All posts tagged: review

Breakroom Small Talk: A Review of Water Cooler at LVL3

Featured image: An installation view of Water Cooler at LVL3. On the left side of the frame is Rachel Youn’s piece “Lair”, and not he right are various textile pieces by KG with Youn’s piece “Prune” in the foreground. Image courtesy of LVL3. If you want to know the deepest, most personal information about someone, ask their coworkers first. Being confined to a small space with an island of misfits for grossly extended periods of time leads to intensely intimate conversations, bonds, and pseudo-friendships. Leading to uncomfortable chatter about your credit card debt with Phil from the department down the hall while you wait for your turn to use the microwave on your break, or confessing details about your partner’s bad habits with the hostess while you kill time between customers. Both learning and spilling graphic details from and to our coworkers aids in our survival of the work day. Both intensely awkward and oddly comforting, we create an environment of forced intimacy. Sterile, uncomfortable, familiar–this described environment is appreciated, mocked, and replicated precisely in …

Image: A view of "Dreamscapes: Imaginings of a Black Pastoral" at Roots and Culture. Photo by Colectivo Multipolar. IG: @colectivomultipolar

The Black Pastoral, a landscape of abundance

Featured image: A view of “Dreamscapes: Imaginings of a Black Pastoral” at Roots and Culture. Two the left is a doorway covered in sheer green fabric that leads into a room with a video piece on display. The right side of the image shows a hallways leading to a larger room with additional artworks. Photo by Colectivo Multipolar. Entering the space of Roots & Culture on the opening night of Dreamscapes: Imaginings of a Black Pastoral, you are transported through a portal into the familiar realm of fellowship. For me, in the fellowship found in the hall of my childhood Baptist church, a gathering space designated for the communal unravel immediately following Sunday morning service, or in the fellowship found in the yearly ritual of my family reunion, a tradition of Black joy where familial cohesiveness can be restored, generational collectivism is centered and celebration is key. Aunties, grandmas, cousins you didn’t know you had, family friends and friends of friends all coalescing for one singular premise: communion. Walking through Dreamscapes: Imaginings of a Black …

Review: Just Above My Wall, (To The Right) at South Side Community Art Center

In the discussions of the art world, it’s often lost on us how deeply personal the act of viewing and acquiring art actually is. We’re dazzled by headlines featuring big names and nearly incomprehensible amounts of money. It obscures the reality that in its purest form, buying art is about beautifying our intimate spaces and private moments.

Not Confession, But Investigation: Jubilee Turns Over Joy’s Hidden Corners

Featured image: A portrait of Michelle Zauner by Peter Ash Lee. Zauner is facing the camera holding a persimmon. She has her hair in a braid and wears yellow and orange make up. Persimmons hang by strings around her. “Audiences want confessional bits from rock icons,” reflected music critic Jessica Hopper in a 2011 review of St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, “and expect them from female singer-songwriters.”  Anyone familiar with the contemporary indie-rock scene would agree that Hopper’s diagnosis has only grown more accurate over the past few years. In a 2018 album review, the New York Times’ Jon Pareles noted that “Soccer Mommy joins a wavelet of young women—along with Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski and many others—who [write] songs that probe vulnerability and trauma, self-sabotage and self-preservation.” That same year, the New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino declared something similar: “I’m thinking of Mitski, Waxahatchee, Jay Som: women who […] explore everyday longing and disappointment in their lyrics, and cradle their songs in wryness and sincerity and guitars.” Digging through album reviews of female indie rock …

Featured image: An installation view of Longing Compass at Chicago Artists Coalition, featuring the work of Karen Dana Cohen. The view of the gallery shows five paintings against white walls and four sculptural pieces with various additional three-dimensional pieces accompanying some of the canvases. The paintings all portray groups of people with large, gestural strokes of blue and red paint. Image courtesy of the artist.

One Half Digs Deeper, The Other Extends Further: A Review of Longing Compass

I dig deep into the caverns of my memory in order to recall the first time I used a drawing compass. My elementary school classroom appears, and I remember being enamoured by the simplicity of the concept: one compass leg serves as the anchor, the other as the mark maker. When these equally important legs come together, precise circles result. Not long after the experience, I took a trip to the beach. Still fascinated with the physics of this object, I used my body as the anchor, a stick as the mark maker, and twisted around, leaving perfect circles in the sand. All of these memories flood back to me with clarity upon visiting Longing Compass, featuring the work of BOLT artist-in-residence Karen Dana Cohen at the Chicago Artists Coalition.  In the accompanying exhibition text of Longing Compass, Cohen compares herself to the mark maker of the familiar object of a compass due to her having to relocate her studio to the basement of her home. It is important to discuss the complex circumstances that …

Image: Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together by Thornton Dial. A large, mixed-media piece that looks like a tattered American Flag. © Estate of Thornton Dial. Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio/

Black Artists Deserve Better: Thornton Dial at the IMA

Regarding the state of Indiana, I would say that it benefits from the perception crafted in our history classes that racism only exists in the south, and the northern states have always been a bastion of acceptance. Let me disabuse you of that belief. I went to college in Muncie, Indiana, where one of my professors quipped that Indiana is “the northernmost southern state.” In 1843, famous abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Pendleton, Indiana and was nearly bludgeoned to death by a white mob of anti-abolitionists. Additionally, Indiana has historically been a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity, (a fact that was shared with me repeatedly, almost gleefully during the time I lived there) and Confederate flags are the norm. Anecdotally I’ve seen them on car bumpers, proudly displayed on front porches, sewn onto jackets as patches, and on the wall of a frat house, just to name a few. All of this matters because The Davis Lab at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) at Newfields is currently hosting an …

