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Art Letter (4/17/09)

Iíve spoken before about the satisfaction of watching an artist grow, mature and prosper.  We need to revisit that theme, while realizing that the exhibitions the galleries are mounting now, in anticipation of ArtChicago 2 weeks hence, are a gift to the artist, if they are the benefactor of a one-person exhibition. Some galleries pursue the egalitarian approach and present a group show. I did that frequently when I had a gallery, but now I rather feel it lacks gumption.  If you believe in an artist you should be willing to take a stance and present a strong one-person exhibition.

Thatís what we have presently, with two solid and significant exhibitions opening tonight.

Richard Hunt has spent a lifetime and a career making art in Chicago.  Next month he receives the lifetime achievement award from the International Sculpture Center, doing Magdalena Abakanowicz, Louise Bourgeois, Mark di Suvero, Claes Oldenburg and about a dozen others who have been so honored. He was the first African-American artist to have a major solo exhibition at MoMA (in 1971), yet in Chicago heís been a mostly overlooked talent, despite his art being highly visible from Midway Airport to Jonquil Park.  Chicagoís treated Richard more as a token than a talent.  Thatís wrong and unfortunate. The work in the exhibit at David Weinberg shows the accomplishments of an artist in his 70ís who can readily make metal bend at will.  The predominantly bronze art - welded, not made from molds - soars with pride, confidence and determination.  Thereís a powerful story here and a universal truth, a spirit that will not be contained.  Itís nice to see the work well presented. I left educated, impressed and a bit sad that I, for one, hadnít opened my eyes a helluva lot earlier. Richard Hunt is damned good.

Zolla/Lieberman, Cheonae Kim (Chun -A) makes math intuitive and beautiful. Masterful color combinations, this is formal art at its best.  Fascinating juxtapositions, intrinsic balance, smooth rhythms, Kimís art bridges music and math visually.  You can hear (see) the beat, and cruise across the riffs and inherent syncopations. This is wonderful abstract art.  Kim - who I used to represent - sees many of these pieces as portraits.  I donít. it is always somewhere between informative and curious to hear what an artist thinks their work is about. (I donít assume that what an artist thinks about their art is necessarily Ďthe truth.í there is always room for another opinion.) Iíve observed Kimís art for well over a decade,  This is her best show so far. Solid growth which alludes to where sheís been, without being controlled by it.  And itís damned nice to see her gallery give her a one-person exhibition during to forthcoming ArtChicago - which may just surprise us with its quality programing.

I am perpetually intrigued and challenged by
Sabrina Raafís work, who I also used to represent before I closed Klein Art Works 5 years ago.  Raaf makes interactive sculpture that warmly engages us while getting us to ponder bigger questions. Sometimes her devices monitor the carbon dioxide in a space (the more people the more carbon dioxide) and draws corresponding lines on the wall. Or in the case of the extra large, multi-ton piece at McCormick West, Raafís device monitors the sound in the space.  The more sound, the more the lights flash on the 60 foot hanging element and the more the glass curtain wall flaps on the 18-video-moniotr display, commenting on the never resolved debate about the ďWindy CityĒ moniker being based on the wind here or the hot air from Chicago politicians lobbying for the Colombian Exposition.  If you come to tonightís opening dusk is the best time.

Fresh air, popping buds, more green - this is the time to go out and see some art!
Paul Klein