Chicago Art Review


Mark Mulroney @ ebersmoore by Steve Ruiz
January 13, 2010, 1:20 am
Filed under: Chicago, Reviews

Mark Mulroney’s WEATHERBEE’S REVENGE is full of paintings that are dirty and gross and funny, operating on an adolescent paradigm where humor and violence and sexual fantasy are everything and interchangeable. Mulroney’s working process of painting his own depraved bodies under cut-out heads from Archie comics is simple enough, but the ridiculous narratives, awful jokes fit together just right with Mulroney’s clean style and fearless imagination.

Mark Mulroney, WEATHERBEE'S REVENGE @ ebersmoore

Mark Mulroney, WEATHERBEE'S REVENGE @ ebersmoore

In addition to the paintings, Mulroney included four painted wooden sculptures, three of which were interactive in some way. You could rearrange a chest of breasts and mysterious bumps in Archie Spare Boob, below, lever Archie and Betty into reverse-cowgirl coitus, or pull a string to give Archie a clumsy erection.

Mark Mulroney, Archie Spare Boob

Mark Mulroney, Archie Spare Boob

Having never actually read the Archie comics, the characters’ debasement isn’t as rending as when I stumbled onto a fan-drawn Simpsons orgy. As any unfortunate internet wanderer knows, there are massive communities dedicated to producing cartoon porn of every shape and variety and franchise crossover, and its only a matter of time before “Archie porn” shows up in this blog’s traffic statistics. However, its obvious that Mulroney’s motivations are far from any deviantart weirdo’s, giving retrospective form to a kind of innocent perversion of pop imagery.

Mark Mulroney, Archie Collage

Mark Mulroney, Archie Collage

Mark Mulroney, Archie Poll

Mark Mulroney, Archie Poll

Mulroney creates plenty of narrative variation among the pieces, some abstract and bizarre, and others shamefully clever. Every piece looks like it was floated together easily, with the artist’s illustrative handling clean and confident whether rendering a disemboweled Archie or a weeping dick in detail, showing a level of artifice and care which was, I guess, appreciated.

I give it a:

7.6

Mark Mulroney‘s WEATHERBEE’S REVENGE opened January 8th and runs through February 6th, 2010 @ ebersmoore, 213 n morgan, #3C.

(special thanks to Anni Holm for the photos)

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Netherland / Chad Kouri @ Rotofugi by Steve Ruiz
January 12, 2010, 12:43 am
Filed under: Chicago, Reviews

Despite their sharp cornered, faux-wood and steel physicality, there’s an undeniable comfort and familiarity to old school stereo equipment. Like a good tube amp or a vinyl record, they suggest a warmth of sound and barely retro aesthetic which brings invisible music closer to something tangible, simple, less scary, especially compared to the layered and compounded mysteries of an iPhone. This basic theme – more nostalgic than Luddite – is at the heart of the two solo exhibitions at Rotofugi this month, Chad Kouri‘s Concoction and Rotofugi gallery curator David “” van Alphen’s In Stereo.

Netherland, In Stereo @ Rotofugi

Netherland, Miss November

Netherland’s works are photos of analog electronics and stereo equipment cut out and collaged on a new surfaces (often replacing a figure’s head) and sometimes painted on with retro rainbows. The style is spot on, the presentation is clean, but while some sculptural renditions of the stereo-head people are a nice deviation, every piece is really only a variation of the one before it. They’re cool little objects though, and look comfortable being as much.

Netherland, In Stereo @ Rotofugi

Netherland, In Stereo @ Rotofugi

While the material shows more variation and holds the embedded content of found stuff, Kouri’s Concoction is pretty much the same story of formulaic composition. His collages, clips from a desaturated halftone Mad Men world of cigarette advertisements and happy white Americana, are put together like floral arrangements, lovingly built of appreciated materials. Kouri’s eye for design is clear, and his compositions and faded-paper color selections are rock solid.

Chad Kouri, Concoction @ Rotofugi

Chad Kouri, Tossin' That Dot With A Bangin' Speedo

Like Netherland’s side of the gallery, there’s a ton of work in Concoction, the most interesting of which to me were a few small, framed, but otherwise unmodified pieces of found paper. Despite the cool compositions Kouri makes in other works, whatever content Kouri adds by way of collage is really secondary to the built-in content of his materials themselves, their age and function, lost and unknown. Though perhaps included as an afterthought, I’d call these little guys the most intimate and expressive of the artist’s interest  in printable media.

Chad Kouri, Concoction @ Rotofugi

Chad Kouri, Concoction @ Rotofugi

There’s a lot to look at in both In Stereo and Concoction, and almost all of it looks great. While it isn’t a heavy show on the head, don’t let the formulaic appearance of so much work prevent you from appreciating the details and decisions on the surface, especially in Concoction‘s collaged clusters. As Kouri suggests, in a big framed printed letters flanking the cluster of work shown above, slow down – perhaps as much the moral of the show as an instruction to viewers.

I give the whole thing a:

6.6

David “” van Alphen’s In Stereo and Chad Kouri‘s Concoction opened Friday, January 8th and run through January 24th, 2010 @ Rotofugi, 1953-55 W. Chicago Ave.

(special thanks to Anni Holm for the photos)

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Daniel Sullivan @ Monument 2 by Steve Ruiz
December 13, 2009, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Reviews

There is a certain elegance to Monument 2 special among DIY spaces, its high ceilings, stark white walls and glowing, well-maintained hardwood floors lending an edge and hone to the gallery. Fitting entirely with this style, both in its minimalist sheen and provisional underpinnings, comes SAIC undergrad Daniel Sullivan‘s SOFT THROAT, a solo exhibition most remarkable for Sullivan’s making much out of relatively little.

