All posts filed under: Essays + Reviews

Elinor Carucci, Red #3, 2015

Reproductive Agency—The Political Made Visual

January 22nd marked the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, but the debate around reproductive rights didn’t end there. Denying Title X family planning dollars to providers like Planned Parenthood and concerns over Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court are just a few examples of how the fight continues. Engaging with and broadening the discussion of how fertility is politicized, Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) provides a comprehensive look at reproductive issues through art. Kudos to MoCP for tackling the issue broadly, focusing on the spectrum of experiences, not just birth control and abortion. The exhibition includes artworks addressing desire and sexuality, the heteronormative childbirth industry, and menopause. That said, the curatorial narrative is strongest in articulating the ways in which patriarchal systems affect reproductive freedoms. The largest gallery space is devoted to Laia Abril’s project On Abortion: And the Repercussions of Lack of Access, 2016. Her archive of images and text is based on years of research about the consequences of restricting access …

Doomscrolling with Cats: A Review of Andreas Fischer’s And apologies for bringing this up

Late in her essay on the painter David Salle, Janet Malcolm records his thoughts on Francis Bacon, for whom she sees a comparison in the “dire cast” of their figures on canvas. Salle’s women (“degrading, depersonalized, fetishistic images,” per one review), and Bacon’s men (troubling, car-smashed meat sacks, per my own recent Google search), do share a quality of doom. Yet Salle is quick to deflect an affinity. “Bacon is actually not an artist I’m interested in,” he says, “but lately I’ve been thinking about him a lot in attempting to defend myself against certain criticisms.” He continues: “If you turned these criticisms around and leveled them against Bacon, it would be absurd. And it’s purely because his work is homosexual and mine is heterosexual. The same attitudes transposed are incorrect.” “Why [asks Malcolm] are dire images done by a homosexual more correct than those done by a heterosexual?” “Because in art politics, to be homosexual is, a priori, more correct than to be heterosexual. Because to be an artist is to be an outsider, …

Review: Caesar’s Palace at LVL3

“He just can’t get enough of you and literally drools in your presence,” reads a Cosmopolitan article from 2016 titled “15 Signs You Need a Dog Way More Than a Boyfriend.” In any other context, this descriptor would be troubling, to say the least. But from dogs, those domesticated carnivores whose fetid excrement we lovingly pick up with our own hands, obsessive adoration is expected. In Caesar’s Palace, the two-person show at LVL3 featuring work by Caroline Jacobson and Taylor Marie Prendergast, that deification goes both ways. Jacobson’s “Monument” sculptures turn our canine companions into stone bust idols worthy of worship, adorning them with towering wigs that rival those worn by 18th-century French royalty. In addition to the squishy-faced, tall-haired “Monument” dogs, Jacobson and Prendergast’s pieces depict bunny rabbits, pigs, gargoyles, and hybridized creatures that defy any categorization beyond “uncanny.”  The uncanny is a unifying feature in Jacobson and Prendergast’s work, which encompasses found object figures outfitted in wigs (Jacobson), painted bridal portraits with melting skin and sharpened teeth (Prendergast), silicone faces with pig snouts …

A graphic that gives information about the Screens iteration of the We Series. Created by Lindsay Zae Summers.

We Series: Screens

When does a net become a screen? “Television” derives from the Greek root telos meaning “end”, or “goal of completion”; and from the Latin root, videre, “to see”. This same word in German is “Bildschirm”. Bild, as in picture, shirm, as in an umbrella. In Old High German skirm, skerm means “protection”, and the root sker means “to cut”. A literal translation for Bildschirm would be “image screen”, or perhaps an “image cutout”. We can even imagine it to mean an image cutout from reality, thus a simulation to be witnessed. Together these etymologies bridge two realms: “television” embraces perhaps more the psychological side, whereas “Bildschirm” relates more to the physical one. This makes us wonder about the possible relationships between different types of screens, more generally: phones, monitors, televisions, silk screens, window screens, smoke screens, fishing nets, scrim, mosquito nets, hosiery, filters, and projections.  When talking about a screen, we feel like there is a vector involved. For a vector, there must be two sides or two poles, parts that are situated directional from …

