Art Letter (2/22/08)
The difference between potential and reality can be so damned frustrating. Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art has mounted a new survey exhibition of the half-talented Karen Kilimnik. She has the mildly interesting conceit of placing recognizable faces into art-historically familiar vignettes with a hand so clumsy it looks as she and her brush are in constant battle. I find the Kilimnik show embarrassing. Yet, I am optimistic. The MCA has a new director who steps in momentarily: Madeleine Grynsztejn. I look to her to put the clunky, often irrelevant museum on a better course.
Some of the crap that passes for art these days.
So I gave it three weeks - the well-intended Museum of Modern Ice by Gordon Halloran. Sheees. Giving it a fancy name doesn’t make it any good - although a lot of foreigners were attracted to it - maybe they saw it as a clue to understanding the Chicago art scene. I respect the Department of Public Art for taking a ballsy chance and failing publicly. This 100 foot wide wall of ice is a nice idea, full of potential - and unfortunately vapid.
With the Killimnik show at the MCA we’ve got a half-vast concept with dreadful execution. In Millennium Park where hell has frozen over, is the opposite; good technique but no concept whatsoever.
It takes both.
It’s pretty clear that I’m an advocate for people supporting their own. With the new exhibit at ThreeWalls we have the opportunity to compare the lot of Chicago artists to those from Detroit. A year ago, in conjunction with ThreeWalls I curated an exhibit of Chicago artists that traveled to Detroit and now the reciprocal exhibit is here.
It makes me aware of a couple of things. Artists in Detroit have a more difficult battle than Chicago artists. Here artists have been ignored. In Detroit I sense they’re reviled, Some of this I read into the art.
Secondarily, I feel like I’m seeing more Chicago art in Chicago, and out of town as well. I think more art is getting commissioned here and from here as well more are is getting shown here and elsewhere.
Steven Husby’s paintings at Lisa Boyle are a refreshing reminder of the diversity that exists in Chicago. When I curated the Chicago artists show in Detroit I had no difficulty finding 8 artists whose work was unrelated to each other. I wanted to show the range that exists here. Husby’s technically forward, retro-looking paintings are another example of the range that flourishes here. Guilty of ‘old-school’ knowledge I asked Husby if the tonalities were by intuition or formula. Neither, he answered. They’re worked out in photoshop.
Because I’m a sucker for good sculpture I was eager to see Eric Lebofsky’s show next door at Western Exhibitions. I’m intrigued by good new sculpture. I see evidence of it in the work of Jin Soo Kim and Melissa Pokorny. I was hoping Lebofsky‘s work would be there too. At this point his work doesn’t transcend his materials. In person, the execution suffers. His ideas are smart, but that’s not enough.
Last weekend I was skiing in Utah and took a day off to seek out Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. It was a blast, best navigated in a 4 wheel drive vehicle - well, at least after 12 inches of snow has fallen. It’s about 30 miles of back and off-road travel where we saw eagles, hawks, deer and nary a vehicle. All of which set the stage for finally coming on Spiral Jetty from low. You have to hike up the boulder strewn hill to get good views. All of this establishes the context for experiencing this transcendent work of art. A few years ago the State of Utah cleaned up the site. The powerful harmony of human will and nature, to say nothing of irony and humor, coupled with the historical significance of Spiral Jetty made me change my mind. Oil drilling cannot be allowed anywhere where anything ever might jeopardize this art. Drilling 5 miles away is too close and probably within sight from the hill.
Thanks very much,