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Art Letter (01/07/05)

Chicago galleries are either getting more coordinated or the calendar dictates that a lot of openings fall on one night.  And tonight is one of those occasions.  I’ve previewed quite a few shows and seen a lot of art that I like, but I bet it even looks better when it is up off the floors and on the walls.  Head out tonight and compare what I thought with what you see.  And have a glass of wine for me.

When I go look at 15 or so exhibits in a given day some of the shows start to run together and I get an overall impression of the whole experience.  I felt like I saw a lot of figurative art and a lot of it is really good.

The Number One most impressive show I saw was at Catherine Edelman Gallery, where Catherine is presenting the wonderful and disarming work of Elizabeth Ernst. This is multi-media the way multi-media is supposed to be.  Ernst captures the essence of the circus by creating diminutive figures and placing them in scenes of her own concoction, reminiscent of Calder’s famous circus. But with Calder it was more about the animals and the motion where here it is about the people and the personalities.  Maybe it’s because these little figures feel like they’ve been imbued with a soul that they are so powerful.  But Elizabeth Ernst doesn’t stop there. After all this is a photography gallery. Ernst photographs her figures, prints the images, mounts them on panel and then goes over them with a monochrome paint. They don’t feel like photographs at all. Really nice, rather moving, and a meaningful and wonderful installation. This is worth going to just to see what a show looks like when both the artist and the gallery get it right.

I really liked the show at Roy Boyd Gallery of Tatlin-esque sculptures by former architect David Munson.  The forms are exciting and architectural, but I was more taken by trying to figure out how he makes these things. It seems simultaneously impossible for them to be either premeditated or spontaneous.  They appear like so much trial and error that I would go crazy after half an hour.  Incredibly intricate parts, in a variety of sizes that you just can’t reach out and grab any off the shelf.  I feel like each piece could take almost a year to get right and here’s a show with over a dozen pieces.  I still don’t have it figured out.  And then I ask and find out that they are cheap.  I suggested the gallery double the prices, but I don’t think they listened. Really nice work, difficult to create and cheap.  Baffling.

We’ll come back to River North in a moment, but I’ve got to mention the Susan Aurinko and her West Loop gallery Flatfile. Susan expanded to this new location last fall and this place is happening. She has 4 really strong shows. I love it when a gallery, well actually a dealer, comes up with an idea I wish I’d had. That would be Susan’s show titled Fame.  Simple show, great idea. Susan has photographs by 9 photographers presenting pictures of famous people. I don’t know about you, but there is more than a little voyeur in me and I enjoy looking at an old picture of Clint Eastwood and seeing him sitting back, reading a newspaper and wearing white socks.  And I’m always a sucker for Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan from what my kids would call the olden days.  Downstairs Shauna Angel Blue presents a captivating series of self-portraits of an alter-ego. If I were an artist I would find that a supremely difficult task and likely intimidating, but she does it well, bravely and convincingly.  In an adjacent small gallery Christopher Schneberger has recreated a 19th century photographer’s studio and loaded it with subtle content.  And finally back upstairs one of my favorite artists, Herb Migdal is finally showing some of his photographs from years of documenting the Joffrey Ballet.  4 great shows. One excellent gallery. One tireless dealer.

Back in River North, Carl Hammer came up with a good idea too.  John Cain has been collecting art presented by Carl Hammer Gallery for over a decade.  This exhibit honors his vision. But more than that it shows the antecedents of Chicago art.  The exhibit adds history and perspective to what is going on in Chicago today.

While we’re handing out compliments, let’s extend one to Monique Meloche. I was shopping this week and stumbled across Hejfina on Milwaukee near North.  What a cool store, presenting clothing, furniture and architecture, with a soft spot for art.  As I’m enjoying grasping this store’s vision I realize that I am seeing artwork by two of Monique’s artists, Dzine and Rashid Johnson.  Good effort by Monique and Hejfina owner Heiji Choy.  Check this store out.

Ann Nathan always fascinates me. She’s so honest and forthright.  And I think she has a unique vision. I appreciate it a lot because of how different it is than mine. I think it is okay to go see good art that you don’t expect to agree with. Ann keeps me on my toes. Here she is presenting a group show of new work by 4 artists.  I was particularly impressed with the work of Caleb O’Conner.

Zg is a hustling gallery with a lot of good artists.  Ben Butler is a fastidious artist who paints as well as sculpts.  Because the sculptures are larger I assume he has more commitment to them, but the paintings are equally competent. There is a rhythm and a rigor to his work that I admire in part because it is just so far beyond my abilities.

Perimeter Gallery always has solid shows.  This one is of elegant, romantic, moody landscapes by Jeff Aeling.

Andrew Bae is a contemporary gallery presenting work by Korean, Korean-American and Japanese artists with an exhibit opening tonight of works by Tetsuya Noda and Ryohei Tanaka.

At Printworks are new paper works by James Mesplé.

I was reading the Chicago Artists’ Coalition newsletter year end edition wherein several critics list their favorite gallery, artists, etc. and two different critics cited Byron Roche as their favorite Chicago Gallery.  This month Byron is featuring David Russick.  Several years ago Russick was one of the “in” artists in Chicago and it seems like it has been 7 or 8 years since his last exhibit. The work may even be strong than it was when he was hot.  I’m thrilled to see new work and heartened by its strength.

Also opening tonight:
at
Gwenda Jay / Addington:  Private Spaces, Part 2: Artists explore ideas about personal environments and internal vs external spaces. New work by Ron Clayton, Cameron Zebrun, Susan Kraut, Jackie Battenfield.

at SubCity Projects Presents: LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, A Project by Rael Jero Salley, 410 South Michigan (8th floor Lobby)

And on Sunday at the Evanston Art Center: A multi-media installation by Sandra Binion in the Octagon Gallery of the Evanston Art Center, as well as Politic of a Moment: Lucy Mueller, Larry Lee, Sarah Wild, Jeffrey Grauel.

Thank you & enjoy!
Paul