Monthly Archives: April 2015

Liz Larner sculptures at the Art Institute of Chicago

Liz Larner sculptures at the Art Institute of Chicago

The Liz Larner exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago brings two of the artist’s stainless steel sculptures to the outdoor space of the Bluhm Family Terrace. The more recent of the two is X (2013): a rounded, insect-like x-shape of polished chrome, along with 6 (2010-11): a lighter, more open version of its brother, painted lavender, white, and yellow-brown. These are united by a large, wooden platform which the wall text describes as “ash from urban lumber”.

The objects are exposed to the elements, but are protected by the half-roof and substantial steel bars surrounding the terrace. Seen against the wide open sky (a rare sight for most of us ground dwellers in the city), it should be a serene and cheerful sight. So why does it give the impression of animals in a cage? In this setting, with the large tall bars that surround the terrace, the sculptures feel trapped and claustrophobic.  And, like all proper zoo animals, they come with a sign directing visitors not to touch them. This sign is somewhat contradicted by the wall text, which indicates that in the case of  X (but not 6) “viewers may enter the physical space of the form itself”. To do so, most adults would have to crouch down or crawl underneath the claw-like structure, an awkward undertaking with questionable payoff.

Lengthy, contemplative viewing, however, may generate empathy for these sculptures. They seem to want to have fun, but the bars and signs and lack of space keep them caged, cowering, and untouchable.

Liz Larner at the Art Institute of Chicago

Liz Larner at the Art Institute of Chicago

Chameleon-like in quality, the latest sculptural installation on display at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Bluhm Family Terrace, Liz Larner’s works X (2013) and 6 (2010-11) emanate the bustling and metropolitan, yet approachable state-of-mind, that is, the city of Chicago. Parked on top of a wooden platform, the works assume a position that is at once intentional and happenstance, as visitors are encouraged to step closer for a more in-depth view. A ten-year resident of Chicago, I immediately begin to draw parallels between the curvy, metallic and reflective qualities of Larner’s X to that of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion situated in the near distance. However, in contrast to these latter mentioned works, viewers of Larner’s works are able to enjoy a position of superiority, looking down and over the works as one circles the perimeter specific to each. The viewer’s experience seems rather predetermined, the artist presumably asking us to position the works within the vast skyline seen directly behind. Quickly bypassing any feelings of wonder or curiosity in relation to the works, the viewer races to recalculate the new skyline with these works as the latest addition. Larner succeeds in this regard, though, the malleable nature of the works showcased by their ability to adapt to the grid lines and shiny exteriors of the skyscrapers. The open, yet site-specific nature of Larner’s works, as described in the nearby placard, rings true as one turns a critical yet fanciful eye toward the architectural and natural feats that define the Chicago’s skyline.


Liz Larner’s X (2013) and 6 (2010-11)                                                                                     Bluhm Family Terrace at the Art Institute of Chicago (2015)

X & 6-A Review on Liz Larner’s work

The two work of Liz Larner displayed on the Bluhm Terraces are fun and energetic temporary additions to the already breath taking urban landscape that can be viewed on top of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Posing themselves as effortless and toy like objects, Larner’s sculptures reference the shapes and the materials of the architectural elements of their surroundings. While the box like shapes of 6 mimics the skyscrapers, the shininess of the stainless steel and its organic quality of X echoes the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in the Millennium Park. As if they are a more abstract and experimental version of the bigger structures in their background.
The elevation of the sculptures that is created by the wood platform that is commissioned by the artist is also a necessary and complete touch to the display of the two pieces. When viewing the pieces outside of the platform, the pieces obtain an almost virtual object like quality as some digital sculptures you are able to find within the online gallery nowadays, such as the ones that is found on the under the Impossible Object. As the viewers step onto the wood flooring, they then become more aware of their own bodies in relationship to the two not too much bigger size objects. The fun contours and colors of the pieces also invoke almost a dancing quality in relationship to the viewers’ bodies. And when the viewers are able to see one sculpture through the other, it creates an interesting dialogue of form especially compared with the grogous view behind. Larner’s pieces are successfully shown on the Bluhm Terraces because not only it makes the viewers aware of themselves, but it also asks them to have more in-depth consideration put into the environment they found themselves in.

The Grass Has Eyes


Heidi Norton “The Grass Has Eyes”
Curated by Claudine Ise

Comfort Station- Logan Square | 2579 N Milwuakee

Opening: May 2nd, 6-10p
Public Hours: Every Sunday of the month 11a-2p

Heidi Norton: The Grass has Eyes

We are undone. The mountains crumble
Beneath our feet. Our wave of earth subsides.
A little time and man shall stride no more,
His thighs having wasted with little using.
We are the bones for distant questioning.”

This was his parable, and it was spoken
Upon a mountainside.

