Monday Morning Quarterback: 2/25/11

by Stephanie Burke and Jeriah Hildwine


S: Our first stop this weekend was Tony Wight Gallery, but we were lucky, in the process, in running into Meg Duguid, the purveyor of Clutch Gallery. Her featured artist, Sue Havens, had a painted sculptural work in Clutch called Hot Dots. This piece, we learned, was not the original piece intended for Clutch, but was an homage to the original, highly colored and highly detailed piece which was stolen from the artist’s car on her way to mail the piece to Chicago.  Both the original piece, Fine Lines (now listed as in the Collection of Sue Havens’ Car Thief) and the new Hot Dots can be seen on the website.

It is terrible to lose a work or art, through damage, theift, or what
have you. Sometimes, this forced loss and mourning makes the resulting
piece and the overall project more interesting that it would have been
at the get go. The original Fine Lines is a remarkably anal-rententavie
piece, obsessively lined and detailed, and yet joyously and playfully
colored. The piece breathed in giggles. Hot Dots, on the other hand, is
drab and grey, with large soft shapes, mimicking was can often happen in
our memory of things lost: the memories fade, loose their sharpness,
their color. Hot Dots was a perfect memento mori to Fine Lines, trying
to remain joyful, but always standing with a quivering lip and tear in
the corner of the eye.

J:  The story of the piece being an homage to a work of art stolen from (or rather along with) the artist’s car reminded me of a news story I read recently.  Antoine Mocellini was a security guard at the Fine Arts Museum on the French island of Corsica.  Mocellini is in his 40s, a divorced father, and was recently evicted from his apartment.  He has no criminal record.  Desperate for a place to live, he took a couple of the artworks he was supposed to be guarding with him when he ended his shift.  He then contacted a local television station to inform them that he was holding the paintings for ransom; the price was a place to live.  Apparently they worked out some kind of deal to provide Mocellini with housing, because he agreed to lead police to the artworks, which he had left in his car a few miles from town.  However, and this is the part that the Sue Havens story reminded me of, when they got there, someone else had broken into Mocellini’s car and stolen the paintings. 

S: Around us as we gawked at Clutch was the work of Josh Kolbo. Hyper
saturated, silky and glossy simultaneously, Kolbo’s work speaks in the
in-your-face advertising vernacular. Jeff Wall and all the absurd
billboards I see throughout the midwest on road trips immediately jumped
to mind. Kolbo, however, simultaneously embraces and castrates the
functionality of this medium as a mass marketing technique. The pieces
aren’t easy to read (in the way that ads are, or even a Wall piece),
many only provide glimpses of skin, silk, glimmering bits. They are
fresh and new material, not withered with age or scratched, but hanging
limp like last months rejected ads, or a forgotten billboard outside a
ghost town cut off from commerce by a freeway re-routing traffic.
Sumptuous and sad, that about says it.

J:  I like the way they’re hung, the paper prints draped sort of like the fabric in the backgrounds of many of the images.  My favorite was the large sort of diptych in the back room.  Two sets of three prints each where hung facing each other, in a layered weave that suggested feathers, wings, or the interwoven petals of a budding flower.  The imagery on these prints is rougher, more ominous, consisting of black-and-orange signage, some red lights or dots on a black field, and some kind of hand-written sign that could as easy be a homeless doomsayer’s “THE END IS NIGH” as it could be a suburban yard sale advertisement.  The shape could be a stack of incomplete paper airplanes pulled off of an imaginary mass-production line, or the layered folds of a giant wizard’s cloak.  I like to imagine they’re the furled wings of a giant pterosaur, its skin like that of a chameleon, taking on imagery from the world around it.

S: Next we headed over to Western Exhibitions to see New Art From New
Orleans. Without a doubt Stephen Collier was my favorite artist in this
show, with his unique mixture of dark humor and historical
“reconstruction.” I can’t even say which of his pieces I thought was the
best. Subterranean Symmetry, with its video documentation and
artifacts, was particularly poignant, drawing the mind to the excavation
of bodies and belongings that had been ongoing since Katrina. Croatoan
was also particularly fantastic, an update of the classical and
indecipherable message left by lost the inhabitants of the Roanoke
. In Collier’s Croatoan, we are presented with a massive piece of
tourist memorabilia, inscribe with a historically loaded phrase and
disconcerting hash-marks on the back, as if to mark racked-up kills.
America’s Past Time
and The Couple are also particularly pregnant
pieces, combining classic goon firearm targets with souvenir
dreamcatchers. All of his work pokes fun, getting us to laugh along with
him, until we become aware of the horror we’re laughing at and fall

J:  I was giddy when I saw Stephen Collier’s Croatoan; the reference to the really creepy myth of American history hit my history nerd nerve just right, and it couldn’t have been done any better than by airbrushing it on a giant fiberglass sand dollar.  I grew up in San Diego and the airbrushing looks like it was done by one of the custom t-shirt airbrushing guys who work the boardwalk in Mission Beach.  I’m not generally a huge fan of the ironic appropriation of elements of popular culture, but this one, juxtaposed with this really creepy myth reference, worked out really really well. 