Black Narcissus: After Nereida Patricia’s cracked sidewalk fountain

“Who’s there?” Narcissus stops trepidatiously and slowly turns around to stare into the thick underbrush. Nothing moves among the stand of ferns and foxglove. The mountain nymph Echo hides behind a pine tree, pushing her back against the dimpled bark. Her heart thumps deafeningly in her ear and her arms tremble noticeably, but she softly repeats Narcissus’s question back to him: Who’s there? Narcissus’s eyes narrow and he listens intently for several minutes before deciding he only heard the ghost of his own voice, and continues his hike through the forest. Echo sighs and slumps away from the tree, peering slowly around the trunk. She waits until Narcissus is several yards ahead before following after him, trailing him like an elongated, late-afternoon shadow, and occasionally darting behind a tree or rock again whenever he suddenly pivots around—unnerved by his acute hunter’s instincts—and calls out again, “Who’s there?” Who’s there? They continue on in this way for several miles until suddenly, overcome by her urge to smell his ripe body odor, admire his doe-like eyelashes, stroke …

Image: Installation view of Terry Adkins: Resounding Lower East Gallery, Pulitzer Arts Foundation © 2020 The Estate of Terry Adkins / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York Photograph by Alise O’Brien © Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Alise O’Brien Photography.

Resounding: Terry Adkins at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation

Terry Adkins (1953-2014) was a transdisciplinary artist who utilized sculpture, sound, video, performance, and printmaking strategies in combination with material, personal and historical research. Through a deep investment in the use of creative methodologies to investigate personal and historical narrative, Adkins developed an artistic framework that embraced complexity and contradiction in service of an expansive and generative model of identity, one that has continued to influence contemporary art discourse. Terry Adkins: Resounding, on view at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, features over 60 objects that include career-spanning sculpture, print, and video work as well as items from Adkins’ personal collection of musical instruments, books, and ephemera. The exhibition marks some of the most significant moments in the artist’s career and provides new insight into how Adkins situated sound outside of a normative, hierarchical structure. Adkins developed the term ‘potential disclosure’ to describe the three-staged process that rooted his material practice. This process, consisting of (1) collection (2) gestation and (3) transformation1, was the technique through which Adkins synthesized his material and historical research. …

Breaking the Surface at Heaven Gallery with Erin Hayden and Max Guy

“An image is an image, and sincerity is in the shuffle”  —Erin Hayden in conversation with Max Guy Erin Hayden and Max Guy’s exhibition Cups Swords and Eyes may be at Heaven Gallery, but its concerns are altogether earthly. The techniques are playful and quick, the style ranging and unpretentious, the materials scrappy, the ideas “elementary”—to quote the artist—creating a show that is quite sincere. Here there is no desire to transcend into the heavenly realm, but rather an insistence on sitting in all of one’s detritus and obsession. There is real comfort in the simplicity of the show’s ideas and in its commitment to making process visible. Hayden and Guy couldn’t have found a better home than with Heaven Gallery’s warm and casual atmosphere filled with gently pulsing dance music, champagne light, and a gorgeous selection of vintage clothing. The rarified environment of art is blissfully far from mind, and visitors are welcome to meet the art on its own terms. Dominating the main room at Heaven Gallery is a massive salon hang of …

We the Audience: Performance under lockdown at Links Hall

“We the people!” The phrase is shouted towards the beginning of the first performance, strident. It’s unclear whether I’m to be included in this first-person plural. And accordingly, there are multiple bodies onstage, unmasked, within striking distance of a cough or a sneeze. This is the first thing I notice now, not just during Zoom performances, but in pretty much everything I watch. Ordinary corporeal proximity now feels at once dangerous and exciting. Similarly, these words, “we the people,” feel lifted out of the near meaningless ubiquity in which they float in Kierah King’s performance Viewership Intended for Re(Creational) Use Only. The piece is one of three in-progress performances hosted by Links Hall in conjunction with their artist residency program Co-MISSION. Live streamed on YouTube, each performance was created by a participant of the 2020-2021 residency program, including Kierah King, Cherrie Yu, and Taimy Ramos Velázquez. King’s performance opens with several Black femmes milling about onstage, fuming. “Who is this ‘we’?” “Sure doesn’t sound like me.” Their ruminations and objections are occasionally punctuated by a …

