Chicago Art Review


Kim Piotrowski @ 65GRAND by Steve Ruiz
January 10, 2010, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Openings

While a bubbling zeitgeist, published theory, secret CIA promotion, institutional propping, market hype and bar booth collectives may be the most commonly understood forces by which art trends and made and made to move, one of my favorite and too often overlooked components of progress is the availability of new materials, and of how their introduction leads to new angles on of art-making. Whenever artists get their hands on something new, there are inevitably those who are able to take advantage of its particulars and create something really excellent, be it tubed oil paint enabling plein air impressionism or the Portapak putting video art in gear. In our own last few years, synthetic papers like Yupo have gradually move into use as a material in fine art, and its been interesting to watch the paper’s beautiful and unique way of supporting paint experimented and capitalized on. If you haven’t played with synthetic paper yet, give it a try and see what it can do. Chicago’s own Kim Piotrowski certainly did, and in the latest show Crowns at 65GRAND, her wildly dynamic work proves it beyond craft novelty as a medium perfect for a renewed formal celebration of paint.

Kim Piotrowski, Ages Spent

Kim Piotrowski, Ages Spent

Like any good artwork based on randomly discovered jpegs, the work isn’t so much representation as liberal dramatization; based on a true story, but barely. While each here painting centers on an image of a crown, pulled of course from the great digital image void, Piotrowski appears to use the crown less as its sign than as a formal skeleton for fleshing out in paint. Attachments of power and opulence are put to work as rich color pools and gold leaf applications, turrets and plumes opportunities for gesture and splash.

Kim Piotrowski, She King

Kim Piotrowski, She King

With so many materials at play, viewing the work is an experience wrapped in trying to pick out the individual media and techniques in each painting. To its credit, the ability of Piotrowski’s synthetic paper to grip liquid materials without absorbing them made this all the more interesting, with wet pools of acrylic ink laid down without a weave to work into drying to look like something entirely different, more similar to the drawn media around it. Even with a materials list on hand, picking the enamel from the flashe from the gouache from the collage is a fun optical challenge.

Kim Piotrowski, Twirl Fool

Kim Piotrowski, Twirl Fool

If you’d like to try to pick them out yourself, the above image is composed of:  acrylic ink, flashe, gouache, permanent marker and gold leaf.

Kim Piotrowski, Crowns @ 65GRAND

I really enjoyed Crowns. The last few good painting shows I’ve seen in Chicago have shown various way of dealing with the problem of imagery in painting while being uncomfortable without giving it up, eventually arriving at a kind of formal content by way of representation. While the subject matter relationship between the image and the painting has been far more stretched and abraded by other painters, Piotrowski’s Crowns could be looked at as a part of this conversation too, translating the elegance and power from the sign source of its images into painted materiality.

I give it an:

8.6

Kim Piotrowski‘s Crowns opened Friday, January 8th and runs through February 13th @ 65GRAND, 1378 W. Grand Ave (entrance on Noble St).

(special thanks to the artist and Anni Holm for photos)

Share



Future Facing @ Old Gold by Steve Ruiz
November 16, 2009, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Openings, Reviews

With a new address, coat racks, a paneled ceiling and a floor covered in tiny stones, Old Gold has opened again with a one night show featuring the work of Aline Cautis, Josh Mannis and Andy Roche. There was the prevailing social element to the event of the kind expected at one night events, with the work itself giving a nice backdrop and throbbing beat to conversation. Check out the great video documentation below.

Mannis’s looping video collage, Variations (the source of that throb) saw the artist, dressed like a subdivision neighbor and wearing a grossly disfiguring mask, winding into digitally synchronized, then syncopated dance steps. This collaging extended to Does This System Work? #1, an infinite crowd created by edge-tracing and repeating a milling marathon. The static loop, printed on fabric (#2 was on a hat), came out more as an okay wallpaper than much else, containing all of the elements of Mannis’s video work except the best ones. The extended scope and patterning of crowd might have suggest flocking or fascist troop parades, but lacking the transformative, anxious pace of his videos, the imagery looked regular and harmless.

Old Gold

Old Gold

Roche presented two polyester hair pieces and a video titled Glass Flag. The larger and pretty awesome hair piece, Wall Do, hung like a desert island decoration, strung between edges of burlap and wood in wide synthetic grins.  The other, Red Talk, saw the hair draped over the sides of a pink, blown out drawing room photo like creepy drapery, framing the image. The result was an oddly feminized image of a very male sort of event, with the middle tone false hair adding an extra touch of unpleasant gaudiness. Glass Flag showed various views, including much of the installation space itself, while a transparent plastic sheet was danced before the camera. It was interesting to watch a video of the space I was currently occupying but which that didn’t include me, but I wasn’t sure how to connect this to the idea of a transparent flag, which served more as a disruption of the scenes than the anti-political content the clear flag could also suggest.