S: We ambled over to ebersmoore to check out Flowers, a series of
collages by Stephen Eichhorn. The pieces on black defiantly felt like
cosmic diagrams, but I think my favorite piece in the show was the
simplest, a pair of daises (maybe, or black eyed susans) positioned a
couple inches apart at eye level. It was quiet, where every other piece
roared. What actually drew me in was a mental association with Nell, and
by extension Día de los Muertos candy skulls. I felt like I was staring
into dead eyes, it was spooky and good.

J:  Those sugar skulls have had some kind of crazy renaissance lately.  I totally didn’t notice at the time, largely due to the crowd, but you’re totally right, the pair of flowers does remind me, sort of, of Nell.  But, and perhaps largely because it was less crowded in there, the works in the back room stood out to me.  The one that I really liked was the print of the ivy, with the spaces between the leaves cut out, leaving a kind of lace.  Simple idea but it was pretty neat.

S: Next stop was Swimming Pool Project Space, this time in the West
Loop. Liz is moving to New York, so this was the last hurrah for
Swimming Pool. After getting stuck on the elevator for a little bit, I
tropmed up the last of the stairs and down the hall, only to be greeted
by silence and glowers from the other attendees. Unbeknownst to me,
there was a performance going on. I heard howling and saw someone
carrying something around over the heads of the crowd packed in the
space, but that was all. Jeriah and I scored a Swimsuit Edition
calendar, another addition of our burgeoning art collection, and headed
in after the performance abated. There were women wandering around
wearing crazy-ass costumes that looked like something out of Zardoz or
2001: A Space Odyssey
. That was pretty amazing, especially since they
weren’t posing, but rather just wandering around having casual
conversations with friends. I was also particularly fond of the the giant
mirror and clear-heel sculpture. Clear heels, something I associate with
a time line beginning at Studio 54 and ending with cheap So-Cal porn,
are odd, laughable accessories, here taken and re-configured into some
sort of cosmic icicle explosion.

J:  I’m not usually scared of elevators but that one was a bit harrowing.  I’m a little taller than Steph so I saw a bit more; a woman was holding what looked like a giant prosthetic nose made of modeling clay up to her face.  I believe that was the performance by Rae Langes.  Other than that, I wasn’t really able to sort out which work was by whom, and I missed a lot of it what with all the beautiful people, delicious snacks, and hugging I had to do.  But I do remember really liking a large-ish painting near the front door, sort of an interior with a bunch of little figures all over it.  I believe this was Jamie Lynn Henderson’sWall Writing,” although she also had a piece called “Dream House:  Ladies Powder Room and Men’s Lounge” in the show.  At any rate, it was cool, funky, and neat-o.  I like it.  I’ve seen Henderson’s work in the past, in particular I fondly recall seeing some of her pen-and-ink drawings at Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport.  In that work as with the paintings at Swimming Pool, Henderson delivers a devastating titty twister to the traditional stereotypes of gender roles, using hunky beefcakes and catty, manicured babes poke fun at fairy tales, religious myth, and most of all, men and women.  She just might be the pea under the mattress that gets today’s princess culture to get its lazy ass out of bed and find out what’s the matter…or could, if they would get out there and see some damn art.  I’ll be keeping my eye on her work in the future.

S: Last stop of the night was Firecat Projects to see Duncan Anderson’s
work. I’ve always loved Duncan’s tiny allegorical sculptures. Most of
the work in the show was stuff I’ve seen before, but there were a couple
new and re-worked pieces, and I loved everything. A note on viewing
Duncan’s work: always read the titles.

J:  I’d be hard pressed to say anything about Duncan’s work that I haven’t already said, but suffice it to say, I love it.  I’m particularly enamored with Tribulation Avenging Angel, a new work in which a winged wolf appears to have broken its chains (and suffered a couple of arrow hits in the process).  Its two pairs of wings remind me of the description of the four “living creatures” which surround the throne of God in the book of Revelation (which have six wings, actually, and are covered head to toe in innumerable eyes).  But the broken chains around its neck draw an association with the mythic Norse wolf Fenrir (or Fenris, which was the namesake of the Fenris Omni Mech of Battletech fame).  Anderson’s work usually seems like he’s captured a still from a myth that you can’t quite place, but somehow suspect has at its roots some grain of truth.  And it’s just damned cool to look at.  Tony Fitzpatrick has shown exceptionally good vision in selecting the artists to exhibit in his space, Firecat Projects, and Duncan’s show has been one of the best yet.  Anderson has a piece in the upcoming group show Off the Wall, Off the Floor at Walnut Ink Gallery in Michigan City, Indiana, which runs March 4th to May 29th, with an opening reception on April 1st.

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.

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

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