Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Eye Exam: Concrete Light

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

Studio Construct 188

By Regan Golden-McNerney

Since the 1970s, Barbara Kasten has been developing a distinct approach to abstract photography. Inspired by the simple forms used by Bauhaus artists from the 1930s, Kasten begins her process by arranging basic shapes and colored backdrops atop glass and mirrors. These “constructions” are photographed at dramatic angles, using traditional cameras and printed digitally. Kasten describes her work as “concrete photography” because her goal, as she explained in a recent interview with photographer Heidi Norton, is not to render the physical world immaterial, but to make something as ephemeral as light palpable as it bounces off reflective objects and surfaces. In her current exhibition at Tony Wight Gallery, Kasten’s photographs, created between 1974 and 2011, are linked together by her consistent approach and interest in light. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: In a Paperweight/Tony Wight Gallery

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

Daniel Gordon


The eleven images by seven photo-artists, working in color and black-and-white, in this decidedly modernist show, run the gamut from Sebastian Bremer’s illusionist abstraction of pulsing waves that breaks down into spiny curlicued lines on close inspection, to Daniel Gordon’s stunning surrealist image of confused dismemberment, “Blonde Wig.” In between are James Welling’s two elegant studies of etiolated flowers, Walead Beshty’s four  miniature geometric studies, Barbara Kasten’s layered and filmy abstraction, Tamara Halpern’s blurred, layered and segmented abstraction with surrealist overtones, and Sara VanDerBeek’s out-front surrealist construction of a headless torso covered by a draping scroll. Extremism in the cause of art wins here with “Blonde Wig,” in which the lightly curled and flowing tousled headdress bedecks an inverted, cracked, bandaged and disfigured mask of a young woman, whose eyes shine out at us eerily and the top of whose head is resting on a man’s extended arm. None of the images here is conceptual; they have their impacts, for the abstractionists, in the play of forms of visual perception—more or less reduced to pure shape—and, for the surrealists, in the unbridled dreamlike imagination, more or less nightmarish. (Michael Weinstein)

Through May 15 at Tony Wight Gallery, 845 W. Washington

Portrait of the Artist: Jason Salavon

Photography, West Loop No Comments »

"Portrait (Rembrandt)," 2009

Having gained repute for designing his own software processes to produce images that comment on art history and pop culture, Jason Salavon insists that information technology is, for him, “a means to an end,” although he admits to having “weird nerdy fun” manipulating the computer. His overarching end, says Salavon, is to “distill the complexity of life to make it more understandable.”

In his new digital photographic work on exhibit at Tony Wight Gallery, Salavon presents three works, each of which “averages” a number of different portraits by Rembrandt, Velazquez and van Dyck, respectively; that is, mashing them up into composite images in which the subjects come out etherealized into ghost-like figures bathed in incandescent auras. From normal viewing distance, the subjects are effaced, but on close inspection, the outlines of facial features are visible and a bit ghoulish. Salavon says that his intent was to set up a play between the styles of masters who were contemporaries, leaving it to viewers with a “cynical look” to judge that he has eliminated differences, and the more discerning to notice distinctions

Several years ago, Salavon embarked on a project to catalogue every centerfold from Playboy magazine into single images, one for each decade, as he has done here with the art-historical portraits. In the same body of work he blended seventy-six blowjob scenes, money shots and other pornographia. “Every Playboy Centerfold, the 1980s” recently graced the cover of a new book titled “Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching,” by Kelly Dennis.

