Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Sofia Leiby/Devening Projects + Editions

Painting No Comments »
"Sketch for Duck in Situ,"  acrylic on paper, 2013

“Sketch for Duck in Situ,” acrylic on paper, 2013


Chicago-based artist Sofia Leiby’s first solo show “The Drama of Leisure” at Devening Projects + Editions is a meditation on purpose and purposelessness. A 2011 graduate of SAIC, co-founder of Chicago Artist Writers and occasional contributor to Newcity’s art section, Leiby’s fourteen small-scale pictures manifest the challenges faced by a generation of young artists: how does one pursue a meaningful practice when so much of your day is given over to repetitive, albeit necessary, employment?

The acrylic and silkscreen works, rooted in a dichotomy that pits labor against leisure, lean heavily on the cubism of twentieth-century artist Juan Gris. Lightly colored, with a preponderance of blues and oranges, they’re fluid in line, and quick in gesture and arrangement. As present iterations of past incarnations, Leiby’s abstract forms have a genealogy that’s traceable throughout the exhibition. Shapes that might appear as disembodied limbs, stairways or interior walls pop-up frequently, results of a streamlined process that sees the artist painting from her paintings. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alain Biltereyst/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »



For at least thirty years, the conversation surrounding geometric abstraction has been mired in the shop-worn rhetoric of early twentieth-century modernism, its relationship to utopian ideals, a critique of said modernism, or some combination thereof. Besides being played out, I’ve never found these approaches particularly illuminating. Far more provocative possibilities emerge when one encounters geometric painting as it truly is: a form of sculpture, subject to the pressures and demands of the discipline.

Unlike two-dimensional work, which offers us a glimpse into a credible alternative reality fashioned by the artist, sculpture projects itself outward, extending its influence into our world and transforming our physical relationship with it. By not demanding that we look “in” but instead inviting us to look “at” and “around,” the modestly scaled “signs” in Belgian artist Alain Biltereyst’s attractive new show, “Notes” at Devening Projects + Editions, accomplish such a feat.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Matt Rich/Devening Projects + Editions

Collage No Comments »
"Face," acrylic and spray paint on cut paper, and linen tape, 2013

“Face,” acrylic and spray paint on cut paper, and linen tape, 2013


When I saw Matt Rich’s exhibition “Razors & Vapors,” I experienced a deep sense of déjà vu. I had never seen Rich’s work before, but there was something familiar about his paintings, something recognizable yet unexpected. His paintings are collages (or maybe his collages are paintings) of cutout pieces of paper. They are geometric and colorful. Roughly cut triangles and circles and squares are the foundations of this exhibition. The shapes are smeared and flecked with paint, and there are tears in some of them. Up close, the textures of these cutouts—little bumps and globs of dried acrylic—jut out from the paper. (An element of haphazardness pervades the work, and while there is a slapdash feel to the brushstrokes, the overall shape and color of the paintings are fluid and rich.) Take a few steps back and the smears and adjoining pieces of paper blend together, and the image of the painting comes together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Rainer Spangl/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »

spangl galleryRainer Spangl’s new show at Devening Projects + Editions is cool, calm and calculated. Adorning the walls of the Garfield Park space is a litany of tastefully arranged, pastel-hued paintings that evoke the architectural grandeur of an ornamental frieze. Beneath them, five chromatically gray interiors depict quiet corners of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. The paintings are as cultured as that city’s famed cafés. The urbanity, however, comes with a price. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alex Valentine/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Prints No Comments »


The opening reception for Alex Valentine’s “Blonder Tongue Audio Baton” at Devening Projects felt more like a Vice magazine release party than the buttoned-down opening receptions of yore, and appropriately so; Valentine’s work is not stuffy. His distinctive, colorful offset prints nonchalantly hung from strings as if they were drying laundry, and visitors were encouraged to leaf through prints scattered on a table nearby. Valentine, a print instructor at SAIC, is a champion of offset printing—a difficult to master form of commercial lithography, traditionally used to make books, magazines and posters in large runs. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Home Wreckage/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Multimedia No Comments »


Devening Projects + Editions hosts another group of A-list superstars and other impressive talent, this time taking aim at that hallowed cornerstone of the American straight-and-narrow: the family. Functioning as an enforcer of social order and stability, family life is a primary target for those seeking to challenge or upset this order, a position the artists in this show adopt unanimously.

With a penchant for mayhem and destruction endemic to any healthy 11-year-old boy, and the creative license of a distinguished mid-to-late career artist, the 70-year old Swiss artist Roman Signer presents a collection of twenty-five short films that elaborate wildly on the term “wreckage” in its most literal sense. It is entertaining to watch Signer find imaginative new uses for small-explosives, bottle rockets and a host of miniature flying contraptions. The greater implications of Signer’s actions are not always readily available. Instead, it’s his sheer inventiveness, applied with equal virtuosity to both situation and materials, which deserves our attention and praise. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Julia Hechtman/Devening Projects + Editions

Photography No Comments »


Owing to pure courageousness, or perhaps just personal inclination, Julia Hechtman has decided to try something rather monumental with means that are quite simple. Her first solo exhibition at Devening Projects centers on a group of eight fairly typical nature photographs presenting deciduous forest settings in various stages of seasonal development. Shot at oblique angles, each image lacks a horizon line, a key compositional element, which would normally serve to orient us, the viewers, within the space described; as such, we are provided with a space, albeit an indefinite one, ensuing a sense of dislocation as if to suddenly find ourselves waking, face up, in a field on a bright winter morning. We could be anywhere. We are certain we are somewhere, but where exactly remains unknown. This unconventional perspective, and a complete absence of foliage in some instances, cause Hechtman’s photos to seem a little eerie, but altogether understated while remaining clearly within the bounds of generic nature photography. Her attempt to capture the nondescript beauty of the everyday natural word is ultimately not an ironic parody, but remains altogether sincere. The monumentality of her task consists in her attempt at sincerity within a supposedly outmoded and exhausted approach. Though not entirely alone in this endeavor, Hechtman has a few close compatriots in the work of photographers John Opera and Melanie Schiff, not to mention the monumentally scaled canvases of painter Claire Sherman. It’s interesting to note: Sherman, Schiff and Hechtman each spent an extensive amount of time at Oxbow, the School of the Art Institute’s back-woodsy retreat on the other side of lake Michigan—undoubtedly time well spent. Hechtman’s photos reexamine the strength of artistic will; asking, can an individual rescue an entire genre from the deep torpor of cliché? (Nate Lee)

Through October 10 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 W. Carroll

Review: Little Triggers/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Painting No Comments »


The “Artists Run Chicago” showcase, which opened at the Hyde Park Art Center last month, shed a reifying light upon a phenomena that nearly all parties involved in the Chicago art world consider second nature—the artist-run space. What the “Artists Run” show at HPAC manages to convey is the immense and varying breadth of sophistication, from the spotlessly clean, to the hopelessly beer-soaked, which such spaces collectively display. Dan Devening’s studio-turned-exhibition space represents the most pristine commercial-like end of the artist-run spectrum. Likewise, Devening lays claim to an attractive reservoir of talent. Recently, he turned over the reins, and responsibilities, of his role as curator (not to mention his last remaining morsel of personal studio space) to gallery assistant Thomas Roach and recent SAIC graduate Xavier Jimenez, who have put together an impressive conglomeration of work from the Devening database.  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.