Art Letter

March 2009 Archives


As I focus on how our economic malaise is affecting art, I am surprised to see galleries holding on to their stupid past as they march maimed, through the present, to the demise that awaits them. Owning art is not a neccessity.  Galleries are stupid when they create barriers between themselves and their audience.  Two galleries I visited to preview their exhibition for your consideration would not let me enter their establishment - because they were installing. Fools. By limiting their exposure to their audiences, by turning away the press, by not being accessible, by not demystifying the gallery process and function, and by being aloof, these galleries are compromising themselves. I will let you know who they are when they close.

Fortunately there are galleries that want our attention and are eager for our visits. 
Rhona Hoffman is opening a strong, reticent exhibit by the formerly cacophonous Spencer Finch, who was at the gallery installing his very quiet, barely existent, photographs of a fog-laden forest. I commented that this body of work was much more subtle than his last; to which Finch replied "I thought it was baroque."  I'd always thought Finch's work had a element of humor to it, but maybe it is irony. Like his silver/gelatin photographs of silver. Cute, but nice art on is own merit without the silver/silver discussion. This new show sheds a lot of light on Finch's oeuvre and leaves us more informed while differently satisfied and expands our appreciation of his significance.


Cody Hudson is one of a few go-to guys for a younger generation of Chicago artists; maybe because they think he's one of them; young and not as experienced as he really is. Or maybe it's that his art and he are accessible and fun. In his new show at Andrew Rafacz,  Hudson delivers some pretty attractive statements with his toned down technique and generates sufficient intrigue to keep us engaged. I like his work. I like the role he plays in our community. I look forward to seeing the show fully installed. I also think Cody has quite a few more tricks up his sleeve and I'm waiting.

Walsh Gallery is a venturesome, insufficiently intriguing show by Sheba Chhachhi.  Lots of ambition, lots of material.  Black walls, mirrored frames, almost interesting imagery and a moving scrim traveling in front of the images - all that and I still want more. I am more struck by the incongruities than I am by the content, the overreaching medium and sparse meaning.  There's promise here.  I'm ready to see it realized.

Some of the galleries I visited said they were gearing up for
ArtChicago - which is only a month away. Odds are Chicago galleries will present exhibitions they think are stronger during that time period. The Art Fair itself promises to be good. Yes, there will be a batch of different galleries than attended last year and despite galleries coming from all over the planet the show will be more regional.  The good news is that the Mart is adding some special events and features that will add breadth to the show and make it better for viewers. I expect to see smaller art, more affordable art, friendlier dealers and people talking more about art than money.  That's good.

Maybe the best art event of the weekend isn't art at all, but a fabulous party hosted by
Collaboraction, which has become the not-to-be-missed rite of Spring called Carnaval.

That's what I think,
Paul Klein


I didn't really want to write an ArtLetter this week.  My prerequisite is that I've got at least three openings I want to write about.  And this week I only found two. But one was so strong I'm here at my keyboard to tell you about it. 

Sarah Krepp's exhibition at Roy Boyd Gallery is the 3rd show by a seasoned Chicago artist that has moved me in the past couple of months. The first impression I have of Krepp's work is the massive amount of labor she brings to her canvasses. David Hockney wrote many years ago about time: how long an artist spends making a piece is directly related to how long a viewer spends with it. Shredded car tires play a significant role in her work, adding a strong 3-dimensional element which balances the multiple cuts she makes into most paintings. Yes, the art moves forward and back from the painted surface, which by the way is painted after she has spent an obsessive amount of time sewing tire parts, text, game pieces and symbols into place. The art exists on many levels and so does its meaning, dealing with sensory perception as indicated by the exhibition title: Blind Sight, which is how people, blind included, can sense objects in their physical space without using their eyes.  Loaded with content the work addresses cacophony, decipherable or indecipherable esoteric forms - depending on our familiarity with scientific charts, eye tests, wind patterns and dance steps. Keep looking; more will reveal itself momentarily.  I see a gestalt that suggests Krepp's art is a parable for life, how we are composite individuals, with multiple relationships and affinities, yet on the surface we all look pretty normal.  Sarah Krepp's new show is impressive.

The other show I enjoyed is at a small new gallery at 1513 N. Western Avenue named FR Works on Paper which opens Saturday night.  FR stands for Frank and Robert, who have been collecting works on paper for decades and are now editing their collection significantly. There are some works, either on view, or in print drawers that are over 200 years old and there are pieces that aren't very old at all. Some of the works have known artists - many do not.  And the pieces are invariably very inexpensive. This is a fabulous resource for people who want antique works on paper at prices cheaper than the frames this art is likely to go in.

I was surprised to learn that Susan Aurenko is
closing her Flatfile Galleries. She has represented a lot of photographers and has been very supportive of local sculptors and numerous Chicago artists. This is what happens in our compromised economy. To the extent we can, we need to support our local galleries or we aren't going to have as many.

Looks like a good weekend; there's art to see,
Paul Klein