Cover by Matthew Hoffman, Breakout Artist 2006. Photo: Cheryl Hinman
Breakout Artists is our annual showcase of Chicago artists we think you should know. This is our twelfth edition.
Lists like these always risk reduction, betray biases and can say more about the limits of their host publication’s scope than about the worthiness of artists—those mentioned or not. They persist as conversation starters: their value isn’t solely in what is printed here, but in the excited discussions and debates that proceed from them. Our circulation spikes around these featured lists, and so does the mail we receive. Understanding those contexts is an important part of appreciating what a list like our annual Breakout Artists can and can’t do.
But while many lists of this sort are ranked or correspond to particular forms of prestige, our Breakout Artists have always been determined by a more mysterious (and certainly subjective) calculus. I had to begin by wondering out of what these artists were meant to be breaking. This year, we are celebrating and advocating for ten artists’ practices who have seen breakthroughs in their work and are breaking out into higher stakes, wider visibility, a broader range of media, or expansions of what art can accomplish. Their practices subvert racial and gender stereotypes, crisscross into adjacent fields like illustration and design, enmesh studio work with curating and other socially engaged creative moves, run amuck in traditional mediums like painting and sculpture, while also finding ways to work in new places outside galleries or on the web.
The artists we’ve selected are at different stages of their careers; this is not an emerging artist list, although a couple have recently completed BFAs. If there is a common feature, it is one that shows the continued gravitational pull of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on the arts cultivated in this town. Despite being one of the most expensive college educations in the country (for art or anything else) and in the face of perpetual wondering about the relevance of higher education, each of this year’s Breakout Artists have brushed through SAIC—whether studying there or, like me, teaching there. These artists’ work happens not only in sanctioned art world temples, but in apartment spaces far out on the Green Line, in the neighborhoods surrounding Cook County Jail, from Rogers Park to Washington Park, and sometimes in Canada. Whether in major arts institutions or in the dispersed expanded field of where creative exploration can happen, these are artists worth knowing about and watching out for the great things they are doing. (Matt Morris)
Jackie Saccoccio. “Square in Hole,” 2014
oil and mica on linen, 79″ x 79″
Part of their “March Trifecta” of exhibitions, Jackie Saccoccio’s new all-over paintings are unified by a concentrated hovering apparition. The subtractive process of layering paint passages evoke openly flayed nervous systems in controlled pours, drips and squeegeed treatments of indulgent color palettes. Saccoccio’s “Square in Hole” is an enthralling break from negotiating potentially formulaic x and y-axis of “portraits.” Vectors of negative space between drips are exuberantly dashed-in. Paintings hung strategically in succession push the threshold of what one wall should be made to carry. Expansiveness and restraint are emphasized. Read the rest of this entry »
David Hartt, artist and new member to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s Board of Trustees/Photo: Braxton Black
In mid-December, chair of the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) King Harris announced the addition of artist David Hartt to the MCA’s Board of Trustees. Hartt is the first artist on the MCA’s board since the new building at 220 East Chicago was constructed, which officially opened to the public in June 1996. Sculptor Richard Hunt, whom the MCA is honoring for his eightieth birthday with a special exhibition currently on view, was the first artist trustee in the 1970s. Joining Hartt as members of the board are current Norway-based telecommunications equipment company, Eltek, ASA board member Dia Weil, director of Graff Diamonds Eve Rogers and board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art and Colgate University in New York, Nancy Crown. Their appointment coincides with Teresa Samala de Guzman’s appointment as the MCA’s chief operating officer, a duty she assumed responsibility of on December 8, 2014.
In an email exchange, MCA director Madeleine Grynsztejn explains that the museum is very much artist-activated and audience-engaged, saying, “Artists are central to everything we do and the artist’s presence assures integrity at the governance level around our artist-activated commitment in particular.” When selecting board members, they take into account the expertise and wisdom each individual can bring to the MCA currently, as well as how their knowledge can work with the MCA’s future aspirations. Read the rest of this entry »
Josiah McElheny. “End of a Love Affair,” 2014,
handblown and polished glass, douglas fir, speakers, amplifier, industrial audio player, electric wiring, cut and polished blue sheet glass, brass control knobs, felt, hardware,
55 x 43 x 23 inches
Aided by a fake ID, I was baptized into the church of hard-bop sometime in the mid-nineties in one of Cleveland’s many hidden jazz spots; a cramped subterranean chamber where sound and smoke, perfume and sweat mixed freely in the dimly lit haze. The music was immediate: thundering drums coupled with blowing horns that rang-out joyous one moment, mournful the next. Spiritual by way of the body—the experience possessed a physicality so intense it was transcendent.
