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Art Ltd Review: Kate Levant at moniquemeloche

Originally published in Art Ltd Magazine

by robin dluzen
Jul 2013

Plastic coated paper, plastic coated wire, nylon stockings, plastic laminate, charcoal
32" x 60" x 10 1⁄2"
Photo: courtesy of the artist and moniquemeloche

In the wake of her 2012 Whitney Biennial appearance, the Chicago-born, Amsterdam-based artist Kate Levant presented her first solo exhibition in her hometown, at monique meloche. Most works in the exhibition "Inhuman Indifference" were created on-site, and that spontaneity showed. Papers were left to lie in a haphazard pile on a narrow shelf near the floor; lengths of tangled, green-wire garden fence were attached to gallery walls and pillars; and smudgily laminated photocopies adhered to corrugated plastic leaned against the wall. Though Levant's treatment of these materials is not what we'd think of as masterful craftsmanship, it nonetheless reads as simultaneously nonchalant and deliberate. The show employed a grab-bag of media, and while most are fairly commonplace, "Inhuman Indifference" was also punctuated by a few more conceptually weighted materials. Blackout Loop Lid (all works 2013) features a hoop earring: a feminine symbol hidden amongst grainy, indistinct Xeroxes bent into loops affixed to the wall. Buried in Awe Bird without Eyes and Vito, the aforementioned piled papers, is an image of Vito Acconci: an art historical figure notorious for a practice that has very often involved flesh. Gray, opaque nylon stockings have been raggedly cut apart, squares of them sometimes hanging on the garden wire creating the effect of synthetic skin and bones. There is no arguing that subject matter related to body and gender is present in these mostly abstract works, but it's subtle, more like mere connotations than expressly illustrated content.

Equally as intriguing as Levant's material choices is the myriad of ways in which the materials are used. Pieces like Skin/Flaps/Graph/Scanning and Three Limb Equation speak through painting and drawing language, with their careful compositions and picture-like imagery. Others, like Resistance Pull with Snake project sculpturally off the wall, with pieces of wire poking out precariously at viewers. Exploring the gray area between two- and three-dimensionality, though still interesting, is certainly not unique to Levant. However, a more unusual and somewhat troublesome gray area explored in this exhibition is that between installation and autonomous artworks. Levant's pieces here often felt site-specific, but were identified as 15 separate works. Plenty of the artworks seem perfectly equipped to stand on their own outside of the exhibition, though some, like the palm-sized tangle of wire, Socket Retrieving Thing, would prompt one to wonder if it would be able to retain its presence and meaning without the help of its more substantial neighboring works.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 10/21/13 | tags: sculpture mixed-media installation conceptual photography

Art Ltd Report: Milwaukee

Originally published in Art Ltd Magazine

REPORT: Milwaukee
by robin dluzen
Jul 2013

Sacrifice #2: it has to last (after Yoshitoshi's 'Drowsy: the appearance of a harlot of the Meiji era')
Iona Rozeal Brown
Enamel, acrylic and paper on wooden panel
52" x 38"
Rubell Family Collection, Miami
On view in "30 Americans" at the Milwaukee Art Museum June 14--Sep 8, 2013

Located just about an hour north of Chicago is the small-ish Wisconsin city of Milwaukee. Milwaukee, like Chicago and dozens of other cities in the heartland, has to deflect the false and tired labels of "provincial" and "flyover" that are projected onto it from the coasts. Yet despite its proximity to Chicago's relatively more sizable market, Milwaukee retains its own identity, cultivating a progressive art scene that is distinct from any other place. Chicago artist and writer, and 2014 Whitney Biennial Curator, Michelle Grabner has been vociferous about her preference for the Wisconsin city, a place she's lived and worked off and on throughout her career. "Milwaukee is not so eager to collapse its distance (both geographical and emotional) from the big cultural centers," she explains. "It contently lingers in its more open field of possibilities."

Without a preoccupation toward establishing Milwaukee as a high-profile art market city, Milwaukee's artists and arts workers are free to put as much energy into embracing the local community as they do to enticing outsiders. "The art community here is vibrant and ambitious but on its own terms, celebrating the unique qualities of the city and its creative conditions in a very site-, or region-, specific way," says Emilia Layden, the Associate Curator at the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University. Located at a university that, strangely enough, has no art department, the Haggerty not only looks locally toward utilizing the city's talent in shows like the upcoming "Current Tendencies III: Artists from Milwaukee," but also focuses on integrating the museum's collection and exhibition schedule with the curriculum of the university's other departments. Unlike the Milwaukee Art Museum, the city's larger and more famous art museum, the Haggerty's diverse collection doesn't boast a selection of "greatest hits." But it takes full advantage of the opportunity to present its pieces in a variety of contexts, not just that of art history. The Haggerty also brings in plenty of art from around the globe, including the recent "Read Between the Lines: Enrique Chagoya's Codex Prints," which was organized not only for contemporary art audiences, but also for students and scholars of Latin American History.

