Monday Morning Quarterback: Friday 1/7/11

by Stephanie Burke and Jeriah Hildwine

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David Weinberg Gallery - 300 W. Superior St., #203. The Collective. Reception 5-8pm.

Jeriah:  It's sad to see David Weinberg closing his space, or I guess I should say re-purposing it; he's closing the gallery as a business but will continue to operate his space for some of his other ventures, including exhibiting his own photography.  He's got a show coming up this Spring of his own photography; we'll be sure to post details as the time draws near.  Also, if you missed the opening of this final show, there will be a closing reception on Friday, February 18th, from 5pm to 8pm.  It was nice to see a sort of recap or review of the shows I've seen at DWG over the past couple years:  Jordan Eagles is a recent favorite of mine, with his blood-and-resin works, and David Burdeny's atmostpheric landscape photographs are as well.  Helen Maureen Cooper is a friend and colleague of ours, and I've enjoyed seeing her work a few times in the past; the portrait of a young woman nursing her baby, in this show, was new to me.  Rhonda Wheatley's collages are another favorite.  Really, though, this show was all strong, like a best-of-the-best work the gallery has exhibited.  Director Aaron Ott does a great job curating the shows here, and he did a bang-up job putting together this last show.  It was a tall order, dealing with this many artists, but it came together well, full, but not overhung.

Zg Gallery
- 300 W. Superior St. Winter Group Show, work by Martina Nehrling,
Justin Henry Miller, Dan Gamble, and Jackie Tileston. Reception
5:30-7:30pm

J:  This group show brought together some of my favorites, like Justin Henry Miller and Gregory Jacobsen, with one of Zg's artists I hadn't seen before:  Amanda Joseph.  The piece in the Winter Group Show was entitled, "Wretched Retching (Suck It)" and is a close-up of a person, probably female, sticking her fingers in her mouth; her face is blotched with purple sores, and some kind of green rod-like particles lie suspended in transparent liquid, like clear vomit, stuck to her face.  Zg has some macabre hidden gems, or should I say festering chancres masked beneath a veneer of caked-on foundation, or...I'm running short of analogies here, so I'll say it directly:  Amanda Joseph has earned her place beside Miller and Jacobsen as an artist who makes gorgeous, nasty work, and I love it.

Ann Nathan Gallery - 212 W. Superior St. Bruno Surdo and Stephen Cefalo. Reception 5-8pm.

J:  Another River North show that really did it for me was Ann Nathan, who showed Bruno Surdo (Uncensored!) and Stephen Cefalo (Dreams...), both figurative realist oil painters.  Both of these artists are prime examples of what I come to Ann Nathan to see:  rock-solid technical painting in the tradition of the Old Masters, pretty much just a bunch of expertly-painted naked bodies.  Of the two, Surdo seems to delight more in the purity of figure painting for its own sake, with all other considerations functioning simply to support the task of painting the nude.  Cefalo on the other hand seems primarily concerned with allegorical narrative, using the figures as actors to tell his stories.  They balance each other well, and while they're pretty conservative compared to a lot of the stuff going on in the West Loop and elsewhere, it's this kind of technical expertise and realistic rendering that got me interested in painting in the first place, so it'll always have a special place in my heart.

Ken Saunders Gallery - 230 W. Superior. Sculptors, work by Rick Beck, Jay Musler, Richard Royal, Thomas Scoon. Reception 5-7pm

J:  Ken Saunders wasn't really having an opening per se, but he stayed open along with a lot of the other River North galleries, and the email said "Winter Cocktails," so of course we were there.  I'll talk more about that in the Snack Report, but suffice it to say, Ken showed us a good time.  Saunders is exclusively a glass gallery, committed to the "Studio Glass Movement," so I pretty much always know when I head there, that that's what I'm going to see.  Much like the work I see at Ann Nathan, the work at Ken Saunders may not be conceptually challenging, much of it is quote beautiful, and mind-blowing in terms of the technical skill that must go into its craft.  I was particularly impressed by Rick Beck's cast glass pieces; I said to my friends I was with that if I owned a restaurant, I would love to have his cast glass silverware on the walls.  There was also a large blown glass piece, I believe by Richard Royal, which was just awe-inspiring in terms of its scale and apparent fragility.  It looks like something grown in nature and is kind of hard to imagine its being fashioned by human hands.

