Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Cities Built Within Galleries

Installation, Sculpture, Wicker Park/Bucktown No Comments »
Diane Simpson. "Window Dressing" at Monique Meloche

Diane Simpson. “Window Dressing: Apron 1,” oil stain on MDF, polyester fabric; and “Window Dressing: Bib-doodle,” gatorfoam board, hardboard, wallpaper, enamel, ink

By Matt Morris

It’s often said around town that Chicago has two seasons: winter and construction. The architectural epicenter where we reside explodes into transformation in the warm months, as buildings, roads and public spaces undergo restructuring. A few exhibitions on view right now conspire to reflect this construction condition by taking built environments and our habitation of them as points of departure. The artworks’ proximity to source materials is a useful measurement in distinguishing where a quirky meta-criticality is achieved, and where sometimes the experience at hand is burdened by its references. Read the rest of this entry »

News: Deadline Alert for Propeller Fund Grants

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The Franklin, an alternative gallery space in East Garfield Park, was a 2012 Propeller Fund recipient

The Franklin, an alternative gallery space in East Garfield Park, was a 2012 Propeller Fund recipient

Now in its fifth year, the Propeller Fund is offering two info sessions in advance of the August 1 deadline for 2014 applications. The first one is June 18 at the Hyde Park Art Center at 6 pm (5020 South Cornell). Grant administrator Abigail Satinsky will give a presentation that provides a basic overview of the application, offer discussion about eligibility for the award, and stick around for a Q&A.

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News: Weekend Roundup of Auctions and Parties

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one of the Deb Sokolow "scraps" available at SCRAP HEAP II at Tusk tomorrow

one of the Deb Sokolow “scraps” available at SCRAP HEAP II at Tusk tomorrow

This Saturday, June 7, events all over the city provide opportunities to see (and maybe score) artworks by some of Chicago’s best-loved, rapidly ascending and generous contemporary artists.

Sofia Leiby has organized the second iteration of SCRAP HEAP in which she culls “scraps,” sketches and small artworks by artists that are for sale for $20 or less. The full amount of proceeds go directly to each artist, making this an experimental marketplace that invites appreciation and consideration of the fragments and preliminary gestures found in artists’ studios. Artists include Lauren Anderson, Leslie Baum, Edmund Chia, Ryan Travis Christian, Chelsea Culp+Ben Foch, Dan Devening, Ron Ewert, Andrew Falkowski, Aron Gent, Magalie Guerin, Steven Husby, Josh Ippel, Emre Kocagil, Chad Kouri, Sofia Leiby, Sarah Anne Lobb, Aya Nakamura, Heidi Norton, Kayla Parker, Josh Reames, Tyson Reeder, Noah Rorem, Talia Shulze, Deb Sokolow, Cody Tumblin, Molly Welsh and more. SCRAP HEAP II is hosted by Tusk, 3205 West Armitage, Saturday June 7, from 11am–5 pm. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Harold Mendez/Threewalls

West Loop No Comments »

but I sound better (newsletter)

RECOMMENDED

With a material list including “graphite, reclaimed exhaust hose, soot, food matter, vegetable oil, hand ground Cochineal insects and tri-directional foil,” you know you’re dealing with a special kind of artist.

Harold Mendez is a writer and no doubt an avid reader, and an artist working across several visual media. His conceptually driven work draws from Beckett, Basquiat, Simone de Beauvior and on, and on and on. Fascinated by narrative construction, Mendez is a text-heavy artist who gives titles to his works that are both loaded and vague. The exhibition, titled “But I Sound Better Since You Cut My Throat,” incorporates diverse techniques and materials, but all evince a dark, ambiguous spirit. Eerie pinhole photographs hum with deep blacks, lens flares, sparks and shadows. A couple of large-scale, mostly monochrome mixed-media pieces hang on the walls and a chunky, prehistoric-looking sculpture sits on the floor in the main gallery. It’s the piece with the hand ground Cochineal insects. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Faith Wilding/Threewalls

Drawings, Performance, West Loop No Comments »
Installation view. Photo: Clare Britt

Installation view. Photo: Clare Britt

RECOMMENDED

The comedian Brian Regan once recalled describing his symptoms to the doctor: “It feels like everything on my inside wants to be on my outside.” Switch that from physical to emotional feelings and you have the work of prominent feminist, writer, teacher and artist, Faith Wilding, whose impressive sampling of her enormous life’s work is on display in a retrospective exhibition.

In 1972, Wilding participated in the groundbreaking feminist exhibition Womanhouse, the first public showcase of feminist art, in Los Angeles. There she performed “Waiting,” a highly influential piece that continues to have resonance today. Wilding’s work has been shown in major feminist art exhibitions over the last forty years and continues to hold sway in contemporary feminist discourse. Because of her accomplishments, the Women’s Caucus for Art is awarding her a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Inevitably, Wilding’s renowned feminist background coats the show with political and historical overtones. However, her artwork also stands tall on a separate stage: that of Faith Wilding’s impassioned journey through life. Bodies, plants, moths and horses memorialize loss, catharsis, transformation and renewal. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Galleries Out, Curators In, and Other Artist News

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Laura Letinsky's dinner service from Artware Editions

Laura Letinsky’s dinner service from Artware Editions

By Jason Foumberg

Threewalls Relocation Hiccup
This summer the artist-run non-profit gallery and cornerstone of the West Loop district Threewalls shuttered its exhibition programming to search for a new, expanded location. They hosted a ten-year-anniversary fundraising party to do so, but have been unable to secure a space. Executive director Shannon Stratton says there have been “real possibilities and fairly involved negotiations that fell through” on real estate, including a promising space west of the West Loop near Union Park. Threewalls plans to continue looking for a new location and be moved in by September of 2014. Meanwhile, they remain at 119 North Peoria, with a Faith Wilding retrospective opening in January.

