As I went around to galleries this week, to preview the shows that are opening today, I was surprised. I was surprised by the depth and quality that I saw. I knew that Thomas McCormick Gallery is having an exhibition of paintings by Robert Motherwell and I fully expected to walk in a see maybe a painting or two hanging and instead when I walked through the door to discover a whole room of them, all different sizes and an array of years and prices all in wonderful condition and priced really reasonably, right here in Chicago. And just because the Motherwell's are impressive do not overlook the work of John Sabraw in the back gallery.
It is so very nice to see Martin Puryear back in town. He is a superb, wonderful, relevant, meaningful sculptor whose work just sings. And he is as nice as he ever was. When I arrived in Chicago in 1981 Martin let me know that I was somewhere that mattered, where artists could engage in real dialogue, where the mantra of labor could be practiced for personal exercise and simultaneously to share one's soul. What beautiful work he is presenting at Donald Young Gallery. Not really a surprise; just gratifying. (The show opens Saturday afternoon.)
I know its a strange segue way to go from Martin Puryear to Melissa Pokorny, but I've loved her sculpture ever since she was recommended to me by Katie Johnson a year ago. (Katie knows her art inside out and teaches and curates at DePauw.) Melissa has a thing for dogs, maybe real ones, but certainly the Jeff Koons sculpture puppy dog kind. Wow, Melissa's show at Bodybuilder rocks. Her work is fresh, playful, funny, absurd, relevant, irreverent, brilliant, dumb and surprising all at once. She is definitely going to be somebody, unless of course she already is. Also, be sure to check out Paul Nudd's perversely beautiful brain and art.
Upstairs, Bucket Rider has so much going on they can't keep up with themselves. I know they're installing a great show because people keep telling me about, but beyond the crates that must be full of art, only Scott Roberts' was installing his work which is so brave and venturesome that it's going to take a week(s) to complete. Scott's work is smart, really complicated and flows from a simple idea to complexity and back again to simplicity. Maybe. He'll be working on it for a while, adding a multidimensional portrait of Nietzsche to the totally irregular surfaces of cardboard. We'll just have to stop back a few times. I need also to see the pieces by Cody Hudson and Eddie Martinez, but truthfully their whole roster intrigues me.
Across the street, Aron Packer is showing the wonderfully obsessive art of Brian Dettmer. I marvel at his ability with a pair of scissors and can't believe what his fertile mind conjures up. He must make art in his sleep, cutting up books, overlaying images, dissecting maps. Clearly what makes some people crazy makes others sane.
At Walsh Gallery, there's a survey of Chinese experimental photography. I was struck by the large display of underwater photos by Wang Wei, of adults seeing who can hold their breath underwater the longest, just we we used to do when we were kids. The universally fun images are on the floor and we look down on them just like we would the kids in the pool.
Over at NAB, Susan Sensemann keeps surprising me with her new and energized rapid growth and is paired with Kathleen Vojta, a talented abstract painter who layers images and information constructing strong, seductive, small pieces. I like them. I can feel Vojta finding her voice, enjoying her process and I look forward to watching her grow and the art unfold. And then there's Susan. Finally Susan is feeling her oats, confident in her sexuality and rejoicing in her femininity. This is not that plaintiff feminism that I have difficulty responding to; this is a celebration of self, buoyant confidence, erotic power as only a genuinely informed and aware woman can do. (Yeah, I know it sounds like I've lost any perspective here, but I'm just really impressed with the power, directness and joy of her work. You owe it to yourself to just see the one pastel rose rendered on black paper that easily measures 8 x 10 FEET.) On the way downstairs, on the 2nd floor, peek into Ben Dallas's studio. He is making fantastic, subtle work these days - things he calls geometric puddles. I want one.
That wraps it up for the exhibits opening today. But there's always more art. I revisited Carrie Secrist and I still love her show of tiny works with big subjects and huge works of overwhelming scale.
And I particularly liked the Beverly Fishman show at Sketsos Gabriele where Fishman makes labor intensive, heady "paintings" out of vinyl and vinyl lettering.
Though it is not an exhibition, there is another opening tonight where you get a rare glimpse of the wonders Chicago's Department of Public Art can do with a really limited budget. There's a reception at the former Goldblatt's building at 1613 West Chicago where works by Don Baum, Stephanie Brooks, Rodney Carswell, Carlos Flores, Jin Lee, Don Lipski, Jim Lutes. Tom McDonald Michael Piazza, Art Shay, Tony Tasset and www.lanetwitchell.com/Lane Twitchell can be seen. And after last night's snow Tony Tasset's piece seems oh so relevant.
While you are running around stop in at the Renaissance Society, who continue to surprise and presciently let us know what the rest of the world will be discovering in year's to come. Their All the Pretty Corpses exhibit explores the angst many of today's young artists are feeling. The Renn is one of Chicago's very best resources and as popular and wonderful as it is, it is still too big a secret.
On the way to or from the Renn, check out Gallery Guichard, a relatively new gallery in Bronzeville with a focus on the African Diaspora. I'm touched by the work of Joyce Owens' work. It is important for all of us to expand our horizons and push to comprehend a variety of aesthetics so that we may more completely develop or understand our own.
I've got two tips if you are looking for some good at at great prices, or great art at special prices. Something like that. Flatfile Galleries is having a year-end sale where they get lots of their artists to dig into their stored and forgotten art and offer it up for sale at ridiculously low prices, some as low as $15. Where else can you get original art for that kind of price? And not only that but they are given a respectable percentage of their proceeds to the Chicago ART Foundation.
And Tony Fitzpatrick is having a one day sale on prints Saturday afternoon at his studio (2124 North Damen, Chicago). This is going to be a scene. Don't miss it.
Your not going to let a little snow stop you now, are you?