Summer Art Gallery Reviews - Part 2

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Last weekend, the Friday Night Army ventured fourth into the fray. This is our second report from the field in a series of three. Part two features:

 - Carley Demchuk on Big Youth: New Painters from Chicago at Corbett vs. Dempsey

- Niki Grangruth on Likalee and David Simpson at Center on Halsted
Ariel Pittman on Peter Frederiksen: Embroideries at The Compound

- Steve Kush Ruiz on Selections from the Fabio-Mueller Collection at Mini Dutch

 

- Kathryn Born on ThreeWalls No Other One Is

Big Youth: New Painters from Chicago at Corbett vs. Dempsey
By Carley Demchuk

Corbett vs. Dempsey rarely exhibits emerging artists, but they have been keeping a close eye on a few of the special talents in the Chicago area to present to you the works of 13 up and coming artists.  While these artists are contemporary of the times, their works are redolent of the Surrealists, Dada painters, and Abstract Expressionists.  Thus, as the gallery owners have noted, the title of the exhibition, "Big Youth," is both a comment on the promise of these artists in the art world, as well as their youthful status.

Upon arrival on opening night, the gallery was packed with art viewers and gallery goers galore.  Despite the busy space, all of the works were still eye-catching for their own respective compositions and characteristics.

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The colorful pastels and whimsical brushstrokes of Isak Applin's Good Morning Norm Jacques (seen above) reminded me of some of Matisse's works, or Vasily Kandinsky's earlier works.  The work itself is just over four square feet and greatly contrasts the stone brick seen behind it and other works in the gallery.

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For instance, across the gallery from this work, also very hard to miss, is Ben Seamons' The Fall of the Second Empire (above).  The bold colors and solid lines of the building and blue cut out are distinct from Applin's work, and yet reminiscent of Magritte's On the Threshold of Liberty (1937), or The Banquet (1958).  While I might argue that the geometric blue cut out in the work is not altogether necessary for the success of the work, it adds something fascinating to the overall composition, and the message the work conveys would be completely altered were it not there.

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As I tend to lean towards abstraction, I really enjoyed the works of Jason Karolak (above). I actually managed to catch the artist at the opening and asked him a few questions.  He stated that he wants his works to be active, built out of parts, allowing the viewer insight into how he made his works.  There is a certain tactile quality to his works.  You can see the layers upon layers of color and paint.

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Other works I found particularly interesting were those of Joseph Noderer, who made me question the image of sound; the flashy works of J. Austin Eddy; and the mundane subjects in Jonathan Gardner's works.  Every artist has something different to offer yet almost every work has resonance with works previously exhibited in the gallery, or elsewhere.  The gallery owners appreciate this "interesting continuity" between these works and those in past exhibitions and think you should too. 

Corbett Vs. Dempsey is located at 1120 N. Ashland Ave. 


Likalee and David Simpson at Center on Halsted
By Niki Grangruth
The Center on Halsted hosted a dual opening last Friday for GLBT artists David Simpson and Likalee. Both artists explore an overarching theme of fantasy, but their approaches are drastically different.

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Likalee creates futuristic and sci-fi inspired digitally composited images in the series "Bionic Heart." The majority of the images depict robot-like women in abstracted environments. In "Final Life," a kaleidoscopic image that shows two women, one of whom is mirrored to create the appearance of three figures. Black smoke and bright, Vegas-inspired fluorescent lights emanate from the center, which is surrounded by a vibrant red circle. The women in these images seem to be created from adolescent boys' fantasies; some of them are bound and objectified, while others are powerful and sexy. The works are highly subjective and ambiguous, possibly a visualization of Likalee's personal fantasies and interest in sci-fi culture.

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In a stark contrast, Simpson approaches fantasy in a more traditional way through gay creation myths in his series "Where Do Gay People Come From?" One might expect to find mimicked biblical stories of Adam and Eve, yet Simpson's images are anything but expected; they show a variety of creation stories borrowing from both spiritual and scientific origin stories. Simpson's characters are silly and circus-like and the artist repeatedly alludes to the absurdity that one could possibly pinpoint the origin of homosexual ancestry. The intimate images, which are reminiscent of vintage fairytale illustrations, are created with simple materials - colored pencil and watercolor. They are playful and childlike, yet allude to difficult issues in a tongue-and-cheek manner.

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Simpson successfully juxtaposes humor and seriousness. For example the ridiculously long-titled work, Isolating the Gay Jean from the Straight (European and, or American) Jean, Goat Jean, Couch Sport Fan Jean, Clown Jean from the Religiously Fanatical Capitalistic Mathematically Inclined Squirrel Jeans, pokes fun at the scientific endeavor to find a "gay gene," while satirically referring to an stereotypically gay obsession with fashion. The image portrays a red-haired, boyish scientist inspecting an incubator filled with torso-less pants. A sun and moon, reoccurring symbols in the work, peer over the "laboratory" walls. Simpson points to the hilarity of the societal need to understand the genetics of homosexuality by juxtaposing scientific study with an amateur comic book aesthetic.

The question posed in the title "Where Do Gay People Come From?" is not answered, but instead Simpson poses a variety of hypothetical creation myths that the viewer can get wrapped up in.  

Center on Halsted is located at 3565 N. Halsted St.

