Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Deadline Alert for Propeller Fund Grants

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The Franklin, an alternative gallery space in East Garfield Park, was a 2012 Propeller Fund recipient

The Franklin, an alternative gallery space in East Garfield Park, was a 2012 Propeller Fund recipient

Now in its fifth year, the Propeller Fund is offering two info sessions in advance of the August 1 deadline for 2014 applications. The first one is June 18 at the Hyde Park Art Center at 6 pm (5020 South Cornell). Grant administrator Abigail Satinsky will give a presentation that provides a basic overview of the application, offer discussion about eligibility for the award, and stick around for a Q&A.

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Review: Encounters at the Edge of the Forest/Gallery 400

Multimedia, Photography, Video No Comments »
Ariane Littman. "The Olive Tree," video (still), 2012

Ariane Littman. “The Olive Tree,” video (still), 2012

This group exhibition of contemporary artworks from around the globe focuses on the way humans have engaged with the potent longevity of trees to establish borders and identity. The forests in many of the works are both witness and collaborator to mass violent acts; the trees become sinister national monuments.

Andreas Rutkauskas’ “Cutline” photo series shows a straight path through the wilderness between Canada and Vermont. The clear swath cut through the forest evokes an interminable road to nowhere, remote and isolated, yet manicured to perfection. Steven Rowell’s photographs of the Brandenburg forest reveal ruins of Nazi and Soviet camps, mining operations, and nuclear waste storage facilities. Many of the documentary images in “Encounters” expose how the use of trees as natural barriers manufactures the natural and conceals power. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: It’s the Political Economy, Stupid/Gallery 400

Activist Art, West Loop No Comments »
Dread Scott, "Money to Burn," 2010

Dread Scott, “Money to Burn,” 2010


The sound of the artist Dread Scott chanting “money to burn—money to burn” in a rhythmic cadence accompanies the visitor for the duration of their visit to the group exhibition “It’s the Political Economy, Stupid.” It is the soundtrack to a recorded performance in which Scott offered passersby on Wall Street the opportunity to actually burn bills, which were affixed to the artist’s body. The curators were wise to carry Scott’s singsong cry through the entire show. It is a vaguely irrational and simultaneously reassuring aural message.

“Money to Burn” is one of more than ten videos in this diverse collection of work interrogating what the organizers of the exhibition, Gregory Sholette and Oliver Ressler, call “our present day circumstances of unrelenting economic crisis, authoritarian drift and rapidly failing states.”

A catalogue of techniques, from talking heads to animation, lures viewers into various understandings of how capital works: why banks and economies collapse, resistance to austerity and a variety of political critiques of what most contributors to the exhibit see as floundering systems. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Radiate: Art of the South Asian Diaspora/Gallery 400

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Shelly Bahl, “House of the Rising Sun,” 2007-08, video still

This is a collection of work that feels more experimental than successful, as the artworks query a cultural identity rather than build one.

Are twenty-to-forty- year-old North Americans of South Asian ancestry uncomfortable with the severe social stratification, upheaval and ongoing communal and gender violence indigenous to their homeland? Are they both attracted and repelled by its cultural traditions? None of that is too surprising. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Karen Reimer/Gallery 400

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from “Endless Set,” 2007-ongoing. Appliqué on pieced pillowcases.


Comprising works from over fifteen years, Karen Reimer’s solo exhibition “Endless Set” locates the artist’s work squarely between the intimacy of craft and the more impersonal systems of production. The exhibition’s breadth allows for subtle dichotomies to arise: in Reimer’s poetically redacted newspapers, we find her working text and subtext; in her meticulously rendered textbook pages, we cut between function and decoration; and in her most recent body of work (from which the exhibition takes its name), we see Reimer’s exhaustive exploration of systematic production and formal obliteration. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Bears on Rampage Devour Cows on Parade

Installation, Michigan Avenue, News etc. No Comments »

“Werner Herzog Bear” (photo: Tom Van Eynde)

