Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

News: Shaquille O’Neal to Curate Booth at Expo Chicago 2014

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Shaquille O'Neal standing in "SIZE DOES MATTER," an exhibition he curated for the FLAG Art Foundation in 2010

Shaquille O’Neal standing in “SIZE DOES MATTER,” an exhibition he curated for the FLAG Art Foundation in 2010

Yesterday EXPO Chicago announced that Shaquille O’Neal will be curating a booth for the FLAG Art Foundation in this fall’s iteration of the art fair. Entitled “SHAQ LOVES PEOPLE,” the project will consist of portraits produced by emerging and established artists of people across various races, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. This is the second curatorial project at FLAG by the fifteen-time NBA all-star turned entrepreneur whose other cultural work includes rap albums, reality television shows and film acting. In 2010 he curated “SIZE DOES MATTER” at FLAG’s gallery in Chelsea, which included artists such as Fred Wilson, Cathy de Monchaux, Kehinde Wiley, Lisa Yuskavage and Jeff Koons. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Artist and Teacher Barbara DeGenevieve Has Passed Away

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Barbara DeGenevieve. "Oh Yeah Oh God," part of the mixed media "Large Scale Stretched Fabric and Macaroni" series from 1991–95

Barbara DeGenevieve. “Oh Yeah Oh God,” part of the mixed media “Large Scale Stretched Fabric and Macaroni” series from 1991-95

Barbara DeGenevieve passed away on Saturday, August 9, from complications of cervical cancer. DeGenevieve was a professor in the department of photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she had been teaching since 1985, following a faculty position at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. From the late 1970s onward, her photography, video and performance work has explored issues around human sexuality, pornography, gender and ethics. She has also written and lectured extensively on these and other topics. DeGenevieve received her MFA in photography from the University of New Mexico in 1980. She was awarded two National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowships and three Illinois Arts Council grants among many other honors. Major exhibitions of her work have been shown in the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Frankfurt Kunstverein. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Chicago’s Risograph Revolution

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Will Bryant for Tan & Loose Press

Will Bryant, “Drawings Based on Sculptures Based on Drawings,” 2013, Tan & Loose Press

By Jason Foumberg

In 1970 the Xerox Corporation founded a technology think tank called the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and soon invited artists-in-residence, and gave them free reign to copy machines and computers, spawning the “new media” art boom.

But Xerox’s competitor, RISO, from Japan, planned no such artful scheme. They just wanted to get low-cost copy machines to their customers. But, artists found RISO, and with fervor. They found them on Craigslist, in libraries, at used-office-technology warehouses. The Risograph was designed to spit out thousands of school newsletters and church bulletins at a fraction of Xerox’s cost—in color. Over the past five years, self-publishing has thrived in Chicago thanks to RISO. The machine is seemingly made-to-order for alternative printmaking.

About the size and shape of a copy machine, the RISO is more like a screen-printing machine (but less of a mess) and can churn out color prints quickly using stencil technology. Risograph prints are decidedly lo-fi, inky, small and inexpensive to produce. I’ve seen prints sell from $2 to $50. The image style depends on the artist. I’ve seen Bauhaus-like geometries, psychedelic comics and designer broadsides. Comic artists, graphic designers, conceptual artists, zine producers, illustrators—everyone gets in on RISO, especially artists going the independent or self-published route. RISO is very much part of the “graphic arts” movement we’re currently experiencing in contemporary art. Read the rest of this entry »

News: SAIC Establishes Vivian Maier Scholarship for Female Artists

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Vivian Maier. Maloof Collection, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

Vivian Maier. Maloof Collection, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

A scholarship named after the photographer Vivian Maier has been established at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Through donations from Ravine Pictures’ John Maloof and Charlie Siskel and the art gallerist Howard Greenberg, the Vivian Maier Scholarship will offer funding to female, need-based students currently enrolled at SAIC. There will be no application process, nor any restrictions on specific degree programs, year of study or form of artwork being produced. This will be an annual award that the School hopes will grow and can be offered to as many students as possible. The first of the scholarships will be awarded in the 2014-2015 academic year.

