There are few spaces better suited to an encounter with the unknown than the faintly eerie, subterranean chamber at Packer Schopf Gallery. Like the crypt of some secular church, its exposed masonry and weathered cobblestones house curious objects; musings on death and rebirth personified by artist Lauren Levato’s ten spare, graphite-on-paper self-portraits.
Precisely drawn, the works in “Wunderkammer” envisage the body—only superficially the artist’s own—as time’s reservoir; a site where life’s events, both tragic and triumphant, accumulate and transform. Levato’s drawings achieve this emotional resonance by uncynically mining a rich vein of symbolic narrative that’s fast become an endangered species in more academic genres.
Read the rest of this entry »
Nancy Mladenoff’s exhibition, “The Ladies,” provides an antidote to the discouraging anti-birth control and abortion disquisitions and the other disconcerting fundamentalist fantasies in the news, like the appalling female submission movement. Mladenoff’s collection of twenty-six portraits of woman mentors reminds us that before there was a woman’s movement and a general cultural push toward emancipation and equality, there were always women who went their own way and acted autonomously in the world. Read the rest of this entry »
The collapse of the market for stippled illustration might have been the best thing that ever happened to William Harrison, even if it took him more than ten years to realize it. Up until the mid-nineties he made photo-realistic drawings of commercial products for companies like McDonald’s and Burger King. But then his fanatically precise technique of rendering objects with little black dots was replaced by computer software, and like so many other workers in a changing economy, he had to reinvent himself. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually he discovered a talent for portraiture. The results are breathtaking, and it’s not all about the tiny black dots. He has a real feeling for character and design, as well as an uncommon ability to compose small forms over large ones, so although he shows dozens of tiny facial wrinkles, he doesn’t lose the volume of the head. That’s what masters like Jan van Eyck or Dirk Bouts were doing as they celebrated civic and religious life at the dawn of bourgeois civilization, and it’s no less enjoyable when Harrison applies it to the outlaw bikers of our age. Read the rest of this entry »
Let’s be up front, behind, and on top of it; Monica Rezman has a big-time hair fetish. The tresses are everywhere in her color photos, spilling, sprawling, spewing, spreading and always uncoiffed, whether she is bewitched by the unkempt clumps and piles of the stuff in a wig factory or lavishly bedecking her daughter with it. There is never enough of it for Rezman, so she scrawls more locks in charcoal over the original image, creating a veritable raven-black tsunami. In the title image of the show, “Woolgathering,” Rezman has swamped her daughter in unruly hair and then has put her to work knitting an enormous hair tapestry. Make no mistake, Rezman is not aiming for the perfect “do”—everything is out of place and out of control. She has taken to head and heart a line from the famous song “Hair” enjoining us all to make it “snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty.” It’s an untamed force. (Michael Weinstein)
Through June 18 at Packer Schopf Gallery, 942 West Lake
photo by Marian Frost
By Laura Fox
In a day and a half in Bridgeport last weekend, connections both professional and personal formed between local art groups and artists. The catalyst was the new MDW Fair.
The fair’s genesis itself is a bit of a feat in community-building. In February, Ed Marszewski, the founder of The Co-Prosperity Sphere, Version festival and Public Media Institute, asked threewalls and Roots and Culture if they wanted to help host an art fair focused on Chicago artists and art organizations. In two months and with less than $10,000, the three partners recruited sixty-plus exhibitors to fill 25,000 square feet of exhibition space in the Geolofts warehouse, plus a separate sculpture garden. Read the rest of this entry »
Lilli Carré: Untitled, 2010, screen print, 8 x 8 inches. Photo by Angee Leonnard.
