Art Letter

April 2007 Archives


ArtChicago in particular and Artropolis in general are fantastic.

After walking around the fairs for two days watching dealers and artists install artwork it is entirely safe to say that it very well may be the best art fair ever seen in Chicago.  Opening with a preview for collectors tonight, it is absolutely amazing how wonderful ArtChicago is. It is surpassing the expectations of all the excited dealers in attendance, and those who didn't apply are walking around wishing that they had.  Furthermore a lot of dealers are already doing substantial business with one another.

if you've followed along 2 years ago I
lambasted the show's old organizers for doing Chicago a disservice.  Last year we were appreciative that there was a show at all. And this year the Mart has pulled out all the stops and the 5 shows they're presenting rock.

Perhaps you recall that I loathed
Miami Basel last December with all the hyperbole, bling and fake breasts. This morning I walked around the fair with Swiss (formerly Chicago) artist Mark Staff Brandl who is exhibiting at The Artist Project fair next door and the first words out of his mouth were, "this isn't trendy like Basel." He is so right.

Recently I've written about
Chicago's midwestern work ethic and how it pervades the arts even if we don't know it. At ArtChicago and the exciting Bridge Fair you can see that it is about the work.  Really good, really solid, well executed art dominates. It makes me think a lot of prescient dealers deduced what to bring for a Chicago audience.

I can't wait till tonight to see what it's like with the bevy of collectors who are coming.  I hope it doesn't change everything for me.  It's been great walking around with no one there.

I've tried to
list some of the highlights (actually a decent compendium) to focus on some of the great things that are happening this weekend.  At the top of my list are:

Tony Fitzpatrick's gorgeous, narrative exhibit at Architrouve, opens Friday night with copious hot dogs from Hot Doug's.  It's going to be crowded.

Hyde Park Art Center's 24 hour extravaganza starting at noon Saturday features the incredible Juan Angel Chavez and a slew of other exemplary local art talent, like Diana Guerrero-Macia, Ken Fandell, Duncan MacKenzie, Deb Sokolow, and CarianaCarianne.  Just go.

Katharina Grosse's exhibit at the Renaissance Society, where she paints for paint's sake is exciting.

This is it.  The Mart has created Artropolis.  Artropolis has united the art energies in the city.

It's good. Very good.

Say hi.  I'll be out there a lot.
Paul Klein


Argh - I've been under the weather all week. You know, don't you, that if I hadn't been, I'd have gone out and previewed all these shows below so I could have picked the good ones for you to have a better sense of what you'd want to see in person (cough, cough).

Jo Hormuth is a special Chicago artist.  For me, she's harder than hell to quantify. She makes very personal and very public work all at once.  She has a show opening tonight at Old Gold, "a new West Side exhibition and event space. . .with the feel of a wood-paneled basement recreation room."  Now, superimpose on that space all these appropriated images of mounted deer racks that people are selling on eBay and an absurd dialogue begins, which is of course augmented by Hormuth's inclusion of a gaming table. And yes, she's publishing a book of these images.  I told you she's special.

ThreeWalls first exhibition in their new space (same address) enters its 2nd of 3 phases with the opening of "place in a flat world," which presents videos by artists addressing 'their' place in a society bombarded by globalization. Curated by Chicago's Catherine Forster of LiveBox.

Lucas Samaras is just barely on the functional side of nuts.  He's been making disparate, fantastic work for decades. It doesn't get seen much in the world and almost never here, which is why Russell Bowman's survey exhibition opening tonight is remarkable.  Very nice.

Rhona Hoffman opens Part II (The 80's) of her 30th Anniversary celebration of showing significant art in Chicago.

So far, I've known
Jin Soo Kim as a remarkable sculptor whose had a long relationship with Zolla/Lieberman Gallery.  Tonight she's opening a show of paintings there. I haven't seen them. What if they're as good as her three-dimensional work?

Kasia Kay is presenting two exhibits opening this evening: From Poland? about "ways of perceiving 'Polishness' in the context of ongoing globalization," (I'm beginning to notice a trend.) and Kim Curtis, a painter who is well-traveled and presently living downstate a bit in Urbana.

