Nick Schutzenhofer. “Untitled,” 2014, egg tempera on paper mounted to canvas,
29 1/8h x 23 1/8w in.
Featuring fifteen artists and an incendiary press release that decries what it sees as the preeminence of “soulless” and “anemic” abstraction, “New Image Painting” at Shane Campbell Gallery is a stinging riposte to the kind of contemporary abstract painting that merely serves as “a placeholder for value” and “needs to get out of the way.” In its place, the show presents an alternative vision of art’s recent past that locates figuration and personal narrative front and center.
Many of the thirty paintings on display are self-consciously “bad” in the sense that multiple artists’ seek spatial and proportional “incorrectness” as a means of arriving at visual authenticity. Henry Taylor’s “Where are my brothers keepers” and Torey Thornton’s “Barged Gator” are ham-fisted in their depiction of figures, boats and busses. But their superficial clumsiness, which can be traced back to Matisse via Guston, belies a compositional sophistication that is studied and—paradoxically—abstract. Similarly, William J. O’Brien’s playful works on paper trade in the kind of frenzied “my kid could do that” aesthetic that baffles casual viewers, but delights connoisseurs of gestural abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »
Jon Pestoni. “Tracksuit,”
oil and mixed media on panel, inset into wood frame, 2014
California-based painters Greg Gong and Jon Pestoni have, through unifying abstract forms over a variety of ground materials and techniques, developed complementary methods that result in layered, petrified paint. They do well to show together as the stakes over which they struggle are not only a work’s surface but what physically lies beneath. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jason Foumberg
It’s an exciting moment for sculpture in Chicago. I’ve tracked a few patterns in contemporary object-making through these nine current exhibitions.
Jun Kaneko at Millennium Park
The newest addition of public art to Millennium Park (for seven months) are dozens of large glazed ceramic sculptures by Jun Kaneko, a Japanese-born, Omaha-based artist who should be familiar to Chicagoans (he’s shown here seventeen times in the past thirty years, but not since 2003.) All of the ceramic sculptures are graphically painted (polka dots, mummy tape) in bright colors. On the Randolph Street side are standing figures, tall and fat as taxidermied bears, but with pig faces and Looney Tunes eyes. There’s a hoard of them, and they’re a little freaky (one has blue nipples). On the Monroe Street side are tablet-shaped objects, the size of tombs, similarly painted. I almost scorned these sculptures—they verge on Cows on Parade kitsch—until I read the artist’s description. The figures are Tanuki, or mythical Japanese trickster characters with jazzy skin and desperate smiles. They’re pleasurably sinister, and a little more non-denominational than the Buddha heads spouting all over Chicago, by Indira Johnson.
Through November 3 at Millennium Park. Read the rest of this entry »
Wilco fans have already seen Joanne Greenbaum’s work, though they might not know it. Greenbaum provided cover art for the band’s 2011 “The Whole Love,” as well as illustrations for a fifty-two-page booklet that accompanies the deluxe two-CD edition.
Her forty-two abstract paintings at Shane Campbell Gallery stand as her own kind of concept album. Together, the identically sized sixteen-by-twelve-inch canvases constitute a single experiment in the expressive capacities of gesture. At the same time, each of these pictures rewards close attention, as individual works convey different levels of complexity at the heart of those same gestures. Read the rest of this entry »
Chris Bradley has created a Robert Gober-style sculptural constellation where common objects (pretzel sticks, potato chips, paint rollers) are cast in bronze, painted as real fakes, and presented as fractured icons extracted from a personal narrative. Where Gober’s icons are weighted with psychosexual trauma and Catholic guilt, Bradley’s objects are simply the products of boredom. Not that boredom is bad—Gober has shown us that we all have cages, and that we can dream ourselves out of them. Bradley’s cage is probably his studio, the home of his beer and chip stash. He balances the chips, beer, avocados, chewing gum and other foodstuffs onto lumber armatures and tops them with palm trees so that the shacks punctuate the gray-and-white gallery like little deserted islands. A line of pretzel sticks on the far wall form a horizon line, and there’s a piddling sound of trickling water from a makeshift fountain in a beverage cooler. The sense of a provisional existence is successful, but lacking any foreshadow of risk, magic, fear or fatality just compounds empty upon empty. Junk food totems—sculptural doodles, really—signal somebody captive within, and captivated by, their own life. (Jason Foumberg)
Through April 2 at Shane Campbell Gallery, 673 North Milwaukee.
