Art Letter (2/29/08)
I am frequently surprised by where I find good art. I think itís important to take some chance, push ourselves out of whatever habits we indulge and go look somewhere new or different.
It is important to examine the reasons we buy art. For me, one of the main reasons is to support Chicago artists. I like getting a lot of substance for my dollar and Chicago art does that. Buying art by artists who havenít been anointed by the marketplace (which is wrong more than it is right) is another good way. I am 100% sure that there is more good art for sale for under $5000 than there is good art for sale over $100,000. One of the things this tells you is that money does not buy taste. Another is that the market is hyperbolic with with lemmings void of confidence or insight establishing trends. Screw that. Buy for yourself. Itís much more satisfying, educational and genuine.
Take a look at Architrouve. This is a gallery run mostly as a service. Sometimes they have some really choice, thoughtful, small exhibitions; like the one opening tonight of paintings by Marianna Levant and Brenda Barnum. Iíve been drawn to Levantís work for a few years now. She reminds me of a young Kandinsky, with flying universes of lofty ideals. Plenty of talent, which makes me all the more sad to learn that she moved from here to Seattle last fall. This is precisely the talent that we want be able to keep - the oneís who enrich our lives and make us look good in the process.
Barnum is a lifer. Sheís been creating solid artwork for a while. The kind of artist art chooses; the one who has no choice, who appreciates the nuances of a career and how art and art-making evolve over time; consistent growth, subtle progress. It is the doing that is more satisfying than the product. These are paintings for artists, to examine the process, balance, composition and weight of each piece. They give a lot but insist that we participate.
And John Phillips is a lifer too. His new exhibit opens this evening at the renamed, reconfigured and rebirthed Tony Wight Gallery. Watching an artist like Phillips methodically, deftly explore new territory is gratifying. He and is art are intelligent, considered, thoughtful, studied, honest and sincere. Watching Tony Wight arrive is special too. I know his course has been difficult and his education demanding. Formerly Bodybuilder & Sportsman Gallery, heís learned by experience, and heís learned well. He cares and his artists like him. Thatís pretty much all I need to know.
Thereís a show closing tonight I wished Iíd previewed and spent money at. KS Rivesí closing is at the Chicago Art Department. Her collages are painstakingly and meticulously rendered. They work from afar and from close up. And theyíre rather wonderful technically for such a young artist when most others her age are still making Ďdormí art. KS Rives is the first chapter of a Chicago success story, making good art, having a good selling, strong looking exhibit, and getting written up large in the SunTimes. Bravo. It can be done.
Marco Casentini is a marvelous example of how a competent artist can succeed through solidly taking responsibility for his own career. I first met Marco about ten years ago. He was an artist from Italy who spoke almost no English but had this vision that American galleries would like his art. Through his gumption and agreeable nature, on his first trip to the US he ended up with a gallery in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Heís good, but rest assured that he didnít succeed solely on the quality of his paintings. It can be done people. His new show opens tonight at Roy Boyd Gallery.
Several years ago one of the artists I respect most, Tony Berlant, referred to Ed Ruscha as ďan artist for the ages.Ē Those are the kind of words that make me wake up and snap to attention. Iíve always liked Ruscha, but this cast him in a new light. Opening tomorrow at the Art Institute is a survey exhibition of sorts: Ed Ruscha and Photography This show allows us to track early work in Ruschaís long and steady career. Despite always being at the front edge of the wedge Ruschaís work still looks fresh.
Better this week,