Salavon also offers up three digital photographic images of simulated mammal skulls that were generated fully in the computer and represent no creature that has ever walked the earth. As with the composite portraits, the skulls are somewhat monstrous, all of them sporting a fang. Salavon says that he was seized by the conceit of filling in missing branches of the evolutionary tree. 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: Pop Sizzle Hum/Tony Wight Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »
Pamela Fraser, untitled (tearjerker), 2009, Acrylic on canvas

Pamela Fraser, "untitled (tearjerker)," 2009, Acrylic on canvas


If the fashion of the eighties has made a comeback (thank you very much Kanye West!), then it can be said that the palette of the eighties has likewise experienced a revival. However, unlike in fashion, this is not an unwelcome event. In “Honeypot,” Judy Ledgerwood takes up the challenge of making garish hot pink, bright blue and glittering gold paint all coexist peacefully. One look at her work and the exhibition title “Pop Sizzle Hum” makes sense. Pamela Fraser is represented by two paintings, both executed in metallic paints and both directional arrows. Certain rhetoric surrounding abstract painting may describe it as “pointing” to something exterior (landscape, figure, etc.), and Fraser humorously makes this explicit. Directly across the gallery from Ledgerwood and between the two canvases by Fraser, is Carrie Gundersdorf’s single canvas, “Star Trails–52 minutes.” The work is subdued in content, palette and paint handling, and doesn’t entirely benefit from the placement. Steven Husby (whom I have curated previously) shows two canvases. Both untitled, they are tightly held in a visual boil by his precise composition and technique. The paintings flex into and out of the visual plane and snap back to flat if you try to focus too hard. These four painters show the continued possibilities of abstraction and, more impressively, the viability of certain colors and their combinations left for dead decades ago. (Abraham Ritchie)

Through July 31 at Tony Wight Gallery, 119 N. Peoria

Review: Luke Dowd/Tony Wight Gallery

Prints, West Loop No Comments »

ld_untitled1Luke Dowd’s show “Happy Happy Sad Sad” is almost as simple as its title, comprised of a number of screen prints that depict close-ups of cut diamonds, mostly patterned but sometimes randomly placed in the composition. Perhaps the most impressive quality of these prints is the way they appear to reflect light, in a trompe l’oeil that draws attention to the artificial nature of a mechanically enhanced diamond (or at least its market value). Most of the prints appropriate a single color or two along with the black-and-white figures, but the most interesting ones make use of several bright hues in both foreground and background, where their placement can be additionally evocative—for example, one print includes the magenta, yellow, and teal of newsprint’s colored ink, evoking mass reproduction. Reproduction and the construction of uniformity in natural and man-made objects is of course the major trope of the show, so that the iteration and repetition marking the compositions is clever. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Scott Fife and Todd Chilton/Tony Wight Gallery

Painting, Sculpture, West Loop No Comments »


Todd Chilton’s paintings offer a broken geometry rendered in a handmade manner. Drips escape certain strokes and imperfections allow the composition to shift slightly. The canvases are variations on repeating geometric (almost fractal) patterns, emanating from the center but bound to and by the edges. Paintings such as “Untitled (blue diamonds)” have a shallow crystalline topography that the perceptual properties of color serve to deepen and heighten. These structures grow more intricate and exaggerated in his canvases from 2009. Chilton’s color is often optically charged as in his zebra-striped canvases where the boundary between the striped regions form an optical illusion. With Chilton’s canvases you can feel yourself looking, and you can see Chilton’s hand in painting. The result is a tenuous exchange between the painting and the viewer that never quite fully assembles into a concrete meaning.

Scott Fife crafts iconographic busts from familiar materials such as cardboard, wood glue and drywall screws. Four large heads protrude from the gallery walls looming slightly above eye level. Possibly with an eye toward the imminent inauguration, Fife includes a young Abraham Lincoln. Also present is a hot pink Cassius Clay and two busts of artist Ed Kienholz. The disembodied heads are authoritative, imposing and a touch monumental. Hollows exist in each face that that allow an interior view of the overall structure. Fife allows his materials to exist in a dual state of transformation simultaneously as cardboard and as persona. Each figure’s visage, combined with the familiarity of the materials, creates a distinctly palpable sense of their own hollow, mask-like forms. (Dan Gunn)

Through February 21 at Tony Wight Gallery, 119 N. Peoria.

