Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Review: Alan and Michael Fleming/Threewalls

Installation, Performance, West Loop No Comments »

Alan and Michael Fleming are twins recently separated by residences in Brooklyn and Chicago. Attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a joint entity, the pair have exhibited work in a range of venues including the MCA and the Sullivan Galleries at SAIC. Reflecting on their various attachments and detachments as brothers and artists, the exhibition “GAME ON” introduces the Fleming Brothers construct as an in-joke.

Distributed throughout the gallery is a year-long archive of postcards, videos, household furniture, drawings and sculptures produced by Alan and Michael since their separation in 2011. Confronting their binded intuition as twins, the Fleming Brothers aim to “map their distance” through body molds and algorithmic sketches reflecting a “disjointed studio practice” drawn from phone calls and psychic conversations—a physical representation of an innate mental and emotional oneness. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Laura Mackin/Three Walls

Multimedia, Photography, West Loop No Comments »


Images flash by in an instant, zooming in on the random minutiae of a life. A cat playing on a fence, the scenic backdrop of a mountain range, a happy couple in wedded matrimony. Laura Mackin’s video “Zoom (Dean 1962-2006)” from her solo exhibition, “120 Years,” splices, edits and reconfigures the personal home videos of a stranger named Dean. Mackin rearranges Dean’s films and edits in zoomed images, creating a disjunctive visual experience. However random or specific the scenes that Dean chooses to zoom in on, they are still oddly familiar. Moments from an anonymous life read like the images we keep in our own memory of blurred impressions, arbitrarily conjoined, resurfacing fleetingly. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Zachary Cahill/Threewalls

Installation, West Loop 1 Comment »


Zachary Cahill’s über-conceptual installation at Threewalls is only a partial representation of the artist’s long-term project: his satirical, and inevitably impossible, efforts to found an orphanage on Chicago’s South Side, along with vivid imaginings and permutations of said orphanage explored through seemingly limitless media. The project’s scope as a whole is so big that the word “conceit” seems too understated to encapsulate what Cahill is up to; even a long, dense exhibition essay by Joan Copjec herself, citing everyone from Bourdieu and Lacan to Newt Gingrich, and interweaving arguments about late capitalism and the relationship between museums and orphanages, seems dissatisfied with its own encapsulation with the project. The exhibition, “USSA 2012: The Orphanage Project,” according to only some of the available literature about the show, is rooted in or speaks to notions of art’s use-value, relational aesthetics, 1990s neo-conservatism, various branches of neo-Marxism, governmentality, and the model of the art exhibition itself, all embodied in an overwhelming mass of pseudo-documentation and mixed-media installation riffing off this fictional hyper-institutional orphanage. 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 »

Review: Things To Be Next To/Three Walls

Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »

Alberto Aguilar


Whether an artwork is dazzling or alienating, spectators keep a certain distance and rarely visit a gallery simply to be close to art. Nonetheless, “Things To Be Next To” at Three Walls accurately describes the experience of this exhibition, which imparts a feeling of closeness through ordinary materials and simple installation. The show includes sculptures and photographs by Alberto Aguilar and Peter Fagundo from Chicago, as well as Warren Rosser and James Woodfill from Kansas City. From Fagundo’s stretched electric blanket to Aguilar’s stack of old books, the artwork is culled from the things that pile in garages and fill basements. Aguilar’s simple gesture of stacking and photographing these objects and Fagundo’s poetic titles like “she lays under the sun, i lay under the moon,” make these objects appear cared for and valued, even having outlived their usefulness. And a narrative emerges, about a family, from these random stacks of broken furniture and discarded toys: children are grown, a chair goes unused, and a cat balances atop half-unpacked boxes. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Kelly Kaczynski/Three Walls

Installation, Photography, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »

photo by Cole Pierce


Viewers familiar with Kelly Kaczynski’s work might recall how previous segments of her ongoing conceptual play, “Olympus Manger,” span years and various venues, and invited guests to involve themselves in the works, becoming participants in actions that blurred the lines between performance, landscape and artwork. Walking around the stacked stages that fill Three Walls, however, it is difficult for the audience to know their role in Kaczynski’s latest installation, “The Stagehand’s Unseen.” Though created from the remnants of prior installations, this new stage asks nothing of its audience—rather, it fills the gallery with intimidating largesse, lopsidedly angling so as to force viewers to a distance. Those who edge close enough will find their own reflections peering back at them, inciting questions over where, exactly, the stagehands are and who, if not the audience, will be performing? Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Career Day

Art Schools, News etc. No Comments »

By Jason Foumberg

Wellington “Duke” Reiter moderated a panel discussion at the School of the Art Institute last Wednesday, April 7, just one day after announcing his resignation as the school’s president, a position in which he served for two years. The panel discussion, titled “Creative Economy: Galleries, Artists, & the Market,” was convened to give post-graduation career advice to art students and alumni. Much advice was prefaced with the phrase, “In this economy…,” reminding everyone that a multi-thousand dollar college degree does not itself fling open the doors of success. The “Creative Economy” panel was one visible manifestation of Reiter’s attempt to introduce concrete and realistic career awareness in an art world where tight-lipped luck often dominates.

