Art Letter


November 2010 Archives

11/19/2010 Text Matters
Deb Sokolow's work at Western Exhibitions reminds me of reading comics as a kid.  There's a pulpy quality to her narrative pieces.  A story is revealed or dissected.  The drawing is direct; the feeling sincere.  But the sincerity is lovingly undermined by the text itself.  Random segments of random chapters from non-existent books.  Yet a dialog is maintained.  This is good,  fun, accessible, yet complicated art.

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Tony Fitzpatrick is The Master.  He is ahead of us all.  He senses the pulse and rides its crest ahead of us.  Tonight, Tony Fitzpatrick and his 'art' partner Stan Klein, reveal Firecat Projects, that just last month was Fitzpatrick's studio.  But as long as he has been sitting like a callgirl in the window, the time came for him to go private and focus on his images.  Already, the new art is even stronger, clearer and more poignant.  And where there was as studio there is a elegant, sparkling clean, new gallery, with its first offering Fitzpatrick's powerful collages.  Subsequent shows will present artists who Fitzpatrick feels are under-seen.  The gallery will not take a percentage of sales and will benefit from the sale of posters and books. Like few others, Fitzpatrick leads.

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I know Ken Fandell.  I've worked with him. I've read what the press says about him and listened to his dealers talk about him.  And I'm not sure I buy all this theory that goes into his work, that there's some balance between the cosmos and the mundane, or I suppose in this case, the cosmos and the sidewalk, as demonstrated in the "persona" of the banana, in a show opening tonight at Tony Wight.  I think Fandell may humor himself with this esoterica, but that his real endeavor is making pretty pictures.  He succeeds.

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Thank you,


11/12/2010 Ray Yoshida, Seminal Influence
Ray Yoshida was a brilliant artist and a gifted teacher.  The show that opens tonight at the School of the Art Institute's Sullivan Galleries is likely the best show of the year in Chicago.

Titled, Touch and Go: Ray Yoshida and his Spheres of Influence, the exhibition is a consummate journey through his career and an examination of his peers and the students whose lives he touched aesthetically. 

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The show is hung chronologically, beginning with pieces from the 1960's and flows until the late 1990's.  Sprinkled throughout are examples of artists whose work he inspired, enabled or influenced.  It's an eye-opener for me.  I moved to Chicago in 1981 and immersed myself in my art gallery and pumping a fairly abstract agenda.  Only later did I come to appreciate the strength, diversity and history of Chicago art-making, which to a large extent, I now realize, and see, is a tribute to Ray Yoshida.

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I can't think of any other Chicago based artist who influenced as many others as Yoshida did.  It's as if his friends and students would see something he did at a specific moment and they would use it as the jumping off point for their own careers - and these are all thoroughly diverse artists.  As you look at his work, and see it flow organically, look at his art and see if you can recognize all these folks who came after him; Christina Ramberg, Karl Wirsum, Ed Paschke, Richard Hull, Miyoko Ito, Chris Ware, Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Rebecca Shore, Evelyn Statsinger, Roger Brown, Mary Lou Zelazny and a slew more. Often the influence was so close that I would mistake his work for someone else's, so it is important to keep in mind that he was the one who came first.

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If you aspire to comprehend Chicago, it is imperative to understand its art, because it is a reflection of the people and work ethic that exist here.  And if you are going to grasp its art, Yoshida is more seminal than all who followed.  This works in a several ways, the first of which is likely the love and compassion he had for others and how art would reveal the soul within.  He didn't seek to stamp his imprint as much as he sought to find the core of other artists to see what made them tick.  From that compassionate affinity, artists could not help but identify with some of his iconic images and make them their own, and run with them.  All these inspired artists have developed their own iconography differently from one another, yet were enabled by Yoshida.

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This show excels in so many ways; a tribute to a brilliant artist, a guide to understanding Chicago and it's art; an acknowledgment of the relationship between a school, its teachers and their students; a revelation of how the artworld grows and morphs; and a beautiful, yet didactic installation, with a fine catalog.  Ray Yoshida's art warrants, and needs, to be seen more than once.