And the Haggerty is not the only Milwaukee museum on the cutting edge of contemporary art practices. Perched on the Lake Michigan waterfront, with its signature Santiago Calatrava- designed architecture, the Milwaukee Art Museum continues to serve the local community and tourists alike, hosting trailblazing shows, like the current and much anticipated "30 Americans," which features four decades of work by African-American artists from the holdings of the Rubell Family Foundation.

As much as Milwaukee's institutions are especially mindful of their local audience, some, like the Lynden Sculpture Garden, are also eager to share their unique resources with outside artists. Located just north of the city, the Lynden Sculpture Garden was once a private residence with an extensive collection of monumental outdoor sculpture. But since 2010, it has been open to the public under the guidance of Executive Director Polly Morris. Installed throughout the 40 acres of grounds are mostly '60s and '70s era works, by artists like Tony Smith, Barbara Hepworth and Masayuki Nagare. But integrated amongst Lynden's permanent collection are temporary installations by contemporary artists from Lynden's Artists in Residence, and both indoor and outdoor exhibitions programs. For many artists, working at Lynden is the perfect opportunity to experiment with land art, nature or ephemeral practices on a large scale; "People start things here," Morris explains--a notion that resident artist Yevgeniya Kaganovich fully illustrates with grow. In this yearlong project, the Belarus-born, Milwaukee-based artist creates curious botanical forms from discarded plastic bags that amass like weeds, initially in various spots around Lynden, then spreading out into other public places throughout the city.

The presence and support of institutions is only a part of what keeps the art scene thriving in Milwaukee. Where the institutions are free to make decisions without having to compete with the world's biggest museums, likewise the artists who live in Milwaukee are able to navigate their careers with flexibility. "Artists will work and experiment with the given freedoms that Milwaukee offers instead of setting up strategies and practices that pander to the centers," observes Grabner, in a statement also asserted by Milwaukee-based artist Richard Galling, a 2009 Yale MFA alum who returned to his hometown after graduation: "In a lot of ways, it's a real luxury to live here." Rent in Milwaukee is relatively affordable and space is abundant, and most artists are comfortable with supplementing sales of their art with income from a part-time day job, like teaching at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, the city's fine art college. 

Along with having a relatively small scene comes the opportunity for individual artists and galleries to make a big impact locally. John Riepenhoff of The Green Gallery, one of Milwaukee's best-known contemporary commercial galleries, has a roster that includes high-profile artists like Grabner, Galling, the Reeder brothers, David Robbins and Nicholas Frank. "There hasn't been a lot of defining of contemporary art in Milwaukee, so the work we do is received relatively quickly and with quite a bit of enthusiasm," says Riepenhoff. However, it takes more than just enthusiasm to keep a gallery in business, and Milwaukee galleries like The Green Gallery have been diligent and agile in locating markets. "Since Jake Palmert became my partner in 2008, we've seen a shift in interest in regional patronage," says Riepenhoff, "There are more young collectors and larger-scale collectors who were used to going to the coasts to get fresh, relevant art. Now they're finding they don't have to make those trips so often."

Along with the city's galleries and museums, non-profit venues like INOVA of the University of Wisconsin's Peck School of the Arts, and young, alternative spaces like American Fantasy Classics and Bahamas Biennale all contribute to a regional scene determined to experiment and to take the risks necessary in situating Milwaukee as a source for art that is not just vibrant on its own terms, but relevant within the art world's global dialogue.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 10/21/13 | tags: sculpture mixed-media installation conceptual

Art F City: A Day for Detroit: Hughie Lee-Smith

Originally published on Art F City

Welcome to A Day for Detroit. All day long, Art F City and 21 other art blogs will be posting images from the Detroit Institute of Arts’ invaluable art collection. There are fantastic works to be found in their holdings, which, unfortunately, face the threat of being sold off to cover the city of Detroit’s debts. This would be an irreparable loss for those who’ve lived and worked in close proximity to DIA—so we thought we’d focus on them, too.

For Art F City’s contribution to A Day for Detroit, we asked a robust swath of art worlders who have lived or are currently living in Detroit about their favorite works in the DIA’s collection. Their images and commentary will appear on the blog throughout the day.

If you like these images and want to support DIA, share them with your friends. If you live in Michigan, make sure your elected officials know that, in the words of Tyler Green, “you don’t support a fire sale of the city’s future.” You can also become a member of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Hughie Lee-Smith, "The Piper," 1953.

Robin Dluzen, artist and critic

Of the extraordinary holdings of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the General Motors Center for African American Art collection accounts for some of the best works on display at any given time. Hughie Lee-Smith’s The Piper (1953) is not only a contemplative, emotional contribution to American art history, but also a cornerstone of a collection with a black perspective—a perspective shared by many of those who voted to have their tax dollars keep this museum open.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 10/21/13 | tags: realism

Visual Art Source Review: Daniel Bennett at Aspect Ratio

Originally published on Visual Art Source

Daniel Bennett
Aspect Ratio, Chicago, Illinois 
Review by Robin Dluzen 

Daniel Bennett, Still from ''Definitions 1,'' 2013, video, 7 min. 30 sec.

