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Art Letter (04/21/06)

In anticipation of the two Art Fairs on view in Chicago next weekend many Chicago galleries are hosting openings tonight and many next week, during the fairs. I full expect both Fairs to be significantly better than they were last year. As you likely know I spend most of my time working with the Chicago ART Project. We are presenting a broad array of art by Chicago Artists at the NOVA Art Fair opening this Thursday night. Also opening Thursday is ArtChicago. The two shows are quite different, yet both are informative and fun while presenting different views of todayís art.

When I look at art I think about how the art stimulates, challenges and satisfies my assorted needs and desires. I think about content, technique and quality. And then I think about the bigger picture.

I think about the artist and his or her decision making process. Rapidly the art becomes a tool for the vicarious wanderings of my mind. I see parallels between how artists think and their decision making process and my decision making, how people progress and grow, how when we look backwards we can see with a clarity that we cannot anticipate looking forward.

Several of the exhibits that open tonight explore this phenomenon quite admirably. At Valerie Carberry  is an exhibition of early work by Jack Tworkov, a superb abstract painter in the last years of his life until he died in 1982.  Most of the paintings on view were made when he was in his 30ís and some in his late 40ís. I am intrigued by the line that flows from his 30ís work to his 40ís work and can see the movement towards abstraction.  I can extrapolate from that middle period to his later work, but I see nothing in his earlier work that anticipates his late, and in my mind, strongest work. Then I think about my life and every time I look at how I got here it all makes sense, but it sure didnít then.  (Next door to Carberry is wonderful show of Suzanne Caporealís new paintings at Richard Gray Gallery.)

There are similar issues in the work of Jason Rohlf.   I feel like Iíve been looking at his work for decades and was surprised to find out today that he is 35. Oh well. The show at Judy Saslow is strong. A bit reminiscent of the work of Terence La Noue, the art reveals and simultaneously hides its history in its creation. This too is a vicarious experience for me. What has been covered up?  What has been revealed? What is kept? What is discarded? I like second guessing and reaching my own conclusions. i like art that leaves room in its deciphering for me, art that doesnít dictate to me but engages me in a discourse that evolves over time.  Rohlf does that for me.

The same is true at Ann Nathan Gallery where there are quite large, wonderful charcoal drawings by Mary Borgman. This is solid, direct, confident work. And Iím intrigued by how she builds her image. All the marks are there and we can decipher the art while while exploring the process. These are exquisite drawings. 

Over at Belloc Lowndes, itís a pleasure to see Mary Spragueís supersized drawings of chickens. Iíve known Mary for at least 20 years. (Both she and Mary Borgman are from St. Louis.) Mary has a way with animals like no one Iíve ever seen and you can compare her work to the ever-popular powerful pieces of Joseph Piccillo at Perimeter Gallery. There are similarities in size and technique and differences in reputation and price.

A wonderful look at our history is revealed in Chicago Bauhaus: The Formative Years of the Institute of Design.  This show at Robert Henry Adams includes wonderful pieces by LŠszlů Moholy-Nagy, Morris Barazani, Emerson Woelffer and Aaron Siskind among many others. Here we catch a glimpse of how Chicago influenced Modernism and begun to understand the synergy between art and architecture.  Bravo.

At Gescheidle, is a brilliant concept for an exhibition. Titled State & Lake, this show was curated by Annie Morse for the Contemporary Arts Council which presents one exhibition a year.  This show ambitiously asks how Chicago fits into the state of Illinois, how Lake Michigan makes use different from other cities and explores our social, economic and cultural production. I want to go back for a second viewing before I make up my mind.  Thereís a lot here.

Downstairs from Gescheidle is a tour de force exhibition at Walsh Gallery of Miao Xiaochunís interpretation of Michelangeloís Last Judgment, in which the artist has digitally substituted 3D renderings of his own body for every single figure in the original artwork. This took years of work and not only sheds light on the Miao Xiaochunís psyche but adds meaning to Michelangelo. Thatís an accomplishment.

To wrap things up, it looks to me like thereís going to be a fun, perhaps absurd performance tonight at 10:46 at Three Walls, where Frank Hainesí alter ego ďmarks the inauguration of L Francis in the waking world.Ē  Hey, when I saw Frank Haines he didnít look anything like this photo.  I think thereís a transformation that takes place involving the Earth, the Moon and of course, dance.

I hope this helps!
Paul Klein