Painters Painting and Paintings by Megan Euker at Linda Warren

by Jeriah Hildwine

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Linda Warren is one of my favorite
gallerists in Chicago, and I'm always excited when she has a new show
opening. The current show, Painters Painting (with Paintings by Megan
Euker in the project space) was particularly tantalizing; I am a
painter in my own studio practice, and reserve the right to a certain
bias in favor of my chosen medium. When I stopped by this afternoon for
a sneak preview, I was not disappointed.





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Stanley Lewis is a fine example of a
painter who can also teach: the other artists in Painters Painting,
Jeremy Long and Don Southard, as well as Megan Euker, have all studied
under Lewis at some point. Stanley Lewis has several fine works in this
show, but by far my favorite is his North Hampton Parking Lot from
2007. In reproduction this work looks much like any other expertly
executed urban landscape, with cars, buildings, and trees rendered with
gritty specificity. In person, however, Lewis' work (like Staples' at
65 Grand) takes on another physical dimension. The substrate seems
built up of layered, collaged canvas, covered with oil paint laid on so
thickly its gobs have shriveled as they dried. The entire surface has
the wrinkled quality of an an elephant's knee, an elbow, or a scrotum,
which does not take away at all from the reality of the whole. The
overall effect is one of the finest pieces of contemporary painting
I've seen in recent memory.

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Don Southard brings a modernist
flatness to his subject matter of still lives and references to the Old
Masters, Ingres, and Fayum mummy paintings. By far my favorites were
his Fayum mummy paintings; the flat acrylic paint and restrained,
subdued palette perfectly evokes the waxy encaustic surface of the
originals from Roman Egypt. I recently saw an original example of these
at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Southard's renditions are an excellent
homage.

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Jeremy Long's large-scale realist
compositions are closest to my own sensibility, and they are indeed
impressive. More than mere verisimilitude, Long arranges elaborate
domestic dramas and then uses them as a stage on which to play out
spatial paradoxes, modernist compositional elements, and an awesome
display of varied painting techniques. The surface varies from figures
rendered with the layered care of the best traditional techniques,
combined with some areas of the environment given only the most cursory
surface of thin or uneven paint, without in any way feeling unresolved.
The spitted chickens and the underlit bearded man in The Delivery
(2009) are particularly compelling.

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Megan Euker's New Paintings in the
project space are also worth seeing. Like Southard, their subject
matter is representational but rendered with a modernist hand. Her
looseness is evocative of Eric Fischl, and her colors bright and
nuanced. She is an excellent rounding-out of this excellent show of
paintings, one of the best exhibitions I've seen in Chicago recently,
and one of Linda Warren's best yet.

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