—Excerpted from the poem “Artifact” by James Still

Heidi Norton’s exhibition “The Grass Has Eyes” is a site-specific engagement with the Logan Park comfort station, a historic site of alternating public and private functions that in turn express the fluctuating utopian/mundane aspirations of the communities who have used it over the years. Built in 1926/27 as a temporary oasis for transit commuters, the comfort station was boarded up sometime around the 1940s and served as a storage shed for lawnmowers and other garden maintenance tools until 2010, when it was transformed into a multi-disciplinary arts center and vibrant public gathering space known as Comfort Station. Norton’s exhibition imaginatively re-purposes the Comfort Station once more by recasting it as a cabin-like heterotopian space whose interior floors are partially lined with grass sod in patterns recalling aerial views of mountaintop removal mining, a process in which the summit or ridge of mountain land is removed for the purpose of extracting coal. The show also includes UV-sensitive embroidered botanical tapestries inspired by Charles Darwin’s plant studies, an idiosyncratic “patchwork quilt” combining photographic images, plant materials, plastic tarp, and sheep and alpaca wool, and an eerily compelling ambient sound piece that nods to Peter Thompkin’s Secret Life of Plants.

Simultaneously evoking the cozy environs of a family homestead, not unlike the one in which Norton herself spent her childhood years; the remote hideouts of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Breaking Bad’s Walter White; and the meditative mountain retreats of hermit-hippy loners like James Still, the poet, folklorist, and author of The Wolfpen Notebooks who was nicknamed “The Man in the Bushes” by his Appalachian neighbors, Norton’s environment is charged with affective uncertainty—at once comfortingly familiar and tinged with a subtle sense of dread




Saturday, May 2, 2015

2151 W 21st St Chicago

Kurt Hentschalger @SAIC Film Video New Media and Animation

Chris Staats
Tanner Charles
Jerico Domingo
LJ Frezza
Maurice Hampton
Jaclyn Mednicov
Andrew Monks

The WUNDER is a conceptual vessel for the diverse often hybrid, multifaceted forms of artistic expressions conceived in today’s eclectic, media driven cultural landscape.

The exhibition title refers also to the “Wunderkammer” of the late Renaissance and Baroque periods, a precursor to what we now think of as natural history or art museums—meaning the bringing together of objects from different origins and disparate meanings, and arranging of them along formal rather than cultural or historical lines.

The Wunder exhibition similarly takes seven individual student installations, and while retaining their individuality, binds them in closed quarters to flow together disparate and communicating parts: something that could only be looked upon and understood therefore as a Wunder.

Geometry in Outer Space or Heaven: Karen Reimer at moniquemeloche, April 11- May 30


When I first encountered Karen Reimer’s work at gallery 400 in Chicago I was struck by the way she naturally fuses two seemingly incompatible discourses in art: minimalism and (meticulously labored) craft. The latter in and of itself raises several red flags across the panoply of Art Theory and Criticisms. The work thus walks a fragile line between geometrical abstraction and material poetics, with one foot on the ground and the other one in the outer space. Her meticulously handcrafted pieces not only carefully synthesize the body-mind dichotomy—in precise logical order—but also handle this with a great sense of aesthetic sensibility. The lure of Reimer’s work is that it seduces your mind by offering a multiplicity of conceptual entry points. Whereas in the works I had encountered at gallery 400 there was an ongoing negotiation between the domestic space and abstraction, in her most recent show, titled Geometry in Outer Space or Heaven, the dialog between gallery space and picture plane is organized in an entirely new economy. There are no remnants of domesticity; the fabric fragments have become what could be read as functions of abstractions as if the work had organically transformed itself onto its next existential level of complexity. Her conceptual approach obviously still follows the thread of her earlier works, yet is seems to have shed its skin in an act of renewal.


2014, Collaged paper, fabric, gold leaf, 23 5/16 x 27 7/8 inches.

I cannot help but think of attachment and belonging in all these multiplicities, literally and metaphorically. Whether this means a line creating an abstract illusion that oscillates between the interior or the exterior space of a cube, or hexahedron, or whether a piece of fabric reorganizes the geometry and spatial depth of field of geometric shapes, simultaneoulsy attaching and detaching itself. It is precisely in these tensions that her work sparks and ruptures. Interestingly, most of the textile fragments depict square and checks, or other linear patterns as if they adapted the language of geometry long before blending into hexagonal structures. Another captivating example is a U-shaped strip of wood that barely rests on the edge of a picture frame. It keeps the compositional balance of what it has attached itself to, while it threatens to fall off in the same breath, evoking this kind of disquiet that emerges from the idea that the one can not exist without the other. Here, a painted red triangle in the wood strip’s lower corner is pointing downward, while its hypotenuse extends the frame’s edge.

It is in these syntheses that the work proposes to occupy the overlapping space in a Venn diagram. In that superimposed conceptual in-between space new truths emerge (if I dare use such a big word here). Two elements fuse into one, changing one another into a portmanteau. The notion of attachment and belonging also reminisces of Goethe’s analogy to chemistry and the laws of attraction, in his novel Elective Affinities. He explains how different elements meet and affect each other, or leave one another indifferent. However, Goethe suggests that there is this special kind of species, who once they meet devour one another, leaving their original properties behind and instead transform into an entirely new singular entity, like limestone for instance.


TOP: Geometry in Outer Space or Heaven #18, 2015. Collaged paper, graphite,fabric, gold leaf, 30 3/8 x 41 7/8 inches.

