Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Mickalene Thomas/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, Video, West Loop No Comments »
Mickalene Thomas. Installation view of "I was born to do great things"

Mickalene Thomas. Installation view of “I was born to do great things”


Mickalene Thomas is a master of the ode, of placing ephemera of her muse (her recently deceased mother, Sandra Bush) on actual pedestals in galleries and museums where the black female body and experience is not typically upheld and celebrated. The bronzing of Ms. Bush’s house shoes and an old sweater, the display of her bra, jeans, earrings and bare body make Thomas’ mother into the supermodel she always hoped to be. Not in a morbid way, this is a celebration of what Zora Neale Hurston might say is a “will to adorn” working women who have style for days, despite economics. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Major expansions for Kavi Gupta and Shane Campbell galleries

News etc., South Loop, West Loop No Comments »
Kavi Gupta Gallery's new production studio in Little Village

Kavi Gupta Gallery’s new production studio in Little Village

Two of Chicago’s most prominent galleries—Kavi Gupta and Shane Campbell—are expanding into larger spaces. Kavi Gupta has added an additional building to their Chicago properties, situated in the Little Village neighborhood. Shane Campbell Gallery will be relocating to the South Loop next spring. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Kavi Gupta Opens Art Bookstore in West Loop

Art Books, Comics, News etc., West Loop No Comments »
Kavi Gupta Gallery's new bookstore space Editions

Kavi Gupta Gallery’s new bookstore space Editions

Kavi Gupta Gallery (KGG) has announced that it will open Editions (not to be confused with Edition, the satellite art fair held in the West Loop during Expo Chicago), a curated art bookstore, next Friday, September 19 with a book launch for “Seen/Unseen” a new artist book project by Tavares Strachan. Editions will feature monographs, zines, theory and criticism, as well as rare artist editions and out-of-print art books by major contemporary artists. The store will carry books that KGG has played some part in producing, as well as work by artists on their roster including blanket, tote bag and plate editions by Mickalene Thomas; a 3D-printed rock produced by Glenn Kaino for the occasion of his exhibition at the gallery’s 219 North Elizabeth Street location; placemats designed by Jessica Stockholder; and artist books by Scott Treleaven. Along with art-theory powerhouses like semiotext(e), Editions will stock books from local publishers including Green Lantern Press, Poor Farm Press and Sara Ranchouse. The store is located in the same building as Kavi Gupta’s space at 835 West Washington, just down the hall from their exhibition space. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: José Lerma/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Painting No Comments »
"Salomon," acrylic and pigmented silicone on glass-less mirror, 2014

“Salomon,” acrylic and pigmented silicone on glass-less mirror, 2014


Occupy Wall Street may have fizzled out, but that doesn’t mean José Lerma isn’t still paranoid about the financial industry. In one installation, a ten-percent slice of a brightly colored circular stage is multiplied by kaleidoscopic mirrors to give the illusion of all 360 degrees. He’s titled it “A Critical Analysis of Central Banks and Fractional-Reserve Banking from the Austrian School Perspective.” What it demonstrates is that banks lend money that isn’t theirs. Like a carnival fun house, you need only view it once and laugh.

But his second installation, “Gloriosa Superba,” is both more ominous and more appealing, with some of the most exuberant painting that I have ever seen. Floral patterns of rubbery, sharp-edged shapes have been laid upon, and sometimes extend beyond, five-by-six-foot mirrors that reflect everything in the gallery. Each piece is supposed to represent one of the seven founders of the Rothschild banking dynasty hiding within the bloom of a tropical flower named in their honor. If you look closely, you just might recognize them, and something like a column hanging from the ceiling, representing the pillar at the London Stock Exchange where Nathan Mayer Rothschild plotted to crash and then bought up the British economy after the battle of Waterloo. Or, at least that’s the conspiracy theory published in 1887, drawn from unspecified sources. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago Art News Bits

News etc. No Comments »
Jessica Stockholder at Kavi Gupta Gallery

Jessica Stockholder at Kavi Gupta Gallery

By Jason Foumberg

Woman Made Gallery Director Steps Down
Beate Minkovski is retiring as executive director of the not-for-profit Woman Made Gallery. In 1992 Minkovski co-founded the small institution, which is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary woman artists. During Minkovski’s twenty-two-year tenure, she oversaw the exhibition of more than 7,500 woman artists (and several men), and initiated an art outreach program called 20 Neighborhoods. The River West gallery is currently searching for a new director.