Bisa Butler’s Portraits: Representation in and for 2020

Each December, the New York Times (and likely other media outlets) publish “The Year in Pictures.” For reasons both good and bad, images of Black Americans should predominate in 2020. Some pictures will be tragic, like images of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Jacob Blake, while others will be proud, showing Black Lives Matter protests, Kamala Harris, and Stacey Abrams’ Get Out the Vote efforts. Representations of Black people also predominate at the Art Institute of Chicago in the exhibition Bisa Butler: Portraits. Especially timely today, Butler exclusively presents the Black figure, using personal and historic images as the basis for her portrait quilts.     About her focus on Black people and their narratives, she says: “I never want my artwork to show my people in a bad light. We are people who’ve come a long way. We do struggle still. There’s still a lot of social ills that are affecting my people, so I want to address that, but I also don’t want this paternalistic view, like ‘oh poor them.’ I’m not interested in that. …

Review: Julien Creuzet’s cloud cloudy glory doodles at Document

Walking into Julien Creuzet’s exhibition from the onset of winter in Chicago is a transportive experience. The weather in the city has recently shifted into freezing temperatures, knocking the humidity out of the air, leaving us with dry wind, and sharp sun. As a Louisiana native who moved to Chicago in March, I’m unused to the cold, and the radiators have been running nonstop in my house. Despite the bowls of water and Eau de Fleur D’oranger balancing on the radiators, my hands are drier than the concrete stairs leading up to Document gallery, where Creuzet’s show cloudy cloudy glory doodles on the leaves pages, memory slowly the story redness sadness bloody redness on the skin awaits. When first walking into Creuzet’s show, we are taken to a place of bright colors and ocean on all sides. On the wall immediately across from the entrance is a large-scale installation piece made with brightly colored threads and neon plastic; lurid wax wrapped around wire; segments of braided rope and tattered pieces of clothing. Limes are scattered …

Review: Exhibitionisms Virtual Viewing Room A, First Impressions

In a sunny corner at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, I catch streams of light in the virtual viewing room that reflect off the disco balls in Bradley Wester’s work. A small video of his piece Two Princes reveals velvet ropes and disco balls embedded in a soft shag of grey fur and a bronze sculpture from his collection, Gold Satyr. A body chain connects the phallus of the satyr to the ropes of Two Princes. As these objects glisten in the corner, their light reflects upon and off of others in the room. These lights provoke reflection on the history and representation of queer desire in the realm of contemporary art. The history of the two works and how they reflect Wester’s and his partner’s relationship with the art world is key to this object story (related reading by Wester here). In Exhibitionisms, object stories play out, performing the narratives that tie artists to one another and their artist communities. Exhibitionisms lies at the intersection of Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Space & Time, and online at exhibitionisms.club, …

Kajahl Huntress In Oasis (Astride A Crocodile), 2020 oil on canvas 66 x 84 in. Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Fantasy of a Fantasy – A Review of Kajahl: “Royal Specter” at Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche’s exhibition Royal Specter, featuring work by the artist Kajahl, is in every aspect a museum-quality exhibition. I am not merely referencing the historically traditional and representational style of Kajahl’s paintings (that is to say, portraying a ‘likeness’ of the subject—and whose likeness is it? More on that later). I am also not just referencing the artist’s unbelievably skilled use of oil paint on canvas—materials that are, again, traditional. As Kajahl’s paint renders abundant silk folds, fine furs, and ornate gold, both the medium and style which together demonstrate a high level of skill, are historically deemed as having high value. However, when I say “museum quality,” it is not because of the undeniable attention to detail and quality of the work itself. Instead, it is because, upon gazing on the works, my mind ultimately and immediately places them within an art historical context. With each piece referencing so many elements of historical portraiture, Kajahl’s works are itching to disrupt the canon, demanding to reimagine the (absent) place of the Black figure in the …

