Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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

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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

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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 »