In contrast to that overwhelming sensuality, MacArthur award winner Josiah McElheny’s “Dusty Groove,” a meticulously crafted four-piece sculptural ode to some of the twentieth century’s great musical minds (among them jazz legends Wes Montgomery and Sun Ra), comes off coolly intellectual, even a little remote. Imagine jazz goes to grad school featuring Donald Judd as your thesis advisor, and you’re part way there. These pieces stimulate the mind, but they don’t necessarily stir the soul. Read the rest of this entry »
Magalie Guérin. “Untitled (hat-profile),” 2013-14, oil on canvas
Modest in size but not shy at all, five colorful oil paintings by Magalie Guérin dance with each other across Corbett vs. Dempsey’s west wing. The dance is a type of choreographed freestyle—alive, morphing and flirtatious, the canvases beckon toward viewers to come closer. Through the physicality of the paintings’ surfaces, one can easily trace the artist’s mark and extensive process of rework. Colorful shapes float, overlap and morph together at the mercy of the artist and the observation of the audience. Read the rest of this entry »
Karl Wirsum, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Suellen Rocca, Jim Nutt, 1967/Photo: Charles Krejcsi
The Gene Siskel Film Center has announced that in the first week of October it will host a run of Leslie Buchbinder’s first feature-length film, “Hairy Who & the Chicago Imagists,” a documentary that introduces broader audiences to the lively Chicago-based art movement that contested the primacy of Pop Art in the 1960s with wacky and cleverly funny cartoon figurative painting. The documentary will screen daily from Friday, October 3 through Thursday October 9 (full schedule here). Friday’s screening on opening night will feature appearances from director Leslie Buchbinder, producer Brian Ashby and editor Ben Kolak. Then on Sunday, artists Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca and Karl Wirsum will be present at the 5:30pm screening. On the last evening of the run, Thursday, October 9, Ashby returns with screenwriter/music advisor John Corbett and sound designer/engineer Alex Inglizian. Read the rest of this entry »
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
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 »
“Bernice,” acrylic on linen, 2014
“Sometimes they are quite shocking to even me,” says artist Margot Bergman about her paintings as we walk from canvas to canvas at Corbett vs. Dempsey prior to her opening. Newly opened at the gallery, a solo show by the artist titled “Greetings” features brash and vigorously emotive neo-expressionist paintings. Large flat female faces with rough features and tense expressions stare directly at incoming viewers from some of the paintings while others exist as perverted, almost violent still-lifes of abstracted flowers and patterned wallpaper. Four-eyed “Marie Christine” and “Bernice,” who has no nose at all, manage to make me feel alien rather than the other way around. The bold directness and volatile energy of the paintings conjure the rough aesthetics of children’s drawings, while maintaining self-aware and complex psychological depth. Read the rest of this entry »
“Green Duck,” oil and charcoal on cardboard panel, 2013
Charline von Heyl’s first Chicago solo exhibition, “Interventionist Demonstration (Why-A-Duck?),” now on view at Corbett vs. Dempsey, is made up of paintings inspired by a 1934 comic strip, “Krazy Kat,” by George Herriman that is also on display. The characters, Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Pupp appear in these paintings, while the accompanying catalogue has text appropriated by von Heyl from the strip.
The comical melancholia in her paintings has a tone much like Herriman’s work: the use of dark humor and absurdity as a way to philosophize the complexities of emotion and the world of the artists’ respective centuries. There is a dialogue that feels light despite its hefty content. “Green Duck,” hanging off to the side on a wall by itself, appears quite sad, furthering the tragicomic mood simmering throughout the gallery. At the back of the gallery, there is a grid of thirty-nine paintings of abstract forms and dark representations of a duck, a tree, a frowning face. Some feel like image fragments speaking with Herriman’s and some feel exclusively von Heyl, but they all have an air that deeply ponders perception. Read the rest of this entry »
“oa,” oil, latex, enamel and spray paint on cut linen and folded muslin, 2013
Molly Zuckerman-Hartung’s paintings are baffling. They’re not simply pretty messes, as so many gestural abstract paintings are these days. In some ways they’re like spilt milk or grass stains. They whisper, stretch, slip and stumble. Elegant details such as sewn pleats are obscured by hastily drizzled paint and globs of wax. Delicate patterns are smeared and smudged. Wet paint is smooshed. Nothing is sacred.
“Violet Fogs Azure Snot” is Zuckerman-Hartung’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. Nine new large-scale paintings are on canvas, linen, dropcloth and found fabric—folded, creased, patched and sewn. Creamy raw canvas, muted pink and black color blocking has replaced the neon splatters of former paintings. Her work appears matured, but still experimental. There is more space but plenty of texture. For every bold move there are fifty tiny marks. A stain here, a slice there: a couple paintings feature repetitive notch marks made with bleach and enamel paint. These are constant reminders of the artist’s eccentric, unsteady hand. Read the rest of this entry »