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Art Letter (10/22/04)

More and more good art is going up.  I keep being impressed with what Iím seeing.  Some of it for a second time, like the New Photography and Video from China exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Smart Museum.

Chicago has a rich tapestry of art and artists and it can be found all over the city.  A lot of it, of course, shows up at museums and galleries where it has been culled. My peers know what they are doing.  They are worth trusting.  For guidance, education and a fair deal.  And you can sometimes go straight to the source.  See work in progress. Visit the artistís studio. See where the work is made.  (Before walking in on an artist working in her or his studio ask them before hand if you can come visit.) I always find it a satisfying experience.

A week or so ago Wesley Kimler had invited me and quite a few others to his studio for a night of art and music.  Wesley has a nice big studio and he and I share a desire to nurture and cross-pollinate the arts.  His heart is in the right place. His has done some wonderful things.  Itís fun to watch what he does. That night he had several musicians playing including Rick Rizzo, Nicholas Tremulis and Billy Corgan.  Really low-key.  Huge studio, 50 Ė 60 people, small dais for 2 performers. Iím sitting on the floor listening to Billy Corgan say ďThis is a new song. I finished it on the way over here,Ē as Iím looking at spectacular paintings of Wesleyís, drinking a beer. I highly recommend having Billy Corgan sing and play acoustic guitar for you while you look at paintings.

How some galleries become mainstream and others remain ďoff the beaten pathĒ no matter how good they are is one of the many things I still wonder about.  Granted Thomas Masters Gallery on North Avenue, a couple of blocks west of Wells is not near other galleries, but they frequently have strong exhibits.  Presently they have a show of new paintings by Tim Anderson.  Tim is a powerful realist whose work has changed incrementally over the last 22 years that I have known him.  It has always been portraits that yield just enough about the subject to draw us in while revealing more about the artist, Tim Anderson, who has a warmth and piercing compassion like his small personal paintings.  Thomas Masters Gallery has even done a wonderful catalog for this show. You need to look at the pricelist to learn who the portraits are of.  Guessing is fun, but hard.

From where I live in Bucktown I can walk to Marc Hauserís studio or Tony Fitzpatrickís. Marc is a great photographer who has the awesome ability to make the ugly look fascinating and the decent looking gorgeous, and besides with all the incredibly famous people heís photographed I feel elevated to have him shoot me. Marc is as gregarious as he is talented and it is safe to say no one has ever accused him of being normal.  Itís a blast. Hang out with him for 20 minutes.  Get a great photo of yourself and see an array of tangentially related people walk through.

Tony Fitzpatrick is the other direction. His studio is on a commercial street. Iím not sure how he makes the work and handles the interruptions. The studio resembles his art, or the other way around. Lots going on, layers of mean. Small pieces.  Big affable guy. Fun, accessible work.

All these artists, and the musicians too, are lifers Ė actual artists, people who have been doing what they do for over half their lives, often more than 25 years. Theyíve stayed the course. I think itís remarkable that theyíve made Chicago a base and survived here; by making art, by being an artist and continuing to do so in Chicago. (Iím emphasizing Chicago here Ė thatís clear isnít it?)  There are a whole lot of good artists here. Not only are there a lot of superb galleries here there are a large number of great artists here worthy of our support. (Maybe sometime we should discuss those who are famous out of town and unknown here, like Bob Guinan.)

Two more of the lead pack are Susanne Doremus and Jim Lutes who open a show together tonight (10/22.04) at Zolla / Lieberman Gallery.  Remarkably similar, these allover mess-makers used to epitomize intelligent female art making (you know, like Joan Mitchell) and macho guy painting (like Phillip Guston overlaid with Burt Lancaster) and now they are starting to look alike. Thatís weird. Especially since they are both so damned good.

Also opening tonight is the simultaneously serious and fun paintings by
Marcus Linnenbrink, at Roy Boyd Gallery.  They are more maximal and physical than the used to be, more labor intensive too.  Luscious and intelligent.

Wrapping up the off-the-beaten-path, art-is-where-you-find-it thought, the Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery, located in the State of Illinois Building downtown is a nice but anomalous adjunct to the building. Think Small, curated by Robert Sill rocks. Each work is by an Illinois artist and is small. There are even sculptures that fit inside lipstick cases. A lot of work went into curating this work and it shows.

Itís rich out their folks. Go find it.