By Jason Foumberg

With the Chicago Cultural Center’s programming in transition, artists and their audiences mourn some of the disappearing services as the city struggles to redefine its official stance on the visual arts in relation to tourism and commerce. Early on the city evicted a ground-floor gift shop from the Cultural Center, along with most of the respected visual arts staff. With the re-installment of longtime curator Lanny Silverman, the gift shop, too, has undergone some rehabbing into a mock souvenir shop. Named The People’s Palace’s Gift Shop, the life-size diorama created by Zachary Cahill playfully mixes cultural metaphors to draw uncomfortable parallels between capitalist and communist economies. “Yes, we’re open, come in,” announces a pink neon sign at the entrance, but the mock shop is otherwise confrontational and uninviting, having been besieged by economic catastrophe and slash-happy bears. The exhibition team boldly commissioned Cahill to layer confusion upon absurdity as a commentary on the Cultural Center’s mess of affairs, thereby holding up a mirror to its own painful transformation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Dragon Is the Frame/Gallery 400

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Mark Aguhar, “No Top Needed,” 2010


Mark Aguhar’s art is a loud declaration of her being. She was, in her words, a “genderqueer person of color fat femme fag feminist,” and tried figuring out where such a person fit in this world. Aguhar, twenty-four, was an MFA candidate at UIC when she committed suicide back in March. The outpouring of grief was widespread—not just her friends in Chicago, or their hometown of Austin, but Choire Sicha paid tribute on The Awl, which he co-founded. A group of local friends have put together a tribute of their own at Gallery 400, showcasing Aguhar’s work as well as work inspired by her. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Spectral Landscape (with Viewing Stations)/Gallery 400

West Loop No Comments »


The proliferation, starting with the invention of aniline dyes in the nineteenth century, of new methods of producing, applying, mediating and transmitting color, has upended any certainty in what we know and how we perceive or use color in art and science. Cultural products like Pantone color charts and color wheels, and even the great treatises on color like Goethe’s “Theory of Colours” and Albers’ “The Interaction of Color,” are not reflective of firm empirical truths, each questioning stable color categorization.

Pamela Fraser and John Neff, curators of the exhibition “Spectral Landscape,” have assembled a spectrum of their own examples of works that serve as visible proofs and provisional statements regarding what might be a crisis or at least a shake-up in our experiences and ideas about color perception. A John Baldessari video— “Six Colorful Tales: From the Emotional Spectrum (Women),” from 1977—severs our received ideas about the relationship between emotion and color by having women recount emotional experiences in an affectless monotone against a hue usually associated with a specific emotion. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Global Cities, Model Worlds, and The World Finder Pocket Guide to Hell/Gallery 400

Architecture, West Loop No Comments »


Gallery 400’s double exhibition of “Global Cities, Model Worlds” and “The World Finder Pocket Guide to Hell” is a heavy-handed but nonetheless powerful pair of explorations of mega-events and their unplanned impacts.

“Global Cities, Model Worlds,” the more striking of the pair, is more tongue-in-cheek than it first appears. Referencing children’s and science museums, with bright plastic models and timelines in primary colors, the installation visualizes the implications of mega-events through studies of the Olympic games and world expositions, or World’s Fairs, from recent history. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Personal Spaces

Photography, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Video, West Loop No Comments »

Leigh Ledare

By Gretchen Holmes

My lover always complains about the smudges I leave on his glasses when my nose and cheeks and forehead smear oil and makeup across his big, thick lenses. “Darling,” he says, “your love and its little mark-making project, it obstructs the aim of my gaze.” This seems ungrateful: my love’s lenses, the point of contact between his appraisal of my formal qualities and my own expression of desire, are the palimpsest where my filthy face writes and rewrites its love letters. They are a screen onto which intimacy is projected from both sides. But that kind of screen is also a barricade ensuring that these two hopeful, hungry trajectories never meet. The scene encourages the unilateral effusions that make intimacy so seductive: my to-be-looked-at-ness and his wanting-to-be-wanted-ness condone each other, and ideology’s most despondent-making pathologies become sweet, private yearnings that nurture our bond. A more doctrinaire feminist would toss her lover’s glasses aside, thus disarming the patriarchy and transforming the male gaze into a dizzying, haptic blur. But me? I persist. Read the rest of this entry »