Continuing through July 13, 2013
Daniel Bennett, a recent MFA graduate of the New Media department of University of Illinois-Chicago, takes a conceptually sophisticated approach to child-like fascination in his 7-and-a-half-minute video, "Dimensions 1." The piece is both a work of new media as well as a record of a performative practice, as the artist uses his body to examine the functions and limitations of the automated components in our environments.
"Dimensions 1" is comprised of three parts. In one, viewers follow Bennett as he investigates an automatic sliding door: a common modern convenience that we typically interact with intuitively. Here, the artist takes a slow, deliberate approach to determining the parameters of this machine. With what, at first, looks like a graceful dance, Bennett carefully sets his feet, reaching out his hand to test the limits of the motion sensor with his fingertips, and pulling back quickly if he triggers the door to open. Though the duration of this ‘dance’ is punctuated by the work’s two other vignettes, we watch this story unfold, the artist edging his form around the invisible boundaries toward his ultimate goal: squishing his body against the closed door as he slides along it, completing a full circle around the outside of the motion sensor’s range of vision.
Where the sliding door performance is narrative, tension-filled and absurdly dramatic, another scene is much simpler. In this singular, drawn-out moment in time, the camera records footage of the artist’s khaki-clad legs walking the moving sidewalk of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. It’s clear that Bennett has located that familiar sensation of ‘standing still’ that delights a child the first time she learns to walk in the direction opposite to the machine’s advancing belt. The shot is lengthy enough for us to appreciate the beauty of the composition and the metaphor of futility, but towards the end we hear the tinny airport muzak switch to a version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” and "Dimensions 1" is delightfully silly once again.
Somewhere between the saga of the sliding door and the portrait of the moving legs is the third chapter of the piece. Here, Bennett is at the airport once more, again illustrating his unique manner of interacting but not quite interfering with mechanical conveniences. From the foot of a moving sidewalk, we see the soles of Bennett’s shoes as he lies on his back, allowing the belt to transport him along its length. As giggling travelers sidestep the artist’s wide shoulders, he moves closer and closer towards the end of the sidewalk and the footage stops abruptly before he would presumably be dumped off the belt and onto the tiled floor. The timing of the cut is humorous but also leaves us guessing. In fact, each vignette of "Dimensions 1" prompts us to consider that there are still things to wonder about and discover in the everyday conveniences we take for granted.  


Posted by Robin Dluzen on 10/21/13 | tags: video-art performance conceptual digital

Art Ltd Review: Jeffrey Forsythe at Perimeter Gallery

Originally published in Art Ltd Magazine

Jeffrey Forsythe: "On Social Studies" at Perimeter Gallery
by robin dluzen
May 2013

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace
Cut paper, oil, and acrylic on panel
60" x 40"
Photo: courtesy Perimeter Gallery

In "On Social Studies," the latest multimedia solo exhibition by Chicago-based artist Jeffrey Forsythe, the artist tackles subject matter as wide as the show's title suggests using his dual command of craftsmanship and wit. Forsythe's breadth of material expertise ranges from wood and fabric to painting, encaustic and collage, which he employs to decry a singular desire for success inherent in capitalism, religion and other ideological structures. Here, the notion of the trophy takes center stage, this tangible confirmation of triumph reiterated throughout the widely diverse contexts and media. Forsythe's material choices directly inform his content, as he often renders rich, ornamental details using commonplace material, to subvert the work's decadent subject matter. In a wry portrayal of material aspiration within religious piety, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace(2013) depicts a faux-stained glass scene with four of Jesus' disciples gazing upward in awe at a floating silver trophy draped in robes. The visages of the men are painted in oil, their forms carefully outlined in black paper, and the ornate "stained glass" wrought not in the richness of sparkling, colored glass, but the matte, modest medium of cut paper collage. Ode to the Common Man (2013) pays homage to one of the pinnacles of commercial accomplishment: the gold record. This ubiquitous design is reduced to mere shapes, only the circle, the rectangle and the frame remaining. There's no gilding, no inscriptions on the nameplates; rather there's an amalgamation offaux fur, velvet, glossy lacquer, and cut paper comprising this grid of multiple, anonymous achievements.

Compared to the flashier displays of material novelty exercised in much of "Social Studies," a piece at the crux of Forsythe's critique is more aesthetically restrained. Pinata (2013) is a smudgy, whitish painting of a two-handled trophy, the rectangular brushstrokes defining the monochromatic image and implying the texture of the title's reference. Undermining the significance that has been assigned to these mere objects, the title serves as an invitation to imagine bashing this trophy in with a stick in order to expose what, if anything, is on the inside.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 10/21/13 | tags: sculpture mixed-media realism

Art Ltd Review: Melody Saraniti at Thomas Masters Gallery

Originally published in Art Ltd Magazine

Melody Saraniti: "Drips+Grids" at Thomas Masters Gallery
by robin dluzen
Mar 2013

Acrylic on wood panel
54" x 56"
Photo: courtesy Thomas Masters Gallery

Chicago-based painter Melody Saraniti has a practice that contains what every abstract, modernist-leaning painter dreams of: a unique mark, though hers is a mark of individuality that's a means to a different end. From a distance--or a jpeg--Saraniti's works in "Drips+Grids" seem as though they are engaging the usual dialogue of Abstract Expressionism, though her meticulous, deliberate picture-making is far from the intuitive chaos of her predecessors. On eleven, untreated wood panels, Saraniti quotes a range of abstract painters using her signature, faux "accidents." Gridworks of fine lines in Lattice (all works 2012) recall Pollock's all-over pictures. In Pool, wide, looping forms resemble the oversized script of later Cy Twombly. Drag-oh-la features one of the only instances of Saraniti's painterly hand, the continuous brushstroke winding upon itself in a figure-ground composition not unlike the work of fellow Chicagoan Jim Lutes.

