“Big Youth”? A clever name for this exhibition of thirteen recent graduates of the School of the Art Institute, first, because it sounds like a kick-ass rock band (the gallery shares its building with the Dusty Groove record store), and second because that’s what our preeminent local art school has been all about for the past quarter century, as it has cultivated the energy, optimism and despair of big-hearted young people dropped like battered fish into the boiling pot of postmodern, post-industrial, post-rational culture. “An over abundance of information, cultural blurring, spiritual ambiguity, and the darker-side to happiness,” as one painter, Austin Eddy, put it. So that, as his fellow exhibitor, Carl Barrata, says: “when each work is looked at in its entirety, it adds up to a simple conclusion: something is wrong… and the clues that are given won’t yield a solution; they are too busy bouncing off each other and only show how far-reaching the wrongness is.” Which is a pretty good description of every frenetic, passionate, eye-catching, but half-cooked, goofy, and discombobulated painting in this exhibit. And yes, happily they are all paintings, the old-fashioned kind made with brushes and paint that do not rely on conceptual gamesmanship. Think of this exhibit as a compilation album of new garage bands, and perhaps these songs will only demand one listen, but who knows where these sincere, talented artists will end up as they settle into adult lives. Chicago does have a strong tradition of rebellious juvenilia, but not every artist has to grow old in it. (Chris Miller)
Through September 5 at Corbett vs. Dempsey, 1120 N. Ashland.