Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Portrait of the Artist: John Preus

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PR rendering image Feb14

John Preus has brought into being a “Beast” at the Hyde Park Art Center; a two-story, wooden construction shaped in the form of a bull and designed to swallow incoming visitors into its large hollow belly. This massive site-specific installation, modeled after the grand interiors of a cathedral structure and composed mostly of old furniture from Chicago Public Schools, is to function as a new platform for public dialogue. The product of a yearlong residency at the center, “The Beast” will host many educational and cultural activities over the coming months. This is Preus’ first solo museum exhibition.

With this project, Preus was firstly and largely influenced by the most unique feature of Hyde Park Art Center’s building: the garage doors located on the side of its main gallery. These shutters, which remain closed for most exhibitions, will be pulled up for the duration of this show and lead directly to the belly of “The Beast,” an interior communal space that will house hanging sculptures, rocking chairs, a ping pong table, a piano and even a porch swing made of old CPS desks. “I like to treat the materials I use as archeological objects and transform them to become useful in a new way, while revealing the history embedded within them,” says Preus. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Bronzeville’s Second Renaissance

Artist Profiles, Bronzeville, Hyde Park No Comments »
Samantha Hill's "Great Migration" installation at the Southside Hub of Production

Samantha Hill’s “Great Migration” installation at the Southside Hub of Production

Samantha Hill claims there is a cultural renaissance occurring in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. “There is palpable new energy circulating here amongst organizers, educators and residents that isn’t yet defined.” Determined to capture and engage in this revival, for her first solo exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center, Hill presents “Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance.”

Originally from Philadelphia, Hill has been naturally drawn toward and deeply involved in the cultural activities of the South Side since her arrival in the city ten years ago. She has organized happenings, held residencies and taught art courses at the South Side Community Art Center and Chicago State University. As a social art practitioner, bringing people together and facilitating conversations is at the heart of heart of what she does, and it is through working in these neighborhoods that Hill has been able to get to know people at the forefront of Bronzeville’s new momentum, record their stories and discover the spirit of the neighborhood. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: My Top Art Picks for Chicago and the Midwest 2013

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Cindy Tower's “Nest Egg” (detail) at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis

Cindy Tower’s “Nest Egg” (detail) at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis

By Pedro Vélez

1. Cindy Tower, “Nest Egg,” at Good Citizen Gallery in St. Louis
What does class inequality and the financial meltdown look like through the eyes of the proverbial starving artist? Cindy Tower’s “Nest Egg” had the answer in a gargantuan visual diagram on how the rich have gotten richer. In Tower’s sculptural (and metaphorical) visualization, philanthropy is suspect in the tax-dodging structure that’s indirectly facilitated by art institutions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Midwesterners Do It in Secret

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Ray Yoshida, "Extraordinary Values," c. 1970.

Ray Yoshida, “Extraordinary Values,” c. 1970.

By Jason Foumberg

Tracing paper might be the biggest art-store seller in the Midwest. Midwestern artists lift, borrow and reuse source material from other artists and cultures so frequently that there is now a handful of current exhibitions dedicated to this topic. The art world calls it appropriation, and it is a ubiquitous creative strategy among contemporary artists, but when the Met canonized this practice in their 2009 show “The Pictures Generation,” they focused only on the coasts. Appropriation, however, is a Midwest tradition, even to the degree that Carl Baratta used to teach a course at SAIC called “How to Steal.”

Artist as Art Collector

When longtime SAIC professor Ray Yoshida died in 2009, the school that he taught at for forty-five years hosted “Touch and Go: Ray Yoshida and his Spheres of Influence,” a sprawling exhibition of artwork and objects that fanned-out Yoshida’s network of sources and peer influences, and explained how the Chicago Imagists pinched from folk artists and from each other. It was an expansive show, but not exhaustive. Completing that task is “Ray Yoshida’s Museum of Extraordinary Values” at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Public Displays of Artistic Affection

Architecture, Textiles No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

As the art world shifts interest away from loner studio practices, it is relationships—long-distance relationships, no-strings-attached relationships, contractual relationships—that make an excellent metaphor for the relevancy of art in our lives. Three exhibitions this week make transparent some interpersonal, artistic relations for all to see.

Messing with Mies

The iconic modernist glass house in Plano, Illinois, could be the banner image for the state of modern privacy. Designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and sited sixty miles southwest of Chicago, the Farnsworth House, a home with glass exterior walls, reveals all of its insides, a fact that the home’s original owner, Dr. Edith Farnsworth, found to be “unbearably oppressive,” wrote architecture historian Joan Ockman. Farnsworth felt like a hamster in a cage or an actor on a stage while she inhabited her second home from 1951-71.

Osvaldo Romberg at the Farnsworth House. Photo: Alia Pergala

Osvaldo Romberg at the Farnsworth House/Photo: Alia Pergala

Farnsworth expressed her anxiety of living in a glass box to House Beautiful magazine, in 1953. The white-steel-and-glass box has a patina of anxiety. It animates its character. Anyone who visits imagines herself living in the raw glass box, with its attendant discomforts.

For the next several weeks, the Farnsworth House has a guest living on its porch: the skeleton of the Melnikov House, an avant-garde Russian house from the 1920s. The floor plan of that Moscow home has been replicated to scale in wood, painted yellow, propped on sawhorses, and now abuts the Farnsworth House’s front yard at a perpendicular angle.