Eye Exam: Chicago In Miami

Art Fairs, News etc. 1 Comment »

By Alicia Eler

Art Fairing in a new economy, Chicago blows through the 2008 Miami art fairs

The Western Exhibitions booth

The Western Exhibitions booth

Overall murmurs of low attendance aside, Art Basel Miami Beach reported more registered collectors and cultural institutions than any previous year. The Miami Herald said that almost half of the galleries at Art Basel saw drops in sales, however, and after just two days into the fair, only sixteen percent of galleries at Basel and the satellite fairs saw sales growth. There are fewer visitors roaming the fairs than in years past, but the art world won’t give up.

Of the three Chicago galleries at Art Basel Miami Beach—blue-chippers Richard Gray, Donald Young and Valerie Carberry—I noticed a sprinkling of red dots covering David Hockneys at Richard Gray. During an unstable time, art buyers will invest in artists whose names they already know and trust. Kavi Gupta Gallery led the way at the younger, more casual, Chicago gallery-populated NADA Art Fair, even positioning Tony Tassett’s “Snowman” (2008) by the coveted fair entrance. Within the first hour of the fair, that piece sold for $70,000, which “shocked” Gupta according to reports from Red dots covered works by Melanie Schiff—a 2008 Whitney Biennial participant—including her “Untitled” (2008), an exquisite play with light, shadow and circular lens-like mirrors and symbols that are curiously shaped like Schiff’s nipples, recognizable in her other works.

David Lieske at Rowley Kennerk Gallery

David Lieske at Rowley Kennerk Gallery

Imperfect Articles represented a more affordable slice of Chicago’s art world at NADA, selling t-shirts designed by Andrew Rafacz Gallery’s Cody Hudson, among others. Nearby, Bridgeport-based Proximity Magazine and Pilsen-based Golden Age showed off their print goods. The West Loop’s Western Exhibitions dedicated their entire space to the work of Chicago’s husband art team duo Stan Shellabarger and Dutes Miller, who are quickly becoming the gallery’s art-fair darlings, and included a live knitting performance of their pink umbilical cord-like tube, making early on a $5,000 sale of a book filled with self-portrait silhouettes. Chicago galleries Rowley Kennerk and Shane Campbell Gallery also showed at NADA.

The West Loop contingent was further seen down the street at PULSE, where Monique Meloche Gallery’s booth featuring L.A.-based emerging artist Kendell Carter sold a variety of his works ranging from $1,700–$12,000, including the space’s wainscot wall installation, something that’s certainly more difficult to sell than, say, one of the artist’s shoelace drip paintings. Lake Street’s Packer Schopf Gallery did Bridge for the past three years but switched to PULSE this year; owner Aron Packer says that Michael Dinges’ paintings on deceased Mac computers and Steve Seeley’s whimsical taxidermy drawings were “a hit.” Tony Wight of Tony Wight Gallery smiled from inside his crisp white-walled space, which included a strong selection of work including abstract, kaliediscope-esque photos from NY-based Tamar Halpern’s solo exhibition recently seen in Chicago.

Catherine Edelman Gallery, Douglas Dawson and McCormick Gallery brought work to Art Miami, another of the vast tent fairs. Chicago representation at the poppy young Aqua Wynwood Fair included Kasia Kay Art Projects and Thomas Robertello Gallery, who smartly curated works from Lily McElroy’s “I Throw Myself at Men.” In this series, the artist hand-selected men either from Craigslist or at dive bars in Chicago, and literally threw herself at them, toying with assumptions about male-female power dynamics.