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Art Break: How to Make a Queer Painting

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Matt Morris

Matt Morris

Painting Queer is one of only a handful of art courses being taught in Chicago’s colleges today that focuses on queer art. The undergraduate course was fashioned by instructor Matt Morris for the current semester at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Morris is an interdisciplinary artist and occasional contributor to this publication’s art section.

Where are we at with queer studies in contemporary art?
We’re at a turning point in academia where queer may be old-fashioned. This is an important time to circle the wagons and assess queer theory. The class is meant to address concerns larger than sexuality, such as race, class and other socially regulated categories. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good and the Bad of SAIC’s MFA Show 2013

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By Pedro Vélez

It’s that time of the year when the School of the Art Institute of Chicago throws its spawn (130 of them) into the wilderness. Judging from the less-than-stellar works on display at the Sullivan Galleries (on view through May 17), most of these artists don’t stand a chance. So, what went wrong? Who should be sent to the lions? How about the curators? Have your pick from this year’s class which was made up of Lisa Dorin, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Williams College Museum of Art, Bad at Sports’ Duncan MacKenzie and Encarnación M. Teruel, Director of Visual Arts, Media, and Multi-Disciplinary Programs at the Illinois Arts Council. Do we really need curators directing a thesis show? Hiring a “middleman” to choke the flow of creative juices from stressed-out students is just not working out. I say, let students make their own choices on their own terms without the shadow of doubt lingering over their heads. Don’t get me wrong, I love SAIC, I’m her son too, but maybe the time has come to take responsibility and start failing those who don’t make the grade. Like my good friend artist and activist Sara Daleiden always says, “Not everyone has to be an artist, those who fail grad school can be reassigned to become cultural producers.”

Here are some of the best, the worst and the mediocre.

Performance art, including mimes devoid of sarcasm and irony, were all the rage during SAIC’s MFA 2013 opening reception.

Performance art, including mimes devoid of sarcasm and irony, were all the rage during SAIC’s MFA 2013 opening reception.

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Art 50: Chicago’s Artists’ Artists

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Artwork and Photo by Matthew Hoffman ( )
Matthew is a 2006 Newcity Breakout Artist

“A friend recently confessed to me that he secretly ranks the participants in Chicago’s art world according to their importance,” wrote artist Molly Zuckerman-Hartung in this publication. Molly’s friend doesn’t work at Newcity; although we annually rank half-a-hundred scenesters of the stage and page, this is our first line-up of visual artists. But everyone intimately knows Molly’s secret friend—the shuffler of the big rolodex, the line cutter, who maybe crept through a Deb Sokolow conspiracy, who buys all your friends’ artworks but never yours. Guess who? It’s you. You made this list and you ranked it and you live in it. You’re either on this list or you’re a product of this list or you’re on this list’s parallel universe (maybe, the Top Fifty People Who Read Lists list). Congrats!

We agree that a linear fifty names is simplistic. Instead, picture this list as a family tree that’s been trimmed into an MC Escher hedge maze. Or see the names as intersecting circles, a cosmic Venn diagram, or raindrops hitting a lake. There could be a list of fifty (or 500) best painters, or a new list for every week we publish this newspaper. For now, here are fifty people who have made an impression on other peoples’ lives.

Who are these people? They are mentors, magnets, peers, alchemists, art mothers, Chicago-ish, artists’ artists, evangelicals, alive today, polarizing, underrated, retired, workhorses and teachers. Lots of teachers. If you’re an artist in Chicago it’s likely that a handful of these artists trained you, or showed you that art was even a possibility. The bonus of local legends is that we can learn from them, face to face. Many lead by example.