Typically a beacon of serene, solemn contemplation, nestled among cornfields and the Fox River, the Farnsworth House is now interrupted by the Melnikov House. Artist Osvaldo Romberg calls this a “translocation.” He has performed this sort of intervention at iconic architectural sites around the world.

“Forms happen, like love,” said Romberg on the steps of the Farnsworth Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford/Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park, Sculpture No Comments »

TheHallRECOMMENDED

It’s not all that surprising that a man whose work takes jabs at power symbols and the concept of reverence would have the chutzpah to bring live horses into the esteemed Hyde Park Art Center.

Though not present when I visited (they will make scheduled appearances during the show’s run), horses clearly influence Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford’s sprawling, ambitious installation. Throughout human history, horses have enabled human movement, from the physical, moving humans across continents, to the ideological, as culture spread as a byproduct of warfare. Horses also mean dominance. Cities around the world are dotted with statues of Great Men sitting astride their noble mounts, usually erected out of some immutable material like bronze or marble because their significance is meant to be permanent and unchanging. The Chicago-based sculptor spent seven months constructing his meditation on what happens to monuments when the unquestionable greatness they represent crumbles in the face of a society that no longer believes in such a thing. “Hall of Khan” is the result, and it doesn’t disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: New Moves in Chicago Sculpture

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By Jason Foumberg

It’s an exciting moment for sculpture in Chicago. I’ve tracked a few patterns in contemporary object-making through these nine current exhibitions.

IMG_5281Jun Kaneko at Millennium Park
The newest addition of public art to Millennium Park (for seven months) are dozens of large glazed ceramic sculptures by Jun Kaneko, a Japanese-born, Omaha-based artist who should be familiar to Chicagoans (he’s shown here seventeen times in the past thirty years, but not since 2003.) All of the ceramic sculptures are graphically painted (polka dots, mummy tape) in bright colors. On the Randolph Street side are standing figures, tall and fat as taxidermied bears, but with pig faces and Looney Tunes eyes. There’s a hoard of them, and they’re a little freaky (one has blue nipples). On the Monroe Street side are tablet-shaped objects, the size of tombs, similarly painted. I almost scorned these sculptures—they verge on Cows on Parade kitsch—until I read the artist’s description. The figures are Tanuki, or mythical Japanese trickster characters with jazzy skin and desperate smiles. They’re pleasurably sinister, and a little more non-denominational than the Buddha heads spouting all over Chicago, by Indira Johnson.
Through November 3 at Millennium Park. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Tom Torluemke/Hyde Park Art Center

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tom torluemkeRECOMMENDED

“Fearsome Fable–Tolerable Truth,” the immersive, double-sided mural that lines the Hyde Park Art Center’s Gallery 4 is really two shows in one. Depending on your mood, you might confront either a smog-laden, fossil-fueled wasteland or a verdant, solar-powered paradise, as the painting’s composite sections can be carefully flipped by hand.

Artist Tom Torluemke conjures these contrary worlds with an abbreviated, just-the-facts style of brushwork consistent with the classic WPA murals that inspired this endeavor. The surfaces aren’t highly refined, but they don’t need to be. Like any mural, a respectable viewing distance yields the best results; imperfections vanish and color and form crackle with life. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Higher Art Education

Art Schools, Hyde Park No Comments »
Mnourse headshot by Jay Schroeder

Mike Nourse/Photo: Jay Schroeder

Artists must do more than just make art. Teaching, curating exhibitions, negotiating contracts, conducting studio visits and writing press releases are some of the professional practices that career artists can master, yet these skills are largely absent from college-level studio art curriculum.

Hoping to fill this void, the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, in collaboration with the Hyde Park Art Center, is offering a new visual arts certificate program. At twelve months long, the curriculum includes four courses plus a studio component. It is perhaps one of a kind among institutional peers.

“To my knowledge, we are unique,” said Dr. Kineret Jaffe, director of the Graham’s partnership office and a volunteer chair on the Hyde Park Art Center’s board. Jaffe met me, on the vert Schweinfurt carpet of the art center’s downstairs meeting space, to explain the program to me. We were joined by her office’s program coordinator, Nicole Yagoda, and HPAC’s director of education, Mike Nourse. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: What Will Happen to the Evanston Art Center?

Evanston, News etc. 1 Comment »

Evanston_Art_Center_mansion_buildingBy Jason Foumberg

A crumbling old mansion beside the lake seems more befitting of an Edgar Allan Poe tale than a community art center, but it has been the Evanston Art Center’s home for the last four decades. The City of Evanston owns the Harley Clarke Mansion and decided to market the 20,275-square-foot residence, which sits on a large property, in 2012. Last month the city acknowledged a bid from billionaire investor James Pritzker, as reported by Crain’s.

Where does this leave the eighty-three-year-old art institution? For most of its existence the EAC has made do with very little. At one point it occupied a library’s basement, and then an abandoned barbershop, and then leased the lakeside mansion for a token $1 per year.

The EAC’s executive director, Norah Diedrich, considered her options: aggressively fundraise in order to stay in a building that is structurally inadequate for an art center’s needs, or locate a new facility and potentially modernize the art center into a thriving community resource. Diedrich and the EAC’s board of trustees have chosen to relocate. Read the rest of this entry »