Future Facing @ Old Gold

Josh Mannis, Does this System Work? #1 and Andrew Roche, Glass Flag

While Aline Cautis’s paintings didn’t thrill me beyond the scratched and marked surfaces on a couple, the highlight of the show was Aline Cautis’s, 1, 2, 3, 4, which managed to bridge both video, sculpture, and drawing. The work projected 16 millimeter film, strung over a spool on the ceiling, which had been marked with thousands of small parallel lines by Cautis. These handmade lines, moving along the film loop in colored chunks, skittered on the wall when projected. It was interesting to see the same marks in motion, existing at once in two different ways on two surfaces.

Old Gold

Old Gold

One night shows are great, but I saw this one more as a welcome-back party than a full on, acutely curated exhibition. Still, the work included was solid and the pieces fit well together, even with some leaning against walls or placed on mirror ledges. I look forward to seeing something done with the fireplace.

I give it a:

SEVEN AND A THIRD

Future Facing was a one night event, held on November 13th, 2009 @ Old Gold, 2102 West Palmer.

post to facebook



MiniReview: Site Unspecific @ O’Connor Art Gallery by Steve Ruiz
November 16, 2009, 1:38 am
Filed under: Chicago, MiniReview, Openings, Reviews

(Note: I’m catching up on my backlog of shows I attended, photographed, and never wrote about. Enjoy the pictures and the brief summary.)

At the end of September, Dominican University’s O’Connor Gallery opened Site Unspecific, a group show which included work by Heather Mekkelson, Mara Baker, Adam Farcus, Rafael E. Vera, Brian Yates and Heidi Norton. The pieces were linked by the thread of site specificity, though each referenced a specific site outside of the gallery. Not all of the artwork here sustained the interest and had the conceptual skin to carry the theme, and some merely suggested an unknown place without going any further, but there were notable works. Adam Farcus’s sculpture, a paper chain draped over the track lights and doing much for the exhibition’s overall framing, was constructed from photocopied maps of the stars that would have been visible above at the time and place of his birth. Heather Mekkelson’s Debris Field was a reconstructed disaster, with artifacts of tragedy such as melted aluminum and burnt file cabinets meticulously reconstructed by Mekkelson from photographs of real remains. The show ended up relying on and challenging my trust in the artists’ claims, an interaction highlighted best by Heidi Nortons photographs which may or may not be accurate to their titles, and I spent the drive home wondering about that intersection of representation and belief. Without any way to validate the fact, would it matter if Farcus’s stars were from yesterday?

Site Unspecific @ O'Connor Gallery

Site Unspecific @ O'Connor Gallery

Brian Yates, Untitled

Brian Yates, Untitled

Heidi Norton, Hariett Tubman's Birthplace

Heidi Norton, Hariett Tubman's Birthplace

Mara Baker, deterioration of: (boardwalk)

Mara Baker, deterioration of: (boardwalk)

Brian Yates

Brian Yates

Rafael E. Vera, Two Stairs

Rafael E. Vera, Two Stairs

Brian Yates, untitled (for HM Tomlinson)

Brian Yates, untitled (for HM Tomlinson)

Heather Mekkelson, Debris Field

Heather Mekkelson, Debris Field

Site Unspecific opened on September 29th, 2009 and runs until December 13th, 2009 @ Dominican University’s O’Connor Art Gallery, 7900 W Division St. in River Forest.

post to facebook



MiniReview: Group Painting Show @ Ebersmoore by Steve Ruiz
November 14, 2009, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Chicago, MiniReview, Openings, Reviews

(Note: I’m catching up on my backlog of shows I attended, photographed, and never wrote about. Enjoy the pictures and the brief summary.)

The first show at the new Ebersmoore space was also the last show at the Ebersb9 space. Given the straightforward title of Group Painting Show, and including the work of Amy MayfieldHoward FondaTyson ReederSebastian Vallejo, and Paul Wackers. True to its name, it reflected more of a cool contemporary collection than any other curatorial theme. There were, however, some very interesting examples of bleeding edge interplay, including  the shitty-nouveau, grungy, sculptural use of paint as used here by Reeder, the taped off, layered look used here by Wackers, and a return to traditional content such as still lifes, interiors, and even portraiture.

