Art Letter (02/01/08)
There are several shows opening today that I was eager to see. The one thatís had me in suspense the longest is Gordon Halloranís Museum of Modern Ice installation at Millennium Park for the month of February.
Ultimately it really isnít a painting at all, but a performance, or a collaboration with nature. How itíll look in two weeks is going to be the test. It could be awesome. Certainly the Public Art Department took a decent sized risk here. And sometimes risks like this pay off handsomely. Hereís hoping.
I like Joseph Kohnkeís art a lot. I wouldnít miss an exhibit of his. And this one pleased a lot; in part because I was already familiar with the work having seen it at ThreeWalls about 18 months ago. But seeing the same art in a different venue is always intriguing because new issues arise. And I certainly was in for a large surprise when I went to see his show at the International Museum of Surgical Science, mostly because Iíve never been there and i was treated to 4 floors documenting the development of surgical practices, some of which are over two thousand years old. Mostly I walked around repeating to myself ďOh my god. They actually did that!Ē
And then I reached Josephís work (heís showing on the 4th floor with Jonathan Gabel) where heís created a piece that helped him work through his friendís dying of cancer. In an email Joseph wrote:
The piece is basically a player piano that reads a belt of photographed skin, playing the imperfections of the skin out onto a resin body cast of me, and a taxidermy fawn. I made the piece after a friend died from melanoma. At the time it was therapeutic to make the piece, but now showing just brings back feelings and I hate it (but people seem to like it.)
Itís a powerful work of art heightened by its being placed into the context of strange medical inventions, treatment and progress. Yes, art has lots of purposes and yes catharsis is one of them.
Also on view at GardenFresh, in their project room is an installation by Holly Holmes, who is most often seen together with her collaborator, Tom Burtonwood whose work, together, is a commentary on the role of the military in our society and life. Alone, her works are similarly themed but more subtle, more layered and prettier, and just as biting.
Having been in Chicago about 30 years, and having really enjoyed the talent and paintings of Chuck Walker at the time, Iíve always wondered where he went. The answer is at the Hyde Park Art Centerís Chuck Walker: Through a Glass Darkly exhibit opening Sunday afternoon and curated by Margaret Hawkins.
There is no doubt that Walker is conversant in his medium - beautiful, brooding paintings, unusual paintings, elegant drawings. To me it looks like Walker is invariably trying to find difficult concepts or challenges to render in paint. In most situations he triumphs and in others we can see him wrestling with his technique. It is fascinating to witness because the ability is definitely there, but what holds me back is that I donít get much sense of what makes Walker tick. Given that his hands are so damned good, I want to know more about his heart and soul.
PS: Thereís been a lot of press the last few days about Robert Smithsonís Spiral Jetty being jeopardized. For information look here, here, and here.