Daniel Sullivan, Untitled

Daniel Sullivan, Untitled

SOFT THROAT hinges on a stock photograph of a bride, digitally manipulated, sliced, and scattered among the pieces included. The majority of work are a kind of mounted collage between these bride photographs printed and fixed, along with carefully cut metallic paper, on surfaces of mostly painted cardboard or, in the above case, three tall stretched canvases. The whole effect of these materials seems to be in creating a kind of trompe l’oeil minimalism, with a strikingly clean facade which, on closer inspection, could have been done on a student’s budget.

Daniel Sullivan, Untitled

Daniel Sullivan, Untitled

There isn’t really much content to the work outside of its material collision with minimalism. I picked up on a quiet eroticism from the anonymous bride repeated throughout the show and the otherwise non sequitur picture of a Sappho sculpture on the promotions, but these are relatively minor themes, either stand-ins for necessary content or, at best, embedded knocks on minimalism’s masculinity. This is one of the rarer cases where explanatory material would have been appreciated, but there’s really none to find and none to be found. When I asked about titles at the opening, I was told with a smile and sweeping gesture that “everything is untitled.” Even as an appreciated satire of style, some basic questions were left unanswered.

Daniel-Sullivan, Untitled

Daniel Sullivan, Untitled

However, I was more than satisfied with Sullivan’s provisional approach to a type of art typified by off-site expert fabrication, exactness and utmost material quality. While great care is evident in the pieces’ production, each plainly betrays its material shortcomings. Sullivan’s sculpture in SOFT THROAT looks like it could have been a candidate for any dull Serra-inspired addition to a campus collection, but chopped together of painted paneling and reflective paper, its materials remove the traditional invincibility suggested by its form.

I give it a:

7.6

SOFT THROAT: NEW WORK BY DANIEL SULLIVAN opened December 5th, 2009 and runs through January 24th, 2009 @ Monument 2, 2007 N. Point St.

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Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies @ Spoke by Steve Ruiz
December 7, 2009, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Reviews

As someone easily distracted, I have mixed feelings on music at galleries. As much as I enjoy looking at paintings, when there is music at a gallery I’ll spend more time staring at the performers or tracking the locations of speakers than I spend focusing my attention on the art. Some spaces are able to double up, like when the Co-Prosperity Sphere dims the lights after an opening’s regular hours have passed and segues smoothly into a middle-young rock concert. Other times, a smartly curated audio piece will color a whole show with its ambient clicks and whispers from across the gallery space or with the occasional bass fall hummed through a project space wall. Most of the time, though, music just distracts.

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

Spoke‘s latest exhibition, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies, brought together the collaborative work of John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, along with some extra entertainment. It did have a live performance, and it did distract me from the work – but not as much as did the puppies, a half-dozen of which yelped and fought and tumbled and pissed around the gallery’s newspapered floor. Attendees pressed as near as possible to the walls, watching the band and dogs and blocking the art. There were paintings on the walls, but who could care? While the trio on my left put down a hypnotic, clinking, harmonium-led improvisation, I watched a puddle of urine bleed into an unfolded newspaper’s art section.

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

Unlike at a crowded opening, where an elbowed observer may think to come back in the morning when the space is clear and work visible, as this was a one-time event, with collaborative paintings created as a body separate from the artists’ primary work, it would feel wrong to discuss the paintings outside of the setting created for them by the artists. The paintings themselves were pretty cool, nets of heavy strokes and reductions which occasionally revealed scenes of docks and moorings from otherwise layered, painterly abstraction. All kept to a similar palette, shown grouped and spaced in gangs. It isn’t that they weren’t interesting, only that in a small room with great music and adorable wrestling puppies, they were the least interesting thing going on.

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen, Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies

While I really enjoyed Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies, I wasn’t sure whether to view it as an enjoyable experience made to include artwork in a marginal sense, or an art show which, in bringing in other entertainment, ended up distracting itself from the art. Keeping that question in mind (and acknowledging that I really, really like dogs), I give it a:

7.2

John Henley and Peter Frederiksen‘s Co-Paintings, Cute Puppies was held on November 5th, 2009 @ Spoke, 119 N. Peoria. Emmett Kelly, Jim Dorling, and Michael Hartman provided the music.

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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.

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MiniReview: Dan Attoe @ Western Exhibitions by Steve Ruiz
November 16, 2009, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Chicago, 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.)

September’s main space at Western Exhibitions featured Paul Nudd, I had wanted to give Dan Attoe‘s show in the second space its own review. The show was quiet, stretching its three pieces for maximum effect and building an atmosphere of creepy, confident mystery. The central piece, Sea Kayakers (You Are Not Special) was actually a very similar to an image made by Robyn O’Neil (who was at the time showing across the hall at Tony Wight Gallery, reviewed here). However, while O’Neil’s Masses and masses rove a darkened pool; never is there laughter on this ship of fools contained almost the same content for a narrative purpose, Attoe’s use of the imagery seems more arbitrary and hallucinatory. That desert trip vibe carried through to the other two as well, which flashed clips of text and image like daily glimpses from a wounded nomad’s fever trek.

Dan Attoe, Sea Kayakers (You Are Not Special)

Dan Attoe, Sea Kayakers (You Are Not Special)

Dan Attoe, Sea Kayakers (You Are Not Special)

Dan Attoe, Sea Kayakers (You Are Not Special)

Dan Attoe, Monument Valley

Dan Attoe, Monument Valley

Dan Attoe, You Ruin our Time

Dan Attoe, You Ruin our Time

Dan Attoe‘s solo exhibition opened Friday, September 11th and closed Saturday, October 10th @ Western Exhibitions, 119 N Peoria St, Suite 2A.

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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.

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