Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Trends of the Art Season Opener Weekend

Galleries & Museums No Comments »
A painting by Heimo Zobernig in "The Program" at Gallery 400

A painting by Heimo Zobernig in “The Program” at Gallery 400

By Jason Foumberg

As the fall art season opens this weekend, Newcity is tracking some trends in the local art scene.

Chit-Chat: Artists Want to Talk with You

Matt Austin
A visit to the Smart Museum of Art typically begins at the visitor information desk, and twice a month, through June 2014, visitors may find themselves at another sort of information desk. Exit the contemporary art galleries and you might find Matt Austin, a photographer and bookmaker, sitting in a cubicle, waiting for you. The conversationalist wants to talk with you about “your unique qualities as a person,” which he’ll jot down in a book-in-progress about his year-long run as the museum’s Interpreter in Residence. In return, he asks that you grab a sharp knife and carve something, anything into his wood desk. September 5, 10am-5 pm. Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 5550 South Greenwood. 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: Vision and Communism/Smart Museum of Art

Hyde Park No Comments »

Victor Koretsky, Untitled, c. 1960s. Ne boltai! Collection.


“Propaganda is hyperbole rendered urgent,” according to the exhibition’s catalogue, written collectively by a team of art historians, curators and media studies professors, accompanying the Smart Museum’s “Vision and Communism.” The exhibition centers on Cold War posters and maquettes by Soviet cultural worker Viktor Koretsky, and is the Smart’s contribution to the citywide conversation regarding the visual language of Russian posters, The Soviet Arts Experience. Koretsky’s incendiary posters take aim at the myth of capitalist democracy and give shape to its external threat (whereas more common Soviet realist images exhorted workers toward productivity) to the communist vision with images of Klansmen hugging bombs, a black man about to be hung by a rope in the shape of a dollar sign, and unemployment lines. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Warholian Summer

Painting, Photography 1 Comment »

Andy Warhol, "Self-Portrait," 1986, Polaroid Polacolor print. Collection of Helyn and Ralph Goldenberg.

By Jason Foumberg

A pilgrimage to view all the Andy Warhol exhibitions around Chicago this summer will take you from tourist-laden Streeterville to tree-lined Hyde Park to the suburban flatlands of Glen Ellyn. There was no citywide master plan to the coordinated showing of Warhol’s works (unlike the recent thematic, “The Soviet Experience”), but the concurrence evidences the artist’s durable popularity. Warhol is a go-to name brand that bodes well for museums and sits well with the public. The three exhibitions, though, focus on his later work, from the mid-1970s through the 1980s, well after the Marilyns and soup cans. Unlike last year’s “Andy Warhol: The Last Decade,” presented by the Milwaukee Art Museum, which surveyed the artist’s uneven career in the 1980s, the current exhibitions do well to hone in on smaller bodies of specific work, such as his documentary street photography and the shadow paintings series. These boutique exhibitions refine Warhol’s over-prolific output to pointed theses, revealing that, although everything and anything could be the subject of a Warhol artwork, he is enjoyably digested in small doses rather than a glut of a retrospective. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Digital Buddha

Hyde Park, Installation, Multimedia 1 Comment »

3-D digital reconstruction from east wall altar, South Cave, Northern Xiangtangshan, with missing fragments shown in yellow. Image by Jason Salavon and Travis Saul.

By Chris Miller

In 1909, distinguished poet and orientalist Victor Segalen, author of “La Grande Statuaire chinoise,” found himself and a colleague alone with a splendid statue of the Buddha in a remote shrine in China. Despite some damage to the torso, “its profile had retained its nobility, its eyes their gaze, the smile of its mouth its generous sweetness and a kind of irony.” Immediately they knew what they had to do. “This statue, we must have it! We will not leave without it!” Removing an axe from their luggage, Segalen began chopping at the neck. The noise attracted the attention of two locals, who showed Segalen how to apply wedges and wooden blocks to make the work so much easier.

Imagine that process repeated tens of thousands of times in grottos and temples throughout China in the early twentieth century. Plunderers carted off entire shrines, servicing the hot European market for world art. The chopped-off heads, hands, whatever, eventually entered the collections of far-flung museums, including American.

But times have changed. The pioneering scholar of Japanese Buddhist art, Ernest Fenellosa (1853-1908) believed that “we are approaching the time when the art work of all the world of man may be looked upon as one, as infinite variations in a single kind of mental and social effort.” Modern scholars, though, are more likely to agree with Sir Edmund Leach (1910-1989): “Works of art are not just things in themselves, they are objects carrying moral implications. What the moral implication is depends upon where they are.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Top 5 of Everything 2010: Art

News etc., Top 5 Lists No Comments »

Lilli Carré: Untitled, 2010, screen print, 8 x 8 inches. Photo by Angee Leonnard.

