Art Letter

October 2013 Archives

I didn't want to write an ArtLetter.  It's work.  I don't want to write so often about gallery exhibits.  I want to cover institutions. I don't want to write about fewer than 3 galleries. Argh.  I'm breaking all my own rules because the shows I just previewed are thoroughly impressive.

Rhona Hoffman has two shows opening Saturday that would be outstanding at any museum.  In my book, Carrie Mae Weems is a giant.  She makes art that touches the soul, illustrating the inequities that permeate the human existence. Where she excels is in her ability to distill the tragedy of slaves' journeys from Africa to the United States and all that lingers.

CMW08.028 House Field Yard Kitchen Quad HR.jpg
Weems_TheAssassinationofMedgerMalcolmandMartin_2008.jpgThere's familiar work and new work.  And upstairs, Rhona and team have converted an auxiliary viewing gallery into a convincing theater built to Weems specifications where they're screening a video, but it's so much more than just a video, which builds on Weems' brilliant photography and includes Weems and others dancing and acting out stories about girls and race. Painstakingly beautiful work.  

In the front room at Rhona Hoffman Gallery is a stunning installation of Anne Wilson's seductive, mysterious and slow-revealing, sewn works on family heirloom linens.  The subtly, the history, the honoring of domesticity, and the intricacy of the art is spellbinding. I'm a fan.


On view at Linda Warren Gallery, Jason Brammer's new work is amazing.  His hands are so good he could have been a surgeon.  What he does with his art is magic - trompe l'oeil, but with content .  Historically, the great trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) artists made captivating art with little no or no content.  Brammer goes a step further. His journey back to the beginning of time, with nautical emphasis, consistently makes me feel like Jules Verne's resident artist escaped to Chicago.  He's good - and we're lucky.


In Linda Warren's main room, Matt Woodward's oversized and overflowing drawings resembled battered and abused skins reminiscent of otherworldly documentation of human activity.  There's an archaeological aspect which slowly reveals the content and inner layers of his art and obsession.

These shows are of museum quality in commercial galleries.  The work is for sale, but unlike most museums there is no admission fee.  Art galleries provide a service not only to artists and collectors, but to "normal" culture seeking people, like me.  These galleries, and many others, deserve our appreciation.

Paul Klein 

Activist Collectors
There are many remarkable things about the Diasporal Rhythms exhibition at the University of Chicago's Logan Center.

L1080378.JPGDiasporal Rhythms is a predominantly African-American group of art collectors, predominantly on the South Side of Chicago, who collect African-American Art.  Unlike other collector groups they are unaffiliated. They are not about supporting a museum. Their mission is to complete the communication initiated by artists. They see it as there Responsibility to support artists and culture and to democratize the cultural experience. They are as amazing as they are unique.  This show is a celebration of their 10th anniversary.  


As collectors, Diasporal Rhythms believes in art and artists.  I think it's safe to say most collectors believe in art, and often don't complete the equation to also expand the appreciation of the artists' work. Hopefully, more collectors here, and other collectors in other cities, with take note. 

This is the Logan Center's first year of existence.  This is a thoughtful and insightful interaction with their extended community.

The show is notable because of the high number and percentage of impressive pieces, often because they were previously unfamiliar, and are outstanding.  They're unfamiliar because the artists are African-American, I'm not and I don't see their art enough.  This exhibit expands my knowledge. 

As I've learned teaching my Klein Artist Works course there is not a singular art world, but many art villages. The dominant, New York centric, hyperbolic, high-priced, art village is but one of many. Quite a few African-American artists reference a different heritage, different life experiences, different agenda and correspondingly tend to have a different aesthetic; one with more and brighter colors (often primary), more figuration, and more references to Africa instead of Europe.

It's wonderful to encounter art and culture we are insufficiently familiar with.  We can look at art for the quality and significance it has without being swayed by the reputation or hyperbole that precedes it. A return to visual purity.  You have no idea the joy I get from seeing a handful of pieces that are truly memorable.  It doesn't happen often enough.

L1080385.JPGThanks very much,
Paul Klein

Image with 2 pieces; G.L Smothers. 
Image with 2 mostly b & w pieces; Joyce Owens
Image with sculpture; Faheem Majeed
Image with boy in bus; Lowell Thompson
Image with sculpture; Marva Lee Pitchford Jolly
Image with multiple pieces; Malika Jackson