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Art Letter (4/3/09)

I was right. There is quite a bit more good art to see as we approach ArtChicago than there was last week.  There are numerous strong exhibitions opening tonight.

Letís start at the top and not just because itís on the 25th floor.
Richard Gray is presenting the sensitive and provocative work of Marc Swanson.  I like this expansion of aesthetics for the gallery. The art is slow, meditative, genuine, well-executed and thoughtful, dealing with issues of identity and internal conflict. Here it is about gay culture and identify from an accomplished artist who was raised in a family of hunters in northern New England before relocating to San Francisco. But that isnít quite the point. As humans, we all have internal conflicts. Seeing someone else conscientiously explore their dichotomies sheds light on all of own issues.  Besides beautiful, I found the show cathartic. That makes for a memorable exhibit.

In the same vein is the work of
Judith Brotman at ThreeWalls.  It too is strong, personal and full of dichotomies. While abstract, there are plenty of references to conflict, balance, compassion, and separation.  While thoughts of Richard Tuttleís and Eva Hesseís alchemic ability to transform materials comes to mind Brotman is her own person and contributes to my personal growth.

Beautiful is the operative word for
Geoffrey Todd Smith whose work opens at Western Exhibitions Sure, I looked for meaning and content for a moment, but there is not much of that here. The work is about form, spatial relationships, color, pattern and joy. The art is great the way it is, but I canít help seeing the potential for vast projects like plazas, or tile floors.  As much as I liked these pieces I wanted to see them really big.

Please donít assume that the order Iím discussing these exhibitions that open this evening has anything to do with which ones I liked best. At
Packer Schopf (nice new website) is the fabulous new work of Brian Dettmer.  Iíve been following his works for years.  Itís really fun paying attention to Brian, especially for someone like me who thrives on the vicarious experience of anticipating what an artist is going to do next. More than once I've been sure that Brian has hit a deadend.  And then, shazam, he blows my socks off. Basically he digs into books (literally), selectively exposing some of the guts. And then, in a move I'd never expected, he began combining books, bending or manipulating them, like the master he has become. Exciting work.

In viewing
Sandra Bermudezí new work at Kasia Kay I first speculated that things we love the best have the most names. But then I remembered that the Inuit have 28 words for snow. One large wall installation is titled The Happy Pussy and uses well over a dozen of the more attractive euphemisms we employ - thus the happy.  The piece is light hearted, humorous, fun and deserves to be sold as a single unit. Fortunately The Happy Pussy is in an edition of 3.  I know Iím supposed to insert a punchline here, but Iím going to resist.

Last, but certainly not least, is
Rebecca Shoreís exhibit at Corbett vs. Dempsey.  Before I closed my gallery 5 years ago I exhibited Rebeccaís work.  In this new show sheís made a breakthrough away from the grid that she used to employ and that, though strong, restrained her work.  Now she is looser, more confident and correspondingly strong. The work also seems more Chicago-centric with references to Ray Yoshida and Christina Ramberg. Iím impressed.

Itís getting better. Itís time to go out again.
Paul Klein