Top 5 People and Places We’ll Miss
Kathryn Hixson
David Weinberg Gallery
Rowley Kennerk Gallery
Green Lantern Gallery
James Garrett Faulkner
—Jason Foumberg

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
—Jason Foumberg

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 »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2009: Art & Museums

News etc., Top 5 Lists 5 Comments »

Top 5 Museum Showsolafur_eliasson-one-way_colour_tunnel-2007
Olafur Eliasson, Museum of Contemporary Art
Your Pal, Cliff: Selections from the H.C. Westermann Study Collection, Smart Museum
Paul Chan, Renaissance Society
Mary Lou Zelazny, Hyde Park Art Center
James Castle: A Retrospective, Art Institute of Chicago
—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Gallery Shows
Rob Carter, Ebersmoore Gallery
Big Youth, Corbett vs. Dempsey
Sarah Krepp, Roy Boyd Gallery
Everybody! Visual resistance in feminist health movements, 1969-2009, I Space
Ali Bailey, Golden Gallery
—Jason Foumberg Read the rest of this entry »

At Zeroes End: Art in Chicago, 2000–2009

News etc. 4 Comments »


By Jason Foumberg

Jin Lee, "Ice 2," 2008. Courtesy devening projects + editions, Chicago

Jin Lee, "Ice 2," 2008. Courtesy devening projects + editions, Chicago

Art is long, but institutional memory is short. In many ways, Chicago’s art history is written as it occurs, in situ, by the people who produce it. Artists toil in their studios, heads-down. Apartment galleries open and close as briskly as the seasons change. We consume one-night-only events by the half-dozen, like so many bottles of free Grolsch beer. Even as new art blogs proliferate, with more scenes being represented than ever before, the snapshot commentary and weekly content often feels dated by week’s end. And yet, paintings aren’t bubblegum summer jams; they’re codified slabs of culture, philosophy and style. We seek dialogue, inspiration and long-term change. In short, we seek longevity, with lasting importance for our work and our peers’—but who has time to write contemporary history while we’re in the midst of making it?

That said, Chicago loves its art history. Outsiders, Imagists, Modernists and firebrands—memorize their precepts and you’re halfway to an MFA degree (however, please don’t leave Chicago once you earn the other half). Our traditions always feel in danger of becoming tinder for the next great fire, so we hand-cobble our history and share the stories orally like a rite of passage. This is to our strength and our detriment. History is our bind. We don’t trash Paschke or cold-shoulder Mies because we’ve worked so hard to carry their legacies. In many global art centers, successive generations of artists break with the past like rebellious teenagers, but Chicagoans do not. Here, innovation comes from influence and education. Doing otherwise, it would feel as if the whole thing could unravel.

As we approach the end of the century’s first decade, it’s time to take census of our situation. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Smartland

Hyde Park, Multimedia No Comments »
Scott Hocking, Ziggurat—East, Summer, Fisher Body Plant #21, 2008, Archival digital print.

Scott Hocking, "Ziggurat—East, Summer, Fisher Body Plant #21," 2008, archival digital print.

By Jason Foumberg

The CIA used art—yes, visual art!—as a strategy during the Cold War. Abstract Expressionism at first, then Rauschenberg and Johns, were exported to European venues in a power play of cultural might. What could be more impressive than those giant, domineering canvases oozing self-expression and painterly freedom? With the help of the CIA, Americans won prizes and audiences abroad, including the prestigious Biennale.

If cultural colonialism is what it takes to be heard the world over, then so be it. “Heartland,” an exhibition of contemporary Midwestern art, co-organized by Chicago’s Smart Museum and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Netherlands, proves the method still viable in 2009. If the scene in Los Angeles can get a retrospective at Paris’ Centre Pompidou, in 2006, then the Dutch can surely claim the Midwest. “Heartland” opened overseas first, and is now on view here. It was an unexpected collaboration, but one that bore fruit. Midwestern art got to strut on the international stage and European artists, in turn, produced art inspired by the Midwestern spirit.

What, exactly, is the contemporary Midwestern aesthetic? Don’t say American Gothic. Don’t draw corn and cows. “Heartland” thankfully plows through these stereotypes. When the topics of farming (Marjetica Potrc) and cow hides (Carol Jackson) inevitably arise, though, the artists cleverly treat them as ready-built canvases upon which to elaborate sociological projects. Otherwise, the curators have taken great care to expand the definition of “the Midwest.” From Minneapolis to Detroit, down the Mississippi to New Orleans (a geography traced by the curators), and in locales rural and urban, the Midwest of today encapsulates America’s complexities: boom and bust, political profiteering and progress, community can-do-ism and unfettered violence, homestead pride and gang turf wars, urban decay and renewal. Maybe more than a little bit of that inventive pioneering spirit does survive. Read the rest of this entry »

The Forecast: Fair or Foul?

Art Fairs No Comments »

art-chicago-08-crowds-1Compiled by Jason Foumberg

I asked art fair participants and insiders to make predictions for this year’s fair. At turns grim and hopeful, the responses present a slice of Chicago’s varied interests.

Brian Sholis, Art Critic: I suspect this year’s fair will be a cake of apprehension and worry frosted with taut smiles and outward expressions of hope.

Britton Bertran, Curator and Dealer: Commodity expectations are at their lowest and artists will do whatever they can to be heard in the loudest possible way. But what might be more interesting is when galleries and other enablers (non-artists) start to rear their own heads in protest and anger without repercussions from their own enablers (those that run these fairs). But what are they protesting against?

Carl Baratta, Artist: Everything will be at least competent except the free drinks. They will be perfect. Read the rest of this entry »