Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Preview: Manifest Urban Arts Festival/Columbia College

Art Fairs, South Loop No Comments »


With only a week before graduation, the real world, and Sallie Mae loan officers descend, the seniors and graduate students of Columbia College will gather on Friday, May 15 for the seventh annual Manifest Urban Arts Festival. Though past festivals have boasted impressive musical headliners like OK Go and Lupe Fiasco, budget cutbacks have brought the focus of this year’s festival back to the students’ endeavors. Student artwork will be on sale throughout the festival, whose various hot spots in the South Loop Arts Corridor will be accessible via the free Chicago Trolley or by good, old-fashioned foot power. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Printmaker’s Delight

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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 »

Review: Criteria/A+D Gallery

Multimedia, South Loop No Comments »


“This exhibition is about sustainability,” a wall text declares at the beginning of “Criteria.” What the show is not about, curators Jimena Acosta and Emiliano Godoy stress, is “green design, ecology, environmentalism” and other hot-button issues. The effort to distinguish their goals from those other movements’ lies partly in the organizers’ overtly fatalistic outlook. None of that ‘we can do it if we try (and buy green)’ brand of consumer-oriented optimism; this show wants to drill us out of complacency by confronting the miserable human costs of unsustainable growth.

At this, it largely succeeds. “Criteria” is beautifully installed, providing an aesthetically compelling framework for its grim subject matter. The coupling of artists and up-and-coming designers heightens the sense that this is a laboratory for ideas. Most of the design is more conceptual than practical in nature. For example, a network of stoneware piggy banks with curlicue incandescent bulbs doubling as tails, and a wax pendent lamp that melts when illuminated question wasteful patterns of energy consumption without being useful themselves.

The show’s large-scale color photographs tend towards the “vast gorgeous wasteland” variety that’s become a photographic cliché, but at least in this context they retain their essential bleakness. As is common in thematic shows, the curators have selected works that further their own agenda but threaten to slide into “message art” territory. Good art is polysemic; good design, concise. The show’s most memorable projects fall into the latter category, but so provocative are its underlying principles that everyone’s work is shown to its best advantage. (Claudine Isé)

Through February 28 at A+D Gallery, 619 S. Wabash.

The Five-Year Plan: Breakout Artists 2004-2007: Where are they now?

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By Rachel Furnari and David Mark Wise

To mark this fifth edition of Breakout Artists, we decided to check up on the artists we’d featured in the past and see where their careers have taken them. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Everyday Runway

Loop, Photography, Student Shows No Comments »


Dressed in a padded pink bunny suit studded with hearts and with little plastic hearts stuck to his cheeks, a young man wears a seductive smile and casts his bedroom eyes at us. He is right at home on Tokyo’s streets where—as photographers Moe Sekiya and Yuka Takeda abundantly make us aware in their color photos—kitsch is king. Western fashionistas take heed—insouciance is a bore, get with the program and be excruciatingly cute. Yet nobody does it better than Asian-American performance artist Susan Lee-Chun embodying warrior girl in her ruffly plaid tunic and helmet as she struts away with her nose in the air from her plaid-clad baby-doll victim whom she has just decked with her cheerleader’s baton. Postmodernists endlessly talk about play; the new Asian hipsters abandon themselves to it without a trace of shame. (Michael Weinstein)

Through April 25 at  C33 Gallery of Columbia College, 33 E. Congress.

Review: Bilingual: Art at the Intersection of Painting and Video

Painting, South Loop, Video No Comments »

Artists, like linguists, translate the language of their thoughts and observations into the world of common perception. This exhibition considers “the role of painting in today’s media suffused culture.” A great variety of contemporary artists are represented in this show from both Columbia College and elsewhere. From Jay Helkes’ black-and-white animations drawn atop a veritable flipbook of rock ‘n’ roll, made popular by MTV, to the award-winning videos of Canadian artist Shira Avni, much of the work present in this show successfully comments on and exists within our increasingly complex culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Artists 2007: Chicago’s Next Generation of Image Makers

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By Michael Workman and Jason Foumberg

It’s purely by accident that this year’s edition of our annual showcase of Chicago’s emerging artists ended up focusing almost exclusively on such “newer” art forms as photography, video and curation. Accidental, but entirely appropriate, since the newly reborn Art Chicago and associated shows at the Mart will offer no shortage of painting and sculpture as the city surges with communal art appreciation, at least for a week.
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Breakout Artists 2006: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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By Michael Workman

Against the backdrop of a Warhol show breaking attendance records at the MCA, the desire to break down any remaining distinctions between culture and fine art, to demolish any remaining boundaries on the making of art, have never been stronger. The very idea of art as only a visual medium is no longer a given, a notion that simultaneously invigorates the practice while challenging its remaining conventions and support systems. In that light, or darkness, we offer a look at a handful of yet-unsung Chicago artists who are doing their part.
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Breakout Artists 2005: Chicago’s Next Generation of Image Makers

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By Michael Workman, with Michael Weinstein

In a year marked by the tragic death of Ed Paschke, the demise of several key galleries and the frustrating confusion of the art-fair wars, we can only take solace in the quality of the work. Chicago remains a fertile field for emerging artists. In the nurturing spirit of Paschke, here’s to doing our part for helping “emerging” become “established.”
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Breakout Artists 2004: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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By Michael Workman

Artists are made to break out, break away from convention. Artists break out of limits that are personal, financial, intellectual or social, to name a few examples. Not that swimming against a current of anti-ambition bias and a Midwestern kind of bunker mentality makes their task any easier. But these nine have successfully made a break for it, activating in spectacular ways a myriad of cultural and social networks for their own artistic purposes. They’re the ones to watch for what’s next in Chicago art. Read the rest of this entry »