Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Open House: Art Collectors as Curators

Hyde Park, News etc., Rogers Park No Comments »

"Living Room" at Swimming Pool Project Space

By Jason Foumberg

A new breed of curator is emerging: the art collector. It’s almost standard practice for private collections to make their way into public museums by way of vanity exhibitions, even if they sometimes cause controversy, such as the Greek entrepreneur Dakis Joannou’s current collection show at New York’s New Museum. More often than not, though, such shows barely register on the critical radar even though they (seemingly) violate some ethical boundary of public trust.

In Chicago, the city of alternatives, private exhibition spaces in domestic settings abound. This is the reverse of the Joannou conflict—inviting the public into private spaces—but it may mark a relaxing of those taut and fraught lines of art ownership.

On the grand scale, there’s The Richard H. Driehaus Museum in a River North mansion that houses its namesake’s decorative arts collection. On a smaller scale, but more profuse, are the dozens of citywide temporary art spaces found in apartments and homes. A couple of surprising new art spaces, in collectors’ homes, opens the door to a deeper understanding of the collector as curator. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Lauren Gregory/Swimming Pool Project Space

Albany Park, Painting, Video 1 Comment »


I like Lauren Gregory’s art, and you may wonder what the point of reading any further could possibly be; I’ll tell you. It’s different. Not different, like bad, like what we think people say when they have nothing more intelligible to offer, but this may actually be something different, something you’ve never seen before. There’s something striking about seeing thickly finger-painted oils on a canvass of faux fur, maybe even be primal. My first impression of “Man,” an oil on fur, was that it was a cave painting, made just after we started traveling, perhaps on our way to becoming nomads; we strung up canvasses of freshly skinned whatever-it-was we were eating for dinner back then, and painted on it.

But that was just my first impression. Gregory’s work makes you think. It’s possible that you may never want to have “Mother” on your wall, but you’d have no problem engaging in suddenly frequent trips to your friend’s house to see it on theirs. It’s almost nightmarish, some of what she creates, but those so-compelling nightmares we continue to visit fondly, if only because sharing stories can be so entertaining. 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 »

Review: John Chiara and Sean McFarland/Swimming Pool Project Space

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John Chiara

John Chiara


This two-person show is a conceptually rather than aesthetically driven conversation between two Bay-area photographers who use experimental methods to capture uncanny landscapes. John Chiara’s epic, faded Cibachrome prints of ocean and suburbs are taken with immense homemade cameras, limiting his options for subjects to places he can drive or hold the camera, creating off-kilter, alienating compositions. His prints themselves, developed in similarly unorthodox homemade tubes, illuminate the materiality of the images with unpredictable, washed-out colors and the marks and smears left by uneven developing chemicals. Where Chiara’s photos are delicate and ephemeral, Sean McFarland’s are all cold-edged and sublime. His process involves piecing together digital images (some his, some found) to create images of lightning storms and aerial shots of various topographies, which he then re-shoots as black-and-white Polaroids to produce a consistent fictional documentary. It’s a smart pairing, intellectually, given the concern of both artists with the deconstruction and extension of the photographic medium, but McFarland’s photographs are trickier; his process isn’t obvious or even suggested by the final images, which look like straightforward snapshots, leading to the question: must we know how an image is constructed in order to best appreciate it? (Monica Westin)

Through November 29 at Swimming Pool Project Space, 2858 W. Montrose.

Eye Exam: All in a Night’s Work

Lincoln Square, Multimedia No Comments »
Jeffrey Grauel

Jeffrey Grauel

By Justin Natale

“I guarantee you, somebody will get lost.” It is Saturday evening and, as I stand on the platform at the Belmont station, a CTA employee with a sense of humor boisterously informs people of re-routed station arrivals. Trains of all colors and directions converge on just one platform. It shouldn’t be so difficult, but as I look around, hedging my bets on who I believe most likely to take the wrong train, the dual meanings of ‘get lost’ seem, for the first time, equally accessible.

