James Pepper Kelly

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Bryan Volta works hard to undermine the body. His primary tool for getting the job done is a hydraulic breaker attachment, the type construction crews use to quickly demolish large stretches of concrete. Volta’s life-size model, unlike the version available from Caterpillar, is entirely plastic, from the extended shaft back to the industrial-scale bolts. Also, spectacularly, it is covered in chicken feet. The resin-based obtrusions flail out in all directions, curled and splayed. Volta’s tool is absurd but not funny... [more]
On Saturday I go to the granite steps of the MCA with several hundred others for Chicago Artists Group Portrait, 2015. The weather’s kinda perfect: sunny, with big cadillacs of clouds rolling by every couple minutes to keep us cool. Down front Jason Lazarus, dressed all in white and holding a megaphone, paces, checks the time. Jason’s an artist/educator/proselytizer of collective action, a well-known/liked artist about town. We’re all here to become history, to legitimize our self-... [more]
In experiencing elsetime, Ellen Rothenberg’s solo exhibition at Sector 2337, there’s a moment when you realize that you’re not going to get any answers. Nothing conclusive, that is. Rothenberg’s approach to making—performative, research-based explorations of personal/political history—has no time for neat folding-up. The plethora of media on display—ranging in scale from large lean-tos to shifting photocopies of books—all of these give the impressi... [more]
I take a night train to Milwaukee with an overloaded shoulder bag, a bottle and a half of red wine in me, and full of hope. On the way north I reread articles on the great artist migration from big cities to bankrupt ones, to the exurbs—be born rich or move to Detroit/Cleveland/Jersey City/Belleville. Or Milwaukee, where I’d be staying at The Pfister Hotel for a pop-up arts symposium on empowering the local arts scene, the whole affair orchestrated by Niki Johnson, the hotel’s artist i... [more]
Archibald J. Motley Jr.: Hearing the Contemporary Pitch   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Archibald Motley at Chicago Cultural Center March 7th, 2015 - August 31st, 2015
Posted 3/20/15
Approaching Archibald J. Motley Jr.’s traveling retrospective, currently on view at the Chicago Cultural Center, one can hear strains of jazz carrying down the Grand Staircase. The music pipes through a ceiling speaker in the brightly lit hall that’s meant to prepare and inform the viewer with a timeline of the painter’s life on one wall, a collection of his quotes on the other. And then one steps through, into the exhibition room itself—and all those nice little atmosphe... [more]
Spiral Stories: Simon Starling at the MCA Chicago   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Simon Starling at Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) June 7th, 2014 - November 2nd, 2014
Posted 8/22/14
An Italian/Polish Fiat, wheels to the wall, is anchored over your head. In the next room, two slabs of marble dominate the space—250 kg from Italy, one ton from China—floating above the floor. They support each other by means of a simple pulley. Further into the exhibition, helium-filled jacks hold up and balance a 4,900 lb. plate of Romanian steel. These three works are given top billing in Simon Starling: Metamorphology, the artist’s first major American museum survey. Starling... [more]
The Sochi Project: Interview with Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Rob Hornstra at DePaul Art Museum January 9th, 2014 - March 23rd, 2014
Posted 2/1/14
The Sochi Project has come to America and now, concurrent with an exhibition in Antwerp, is on view at Chicago’s DePaul Art Museum. (Golden Years: Rob Hornstra's Russia is also concurrently on view at Huis Marseille in Amsterdam; read Edo Dijksterhuis' review here.) In the project, Dutch documentarians Arnold van Bruggen and Rob Hornstra tell the story of Sochi, the Russian city chosen for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and its surrounding regions. Since 2009, van Bruggen and Hornstra have buil... [more]
Best reflections of America Be the party (please don’t go): Emily Severance & Helmut Heiss at slow, produced in partnership with ACRE and with the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts, and Culture, April 6-26 Slow is what happens when an apartment gallery evolves. The Pilsen-based venue pairs contemporary art with intricate homebrews, and visitors can enjoy straight viewing in the gallery or extended dialogue in the dimly lit back living room and kitchen. When all thi... [more]
Where They’ll Take You: Offbeat Art Sites in the 2nd City   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Caroline Picard at D Gallery November 8th, 2013 - December 31st, 2013
Posted 11/23/13
For C. S. Lewis it was a wardrobe. For Lynn Reid Banks, a cupboard. Max, in Maurice Sendak’s most famous book, sets sail to the island of the Wild Things from the confines of his own bedroom. Though adult narratives focus less on magical transportation and metamorphosis, when they do they also often look to constrictive spaces. Toru Okada, the protagonist of Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, searches for visions from the bottom of a dried-up well. In Being John Malkovich, the p... [more]
Thinking Through Recess: Blackness Now and Then   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Caitlin Cherry, Krista Franklin, James T. Green, David Legget, Christina A. Long, Cecil McDonald, avery r. young at South Side Community Art Center October 11th, 2013 - November 9th, 2013
Posted 10/18/13
"They're not all the same color, they're not all black, they're not all, as they used to say years ago, high yellow, they're not all brown. I try to give each one of them character as individuals. And that's hard to do when you have so many figures to do, putting them all together and still have them have their characteristics." –Archibald Motley Jr. in a 1978 interview, describing the figures in his paintings Recess, the current exhibition from guest curator Tempestt Hazel at the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC) in Bronzevi... [more]
The Sovereign of the Lakes   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
at EXPO CHICAGO September 20th, 2013 - September 22nd, 2013
Posted 9/19/13
On a humid Thursday, shortly before sunset, taxis and town cars carrying well-coiffed women and men will converge on 600 East Grand Avenue. There, joined by a crowd of somewhat lesser personages on foot, they will step into the belly of the beast: Navy Pier Festival Hall, as redesigned by Studio Gang Architects. After three hours inside the leviathan, touched by “celebratory food and drink” and saturated with art, they will emerge—the faithful—into the rainy night. The uns... [more]
Standardization vs. The Sublime   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Jimmy Bunnyluv, El Gato Chimney, David Cooper, Ian Ferguson, Anthony Freda, KLUB7, Julie Murphy, Hernan Paganini, Ruel Pascual, Dave Pressler, Dmitry Samarov, Raudiel Sanudo, Steve Seeley at Vertical Gallery August 3rd, 2013 - August 31st, 2013
Posted 8/23/13
Thought Experiment #1: A zealot has denounced plurality. He calls for his followers to storm the temple and restore it to holiness by casting out the false idols within. The local elders hear of the plan and, in response, decide to play a trick on them. When the zealot and his followers arrive where the temple once stood, they are surprised to find not one but three identical temples, none of which contain idols. What does the zealot instruct his followers to do? Choices can be terrible things.... [more]