Chicago Art Review


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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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)

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Weekend Preview – clean hands, empty stomach by Steve Ruiz
January 7, 2010, 6:51 pm
Filed under: Chicago Art Preview

There are actually a ton of shows this weekend due to the holiday bottleneck, but here are my top picks:

Kim Piotrowski @ 65GRAND

65GRAND shows off Kim Piotrowski‘s larger-scale crown forms, paintings and drawings full of dynamic marks and bold designs. The show, titled Crowns, opens this Friday, January 8th from 7-10 PM @ 65GRAND, 1378 W. Grand Ave. Use the Noble Street entrance.

Kim Piotrowski @ 65GRAND

Kim Piotrowski @ 65GRAND

Netherland & Chad Kouri @ Rotofugi

East Village toy store/gallery Rotofugi’s latest show brings together two Chicago collage artists, David “Netherland” van Alphen and The Post Family‘s Chad Kouri. Looking forward to seeing what the two have been lately chopping. In Stereo & Concoction both open this Friday, January 8th from 7-10 PMRotofugi, 1953-55 W. Chicago Ave.

Chad Kouri

Chad Kouri

Mark Mulroney @ Ebersmoore

Fucked up, innocently adolescent perversions of Archie comics and more from Mark Mulroney this month at Ebersmoore, complete with bondage whips and bouncy tits. Weatherbee’s Revenge opens this Friday, January 8th from 6-9 PM @ Ebersmoore, 213 N Morgan, #3C.

Mark Mulrony

Mark Mulrony

Cheat Codes @ Antena

A pretty impressive list of artists for this video art group show in Pilsen, with the full title of Cheat Codes: lessons in love. Keep an eye out for personal fave David Horvitz, along with Joanna BovayJennie H. BringakerEunjung HwangBasim Magdy, Jason Martin, Jay Schleidt, Robert Spees, Brent Stewart, Amber Hawk Swanson, Joseph Whitt, and Grant Worth. The show opens this Friday, January 8th from 6-10 PM @ Antena, 1765 S. Laflin St.

Grant Worth, Raven

Grant Worth, Raven

Getting Aquainted @ Johalla Projects

This multi-media group show from curator (and solid photographer) Joseph Rynkiewicz is all about strangers and getting to know them, and features work from In b FlatKristin FreemanShane LavaletteJason PolanThe Listening Project, and Daniel Shea. Show opens (when else?) this Friday, January 8th from 7-10 PM @ Johalla Projects, 1561 N Milwaukee Ave.

Daniel Shea, Bocek Park II from the series Baltimore

Daniel Shea, Bocek Park II from the series Baltimore

Why is everything happening on Friday?

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Seven Artists of the Week – make things that express stuff by Steve Ruiz
January 6, 2010, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Artists of the Week

This week’s picks from Ryan. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go see the show he curated, The Power of Selection, Pt. 1 @ Western Exhibitions!

Mindy Shapero, Ghosthead guide that will bring you to the Ghosthead god, you can only visualize the guide when you have entered a Monsterhead, and you first have to be serene enough to be able to even see the Monsterheads before you can wear one

Mindy Shapero, Ghosthead guide that will bring you to the Ghosthead god, you can only visualize the guide when you have entered a Monsterhead, and you first have to be serene enough to be able to even see the Monsterheads before you can wear one

Dianna Molzan, Untitled

Dianna Molzan, Untitled

Franz Ackermann, Evasion V

Franz Ackermann, Evasion V

Richard Aldrich, Shadows

Richard Aldrich, Shadows

Colter Jacobsen, Victory at Sea

Colter Jacobsen, Victory at Sea

Todd Chilton, Untitled

Todd Chilton, Untitled

Sharon Lockhart, Gary Gilpatrick, Insulator

Sharon Lockhart, Gary Gilpatrick, Insulator

I love my loser son!