Catherine Edelman Gallery - 300 W. Superior St. The City, work by Lori Nix. Reception 5-8pm.

Stephanie:  Whenever I'm in River North, I try and swing into Edelman. Right now her main gallery features large-scale photos by Lori Nix. Nix's work addresses a set of ideas ubiquitous in pop-science right now, the ideas surrounding the state of the post-human earth. Her works represent (and re-present) many visuals seemingly derived from contemporary works such as Life After People (History Channel), The World Without Us (Weisman 2007), and Future Evolution (Ward 2001), as well as older works such as After Man (Dixon 1981).  To anyone who's been paying attention to this popular post-human trend, Nix visuals will be familiar, though uncanny for their use of miniatures, rather that computer animation or draftsmanship.

Nix's works seem to be a re-statement and insistence upon a visual re-visitation of these ideas. As she says in her statement, "I am afraid of what the future holds if we do not change our ways regarding the climate, but at the same time I am fascinated by what a changing world can bring." Though I'm not sure I see her work as being anchored in humor, the miniatures, with their miss-matched size and inconsistent level of detail, speak to a child-like innocence within these scenes of destruction, as though the cause of this, and the observation, aren't taken seriously by those responsible, ie us. The most magical moments within these images occur when the spaces portrayed are recognizable as an iconic place (the Shedd Aquarium, for example).

Stephen Daiter Gallery - 230 W. Superior. Mostly Small and Serious, work by Elliott Erwitt. Reception 5-8pm

S:  We also hit Stephen Daiter Gallery, currently featuring Elliott Erwitt: Small, Serious and Otherwise. The title pretty much says it all. Erwitt is known for his ironic humor, this is being a huge part of his iconic status. The works featured at Daiter are, as the title states, completely opposite. Now, this is not so say that no work contrary to a photographer's primary oeuvre should ever be shown, but the works featured did come off feeling a bit like the B-Sides.  Erwitt's voice surfaced in some of the images, but overall, the show felt distinctly non-Erwitt, or un-Erwitt, or Erwitt as everyone. Perhaps, then, this is the lesson I pulled from the exhibit: as photographers, we all do many of the same things. It is culling through the sea of images and pulling out those that are uniquely our own which makes our work memorable.

Carl Hammer Gallery - 740 N. Wells St. Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea, work by Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick. Reception 5:30-8pm.

S:  Our final stop in River North was Carl Hammer gallery, a venue I picked for this week's Top 5 Weekend Picks at Bad at Sports based on the work currently being shown, Kahn and Selesnick's Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea. With our national space program in shambles, and zombies, vampires, and a post-apocalyptic earth at the forefront of our pop-media, it was refreshing to see visuals so akin to Sterling, Bradbury, and Asimov. The works, which appear to be nearly seamless photo montages, and are listed as archival digital prints, hearken to the past's view of the future on Mars. I almost expect a Man Who Fell to Earth-era Bowie or some creature from Fantastic Planet to go prancing across an image. The works also hold a kinship with those of Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum, in their fantastical, sexual, and at times disturbing imagery.

Packer Schopf Gallery
- 942 W. Lake St. Cryptogram, work by Deborah Baker; So Alone and
Mystified, work by Michael Krueger; You're Partially to Blame, work by
Dominic Paul Moore
. Reception 5-8pm

J:  We then headed over to the west loop to check out Packer Schopf, which was sort of a coincidental mini-reunion of some of the artists that were in Flesh and Bone:  Stephanie and I were there along with our co-curator from that show, Annie Heckman, along with artists Jason Brammer, Aaron Delehanty, and Dominic Paul Moore.  Annie, Jason, Steph, and I were there as viewers, while both Delehanty and Moore had work up at Packer  Schopf.

