Art Letter

November 2011 Archives

A Bountiful Weekend of Art
Good art is no longer restricted to the established, expected areas in Chicago.  Art venues are in the communities, office buildings, condominiums and just plain off the beaten paths.  There are pluses and minuses to this.  It is good for the communities that are not accustomed to art sites and it is good to expose new eyes to art. The downside is that trying to see a lot of art in a day or two gets trickier.  But I've previewed a lot of shows in the last 24 hours and it was worth it.  

I want to cover the exhibits I saw in order.  First, those that open tonight, then those that open Saturday and third, those that opened previously. 

Connie Noyes has a large vision; not only a strong exhibit opening tonight, but a symposium tomorrow, all on the subject of pink and it's myriad meanings. Both at Blanc Gallery. Not only that, I'm speaking at the symposium on how artists can get 'in the pink' and find success.

James M Smith's sculptural works at Perimeter are a special, honest statement about our relationship to the land and our ancestors.  The work is different, fresh and communicates a palpable integrity.  And for those of us who remember Charles Kurre's work before he left Chicago for Phoenix a decade ago, the effect of environment on an artist's work can be seen in the different pallet and shapes; from rectangular and muted to spherical and more vibrant.  Or maybe he just matured.
On Saturday, Monique Meloche presents another (overdue) meaningful exhibit of Karen Reimer's highly handworked, embroidered pillow cases.  A thoroughly intelligent artist, making slow.methodical work, succeeds on many levels.  And in accord with our experiences the pillowcases and/or rubbings are sold in pairs just like pillowcases in 'white sales' everywhere, but here the pairings are up to the collectors, sort of like in marriage.  A really good show.


Also at Monique Meloche is a painting or two lingering from her previous exhibit with Scott Stack - a show I inexplicably missed.  Sitting in front of one of his brilliant paintings is better than standing because you realize it's revealing itself like an onion peeling, as relationships and discoveries just don't stop. 

There's a wonderful new piece at Kavi Gupta's that Tony Tasset was putting the finishing touches on.  Mr. Hot Dog Man is a vibrant, large, humorous, profane commentary on Chicago cuisine.  We can tell it's a Chicago hot dog because there's no ketchup.


Prairie Avenue Gallery presents the photographic works of Charles Heppner.  Sensitive images of flowers writ large and isolated juxtapositions of landscapes prevail.  Nice (old) venue for looking at good art.

There's an abundance of truly powerful exhibits that I couldn't or didn't preview. At the MCA, Chicago, The Language of Less (Then and Now) sings with exemplary, important, seminal works from the museum's collection, contrasted, across the hall with contemporary works that may grow on me over time.

At the School of the Art Institute's Sullivan Gallery we see a major installation - meditation - of Wolfgang Laib's made from an endless process of placing small piles of sand, and occasionally bee-pollen directly on the floor.  Not only a beautiful, site-specific presentation, there is s pervasive calm that resonates throughout the room and the viewer.

L1050684.JPGThe last show of Albert Oehlin's I saw at Corbett vs.Dempsey was one of the most powerful aesthetic experiences I can remember, never having seen a presentation of an entire body of work of his before.  Since then I've seen paintings of his at the Art Institute and listened to an amazingly embarrassingly lecture of this highly regarded painter at the same museum.  And now this exhibit looks haphazard, casual and slapdash, making me feel like I've sadly stumbled on the Alphonso Soriano of the artworld.  Still a major leaguer, but on his way down. 

Angela Bryant is one of a few exciting, female, Chicago curators, though she calls herself an art gallery (Abryant). With a wonderful eye and an adventuresome spirit, her gallery migrates whenever she's ready to present an exhibition. Geometerically Speaking II is in the large lobby of a condo building and opened last night.  Good art, good energy and a fun sense of discovery make this a rewarding show.