for you. yes, you. – a response to “for you” by Ayanah Moor

you for this is just blacknessyou for this is just blacknessyou for this is just blackness G.L. – I don’t know that I can write his name here for fear of legal reprisal – haunts billboards from Chicago to Michigan (at least), his chin, the chiseled basin of his brickhead split open by bleached, saliva-polished teeth: sue the bastard who did this to you, we’ll make a buck, you’ll make a buck. On the CTA platform, I close my eyes, inhale and find my center in all the noise of rush hour while wind tunnels and pours dank air through the crowd. I do this for five minutes. I open my eyes. G.L.’s stupid face is waiting for me. I brought this up to my dad once, how unnerved I was by G.L.’s persistence, and he told me that a friend of his once called the number on the billboard, and that the office was not in Chicago but somewhere in Arizona. G.L.’s interstate visibility bothers me. Not because of him (though I harbor some …

“Torrential Hag” at Cleaner Gallery + Projects

For the last five years, Cleaner Gallery + Projects has been part of Humboldt Park as an artist-run gallery and studio space. The gallery changed its name from Night Light Studios and Gallery to Cleaner Gallery + Projects and expanded programming in February of this year, under the direction of Ryan Burns. Due to an official stay-at-home advisory for the city of Chicago issued on November 12th, Cleaner Gallery + Projects had to reevaluate gallery hours to ensure everyone’s safety. I visited the gallery before closing to the public and spoke with Burns about the show. I was unable to meet with artists Mel Cook and Kelly Reaves, but we were able to discuss their two-person exhibition over email.  The decision to exhibit Mel Cook and Kelly Reaves together was made between Reaves and Burns. Reaves’ initial impetus to pair their work together came from a shared formal and visual aesthetic. The show consists of complimentary works on paper, watercolors, and ink drawings hung in small groupings of similar color and gesture. A conceptual through-line …

The Creep by Em Kettner; a six-legged, woven, porcelain figure looks straight ahead

Review: Em Kettner’s Play the Fool, at Goldfinch

“Something is good not because it is achieved but because another kind of truth about the human situation, another experience of what it is to be human, in short, another valid sensibility, is being revealed.” —Sustan Sontag, Notes on ‘Camp’  If you don’t look closely enough, you’ll miss one of the 27 works on display at Goldfinch Gallery in Em Kettner’s solo exhibition “Play the Fool.” If you look too closely, you won’t have enough time with each one. Overthink it and you’ll miss something; rush through, and you’ll miss something else. A performance of misdirection, “Play the Fool” eludes easy description, pointing to precisely what makes it sing.   The porcelain figures could be cradled in the palms of your hands. They are the size of tchotchkes with the intricate detail of a talisman. To make out their facial expressions, you must narrow the distance between you to a few inches. Many of the faces gaze back at you or at their companions like they’re about to spill the T (and you aren’t quite sure …

Review: “Cito, Longe, Tarde” at Haynes Gallery

In Latin, Cito, Longe, Tarde, translates into “leave quickly, go far away, and come back slowly.” Influential medical figures Hippocrates and Galen first coined this phrase, which later influenced the public during the plague that took over Asia, Europe, and areas of Africa in the mid-1300s. Cited as the most devastating pandemic in history, the plague (also known as the Black Death), killed millions of people worldwide. The plague not only killed half of China’s population and a third of Europe, but it also brought on complete chaos within society. Panic, fear, and confusion led many folks to flee their homes and take on a more nomadic life, traveling from town to town, running from the plague before it devastated their hometown. In fact, this was the only advice medical professionals of the time offered. To flee and to not come back anytime soon. A means of running away was the option.  The eight works in the group show Cito, Longe, Tarde at Haynes, a new project space in Bridgeport, reflect on the current pandemic …

Where Are the Native Artists at the MCA?

