Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Dana Carter/Devening Projects + Editions

Garfield Park, Installation, Multimedia No Comments »


Dana Carter understands that if you stand still for long enough, the atmosphere around you will put on a show—however subtle, however ephemeral. But how might one capture it, collaborate with it or represent it as artwork?

The collection of mixed-media artworks Carter has on display at Devening Projects and Editions are largely shaped by her experiences during a residency in the desert of Carizozo, New Mexico. There, Carter experimented with light, landscape, fabric, minerals (salt and chalk) and their corrosive and generative traces.

As any of us tromping about the sidewalks of Chicago these days knows, salt crystallizes onto material, producing its own forms on your boots. Carter channels this phenomenon for “Extract from seven days in search of Orion Nebula” (2008), a heavy-duty black cloth treated with salt water that evokes a subtly gleaming mountain scene.

The exhibition’s keystone work is “Looking at you from the Very Large Array” (2008), an ode to New Mexico’s radio astronomy observatory. Carter re-presents footage from a sunlight-drawing experiment as a projected stop-motion digital film—just one element to the larger installation that includes a glass box on the floor to reflects images of radio telescopes. The piece offers a curious comment on the dissonance between human perception and imaging technologies, both artistic and scientific.

Carter’s concept is certainly compelling, but it’s difficult to fully perceive the artist’s interest in experimenting with the atmosphere while present in the gallery’s white-box, windowless exhibition space. This, ironically, may turn out to be the point. (Danny Orendorff)

Through February 9 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 W. Carroll

Review: Aline Cautis/Devening Projects + Editions

Humboldt Park, Painting No Comments »


In Devening Project’s Off Space gallery, Aline Cautis employs an intuitive language of gesture, mark-making and abstract forms to create paintings and works on paper that are at once fluidly psychedelic and tightly controlled. The works’ tight rendering recall Sarah Morris’ grid paintings, but there is an element of abstract expressionism’s wild child via the obsessive gestural mark-making and layering. The lines and marks engage in a dance along the surfaces of the works but also deep into the flat surface’s depth of field, causing kaleidoscopic shifting for the viewer. Cautis describes her works as “interior language pressing against the surface of the painting in an attempt at fractured communication through chaotic language.” Though the viewer would have to work hard to arrive at that statement, Cautis’ paintings are easy on the eye with their rich color choices, dramatic confluence of lines and puzzling layers. (Sze Lin Pang)

Through October 8 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 W. Carroll

Review: Jin Lee/Devening Projects + Editions

Humboldt Park, Photography No Comments »


Jin Lee’s exhibition “Floating World” is a collection of modestly sized digital color prints of the Chicago landscape. Far from the usual urban experience, Lee’s photos chronicle an investigation into the seemingly natural spaces of the human-inflected environment. Lee invites comparison between the elements in each series by hanging several images side-by-side. Her subjects are usually singular and isolated: lone leafless trees against a uniform foggy sky, piles of road salt and snowy lake hillsides. The repetition of similar motifs gives rise to an awareness of the structure or rhythms underlying her subjects. In the most compelling series, simply titled “Water,” a lone wave undulates on a lake, causing a brief shift in the shade of the otherwise uniform murky blue. The wave morphs into a second shape and finally in the third image, as it is about to break, becomes translucent allowing a perfect view of the lakebed normally obscured by the water’s windswept surface. That brief glimpse through the suddenly clear water is a small portion of the otherwise non-descript landscape and is at the heart of Lee’s simple project: to catch a glimpse of the normalcy of the natural, the rote and forgotten workings of time and space. (Dan Gunn)

Through October 8 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 W. Carroll

Summer Camp

Installation, Multimedia, Painting, River West No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

The art world in summer is pretty quiet, so if a gallery isn’t shuttered while the staff vacations in St. Barts, they’re likely having the ubiquitous summer show, which usually amounts to revisiting the stock that didn’t sell from the past few seasons. Sure, it’s forgivable to take a break, but what’s an art enthusiast to do when the temperatures get too high, and the cool white cube beckons? Some galleries take the opportunity to take a risk with their summer show by exhibiting artists and ideas just a touch outside of what’s safe during the in-season. Here’s a few worth checking out.

