Art Letter


In advance of the art fairs next week in Miami, I've been thinking about what distinguishes successful artists from the rest. And to a very large extent it simply boils down to who is taking the initiative and the responsibility for a successful career. And who isn't.

Many artists take appropriate responsibility for making a single work of art, or ever a series. But that doesn't constitute success.  Often artists "attain" gallery representation and think that's enough.  Nope. At best your dealer is a partner.  And having a dealer does not diminish an artist's responsibility.  It just alters it.

The internet is a great tool.  It is changing the landscape for art, the distribution of images and information.  Galleries are no longer the gatekeeper. Artists need to get their persona and their art, out there.  Think about successful artists. Look at their websites.  Look at their galleries coverage for them. Consider how many artists are now being successful, very successful, without a gallery.  Times are changing. (Check out these exemplary artist driven websites: 
Chicago Artists ResourceBad at SportsSharkforum, Art or IdiocyIconoduelThe Other GroupLumpenChicago New Media)

Brian Ulrich has an excellent website. And he has a solid, charming exhibition opening tonight at Rhona Hoffman Gallery.  Brian has been developing his audience for this exhibition all fall, not obnoxiously, but calmly. I've been looking foreword to the show and it's satisfying to see the work in person.  The art is accessible, the scenes vaguely familiar and the situations warmly humorous.  I'm impressed.

Deb Sokolow too whose multilayered, expansive investigative drawing at 40000 brings her art to a new level.  How fun that she is riffing on the Winchester Mystery House.  What a memorable place and how fascinatingly it melds it Deb's art. Yes she is talented, but I suspect that more than talent has led to recent shows at Polvo, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Three Arts Club and into our awareness. That is where success comes from, and she deserves it.

Jason Pickleman is a good example as well. And he's not even an artist. But he has immersed himself in art and culture in Chicago and segues his enthusiasm for all things art to benefit his business. Now he has curated an exhibition at Monique Meloche which all came out of his house.  There's visual poetry here: creative juxtapositions, diverse content, and a handsome installation. Kudos to Monique for using her commercial space for an exhibit in which nothing is for sale.

Walsh Gallery has a good exhibit by Xue Song.  Chinese art is very popular today and a fair amount of it is a vapid calculation of what I suspect Chinese artists think an American audience wants to see.  And I don't think Julie Walsh succumbs to that. She presents really solid exhibits that are thoughtful and reveal something of the artists' personality, intellect and soul. Xue's exhibit is evidence. The work reads like paintings, but is oversized collages of large, almost serious, statements from common and mundane Chinese characters, clippings and artifacts. Nice balance. Interesting exploration.

I thoroughly enjoyed the lighthearted prurience of Loretta Bourque's deviant dalliances at
Linda Warren. These pieces are a lot more substantial than the one-liner, near comic art we are too often exposed to. They're a look at the constraints and arbitrary mores of provincial America, and what we (or they) consider decent - or not.

NavtaSchulz, Keer Tanchak explores the decadence and romance of Watteau's 18th century by quoting his images in her work. On her aluminum panels we encounter known historical references in an unfamiliar environment, which is appropriate to her quest, which includes painterly concerns about surface. It's thoughtful work.

I've been intrigued by
Mark Murphy's work at ZG for quite a while; how he looks at life and translates that into his imagery. His technique is to bisect the common and recombine it in fresh ways, often literally employing jigsaw techniques and processes.  The work is refreshing, just different enough, and insists on be looked at.

And a few tidbits to wrap this ArtLetter up: Quietly and significantly the
Art Institute of Chicago is presenting more art and content from Chicago. Up through April is an insightful, thought provoking show called Young Chicago, which features two of my favorite artists (Nick Cave & Cat Chow) and a lot art, architecture and design.

Richard Tuttle show at the Museum of Contemporary Art kicks butt. He's even smarter than I thought.

And to finish where we started:
Tony Fitzpatrick is a perfect example of an artist taking thorough responsibility for his career, and he is thriving. Saturday afternoon the 9th he is having a studio sale.  Tony maintains a store front studio (on Damen south of Webster) and the door is always open.  If you haven't been, or you want to go incognito, this is the perfect opportunity to learn, witness, and of course to buy a piece or two with a holiday discount.

I'll see you out there,
Paul Klein