How long has William Conger been showing his hard-edged abstract paintings in Chicago? It’s been almost forty years, and this exhibit of his most recent work shows him just as keen, high-spirited and menacing as ever. Menacing? Just a little, because the world he has created is beautiful but also a bit scary, like the illustrated covers of paperback science-fiction novels. And as his paintings take you to “Cuba” or “Chinatown” or the “Kabuki,” watch your back because Conger is not offering a sweet and peaceful refuge from our busy world. But still, the visions are appealing, charged with energy and finely crafted enough to draw a viewer right up to the canvas to feel the thickness of the paint or the straightness of a line. There’s a certain elegance and crispness of style as might be seen in the fine suits and coats worn on Michigan Avenue and, happily for those who have seen Conger’s shows before, that style isn’t always the same as the painter is always setting different formal challenges for his design. He hasn’t tried to be a regionalist but his paintings feel like Chicago, or at least the upscale urban canyons that stretch along the lake. (Chris Miller)
Through March 3 at Roy Boyd Gallery, 739 N. Wells St.