Where are the Native artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art?  There is no satisfactory answer for this question.  Every curator working in museums has uttered the phrases, “museums take a long time to change,” “programmatic decisions are made years in advance,” and/or “change doesn’t happen overnight.” Native artists will not dispute these claims. We do not see ourselves reflected in museums, their staff, or the narratives that radiate out of them. Native people, more than any non-Native museum curator, can attest to the long trajectory museums have pursued for the inclusion of Native people. An inner cynic whispers, “perhaps the exclusion of Native people isn’t a matter of a slow-moving institutional behemoth but that the museum never considered artwork by Native people worthy of its space.” Any argument to the contrary can expect to be met with the fact that the year is now 2020, and the MCA, for example, has one object in their collection made by a Native person.  Is that one, solitary, Native-made artwork in the MCA’s collection cherished by the …

Image: A group of poets in various poses under and on a structure in Humboldt Park.

Touchless Entry: A Socially Distant Art Collective

One of the first buzzwords to emerge from the pandemic was “mutual aid.” Quarantine’s stakes of survival reminded many of us of our fundamental interdependence, and the lack of coordinated leadership called for us to have each other’s backs out of necessity, compelling us to take care of each other in ways that our government refused. Of course, mutual aid is not something new that emerged out of a vacuum. DIY artist communities are one model for collectivity, for an alternative economy of care and co-creation. I couldn’t bear the thought of DIY becoming extinct in the midst of the global pandemic. Pre-pandemic, apartment galleries, basement punk shows, poetry readings, raves, afterparties, and other forms of underground events were vital forms of creative community-making on the margins of the mainstream. These are lifeworlds, and they sustain us. Unfortunately, most of these subterranean activities cannot translate safely into a COVID world. And every Twitch dance party I’ve been to pales next to IRL clubbing.  Months into missing all of this, my roommate and I banded with …

Too Many to Name? – Kathryn Andrews at DePaul Art Museum

Walking east from the Fullerton CTA station on a dreary, damp morning, I only had to take a few steps to reach the DePaul Art Museum and Los Angeles-based, Kathryn Andrews’s, site-specific work. Displayed on the front window are pictures of past Presidents, their faces covered with text. That morning, their visages seemed as grey as the weather. After the past few months, do we need to see more pictures of Presidents? After all, aside from the pandemic, no issue or event has dominated the news, and our lives, like the 2020 elections.  Among this cycle’s notable statistics is the fact that more women sought the nomination for President of the United States than ever before. Yet despite this surge in interest, men still occupy the top position of both major party’s ticket. Coincidentally, 2020 is also the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. Both these occurrences are the inspiration for Andrews’ installation which “acknowledges the history of women in Presidential elections.”   The work lists the …

Image: Installation view of Out of Time at Aspect/Ratio. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo by Nick Albertson.

Out of Time by Cass Davis at Aspect/Ratio Gallery

The exhibition Out of Time by Cass Davis is an investigation of personal history, collective history, and gendered violence. The work oscillates between soft/tactile, and ghostly/alarming. Rooted in imagery that is (for better or for worse) deeply Midwestern, the work shown is aesthetically punctured by three-parts: textile works that hold faded images of religious revivals, assemblages of childhood objects embedded in earth and flowers, and photographs and moving images with lighting and tones that simultaneously haunt and render hyper-real. They are crisp as a recent memory yet as nebulous as a dream. Together, the works embody a deeply personal and real vision of the American Midwest—and when I say “real,” I don’t just mean the artist’s actual experience of it, which is also undeniably present, but also real in the sense that the images and text incorporated into Davis’s works are directly from historical documents located in their hometown. Davis grew up in Pekin, IL in an evangelical Christian community where speaking in tongues at revivals was commonplace. Much of the imagery uncovered and brought …