Up close, the shapes that resemble drips, blotches and smudges in Saraniti's paintings are no viscous, glistening residues of gestural action painting. Her "spills" are not bubbled pools of dried liquid, and her "drips" have no hardened beads of paint that were subject to the pull of gravity. Instead, they're flat, matte forms defined with ridged, taped-off edges. Each "spill" on the exposed wood surface bears the brush's parallel marks, while each "drip" contains horizontal bands of color painted within its borders. This staunch inertness is most pronounced in Replica, where identical "dripping splotches" are literally stenciled--a nearly mechanical mode of reproduction. 

Though in the vein of art historical precedents like Lichtenstein's Brushstrokes series, Saraniti's works in "Drips+Grids" are a subtler commentary on the painting canon. Her signature, contrived "drips" and "spills" both embrace and critique expressionistic activity, not so much as a parody of expressionism as one artist's serious contemplation of the role that the painter's gesture plays in the endgame of contemporary abstraction.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 3/16/13 | tags: mixed-media conceptual abstract modern

Art F City Review- Intellect and Instinct: Painting the Void and Exhibit, A at the MCA

Originally published on Art F City

by ROBIN DLUZEN on MARCH 15, 2013 

Goshka Macuga, "The Nature of the Beast", 2009, tapestry, wooden and glass table, leather and metal chairs, bronze sculpture on wooden plinth

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has been on a roll recently. Rashid Johnson’s show “Message to Our Folks” was positively received this summer, as was their blockbuster “Skyscraper: Art and Architecture Against Gravity.” The MCA is still riding this wave of these successes with two massive exhibitions that are in many ways at opposite ends of the spectrum: the cool authoritarian aesthetic of Goshka Macuga’s “Exhibit, A” on one side, and the gritty, material anarchy of “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962” on the other.

Polish-born, London-based artist Goshka Macuga brings her brand of institutional critique to “Exhibit, A,” which opened December 15. The work requires more intellect than instinct to understand—something that was clear on the busy Sunday afternoon of my visit. The museum staff posted in the galleries were fielding questions and contributing their own thoughts. Young people with notebooks were huddling in pairs, gesturing at the walls. Others were taking cellphone pics of the wall texts and pouring over the vast assemblage of Polish language letters, headlines, leaflets and photographs pinned to Macuga’s “Notice Board”.

Goshka Macuga, "Notice Board", 2011, notice board with leaflets, 472 7/16” x 47 1/4”

Macuga’s room-sized installations are heavily political, tackling war, nationalism, art history, gender discrimination and censorship. Soaring high above viewer’s heads is Macuga’s monumental, roughly-hewn plaster sculpture, “Model for a Sculpture (Family)”, referencing Argentinian artist Oscar Bony’s “La Familia Obrera (Workers’ Family)”; Bony’s work was censored by police in 1968, as they objected to the content inferred by the artist’s hiring of an actual working class family to enact his live sculpture. The forty-foot-long “Notice Board” seems to document, among other things, the Polish media’s reaction to and sensationalism of Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture of the Pope John Paul II being hit by a meteorite, “La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour)”.

Though the political stances in the artist’s work are often obvious, they’re fortunately more complex than mere exercises in finger-pointing. Macuga’s tapestry in “The Nature of the Beast” depicts Prince William addressing a crowd at Macuga’s 2009 exhibition at Whitechapel, which had borrowed one of Picasso’s anti-war Guernica tapestries—the one that usually hangs in the UN building in New York and was infamously covered up during Colin Powell’s address as he appealed in favor of the Iraq war. A boardroom-table-vitrine containing various photos, papers and propaganda sits in front of the tapestry, available to the public to be booked for meetings. The artist’s only requirement is that any such meetings must be documented, simultaneously establishing parameters for the audience to contribute to the work’s provenance, and acknowledging the lack of control an artist has over a work’s meaning over time.

Installation view of work by Lee Bontecou

While “Exhibit, A” is rather scholarly in its treatment of histories, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void,” is more visceral. This exhibition of abstraction between the years of 1949 and 1962 is an aesthetically cohesive survey that provides an alternative to the time period’s AbEx painting canon, and is also evidence that in this, Paul Schimmel’s final exhibition organized at MOCA, the curator is still crushing it. About a month after “Destroy the Picture” closed in LA, it opened in Chicago on February 16th with a press preview that included the reenactment of Saburo Murakami’s Entrance by the artist’s son, Tomohiko.

