Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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

RECOMMENDED

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.

RECOMMENDED

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.

RECOMMENDED

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

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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 »

RECOMMENDED

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 »

The Top 5 of Everything 2010: Art

News etc., Top 5 Lists No Comments »

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
Marwen
—Jason Foumberg Read the rest of this entry »

Review: New Icon/Loyola University Museum of Art

Michigan Avenue No Comments »

Zachary Buchner, "Untitled (Gold II)," 2010

RECOMMENDED

From the detritus of everyday symbols and physical objects to new approaches encountering transcendence through the experience of visual perception, the artists in “New Icon” tackle the notion of the iconic across a spectrum of interests and methods. Zachary Buchner, for example, gives us fake gold or, more specifically, imitation-gold-leaf laid over forms reminiscent of molded ingots, angular crystals and jagged cartoon crowns. These seemingly simple pieces fascinate the senses while spurring second-guesses of our assumptions about the “natural” value of this real yet simultaneously mythical substance. Carrie Gundersdorf’s collages echo this interrogation of the ubiquitous yet largely invisible, collecting clipped images of astrological phenomenon such as comets or the Northern Lights—the ethereal glow of which, while never personally seen by most of us, is nonetheless utterly familiar, having been “seen” at precisely the second-hand remove Gundersdorf highlights, via a proliferation of photographs that convey the experience with more clarity and focus that is possible in “real” life. Read the rest of this entry »