Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

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 »

Review: Scott Reeder/Kavi Gupta

Galleries & Museums, Installation, Media & Genres, Multimedia, Painting, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »

Scott Reeder. “Landlord Painting,” 2015


I like a little humor with my art, and even a cursory look at the work of Scott Reeder will tell you that he agrees. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Alex Bradley Cohen and Steve Ruiz/Roots & Culture

Comics, Drawings, Galleries & Museums, Noble Square, Painting, Prints, Sculpture No Comments »
Steve Ruiz. "Deep Street Breathing," 2015. Gouache, ink and ename on paper, 11 x 7.5 in.

Steve Ruiz. “Deep Street Breathing in New Orleans,” 2015.
Gouache, ink and enamel on paper, 11 x 7.5 in.


This two-person show is a perfect exhibition to check out as summer slowly comes to an end. Cohen and Ruiz are two rising, Chicago-bred artists who both use warm, vibrant colors and landscaped scenes to evoke memories of hot days spent outdoors. 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.

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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 »

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 »

Art 50: Chicago’s Artists’ Artists

Art 50, Artist Profiles 6 Comments »

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 »

Review: Andrew Holmquist/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »


It’s a wild and crazy world out there, and it seems to be the mandate of the School of the Art Institute to make sure we all know it. Defiance, despair, humor and social criticism are some of the predictable expressions. But the crazy-beautiful paintings of 2008 graduate Andrew Holmquist seem to be celebrating the chaos, as if to say, “yes, it’s a train wreck, but isn’t it a beautiful one?” Or, more like an explosion at a fireworks factory, brilliant colors in random patterns stream across the sky in a celebration of technology gone berserk. But the beauty of an aerial explosion vanishes in an instant. It’s only a few paintings that continue to feel that way for as long as they hold your attention. Holmquist has the rare talent to make that happen, whether by adding something unexpected, like a big, blue grid to one of his larger works, or by whipping together whatever he can paint, or find, in his small, daily studies. Interestingly enough, he credits some of his success to recent experiences with paintings by Titian and Rembrandt at the Louvre. Obviously he’s a guy who haunts art galleries. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Carmen Price

Artist Profiles, Ukrainian Village/East Village No Comments »

"L.A. Claim," 2010, gouache on paper

“These are the people I love,” remarks Carmen Price as we admire his ninety-eight panels of graphically embellished names of friends. The salon-style grid of drawings, like commemorative texts, are adorned faintly with pearlescent acrylic washes and cubed or loopy cursive lettering.

Price traces his involvement in the arts back to grade school where he decorated classmates’ Trapper Keepers, and a similar adolescent distraction dominates his visual vocabulary today. Although a single work can engage Price for a year or more, he describes his approach to each composition as largely intuitive, with no particular plan of attack or specific outcome in mind when he begins.

This call-and-response method, a fluid, almost musical template for working, produces layers of transparency blocked by opacity, indivisible amalgamations of various mark-making and a variety of paint-handling techniques that make a single piece appear almost collaged together. Othertimes, images read left to right, row by row—an individuated, wholly imagined strand of hieroglyphics. Complicating this matrix is his employment of a handful of iconic symbols, namely the caricatured alien head a la 1990’s X-Files ads, that function as surrogates for the unknown, the ambiguous or the literal other worldly. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Angel Otero/Chicago Cultural Center

Loop, Painting No Comments »


Showing work that lacks even a hint of anger or disgust, this is a painter who does not especially belong in Chicago, and so, indeed, this youthful retrospective marks the end of Angel Otero’s stay in the city where he has spent the last six years as a student at the Art Institute. He’s a very old-school kind of painter—all about nostalgia and beauty and evident craftsmanship. His still-lifes belong in the seventeenth-century, except that he uses materials in such unlikely ways, and his sense of despair feels less cosmic/eternal and more personal/fragile.  Even when his still-life escapes the painted surface and pours out onto an actual table, it’s still composed with great care and beauty, although these installations do seem unbearably, even morbidly vulnerable to cobwebs and dust. Like other masters of the Spanish school, he can turn black into a rich, delicious color. “With paint, I want to give a sense of abundance, unbalance, ambition, courage and persistence within form, color and texture in every painting,” he says. Perhaps he’ll end up back in Puerto Rico, like the painter who first inspired him to become an artist, Arnoldo Roche Rabell, who graduated from the Art Institute thirty years ago. But hopefully, this will not be the last time he has a major show in Chicago. From the Union League Club to Kavi Gupta Gallery to the Cultural Center, he certainly has gotten a lot of support here in a short amount of time. (Chris Miller)

Through March 28 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Randolph