Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: LUMA at 10: Greatest Hits/Loyola University Museum of Art

Activist Art, Art Books, Ceramics, Collage, Craft Work, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Multimedia, Painting, Photography, Prints, Sculpture, Streeterville, Video No Comments »
"LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits, "Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and "Paranirvana (Self Portrait)" by Lewis deSoto. / Photo: Loyola University Chicago.

“LUMA At Ten: Greatest Hits,” Installation view, including “Silver Clouds” by Andy Warhol and “Paranirvana (Self Portrait)” by Lewis deSoto./Photo: Loyola University Chicago


Religion is often the apparent culprit in today’s war-torn world, so an exhibition with a spiritual undertone may seem unnerving. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago is an Exquisite Corpse

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Fairs, Art Schools, Collage, Comics, Design, Digital Art, Drawings, Evanston, Fall Preview, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Gold Coast/Old Town, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Installation, Little Village, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Multimedia, Museum Campus, Outsider Art, Painting, Performance, Photography, Pilsen, Prints, Public Art, River North, River West, Rogers Park, Sculpture, South Loop, Street Art, Streeterville, Suburban, Ukrainian Village/East Village, Uptown, Video, West Loop, West Town, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
The thing that was sent to me in it's intended but unsettling orientation.

The thing that was sent to me in its intended but unsettling orientation.

By Elliot J. Reichert

The above image was sent to me anonymously in the middle of the night. Shocking as it appears, I was relieved to receive it. You see, weeks ago I had contacted a few artist friends to ask them to reflect on the upcoming fall art season in Chicago and to ask one to “take over” the task of appraising it. To my surprise, they were reluctant to describe it, even those who had exhibitions of their work opening in the coming weeks. Later, I realized that their silence was my doing, having asked a question that could produce no coherent answer.

Much like the drawing game made famous by the Surrealists, Chicago’s 2015 fall art season is an exquisite corpse—a thing of grotesque beauty that is the dream of no one, but the creation of many. At first glance, it appears sinister, like the Block Museum’s solo show of newly commissioned works by Chicago artist Geof Oppenheimer. Rumor has it that the sculptor has filled the museum’s ample galleries with austere and foreboding installations resembling the cinderblock constructions of grim institutions, like prison, or perhaps your corporate office. Even more menacing, Irena Haiduk, also Chicago-based and also exhibiting new work, will haunt the eaves of the Renaissance Society’s transformed gallery with the Sirens of Greek mythology, luring visitors unexpectedly into a debate on the revolutionary possibilities of art and social change amidst current political upheaval worldwide. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Timothy J. Clark/Loyola University Museum of Art

Drawings, Michigan Avenue, Painting No Comments »
Timothy J. Clark. "Vernazza, 1994," 1994 watercolor on paper

Timothy J. Clark. “Vernazza, 1994,” 1994
watercolor on paper


Exemplified by Brunelleschi’s demonstration of one-point perspective in depicting the Baptistery in Florence 500 years ago, Renaissance pictorial space was built to encompass ecclesiastic architecture, and it’s been the standard for European painters to either meet or disrupt ever since. Watercolorist Timothy J. Clark has joined that tradition in his depictions of Baroque churches. Following Monet’s renditions of Rouen Cathedral, he has emphasized the qualities of light and shadow rather than space and volume. But the gravitas, once thought appropriate for such revered subjects, just isn’t there. Nor is the vibrant excitement that an Impressionist like John Singer Sargent could give to the effects of strong Mediterranean light falling on Italian buildings. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Richard Renaldi

Michigan Avenue, Photography No Comments »
Richard Renaldi. "Touching Strangers: Donna and Donna."

Richard Renaldi. “Touching Strangers: Donna and Donna.”

Since 2007, Richard Renaldi has been casting, staging and capturing ephemeral connections between complete strangers. “I’m looking for people that look as if they have a story to tell… Someone that makes you want to know more, want to look more, want to continue looking at them because they have something about them that is beautiful,” Richard tells me. It’s early afternoon, and he’s phoned me from inside his vehicle parked on a New York City side street. “And I don’t mean the traditional classical sense of beauty, but instead something that is an attractive quality—strong features, individuality, a visible hardship or softness in their face.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Shaker in Chicago/Loyola University Museum of Art

Design, Drawings, Gold Coast/Old Town, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture 1 Comment »
A Pine "Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840" from New Lebanon, New York.

A Pine “Infirmary Cupboard, ca. 1840” from New Lebanon, New York.


Actually three separate exhibitions, this is altogether the most thorough presentation of Shaker culture ever seen in Chicago. More formally the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing,” the Shakers are the longest continually operating religious utopian community in America. At their height they numbered five thousand across twenty-two communities.

