Art Letter

July 2006 Archives


There are a lot of festivities tonight surrounding the myriad openings associated with the Chicago Art Dealers Association's annual "Vision" shows which were once thematic and  associated with Absolut vodka. Now they are neither.  I'm not sure what happened to the art/booze relationship, but I'm quite capable of passing judgment on how good a job dealers did of mounting shows.

Historically, summer has resembled the doldrums for galleries but over the past decade more galleries see business and the promotion of artists they value as an all the time activity.  Still, some dealers present thoroughly kick-ass exhibits and others just pull work from the back room. To a large extent exhibits fall into two categories; exhibits of new talent or just the normal gallery artists. 

Of the scads of exhibits I saw every one was a group show, of at least 2 artists and sometimes dozens, which means the exhibits are more about the dealers, their vision, panache, fervor than it is about the artists.   Some dealers see this as an opportunity to strut their stuff and show off their curatorial ability while others see it as an opportunity to sit back and be lazy and pull work from the back room and call it a day.

Enough introduction. Let's get to the awards.

Catherine Edelman is exemplary. I'm in awe of her passion and vision. Titled Under the Influence, the work in her show acknowledges the antecedents that inspired it; like a Gordon Parks photo from 1942 inspired by Grant Wood, a Vik Muniz inspired by Rembrandt, a Richard Misrach inspired by Walker Evans and a Gregory Scott inspired by Jeff Koons.  The list goes on. The work sings.  What a fun show and even the pricelist is a gem with pictures of the inspiration next to the description of the work it inspired.  I've seen enough of her presentations to know Ms Edelman is world class.  She cares. She's smart. She's very good at what she does.  For her it is about the art and artists. We should all pay attention to what she does.  She's a role model.

Proving that a gallery needn't be in a enclave of others to prosper,
Corbett vs Dempsey's show has done it again. Innovative, iconoclastic, brave, fun, prurient and well hung their exhibit is titled Full Frontal; the Dirty, Lewd, Erotic Show. From Roger Brown's 'homage' to Georgia O'Keefe, to Seymour Resofsky's vivid, lurid painting that makes me want to turn away by like a train wreck it keeps me looking, to Gladys Nilsson, this show is special.  But nothing is so special as Robert Amft's (he's in his late 80's) sensitive and loving erotica not done when he was a young buck, but recently as a passionate senior citizen proving that there's fun on the road that lies ahead.  Ask yourself this; how many artists are there who've been making art for over 60 years and haven't peaked yet? If it were not for John Corbett and Jim Dempsey Amft would be doing it alone, but because they're such passionate dealers Amft is thriving in full view. We are all lucky.  Go see why.

Carl Hammer Gallery it was great to see Yolanda all fired up about their new exhibit. She was particularly excited by four young artists who are all recent graduates of local art schools. Accurately called Fresh Takes; a Contemporary View of Who We Are, the work gets us to look at our society, our peers and ourselves. I liked the show a lot and appreciated the content and the conscientious overview of the exhibit.

Susan Gescheidle has a couple of guest curators.  Chicago galleries don't engage curators much. I'm glad she did. This show is takeoff on the Wonder Twins and their teenage, alien superpowers. Works here are often symmetrical or overlaid and frequently touch on doubletrouble.  High energy, playful, science-fictiony. Refreshing.  Fun.

More than a lot of dealers
William Lieberman (Zolla/Lieberman Gallery) thinks like an artist. When he has the opportunity to use his ability he presents quality shows that are slightly offbeat, perhaps brave.  I don't see a lot of shows of female portraiture by female artists. There's a different kind of love for the female figure; it's more honest, more tender, more real. I mean I fully appreciate what a guy sees in a female figure, but I learn from what a woman sees. There are memorable pieces here.

Stephanie Skestos' gallery is one year old. She is celebrating her first anniversary with a show of works on paper. Get it? First anniversary - paper? I was particularly drawn to the work of Shinique Smith whose vibrant, urban celebration made me happy.

I've always liked
Gallery 40000 and am pleased to see them move to a new location formerly occupied by Bodybuilder and Sportsman who in turn is moving just down the hall.  Gallery 40000's new exhibit is titled Stiff and explores the various meanings of the word from associations with personality, the morgue, being scared, a phallus, just about everything but 'lucky ___,' which is what 40000 is to find such good space and neighbors.  Keep on eye on this place. They have promise.

Kasia Kay has passion.  She shows some different work, some interesting work and some work I don't get. She has a different perspective, a lot of solid experience and an eye that is sometimes different than mine.  This is another gallery I want to pay attention to; to learn from and grasp. It isn't always about agreement. It's about broadening one's horizons.

I saw quite a few other exhibits. I even bought a small piece at
Aron Packer, but the shows I discussed here are the one's where the dealers stepped up and made a statement, where they didn't just conduct business as usually but got involved, where I saw art that I wouldn't normally see or where the relationships between the objects on display were refreshing.


It was good. Thank you.

Paul Klein