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Art Letter (4/18/08)

A while back I saw the Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper shows at the Art Institute.  Definitely worthy shows by a couple of master paint-pushers; the kind of ability I donít see much anymore. 

Maybe with
ArtChicago in town next week weíll see some other good painters. Itís always a pleasure.  One of the most memorable shows Iíve seen for a while is a show of large, powerful fresh-smelling oil paintings by Chicagoan Claire Sherman at Kavi Gupta Gallery. I was reminded immediately of the first time I encountered Neil Jennyís dumb, simple, oh-so-smart paintings.  But Shermanís work transcends his; more meditative, less gimmicky, simultaneously engaged and detached, I marvel at how she made these.  Theyíre seductive, but intelligent; meaningful, but not overbearing. I was impressed.




Cat Chow may be one of the most significant artists of her generation to come out of Chicago. Her new exhibition opening at the Elmhurst Art Museum shows the strides sheís made since leaving behind her fashion based art. Thereís an enigmatic balance between whatís wrapped and whatís contained in Chambers and its levels of meaning. Itís the ambiguous parallels that fascinate me - like allusions to Louise Bourgeois and Sol LeWitt at the same time. Cat Chowís work has really grown, and found new footing.  She is talented, intelligent and savvy. Small show. Totally worth the trip.





Prescient
Hamza Walkerís, Renaissance Societyís exhibit Black Is, Black Ainít kicks butt - quite a bit actually.  Obviously conceived and curated long before Obamaís race speech, this exhibition somehow lifts off from where Obama left off. There are a lot of aspects to discussions about race. Here race is related to gender and class.  For me, I was pleased to see some humor as a subplot. It is important that we laugh at ourselves and the universal characteristics that we think are unique to each of us.  Yet, this is a mostly a serious discussion.

The show feels fresh and authentic - not rehashed, not forced. Iím prone to having difficulty with shows like this, where the curator seeks to prove a point and the art is forced to play an uncomfortable role it was not intended for.  And specifically that is not what is going on here. The exhibit is thoughtfully installed and thoughtfully balanced. It is not overbearing.  It leaves room for us in the equation. Thatís a helluva lot for one show to accomplish. It exists and succeeds on lots of levels.  You could look at this exhibit as a tutorial on how to properly curate.






Ken Fandell has met Stephen Hawking - well, at least in his dreams.  And in them Fandell counsels Hawking on the metaphysics of his lectures.  Together, theyíve worked on making the deep space experience relevant for mere mortals and art fans. Iím pretty sure Hawking has assisted Fandell on his art. Think about it.  At the newly eponymous Tony Wight Gallery with a show curated by Robert Mollers.






Chris Ware is back in force at Carl Hammer. Ware is an immense talent. There are things he does in his comic book pages that great many artists donít even attempt, like the dynamic way he folds space, moves backwards and forwards in time and composes on multiply levels simultaneously. and thatís to say nothing of the psychological territory he explores as he becomes more vulnerable and revealing over time. These are truly rich.




These are the shows that Iíd recommend to an out-of-town visitors. Iím proud of these.  I think they say weíre diverse with painting, mixed media and endorse cartooning as fine art. Weíre confident of our own aesthetic as we appreciate what prevails elsewhere. 

This is a pretty good place to make and see art.

Thank you,
Paul Klein