Posts Tagged ‘chicago’

Tank Traps and Hijackings, Old Gold, Jan. 9-Feb. 8, 2009

January 12, 2009

The best part about Old Gold is the bar permanently installed in this basement apartment. Seriously, the home brew beer at this exhibition, the “Viking brew” according to one of the Scandanavian-esque bartenders, was some of the best beer that I’ve had in a while.  Art openings are parties, therefore, I have every right and in fact, I have an obligation to discuss the type of beer they serve.

As an exhibition, the content of Shackleford’s sculptures and prints was dependent on place, dependent on the architecture of Old Gold and the people in it. By 9pm, Old Gold was crowded and the three sculptures became obstructions to people moving around, whether to look at the works, find the bathroom, or pet an adorable pug named Ruby who belongs to Kathryn, one of the co-0wners of Old Gold.  Throughout the night, people did end up walking into these wobbly, wooden sculptures. The experience invoked by these sculptures on this crowded night at Old Gold was vague. It was like listening to an inexperienced meteorologist who just tells you to “Watch out!” for bad weather, but not telling you what type of weather to expect.   I don’t want didactic art, but these gorgeous geometric sculptures merely told me to “Watch out!” for them while I wandered around to socialize,  an essential part of going to art openings.

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“of or relating to the sky or visible heavens,” Western Exhibitions, Jan. 9-Feb. 14 <3 <3 <3

January 11, 2009
Carrie Gundersdorf

Carrie Gundersdorf

West Loop openings in January are bound to be unpopular. Last night, the weather wasn’t too bad–it was just snowy and the streets were covered with wet slush. Western Exhibitions usually holds two distinct openings, one taking place in the larger room, filled with windows, while the second exhibition space is smaller, about the size of a large closet or a small bedroom. It’s about the size of my own “cozy” bedroom.

The theme of this show is to be taken literally from the exhibition title, that it is about the “sky” and the more poetic version of the same word, “visible heavens.” Unfortunately, those works that depict the blue heavens with just this same literalness were the most banal.  I appreciate a simplicity that resonates with both aesthetics and the everyday, but the metaphoric gestures that artists including Carrie Gundersdorf, Shane Huffman, and Michelle Grabner used make the exhibition’s theme of the sky both an art phenomenon and an everyday spectacle.

Carrie Gundersdorf’s muted neon watercolor and colored pencil designs of the sky in her trio of works including Trails and space – yellow and blue, break down a possible landscape into symbols. Think of Color Field painters like Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, or Helen Frankenthaler but with hard-edged, neon design.

Shane Huffman’s inkjet print Forevering, 2008, at first looks like an ethereal landscape taken by a NASA satellite. The materials used to construct the scene are anything but celestial, consisting of semen and menstrual blood.

Michelle Grabner’s corner work, Untitled Flock Drawing, 2009, hovers between drawing, painting, and sculpture. Made from rayon flock and spray adhesive, the fluffy white specks coating the corner of the gallery floated, creating a second, textural layer to the gallery walls. Although specks of the material were coming off the wall on the opening night, this work in process still suggested the process of its making (splattering, spraying) while mainting the quality of how it was made, splattered onto the wall.

LADYLIKE: A Proper Take on Feminist Art

August 7, 2008

Curated by Joanne Hinkel
Koscielak Gallery
On view through July 30th

How “proper”  for an exhibition to ironically regard itself as a purveyor of manners!  For those disenchanted with Feminism, they express the same disapproval towards manners, embodied in texts by Dear Abby, or even Betty Crocker cookbooks. But this disregard is at the same time an embrace in Hinkel’s well-crafted Ladylike.

Today, no such thing as Feminism exists. Feminism, whatever it may be, did exist at one time, although now it is just one node within a plurality of Feminist-type discourse. The duty of major retrospectives over the past few years, including WACK! and Global Feminisms, has been to dispel with the historicization of a myopic genre and present multiple versions of Feminism that co-exist with one other. But it’s not just about genealogy. Feminist discourse produces a structure that allows for a discussion about systems of difference, and away from the female body. Many of the works in Ladylike lack reference to any essentialized version of Feminism and instead construct systems that explain how their images work.

