Art Letter


October 2011 Archives

Good Weekend for Good Art
Here it comes again, the MDW Fair; arguably the best art fair, or at least the best feeling art fair on the south side of Chicago.  Anchored at Geolofts, this is the 2nd incarnation of the fair that debuted last spring, a week before the mess that was ArtChicago.  

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Think about Occupy Wall Street.  Think about OWS demonstrating in front of the 'rather' elite Frick, New Museum and MoMA.  Think about the irrelevant, irreverent, insane hyperbolic prices paid for art at auction and the crusty, snooty art fairs.   Now think about what art means to you, what you get out of it, what you want it to be and why and how you got involved with art in the first place.  Now you understand why I like the MDW Fair.

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With the preponderance of exhibitors "alternative" gallery spaces, that make a priority of culture over commerce, the MDW fair sets a high bar about what an ART Fair should be - an art experience  where the exhibitors present art they believe in to an audience that wants to be welcomed, inspired, challenged and cajoled.  While art at MDW is for sale, it is not first and foremost about money - or prostituting oneself for it.

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Instead, this show which opens tonight and continues on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, is about experiencing art, getting exposed and educated, with an emphasis on one-person presentations.  I love it.  (And I'll be participating with Klein Artist Works, to further expose my artist empowering course.  We'll be in the Publication section and when I'm there I'll be interested in speaking with you.)

L1050585.JPGL1050583.JPGThere's something about the formal, yet casual, focus of Bernard Williams' work, opening tonight at McCormick, that makes me smile and leaves me warm.  It's no longer easy to grow the various disciplines that artists pursue, which in Williams' case is sculpture.  Yet through the use of unlikely materials, manipulated and joined in unusual ways the ironical results succeed beautifully.  I wonder how many pieces of his I can own.  

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Across the hall at Carrie Secrist, David Lefkowitz is showing new 'green' work, whose raw materials come from the low end of big box stores (like left over cardboard boxes and rejected paint), on which high concepts are rendered, drawing attention to the dichotomy of materials and our society.

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Rodney Graham is an iconoclast, a free spirit - a loose cannon, a brilliant artist and idiosyncratic.  At Donald Young (2 locations) he melds contemporary technology with nostalgic imagery, casting himself in his art as he ponders the seemingly insignificant events and situations he regularly encounters in his kinder and gentler Vancouver.  Musician / photographer /artist; looking at his work is like watching a fountain joyously bubble over.

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Strong Art in (Mostly) Unusual Venues
Strong shows open this weekend in divergent locations.  At Mush Room, in the Flatiron building, Ben Jaffe's photographs made from multiple manipulated photographic images read like paintings. Invariably they document Chicago and present us with places we often know but have never looked at as intently as the art does.

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Down the street at Eyeporium, Alyssa Miserendino, Lauren Whitney and Lynn Tsan are in a group show called Spaces: defined. Though each of these artists lives in Chicago they are relatively new to exhibiting here, yet their work compliments and extends the solid work ethic that artists in Chicago manifest.

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A beautiful, meaty and important exhibit, titled Future's Past, opens tonight at Blanc Gallery and throughout the Bronzeville community.  Dynamic powerhouse curator, Tempestt Hazel tapped into the inspired research of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium who have been documenting Bronzeville's rich history - full of music, culture and business.  That wealth of passion is beautifully interpreted at Blanc Gallery by artists Stephen Flemister, Krista Franklin, and Amanda Williams. Outside, throughout the community, historic buildings are lighted, with an explanation of the cultural history that emanated from within. As a passionate believer of the power of art to stimulate a community, this is about as good as it gets. 

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And there's more exemplary community building art activity on the Southside.  Opening Saturday is a show of 4 artists being honored by Diasporal Rhythms, a group of powerful collectors who primarily collect art of the African Diaspora.  I know of no other collector group that has a comparable mission (and fulfills it so admirably) - to affect positive change in its community and the lives of the artists and people of their expansive neighborhood.   The show is at Room 43 and includes the art of Dalton Brown, Juarez Hawkins, Theodore C. Feaster, and Shyvette Williams.

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Dawoud Bey is a gifted artist and it turns out a brilliant curator too.  In No Place Like Home, which recently opened at the Hyde Park Art Center, Bey has selected insightful artists (Lisa Lindvay, Jon Lowenstein, Jason Reblando, Jessica Rodrigue, David Schalliol, Leilani Wertens) whose wistful images are powerful individually, and contribute to a larger statement in Bey's thoughtful catalog essay.

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Thanks very much,
Paul Klein


Big Art Weekend in Los Angeles
I got back from Los Angeles last night after taking in a couple of art fairs and portions of the expansive and significant Pacific Standard Time - a look at art in L.A. between 1945 and 1980 which appears at some 60 cultural institutions.

This ArtLetter focuses predominantly on the art fairs (and an impressive Theaster Gates exhibit at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art) because I was severely constrained in my ability to take pictures in the museums. 

L1050417.JPGThe first fair to open and the first I attended was Pulse.  Attractively located on a rooftop near the Staples Center it filled a beautiful high ceilinged tent with great lighting and a too powerful cooling system.  The energy was high, sales good, and with 2 exceptions most of the art was safe and felt familiar, though much of it was new to me.

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The VIP preview crowd departed en masse for L.A. Art Platform, another Merchandise Mart generated fair in a huge concrete mausoleum with constrained spaces and leg-shortening, uncarpeted, concrete floors.  A lot of the art was quite good; much of it historical, with a fair amount of diversity. 

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L1050478.JPGTheaster Gates' show at the L.A. Museum of Contemporary of Art is powerful and exemplary - and totally incongruous in the context of the other art in the 40,000 square foot former police station that is the Geffen Contemporary. Well over 90% of the exhibition space is dedicated to a glorious, encyclopedic exhibit, titled Under the Black Sun; California Art 1974-1981, with over 120 artists' work on view.  So many of the artists were in attendance that it felt like a long overdue reunion.  And off in a corner was Theaster's show.  Why now? Why not give the whole building to the one important monster of an exhibit?  The answer I heard was that the highly respected curator, Paul Schimmel and the New York imported director Jeffrey Deitch hate each other and that Deitch imposed Theaster's exhibit on Schimmel's space merely to demonstrate his authority. The juxtaposition makes no sense.  Regardless, both shows and artistic integrity are compromised.  Unfortunate.  I wonder if it's significant that few people spoke to Deitch during the artist & collector laden VIP preview.

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Thanks very much,
Paul Klein