Somewhere between a four-course meal and the Belmont disarray was “GroupSOLO,” at Swimming Pool Project Space, a rotation of four exhibitions within a single gallery, each lasting just one hour. In between acts the curtain did not drop and the house lights did not dim. Two preparators employed by the Art Institute of Chicago, Aza Quinn-Brauner and Daniel Baird, brought their gear in full view. Any notion of the pristine white -cube gallery—though it barely exists in the blue-painted Pool—was totally dismantled. If you’ve ever shown art in any type of gallery at any point in your career, you know that it always seems to come down to the last minute. In “GroupSOLO,” there were four of these. Read the rest of this entry »

Breakout Artists 2009: Chicago’s next generation of image makers

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Layout 1By Jason Foumberg

You’re not going to find an abstract painter in the bunch of this year’s breakout artists. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s getting difficult to define the value of traditional, solo practices in the age of the networked artist. Today’s image makers are less studio artists than opportunists in the expanded field, less gatekeepers of taste than trailblazers in the public sphere—“social entrepreneurs,” as Mike Bancroft calls it. The timing is just right. As this feature is printed, Chicago’s renowned but diminished commercial art fair has opened its doors to include the city’s beloved alternative, artist run and non-profit spaces. The market’s embers are cooling off, and for many that smells like opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Making the Show, Three Times Over

Galleries & Museums 1 Comment »
Lucia Fabio

Lucia Fabio

By Damien James

“I’m really nervous,” says Lucia Fabio, director of Mini Dutch Gallery, when asked how she feels about “metabolizing” the artwork of EC Brown. As she looks at Brown’s paintings on the walls of Mini Dutch, her admiration is palpable. “Erik’s work is amazing. You don’t see drafting skills like his often. His odd, elongated panels and color palettes are always so intriguing, and I’m really fond of the sexual undertone to his work.”

Billed as “one show: three openings,” the current Mini Dutch exhibition started with the EC Brown solo show, then came the “metabolizing,” in which Fabio responded to Brown’s work by creating new pieces of her own and re-curating the show, like a call-and-response between the two artists.

Fabio’s nervousness can’t be contributed solely to showing with Brown, however. She hadn’t produced much work on paper since graduating from The School of the Art Institute, in 2007, opting instead for large-scale paintings and sculptures, often inspired by her pet rabbits. “While in school I focused mainly on the figure, but near the end became so fed up with the system and with making ‘meaningful’ work that I painted my female rabbit, Patina, mounting my male rabbit, Fujoe, on the wall. It measured nine feet by ten feet, and it was such a relief.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Steven Frost/Swimming Pool Project Space

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Steven Frost’s merit badges are modeled on the patches that Boy Scouts receive for community service and educational efforts—archery, first aid, insect study, and so on; but Frost’s badges are far from these traditional do-gooder achievements. Instead, he commemorates the trivial junk of daily life. There’s the “Looking for Yourself in Missed Connections Badge,” and the “Badge for Losing Your Phone on the Chinatown Bus.” There’s a badge to recognize sexual fantasies and some are constructed from designer knock-off materials such as the Louis Vuitton logo pattern. It seems all the badges are granted for un-fulfillments rather than exceptional efforts. For the slacker class (over-praised by mommy, can’t fill daddy’s shoes), where irony is currency, these patches will look perfect fixed on pre-faded jeans and thrift-shop cardigans. Frost is new to Chicago, having moved recently from D.C. to earn a master’s degree in fiber art, where he’ll be the easy descendant of Darrel Morris’ embroidered anti-heroic mementos of insecurity. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Young Sun Han

Artist Profiles No Comments »

embraceBy Jason Foumberg

Artist Young Sun Han placed a Craigslist ad for a stranger to engage in a twenty-four-hour sustained hug. After receiving several responses, Young invited Gerald O. Heller to participate. Though not an artist himself, Gerald was comfortable with endurance practices, having run thirteen marathon races. The two men began their embrace on December 30 at midnight, and after moving through several emotional phases of excitement, physical fatigue and mental boredom (they agreed to remain silent), comfort, and finally, impatience, Young and Gerald released on December 31 as a crowd counted down the last seconds of 2008.

The world record for the longest embrace is twenty-four hours and one minute, a duration that could have easily been exceeded here, but that was not Young’s intention with his performance. Instead, he wished to heighten a hug’s normally fleeting physical sensation; even the most heartfelt hugs between mothers and sons last only a few seconds; even as we spoon with lovers, who we may have known for a lifetime or for one night, we must eventually push away. At which point does a hug or a handshake become uncomfortable or even taboo? Young wished to fight the internal stopwatch, commanded by cultural conventions, and invited the public to watch.