On the walls leading up to the exhibition is a large scale world map, each continent annotated with major events from the time period, reinforcing the global scope of this exhibition. Two of the first pieces a viewer encounters illustrating that fact are Shozo Shimamoto’s Sakuhin (Ana) from 1950 and Robert Rauschenberg’s untitled work from 1952 –two works from opposite sides of the world that look shockingly similar. Both are similarly sized monochromes (Shimamoto’s is white and Rauschenberg’s is black) and both make use of paint on newspaper, emphasizing this media’s susceptibility to inevitable destruction as time passes.

Though there are no paintings by the likes of Pollock, de Kooning and company, there’s no doubt that the emotive aggression embodied by that tradition (a reaction to the war and the violence that was witnessed all over the world) are also present here. The exhibition progresses in the magnitude of destruction, from the deskilling of Kazou Shiraga’s foot paintings and Lucio Fontana’s punctures through the canvas, to Alberto Burri’s burns, Yves Klein’s fire paintings and the shooting paintings of Niki de Sainte Phalle.

Some of the best surprises can be found as the exhibition shifts to collage and three-dimensionality. Chicagoans I spoke to were especially fond of four show-stealing works by Lee Bontecou, as they recalled the artist’s massive 2003 survey at the MCA that had reintroduced her after a decades-long absence from the art world. Lesser known British artist John Latham also makes a great showing with a massive multimedia work, “Great Uncle Estate” (1960) featuring dozens of books attached to the painting’s surface. French artists Raymond Hains and Jacques Villegle found abstractions in the world around them with works made of collaged, torn posters: a medium these two artists were mining while Mark Bradford was only a baby.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 3/16/13 | tags: sculpture mixed-media installation performance conceptual abstract figurative modern

Visual Art Source Recommendation: Raeleen Kao at Bert Green Fine Art

Originally published on Visual Art Source

Raeleen Kao
Bert Green Gallery, Chicago, Illinois 
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen 

Raeleen Kao, ''Pretty Maids I,'' 2012, graphite on paper, 17 x 17''.

Continuing through February 23, 2013 

Triggered by a serious surgical procedure in her early childhood, Chicago-based artist Raeleen Kao’s graphite works and prints explore the fragility of the human body and subsequent impact that such fallibility can have on female body image. “Body Like a Barrow,” with its flawless representations of loaded imagery like nude figures, nests of hair and some sinister-looking surgical tools, also establishes Kao as a remarkable draftsperson.

In the works depicting figures and objects, the viewer is kept at an emotional distance, an observer of symbols and illustrations of the subject matter; in the five "Untitled" drawings, we are drawn into a more intimate experience and nuanced reading. Circles and spirals of scar tissue, sutures and braids still attached to scalps are tightly rendered, their edges blending into the negative space. Here, the blank page becomes an illusion to skin, and instead of being shown a narrative, we can imagine this visceral experience is our own.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 3/9/13 | tags: mixed-media figurative

Visual Art Source Recommendation: Goshka Macuga at MCA

Originally published on Visual Art Source

Goshka Macuga
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois 
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen 

Goshka Macuga, ''The Nature of the Beast,'' 2009, installation.


Continuing through April 7, 2013

In “Exhibit, A,” London-based, Polish-born artist Goshka Macuga’s first survey, the artist identifies poignant, overlooked or forgotten events and figures from world and art history, repurposing them into her monumental installations. These historical references are not always easily recognizable, a challenge that encourages the viewer to also become a researcher and pour over the abundant wall texts and the paraphernalia within the installations for clues.  

Deducing meaning becomes a further challenge in Macuga’s massive textile pieces in particular. The tapestry included in "The Nature of the Beast" depicts imagery of an earlier tapestry by the artist, reproducing Picasso's "Guernica" that provides a backdrop for the massive conference table; while the two tapestries of "Of What Is, That It Is; Of What Is Not, That It Is Not" (Part 1 on display at the MCA; Part 2 was temporarily on view at the Smart Museum) are contingent upon the knowledge that they were created by Macuga to be shown in different cities (Kassel and Kabul) during Documenta 13. The self-referential histories of the works are doubled upon the historical imagery in an engrossing and complex visual and intellectual experience. 

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 3/9/13 | tags: figurative landscape digital photography conceptual installation mixed-media sculpture

Visual Art Source Recommendation: Robert Burnier at Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Originally published on Visual Art Source

Robert Burnier
Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago, Illinois 
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen 

Robert Burnier, ''Graft,'' 2012, primer on aluminum, 19 3/4 x 17''.

Continuing through March 30, 2013
There is an initial delight when discovering that the matte, wall-bound sculptures of Chicago-based artist Robert Burnier are not the artfully crumpled masses of paper they appear to be. In “The Horseless Carriage,” Burnier’s painted aluminum pieces are a marriage of this material illusion with the slight, but still very human hand of the artist. Though Burnier draws formal inspiration from the relatively immaterial world of computerized data and technology, in their final forms these sculptures are resolutely object - voluminous and concrete.
While Burnier’s sculptures defy their medium in order to mimic a different material, the sole work on paper in this exhibition transcends what it is made from. Entitled “Buren via Tuttle,” two digital prints are layered upon one another in such a way that it’s almost impossible for the eye to decipher whether it’s perceiving two collaged layers, or a trompe l'oeil rendering of it. Optical trickery is a key element of Burnier’s work, though fortunately it’s a means to showcase form and craft rather than an end in itself. 