Nearly all the objects seen here were first collected in the 1920s and thirties by a passionate young American couple. But modernism itself owes a huge debt to the ornament-less functionality of Shaker design. “Beauty rests on utility,” is their maxim. Most people think furniture when they think Shaker, and visitors will certainly drool over the many fine pieces on display. Their famous ladder-back chairs—highly functional and quickly made—were the Ikea of their day. A cobbler’s bench has an ergonomic seat along with the patina of abundant use. Particularly charming are the dolls, the child’s rocker (originally priced at $3.25), and all the costume and textiles. But there are strange items here, too, such as an oddly humane adult cradle and an early electrostatic medical device (use unknown). Shaker road signs topped with scriptural warnings addressed trespassers, and fascinating “Gift Drawings” were the calligraphic version of speaking in tongues. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Upcoming Free Days at Twenty-one Chicago Museums

Galleries & Museums, News etc. No Comments »
George Bellows. "Love of Winter," 1914.  Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

George Bellows. “Love of Winter,” 1914.
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

Winter can be a dreary month, with all its slushy snow, bitter cold, and flamboyantly merry couples. So if the skating rink in Millennium Park is causing your seasonal affective disorder to spike you and the various coffee shops around the city are filled to capacity, why not warm those frozen paws by taking advantage of the free admission days at our splendid museums? Here is a compilation of free museum days at twenty-one art, cultural and history museums to keep your brain active, eyes mesmerized, and your seasonal affective disorder at bay. (Mahjabeen Syed) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Edward Gorey/Loyola University Museum of Art

Drawings No Comments »
Illustration (detail) from The Doubtful Guest, 1957, © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust. All rights reserved.

Illustration (detail) from The Doubtful Guest, 1957, © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust. All rights reserved.


My first introduction to Edward Gorey’s playfully delicate drawings came during my childhood in the form of an illustrated 1982 edition of T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” Gorey’s drawings for the book jacket are included in the Loyola Museum of Art’s “Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey” and “G is for Gorey—C is for Chicago: The Collection of Thomas Michalak.” Taken together, LUMA triumphs in creating a rich, appealing total experience of Edward Gorey as an artist and the many roles he played in publishing. Gorey’s illustrated books are often coy treatments of sexuality and death, not so much intended for children as accessible to me and many others as an alternative to the more mainstream (and normative) comic-book culture of boyhood. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Heaven and Hell/Loyola University Museum of Art and Intuit

Michigan Avenue, Painting, River West No Comments »

Clementine Hunter


With its emphasis on The Word, Protestant Christianity has not had much use for visual narrative, and when it has been used, such as in Sunday-school texts, it has run between dry and anemic. However, the religion’s emphasis on individual salvation is a good match for those obsessed with personal visions, such as outsider artists, and nothing seems to have inspired them more than depictions of Heaven and Hell.

This two-venue exhibition, drawing from forty private and museum collections around the country, began as LUMA’s initial venture into the wild and wooly world of outsider art, for which they wisely brought in the expertise of the Intuit Center. Two curators, one from each institution, collaborated on making selections, and the display was split between the galleries, with, appropriately enough, the Jesuit university hosting Heaven and the outsider art gallery raising Hell. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Janet McKenzie/Loyola University Museum of Art

Drawings, Michigan Avenue, Painting No Comments »


In 1999, Janet McKenzie’s “Jesus of the People” was selected by Sister Wendy Beckett, the BBC television art docent, from among the ten finalists in the National Catholic Reporter’s “Jesus 2000” project to discover “who Jesus might be for our time.” As Sister Wendy wrote: “This is a haunting image of a peasant Jesus—dark, thick-lipped, looking out on us with ineffable dignity, with sadness but with confidence.”

Using a young African-American woman as the model and symbols associated with American Indian and Taoist spirituality, the piece has generated more controversy than veneration, which was presumably that independent newspaper’s intention. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: The Lugubrious Impulse

Evanston, Michigan Avenue, Sculpture 1 Comment »

By Jason Foumberg

When we’re tourists we often find ourselves standing on graves or admiring tombs of the illustrious dead. Several years ago, after a traipse through some European cemeteries and catacombs, I became (morbidly) obsessed with the Capuchin ossuary in Rome, a series of underground chapels decorated with the bones of monks in the seventeenth century. Where a tomb designed by Bernini or Michelangelo hides the deceased behind decadently carved marble, the Capuchin monks used actual bones for their headstones, creating decorative patterns in the style of Baroque stucco bas-relief or fresco—swirling aureoles and floral motifs—while other skeletons are collaged into tableaux, such as a clock made from phalanges and flying cherubim composed of skulls and winged shoulder blades.

I wanted to learn why the Capuchins built their shrine to death but, oddly, I could not find any full historical accounts about this strange place. I realized that the thousands of tourists who visit the chapels each year are not informed about why this place exists or how it came to be; we are simply left to ogle the lugubrious sculptures and ponder our own mortality. Tourists to the bone chapel can purchase postcards of the crypts so that the visceral images of bodily decomposition may be contemplated in private or distributed around the world like a decree: death trumps art. Read the rest of this entry »