“Summer Group Show” at Contemporary Art Workshop

This venue, perhaps the oldest non-profit visual-arts space in Chicago, has been granting solo exhibits for emerging artists as long as anyone can remember. The summer group show, installed in two sessions (July-August and August-September) continues the mission. On view are twenty-two works by nine artists, all either in art school or recently graduated, from Chicago and beyond. The media ranges from painting to sculpture to installation, most of which are stylistically similar: controlled messiness, lots of black paired with neon colors, graphically strong, and for lack of a better word, hip, as if everyone went on a field trip to New York’s New Museum and took extensive notes at the “Unmonumental” exhibit. That’s fine; it looks great and feels fresh, and there’s something to say for making an attractive picture even if meaning isn’t immediately available.

542 West Grant Place, (773)472-4004

“Several Landscapes and 3 Landscapes (or more) in the Modern Style” at Western Exhibitions

Closing out Western Exhibitions’ season before it moves to the North Peoria hotspot is a show with a loose curatorial premise about landscape. Most of the paintings discuss mankind’s involvement with nature. Megan Euker’s studies in oil continue a series wherein she observes bathers who use water for healing purposes. (Larger paintings are currently on view at Linda Warren Gallery.) Her brush is getting to a point of confident application, similar to Claire Sherman’s small studies of large events in nature, such as a geyser or a crater. In a painting by Dan Attoe a Native American ghost gazes out from a scene with pristine mountainscape, and an inscribed phrase warns, “There is no life on other planets.” The sentence is perhaps in response to a nearby painting by Kevin Cosgrove of a semi-truck on a murky road with an ashy sky and a cloud that hangs like a crusty stain.

The highlight of the exhibit is the smaller back gallery with landscapes in the “Modern style,” likely a jokey title that culls all the ghosts of landscape-painting’s past. Indeed, art-historical influences abound here in a joyful way. Carl Baratta’s expressionist painting “The Faithful Protector (after Nick Englebert)” is a slight departure from his comic-book style. The monstrous characters are pushed back, and there’s a narrative about a spirit protecting a (dead?) body lying in a forest clearing. Baratta’s sense of color reigns, and the whole scene undulates from ground to sky.

1821 West Hubbard, (312)307-4685, Saturdays through August 16

“Paper Love” at Devening Projects + Editions

The show includes only work on paper, with more than seventy pieces on view hung frame to frame, and two sculptures (made from paper, of course). Subjects range from the humorous to the strictly compositional, and styles include non-objective and figurative. Devening is clearly a formalist, as most works contain a strong sense of smart and tight artistically intuitive compositions, such as Rodney Carswell, Susanne Doremus, Howard Fonda and William Conger. As most of the artists on view are working in Chicago the exhibit gives a great overview of current practices in the city.

3039 West Carroll, Saturdays through August 8.

Also on view: A single work by one artist graces the gallery for only one week throughout the summer in “Rotations” at Rowley Kennerk Gallery (119 North Peoria). “CSI Biennale” at Flatfile Galleries (217 North Carpenter) showcases sculptures by thirty-five international sculptors, through August 22. 

Dianna Frid: Profile of the Artist

Sculpture, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »

Clouds are “goddesses for idle men,” Dianna Frid says to me, quoting Socrates. Frid has much to say on the subject of clouds, from the factual to the ponderous, for cloud-gazing is a practice that greatly informs her most recent body of sculpture. Frid notes she wasn’t interested in how clouds or weather could act as a great equalizer of men, providing equal footing as small talk. Rather, she has been looking to the skies as a way to ascribe an identity to the tufted masses in the air. Before the clouds were classified and named in 1802—cumulus, stratus, cirrus and so on—many Westerners thought there were thousands of incarnations. Now, the scientific names and ideas, Frid says, makes the clouds more real, and grounds them. Her sculptures, however, abstract the common cloud. Decorative properties and patterns mingle with billowy formlessness. The total effect is that each sculpture is a small monument to the myriad metaphors of Mother cloud.