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 3/9/13 | tags: abstract digital photography conceptual installation mixed-media sculpture

Visual Art Source Recommendation: Peter Karklins at Packer Schopf gallery

Originally published on Visual Art Source

Peter Karklins
Packer Schopf Gallery, Chicago, Illinois 
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen 

Peter Karklins, ''4.1.00,'' 2000, graphite on paper, 5 x 3''.

Continuing through March 30, 2013

Though the compositions of Chicago-based artist Peter Karklins’ miniature-sized drawings are determined by the dimensions of a pocket notebook page, they’re by no means mere sketches. The fulsome, overworked surfaces have wrinkled under the constant, compulsive pressure of the graphite that has wrought Karklins’ obsessively repeated imagery. Masses of slithering, genital-like biomorphs dominate these works, some gelling to form seeping figures or nightmarish landscapes, while others are simply gruesome, all-over seas of anonymous organs.

The fronts of Karklins’ drawings recall the nature and horror of the romantic painters of art history, their organic content and compositions in stark contrast to the calculated notations that occupy the backside of these works. Notes, signatures and occasional psalms are commingled with addresses, dates and times that resemble the clocking-in of a time card, evidence of the wee small hours of the artist’s shifts as a security guard in which these tremendous, minuscule worlds are created. 

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 3/9/13

Visual Art Source Review: Picasso and Chicago at Art Institute of Chicago

Originally published in Visual Art Source

''Picasso and Chicago''
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 
Review by Robin Dluzen 


Pablo Picasso. "Mother and Child," 1921.

Continuing through May 12, 2013

Pablo Picasso never set foot in Chicago in his lifetime. Despite that fact, this exhibition entitled “Picasso and Chicago” appropriately showcases a connection to the city that was most crucial to the early dissemination of Picasso’s work in the U.S. Chicago is home to a monumental public sculpture by the artist erected in Daley Plaza in 1967 and was also the site of the first “non-commercial space” to mount a solo exhibition of his work in this country. “The Art Institute of Chicago acquired a Picasso before the Museum of Modern Art was even founded in New York,” curator Stephanie D’Alessandro explained to the members of the press - a detail peppered throughout the other verbiage of the exhibition. However, “Picasso and Chicago” is not just about reiterating Chicago’s importance in the shadow of New York’s art historical dominance. 

Organized chronologically, the exhibition contains major works from the collection and some loaners from local collectors, along with a mountain of works on paper from the archives. Pieces like “The Old Guitarist” (that aforementioned first painting acquired by the AIC) and “The Red Armchair” are familiar to those who visit the museum regularly, yanked from their usual hanging spots and recontextualized here. The works on paper vary widely in media, from woodcuts and etchings to gouaches, sketches and drawings.

Most often the works on paper are intriguing surprises. “The Bull,” a series of eleven lithographs from 1945, depicts the animal in various degrees of abstraction, each as compositionally strong as the one before it. Created in 1936 and published in 1942, “Original Etchings for the Texts of Buffon” are intricate prints of various creatures like a chicken, a lobster and a monkey, further examples of the artist’s masterful rendering of the animal kingdom. Also of note are the broadside-like prints of Picasso’s poetry, the handwritten texts and accompanying illustrations arranged on the paper in quadrants.

The works on paper often hold their own among the more renowned paintings and sculptures, though some are merely supplements to major or more completed pieces. The stages of Picasso’s reductive linocut, “Still Life with Lunch I and II,” are separated, the unfinished proofs hung as a series. Similarly, in “Two Nude Figures: Woman with a Guitar and Boy with a Cup” viewers see the multiple failed proofs of the etching made by Picasso before the final print was executed by a more experienced printmaker. While these two sets of proofs are certainly learning tools for the viewers and documentation of the artistic process, they are simply fragments of wholes that don’t hold up as artworks in an exhibition context. Also supplementing the exhibition is a room containing no art, only the forensic procedures to which Picasso’s works have been subjected. Pieces such as “Mother and Child” are approached like science projects, dissected through x-rays, cross sections and paint samples, undermining the aura of the finished artworks.  

“Picasso and Chicago” is surely not a ‘blockbuster’ exhibition filled with one famous masterpiece after another, but what this exhibition and its mountain of works on paper provide is an unexpected way to approach the life and art-making processes of the marquee artist of the twentieth century. 

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 3/9/13 | tags: modern figurative surrealism abstract mixed-media sculpture

Art F City Report: Opening Weekend, Chicago; What Happens When The Weather Cooperates

Originally published in Art F City


Sonja Hinrichsen, The Three Gorges, 3rd Edition, 2011. Image via: DePaul Art Museum

Last Thursday, the DePaul Art Museum unveiled its environmentally-conscious exhibition, “Climate of Uncertainty”, a glorious coincidence for the unseasonably warm opening gallery weekend in Chicago. At 56 degrees in the middle of January, global warming was responsible for two major components of Friday’s bustling openings: endless chattering about the temperature outside, and crowds that rivaled the masses of the September season openers.