Review: Liz McCarthy at 062

I meet Liz McCarthy at her exhibition, Comprised Of, on the first day of October. Gusts of wind slap against me as I walk from one end of the parking lot to the other, where Liz is waiting to lead me inside. I awoke congested, my head and body heavy with pollen, stress, or both. Behind my mask, I feel my nose beginning to drip from the cold air, my eyes already streaming. Liz tells me she also feels congested—heavy with stress—as we walk against the wind and into the arts building.   Inside the gallery, I am met with a show that builds on McCarthy’s exploration of ceramic whistles and the vulnerability of bodily forms through the medium of clay. Perhaps, it’s more fitting to say the show disassembles this exploration into multiple inquiries. The ceramic works on view are humanoid forms, standing, drooping, sprawled, and, in many cases, pulled apart. As we walk through the space, McCarthy’s reflects on her job at an auction house and its influence on her thoughts about objects and …

Image: Kristoffer McAfee stands outside the School of the Art Institute Columbus building, where the painting students spend most of their time. He says his experience at SAIC “gave me confidence in my work and direction.” Photo by Kristie Kahns.

A Path Turned Inside Out: A Conversation with Kristoffer McAfee

Through his use of bold color palettes, meticulous details, and iconic symbols, artist Kristoffer McAfee displays technical rigor while provoking questions about the allure of consumerism that permeates our lives. Kristoffer is a California-born, Chicago-raised artist and a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, whose practice focuses on confronting political and social issues through intricate paintings and large-scale three-dimensional objects. His artistic voice and the intent of his work has surfaced in a myriad of ways: through life experiences, like growing up with the disparities and segregation within the southside of Chicago; by travelling the world, spending many years in Paris; by channeling the influence of other artists, like Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons; or through rigorous training, which he received at SAIC. But perhaps a less considered factor, and one that has impacted the development of Kristoffer’s path, is timing. He was skeptical of higher education and traditional art school, and only made the decision to enroll at SAIC once in his late twenties – a choice he acknowledges was …

AMFM and the Lifespan of Chicago Artist-Run Spaces

Chicago’s artist-run spaces are key players in the creative ecosystem. They stretch down all avenues in the city and beyond into the sprawling suburbs. Whether they are found in old storefronts, auto shops, backyards, or basements, some hold their space for decades while others reconstruct or retire.  Succumbing to the rise of rent and the heavy financial responsibilities that come with running an alternative venue can play a large role in the changing of spaces or changing of hands. Artist-run spaces go through fluctuations, especially those who persist for a few years. Some turn into non-profit gallery spaces, while others host a few pop-ups or begin satellite locations. Others simply shutter.  Deciding to close an artist-run space shouldn’t equate to failure. The conditions for closure—or change—are endless. The lifespans of DIY spaces don’t eradicate the work that was done. And often, the spaces simply exist in a new form. For Ciera McKissick of AMFM, that’s exactly what happened.  For over a decade, Ciera’s project—whose original form was a web magazine—has developed and transformed into various …

Artist Residencies, Collaboration, and Alternative Models of Education

In 2018, artists Julia Holter and Olivia Block came together to write and compose a new piece titled Whenever the Breeze, creating immersive sound by combining voice, instruments, bells, and recording of wind and water. The making of this piece culminated in an album recording and a live performance at the May Chapel in Rosehill Cemetery. This dynamic, collaborative piece was created during Experimental Sound Studio’s Outer Ear Residency. Artist residencies offer a place for artistic exploration, a space where artists can work and think collectively, and potentially collaborate with like-minded individuals as well. Although this environment sounds similar to a classroom, residencies often subvert the power dynamics found in traditional academic settings. Without a type of hierarchical knowledge structure, residencies often form an alternative learning space. bell hooks describes this kind of learning community in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, saying, “Since the vast majority of students learn through conservative, traditional educational practices and concern themselves only with the presence of the professor, any radical pedagogy must insist that everyone’s presence is …

