Art Letter


It's a new year and we've got a lot of openings tonight. Some galleries are presenting innovative, new, exciting art. As Chicago's Mayor Daley said just two days ago: Cities always have to change. If you don't change, you live in the past. If you live in the past, you don't have a future. The same is true for galleries and artists.

Of the shows I previewed two West Loop galleries presented particularly strong innovative, challenging yet accessible exhibits.  In the lower level of
Flatfile Galleries, Jason Peot is continuing his experiments with light and architecture, cutting open holes in the walls, installing lights and wooden slights, generating shadows, and altering the space in dynamic, brave and solid (well actually amorphous) ways.  He takes the mundane materials, common to us all and reinterprets our environment, our living spaces, and our lives.

Upstairs, in the main space, Peot's work is wonderfully balanced by the elegant, gossamer work of Bob Emser whose sculpture is less and less frequently found on the ground, and is more often found floating in space or hanging from a wall.  Like simplified space objects Emser creates warm elegant, translucent, spacious art.  And it's fun to see some of his daughter, Lindy's photographs included, with images of cracked earth that seem disparate from her dad's, but in fact their work resonates charmingly with one another.

Rhona Hoffman is rockin'. (Oh, wait. She asked me to speak more formally and less colloquially.) Ms. Hoffman acts on her conviction that artists need space to take chances and express adventuresome exhibitions. This is certainly true of Chicago-based Tania Bruguera, whose heady, inventive, engaging exhibit presents 6 novel interpretations of Samuel Beckett's "Endgame." Overlaying our assumed familiarity with Beckett's motifs Bruguera presents 6 movies and accompanying maquettes, offering interpretations of the issues she believes Beckett's characters are longing for; love, passion, excitement. It is a charming piece, challenging, speculative, yet accessible on many levels. This one is worth spending time with.

In the front gallery, Rhona is presenting remarkably vibrant, fantastic hanging ceramic sculptures by Chicagoan Chris Garofalo.  I've seen her work before in her studio shows, but nothing has ever come close the quality and excitement of this body of work.  Kudos to Rhona for delving deep enough to unveil the joy and competence Garofalo's work explodes with.  In some ways Garofalo reminds me of the incomparable genius of Claire Zeisler.  Two great, divergent exhibits.  Change, risk, growth, results. A pleasure.

I like the balance of the considered, thoughtful, high quality, expansive and energetic art presented by Stephanie Sketsos at
Sketsos Gabrielle Gallery. The new show, curated by former Chicagoan, now operating out of San Antonio, Jennifer Jankauskas, presents a group show of images of family. Some are photo-documentaries; some are collages.  It is fresh, warm and friendly. At some galleries it is nice to see old friends. At Sketsos it is refreshing to be introduced to strong, new talent.

Last month I visited
Bucket Rider Gallery where I saw Scott Roberts beginning his ten foot tall installation of cut corrugated cardboard. Now, 100 hours of labor later he has not only finished his installation but painted a portrait of Nietzsche on it. It's odd.  When you stand in from of the piece you can tell there's something going on, but you see all these disparate cardboard forms that resemble a mountains craggy peaks.  When you look at it through a camera lens you get the portrait and don't focus on all the mountainous texture your "naked" eye sees. This is worth experiencing.

In River North, there are numerous shows opening tonight, two of which I saw.  At
Catherine Edelman I saw a strong show of photographs by Bruce Davidson who has captured a lot of poignant pivotal moments from our collective past. Some of the work reinforces my memories of historic events; some educates because what I'm looking at is new to me.

Carl Hammer has an interesting show, All about Women, and maybe it's the word "all" that's important here. There is a progressive, groundbreaking new painting by Phyllis Bramson, and a fresh, old painting of Hollis Sigler's, yet the presence of a mildly prurient Timothy Greenfield-Sanders portrait of Jenna Jameson, though enticing, feels incongruous.

I revisited the fabulous Printworks 25th Anniversary exhibition, The Art of the Bookplate which features special works by 72 artists- just about everybody you'd think of and then some.  If you haven't seen this show, do.  If you don't you'll be kicking yourself later.  Promise.

And at Polvo you can warm up while expanding your horizons with a group show of artists from Texas.

Peripherally in the West Loop, BSD/Butcher Shop Dogmatic is showing 3 Chicago artists (Stacie Johnson, Lisa Williamson and Kristen VanDeventer) more known for being art girl administrators than for their artwork, but their art is definitely worth knowing about and experiencing. 

Further west, in Oak Park, two galleries, Suburban and Shane Campbell are having openings too.

And on the north side, Johnsonese Gallery, which specializes in emerging and accessible artists, is presenting Palimpsest, featuring David Harouni and Joey Wozniak.

I look forward to seeing you out there tonight.

And thanks!
Paul Klein