“I had planned these exhibitions for blizzard conditions,” explained dealer Aron Packer of the West Loop’s Packer Schopf Gallery, as I elbowed my way through the crowd.Andrea Stanislav’s excessive sculptures full of rhinestones, glitter and taxidermied animals filled Packer’s 3,000 square-foot space along with three other exhibitions byLauren LevatoBruce Riley, and Deborah Baker. At a time of the year when Chicago galleries typically have to fight for foot-traffic, the overcompensation plus the anomalous weather equalled an overwhelming turnout for everyone.

Graem White's Venue for Advanced Conflict Resolution (Battle of the Gods) Chicago Artists' Coalition

William Lieberman of Zolla/Lieberman Gallery was likely of the same mind when he scheduled two of his big-guns, Vera Klement and William Conger, in his cavernous River North space. With two established artists with such selling power and local clout, it was basically a guarantee that collectors and prominent Chicago artists would be in attendance. Amidst the crowd were famed collectors of Midwest art, Anne and Mark Seibert; and rising artists like Michael Rea, who was probably not the only young artist fondly recounting his time at Northwestern studying with Conger, a living legend of old-school abstraction.

Scott Hocking's Andy Goldsworthy'esque, "The Egg and MCTS #4718" at Coalition Gallery.

The 14 other exhibition receptions in River North kept the momentum going, while the West Loop was slower with only a handful of openings. The non-profit Chicago Artists’ Coalition used to struggle with programming of notably uneven quality, but a revamp of the organization resulted in vast improvement throughout 2012, and they’ve hit a high note with this exhibition, “Exchange: Chicago-Detroit.” “For a show of non-local artists, this was a tremendous turnout,” said Director of Exhibitions, Cortney Lederer. One particularly prominent artwork, Graem White’s modified ping-pong table, “Venue for Advanced Conflict Resolution (Battle of the Gods)”, had gallery-goers sending ping-pong balls flying everywhere. It created a fun vibe. Toeing the fine line of ruin porn are strong photos by Scott Hocking, documenting the artist’s site-specific installations in the urban landscape; work that has made him the face of post-industrial Detroit.

Jeroen Nelemans' Untitled-2 at The Mission, photo courtesy of the author

Perhaps those benefitting the most from the advantageous weather were the galleries stationed outside of the art districts, where visitors might not normally be inclined to venture during Chicago’s typically frigid winters. Thomas Masters Gallery opened “Drips + Grids” by Melody Saraniti, an exhibition of abstract paintings taking on these Expressionist tropes with the artist’s signature calculated mark-making. After a massive fire leveled the building that contained her studio and the studios of several other Chicago artists, Kate Ruggeri produced a full solo exhibition at Ebersmoore Gallery; a collection of gestural works on paper accompany a faceless, life-sized figure whose spindly form is wrapped with various cast-off fabrics covered with neon green paint. The Mission, known for being one of the only spaces dedicated to bringing contemporary art from abroad to Chicago, impressed with Dutch artist Jeroen Nelemans’ re-imaginings of Dutch landscape and heritage using fluorescent bulbs, light boxes and inkjet prints.

Andrew Mausert-Mooney’s performance piece, Studio Audience (WEATHER PATTERNS) Johalla Projects; photo courtesy of

After 5 ½ hours of gallery hopping, I wound up at Johalla Projects, located in the Hubbard Street Lofts building far off the beaten path in a still industrial part of town. Kindly keeping open hours long past the scheduled 10 pm, Johalla was the last stop for most as the galleries in the other districts closed for the night. Peering over the shoulders of the crowd, one could just glimpse a clearly exhausted woman moving gracefully in front of a projection screen flanked by a pair of young men manning a drum kit and a table full of machines. Out in the hall, spectators wondered aloud, “What is this? What’s she doing?” when someone piped up, “She’s doing a weather forecast.” It seemed perfectly fitting.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 3/9/13 | tags: sculpture mixed-media installation video-art performance conceptual realism photography digital abstract graffiti/street-art figurative modern

Visual Art Source Review: R. H. Quaytman at the Renaissance Society

Originally published in Visual Art Source

R.H. Quaytman
The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 
Review by Robin Dluzen 

Continuing through February 17, 2013

R. H. Quaytman’s current exhibition, “Passing Through The Opposite of What it Approaches, Chapter 25,” is on display in a particularly idyllic-looking part of town and an evocatively nostalgic venue. Complete with collegiate, ivy-covered stone buildings, this cloistered section of the University of Chicago campus is clearly full of history, which is perfect for Quaytman’s research-based practice. Hers is an approach to painting that is almost entirely dependent upon its “immediate conditions,” making her charged at the outset for uber-site specificity. 

