Monday Morning Quarterback, June 14th, 2010

by Jeriah Hildwine and Stephanie Burke Stephen
Daiter Gallery
- 230 W. Superior St. The Intuitive Photography of
Jay King
and Lee Balterman. Reception 5-8pm.

20100609_0144.jpg

Stephanie
with the work at Stephen Daiter.

S:
I really enjoyed this work. I've always loved "vintage"
street photography, for both its historical and ethnographic insights,
as well
as its subtle beauty.  This work
was classically of that vein, produced in and around Chicago over a
60-year
period by two native Chicagoans. 
Though there is nothing particularly earth shattering about this
work
within the genre of documentary street photography, there are many
beautiful
and hilarious moments, as well as peeks at a bye-gone Chicago. I highly
recommend stopping by Daiter to see it. Serving Chicago-style hotdogs in
the
gallery was a nice touch.

Thomas
Robertello
Gallery
- 939 W. Randolph St. About Face, work by Jason Robert Bell,
Cody
Critcheloe (SSION)
, John Delk, Scott Fife, Emily Noelle Lambert, Nikki S
Lee
,
Noelle Mason, Mike Nudelman, Ed Paschke, Grant Schexnider, Travis Leroy
Southworth
and Julie Weitz. Reception 5-8pm. 6/11-8/7.

20100609_0168.jpg

Noelle
Mason, "Bob and Weave," a video from 2004, from "About Face" at Thomas
Robertello.

S: As always, I loved Noelle Mason's work, in this
case "Bob
and Weave," a piece I've seen a few times before. There is something
both
hilarious and brutal about watching the artist getting bloodied up in a
slap
boxing fight. This can also be seen from outside, so if you stop by the
gallery
on off hours, you can (I assume) still see it.

 

Wer Wolf, the only sculpture in the show, has to be
my other
favorite. Initally, I was pretty luke warm about it, preferring to
engage with
the 2D wall work. At one point, Jeriah and I sat down on the floor in
front of
it (I think it was Jeriah's idea), and from that view point, I really
fell in
love with it. Viewing it from such a low angle reveals a huge amount of
character on the wolfs face, as well as drawing my attention to the
weird-ass
human-in-wolf ear. So, my suggestion, if you really want to appreciate
this
piece, get down on the floor with it.

20100609_0169.jpg

Scott
Fife's "Wer Wolf," a 2007 sculpture made from archival cardboard, glue,
and screws, from "About Face" at Thomas Robertello.

J:  "Wer Wolf" totally
stole the show for me.  Partly this is because I like werewolves.  The
artist's other works, a quick web search revealed, are apparently more
often portraits of celebrities and historical figures, also pretty
mind-blowing in their accuracy of likeness, and similarly interesting in
their constructed surfaces.  But "Wer Wolf" is totally my favorite,
again, because I like werewolves.

I'm with Steph on the low viewing angle:  go check
this thing out, and sit down in front of it.  The expression is
priceless; one eye squinted closed, teeth bared, it evokes pain and
impotent rage.  Combined with its placement on the floor, the expression
makes the head look truly severed, rather than merely disembodied like
most portrait heads.  This is as far as I know unique among Fife's work,
and is a direction I hope he explores more in the future.

At $12,000, this isn't an
inexpensive piece by Chicago standards, but to my eye, well worth it. 
This is a piece that could form an amazing centerpiece of a small
collection or a valuable part of a large one.  Collectors following a
theme of sculpture, of portraits, or of the grotesque can all appreciate
this piece.  If you've got a five-figure budget, give this piece some
serious consideration.

 

S:  John Delk's August Sander recombination photos
were interesting,
hadn't seen them before. The visual comparison of Saunder's work, famous
definer of the people of the 20th Century that he was, to
lame duck
trade photos of business people was fun to mentally play with, simple
though it
was. This was also my first exposure to the work of Cody Critcheloe
(SSION).
His three beautifully rendered drawings felt like dreams from a John
Waters

film. Awesome. And, you need to check out his crazy videos.  Travis LeRoy Southworth's "I Re-touch Myself" was a kind
of
gross and pretty funny meditation on ones' personal imperfections.