Group Painting Show @ Ebersb9

Howard Fonda, Untitled; Paul Wackers, Hybrid

Paul Wackers, A Passing Glance

Paul Wackers, A Passing Glance

Group Painting Show @ Ebersb9

Group Painting Show @ Ebersb9

Group Painting Show ran from September 25th to October 23rd @ ebersb9, which became ebersmoore, 213 N. Morgan, #3C.

post to facebook



Australia @ Concertina Gallery by Steve Ruiz
October 26, 2009, 5:48 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Openings, Reviews

Since Logan Square’s Concertina Gallery is pretty fresh and steaming, I’ll introduce their newest show  by introducing the space itself: as I understand it, Concertina Gallery is the apartment gallery lovechild of directors and SAIC graduate students Katherine Pill and Francesca Wilmott, who, along with co-founder and former resident Corina Kirsch and design help from current resident Caitlin Bauler, are sharpening their curatorial teeth with a series of professional shows within their living space as well as their street-level storefront windows. Having heard that their first show was a success, I dropped by for the opening of their second, a two person exhibition featuring a film installation by Anthea Behm and photography from Aron Gent, titled Australia.

Aron Gent

Aron Gent, Australia and Mountainside

Strangely enough, the Concertina directors were able to run into two artists who were using the film Australia, an endearingly surreal but ultimately mediocre 2008 Kidman / Jackman joint from director Baz Luhrmann, who you might remember from his other endearingly surreal but ultimately mediocre films, Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet. While both artists are working with and from the same, very specific source material, the artists worked separately, without knowledge of or intent for a double exhibition. However, the rarity and possible pointlessness of a film like Australia as a source of overlap makes it a pretty good curatorial hinge for both artists work to swing from. Neither artist is dealing directly with the content or themes of the film, only using it as an available corpus to serve their processes.

Aron Gent, California Landscape

Aron Gent, California Landscape

For Gent, the film provided a sex scene for his Jennifer project, a serial narrative dealing with pregnancy and abandonment within a west coast landscape. The image Australia captures the entire film’s sex scene through a long-exposure photograph, and is paired by a photograph of a mountainside, where rocky forms suggest concave breasts; and a large wall mounted photograph of a California landscape, with rolling mountains fading to mist. Though the work can’t expected to convey the same content as the entire Jennifer series, the essentials did come through. Themes of sex and time and place, each presented in a drawn out and extended form, effected in me that same feeling of quiet drift as produced by a Less Than Zero, a mid-career Ed Ruscha, or of a strong drink at a high altitude.

Anthea Behm

Anthea Behm

Behm’s work used Australia to examine the act of observing. In one darkened room, a small monitor rests on the floor with the film playing. A projection in another room shows a video of an unknown woman watching the same film and describing what she is seeing. That these two elements of the piece are in separate rooms makes observing both at once impossible, but in a suitably quiet setting a viewer could watch the film and hear the second viewer’s description of the film at the same time. Experienced in this way, Behm’s second viewer functioned like a disruptive feedback device, an imperfect and voiced mirror to my own internal, unvoiced observations. However as the gallery became louder, and as the reverse-moth social effect brought more people to crowd into the darkened room, the monitor became less important. Instead, the projected film became its own piece, presenting the inadequacy and pointlessness of a human being as vehicle for automatic representation, highlighting the difference between the thing itself and its description.

The irony of me describing this piece is not lost on me.

Australia

While both artists’ present different content in their work by very different means, I never felt like they constituted two separate shows. There were three questions at work here, two presented by the artists and a third, presented by the curators, on the measure and nature of overlap necessary to unite artists into a unified group show. We’ve seen plenty of group exhibitions justified by media (works on paper, collages, paintings) or geography (Chicago artists, Baltimore artists), but not so many brought together by source material alone.

I give it a:

7.8

Anthea Behm and Aron Gent‘s Australia opened October 23, 2009 and runs through November 15th, 2009 @ Concertina Gallery.

post to facebook



Eric Lebofsky @ Western Exhibitions by Steve Ruiz
October 21, 2009, 1:04 am
Filed under: Chicago, Openings, Reviews

Western Exhibitions opened a pair of new shows last Friday, Eric Lebofsky‘s Superfreaks and Melissa Oresky‘s A Wilderness of Edges. The two are pretty separate and operate in very different ways, so I’m going to review these two separately, starting with Superfreaks and hitting the sister show next. To prove I’m serious:

Eric Lebofsky, Superfreaks

Eric Lebofsky, Superfreaks

A few months ago Eric Lebofsky began using the blogging service Tumblr as a host for a daily drawing / blogging project titled Superfreaks (link points to the blog). His characters, each rendered at a comfortable scale in ink and colored pencil, are heroic transformations of common satirized personalities like Introverted Extrovert Man. Here in Western Exhibitions second gallery space and separated (though barely) by frames rather than by posting dates, Lebofsky’s heroes hold themselves well, funny by way of observational comedy and clever by way of creepy absurdity.

