What if you’re an artist but nobody wants to show your work? Every artist has probably faced this challenge in the modern era, at some point in their career. It was especially challenging for early modernists in Chicago, who felt categorically excluded from commercial galleries. Thus was born the “No Jury” shows of the 1920s. Today’s version is called the Chicago Art Open, sponsored by the Chicago Artists Coalition, and this year the show is held at the elegant, recently developed River East Art Center. Unlike the earlier versions, the 2010 show does have a jury of local art experts (including an editor, a gallery owner, a former non-profit director and a university photography teacher). Their job was not to keep artists out, but to highlight the best work and give it a room of its own.
Meanwhile, stroll down the hall of the River East Art Center and discover how an artist can avoid getting cut from the selection process: just buy the gallery yourself! This is exactly what wealthy philanthropist Matt Lamb has done by establishing a network of “Dali Lamb Museums” around the world, including Argentina, Russia, Spain and Germany as well as his hometown of Chicago. Although the psychic intensity of his large, colorful paintings does have something in common with the Tibetan thangkas used by the Dali Lama, the museum has been named after both himself and Salvador Dali because, as the brochure explains, “Great minds are made to meet.” The problem, however, is that great art makes everything else look weak by comparison, and even the few, casual Dali prints on the wall make Lamb’s much more ambitious oil paintings appear childish, and his mission seem more like self-aggrandizement rather than the promotion of his stated values of “peace, hope, and love.” (Chris Miller)
The Chicago Art Open shows through May 7 at the River East Art Center, 435 E. Illinois Street