Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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

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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 »

The Top 5 of Everything 2010: Art

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Lilli Carré: Untitled, 2010, screen print, 8 x 8 inches. Photo by Angee Leonnard.

Top 5 People and Places We’ll Miss
Kathryn Hixson
David Weinberg Gallery
Rowley Kennerk Gallery
Green Lantern Gallery
James Garrett Faulkner
—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Solo Exhibitions
Edra Soto/Ebersmoore Gallery
Philip Hanson/Corbett vs. Dempsey
Lilli Carré/Spudnik Press
Gladys Nilsson/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art
Ian Weaver/Packer Schopf Gallery
—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Public Art Projects
Ray Noland’s “Run Blago Run”
Pop-Up galleries in the Loop
Nomadic Studio/DePaul University Art Museum
Hui-min Tsen’s tours of the Chicago Pedway
—Jason Foumberg Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Steve Reinke/Gallery 400

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Gallery 400’s exhibition of new work from Steve Reinke and collaborators Dani Leventhal, John Marriott, Jessie Mott and James Richards manages to be both sardonically funny as well as often unexpectedly and profoundly confrontational. Centered around an hour-long suite of Reinke’s new video work, which mixes moral interrogation with humor, ironic voiceovers and Beckettesque failures (my favorite: “cartoon for those who have a certain fondness for ideas, but are tired of thinking”); but it’s the work in other media that’s ultimately the most moving. Neon, needlepoint and mixed-media collages reference Bruce Nauman in a way that’s thought-provoking and unaffected; a study of Peanuts cartoons as repeated objects echoes a message of futility that F. Scott Fitzgerald once articulated as the combination of seeing that things are hopeless but being determined to make them otherwise. Detournement finds its strongest application in “Guernica,” which combines a doodled copy of Picasso’s painting in gel medium with a found photograph of a vulnerable, half-naked young man in a sailor hat in front of a poster reproduction of the painting. Solo work by Reinke’s collaborators is less moving but still wry examinations of sex and death from a more comfortably ironic viewpoint. (Monica Westin)

Through December 18 at Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago, 400 South Peoria.

Eye Exam: Familiar Object

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Joseph Yoakum, "Pleasure and Club House on Lake Placid near Sebring Florida on Indian Prairie Canal," 1964, ink and colored pencil on paper

By Jason Foumberg

In the 1990s, a huge range of contemporary art was categorized into some simple themes. There was a quick consensus that “the body” and “identity,” “memory” and “home” defined the queries and struggles of our contemporary era, as if the big world was so complex—and overburdened by art theory—that we needed to recompose ourselves using these basic building blocks of human life. These efforts at categorization promoted some excellent art works. In the “home” or “place” thematic category, Rachel Whiteread’s 1993 “House” and Gregor Schneider’s “Totes Haus ur” (1985-2003, in various iterations) defined a new genre of residential manipulation, with roots stretching back to Gordon Matta-Clark’s 1974 “Splitting” of a suburban home right in half, although Whiteread’s and Schneider’s large-scale installations were more of an effort to reconstruct the single-family home rather than destroy it.

The symbolism of the single-family home is resurging amid the American real estate bust, and a particular derivation is on view today in Chicago galleries. Where Whiteread and Schneider (and a host of others, including Do Ho Suh) investigated the site-specific qualities of “home,” the houses of today are generic and reduced to icons in the style drawn by children: a square with a triangle roof. As symbols, these houses are reductions to a universal essence of “home”; they speak about the safety of familiar objects, the comfort of domestic rituals and the fantasy of contained happiness. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Stephanie Syjuco/Gallery 400

Sculpture, West Loop 1 Comment »


There is a formal elegance to Stephanie Syjuco’s installation at Gallery 400, despite the awkwardness of the objects on display. Each object was designed online by users of Google’s 3D modeling program, SketchUp, and then reproduced in the gallery by Syjuco using basic materials, such as cardboard and foam core, cut and taped together into geometric shapes. The gaps between the real and the virtual, between the designer and fabricator, add tension to this seemingly simple, visually appealing installation. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Eun Hyung Kim/Gallery 400

Multimedia, West Loop 1 Comment »


We’re in the habit of talking about site-specific installations, but time-specific would be a more appropriate tag for Eun Hyung Kim’s new exhibition at Gallery 400. The artist’s ever-increasing catalog of images is equally journalistic, confessional, and allegorical: a man urinates on his own face (decapitated, in the toilet), a person grows from a tree, a brain swells with Marsden-esque linework, a man drowns in his own water-filled chest, a makeshift machine dislocates a man’s arms and legs. In each short sadistic narrative there is no conclusion, only a video loop.

Kim’s imagery is both cryptic and accessible—perhaps uncomfortably so. This dynamic is the strength of Kim’s multimedia installation, titled “Designing Eros.” Eros, from the Greco-Roman pantheon, is sexual desire, and literally translates as madness from the gods. Twentieth-century psychoanalytic theory paired expressions of Eros with Thanatos, or the death drive. Here, Kim is not, assuredly, presenting us with the expression of the maddened artist, but reminds us that our viewing habits thrive—and are threatened by—pleasure. (Andrew Blackley)

Through June 12 at Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria

Eye Exam: Making Art Work for You

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By Nate Lee and Jason Foumberg

Art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson’s recently published book “Art Workers” looks into how artists, critics, museum guards and art professionals consolidated in protest, in the 1960s and seventies in New York City, against the Vietnam War. In process, a short-lived Art Worker’s Coalition successfully increased the opportunities for “art workers,” a term that was animated to perform heavy political and cultural work, circa 1968.

Art workers incite action, and challenge the armchair status quo. Provocative techniques abounded, like Piero Manzoni shitting in a can in 1961 and selling it on the art market for its weight in gold. Less cynically, the feminist movement acted as labor unions to push for progress.

Today, the legacy of art-as-work, of art in the service of social good, continues. The publication of a new newspaper, titled Art Work, by the Chicago-based group Temporary Services, celebrates and rallies the community to continue the spirit of the sixties. But this is not a call to radicalism, nor does it promote the gallery-dependent and depraved Manzoni approach. Rather, the art workers ethic concretely targets the assumption that artists are only nourished and edified by their search for eternal beauty, and therefore do not require monetary compensation. The late-sixties ideals are once again galvanizing artists to reassert professionalism in the arts, demand fair compensation and work opportunities, in light of the current economic decline and the bloated art market. The newspaper Art Work is this movement’s updated manifesto. Read the rest of this entry »