An Artists’ Grant Foundation Comes to Town
United States Artists has relocated to Chicago from Los Angeles, at the behest of new CEO Carolina Jayaram, who formerly headed the Chicago Artists Coalition. The philanthropic organization annually awards $50,000 unrestricted grants to individual artists in various disciplines, including the visual arts. Chicago artists David Hartt and Theaster Gates were both recent recipients. Artists must be nominated by a peer panel in order to apply for the $50,000 grant. United States Artists is partly funded by philanthropists, including local art collectors Helen Zell and Jack Guthman. The next round of grants will occur toward the end of the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Curtis Mann/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »
"Blanket on Asphalt," cut photographic print, 2013

“Blanket on Asphalt,” cut photographic print, 2013

Curtis Mann’s latest exhibition is hung entirely backwards on the wall. That is, only the unprinted versos of his photographic prints face the viewer. All over these glossy white surfaces many semicircular slits have been sliced. Folded back, these slits reveal a fragmented view of the photo’s other side: scenes from the artist’s studio. The fluttery effect is that of peering through a textured window to glimpse a room’s interior.

The invention of photography more than two centuries ago caused art to undergo its most significant transformation, yet the medium itself is still susceptible to change. Mann continues to redefine photography, especially its material potential. The artist is previously known for his photographs of war in the Middle East that were featured in the 2010 Whitney Biennial. In these photographs he used physical processes of manipulation such as bleaching and dying to erase parts of the images and dramatize the violence. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: McArthur Binion/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
"Circuit Landscape: No. IV," 1973, oIl stick on canvas

“Circuit Landscape: No. IV,” 1973, oIl stick on canvas


Shortly before creating the paintings in “Ghost: Rhythms,” in the early 1970s, McArthur Binion became the first African American to receive an MFA from Cranbrook Art Academy. The eleventh child of Mississippi tenant farmers, the painter’s uncomplicated aesthetic came to the attention of Minimalist luminaries Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre, and in 1973 the young painter was included in a significant exhibition at New York’s renowned Artist Space. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Melanie Schiff/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »


Melanie Schiff is obsessed with decay and detritus, so much so that she presents her scenes in large-format black-and-white and color. Yet Schiff is not your standard-issue ruins photographer, reveling in the profusion of devastation; she adds the note of breakdown to her images so that it dominates its more normal context, but does not overwhelm the setting. Take her most extreme shot in which a hollowed-out tree stump seems to merge with the rocky, desiccated, weed-strewn patch of land that surrounds it. The stump looks like nothing so much as a gaping skull. The other images do not cut to the quick that way, but the intrusion of death is always there, as when we see spent shell casings littered on a barren, wasted bluff. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Clare Rojas/Kavi Gupta Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »

“Room with Doorway,” oil on linen

How would the comics section of the newspaper appear if all the figures, human and animal, had been removed? On first viewing, it would be refreshing not to find the obvious, witless narratives and the all-too-familiar bone-headed characters. It would open up a world of endless possibility for whatever else might fit within the sketchy interior views that remain, but there would be no point in a second viewing. The same is true with Clare Rojas’ wall-size paintings now showing at Kavi Gupta. What’s missing are the curious, uncomfortable human figures with which she used to populate her cartoon-strip style work. What’s left is the angular, aggressive, institutional-like environment that possibly made them so disoriented and socially underdeveloped in the first place. It’s a kind of hell—but not one that is unfamiliar, as it can be found everywhere from grade-school cafeterias to high-end corporate décor. The solid blocks of color have been painted without the least trace of sensitivity, regarding either edges, interiors or tones—as if they had been executed by minimum-wage workers doing no more than what they were told. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Angel Otero/Kavi Gupta Gallery and John Santoro/McCormick Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »

John Santoro, "Godzilla"


In 1845, J.M.W. Turner reportedly joked: “Indistinctness is my fault,” in response to an American collector who despaired finding many recognizable details in one of his atmospheric seascapes. In some of his magnificent swirls, nothing was recognizable at all. Was Turner an early Abstract Expressionist? Not if you distinguish the epic struggle of man against nature from the psychological struggle of self against the world. Curiously enough, a similar Romanticism has recently emerged simultaneously in the work of two painters now exhibiting work in adjoining galleries at 835 West Washington. Read the rest of this entry »