Art Letter

November 2004 Archives


I ran into more good art today than expected.  Take a look at what I saw. 

Fred Baker's Gallery is on the west side of the West Loop, over by Helix.  He moved there in 1976, even before I did. His current show is a winner - especially for a sucker like me when the subject matter is Chicago Images.  What a great concept and what a wonderful array of pictures. I love being a tourist in my own town., Just like we like movies shot in Chicago a show of pictures - good ones anyway - is equally a blast. I think this show is only up for another week.

At the other end of the spectrum is a tour de force in the really special pieces of  Karen Reimer's Boundary Troubles at Monique Meloche.  Overlapping embroidery obfuscates the meeting place of divergent pieces of fabric. That's it. And it's great.  Similar size and scale to Richard Tuttle they are both dumber (as if that were possible) and smarter than Tuttle's and certainly more intentional and still dumb.  It takes a special quality to be both smart and dumb at the same time. These sing.

I like being able to get out more, to see more shows and to better grasp dealer's personalities by looking at their art.  I'm beginning to grasp their agendas and better comprehend their attitudes.  I like good attitudes. I like people who hustle.

Linda Warren moved from the west coast to Chicago about a year and a half ago.  I made the same migration in 1981.  She has a strategy for her first two years of exhibits which is different than mine was (righteous aside: do you ever notice how no one else's idea is really better or worse; it is merely different? All of us tend to argue that "ours" is better, instead of learning about the nuances of the other's differences, taking what we can, and moving on.  Sorry, this isn't about Linda but does relate to something else that came up today.)  At any rate, Linda is predominantly presenting group exhibits, like Between Realism & Metaphor, which opens tonight. It includes photographs by Tom Van Eynde who I've always liked and wanted to get caught up on his imagery.  I like the attitude here.

I like Aron Packer.  He's intelligent, engaging, accessible, fun, quirky, experimental and personable - just like the art he shows.  It's clear that he got comfortable being a wee bit odd a little sooner than the rest of us. You've got to go to his gallery and you've got to go there multiple times. It's about the consistency, the confidence, the directness and the absence of shame. His two exhibits by Lisa Krivacka and Brent Riley are another fine example.

Upstairs, Susan Gescheidle is basking in her new super-sized (well comparably) gallery. It's great up on the 4th floor and I no longer feel like I'm visiting someone in a basement trailer home.  She too has one of those enabling good attitudes.  Odd thought:  like Linda Warren, she mixes up the art in her group exhibit. And like me Aron Packer doesn't. He keeps each artist's work separate, unto itself.  Susan's taste and mine don't intersect often and I keep looking for more occurrences because I like her and her enthusiasm.

Commitment personified. That's Julie Walsh.  Every time I visit her gallery I am overwhelmed by the energy she puts into her exhibits.  She reconfigures her entire exhibition space for each exhibit - walls and everything.  Each exhibit is unique. No other gallery does this.  Phantasmagoria by Miao Xiaochun features huge, highly manipulated, highly informative pictures of China and Chinese situations. Julie specializes in Asian and she does it brilliantly, just watch.

Okay.  That's about it for me. Go look at some art.

The sun will come up tomorrow,


A lot of art feels pretentious, as if it were laying claim to something to which it has no right.  That stuff gets old really fast. 

On the other hand is art that successfully transcends its materials, its inherent obviousness, to become something more, perhaps to even take on spiritual aspects as it alters our perceptions.

I've just seen two fresh shows.  What's also interesting is that some would accuse these exhibits of being pretentious, which is precisely what I'm saying they're not. That they don't conform to our tradition expectations is good. 

These shows are Fred Sandback at
Rhona Hoffman Gallery and Sam Taylor-Wood at Donald Young.

Sandback's art is remarkably simple and all about transforming space.  His media is colored yarn and it stretches either from floor to ceiling or floor to wall, and it is sparse.  A whole exhibit won't have much more than a dozen strands - but how they activate the space.  I never knew that Rhona, in a rehabbed space in a loft building, has a ceiling covered in ornate tin.  

Over 100 years ago
Alphonse Mucha speculated that the pleasure derived from viewing art is a direct extension of how the eye moves or more specifically, the path it takes in experiencing a work of art. What the eye does in absorbing these pieces is different than what normally happens in an art gallery.  And it feels good.

These sculptures sing. They define the space, enhance it, increase it, alter it and play with it. Beautifully installed, this show is simply elegant.

There's a quantumly different kind of transition going on in
Sam Taylor-Wood's video at Donald Young Gallery.  And a lot of enigma.  A lot of the shows Donald has been doing stick with you.  This is one of them - particularly the video. The picture pretty much tells it all.  There is a man with a pigeon on his head tap dancing behind a person (dead?) lying on the floor. That's the whole piece, for several minutes, until the pace accelerates and the pigeon flies away.

Sam Taylor-Wood is young, British and female, and quite possibly an "artist for the ages." She's smart and it shows in her art.  Her subjects are meaty and universal, not readily accessible, but readily decipherable.  They don't really ask much. You can try to dismiss them if you want, but they tend to come along anyway, sort of like a stray, hanging back on the periphery of perception.  Then, sometime later, cognition hits and you've got to experience the work again.

There are clues. The video is titled Ascension.

I haven't seen her work in about a year. A special artist.  And it is great to not have to leave town to see her genius.

Keep the faith,