Review: Windows to Our World

Walking up residential Kenmore Avenue, you might do a double-take when you pass 6018North and notice that the fence, yard, porch, and windows are adorned with banners, sculptures, and other objects. While the décor may seem unusual for a dilapidated mansion, it is on par for the artist-centered organization named after its address. Under normal circumstances, the house’s interior would be filled with art, but the stay-at-home order and city-wide protests prompted 6018North to create Windows to the World, an outdoor exhibition that promotes the organization’s social justice mission. Considering our current crises and noting that “the pandemic of America is racism,” the team of ALAANA (African, Latinx, Arab, Asian, Native-American) curators asked artists to consider:  How do we want to see the world when we get out? Who do we want to be individually and collectively? The works they selected address COVID-19, systemic injustice—or both—and raise questions with complex answers.     Artworks in the exhibition are made from everyday materials and often adopt commercial formats, such as neon signage and banners. Efrat Hakimi’s Time, depicting …

Featured Image: Work by February James. We Laugh Loud So The Spirits Can Hear, 2020. Installation view. Five highly expressive, framed watercolor portraits hang in the gallery. Image Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery.

The Artist as Changemaker: A Conversation with February James

I’m not even going to belabor the conversation about how we are all living through some of the most challenging times that we may ever see in our existence. We are simply trying to survive a global pandemic amongst civil unrest in the wake of police brutality and efforts to dismantle white supremacy, all during an extremely high stakes election year.  As an artist, I know I’m not the only one who has received these types of emails over the past few months,  “We hope you understand that your exhibition has been postponed due to circumstances surrounding the global pandemic.”  “The gallery has implemented a virtual platform to promote your work in lieu of an in-person exhibition opening.” “Your health and well-being is extremely important to us, which is why we have decided to cancel your upcoming event.”  The pandemic has changed every aspect of our daily lives. Schools, jobs, social gatherings, shopping, exhibitions, festivals, events, and countless others can be added to the never-ending list of things that no longer operate as they once …

Roland Santana: the gum beneath your shoe at Baby Blue Gallery

Upon entering  Mana Contemporary building wearing a cloth mask, my temperature is taken before I am invited to sign in. My healthy temperature is recorded and I am now able to enter the building and be brought to the fifth floor. Exiting the industrial elevator, I follow the instructions given to me by the masked elevator attendant and walk down the hallway until I find the door marked 518. Walking into Baby Blue’s new gallery space I am immediately struck by the natural light that pools over colorful paintings and gestural works. Already recognizable to me are the large scale paintings and modest-sized painted sculptures by Chicago artist Roland Santana. the gum beneath your shoe is Roland Santana’s first solo exhibition at Baby Blue Gallery. Santana has a prolific studio practice and a strong entrepreneurial mindset that has helped him gain momentum as an exhibiting artist in recent years. In addition to his career as an artist, Santana works in art administration and developed RUPTURE, a Chicago BI-POC Maker/Visual Artist Directory alongside designer Ashley King. …

Heaven Gallery: Relic, Ritual, and Remedy

Wading through the sea of people in Wicker Park—masks-off—wasn’t the most relaxing Sunday. Patio seating, pop music blaring, horns honking, and shops bustling all appeared to be so much louder since the last time I was in the neighborhood (prior to the pandemic). Ah, but then, there it is—Heaven.  Heaven Gallery, that is. The gallery space and its current show, “Relic, Ritual, and Remedy,” is a sanctuary amongst the bustle of the streets below.  Objects and archives are exhibited alongside textiles in the exhibition as artists explore history, ephemera, every-day objects, and texture.  This group show, curated by Lauren Iacoponi, features 11 artists, including Allen Moore, Rebecca Griffith, Judith Brotman, Naomi Elson, Nick Van Zanten, Anne Yafi, Elyse Sawka, José Santiago Pérez, Betsy Odom, Millicent Kennedy, and Ryan Burn, who work significantly with craft materials: weaving, quilting, sculpture, and every-day objects. Rebecca Griffith’s bold black VHS tape quilts blend memories from her childhood when her mother ran a video store. When Griffith was six years old, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—the video store …