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Art Letter (03/17/05)

Because I am commissioning and purchasing art for Chicagoís new McCormick Place West Expansion I have been soliciting art from area galleries and artists. As much as I thought I knew, it has been an eye opener.  Iíve looked at 1000ís of presentations and realize more fully now how many artists are either thriving or surviving outside the gallery scene.  Many make art that physically wonít fit in a gallery and others choose to avoid them. There is much more talent out there than I knew. In fact there is more talent than can be shown at Chicago galleries necessarily focused on showing salable art. Look to the nearby and excellent Hyde Park Art Center on the South Side and the Evanston Art Center on the North Side - both exemplary supporters and definers of Chicago & Illinois art. Slightly further out the Rockford Art Museum and the Elmhurst Art Museum focus on art by Chicago artists that is of gallery quality or higher that just wonít show up in a gallery. It has been good having my horizons broadened.

It hasnít even been a year since Iíve closed and Heidi Van Wieren who I used to represent is having a one-person exhibit at Roy Boyd Gallery opening Friday. I think the growth in the new work is significant. There are more subtle color shifts and a refinement of spatial depth. While a lot of the pieces succeed I was particularly taken by those in the tan/orange warmer mid-range. Heidiís doing well. Sheís pushing it; thinking, focusing concentrating and then going with the flow.  The results are strong. When I was there no work had been hung yet but I could sense the temptation to overhang it; there was such an array of pieces, but if this show could just be limited to a selected few it could be incredible.

For years Iíve heard about the genius of Warrington Colescott, opening Friday at Perimeter Gallery, and for exactly that long I havenít understood the hoopla. Heís no Reginald Marsh. These are salty, ribald pictures that donít convey much narrative to me though I think they want to. I just see cranky crowded space.

Carl Hammer has certainly done great working with a number of artistsí estates and has brought to renown more than one recluse. It takes a great touch, a good eye, a good deal and a lot of confidence. Which makes me wonder how people will respond (opening Friday) to the vapid paintings of ďnewcomerĒ Joseph Garlock, who died in 1980. A good exhibition title and Carlís impressive track record make the art more ĒimportantĒ and therefore more salable,  and I still donít think itís going to fly. (Your response is always appreciated - by email or especially on the Bulletin Board.)

I love how certain coincidences happen, like two shows about bugs, and both these exhibits are enhanced by being compared to the other. Wrapping up River North is Ann Wiensí bug photos and bug paintings at Byron Roche Gallery. I think these are a hoot, but I frequently see humor where others donít.  Wiens has taken taxidermied bugs and mounted them on ďsympatheticĒ fabric. Sometimes they stick out, sometimes they all but disappear.  I like the counterintuitive relationships.

In River West Rhona Hoffman leads the way with a with a thoughtful, sensitive, odd look at obsession and corresponding beauty and indulgence (opens Friday). Kutlug Ataman had documented ďStefanísĒ obsession with moths on 5 creatively suspended video screens making this a walk-in, absorbing experience better to be viewed after the opening than during. Bugs.

Now that I think about it those creepy crawly faces upstairs at Gescheidle by Heather Cox are bugs, more human bugs, but still bugs. Iím starting to think I like shows about bugs.

Nicole Gordonís paintings downstairs at Peter Miller Gallery (opening Friday) are a fun look at art history and an examination of what happens when you screw with scale and context.

Across the street at the accelerating Bodybuilder and Sportsman Gallery we see lots of legs in the sensuous watercolors of Tracy Nakayama.  I suspect her choice of subject matter, these Pearlsteinesque neutrally rendered portraits of peers engaged in sex and pre-sex is calculated.  I like them.  Iíd prefer them in my bedroom than Bellmer, but I donít know that Iíd want to be an artist who aims for the boudoir.

Thereís an attractive show titled Black at Thomas McCormick Gallery in which all the pieces by the 14 artists whose work are on exhibit are black. Some of these are important artists, some arenít.  Seeing these works hanging side-by-side Robert Richenburgís pieces stand out to me. Iíd never heard of him before.

Thereís good art out there. The pleasure is in the search.

Happy Trails,
Paul