Thank you,

This is one of those weekends where there are more exhibitions opening than you could possibly squeeze in. I managed to preview several, including the rambunctious SOFA show at Navy Pier, which I'll discuss first before moving on to the galleries.

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SOFA (which stands for Sculptural Objects Functional Art) has been around quite a while. It is largely a glass show, which doesn't particularly turn me on. I find the stuff soulless. But even so I found glass work that I liked. It's a good show, fabulously organized and beautifully laid out. It is much less pretentious than the art fairs I prefer, which means I can enjoy the energy and the things that resonate - which are numerous.


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Though most exhibits at SOFA are from the U.S. there's a broad array of aesthetics, nationalities and cultures presented. I found a lot of things that were new to me and enjoyed most of them more than the art or crafts that were more familiar.


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Perhaps you can tell that there is a lot of diversity - except it's still mostly glass.


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As you can see from the photos - which includes next to no glass - that there's plenty to see if this much is not glass and glass is in the vast majority of what's on view.

New this year is The Intuit Show being melded into SOFA's space. This looks to be a handsome boost for Intuit which focuses on folk art, naive and outsider art. This was my favorite part of what's on view there.


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To sum up SOFA / Intuit experience I'd say the event is more worth attending than ever before, if only because there's clearly plenty to enjoy at the SOFA part and the addition of Intuit adds an entirely different, yet tangentially related component to the show. I'm glad I went.

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Let's move on to the galleries that are opening exhibitions tonight. Typically most openings I write about are in the West Loop. This time there are a couple there, but most are in River North, so we'll start at the Cultural Center where Jeff Zimmerman has been painting his brilliant murals right on the wall. Now that they are done, there's a reception.

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In River North, many of the shows are playing off SOFA or the Humanities Festival.

At David Weinberg are two oner person exhibits inspired by the Humanities Festival, that relate to the body. One is vibrant abstract images by Jordan Eagles that are made out of blood.


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Also on view are quite a few panoramic images of bodybuilders, both male and female, that provide with a voyeuristic view, but it is obvious that Dylan Vitone is trusted by those he's documenting.


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Addington Gallery is showing virtuous realist Joseph Hronek. Despite looking like the paintings are three dimensional, they are totally flat.

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There's something about David Lozano's paintings at Zolla/Lieberman that appeals to me. There's a funky, elegant, idiosyncratic eye guiding the creation of this work and I like the compositions. And accompanying his work are pieces by Richard Notkin and gallery artists.


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Nicholas Sistler's work around the corner at Printworks is fabulous - even if the show doesn't open tonight. Delicate, small, hand-drawn work is combined with images extracted from Kinsey to create personal, luminous, labor intensive beauty. If you buy with your ears, a boxed set has already been acquired by the Art Institute and is being considered by The Getty.


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Back to those who are opening tonight - Russell Bowman is opening a group exhibit of favored Chicago arts. Some curious juxtapositions and some great art.


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Elizabeth Ernst is rather wonderful in an exhibit titled Smoke & Mirrors at Catherine Edelman, which addresses circus people, their psychological issues and difference betwen their true persona and public face. Sculptures and painted-on photos are insightful, provocative and rich.


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Upstairs at Perimeter Gallery are the calm , Japanese centric sewn baskets and bowls in wood by Dona Look. Downstairs is a small group show called Nude in Chicago that includes two artist whose work I greatly respect: Chris Antemann and Dana Major Kanovitz.


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All right - time to head over to the West Loop where EbersMoore has huge art in a small space. The relationship is powerful, and mandates that you walk around, climb on and inspect Michael Rea's wonderful, obsessive work.


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My last stop was saved for one of my favorite venues - hey it used to be mine - Douglas Dawson where I came upon the seductive, Japanese sensitive, indigo work of Rowland Ricketts who even grows his own indigo right here in Illinois.


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I saw a lot of good art and there's quite a bit that I missed. This is a great weekend for indulging the visual.

Enjoy & thank you!
Paul Klein