Peter Frederiksen: Embroideries at The Compound
By Ariel Pittman

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Stitched into rough, untreated painter's canvas Peter Frederiksen's Embroideries blur the lines between craft, painting and illustration. Live Action Role Playing, gestures of male aggression, the silliness of sex, and a fascination with wiry body hair inspire the artist's puns in thread, currently on view at The Compound in Pilsen. The work is charming and at it's best in it's simplest moments. Big Fight, Maybe Sex; You, Fuck You; and Hairy Legs all encourage giggles while complimenting Frederiksen's highly linear style, reminiscent of Shel Silverstein's illustrations. Describing his work, Frederiksen remarks that he invests a lot of time in his stitches. He makes at least three 20-second study drawings and then spends up to one hundred hours replicating the simple lines in thread. This attention to endurance and slowness, while not necessarily obvious on the surface of the work, allies these vignettes with the politics of slow resistance that define the discourse around contemporary craft.

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Frederiksen is a 3rd year undergraduate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his embroidered investigations of artistic media, social interactions and process reveal an impassioned dedication to conceptual queries and gut-punch giggles that promises more intriguing work in the future.

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The Compound is located at 1914 S. Jefferson St.

Selections from the Fabio-Mueller Collection at Mini Dutch

By Steve Kush Ruiz

Last Saturday saw the final show at Mini Dutch, Lucia Fabio's seasoned apartment gallery in Logan Square. Having ran the gallery for more than two years (a truly respectable amount of time for any alternative space), Lucia and her fiance Robert Mueller chose to close it out by exhibiting the art they'd personally collected along the way.

As sorry as it is to see a space like Mini Dutch go, all apartment gallery owners take note: if you've got to go out, this is the way to do it.

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By some luck I arrived at the gallery early and despite my tics and ticks was graciously invited in to snap some pictures and chat and distract while the titular duo finished up the final points of the show. Though I missed the meat of the event - the memories and good-byes and champagne toasts - I was allowed a sunny private view of the work, which was a great thing indeed considering the art in the space.

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I don't think it would be entirely appropriate to critique a personal collection, so I'll limit myself to congradulating Lucia on bringing the work out for us to see in a way that could have easily passed for a dream-team group show of Chicago artists. Many small and medium-sized works were presented here from artists like Chris Millar (who I'd call one of the the best artists living in the city at the moment), the soon-to-be-in-New-York Stacie Johnson (her new project named Wandering Caterpillar is well worth a look), E. C. Brown, Mark Porter, and many, many more.

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I wish Lucia the best in her new place on the left coast and hope that if or when she ends up starting a new alternative (or more standard) space, she would choose to open it with this exact same show. It would be as perfect a Hello show in California as it was a Good-Bye show in Chicago. Good luck! Selections from the Fabio-Mueller Collection was held Saturday, July 11th.

Mini Dutch was located at
3111 W. Diversy Ave.

ThreeWalls - No Other One Is
Kathryn Born
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From press release: [This is their] first thematic residency, Women in Performance. Residents Susan Lee-Chun (Miami), Kang-hyun Ahn (Seoul via Chicago), Gitte Bog (Denmark via Mexico City) and collaborative CamLab (Jemima Wyman, Brisbane and Anna Mayer, Los Angeles) share performance and interactive or participatory methodologies in creating work that addresses identity, perception and ideas of authenticity..."
 
 
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At the opening, highlights included Gitte in the kitchen, Sus-a-size exercising in gallery 2, and a double Kang-hyun Ahn was drawing and showing on the screen. Allow me to elaborate.
The soup part is straightforward on the surface --  three age groups contributed to the recipe and there were three big stock pots. Supposedly the stuff from the 10 -year old age group was the best.  But there was more to it than that, as the recipes worked with themes of nationality.

 
Suz-ersize was right up my alley. Enough commentary on the environment, let's tackle commercialism. Susan Lee-Chun's piece featured women on a stage, working barbells in an infomercial-style performance. "One of the Susies", sold the audience on their raffle. "You can win", she explained, "a costume just like these girls are wearing. Custom!"  She put Billy Mays Oxy Clean to shame. I loved how they played it straight-consumerism, with total commitment to the endeavor. No trace of insulting irony. Thank you for that,as I am all ironied and kitched out.
Kang-hyun Ahn was doubled and doubled, this shot does the job of how she multiplies and flipped things around so there was no front or back.
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The whole thing had a well-curated, creative and engaging effect. I'm always excited about the potential for performance art, and that it doesn't have to be miserable and alienating. This is a prime example of how it can bring you in, and then reveal (in ways I'm not detailing here) that there is more to it than what's on the surface.

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  • ThreeWall review is coming in a few minutes!

  • Kathryn: You had me laughing out loud on this one. I wish I had seen the performances at Three Walls. The themes are personally relate-able.

    I agree, though, I would like to understand more about performance and how to evaluate it. I participated in a performance with Anni Holm in May 2007, standing on Wabash in front of the old Marshall Fields with a sign that read "I am Anni Holm".

    I loved it! Some passers-by avoided eye contact with me. One person said she hoped I found who I was looking for. Some people asked what I was doing...when I would ask, do you want to know what I am doing, some would say yes but many scurried by faster. I looked presentable in a long white raincoat, hair combed, make up..not freaky, not panhandling, but some were still nervous or appeared so. Others maybe did not want to waste a second on another human.

    But did anyone think I was art? I don't think so.

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