Art Letter (7/18/08)
I know. Itís been a while since Iíve written. I just havenít seen enough good shows opening at a given moment to get out there and preview them - until now.
Having denigrated curators in the foregoing paragraphs letís have a look at the work of one of our finest curators, Lynne Warren at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Thoughtful, thorough and a brilliant researcher, she has created another beautiful exhibit in her companion exhibition to the MCAís fine Jeff Koonís show titled Everythingís Here: Jeff Koons and his experience of Chicago. Koons has generously acknowledged the influence of numerous Chicago artists that affected him even before he was a student at the School of the Art Institute.
Wonderful and not often seen work by Ed Paschke, HC Westermann, Roger Brown, Robert Lostutter, Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum and my favorite Christina Ramberg add insight to the Koonís show downstairs, but really, this show is a gem all by itself.
Donít overlook the HC Westermann woodblock print upstairs whose motif is the background for Koonsí memorable Elvis painting downstairs (the one where the inverted lobster is a stand-in for the gymnast Westermann. (Yes, there is a lot of funk and easy flash to Jeff Koons. And there is also vast depth, significant cultural awareness and an amazing work ethic.)
Artists are known for taking risks. Most galleries are more like troglodytes. So when a gallery like KN Gallery, most know for exhibiting artists like Milton Avery, Hans Hoffman or Wayne Thiebaud presents a summer show of emerging artists (curated by Jill Lanza and Ally Beck) my curiosity is piqued. Fortunately the pieces by Val Britton, Sarah Cain, Amy Chaloupka, Melissa Jay Craig (Chicago), Ana Teresa Fernandez, Sarai Givaty, Chris Natrop & Jen Pack are really good. For me, it is a profound pleasure to look at good art without knowing how much it costs, without having any sense of the artistís history, and to just deal with the art on its own merit. Itís good. The show is fun. And the people at the gallery are very nice.
William Lieberman at Zolla/Lieberman has done over 10 exhibitions with Michael Nakoneczny. Iíve seen quite a few of them. Nakoneczny has grown and matured over the past two decades and this is probably the best show Iíve seen of his, which happens to include a lot of small works on paper. Seems Nakoneczny sees himself as an outsider, an opinion reinforced by looking at his art and learning that he lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. I bet he thinks itís hot here.
Also at Z/L is an impressive demonstration of virtuoso painting by Maria Tomasula. Some remind me of Breugel, but mostly Iím just impressed. There are works in the show that took 6 months to create. That kind of patience, forethought and perseverance is unusual today. Not only that, the show opens tonight and every piece is already sold. In 30 years of running a gallery I never had a show sell out. Obviously they are doing something right
There are two other exhibits opening tonight that I have not had the opportunity to preview, but are certainly promising. At the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport is Hic et Nunc (Here and Now) A survey of new guard photography. I want to see this show.
Old Gold is a seat-of-the-pants occasional gallery that shows kick-ass art. This time Kat Parker, who works at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, has been asked to curate a video presentation. Daily, she gracefully bridges the gap between the established career-track artist and the fledgling. Here she explores the middle ground, having assembled a collection of about a dozen videos by an impressive group of artists, half of whom Iím familiar with. This outdoor presentation is a one shot deal. Tonight only. And it should be a hoot.
And a footnote: in the new wing of the Art Institute, opening next spring, 2 rooms will be dedicated to Chicago artists. One will be for the Imagists and Hairy Who and the other will be for contemporary Chicagoans. Neither room will be identified as Chicago-centric.
You know what else? Besides the shows the I responded to positively are quite a few other exhibits opening tonight that you might really enjoy. There are certain things Iím looking for in art, which could easily be different than what youíre after. And obviously, I have no corner on aesthetic correctness. You can follow my thoughts as a guide, but heaven-forbid you should agree categorically or allow me to think for you. Summer is a fabulous time for seeing new, fresh, and fun art. Go see for yourself.