Anthony Pearson, "Untitled (Tablet)," 2010. Bronze sculpture with silver nitrate patina. Courtesy of the artist; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
Small is beautiful in Anthony Pearson’s show at Shane Campbell’s new gallery space on Milwaukee Avenue. This sparse exhibition consists mainly of Pearson’s abstract untitled photographs that are actually pictures of ink drawings the artist made on aluminum surfaces and then discarded. Pearson’s original drawings are also abstract with layered grids crisscrossed by quick brush strokes. By transforming these ink-wash drawings into photographs, Pearson reminds the viewer of the watery darkroom origins of his shimmering silver gelatin prints. The photographs are more than simply a reproduction of his drawings because Pearson solarizes his negatives, reversing the lights and darks, distancing the photographs from the original drawings. The result of this entire process is that Pearson supplants the tactile, textured drawings with their visual record—the relatively flat, low-contrast photographs. Read the rest of this entry »
Perhaps the most iconic photographs ever taken of an artist at work (one could almost say “money shots”) are the 1949 images of Jackson Pollock in Life magazine, viewed through a pane of glass that separates his thread of dripping paint from the upturned camera. Alex Hubbard has made a career of documenting this type of masculine performative gesture, videotaping the (often from above, inverting the Pollock image) pushing, spreading, building, arranging, throwing, tearing, cutting and crumpling of a variety of eye-catching objects, by himself and with occasional assistance, in a sort of moving abstraction that borrows both from the ephemeral abstract film tradition of Stan Brakhage and Paul Sharits, and the more tactile photographic compositions of Man Ray and Aleksandr Rodchenko, as well as the still and moving images of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. (Both the topic of abstract photography and Hubbard’s work received separate essays in Artforum this month, in time for Hubbard’s debut in the Whitney Biennial—such is the fickle synergy of the zeitgeist.) Read the rest of this entry »
Jonas Wood’s painting style possesses such a frank matter-of-factness that an initial impression can be, like the work first seems, over-simple. Coupled with a subject matter that includes the juvenilia of sports trading cards, the trap becomes even more difficult to escape. But upon closer inspection, a terrific artistic calculation is uncovered that exposes the painter’s almost morbid fixation on his medium. It is as if the objects in the paintings have been turned into memorials for Wood’s artistic forbearers, Matisse and the early Cubists in particular. Read the rest of this entry »
For Dutch artist Jan van der Ploeg’s first exhibition with Shane Campbell Gallery, he brought his paintings to the United States in his luggage, reminding me of the “Suitcase Paintings” exhibition at the Loyola Museum of Art last year, which featured small-scale Abstract Expressionist work that was (or could be) likewise transported via luggage.
In both cases, attention to scale is very important. Van der Ploeg composes his hard-edge geometric abstractions so that even though they are physically small, they have a large presence due to the sense that their organization could extend beyond the edges of the canvas.
Going beyond the edges is something that van der Ploeg has in mind. In addition to the five paintings on view, van der Ploeg has also created a wall painting specifically for the gallery space. Including relations to specific architecture in his work by rhyming with forms like the gallery’s light tracks and vents, van der Ploeg says that the wall painting is similar to monumental paintings on canvas, and certainly both strive to command space. The wall paintings have linked this artist with graffiti, but he seems more at home in the gallery than the street.
Van der Ploeg describes his painting as being like a street sign rather than a “window,” a sentiment I have heard echoed by Chicago artists also working in hard edge geometric abstraction. It would seem that this reinvigoration of the genre is an international phenomenon. (Abraham Ritchie)
Through May 9 at Shane Campbell Gallery, 1431 W. Chicago.
There are literally many ways of seeing the superb abstract canvases that recent Art Institute grad Zak Prekop has on view at Shane Campbell Gallery. Stare at “Yellow Painting” (2008) long enough and you’ll begin to wonder whether small, strangely geometric patches of yellow oil are drowning into, emerging out of, or falling from the sky onto a milky gray surface. Looking away, and then back again, is to see the work entirely anew or, rather, to be deceived over and over again.
Canvases at first seeming entirely blank or monochromatic soon reveal themselves as immaculately detailed and full of color. These same canvases, initially seeming absolutely flat, suddenly give the impression of thickness. The works buzz in your eye, shape-shifting, barely discernible and then suddenly forming into clearer view.
It’s difficult to tell how Prekop has created many of his works just from looking at them, adding to the mystery. It’s equally difficult to describe Prekop’s use of paint accurately without using verbs like ‘scraping’ or ‘dragging,’ because doing so wouldn’t convey just how delicate the work actually appears. There is something both indescribably tactile and expressly melancholy about many of the canvases, particularly the heartbreaking shade of pale blue used for the exhibition standout, “Painted Paper Sculpture” (2008).
It’s perhaps these misapprehensions, contradictions and other ineffable qualities that will compel you, for some unknown reason, to stand very near to the work. (Danny Orendorff)
Zak Prekop shows at Shane Campbell Gallery, 1431 W. Chicago, through January 17.