Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Sepia/Mars Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »
Jean Sousa, "Morphology V," 2008, digital print

Jean Sousa, "Morphology V," 2008, digital print

RECOMMENDED

Distinctive approaches to quiet beauty characterize the six sensitive photographers whom curator Susan Aurinko, director of the late and lamented Flatfile Galleries, has chosen to make her present statement on life. Sarah Hadley’s misty sepia studies of Venetian canals, Morgan Barrie’s small cloudy black-and-white images of landscapes disturbed by human feet or indistinct figures, and Jerry Cargill’s softly focused black-and-white images of earth and sky show the varied possibilities of pictorialist impressionism. Hal Kaye’s sharply etched and silhouetted shot of birds on power lines, Paul Flaggman’s brilliantly illuminated black-and-white takes of accessible urban spaces, and Jean Sousa’s sepia-toned, finely delineated and deeply textured studies of vegetal details seek meditative peace on the opposite path. Each masterful and bearing an individualized sensibility, the six artists taken together are surprisingly complementary. None shoves the others aside; look at Cargill’s image of a wind farm, majestic in the fog, and you will see technology brought to aesthetic heel. (Michael Weinstein)

Through July 15 at Mars Gallery, 1139 W. Fulton Market

Eye Exam: Printmaker’s Delight

Art Fairs, Loop No Comments »
wax_carol_01

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: Stephanie Dean/Flatfile Galleries

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

stephaniedean_crab_lrRECOMMENDED

In her extra-wry postmodern photographic send-up of the classical Dutch still-life painting–redolent with detailed depictions of comestibles sufficient to satiate any gourmand–Stephanie Dean displays for our delectation contemporary treats, such as tomatoes bearing their identification stickers, cheese bars coated with wax sporting their nutritional information labels, and plastic tubs stuffed with hydroponic lettuce. At a distance, the images do not betray their ubiquitous signs of commerce and are simply intriguing and extravagant arrangements of food, but get a little closer and the vestiges of the supermarket aisle are all that you will be able to see, and you are guaranteed to crack a smile, if not break into a chuckle. Dean’s images are neither ads nor beauty studies; they are pure play spiced with generous sprinkles of biting irony. (Michael Weinstein)

Through March 27 at Flatfile Galleries, 217 N. Carpenter

Review: Jamie Kreher/Flatfile Galleries

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

In another variation in the recent spate of experiments with the photographic still life, Jamie Kreher shoots traffic islands in parking lots that have been made planters for assorted vegetation, isolates them from their environments, and then presents her subjects against pure white backgrounds so that they look like miniatures or models that she has constructed. As is so often the case in the city, brown patches and dirty mounds of uncertain origin and composition grace some of Kreher’s presumptive mini-lawns, whereas others are as well manicured as golf courses; the concrete surrounding the beautification touches is invariably chipped. Kreher’s images evoke a compassionate smile; things to which we give little notice—except to stumble over them—become vulnerable objects of genial contemplation when they stand out for themselves and we loom over them with our encircling gaze. (Michael Weinstein)

Through December 19 at Flatfile Galleries, 217 N. Carpenter, (312)491-1190

Review: Philip Feitelberg/Flatfile Galleries

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Of the ten artists in this year’s edition of the gallery’s annual exhibit showcasing current experimental photography, Philip Feitelberg clearly takes top honors in his series of seamless digitally composed color scenarios that fuse the ordinary inhabitants of our world today with the fictive denizens of Claude Monet’s paintings. In Feitelberg’s most effective confection, two lovers embrace on a beach, nestled between two of Monet’s intimates who dwarf them as they do their own more distant thing. The key to Feitelberg’s compelling grafts is his strategy of presenting his contemporary subjects in clear straight-photographic terms, while placing them in a more ghostly, yet well-delineated pictorialist context dominated by Monet’s appropriated images. Feitelberg’s breakthrough—and it genuinely is one—is to turn postmodern play away from deconstruction and into a deeply satisfying synthesis that is intriguing for itself rather than for any comment on the limits of photographic realism. (Michael Weinstein)

Through October 24 at Flatfile Galleries, 217 N. Carpenter. (312)491-1190

Review: Ryan Zoghlin & Dimitre/Flatfile Galleries

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

RECOMMENDED
Covering both sides of the industrial street, Ryan Zoghlin and Dimitre bring us, respectively, into suburban residential neighborhoods where well-kept houses and manicured lawns coexist with factories, expressways and power plants; and cheek-to-jowl with one of those behemoth plants—an Exelon installation—captured in color at night in all its overweening majesty. Playing on his beloved NIMBY theme, Zoghlin’s lucid and bright color prints always put domesticity in the foreground, only to subvert it conclusively as the brutal and massive life-support system looms or lurks obtrusively in the background, finally dominating the image. Packing layers of assertive energy into his prints by shooting cables, stacks, power lines, grids and transformers—often from below—and always capturing them in flaring artificial and blazing moon light, Dimitre takes us back to the dystopic yet celebratory futuristic portrayals of modern industry from the movies of the pre-World War II period. For both artists, high-intensity production surrounds and engulfs us, so we would do well to find it pleasantly sublime. (Michael Weinstein)

Through October 24 at Flatfile Galleries, 217 N. Carpenter, (312)491-1190.