Paintings by Lorainne Peltz, an artist represented by the Koscielak Gallery and an adjunct professor at SAIC, recall simple doodles scrawled in elementary school notebooks. These images of children’s drawings, such as representations of daisies and speech bubbles, are also a reminder of their own instability and structural variance. For example, the images in Juicy Peaches and Afternoon Delight lack a figure-ground relationship, and as such, they appear volatile as they float, almost about to drift off the canvas.

Sally Ko’s two untitled paintings also share an insistence towards a fragile, yet undidactic organizing structure. The paintings have been described as microsopic slices of organisms at a cellular level, and I concur, but I think that they also recall how anything can be turned into the baroque decoration through repetition. The thick, glossy sheen also provides decoration, yet is a formal recognition of its function as surface to be seen through.

The artwork most closely associated with the exhibition is Jessica Hannah’s performance/installation, Red Phone Showroom No. 6, due to its reproduction in various press and web images for Ladylike. It stands alone in its obstinate stance against the type of Feminism that can be found in the other works. Responding to the exhibition’s motif of Feminism as a site beyond the female body, Showroom No. 6 parodies a 1950s Suburban utopia, filled with American-made cars as long as boats, bobs flipped out at their ends, and rotary telephones.

For this installation, I picked up a phone in front of a mannequin dressed like a Stepford Wife, one of three situated in the gallery as if they were in a window display. I shuffled backwards when I realized that the mannequin was moving. It was a human and she was moving like a robot. The female body as a locus for parody was on display in Showroom No. 6 as a middle-class, suburban woman become commodity, but this time, she throws your stare back at you. Unfortunately, she has nothing to say, but why should she when the installation is already so heavy-handed in its symbolism?

Buffy Summers #2 from Stacia Yeapanis’ ongoing cross-stitch series Everybody Hurts made at least its second appearance on the Chicago gallery circuit, having appeared at Henbane: Dialectics of the Feminine Sublime in April. Without the title, the indexical nature of the knitted image is indeterminate as to whether the female face in intense pain is either Sarah Michelle Gellar or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or an image that wavers between both. Although the image’s source remains potentially indeterminate, the maudlin text inscribed underneath, “It seems like the birds shouldn’t be singing anymore, but they are,” points toward the image’s deceptive function. The clichéd sound of the text resonates with the image and emphasizes both the image and the text’s unoriginal articulation of emotion. This contradiction of the image as a bearer of transcendent meaning denies it of any expressive power a viewer may choose to invest in it.

A structure, or framework: this is what Feminism looks like in Joanne Hinkel’s curational debut. In the few cases in this exhibition where it refers to the female body and the context surrounding it as its critique, it takes on a dated posture of essentialism. But in general, it’s not necessarily about women or gender—and that’s what makes this exhibition so persuasive and relevant.

Boys of Summer at Monique Meloche: On View through August 2, 2008

July 20, 2008

Summer shows are hard to come by at galleries; either galleries shut down for most of the week (isn’t that nice!) or the show just a smattering of works that have yet to be sold by the artists they represent. Fortunately, the Monique Meloche Gallery is open on Saturdays during the summer AND a curatorial twist has been put on the ubiquitous survey of every artist represented by the gallery. Boys of Summer concisely navigates issues of identities in contemporary works by male artists. More specific to this exhibition than the issue of identity is the issue of identity in terms of portraiture, a motif espoused by many of the artists, Jesper Just (a personal favorite for his whimsical films), Nick Cave, Zane Lewis, Ebony Patterson, among others.

Co-inciding with the upcoming presidential election is a cut-out of dried red, white, and blue acrylic paint of the presumptive Democratic nominee, (as everyone is calling him, although we all know that he is already the nominee!) Barack Obama. Recalling Jackson Pollock, but more specifically Lynda Benglis, the concept of the mixing of paint is so self-evident, so salient in periodicals’ discussions of the candidate that this work appears as just one form of historical evidence pointing towards the significance of Obama’s candidacy, but the painting is so banal because of it.

Nick Cave and Ebony Patterson’s works are both close-up portraits of “masked” men. Cave’s S & M masks have a thrift-store quirkiness that confuses a reading of the human expression beneath. Patterson’s mixed-media portraits of Jamaican criminals, painted faces surrounded by made of delicately drawn lines and baroque patterns cut into thick paper, belie the usual grittiness associated with public portrayals of these men.

Portraits that hide, portraits that mix, and the difficulty of defining oneself through appearances: Boys of Summer is a coming of age story, or rather, a coming of identity story that could be either male, female, or both.