Since the performance, Young has returned to Auckland, New Zealand, where he is a permanent resident and has lived for the past two years. The Skokie-native runs an art gallery there, called City Art Rooms, a spacious white cube with large arching windows, with Kylie Sanderson, wherein they exhibit the work of emerging artists. While earning his art degree in Chicago, at the School of the Art Institute, Young worked on a project that also extended for twenty-four hours. He hit the streets of the city and engaged twenty-four strangers for one hour each, learning as much about them as a casual conversation would allow, and they about him. He then photographed them, and moved on. The idea of the stranger also figures in to his 2004–05 double-portrait series of couples that Young approached almost at random and photographed in their domestic settings.

chimeraNow, with the hugging performance, the complexities of intimacy are given full expression. At times Gerald, a tall 64-year-old Caucasian, felt like the contours of past lovers or even of the artist’s father, says Young, a twenty-something Korean-American. Also on view in the gallery space was a projection of a self-portrait. Here, Young has a red sheet over his head like a child’s ghost costume, with three holes ripped in it: two for eyes and one for his dick, protruding gloryhole-like. The photographic print could easily extend commentary on anonymous Internet sex sites, like Craigslist, where Young met Jerry, where identity is shrouded during a transaction of pleasure. The ghost looks strikingly like a Klan member, so that the gay ghost comes to represent the self-loathing and internalized shame inherent in some repressed homosexual desire. Too often, though, gay identity becomes over-sexualized, and is maintained as a simultaneous concealment and exposure; the public image of the sanitized and witty gay seems nothing like the haunting image of symbolic ancestors dead from disease.

In his artist statement, Young writes that art saved his life. In fact it gave him direction, and freedom. Perhaps to be sincere is uncool, said Young when I asked him about the sentimentality of his projects, which are refreshingly devoid of hip irony. Indeed, they are genuine endeavors. During the culmination of the hugging performance, onlookers engaged each other in a group hug.

Young Sun Han shows at Swimming Pool Project Space, 2858 W. Montrose, through January 31.

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2008: Art & Museums

News etc., Top 5 Lists No Comments »

Top 5 Exhibitions

Anne Wilson, Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Watercolors by Winslow Homer, Art Institute of Chicago

“Adaptation,” Smart Museum

Chuck Walker, Hyde Park Art Center

Mark Wagner, Western Exhibitions

—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Art Shows

Jenny Holzer, “Protect, Protect,” Museum of Contemporary Art

Edra Soto, “The Soto-Chacon Show,” Rowland Contemporary Gallery

Alan Lerner, Art on Armitage

“Made in Chicago: Portraits form the Bank of America,” LaSalle Collection/Chicago Cultural Center

“Benin—Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria,” Art Institute of Chicago

—Marla Seidell

Top Five Photography Shows

Delilah Montoya, La Llorona Gallery

Jowhara Alsaud, Schneider Gallery

Frederic Chaubin, Chicago Architecture Foundation

Jill Frank, Golden Gallery

Carla Gannis, Kasia Kay Art Projects

—Michael Weinstein

Top 5 Museum Shows

“The Smart Home: Green + Wired,” Museum of Science and Industry

“Chic Chicago,” Chicago History Museum

“The Glass Experience,” Museum of Science and Industry

“Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam War,” DuSable Museum

“Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters,” Field Museum

—Laura Hawbaker

Top 5 Museum Shows

Edward Hopper, Art Institute

“Twisted Into Recognition: Clichés of Jews and Others,” Spertus Museum

“Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light,” Art Institute

“Earth From Space,” Museum of Science and Industry

“Benin—Kings and Rituals: Court Arts from Nigeria,” Art Institute

—Dennis Polkow

Top 5 Freshest Art Spaces

Swimming Pool Project Space

Old Gold

Hyde Park Art Center

65 Grand

No Coast

—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Art Spaces We’ll Miss



Garden Fresh

Contemporary Art Workshop

32nd & Urban

—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Contemporary Art Exhibitions about Nature

“Biological Agents” at Gallery 400

Lora Fosberg at Linda Warren Gallery

“The Leaf and the Page,” Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery

“Future Farmers,” Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Claire Sherman, Kavi Gupta Gallery

—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Art Exhibitions About Food

Maria Tomasula, Zolla/Lieberman Gallery

“Portraying Food in Contemporary Chinese Art,” Walsh Gallery

“Sugarcraft,” Kasia Kay Art Projects Gallery

Pamela Michelle Johnson, Urbanest

Isabelle du Toit, Byron Roche Gallery

—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Feminist Art Exhibitions

“Ladylike,” Gosia Koscielak Gallery

“Henbane: Dialectics of the Feminine Sublime,” Medicine Park

“Are We There Yet? 40 Years of Feminism,” ARC Gallery

Amelia Falk, ARC Gallery

“A Minyan Without Men,” Woman Made Gallery

—Jason Foumberg

Top 5 Exhibitions/Events at Alt-Art Spaces

“Tomorrow,” Vega Estates

“The Baby,” Knock Knock Gallery

“Pere Portabella’s Masterpiece Vampir-Cuadecuc,” White Light Cinema

Sumi Ink Club and Lucky Dragons, Golden Age

“Zummer Tapez: Jim Trainor,” Roots and Culture

 —Tim Ridlen