J:  Yeah, I liked it. 
Gross, funny, and made me think of Tim Hawkinson.  I guess I'm thinking
of Hawkinson's drawing of every part of his skin that he could see, with
its meticulous attention to detail.  And, I like the idea of, instead
of airbrushing out one's imperfections, airbrushing out everything
else.  Back in grad school, when I was the TA for a figure drawing
class, I used to give an assignment where students were asked to draw a
self-portrait emphasizing what they perceived as their worst physical
feature.  I like this kind of physical introspection.  I also like how
the cluster of blemishes sort of form a face the way distant stars can
form a constellation.

 

S:  Nikki S Lee's work was, well, her work, not
much new there.
Not to say it's bad work, quite the contrary, just nothing new. The same
can be
said for the Paschkes, I've kind of reached Paschke overload this
summer. The
show also included work by Jason Robert Bell, Michael Nudelman, and
Julie
Weitz, whose overlapping ski masks reminded me of hanging out with
Zapitistas.

J: 
Paschke's Paschke, I like him, but you're right, he has had a lot of
work up lately.  It's good, though, so I don't mind the heavy exposure. 
I also like how Robertello puts up some big names, presumably from his
own collection, when they suit the theme of a show he's putting
together.  I really, really like what that does, seeing new,
contemporary work alongside bigger-name stuff with which I'm familiar. 
Last time it was Amy Cutler, whom I also love, and now Paschke.  I'm a
fan of this.

As a
painter, I appreciated Grant Schneider's large, untitled oil, and Jason
Robert Bell's "Mirror," a painting in acrylic, oil, and ink on canvas.  I
liked both of these works for their aggressiveness:  Schneider's in its
scale, Bell's for the monstrous, simian face grimacing on the canvas. 
There really wasn't a weak link in this show; it was really consistently
good. 

One
thing I noticed was that ArtSlant
and On The Make
both listed Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger as being in this show,
yet their work was not in evidence, nor are they listed on Robertello's website
for the show.  I was excited to see their work; I'm a big fan and have
been interested in following their new progress since I interviewed them
for Chicago
Art Magazine
.  When I got to the show, I was so excited about the
work that was there, that I didn't notice their absence until
later.  If I'd remembered at the time I would have asked Robertello what
happened to them.  Whatever the case, one of their silhouette or cameo
profile pieces would have been a great addition to this show.  But, even
without them, it's still a great show.

 

Spoke
- 119
N Peoria St, 3D. I'll be your Mirror, work by Lise Haller Baggesen,
Gitte Bog,
Gudrun Hasle, Anni Holm and Berit Nørgaard. Reception 5-8pm. 6/11-6/19.


20100609_0188.jpg

Anni
Holm at the desk, ready to hear an anecdote from your life, and turn it
into song!

S:The show at Spoke reminded me of the NFO XPO this past April down at The Benton House. To really enjoy it you have to participate: watch the video from the beanbag, eat the tasty samples of our sister city's food, fill out the survey, tell a story to be made into a song, and take a friggin' silver sticker. The velvet painting was about the only thing that didn't appear to need interaction to really activate. I'm sometimes dubious about participation required work, sometimes it feels awkward, forced, or just plain stupid. This stuff, on the other hand, and much like the NFO XPO particitation opportunities, just felt fun, a little silly, but still engaging. Who doesn't want to have a weird story from their life made into song, or share the dish they'd make for someone visiting from Mexico?

J:  As
I've sort of come to expect from Spoke, this show was all
performance-interactive-relational-social kind of stuff.  To paraphrase
the pre-show at Rocky Horror, interactive performances are like sex:  if
you don't participate, you can't come!  (That's not actually true, of
course.  I'm sure plenty of people strolled through, looked around, and
walked out.  But I suspect they weren't getting the full experience of
the thing.)  So I told Anni Holm an anecdote from my childhood, that
she's apparently going to turn into a song, and Steph did, too: 
coincidentally, they both involved stuff getting burned down.  And I
filled out a survey form thing about the relationship between Chicago
and Mexico City.  And I took some stickers, and sampled the Mexican
cuisine they had as part of the art.  (I was greatly pleased when I was
told that yes, I was supposed to taste it.)