Eric Lebofsky, Superfreaks: Introverted Extrovert Man

Eric Lebofsky, Superfreaks: Introverted Extrovert Man

Like any good joke, the work has its serious implications as well, and with Superfreaks we see work that both throws light on makes light of the natural tendency to view others entirely by way of their faults, especially neroses and personality flaws, or simply by their occupations and attached stigma. To see these characteristics manifest physically, with the nervous eyes of the Political Advisor or the retro constitution of Anachronism Man, gives the drawings a functional element which also allows the identities/personalities in those pieces without text to be questioned and understood by their deformities.

Eric Lebofsky, "Superfreaks"

Eric Lebofsky, "Superfreaks"

While there is content to take home, the volume and production method does make the work come off as an elevated kind of art made to entertain friends. Stumbling on the blog where these are posted, an unknown guest might even mistake it for a bizarre single panel web comic. Whether that all matters or not may or may not matter at all – they are entertaining drawings, choosing to revel in their conceptual content rather than critique it.

Eric Lebofsky, Superfreaks: Allen Ginsberg

Eric Lebofsky, Superfreaks: Allen Ginsberg

I give it a:

7.4

Eric Lebofsky‘s Superfreaks opened Friday, October 17th and will continue through Saturday, November 18th @ Western Exhibitions, 119 N. Peoria.

post to facebook



No More Perfect Moments @ Scott Projects by Steve Ruiz
September 4, 2009, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Openings, Reviews

The latest show at Scott Projects represents Baltimore’s second featured incursion into Chicago, but while NAH POP NO STYLE brought the painters, Brad Troemel‘s brought the photographers. And punk archivists. Okay, maybe just one photographer and one punk archiver, but they’re definitely from Baltimore and their work is definitely in Chicago and their names are Justin Kelly and Andrew Laumann respectively and their show is called No More Perfect Moments.

Scott Projects

Scott Projects

Justin Kelly’s work is locked on the point of intersection between disaster and entertainment. His three digital/found photo grids pictured below aren’t all images of disasters, but they feel like it. Most are harmless scenes of controlled danger – roller coasters, fireworks, shark tanks, etc – but throw in the occassional flaming Ferrari and the potential for disaster present in every photo is suddenly engaged, as if the next and last photo on digicam would surely be the spiderweb cracks in the shark tank.

Justin Kelly

Justin Kelly

Justin Kelly

Justin Kelly

With this mixture of potential and realized violence, Kelly turns every image into a bomb. His video installation, a large wide shot of a shark tank with tourists marveling at the bottom, makes for a frightening example of the proximity between danger and delight. The work has suspense and beauty, all bathed in the false coral sand blues of an artificial beach.

Justin Kelly

Justin Kelly

Andrew Laumann’s work came off less about us as himself, an inward facing archive of a former punk life. There are a lot of items to examine, everything from tarred kicks to an unwound Nirvana cassette to a couple rusting nails. Mixed with these are plenty of photographs, some found and some larger digital prints but most disposible camera snapshots of anonymous friends, each neatly framed.

Andrew Laumann

Andrew Laumann

The work came at me in two ways and I never was able to decide which was more important. On one hand, Laumann’s work could easily read as a bunch of shit from his apartment that had been hung cleanly on gallery walls, each item serving as a relic of a punk rock history traded for something more modern and aware. Equally possible, the work could represent a false history or an engineered display, with objects and items included to stand for the multitude of similar stuff from the era that could be honored in the same way our parents might cling to the relics of their 1960’s and 70’s past, but which we (and I use that word broadly) don’t consider as significant.

Andrew Laumann

Andrew Laumann

While neither interpretation make ups for the general blandness of the actual work, I’d prefer to think of its conceptual thrust as the latter, a critique on a generation’s apathy toward its moment of cultural definition. Then again, the spirit of the era may have been apathy itself, so its possible that in rejecting our history we may be sticking to its character. Laumann may have been anticipating the critical question of whether to throw away your Gang of Four albums or play them for your kids.

Andrew Laumann

Andrew Laumann

As a name for the show, No More Perfect Moments does a good job of knitting the fireball potential of Justin Kelly’s work with the anti-nostalgia of Andrew Laumann’s, but thought the two have apparently been collaborating for some time, they don’t seem to overlap much beyond geography. Still, Kelly’s video pieces create a very effective and anxious impression and Laumann’s installed works present a good conversational topic, so it’d be a good show to catch before every gallery in the world has their opening next Friday.

I give it a:

6.5

No More Perfect Moments runs August 29th through September 11th at Scott Projects, 1542 N. Milwaukee, Apt. #3.

post to facebook