Having variously resided in Mexico City, Vancouver and now Chicago, Frid’s way of coping with the Midwest’s particularly bland landscape is to look up into the biggest sky she’s known. Frid has built unpredictable forms upon precise polygonal shapes using raw lumber, foil, plaster, wax, rubber tubing, cardboard, cloth, paint and more. They balance as if standing on one foot and reaching upward, and their associations are just as precarious: one is perhaps an oven that produces clouds or it’s a tree stump, another could be some sort of sky pointing device or an obelisk grave marker. All connect the earthbound and the heavenward, and they are roughly the size of a body. “I hope I never know what the work is fully about,” Frid says, granting the formal complexities room to grow in the viewers’ mind. Our imagination is limited only by what we know, she continued. Perhaps, then, the names of the clouds are inadequate, and we should return to a manifold understanding of their shapes.

Although the sculptures range from four feet to over nine feet, there’s a miniature quality to them, as if they were landscapes viewed from an airplane window. There’s something about the bird’s-eye perspective that is very much like seeing with an artist’s eye, perhaps because it abstracts the world so crisply. Seeing cities and landscapes from a thousand feet in the air renews our curiosity for them. So, too, do Frid’s sculptures awaken a child-like joy in looking. (Jason Foumberg)

“The Vertical Shadows,” shows at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 West Carroll, through May 7. 

Review: Felix Malnig/Devening Projects + Editions

Painting, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Video No Comments »


Viennese artist Felix Malnig presents work studying the social and cultural importance of urban architecture and city planning, particularly of sites characterized by rapid development. Chinese skyscrapers and General Motors office parks are rendered shiny and new in slick chrome hues, but painted hastily, with dripping brushstrokes and splotched with spray paint, paralleling the rapid developments seen in Detroit and more recently China. Similarly, Malnig’s “Garage” paintings on paper, sparse renderings of shadows found in vacant parking lots, command a symbolically significant use of surface texture and medium. Both “House” drawings are decidedly warm and charming in relationship to the other work in the gallery, but still reveal a cynical perspective on rapid development of the suburban single family home. Also included is “D,” a video loop from the elevated train in Detroit, an endless chronicle of the decay to be found in the formerly shining center of industry. With care for semiotic texture and surfaces enriched by association, Malnig reveals the effects of metastasized industrial development on the urban landscape. (Lisa Larson-Walker)

Through Feb 12 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 West Carroll. 

Eye Exam: The Manifold World

Garfield Park, Lincoln Park, Painting No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

Abstract painting made by young, academically trained artists is finding solid ground to run on in Chicago. Although it sometimes seems relegated to the realm of the decorative, doomed by its own prettiness and scorned by witty tricksters still feeding from the Warholian trough of dry humor, abstract painting finds hope on the brushes of a few young artists and rises (again). “What if abstraction is still young, only in its infant stage?” muses artist Jason Karolak. Although the cavemen were doing it, abstract art wasn’t self-aware or purposefully abstract until about 150 years ago.
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Review: “Ocean Ranch”/Devening Projects & Editions

Multimedia No Comments »

The alt-space SWINGR is an artist-operated gallery in Vienna, Austria. This month they are participating in a Vienna-Chicago exchange with artist Dan Devening’s gallery in Garfield Park. “Ocean Ranch” brings artists Christoph Holzeis, Luisa Kasalicky, Birgit Knoechl and Rainer Spangl to Chicago. Each artist is exhibiting their particular brand of neo-Modernist revisionism, displaying equal parts painterly concerns (such as the question of flatness in representation) and a joy in articulating form using their chosen media, here ranging from paint to paper sculpture. Holzeis’ delicate postcard-sized paintings waver between defining a form’s essence and obliterating it in a haze; all are perched atop small wood shelves. Kasalicky’s shallow reliefs made from cardboard re-figure domestic architecture by fragmenting interiors into gobs of good design, like dead satellites in space. Spangl’s brightly colored garden scenes include shapes that have been transformed into gestures. The forested, undulating surfaces breathe with Spangl’s florid imagination. (Jason Foumberg) Through November 11 at Devening Projects & Editions