Review: Benjamin June/Flatfile Galleries

Installation, West Loop No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Benjamin June’s current project memorializes the seven thousand (and counting) victims of suicide attacks in Iraq. June’s medium is a small black pillow embroidered with the instrument of death—cars, explosive vests and so on—along with hash marks to count the number murdered. Each pillow marks one week, so if a particular week was excessively bloody, June adds frilly lace fringes. More deaths get more lace, and the little black pillows line the walls of a room, almost as if a padded cell (frivolous death is insanity). Individually, though, the stitched pillows are more grandmotherly than gruesome. They could very well be from the Victorian era, in which mourning methods were homespun, precious and safe. These handmade commemoratives are perhaps all that one can hold on to in the throes of a huge, faceless war abroad. (Jason Foumberg)

Through August 22 at Flatfile Galleries, 217 N. Carpenter, (312)491-1190. 

Review: Janet Satz/Flatfile Galleries

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

Cutting her photographs into pieces, recomposing them into seamless cityscapes and then coloring those in deep faded tones, Janet Satz gives us photographic cubism that compresses our myriad transient views of urban spaces into power-packed impressions. Unlike the more popular surrealist photo-collages, which offer dreamlike visions, Satz’s photo-works are at base realistic, even though their subjects could never appear in our everyday perception. In Satz’s most dynamic image, she creates a force field in which enormous girders buttressing the tracks on which an El train passes through a gray-pink fog tower over and cut into a block of skyscrapers; we are left with the feeling that this is what a metropolis is when we are free enough of care to extend our imagination just enough to put together sights that have impinged on us in less than a minute. (Michael Weinstein)

At Flatfile Galleries 217 N. Carpenter, (312)491-1190.

Review: Wafaa Bilal/Flatfile Galleries

Installation, West Loop No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

After having his exhibit shut down twice in New York, Bilal has brought his controversial interactive video game to his hometown Chicago. “Virtual Jihad” is a hacked version of the Al-Qaeda video game “The Night of Bush Capturing” with Bilal as the main character, a man whose brother dies in Iraq and who joins the Al-Qaeda to hunt down Bush. Most people who have viewed this exhibit in the past have called it pro-terrorism, but in reality it shows how susceptible Iraqi citizens are to recruitment by terrorist units. Death and destruction within their society causes them to join something to make it stop out of desperation rather than hate for Americans. Bilal’s video game is indeed hard and frustrating with the Bush troops, literally soldiers with George Bush’s face on them, relentlessly pursuing your character and quickly killing him without mercy. For those who find the creation of this game appalling, Bilal reminds us that America has produced similar games, such as “Quest for Saddam,” which continue racial profiling and generalizations against the Iraqi public. It is encouraging to other controversial artists that Bilal’s work is being shown without censorship by Flatfile so that his message is finally able to be heard clearly. (Amy Dittmeier)

Through August 22 at Flatfile Galleries, 217 N. Carpenter, (312)491-1190.

Bold Leder

Evanston No Comments »

A record 138 artists donated 144 pieces for the exhibition culminating in Saturday’s silent and live auction at the Evanston Art Center, and Alan Leder, Center director since 2003, is connected in some way with all of them. It’s almost incestuous.

Barbara Crane was one of Leder’s photography instructors in the MFA program at SAIC back in the 1970s. She donated a unique Polaroid transfer with hand coloring. Her husband John Miller, a painting professor at SAIC, gave a pastel and pencil abstract. Donors Tom Seghi and Richard Paulsen were Leder’s roommates at both SAIC and in the BFA program at Northern Illinois. Seghi donated a hyper-realistic painting of a pear. Paulsen, who teaches art at Elmhurst College, adds a sensuous painting of bananas. Like his pals, Leder is also into produce; his office is a virtual supermarket of his photos of vibrant, even eroticized pomegranates, artichokes, eggplants and pinto beans. His entry in this exhibition is a collage of photos he shot while sailing on Seghi’s boat in Miami.

As visual and media arts director of the Illinois Arts Council for eighteen years, Leder helped launch innumerable art careers with grants—for announcement cards, catalogs, framing—and several entries represent payback, like Michael Paxton’s muscular charcoal “Wall.” He also made ties with gallerists, like Ann Nathan, who contributed an antique two-headed mask from Ivory Coast. Catherine Edelman sent both a hilarious beach shot by Melissa Ann Pinney that was just shown at the Art Institute and Art Chicago, and a luminous Terry Evans aerial photo of the Point in Hyde Park.

Leder’s helped further other careers through shows at the Evanston Art Center, and artists have been generous in return. Dennis Kowalski, who had a retrospective there, sent a collage of photography and watercolor straight from his one-man show at Flatfile. And Corey Postiglione, who also had a retrospective, gave a bold charcoal drawing. And, of course, faculty from the art center contribute. Christopher Schneberger, who heads the photography program, brought a mystical photo from his recent show at Printworks that earned unusually glowing reviews.

Leder starts soliciting for work in January, “always afraid I’ll lose my friends.” Artists are constantly asked to donate and have to set limits, he says. He even taps connections made through his wife Jane, an author whose friend collects Chuck Walker. Walker, whose recent mid-career retrospective at the Hyde Park Art Center also garnered great reviews, donated a beautifully gritty cityscape. (Burt Michaels)

The Spring Benefit and Live Auction happens Saturday, May 17, 7pm-10pm, at the Evanston Art Center, 2603 Sheridan, Evanston, (847)475-5300.