Rowley Kennerk (same building as ThreeWalls) is making inroads into Chicago and my consciousness with attractive showings of difficult art, like the films of German artist David Lieske who states he "means to purposely complicate the readability of (his) works." Oh, Joy. But they are pretty.

NavtaSchulz has two exhibits opening tonight; one indoors of replicated engines, hearts and Hummers by David Packer and one outdoors of flags and banners by Judith G. Levy whose work addresses hooded archetypes and stereotypes of feminism.

Tonight's also the opening of
Gosia Koscielak's CrossMediale2, an exhibition of American and international art in new media.

GardenFresh keeps moving up in the world from their beginnings in a garage a few years ago to their handsome new space, they open a show tonight titled You Winsome, You Lose Some, which is  a great title about the increasing prevalence of cute art.

Lou Mallozzi is a genius with sound and his Experimental Sound Studio is branching out; presenting an exhibition of "static" images by Chicago's Terri Zupanc of people and animals listening. Some are delicate drawings. Some are large scale photographs

There are three world-class galleries in Chicago:
Rhona Hoffman, Richard Gray and Donald Young, and quite a few contenders.  Rhona Hoffman and Paul Gray (of Richard Gray Gallery) have been major players in contributing to the culture of Chicago and deserve significant credit for supporting ArtChicago in its meteoric rise from the ashes to the celebratory showcase we're about to see in two weeks.  Rhona particularly has been front and center in cajoling her peers to come to town.  And what has Donald done, who's not participating in this year's art fair? Opening tonight at Donald Young is another show of ceramics by Andrew Lord.  I know he is a sought after artist, but I find the work boring and not particularly competent, and ceramics is something I know a fair amount about having worked with Ken Price, Jun Kaneko and Tony Hepburn for a long time. I'd like it if someone would tell me what there is to appreciate in Lord's work.

Maybe I'm just sick.

Thank you,
Paul Klein

PS:  In news announced this morning the
Chicago Cultural Center has received a $225,000 grant to expand the Chicago Artists' Resource website, from the MacArthur Foundation. Congratulations (BK) to them. They deserve every penny!

PS2: Great play in an extended run at
Collaboraction: The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow.  Great script. Great acting

ArtChicago Guide
(This is a work in progress.   If you event is not listed here, email me, and if I feel it fits, I'll add it.)

Let's get this straight, upfront: This is going to be a thoroughly kickass weekend, maybe a better Art Fair weekend than Chicago has ever seen, with more collaborators, more events, more art, more fun, and more synergy, in large part due to the largesse of the Merchandise Mart and their vision.

There are FIVE Fairs (all the weekend of April 26th through April 30th):

Videos about Artropolis: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight

There is a FABULOUS Symposium C6 on the world of art at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, with great speakers and meaty subjects.

All of this fits under the aegis of Artropolis including:

Download the entire Artopolis Brochure
Download the entire
ArtChicago Brochure
Look here for
more valuable downloads
Guide to the Galleries
West Town Gallery Network

Bat at Sports
Edward Lifson
Art or Idiocy

There's a ton of other great stuff going on in Chicago:

Openings this Weekend:




Art Institute of Chicago / Cezanne to Picasso


I've been focusing recently on what distinguishes Chicago from other art centers and how the traits of a city influences the art that is made and shown in them.

New York and Los Angeles have different histories than we do.  They're much more interested in stardom than we are. The shallow veneer they pursue often demotes substance in favor of careerism - the overwhelming desire or urge to advance one's own career or status at the expense of personal interests or social growth.

We're not like that. Chicago has an artworld based on work.  And our artists tend to view themselves as workers of the cultural field, no loftier or entitled than construction workers.  We value process and ability much more than hyperbole. A work ethic instead of mercurial pursuit of success.

I'm intrigued by how the history many of us and many artists have lost touch with or never even know nevertheless influences and shapes the art that is made here. Chicago has long been a blue collar town. This is a place where people came to work - the the Stockyards, the Exchanges, in commerce and in art.