The panel consisted of the cast of characters that an artist could expect to encounter among the various stages of a commercial art career. There was Shannon Stratton, founder and director of Three Walls; David Weinberg and Aaron Ott, gallerists from David Weinberg Gallery; Rhona Hoffman, a dealer with thirty-plus years of experience in Chicago; and Larry Fields, collector of contemporary art and museum philanthropist. They represented the several forces, extrinsic to an artist’s talent, that, in the best circumstances, guide an artist to commercial viability, from the experimental art space (Three Walls) to placement in museums and collectors’ homes (Larry Fields). 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: For the Common Good

Public Art, West Loop 1 Comment »
Poker night

Poker night

By Bert Stabler

Upon entering the opening reception for the collective InCUBATE’s new exhibition/event at ThreeWalls, “In Search of the Mundane,” the eponymous search proved neither long nor arduous. The first room in the gallery featured a table with chairs, a coffeemaker with mugs and a handwritten description of the evening’s main event, a trivia contest. Along the sides of the main gallery were two rows of chairs, and, at the end, a table for the trivia contest judges. Facing the judges’ table, on the near wall, hung a giant crossword puzzle that InCUBATE members had ordered rush delivery from Sky Mall magazine when they realized they needed to hang something there. The contest started fairly promptly, and I joined up with two strangers in order to display our lackluster knowledge of Cold War history, details in Moby Dick, British portraiture, sci-fi movies and romantic comedies. Oh, and the gallery’s smaller project room featured darts and a dartboard. To be sure, while they might not know the point of staging these events in a art gallery, this seemed to be an art show that average everyday Americans could hardly claim not to “get.”

And that word “everyday” is entirely the point. InCUBATE began in 2007 as a project of four graduate students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Ben Schaafsma, Abigail Satinsky, Roman Petruniak and Bryce Dwyer; their name is an acronym standing for Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and The Everyday. (Schaafsma passed away suddenly in 2008, but InCUBATE has continued, recently adding Matthew Joynt as a new fourth member.) Their mundane searching is informed by pragmatist philosophy. They draw inspiration from thinkers who combined theory with practice, such as Chicago’s own Jane Addams and John Dewey, as well as the eclectic Jesuit scholar Michel de Certeau and Allan Kaprow, the artist and writer best known for the so-called “Happenings” with which he was associated in the 1950s. InCUBATE’s place in contemporary art is among the ranks of “relational” artists, for whom the goal is not to generate artifacts or performances, but to facilitate interactive situations. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Phillip von Zweck/Three Walls

Painting, West Loop No Comments »


The tagline for Phillip von Zweck’s new solo exhibition at Three Walls, “The First Anniversary of the Fortieth Anniversary of May ’68 (in September),” is: “This show is a happy return to a way of working, a way of being an artist shelved a long time ago.” For von Zweck, this means a return to painting, a medium abandoned by the artist fifteen years ago and one of the most melancholy in the history of art. The “death of painting,” announced and renounced throughout the twentieth century, certainly shares the dynamic of deferral that haunts the political and historical events of May 1968. Yet the title itself seems to underline the probable failure of this reactionary turn, its disavowals and its latent conservatism. Von Zweck’s paintings, some abstract, one of a seal in the snow, another of an older man, mix with a few didactic pieces, such as a board with the following scrawled inscription, “How movements fail / lost potential / Romance / lost loves,” that calls further attention to a pervasive attitude of disappointment. Rather than some triumphant return to a way of working that reinstates the primacy of both the art object and the artist, von Zweck’s new paintings function as a eulogy for another (more radical? more optimistic?) body of work. Meant as a “corrective” gesture to his earlier, more conceptual style, The First Anniversary’s collection of traditional artworks reveals the hesitancy of a vulnerable artist reconsidering the legacy of his past insubordinations.  (Rachel Furnari)

Through October 10 at Three Walls, 119 N. Peoria