Art Letter


1/12/07

The kickoff of the second half of the Chicago gallery art season began last week with numerous openings in River North and is followed tonight by multiple openings in the West Loop.

Though the art I saw was good there a couple of changes underfoot that I think noteworthy. 
Susan Gescheidle will be leaving her space in late spring commensurate with changes to her program. I understand entirely. She wants a smaller location where she can focus on fewer artists and do more for them. This is a courageous move - following one's instincts and moving into uncharted territory. She will take space upstairs from NavtaSchulz. Navta Schulz is a wonderful gallery rapidly augmenting its presence in its first year in Chicago.

Not only is
Navta Schulz getting a quality new neighbor, they are doing something this month that Chicago galleries rarely do - sharing an artist with another gallery having simultaneous shows at two different venues.  Alexa Horochowski has shown previously with Meloche.  In this outing, her work looks really strong. There are about a dozen pieces at Navta Schulz and a few slightly older pieces at Meloche.  This is vaguely autobiographical work somewhat reminiscent of Henry Darger and Balthus.  Almost ever painting employs a central figure and an alter ego, such that nice and naughty can coexist at the same time.  It is an interesting insight yielding device.  The work has a powerful ambiguity, but because there are more clues given the work can also be more esoteric.

The earlier works at
Meloche enable us to realize the development, increased ability and confidence Horochowski has attained. I like the thread that draws the two galleries together.

Mariana Levant is a talented and intriguing painter.  Her work at Gescheidle is new and fresh and has solid historical antecedents.  Born in Russia, educated and living in Chicago, Levant's paintings have a spatial balance that reminds me Roberto Matta. There's a visual path that navigates its' way through the paintings that enables me to read this work sculpturally. I think this is solid work. I first saw pieces a few months ago. The vocabulary and cast of marks are different from other artists.  Seeing Levant's art more than once helps, which is often the case with gifted artists - it takes a while to comprehend their ability and language.  I'm getting there. I liked them the first time I saw them and I like them better this time.

Rhona Hoffman has a excellent show of pieces from Fred Sandback's estate. He is known for his drawings in space made with straight, stretched, yarn-like string. This show has that, but the work feels more sculptural to me.  The lines work together is some cases to create allusions to 3 dimensional form.   That was fun; seeing something different and new in an artist's work I thought I comprehended.

Anna Meyer and Jemima Wyman are certainly having a lot of fun.  The Gallery 400000 website says they employ "visual metaphors found within digital culture, while advocating a politics of pleasure generated from restrained ribaldry and otherness as subject matter," which makes me feel like I'm about to get indigestion at a too supercilious new restaurant.  Instead, I feel like these two are having a hoot after discovering scads of permutations of a hound's-tooth pattern. Though there is obviously seriousness underlying their folly, this is a predominantly a celebration of black and white, how patterns overlay and play with one another and how design, when altered a few degrees at every opportunity, enables a fun, satisfying yet challenging environment. This too is a good show. Quite a few young women are making strong creative statements in town this month.  And this show presents a fertile playground for us, and ultimately for the artists to draw upon, as they get their careers going.

David Parker (at Kasia Kay) is one of the few truly honest artists whose art is exploring his life, its trials and tribulations and his existence in suburbia, which he is clearly not enjoying.  If this is therapy, where Parker seeks to escape the grasp of the suburbs by launching himself into space (or a big city) from his trampoline, then I hope he doesn't get well.  Accompanying his honesty is a vulnerability and self-deprecation that resonates when I allow myself to get as intuitive privately as Parker does publicly. Good vicarious voyeurism opportunity.  Better him than me.

I used to present at least a couple of group shows every year. Now I don't feel like I like them as much - at least as a viewer trying to figure out the common elements the dealer or curator saw. I know when I curated group shows I liked them - they gave me a chance to make an aesthetic statement of my own, which I felt like I deferred on when doing a one-person exhibition.   Of the group shows I saw two were particularly enjoyable.

Linda Warren is smart and getting more savvy. Her exhibition is a cacophony of color meant to cheer up a drab, cold, gray, Chicago winter. And it certainly works. Titled Normal, the show explores peoples' desire to be normal. Heck, I don't even know what's normal in terms of Americans these days.  I'm sure I don't aspire to normalcy.  And when I see artists exploring the subject I don't really see normal either. I see a discussion about normal.  But it's nor reverential. There's fun work in this show; perfect for a summer day - or a respite from winter.

Maxwell Graham is an observant, freelance Chicago curator who presents Open and Shut at Skestos Gabriele.  Drawing on artists who work with text or words Graham has assembled artists who are not the usual suspects.  Predominantly monochromatic this exhibit is a nice foil to Linda Warren's.  It is thoughtful, contemplative, solid, and unobtrusive. The show is well hung and not crowded. The text is interesting, though I prefer to not focus on "reading", but using the text as stimuli, the same way I would brushstrokes in a painting.  It makes me think of the form - the visual presentation - of a poem.  Stephanie Skestos is honing her focus and finding her own important place within the Chicago art structure.  She's doing well and caters to a slightly different audience that other Chicago galleries, giving her (or perhaps a result of) a unique perspective. This is a good place to go to see strong yet slightly different art from what we see elsewhere.   That, all by itself, makes it worthwhile.

Thanks for coming along,
Paul Klein