I'll be
the first to admit, this is the kind of work that I don't really get. 
It's the farthest thing possible from my own practice, being conceptual
rather than visual, and action- rather than object- or image-oriented. 
There's nothing to buy.  I honestly have a hard time fitting it into my
own, personal, narrow definition of "art."  But it wasn't totally lost
on me:  telling my story to Anni brought back some memories, and the
survey about Mexico City got me thinking about that city in a way I
hadn't before, or at least not recently.  So, I came, I saw, I
participated, and I'm subtly changed because of it.  Which, I suppose,
is what was supposed to happen.


65Grand - 1378
W.
Grand Ave. The First Five Years, group show. Reception 7pm-1am.
6/11-6/13.


20100609_0192.jpg

Jeriah
admiring the work at 65 Grand, "The First Five Years."

J: 
This is Bill's last show in the current location.  He's found a new
space, though, right across the street, which is great news.  Bill's
curatorial vision is unique, favoring what I can only call a sort of
conceptual Modernism that manages to be both cutting-edge and straight
out of the mid 20th-Century.  There have been a few artists whose work I
really enjoyed (Bob Jones and William Staples come to mind), and many
more who really challenged me as a viewer, in ways that I found
infinitely rewarding, even as I was puzzled or confused by the work. 

What
I really like about Bill is his ability to sort the wheat from the
chaff:  blank or solid-color canvases with broken stretcher bars and
distressed fabric tend to turn my stomach, but Scott Wolniak's
exhibition "You Can Lose Your Balance," at  65Grand a few months ago,
included several examples of this type of work that tripped me up and
got me to reconsider my assumptions about them.  Was this Wolniak's
genius in the idiosyncrasies of this execution of this work?  Michelle
Grabner's review
for Artforum certainly suggests so, and I'm not inclined to disagree. 
Or on the other hand, was it Bill's vision, in finding and selecting
this artist's work, putting it up in the right space (his own) at the
right time? 

I'm inclined to think that it's both, that Bill's
unique contribution to the Chicago art scene lies in his ability to
differentiate those artists who are really breaking new ground from
those other, superficially similar, also-rans.  None of what Bill shows
looks anything like the kind of work that I do, and it rarely looks like
the kind of work I seek out.  But I make it to nearly every one of
Bill's openings, because I can count on Bill to find work that will give
me something to think about, that will keep me on my toes and get me to
take another look.  I really like Bill's title for this show, "The
First Five Years."  With his move to the new space (right across the
street), opening this coming September, I'm looking forward to seeing
what the next five years, and beyond, have in store.

20100609_0204.jpg

William
Staples, "Untitled," 2009, from "The First Five Years" at 65Grand.

As
for the current show, there was a lot of good stuff on display, and one
piece in particular that a savvy collector, even one on a modest
budget, would be wise to acquire.  This is William Staples' small,
untitled painting from 2009.  It's a dark painting consisting of a
glossy stain, depicting what looks like a one-eyed, winged devil.  It's
got a soft-edged vagueness that only adds to the spooky effect, like an
inkblot test or one of the illustrations from Scary Stories to Tell
in the Dark
.  Dominic Moore, of ebersboore, pointed it out to me, as
well as its modest price:  only $450.  This is a very reasonable price
for a very good painting, and a young or beginning collector with a
budget under $500 would be hard pressed to find a better place to spend
it.

S: I concur. I'm sad to see this place go, it was the ole' standby of Chicago apartment galleries, but he'll be right across the street now. No more climbing the green stairs of doom, or having to wash your hands in the kitchen/gallery sink, that'll be nice. Good luck with the new space Bill!  

 

Leave a comment