Review: 36° 15’ 43” N 29° 59’ 14” E at Goldfinch Gallery

Texture as memory, as language, as impression of thought and purpose; this is what is brought forth onto and within the imprints on the surface of objects made by SaraNoa Mark. Tactile and intricate, the artist’s mark making oftentimes reads like indecipherable words, while other times appears as imagery unfolding within the cracks of the surface, much like a relief. These carved and etched lines are akin to the marks made in drawing, which is at the heart of the artist’s practice. “Drawing is the lens through which I experience the world,” says Mark. “I view the earth, itself, as a drawing — continuously drafted by environmental and human gestures.”  Earthy and mineral-esque, Mark’s objects appear as solid as a rock and as precious as a relic. Manifesting their pieces from carved ceramic, clay, and stone, the artist has chosen a monochromatic palette that accentuates their mark making. With difference in color out of the way, the rich, lush texture is left bare for us to examine and search, so dense and palpable that I can almost physically …

Bodies Immersed installation overview

It’s On Us to Change Our Own Worlds: A Review of Bodies Immersed, at Roots & Culture

What feels particularly acute and tender in Bodies Immersed, the exhibition currently on view at Roots & Culture, is the urgency underlying the artists’ contemporary visions. While utopian ideals are not new in art and architecture, the work by Chicago-based artists Megan Diddie and Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero in collaboration with ColectivoMultipolar (Sandra Oviedo) questions what it means to be vulnerably human in the Anthropocene—coexisting uneasily in late capitalism with other creatures, elements, and natural and unnatural forces as we navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and other compounding crises. This work imagines and documents intimate ways of being in sustainable communion with self, with others, and with natural and built environments. In so many ways, the work of Bodies Immersed asks and imagines how we might make life more livable.  im·merse/iˈmərs/verb 1. to dip or submerge in liquid The exhibition’s works (installations, photographs, videos, sound, and mixed media on paper) meet in water, dwelling in and through it. Each artist raises implicit questions about water rights, water circulation, sustainable water use, and ecologies—broadly conceived. Fluidity is thus …

Featured image: An installation view of Sergio Lucena: The Blue that embraces me... at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. Three paintings hang on a white wall. Photo by Evan Jenkins, Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim.

Review of Sergio Lucena: “The Blue that embraces me…” at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Any other time, it would go without saying, but in 2021, it’s worth mentioning that art is best seen in person. As we inch toward a return to normalcy, we exist in a half-in, half-out lockdown world, leaving us trapped in a sort of art show purgatory. Do we roam the viewing room online first? Do we go in sight unseen? Or perhaps we just do a little peek at the viewing room on the bus on the way to the gallery. To address those concerns directly, The Blue that embraces me… is a show you must see at the gallery. You can, of course, glance or pour over the online installation views here, but for that oomph, that deep breath of cleansing air, the show can only be seen in person. The brief show at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery is made up of six works by Sergio Lucena. Although blue hues are present throughout, as the title suggests, each canvas is an exploration of a range of colors. Lucena’s paintings all follow a similar theme: …

7. Chris Bradley, installation view of Usual Objects. From left to right: Attic, 2021. Wood, stainless steel, steel, aluminum tube, 3D printed PLA, black cord, LED, acetate, paint, 15 x 14.5 x 14 inches. Cellar, 2021. Wood, steel, 3D printed PLA, epoxy putty, paint, LED, modeling turf, twine, 12 x 15 x 10 inches. Breeze, 2021. Wood, steel, stainless steel, 3D printed PLA, PET plastic, LEDs, muffin fans, fabric, 19 x 19 x 19 inches.

Usual Objects in Unusual Times

“All of our worlds shrunk down to our homes and our thoughts,” writes artist Madeleine Leplae about this past year, during which she began to appreciate time spent outdoors and decided to paint trees, albeit ones with unreal proportions and vibrant backgrounds. Her painting Sappy Tree, 2020, with its unusually long trunk and button-like appendages, appears almost human. The piece is currently on view as part of the group show Usual Objects at Carrie Secrist Gallery, now housed in the residences at 900 West (Washington). Featuring the work of Chris Bradley, Nicole Dyer, Brendan Getz, Madeleine Leplae, Matt Lipps, Liliana Porter, and Amanda Ross-Ho, the exhibition focuses on the still life genre, which might seem quaint (outdated?) in these socially and politically charged times, but is in fact apropos to our current moment. Many of the works were created in the past year, when all of us, artists included, spent much time at home, among our possessions. The first three artists in the show present objects that are dramatically smaller than life size. This can …

Seeds of Resistance installation view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, 2021. Photo: Eat Pomegranate Photography. Image courtesy of the museum.

A Seed, a Flower, a Field, a Battleground: A Review of Seeds of Resistance at the Broad Art Museum

I grab a knife and puncture a small slit into what I consider to be the top of a watermelon. The knife stands erect, and I push it down as if it is a lever as it smoothly slices the fruit. I hack up the red, juicy contents inside, and begin to pick out tiny black seeds and discount them into a pile. As a kid, I worried that if I accidentally ate a seed, an entire watermelon would grow inside of me. I laugh about this fear now, but I can’t say that it was entirely irrational. This is a fear, or an intrigue, that most of us have experienced at least once back when we were brand new to the world. Even with our brains still folding and our understanding of the world expanding, we recognized the power and potential of a single seed. The exhibition Seeds of Resistance at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, curated by Steven L. Bridges, features 12 globally diverse contemporary artists. The title alone makes me …

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 …

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 …

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. …

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 …