All posts tagged: exhibition review

“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 Museum of Contemporary Photography Ponders “What Does Democracy Look Like?”

The question has been answered in many different ways this year. Protests against police violence, presidential debates, controversies over vote by mail.  Democracy means many things and takes on an equal number of guises. In this election year, the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) asked seven Columbia College Chicago faculty members to use works from the collection to visually and conceptually answer this question. The guest curators represent a variety of disciplines—not just art history—and exemplify the current museum trend of including diverse voices in exhibition design. While there are essentially seven exhibitions, each with a unique curatorial premise and position, some commonalities exist. Works are primarily hung salon-style, so viewers can see hundreds of photographs in a single visit. Portraits predominate, which makes sense given the organizing framework. Black and white and color photographs both have strong representation, connoting a sense of the historic, as well as the contemporary. The exhibition opens with E Pluribus Unum, marking the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment and the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth, which gave African …

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 …

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 …

Piece of Mind: The Growth of a Supportive and Nurturing Arts Community

When I first moved to the Midwest and began settling into my new home in Peoria, I was immediately captured by the growing art community. Being a part of academia for so long, I had not yet lived somewhere with an arts community that developed outside of a university or college. I attended my first First Friday in Peoria, a local event with gallery crawls, studio visits, and openings, meeting so many people pursuing their passion in this city. The variety of artists at various points in their career, doing so many different things, truly astounded me. There were local artisans creating wares and goods for the community, artists making a living off of their work by selling at fairs and local businesses, academics making their work and passing their knowledge on to their pupils, artists maintaining a studio practice and taking advantage of all of the space and resources in the community, and those who were new, attending their first events and figuring out their voice in the art-ecosystem. The variety of people working in such …

“Natural Wonder” at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria

This review is part of our Sixty Regional project which partners with artists, writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and Illinois. Written by Jessica Bingham, artist, curator, and co-founder of Project 1612, this review examines “Natural Wonder”, a two-person exhibition by Bethany Carlson Coffin and Stephanie Sailer at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, Illinois. Distance, whether out of necessity or inability to be close, is the common thread within the works in the exhibition Natural Wonder currently at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, IL. As the elevator doors opened to reveal the exhibition, I felt instantly calm, yet curious. Curious about the strange forms living on the pristine white pedestals and lost within the intricate paintings and drawings that graced the walls of the gallery. The pieces spark a sense of wonder and yearning for answers about experiences we cannot possibly understand or completely fathom; they compliment each other—they are quiet, contemplative, and coexisting. The exhibition pairs together the delicate drawings and monochromatic paintings of Bethany Carlson Coffin and the supple mixed media sculptures of …

Review: Static Cling @ Heaven Gallery

It’s always been interesting, walking into Heaven Gallery and browsing the vintage shop connected to the space on the right hand side. Gold brooches, gaudy necklaces, and fur hats line the wall as the gallery’s cat wanders in to sprawl out on the floor. It’s a gallery I’ve frequented for the past five years. It’s comforting, it’s familiar. It’s no surprise then that two Chicago artists, Nico Gardner and Lauren Carter, decided to respond to Heaven’s unique space and the clothes that fill the empty areas. Nico and Lauren simultaneously nod their heads at the tables filled with the contents from your grandmother’s jewelry box, creating their own reimagining of these pieces through their artwork. Memory, nostalgia, and identity are influential in the collection of pieces inhabiting the gallery. When entering the room, visitors are greeted with a piece entitled Keepsake: two tiny, sculptural, found containers in the shape of rabbits resting on a wall shelf. Lauren adds in hair and nail clippings into her work as a reminder that these objects carry some weight—a human’s contact, a …

Review: I want to be pretty until I die at Baby Blue Gallery

The child is grown, and puts away childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies. – Edna St. Vincent Millay And the artists at Baby Blue Gallery, Traci Fowler, Alex Bach, and Carmen Chaparro are immortalizing feelings of youthful desires and fleeting moments in our memory. Baby Blue Gallery is run by Caleb Beck and located in a warehouse space in the Pilsen neighborhood. With early beginnings in his apartment, Beck highlights young emerging artists rather than focusing on a profit-motivated commercial gallery. When Beck first saw Carmen Chaparro’s work, he knew that he wanted to exhibit her work in a show at Baby Blue. Including Alex Bach and Traci Fowler, the exhibition, “I want to be pretty until i die” features the three-person show of  paintings, sculptures, and assemblage pieces that touch on themes of nostalgia, humor, kitsch, and summer. The shows intention opened at the beginning of Chicago’s warm weather, when paintings like Chaparro’s pink pool toys were a soon-to-be reality for many of us who braved another cold winter. Chaparro is originally from …