Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Christopher Michlig, Amy Yoes/Devening Projects + Editions

Collage, Design, Digital Art, Galleries & Museums, Garfield Park, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Prints No Comments »
Amy Yoes. "Structural 004," 2014. Mixed media collage, 14 × 16 inches.

Amy Yoes. “Structural 004,” 2014. Mixed media collage, 14 × 16 inches.


Dan Devening, proprietor of the eponymous ‘projects + editions,’ painter, curator and faculty at SAIC, has a good eye for pairing artists. While his Garfield Park gallery typically runs concurrent solo shows in separate rooms within the same space, the aesthetic frisson generated by the works’ proximity is almost always palpable and the dialogue between them inescapable. Case in point: Christopher Michlig’s “To Everyone” and Amy Yoes’ “Structurals and Sightlines.”

In Yoes’ multi-paneled installation, an initial feeling of cool intellectualism (possibly provoked by the works’ lack of color) gives way to something more primitive, more vigorously physical. As hard-edged geometric shapes collide head-on with snippets of casual brush strokes and glued-down half-tone dots, the vertiginous spaces they create exact a tidal pull upon the body forcing the viewer to move in close and then take several large steps back in order to reckon with the arrangement. In contrast, her stop-motion animation “Sightlines” literally brings the paintings’ forms to life, but at the cost of our kinesis; we cease moving and instead merely watch.

Christopher Michlig. "To Everyone V," 2015. Collage, high-gloss enamel on poly-coated poster paper, 22 × 14 inches.

Christopher Michlig. “To Everyone V,” 2015. Collage, high-gloss enamel on poly-coated poster paper, 22 × 14 inches.

While Yoes’ “Structurals and Sightlines” rapidly shift from passive to aggressive, the collages in Michlig’s “To Everyone” move in the opposing direction. What begins as an assertive display of hyper-saturated, West Coast color yields a more deliberate exploration of duplication, theme and variation. Based on screen-printed reproductions from a 1961 André Bloc exhibition catalogue, Michlig’s pieces reverse engineer objects that have been reduced to code back into objects again. This process is most apparent in the nine paper constructions whose simple geometry—embellished with stylized drips—resembles a kind of 3D clip art. Immediately appealing, over time the works in “To Everyone” become more ambivalent.

Michlig’s luminous collages and constructions hit fast then slow down, while Yoes’ achromatic modular panels seem reserved but then get bossy. On the face of it, these works seem designed to accentuate their differences. But both shows underscore a shared sense of art’s history, an appreciation of the visual language of reproduced imagery and the fusion of different forms of “touch” through collage as a quintessentially contemporary medium. (Alan Pocaro)

Through December 12 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 West Carroll.

Review: Chris Bradley and Alex Chitty/Shane Campbell Gallery

Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Lincoln Park, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Sculpture No Comments »
Chris Bradley and Alex Chitty. Installation view at Shane Campbell Gallery-Lincoln Park, 2015. /Photo: Evan Jenkins

Chris Bradley and Alex Chitty. Installation view at Shane Campbell Gallery-Lincoln Park, 2015. /Photo: Evan Jenkins


Alex Chitty once said in an interview that she arranges found objects in her work so “they seem to have always belonged together.” On display in Shane Campbell Gallery’s domestic project space, her sculptures look very much at home. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Design Within Reach

Activist Art, Architecture, Art Schools, Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Loop, Multimedia, Public Art, Sculpture No Comments »
Kunlé Adeyemi. "Makoko Floating School, Lagos, Nigeria, " 2012. Image by NLÉ.

Kunlé Adeyemi. “Makoko Floating School, Lagos, Nigeria, ” 2012. Image by NLÉ.

By Elliot J. Reichert

Amid all the hoopla surrounding the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, I will admit that the whole thing makes me a bit nervous. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: The Death of the Critic

Photography No Comments »
Michael Weinstein, September 12, 2015/Photo: Adam Holtzman

Michael Weinstein, September 12, 2015/Photo: Adam Holtzman

By Elliot J. Reichert

There is an ironic faith in art criticism that is inherent to every effort to write about its death. It is as if writing itself can save us from the void of what art writing has become. Read the rest of this entry »

Art 50 2015: Chicago’s Visual Vanguard

Art 50 1 Comment »


Long heralded as a mecca for alternative practices, collectivity and socially engaged art, Chicago increasingly finds itself among the most visible international art destinations precisely because of its distinct character and openness to change and growth. What makes this city fertile ground for launching new talent and sustaining confirmed genius? A complex and ever-changing network of curators, collectors, administrators, critics, dealers, educators and other enthusiasts cultivate Chicago’s artistic vitality and diversity. The Art 50 is Newcity’s annual snapshot of Chicago’s art ecosystem. This year, we track the power players who shape the terrain in which we thrive.

The Art 50 was written by Elliot J. Reichert, Maria Girgenti, Abraham Ritchie, Kate Sierzputowski and B. David Zarley.

