miami, and it took off from there. Last year we did six art fairs, which was crazy. And, um, we’re not going to be doing that again this year,” Singer laughs. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Printmaker’s Delight

Art Fairs, Loop No Comments »

Carol Wax, "Writer's Blocks," mezzotint

By Steven Wirth

If you happen to be curious about the current state of affairs in the wide world of printmaking then look no further than the forthcoming Southern Graphics Council’s annual conference hosted by Columbia College and Anchor Graphics from March 25–29. Established in 1972, the Southern Graphics Council, or SGC as it is commonly called, is the largest print organization in North America, and each year its annual conference is the largest celebration of printmaking of its kind.

The conference itself means many different things to many different people: Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Gallery Moves

Installation, News etc., West Loop, Wicker Park/Bucktown 1 Comment »

sandwich-board-4By Jason Foumberg

Red Light for Green Lantern Gallery

Green Lantern, a contemporary-art venue and small-edition publishing house, recently received an unexpected visitor from the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Licensing. Gallery director Caroline Picard was cited for displaying a sign without the proper permit. For years a sandwich board sign sat on the Milwaukee Avenue sidewalk, in Wicker Park, right outside the gallery’s entrance. Picard said the sign lured a good number of visitors to the space, which hosts exhibition openings, performances, readings and, until recently, held regular open hours. The standard hours can no longer be maintained since, after citing Picard for the sign, the city official inquired about the gallery’s business license. Green Lantern is established as a not-for-profit, but no license was ever acquired. Picard paid the $440 fine, which she ceded was fair since the space is partially commercially zoned, but attempts to resolve the license issue at city hall have proved complex and frustrating. This may be in part to Green Lantern’s mission as an alternative art space, which is difficult to properly classify. With its neighbors in the Flat Iron Arts Building, the Green Lantern is one of the last vestiges of a formerly robust arts district in Wicker Park. For now, events must be deemed “private,” but visitors can expect an attendant on hand to open the door during what used to be the open hours. Best to call first, though.

Matthew Paul Jinks currently shows at Green Lantern, 1511 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd floor, through March 13.

Not For Sale

Would it be strange to encounter art listed NFS (not for sale) in a commercial gallery? This label is sometimes applied to an artwork that an artist simply cannot part with, but gallerist Rowley Kennerk instead uses NFS as a keen strategy. Currently his eponymous gallery is exhibiting two paintings from private collections alongside two paintings available for purchase. Kennerk’s strategy, which he employs often, pairs well-known artists with emerging artists, and the result seems more like a curated exhibition than a gallery show. Exhibiting well-known work by important artists establishes and maintains credibility, says Kennerk, for both the younger artists and the gallery itself. “The gallery is not simply a showroom of goods, but a space in which assertions about culture are made,” says Kennerk idealistically. Currently, a work by Llyn Foulkes, born in 1934, who’s had large retrospective exhibitions, and a painting by Enrico Baj, an Italian of Foulkes’ same generation, are hung with paintings by gallery artists Molly Zuckerman-Hartung and Malthias Dornfeld. The good company certainly lends a boost to their resumes, and the private collection loans round out a theme on contemporary portraiture.

Of course, cultural value and monetary value go hand in hand. Recently The Art Newspaper pointed a finger at the Rose Art Museum for lending a Willem de Kooning painting to a commercial venue, Haunch of Venison in New York. The museum’s director defended the loan with an editorial in a later issue, justifying the intellectual completeness of the gallery’s exhibition. Woefully, the museum’s board has since decided to sell the museum’s entire collection, a move that was not anticipated at the time of the loan, but sheds an indecorous light on the de Kooning, which now may or may not be inflated in value due to the excellent company it kept in the New York show.

“Portraits” shows through March 21 at Rowley Kennerk Gallery, 119 N. Peoria St.

hudson_printsThe More the Merrier

If the art market is drowning, then perhaps now is the perfect time to trot out smaller, more affordable works. Prints and other small edition works can often pack as much punch as a major sculpture or painting. Several galleries in Chicago are taking advantage of collectors’ shrinking budgets for art and, with the influx of print lovers for the upcoming Southern Graphics Council conference, are putting on large shows of small works. Dan Devening released a new series of multiples, his third such collection. More than eighty editions are on view in “Max Multiple,” from editions of three to 100, ranging from $1 to $3,000. There are some gems here. New Catalogue prints pair famous Minimalist sculpture with designed objects such as the slinky and the parking cone. Adam Pendleton screenprints on mirrored steel. You can grab a bumper sticker conceived by Philip von Zweck for $5 (“Honk if you love silence”) or a poster for $1 by Jason Pickelman. There’s also some sculpture in the shape of functional objects, such as Cody Hudson’s vases and Im Schafer’s porcelain cups—at least that’s what they may be. For good measure Devening exhibits some works from his collection, including selections from the En/Of series, where an artist designs LP liner notes and album cover for a musician.

“Max Multiple” shows through April 1 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 W. Carroll.