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MiniReview: Party Crashers @ Concertina Gallery by Steve Ruiz
January 5, 2010, 8:52 pm
Filed under: MiniReview

Party Crashers was Concertina’s curatorial take on the family and all the domestic confusion attached. They show featured a good balance of media, mostly photographs, but also prints by Canadian Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook, fax letterpresses by Micah Lexier, and a gallery-wide performance by Stan Shellabarger and Dutes Miller of their ongoing and ever distancing Pink Tube piece. Of the photography, Carrie Schneider‘s Bathtub basically stole the show for me, presenting a beautifully composed figurative rhythm, a blend of the sibling intimacy and abstract weirdness of sharing traits with other humans. Dick Blau‘s family photographs were good instances of his work, but had too much familiarity and not enough mystery, seeming to demand a wider collection to communicate best. The poster piece from Davida Nemeroff was a well capitalized accident, a photo of a photo that spoke to the reinterpretation of family roles when parties are separated, not unlike Lexier’s re-reproduction of his father’s faxes. Together, the works in Party Crashers mostly showed the family as a sideways approach to self portraiture, revealing more about the artists’ particular relationships to their siblings, parents, children, than of the particular challenges those relationships create. While it may not have taken on the heavier stuff, and just skimmed the domestic/public space issue, it still was another good show from Concertina Gallery.

Carrier Schnieder, Derelict Bathtub

Carrie Schneider, Derelict Bathtub

Micah Lexier

Micah Lexier, Fax Test

Dutes Miller & Stan Shellabarger

Dutes Miller & Stan Shellabarger

Davida Nemeroff, What Window Light Can do For My Dad

Davida Nemeroff, What Window Light Can do For My Dad

Dick Blau

Dick Blau

Party Crashers opened November 21st, 2009 and ran through December 13th, 2009 @ Concertina Gallery, 2351 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor.

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MiniReview: Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson & Bernard Williams @ What It Is by Steve Ruiz
January 5, 2010, 7:58 pm
Filed under: MiniReview

Holly Holmes and Tom Burtonwood‘s domestic gallery space project, What It Is, provides a nice and homey retreat for contemporary art in Oak Park. Their last show featured the work of Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson, a Chicago native and painter who presented bright textile pattern work inspired by a pair of Blum Jerro shoes, and Bernard Williams, who displayed a monstrous hammer in the home’s back yard and smaller sculptures indoors built from the hammer’s scraps and discards. These reassessed accidents, monochrome, heavily material and chaotic, opposed and balanced the feminine and colorful references of Collazo Anderson’s paintings, full of purpose and design. A very nice pairing of artists and a good space to check out in the future.

Bernard Williams, Sharkhammer

Bernard Williams, Sharkhammer

Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson and Bernard Williams

Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson and Bernard Williams

Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson and Bernard Williams

Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson and Bernard Williams

Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson, Blum Jerro Series 2

Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson, Blum Jerro Series 2

Michelle Welzen Collazo Anderson & Bernard Williams opened Saturday, December 5th and ran through December 20th @ What It Is, 1155 Lyman Ave. in Oak Park.

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Top Five Shows of the Year That I Went To by Steve Ruiz
January 1, 2010, 2:31 am
Filed under: Chicago

There are still a few hours left in 2009, so here are my top five for the year. Since I started the blog well into the year, and have by no means the exposure to form any conclusive pool to reflect upon, I’ll only go with what I know. I can’t say that the following list even suggests the quantitatively best shows of the year in Chicago, but they are the shows that stand out in my memory as excellent, influencial art viewing experiences.

1) Pop Sizzle Hum, Single Channels @ Tony Wight

As a painter, Pop Sizzle Hum was a pleasure to see. The pieces were outstanding, extremely well balanced, and showed what overlapping talent there is in the city. Single Channels was an almost perfect counterpart, with Timothy Hutchings’ and Allison Schulnik’s works some of the best video I’d ever seen.

2) Signs of the Apocalypse / Rapture

Signs of the Apocalypse / Rapture brought together an incredible amount of stellar work. It was a great big gorgeous show, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

3) Dutes Miller @ Western Exhibitions

Miller was able to make a really enjoyable show out of images and ideas that are too often given a mediocre and boring treatment. Night Falling is one of the best pieces I saw this year.

4) David Horvitz @ Believe Inn

Intimacy and sincerity are two things I rarely see, but Horvitz’s work was thick with both and still ice cool. Every piece in his show at Believe Inn was interesting, which is a great accomplishment.

5) Brennan McGaffey‘s Fire & Judgment

There were a few really cool performances and one night events, but Fire & Judgment was so strange and hypnotic that I still find myself thinking about it. No list of my favorite shows of the year would be complete without it.

That’s five! I wish I could include Big Youth from Corbett vs. Dempsey, as I consider it the best painting show of the year, but I didn’t really go to it enough to comment on it thoroughly. See you next year!

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