A Funeral for Roxaboxen
The artist-run Pilsen gallery housed in a former funeral parlor, “with a piqued façade that makes it look like a little castle,” is closing after three years of exhibition programming. Roxaboxen, founded in 2009 by Liz McCarthy, Kyle Stephens and Miranda Stokes, was a live/work space with artist studios, yoga classes and stitching parties. They hosted dozens of solo and group exhibitions of original programming, such as the “Splay” and “Grow in the Dark” shows, ACRE resident exhibitions, and participated in the MDW fair. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Andrew Norman Wilson/Threewalls

Installation, West Loop No Comments »

Wilson_002RECOMMENDED

The center of Andrew Norman Wilson’s newest exhibition—or “town,” as he calls it—is its press release, a masterful cultural critique that is a “play” placing the artist at the center of the narrative of the exhibition’s conception to completion. Visitors to the town are faced with a collection of seemingly incongruous elements (including live Gloster canaries, a cat tree, orchids, FedEx boxes, hot dogs, baseball cards, bottled water, televisions, and two hired interns hawking bootlegged Ashton Kutcher movies in North Face) that parody the chaotic randomness of corporate branding and PR language. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of the Artist: Mary Patten

Artist Profiles No Comments »

Panel1

It was something of a spectacle. In 1975 the American counterculture gathered at Columbia University in New York for a symposium on the subject of madness and prisons. “I didn’t realize it at first, but I was looking for a way out of academia,” Sylvère Lotringer remembers. Professor of French literature and philosophy at Columbia and editor of the avant-garde journal Semiotext(e), Lotringer organized the “Schizo-Culture” conference as a way to discuss the practice of torture conducted in psychiatric and penal institutions. He invited a medley of street and academia, grassroots activists and radical philosophers, for a colloquium that itself dissolved into madness. “Are you a writer or are you a militant?” Michel Foucault asked the mob of more than two-thousand participants. “I think that question is passé.”

Thirty years after this event, Chicago artist, activist and educator Mary Patten revives the forgotten dialogue of “Schizo-Culture.” In her four-channel video installation, titled “Panel,” she directed four performers to re-enact the debate among Foucault, the post-structuralist philosopher; R. D. Laing, radical anti-psychiatrist; Howie Harp, former mental patient; and political activist Judy Clark. The setting is austere—white table, glass water pitcher, cigarette, ashtray, notebook, pen. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Handmade Art for the Holidaze

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By Jason Foumberg

I’m a fan of skipping the line at Old Navy and buying from local artists for the holidays. Even atheists can partake.

For the Kitchen

Placemat by Karolina Gnatowski

ThreeWalls, one of Chicago’s best showcases of local emerging artists, offers a chance to creatively dress up your dining-room table while supporting its dynamic programming. The holiday edition of their Community Supported Art series includes a placemat, a bowl, a cup and a plate, all created by Chicago-based artists in a limited edition of thirty. Karolina Gnatowski’s placemat humorously takes into account the role of “place,” with arms and hands that reach toward the floor, thereby completing the circle among diner, dinner and home. Mindy Rose Schwartz’s dribble cup cheekily pokes a hole in the concept of “functional objects,” whereas a bowl by reclaimed-wood worker John Preus and a plate by noted sculptor Christine Tarkowski are so visually stylized they may end up on a collector’s shelf rather than a kitchen cabinet. In 2004, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum produced an exhibition titled “Design(does not equal) Art: Functional Objects from Donald Judd to Rachel Whiteread.” ThreeWalls’ current CSA adds a chapter to that alternative history of contemporary art/design. Try out your new place-setting at a ThreeWalls holiday meal on December 15 at the Stew Supper Club. $400 for the complete place-setting, and $100 for the holiday meal, at three-walls.org.

Lillstreet’s thirty-seventh annual holiday exhibition focuses on ceramic objects and sculptures by more than twenty-five artists, ranging from traditional to experimental takes on classics like plates, mugs and teakettles. Through December 31 at Lillstreet, 4401 North Ravenswood. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Second to None

Art Fairs No Comments »

Jake Myers rides glacier sculpture

By Jason Foumberg

Did you know that the South Side MDW airport predates ORD? Whatever the metaphor, last weekend’s MDW Fair—the third iteration in two years—was the best it’s been yet and a very promising showing of Chicago’s dynamic creative population. With organizational duties shared among the Public Media Institute (Ed and Rachael Marszewski), Document (Aron Gent’s photo publishing business), Roots and Culture, and ThreeWalls, the fair’s conglomerated energy made me hopeful for the future of this art fair and Chicago’s independent art culture. In total, it was a fun event, and I hesitate getting overly serious about the MDW Fair’s consequences or meanings, even if the success of the fair means serious business for all involved. A few observations and reflections:

MDW Fair trend #1: Affordable art. From the publications tables downstairs, which featured low-cost published multiples and artists’ books, to low-priced prints throughout the fair—prints at $5 to $25 and a large-scale sculpture at $500 (John Harms’ “Kissing Booth”)—participants gladly realized the appropriate economy of scale for this alternative art fair. Read the rest of this entry »