The Chicago born-and-bred Bridge Art Fair led Chicago representation in Miami, bringing ALL RiSE GALLERY, Accomplice Projects, Antena, GARDENfresh, Swimming Pool Project Space to the Miami location, and Aldo Castillo Gallery and Ryan Schulz Projects (of the recently closed NavtaSchulz Gallery on Lake Street) to the new Bridge Wynwood. Emerging artist Mathew Paul Jinks says “I’m seeing a lot of interest—my Web site stats peaked this week, and GRACE, a Brooklyn gallery, asked me to do a performance next year.” Likewise, at Bridge Miami Beach, gallery co-owner Liz Nielsen, of the less-than-one-year-old Swimming Pool Project Space, saw two $500 video art sales of work by Latham Zearfoss and Aspen Mays.

Imperfect Articles

Imperfect Articles

Talk of sales was still on everyone’s lips until Art Basel Miami Beach closed their doors on Sunday, December 7, at 6pm sharp. As the power went out on Donald Young Gallery’s four-channel Gary Hill video piece, guests streamed out of the convention center. When the Art Basel Miami Beach closing party began at the newly renovated Fontainebleau Hotel at 41st and Collins, which was recently renovated in line with Morris Lapidus’s original design, the food and wine flowed as if someone had just won the lottery and was treating thousands of close friends. Guests ate little slices of decadence, like grilled jumbo shrimp, succulent beef polenta, fresh cherry tomatoes and finger-food desserts of soft sweet cakes, rich chocolate morsels and creamy puddings. Free champagne, wine and mixed drinks flowed endlessly at the bars, some of which were crafted entirely from ice. And as the party meandered into the hotel’s new LIV Lounge, where shiny stairs led the way into a lounge-like pit of sweaty bodies dancing against one another, Art Basel Miami Beach Co-Director Annette Schönholzer smiled, sliding alongside collectors and exhibitors. No one was thinking about unsold paintings needing to be shipped home.

Newcity’s daily coverage from Miami can be found here: Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four

Review: David Schutter/Tony Wight Gallery

Painting, West Loop No Comments »


The small abstractions of David Schutter require one step forward to get a good look, and one step back to fully take them in. The works in “Repertory” at Tony Wight Gallery exist as a group of studies after Nineteenth-century landscape painter John Constable’s clouds, making an entry into the meta-conversation of painting with subtle and discreet gestures.  The largest gesture seems to be the simple rearrangement of the gallery’s wall space: Schutter has installed a free-standing diagonal wall with ten paintings on each side—an approximation of the wall at the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) where the Constable paintings hang.

Constable’s clouds were meant as studies in a larger process of landscape painting, and Schutter here calls on these images almost as if to erase them. Constable’s vigorous cloud forms appear only in the surface and texture of Schutter’s monochrome gray paintings. Each canvas doubles as an act of negation and recreation, employing abstraction in its best sense.

In the rear gallery, several graphite drawings continue to work through the visual information Schutter has collected from the YCBA. Delicate marks on vellum appear at first to be what has been left out of the paintings, but in fact they are more like what’s left over. This inverted use of drawing—as the end of a process rather than its beginning — makes sense of  “Repertory” as a fissure through which we might get a different look at the practice of painting. (Tim Ridlen)

David Schutter shows at Tony Wight Gallery, 119 N. Peoria, (312)492-7261, through January 3.

Review: Tamar Halpern/Tony Wight Gallery

Installation, Photography, West Loop No Comments »

"Where Interest Lie," 2008


Dealing from a full pack of photographic manipulations, most notably multiple exposure, and operating with several printmaking processes, Tamar Halpern usually ends up with modernist abstractions that mix cubist juxtaposition of figures with expressionist energy. With a feel of the fabled American expressionism of sixty years ago, Halpern’s dense and complex play with liberated geometry takes us back to a lost era of vibrant, optimistic and bold creativity. The studies in black and white are the most effective because they could have been conceived in the heyday of Chicago’s Institute of Design, when Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and his crew advanced under the banner of “light painting.” Halpern also offers some more representational images that instruct us about the compositional base from which her abstractions take flight, and teach us that the world is always with us, even simply as an excuse for fancy. (Michael Weinstein)

Through November 15 at Tony Wight Gallery, 119 N. Peoria. (312)492-7261