Two nights ago, 2 other exhibits had their openings.  At Richard Gray, a contemplative, somber, beautiful exhibit by Jaume Plensa opened.  Plensa is the same artist whose Crown Foundation at Millennium Park resonates with so many youngsters and their families.  Just for clarity sake, the brilliant lightness of the fountain is more the anomaly than the pensive work in the gallery. 

Next door at Valerie Carberry, Jim Lutes new paintings baffle me.  Not that they aren't proficient, they're just a significant jump shift in his oeuvre, which had been known for consistent, abstracted work.  And I was surprised by his just-under-6-digit prices.  I'm going to pay attention to see how this all plays out.

L1050680.JPGThanks for making it to the bottom of the page!
Paul Klein 

A Weekend Full of Art
With the waning popularity of physical books Brian Dettmer's tour de force pieces excavate the beauty, power and nostalgia of paperback novels.  Like an archaeologist, he digs, explores and presents the evidence.  This series is made from myriad paperbacks which relate to the phrases he's reproduced within them.  The new work, at Packer Schopf, is unique and amazing.  Also on view are labor intensive pieces by Chris Bathgate and Kathy Halper.


There's a riot of fabulous color in the alternative media work of Claire Ashley and Sam Jaffe at Mush Room.  Ashley's inflatable sculptures define new territory in the expanding vocabulary of sculpture.  Paired with Jaffe's innovative knit, woven and constructed yarn wall works each piece makes me want to grin and the whole room makes me giddy.  There are no blues here.

Russell Bowman shows wonderful art that we don't often see in other Chicago galleries. In conjunction with the SOFA show at Navy Pier (more later) the gallery has some exquisite pieces by unschooled, un-art-educated, brilliant artists. Thornton Dial's paintings are a cacophony of outside-the-anointed-norm of what constitutes a 'solid' work of art, yet he slays what so often passes for a great painting.  Coupled with the innate genius on the quilters of Gee's Bend in rural Alabama we bask in natural talent, insightful compositions and pure creativity.  Another joyful exhibit. 

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Across the street, at Catherine Edelman are the compassionate, personal, almost private photographs by Gary Briechle of people on the rugged coast of Maine. The details are what's important as the blacks and grays convey the power and tenderness of these images. 

Zolla/Lieberman is presenting Jamie Adams' art historically based, complex, very real paintings of Jamie Adams' family. Also on view are new paintings by sculptor Jin Soo Kim who has shown with the gallery for decades.  Her images are made by diluting paint to the point where the paint spreads from her powerfully blowing on tiny dollop after dollop, rendering forms we are prone to read as human.

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Morpho Gallery is opening a show of new work by Mays Mayhew.  Inspired by an intellectual curiosity about the physiology of love and the echo of its disappearance, her work is wistful and fun, as a quite serious aspect pervades it.

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2011 Mays Mayhew Screening2.jpgAround the corner, in Hammond, Sidecar is opening Water, Saturday night, a group show with Tom Burtonwood, Holly Holmes and James Jankowiak.  These are 3 artists who are always pressing ahead, pushing their aesthetic and breaking new ground.  Sidecar's been doing solid shows for a while now.  They are worthy of our respect and the drive.

The SOFA Show is back at Navy Pier this weekend; starting today. It's an attractive mix of craft and art, with a lingering emphasis on glass.  A lot of what's on display is virtuous, well made and beautiful - a mix of art and craft.  For me, the difference between craft and art is a matter of content, and the ability to perceive, or not, the soul of the artist in the work.  I enjoy this show for its beauty and handmade excellence.  All things needn't be cerebral. Elegance and quality can be inspiring and fulfilling too.  

A portion of the fair is reserved for the Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art, though it is billed as two fairs under one roof.  There is a comfortable relationship between the aesthetics of the two presentations, though the Intuit Show is much smaller and much more about soul and substance, communicated by untrained artists who created out of pure necessity. They are glorious examples by significant artists here. The presentations by two or three galleries make the whole trip to Navy Pier worthwhile.

Lots of art to see!  Let's go,
Paul Klein