Cover and interior photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Read the rest of this entry »

The Interview Project Interview: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

Art Fairs, Curator Profiles No Comments »
Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

By Elliot J. Reichert

Hans Ulrich Obrist is an internationally renowned curator and co-director of the Serpentine Galleries in London. He is the author of The Interview Project, an ongoing collection of interviews with artists and other creatives, and a new book, “Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects.” At EXPO Chicago on September 19, 4pm, Obrist will conduct a live interview with Art Green, Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum, three members of the Hairy Who, an artist collective who began mounting group exhibitions after studying together at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Obrist spoke with us by phone from Johannesburg, South Africa, about his connections to Chicago, his interests in the Hairy Who and the larger group of Chicago Imagists, and the philosophy that inspires his interviews.

What draws your interest to Chicago and the Hairy Who at this moment?
My interest in the Hairy Who began with my interview projects, which are parallel to my curatorial practice. These interviews are an oral history of contemporary art, and they were actually inspired by Chicago. When I was in Chicago for the first time for a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art about fifteen years ago, I met the late Studs Terkel, the great oral historian. From then on, Terkel mentored my whole process of making these oral histories more systematic. He gave me a lot of advice, so it’s wonderful to bring the whole project back to Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Chicago Connection/Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Galleries & Museums, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »
Richard Hunt/ "Thru the Branching," 1987. Color lithograph, 22 x 30 inches.

Richard Hunt/ “Thru the Branching,” 1987.
Color lithograph, 22 x 30 inches.


It is difficult to imagine late 20th century Chicago art without the irreverent pop culture attitude of the Imagists, but that’s exactly what this exhibition has done. It begins with the non-figurative sculpture of Konstantin Milonadis and Mychajlo Urban, co-founders of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Coming from war-torn Eastern Europe, they chose to create a happier world with rationally organized space surrounding their playful, finely tuned sculptures. The exhibition pulls in other artists who, like them, studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the decade following the Second World War. These Americans were far more involved with their inner lives than with changing the world. Despite changing trends, the artists in this exhibition who worked into the 80s, 90s and beyond continued to pursue their own vision in later work that is more refined in its expression of established maturity rather than turbulent youth.

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 »

Reeders Digest: How Two Brothers Curated the School of the Art Institute’s 150th Anniversary Exhibition

Art Fairs, Art Schools, Artist Profiles, Curator Profiles 1 Comment »
Scott Reeder in his Detroit studio

Scott Reeder in his Detroit studio

Tyson Reeder in his Chicago studio

By Brian Hieggelke

In a year of important anniversaries at major visual art entities in Chicago, none is more surprising, or significant, than the 150th birthday of the School of the Art Institute. Surprising, in that unlike so many of the city’s oldest leading cultural organizations which were founded in the 1890s and are thus a mere 125 years old or so, SAIC was founded as the Chicago Academy of Design in 1866, five years before the Great Chicago Fire. And its significance, already noteworthy in evolving into one of the top art educators in the world, is magnified by the fact that it was the school that later gave birth to the Art Institute of Chicago itself.

Among the various celebrations planned for this milestone, one of its centerpieces is an exhibition called “Civilization and Its Discontents: SAIC Alumni Exhibition, Selections from 1985–2015,” which runs September 1-October 24, and hosts its reception on Friday, September 18, 6pm-9pm, at the Sullivan Galleries, 33 South State, Seventh Floor. The exhibition, which features about three dozen artists who’ve graduated in the last thirty years, is curated by the brothers Scott and Tyson Reeder, both faculty members at the School, and both accomplished visual artists in their own right. I discussed their collaboration in person with Tyson and via telephone from Detroit with Scott.

The SAIC show you’re curating is a centerpiece of the school’s 150th anniversary but covers just the last three decades. How did the whole thing come together?
Scott: We wanted to focus on the last thirty years because that is a story that maybe isn’t told as much about the school. I think people know a lot about the Imagists, but then there’s that time after that is lesser known, especially outside of Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

News: 2nd Terrain Biennial Sprawls Far Beyond the Suburbs

Architecture, Design, Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, News etc., Oak Park, Performance, Public Art, Sculpture 1 Comment »
"Night Terrain" by artist Kate McQuillen and curated by Claudine Ise for the 2nd Terrain Biennial. Located at 817 South Highland Avenue, Oak Park.

“Night Terrain” by artist Kate McQuillen and curated by Claudine Ise for the 2nd Terrain Biennial. Located at 817 South Highland Avenue, Oak Park.

Playfully eschewing stereotypes of pink flamingos and garden gnomes, the 2nd Terrain Biennial is dedicated to featuring interventions into the conventional landscape of front yards by emerging as well as established artists who have been invited to create site-specific works. Founded in 2011 by Chicago artist Sabina Ott, contributing artists are selected for their ability to challenge the space between public and private, function and decoration and figure and ground.

This year’s biennial takes an international scale, but remains centered in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park across from Longfellow Middle School on Highland Avenue. Unlike many alternative exhibitions, these public artworks will be accessible at all times. According to Ott, one of the goals of the exhibition was to engage pedestrians, visitors, teachers, students and neighbors with myriad forms of contemporary art. Another goal with “Terrain 2.0” was to expand the scope beyond Oak Park. Read the rest of this entry »