Top 5 People and Places We’ll Miss
David Weinberg Gallery
Rowley Kennerk Gallery
Green Lantern Gallery
James Garrett Faulkner
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
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 »
The African-American community of Chicago’s “Black Bottom” neighborhood, dispersed by white “urban renewal” in the 1950s, is presented here in a mix of faux historical documents, artifacts and maps, colliding a repertoire of symbols associating European racial and nationalist mythology with African-American history and nationalism. There is a knight’s helmet, for instance, incorporating a raised Black Power fist in its design. Likewise, the black panther becomes the center of a heraldic tapestry that, in this case, is a quilt. Corporate and local icons such as the Nike Swoosh and the Maxwell Street Polish take on the aura of legend when isolated from their daily contexts and presented as symbols of a lost world. Read the rest of this entry »
Jason Lahr’s paintings at Packer Schopf Gallery hang together as an argument and a story. The story is the story of boyhood. The argument parses out which stars in the sky of mass culture correspond to the dots that boys will string together to be boys. Lahr describes his paintings as “a bit like a vulture picking through a mountain of boy scout manuals, cd covers, hunting and fishing magazines, and related miscellany, savoring the tasty bits and creating a tangle of hypertexts among the images, the texts, and the ‘world.’”
The world depicted in the paintings is sparse. He treats each panel like a screen washed with a gradient of two to three colors. There’s a geometric fragment that lends texture to the background. The pattern of these fragments change, calling to mind anything from Josef Albers’s color experiments, to pointillism, to Pop Art, to pixels, to the generational decay of digital images compressed again and again and again. On each panel, a few stars are plucked from that sky of mass culture’s ideas about masculinity: logos and brands and band names. Snippets of atmospheric text refer to some long lost platonic “He” and “She” like Lichtenstein’s elliptical captions but with an intensity that feels like film noir. Read the rest of this entry »
Blending formality and informality in her approach to the photographic portrait, Maria Ponce hit upon the conceit of shooting Chicago TV news personalities out of stage dress, yet let them pose as they wished, creating images that hover between promotional headshots and playful snaps. We see all the old and new familiar faces—twenty-six of them, including Maria’s father Phil Ponce (WTTW), Bob Jordan (WGN) and Jay Levine (CBS)—in black-and-white diptychs; all of the subjects appear to be trying to look as hip and cool as they possibly could, according to the ways they interpret those two qualities. The one impression that stands out is that these trained performers will not surrender control over their images, even as they seek to loosen them; they are calculating in their projection of fun. In his star turn, father Ponce closes his eyes, draws in his face, furrows his brow, and purses his lips in feigned intense reflection in the left image; and stares intensely, with head forward and straight closed lips in the one on the right, with only a hint of ironic humor peeping through in either shot. TV never lets you let go all the way. (Michael Weinstein)
Through December 23 at Packer Schopf Gallery, 942 W. Lake
"Ask," by Jason Lazarus. A priest forgives sins via text messages.
Everyone knows that a verb is an action word. To paint or to cook, for example. Artistic interpretations thereof are slightly more complex. Is it possible to express “walk” through singing, or exemplify “ask” through texting? Can an action like “invite” be conveyed through a static medium, like a painting? If so, are the unrelated actions tied together? These were some of the questions raised during Industry of the Ordinary’s performance, titled “39 Verbs.”
The Chicago-based art collaborative compiled a list of thirty-nine verbs from the online descriptions of their projects over the past five years. They then invited cultural workers such as artists, curators and critics to create artwork based on the randomly assigned verbs. For one night only, the thirty-nine works, including painting, video, installation and performance, packed into the Packer Schopf Gallery and competed with one another for visitors’ attention, resulting in an over-stimulating environment.
Many pieces invited audience participation, such as Anna Kunz’ Host (esss). Kunz toured the gallery asking participants to wear one of her mixed-media collaged “parasites.” In this way Kunz and the viewers fulfilled host-related roles; Kunz as a hostess bestowing gifts on gallery goers, who in turn become a crowd of hosts. Kunz was personally very pleased with her verb assignment, feeling that it fitted well with her work. Other artists had more difficulty with their assigned verbs.
Jeanne Dunning was first disappointed when she received “Solicit.” It was only through verbalizing her frustration to others that she came up with her concept for her piece. Dunning found that she, as well as the majority of her acquaintances, associated the verb with prostitution. Dunning chose to embrace the association, and solicited sex workers to attend the event and interact with gallery goers in “whatever way made sense to them.” The viewers, informed about the sex workers’ presence without specific introductions, couldn’t help but make their own assumptions about fellow gallery goers. Read the rest of this entry »