Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Portrait of the Artist: Margot Bergman

Artist Profiles, Painting No Comments »
"Bernice," acrylic on linen, 2014

“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 »

Review: Charline von Heyl/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
"Green Duck," oil and charcoal on cardboard panel, 2013

“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 »

Review: Molly Zuckerman-Hartung/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Painting No Comments »
“oa,” oil, latex, enamel and spray paint on cut linen and folded muslin, 2013

“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 »

Review: John Sparagana, Arturo Herrera and Jackie Saccoccio/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Collage, Painting No Comments »
Jackie Saccoccio, "Portrait: Circuit," oil and mica on linen, 2013

Jackie Saccoccio, “Portrait: Circuit,” oil and mica on linen, 2013


These are three image-makers who glory in destruction.

New York-based Jackie Saccoccio’s first show in Chicago includes her large and beautiful “portraits.” They’re not the kind of portraits that offer recognizable human facial expressions—but contemporary people are so complex; do facial features really matter much anyway? She’s put something like a big, empty, faceless, voluminous head smack in the middle of the canvas, and then wrapped it into a fantastic swirl of colors and textures. Saccoccio loves the infinitely spacious, visual sensuality of sixteenth-century European portraiture, but those are the only qualities she’s taken from it. These are portraits of unidentifiable but happily blown minds. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Peter Brotzmann and Hedwig Eberle/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Hedwig Eberle, Untitled (2013), oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches

Hedwig Eberle, Untitled
(2013), oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches


Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain Bois’ eclectic collection of writings on twentieth-century art, “Formless: A User’s Guide,” separates the concept of the “formless” (Georges Bataille’s informe) from form and content, as traditionally understood.  The works now at Corbett vs. Dempsey seem to fit this mold. Artist and musician Peter Brotzmann’s box-based assemblages use odd metal items and wooden shapes, screen and wire, foam and paint, tape and string. They incompletely suggest miniature landscapes or faces, Cornell-ish curios or whimsical Calder contraptions. His washy sketches, some two-handed quasi-symmetrical drawings of plants, cups and hands, some semi-abstractions on found paper, seem more like mechanical exercises than compositions. Hedwig Eberle’s cryptic scribbles in smeary polychromatic oil-paint blobs could be compared to Jean Dubuffet portraits. But these engaging works by Brotzmann and Eberle are too simple and nonspecific to make comparisons stick; rather, they occupy a nebulous archaeological space, a paleo-post-industrial sublime… which perhaps, for some, makes them aesthetically suspicious.

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Review: Gina Litherland, Gertrude Abercrombie and Julia Thecla/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Painting No Comments »


Gina Litherland, “Wolf Alice (for Angela Carter),” 2011, oil on Masonite

Gina Litherland, “Wolf Alice (for Angela Carter),” 2011, oil on Masonite


Historic Chicago surrealists Gertrude Abercrombie (1909–1977) and Julia Thecla (1896–1973) are tough acts to follow. They were not so much makers of weird paintings as tough, weird women who liked to paint. Only two small paintings by Abercrombie are included in this exhibition, but they’re enough to establish her as a master of economy, delivering a maximum of impact with an apparent minimum of effort—whereas the two small paintings by Thecla proclaim her a virtuoso of figurative design who seemed to have enjoyed complexity for its own sake. Contemporary surrealist Gina Litherland, who has been boldly paired with them in this exhibition, seems a bit tame by comparison. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: New Moves in Chicago Sculpture

Sculpture 14 Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

It’s an exciting moment for sculpture in Chicago. I’ve tracked a few patterns in contemporary object-making through these nine current exhibitions.

IMG_5281Jun Kaneko at Millennium Park
The newest addition of public art to Millennium Park (for seven months) are dozens of large glazed ceramic sculptures by Jun Kaneko, a Japanese-born, Omaha-based artist who should be familiar to Chicagoans (he’s shown here seventeen times in the past thirty years, but not since 2003.) All of the ceramic sculptures are graphically painted (polka dots, mummy tape) in bright colors. On the Randolph Street side are standing figures, tall and fat as taxidermied bears, but with pig faces and Looney Tunes eyes. There’s a hoard of them, and they’re a little freaky (one has blue nipples). On the Monroe Street side are tablet-shaped objects, the size of tombs, similarly painted. I almost scorned these sculptures—they verge on Cows on Parade kitsch—until I read the artist’s description. The figures are Tanuki, or mythical Japanese trickster characters with jazzy skin and desperate smiles. They’re pleasurably sinister, and a little more non-denominational than the Buddha heads spouting all over Chicago, by Indira Johnson.
Through November 3 at Millennium Park. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Richard Koppe/Corbett vs. Dempsey

Painting No Comments »
A gouache from 1938

A gouache from 1938


This exhibition bookends the career of Richard Koppe (1916-1973). One wall is lined with delicate, subtly colored gouache miniatures from 1938 when the twenty-two-year-old was fresh out of art school in St. Paul and Chicago. The opposite walls are hung with the large, aggressive, hard-edge panels from a 1970 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. What’s missing is the more lighthearted, whimsical work from his middle years spent as a designer and instructor at the Institute of Design.
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EXPO Chicago Report: The Message from Vernissage

Art Fairs No Comments »

By Robin Dluzen

“It feels like the old times,” former Chicago art dealer Melanee Cooper told me last night at EXPO’s Vernissage, “but it feels fresh at the same time”—a sentiment I heard echoed almost word-for-word throughout the opening night. In many opinions, Tony Karman and his fair have already succeeded on a number of fronts: EXPO’s Studio Gang interior is beautiful, the art is amazing, the food rocks and the people came. The galleries, many of whom haven’t been to Chicago in years, decades or even ever, brought with them the best of what they have.

The press rolled into Vernissage around 3pm, followed at 4pm by the “patrons” at $400-$600 a ticket, and while the aisles felt rather empty for the first few hours, I was repeatedly assured that the folks with money indeed were here, and presumably the money and art were changing hands. Some EXPO dealers were happy to announce sales in these early hours, like Chicago’s Corbett vs. Dempsey; some were optimistic about the feedback, like The Green Gallery from Milwaukee (in the fair’s Exposure section for emerging galleries); while a few other out-of-towners seemed less confident. 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 »