There's a great show at
Corbett vs Dempsey that illustrates this point beautifully. Titled Bold Saboteurs; Collage & Construction in Chicago, the exhibit presents about 50 years of fabulous art cobbled together in Chicago. Yes, the show is all about wonderful artists who use(d) found materials to make art, but it also presents art that is of substance, often made from detritus, by people who were compelled to make art because they had to and not because art-making served as a vehicle for a more monied life, or attention, or fame.  The art is not calculated or vapid and it doesn't need to be explained by artspeak on wall labels.  It is about the work.

Maybe it's a Midwestern trait. Maybe it's associated with farming, working the earth, using one's hands and the rewards for a good day's work. Maybe it's about an honest relationship between an artist and his or her audience.  Or maybe it's just about being honest with oneself.

Look at the remarkable pieces by
Ralph Arnold, Morris Barazani, Lillian Rammel, Tony Fitzpatrick, Jim Faulkner. Ray Yoshida and H.C. Westermann for starters.

It's all about the art.  And while I suspect they artists are all more influenced by their lives in Chicago than the noise of the artworld, they were not ignorant.  They and we know what's going on. We just pursue our lives a bit differently.

Two days ago I heard the
Mart's Chris Kennedy speak about Chicago being a meritocracy, a city where art has the power to influence the lives of the citizenry, a city that can work together to recreate an art fair the way it should be, a city where art can augment the economic engine. On one hand, this is radical thinking, different from how the preponderance of the artworld operates, and at the same time a direct extension of what it means to make art in Chicago.

In 1980
Robert Nickle wrote:

    I sometimes wonder why I feel a compatibility to street scrap. I thought about it and remember trips to the city dump when I was a kid. There were spectacular things. I used to go with my dad.

And 27 years later Tony Fitzpatrick writes:

    I make my living as an artist. Truth be told the artworld has never been my home.  I don't care about 'isms,' theory, or any of the other artworld crap that is the coin of the realm. I make art out of the stuff that most people throw away or drop into a drawer. No place in the contemporary artworld is there even a whiff of working class people - it's mostly about fashion.

There are myriad groups working to make a difference.  It is entirely possible that what is going on in Chicago today will alter the way art business is done globally and forever influence how and why people buy art

Talk about a work ethic. Take a gander at
Barbara Koenen's work at Polvo, also opening tonight in a small group show with CarianaCarianne, Kim Frieders, Jaime Mendoza and Miguel Cortez. Koenen makes her art by dropping the likes of paprika, poppy seeds, turmeric, ginger, fennel and ground coffee in the patterns of Afghan war rugs.  One sneeze and it's gone. It's about the work, not the money and certainly not the glory.

Look at the endless work
Ed Marzewski (Edmar) who hosts Version and Lumpen Magazine. Tonight they are having a silent auction fully stocked with wonderful work by Chicago artists giving of themselves so you can "steal" some quality and Version can be a success again this year.

And consider what
ThreeWalls has done in the short time they've been in existence, bringing artists from for and wide to Chicago for a one month residency to create and exhibit the art they made while here.  ThreeWalls has moved to a new and larger space on the same floor they've occuipied all along. And in a few months the former space will be reincarnated as ThreeWallsSOLO to present by Chicago artists that is being insufficiently seen in our existing support structure. All Good.  Consider what Director Shannon Stratton said just over a month ago:

    In a culture that's so completely saturated with stuff to buy, we're losing an important part of art: artist's practice. We're definitely providing a different place, a different way to look at art here that is concerned with studio time, research and process over product.

Tonight ThreeWalls is opening a new exhibit in 3 parts, each one week long, titled Placing, in which the  curators of the 3 shows (Ruba Katrib, Catherine Forster of LiveBox and Kat Parker and Katie Rashid of Duchess) present videos that comment on the artworld and its self-indulgent artifice.

It's beginning to feel like a gentle revolution here.  Add all of the above to the tireless, non-remunerated, artist led, efforts of
Sharkforum and Bad at Sports and you start to see a very real, very dynamic, very significant, stunning trend.

Personally, I encourage you strongly to become a part of it. Look for quality.  Look for substance. Avoid vapid crap.  Look for art that'll stick with you for years instead of minutes. And then buy it. Buy with your heart, your values and your head.  Your values, not anyone else's. And ignore trends. Buy because it resonates for you.  Your actions will support and shape art in Chicago. That's important.

Thank you very much,
Paul Klein