Aaron Delehanty showed his painting Flash Dray, in "The Lab," Aron Packer's code word for the lower level of his gallery.  Delehanty's work was accepted into the Art Loop Open, and Aron Packer selected him for inclusion in a group exhibition as a prize for the competition.  I had the pleasure of being present at the award ceremony and to congratulate Aaron on his prize, and I later had the privilege of visiting Delehanty's studio where we drank beer and talked about what work he should exhibit at Packer.  After some discussion I supported Aaron's inclination to send Flash Dray, and I'm glad to see that's what he ended up showing.  It's a cool piece, combining imagery I would not be surprised to see from Alexis Rockman or Walton Ford with a hypersaturated palette, almost cyberpunk in its psychedelic neon, that reminds me of Chicago artist Caleb Weintraub.  The artificiality of the grid of Christmas lights creates a matrix of human culture which supports and entraps the group of squirrels ("dray" is a word meaning a group of squirrels, athough it can also refer to an old-fashioned cart without sides), in much the same way as cities have surrounded actual populations of squirrels, leaving them enclosed in parks and along tree-lined suburban streets.  And, without resorting to the hushed tones of passionate activists and excitable undergrads, it quietly asks us to consider whether it has done the same to a certain population of widely-spread, omnivorous, bipedal primates.

Dominic Paul Moore was represented in Flesh and Bone as both an artist and as a gallerist; his own work was represented by the piece Wear Wolf, and he also leant us work from various artists represented by his gallery, Ebersmoore, which he co-runs with Sara Ebers.  Sara was present at the opening along with their new baby, Maddalyn Nova Moore.  So I got to meet little Maddalyn (cute and loud, like babies should be), congratulate Dominic and Sara on her birth, and also congratulate Dominic on his show.  Titled, "you're partially to blame," it combines paintings of a sort of contemporary, pattern-based geometric abstraction, with some drawings on found paper.  All of the works seem based on a sort of intuitive geometry, not the kind you learn in school but the kind you sort of puzzle out while playing with a ruler and pencil or folding paper.  At first I commented to Dominic that they seemed very different from the piece Wear Wolf that was included in Flesh and Bone, but Dominic pointed out to me a similarity in terms of the mechanically reproduced printed image. 

I thought I noticed some subtle yonic symbolism (that's Hippie for "looks like a vagina"), but I've got a notoriously dirty mind so it's probably just me.  Although his titles seem to bear this out:  "From Past Lovers, For Future Sons" and "Matisse Rug Bum" are pretty subtle, but "Was In Your Middle" and "Dirty Little Bitch" are getting hotter, and "Interior at Nice For Your Pink Box" might as well be the title of a spam email selling...vagina enlarging cream, or something?  Whether intended or not, this added a welcome bit of spice to the work.  Geometric abstraction can be pretty dry, and it is to Dominic's credit that he seems to have quite a bit of fun with it.

Stephanie Burke
was born in Nevada City, CA in 1984. She received her BA in Studio Art
and Anthropology from Humboldt State University in 2007, and her MFA in
Photography from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009.
Currently she lives in Chicago with her husband Jeriah,
makes work, teaches, writes for Bad at Sports, runs Art Talk Chicago, and maintains
her own blog, The Gallery Crawl and So Much More.
When not making, teaching, looking at, or writing about art, she enjoys
running around in the woods, drinking beer by bonfires, crazy quilting
and target shooting.

Jeriah
is an artist, educator, writer, and snack enthusiast.  You can see his
work at www.jeriahhildwine.com,
and read his columns at Art Talk Chicago and Chicago Art
Magazine
.  Jeriah lives and works in Chicago, with his wife Stephanie
Burke
.

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