The big news out of the Renaissance Society in recent months has been the announcement of Director Susanne Ghez’s retirement after 150 exhibitions and over 40 years of service. Ghez’s powerful, taste-making legacy was shaped through the years with exhibitions of the big-guns of conceptual art like Daniel Buren, whose exhibition here in 1983 is one of the main sources Quaytman embraces throughout the current show. Buren’s French stripes appear as often as Quaytman’s signature stripes (derived from the edges of the wooden panels of her paintings). Buren’s institutional critique and resolute aesthetic echoes in Quaytman’s site-specific content investigation and rigid, self-imposed production parameters.

It’s Quaytman’s project-based research and mining of the non-collecting museum’s archives that turned up Buren’s Chicago-based projects as well as vintage photos of the museum and the world it’s seen: 1970s style classroom furniture, gigantic vehicles, dusty chalkboards, postcards and slide projectors. These outmoded images are screen printed, their reproduction process and impeccably finished surfaces providing a crisp foil to the nostalgia of the photos’ rounded borders and warm, grainy patinas. The space’s layout is employed as a minimalist line drawing; shots of shelves belonging to Associate Curator Hamza Walker are punctuated with Warholian diamond dust and little hand-painted sections.   

In this “chapter” of Quaytman’s practice, research turns into homage, with an emphasis on portraiture. Photos of Susanne Ghez and her mentor, art historian Anne Rorimer are repeated. Rorimer appears bathed in light from unseen windows in two paintings behind transparent smudges and artful tears; Ghez, printed in shades of blue, gazes contentedly out a window. In fact, themes of windows appear repeatedly, from the portraits of the women, to the interiors of buildings and Buren’s El Train doors, to the double paintings of a museum window simply stacked upon itself in the piece subtitled, "(Everybody needs at least one window)." With these depictions of windows, Quaytman’s pieces direct us to the place’s actual windows, allowing us to also gaze out and be reminded of the vibrant context of the contemporary campus steeped in history.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 1/26/13 | tags: mixed-media conceptual photography

Visual Art Source Recommendation: James Krone at Kavi Gupta

Originally published in Visual Art Source

James Krone
Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, Illinois 
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen 

James Krone, ''Waterhome Dressing Screen II,'' 2012, oil on canvas and artist's frames, 82 1/4 x 163 3/4''.

Continuing through February 2, 2013

 A patina of splotches and stains besmirch the black and white color field paintings of “Waterhome” by Chicago-born, Berlin-based artist, James Krone. Though the oil on canvas works have a clear relationship to minimalist painting, they also reference an unusual source: an algae-filled aquarium. Inspired by the way algae continuously builds on and crumbles from the sides of a fish tank, Krone parallels this natural process through the application and removal of various colors of paint on the rabbit-skin glue covered canvases. The colors that remain stained on the canvas blend towards black and natural discrepancies in the surfaces create chance yet controlled compositions.

Among a number of works hung like traditional paintings, seven canvases are stacked face-to-face upon a low pedestal, highlighting the edges that bear the bleed of the painted layers. In "Waterhome Dressing Screen II," five panels are attached and freestanding, displaying both sides so that viewers can fully examine the seductive results of Krone's labor-intensive process.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 1/14/13 | tags: sculpture mixed-media conceptual abstract

Art Ltd. Review: Michelle Prazak: "Movements in Time and Space" at The Mission

Originally published in Art Ltd. Magazine

by robin dluzen
Jan 2013

Movement #2
Oil on canvas
59" x 39"
Photo: courtesy The Mission

It's astonishing to discover that the hard-edged, mathematical forms and grids of Michelle Prazak's paintings are hand-painted; looking carefully, a knowing viewer can see that there are indeed none of the telltale glops and ridges of a taped line, and the tracks of the brush's bristles barely visible. In her first US solo exhibition, "Movements in Time and Space," the Peruvian artist uses her steady hand and the fixed medium of painting to explore the impracticable subjects of motion and expanding space. Like a lengthy musical score, Prazak's paintings are numbered in movements, each with a different tempo. Her forms, the transparent rhombi occupying every piece, seemingly rise and fall, or run horizontally across the picture planes with the illusion of differing speeds. As in Movement #4, some encapsulate a full progression of movement within the rectangles of the canvases, while others suggest a movement from canvas to canvas, like Movement #5. Only Movement #1 and Movement #2 are single canvases; the others are multiple panels and are stronger because of it. In Movement #7, eight 8-inch square canvases capture a rhythmic series of fragments, like the pages of a flipbook.

Though the works allude to forces beyond the two-dimensional, Prazak's paintings are resolutely that: paintings. Amongst the exactness of the lines and edges, a viewer can decipher a distinct patina, most visible where the canvas strains against the stretcher support. The wear comes as a result of Prazak covering each canvas with a thick layer of dark paint at the start, which she then vigorously wipes off. This process concedes to the canvases' natural inconsistencies, leaving the slightest variations in tone of the paintings' grounds that add an aura of space behind the highly controlled forms. Also, accentuated through this tactual process is the material grid of the canvases' warp and weft, paralleling the mathematical frameworks of the paintings' illusionary subject matter while also reinforcing the earthiness and objectness of the medium.

Posted by Robin Dluzen on 1/4/13 | tags: conceptual abstract

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