About the selection process: Artists only for this list. (Power curators and other hangers-on get their own list, next year). To rank these artists we surveyed hundreds of local living artists, racked our brains, had conversations, wrote emails, canvassed the streets with art critics, cast votes, then recalls, called important curators in London who promptly hung up on us, drank pumpkin latte, checked emails and then finally wrote it all down. And now, we present to you, the Art 50. (Jason Foumberg)

The Art 50 was written by AJ Aronstein, Janina Ciezadlo, Stephanie Cristello, Alicia Eler, Pat Elifritz, Jason Foumberg, Amelia Ishmael, Anastasia Karpova, Harrison Smith, Bert Stabler, Pedro Velez, Katie Waddell and Monica Westin. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: The Chicago Art Import and Export Company

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By Jason Foumberg

Last year, a mini survey of Chicago Imagist painting was exhibited at Thomas Dane Gallery in London and critically praised in Frieze for offering “a brief glimpse into the lurid visions of this underexposed group of exciting and innovative artists.” Now, in Chicago, the Imagists hardly seem “underexposed,” as they’re codified in the pantheon of our art history, and with many younger artists continually excavating their legacy—a phenomenon so prevalent that it has become an annual curatorial plaything, from 2010’s Ray Yoshida “Spheres of Influence” retrospective at SAIC followed by the “Jim Nutt Companion” exhibition at the MCA and the DePaul Art Museum’s forthcoming “Afterimage.”

The overseas underexposure to now-standard (even well-worn) local legacies got me thinking: If our forty-year-old accomplishments are just now touching down in art-savvy international capitals like London, will emerging artists be doomed to a similar forty-year resting period? If not, then what mechanisms are currently in place to launch international recognition?

The art fairs and biennales provide the most convenient inroads to regional artists, but usually only if the marketplace consents first, and then art can be thrust into the global exchange of ideas and commodities.

The old model of exhibition-as-diplomacy, of culture delivered from on high, has changed significantly. No longer are pre-packaged shows shipped overseas. An exhibition like “Contemporary Art from the Netherlands,” organized by the Netherlands Ministry for Cultural Affairs and sent to America, reeks of the antique method. That show touched down at Chicago’s MCA in 1982. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bauhaus Now/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

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Kyle Schlie, "Cutoffs"


The history of modern-art education, i.e., the attempt to train artists and designers for a distinctly modern world without the unnecessary trappings of tradition, begins with Walter Gropius and the amazing faculty he assembled in 1919 at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. Many of the artists who taught there are legendary: Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Gerhard Marcks. And there was a very strong Chicago connection, as its third director, Mies van der Rohe, would eventually run the architecture school at IIT and a Bauhaus instructor, László Moholy-Nagy, would found the New Bauhaus, still open as the IIT Institute of Design. So it seems appropriate to bring together the heirs of those institutions, in both Weimar and Chicago, to “explore the contemporary application of the Bauhaus legacy and ideals.” Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Art in the Age of the Stones

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Robert Gober, "Double Sink," 1984. Promised Gift of the Donna and Howard Stone Collection, 2010.

By Regan Golden

If you have been to a Friday night opening at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, or a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art on a Saturday afternoon, chances are you have seen Howard and Donna Stone there chatting with artists, curators and students alike. This month, an unusual confluence of events highlights the role that the Stones play as supporters of contemporary art practice in Chicago.

With little pomp or publicity, each year the Stone Summer Theory Institute, sponsored by the couple, draws scholars from around the world to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in hopes of answering sweeping questions about art, such as 2008’s theme “What is an image?” or 2009’s “What do artist’s know?” Art history is the main fare, but visiting scholars also include scientists, political theorists and philosophers. The topic for this year’s schedule of seminars and lectures is “Beyond the Aesthetic and the Anti-Aesthetic,” and one of the main speakers is critic and historian Hal Foster, who developed his theory of the “anti-aesthetic” in contemporary art in the 1980s.

One example of Foster’s “anti-aesthetic” is now on view in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute, Robert Gober’s “Double Sink,” a 1984 sculpture owned by the Stones. “Double Sink” reexamines Marcel Duchamp’s modern-art icon, a urinal titled “Fountain,” 1917. In a reversal of Duchamp’s “Fountain,” Gober’s “Double Sink” is handmade, even though its white enamel paint and large institutional scale makes it appear mass-produced or as fit for a kitchen as an art museum. Early criticisms of Gober in the 1990s cast his art as against modernism, but Hal Foster argued that, on the contrary, one had to deconstruct modernist ideas in order to recoup their cultural significance. This is just a taste of the discussions that will take place this week at the Theory Institute, with Hal Foster giving a keynote speech. Read the rest of this entry »