Art Letter

2/06/09 Some Excellent New Exhibits This Time Around

I saw some outstanding art in my travels to find art openings for you to attend.

Let's start with the best. Opening Sunday afternoon at the
Hyde Park Art Center is an outstanding survey of the every so slightly warped mind, gifted hands and compassionate persona of Mary Lou Zelazny.  To see the growth and range of her work, over more than 20 years, is fabulous Starting with the insanely intricate collages, she's got to compare favorably to Kurt Schwitters.  That's significant praise.  In my mind he was a genius with a scissors and Mary Lou is the heir.  Look at this art from a distance and see how the images are cohesive and slightly quirky.  Step up close, inches away, and look at the remarkable array of cut up papers she has compiled.  Utterly convincing. No doubt she is the best, insufficiently appreciated artist working in Chicago today.

Okay, from the best let's go to the top - the 10th floor of the
Spertus Museum, which is ostensibly about things Judaic, but more than that it is about being cross-cultural and tolerant. A Force for Change is a show curated by two of Chicago's very best curators; Daniel Schulman and Staci Boris. In a nutshell, if you ever learn of an exhibit curated by either of these two - go.  At Spertus they've selected 60 works by 22 artists who were benefitted by the generosity of Julius Rosenwald in the 1930's and 40's, who made a fortune as CEO of Sears. The fund gave substantial money to African-American artists, writers, teachers and scholars as well as southern whites with an interest in race relations. Some, who benefitted and are on view, are known to us; Gordon Parks, Charles White and Jacob Lawrence, but there are other outstanding artists in the show, which opened last night, but is on exhibit into August and the views from the 10th floor, indoors and out, are special. Yes.

Justin Cooper, whose show opens tonight at Monique Meloche is very talented and a little offbeat himself. As whimsical as his art is it is equally well made.  In fact, it is the combination that elevates his art to success, especially in a piece where 4 folding chairs are balanced atop some erect garden hoses. If Penn & Teller were artists . . .

Next door, at
N'Namdi is a rock solid (okay, maybe that's a stretch) show of new work by Gregory Coates.  Loaded with historical references, yet contemporary, every one these pieces succeed on their own merit. Made either from stretched and tied bicycle inner tubes, or feathers on panel, Coates is having a good time and we're right there with him.  Totally different than Zelazny, these are collages too, Not particularly deep, they just feel good.

Also opening tonight are the virtuous, eerie and sometimes scary paintings of
Leonard Koscianski at Carl Hammer.  I've been familiar with his ferocious dogs for sometime, but didn't realize that other natural scenes where within his bailiwick. Good thing. These paintings I could examine up close without worrying about rabies shots. Koscianski is a helluva painter. When you're this close you can smell the oil paint and observe how gifted he is at rendering his images.  There's a push-me pull-you thing going on here that captivates, sucking us in and repelling us simultaneously.  Either way, we can't dismiss this work.

More fun is on view at Mini Dutch - opening Saturday evening, run by the incomparable Lucia Fabio, who does it all; works, makes art, volunteers at NFP's and has her own gallery, where she encourages artists to make brave art, take chances and exhibit their fervor. This time around she invited Britton Bertran to curate a show titled Buttress - you know, where things are either propped up or decorated somewhat artificially.  This is a fun show, in a fun space on the first weekend of the new year where you can go look at art and not freeze your butt off.

As most of you know I was involved with the selection of the art for
McCormick West. Sabrina's Raaf's very big, very complex, very wonderful piece has finally been installed.  It took over three weeks for the installation and it took until now because we had to wait until there was sufficient time without conventioneers around - safety concerns. Raaf's piece is wonderful. The entrance at 23rd and Indiana is opened almost all the time, and you can go up the escalator, through the Central Concourse to the end and you'll see the Raaf to your left. The best time to go is at dusk, or later, when the lights on the art are most visible. This Raaf is based on Chicago's Windy City moniker. Making noise into the microphone causes the glass curtain wall image on the monitors to dance and the lights to flash.

Let's go!
Paul Klein