In her earlier works this fusion—of possible complementaries, growing-into-and-out-of one another, while extending each other either by minuscule increments or giant leaps—happens in form of floral patterns which morph into the abstract realms of primary numbers and the golden ratio. One of the strengths of Reimer’s works is their ability to attach, not only in and on themselves, or quite literally, to the white cube space they are inhabiting, but they also cling to your mind and keep ­lingering, like an after image, long after you have left the gallery space, proposing an irresolvable mathematical problem. It is this line that constantly oscillates between luring your gaze into its inner space only to push you back onto its exterior plane once you have locked your mind on it. Once we begin to follow these lines, or proposals rather, there is no end point. A trap in a way, as we are captured in closed systems. Except in this one piece, in which parts of the inner/outer structure has been erased, suggesting an indecisive territory, open to an infinite number of new possibilities.

In a strange way, these polyhedrons also remind me of  Gregg Bordowitz’s talk Testing some beliefs  which I recently watched on YouTube. Bordowitz refers to William James’s concept of the mind being a many-sided object. He explains how this polyhedron is pushed to rest on a different facet of its body after intense emotional experiences. In doing so, it doesn’t change the substance of the mind but rather it changes or shifts the perspective, or pivot, of the viewer’s orientation to the world around her or him. It follows then that the compelling imperfect beauty of Karen Reimer’s work lies in the polyhedron’s shift of perceptual perspectives, without actually physically moving on the picture plane: A trick that your mind plays on you while looking. If you don’t pause to contemplate, however, you likely might miss that crucial detail.


Review – Modes, Methods and Mediums of Dandy

Dandy, as commonly understood, seems to have more to do with possessing a flair for extraordinary style than referencing globalization or colonial sway. But, an exhibition of costume and demeanor in particular communities can aid in thoughts about the political implications of dress.  With such swagger on display however the elusive nature of dandy complicates critical reflection. That said, depictions of the black male dandy are currently on display at two venues in Chicago, although one doesn’t purport to know it.

Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity, curated by Shantrelle P. Lewis, at Columbia’s Museum of Contemporary Photography, showcases the work of photographers and filmmakers from the US, Europe and Africa. It’s an impressive collection of mostly C-Prints presenting males as “high style rebels” in varied timeless locations like the office, jungle, community, or nameless street spectacle. The use of color in the photos is either pleasing like the work of Hanif Abdur-Rahim and Harness Hamese/Loux the Vintage Guru, or punctuated as in Rose Callahan and Kia Chenelle’s work. Shifts like this, between style and intent, in portraiture, are present in interesting ways throughout the show but yet somewhat speak more to the historical narrative of photography than the politics found in depictions of the dandy. Therein lies somewhat of the problem with the collection although not necessarily the works, even if the majority of images seem as if pulled from a fashion or commercial photo shoot.

The camera as constitutive instrument is made more critical in a visual culture by its immediacy. It readily produces more instances to reconsider what’s being depicted only it has to contend with saturation. In many ways this is nod to colonization and the power of images. But, one could say that what’s on display is a certain art school aesthetic that favors the C-print for its archival, and so economic, implications which overshadow the contents of the image. In mentioning these concerns to a dear friend, and photographer, I’m reminded that even if this is the case there remains some measure of responsibility in the viewer to look beyond the surface of art, especially digital photography.

Just north up Michigan Avenue is an exhibition of works by the late painter Archibald Motley at the Chicago Cultural Center. Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, showcases in bulk what the artist is known for, portraits of mulatto women and scenes of cultural concentration, fusion, and difference. The attention to color is just as obvious here though noticeably more so in later works such as Barbecue (1960) or Hot Rhythm (1961). Lesser noted pieces completed in the 40s like Getting’ Religion (1948) and The Argument (1940) on the other hand portray dandyism rather as an everyday phenomena.

Painting and photography have always seemed opposed, at least when it comes to re-presenting reality, but with time the two have become almost inseparable. With portraiture, the same expectations are equally distributed among the two when it comes to accurately capturing and presenting a moment. Both exhibitions demonstrate the subtle differences of portraiture by gesturing towards the visual, the sentimental or environmental qualities of the subject matter.  Yet, the only relationship that appears to be always bought into question is the intent of the artist or subject. Possibly, it’s the artist as subject, maybe even, the viewer as subject, or the subject as art, that’s in question? These questions compromise or further what’s essentially a testament made by those directly involved. But, say, if it were the latter, then what’s possibly at stake in the tension within and between the two is a matter of time or knowledge. Is it time, as in, to digest, or knowledge, pre-existing or motivated to acquire, that’s needed? Also, and possibly more importantly, does the immediacy, polish, and saturation of contemporary photographic practices place different demands on the people involved than painting does…is the relation to the subject matter and time spent in production affected?

To identify cultural and fashion myths present in ideas of the dandy, beyond a gendered overtone and matter-of-fact demeanor, is in fact made more enchanting by establishing a connection between Baudelaire’s dandy and Benjamin’s flâneur with the Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni’s pink-suited “Willy Covary, Brazzaville,” 2008, or Hanif Abdur-Rahim’s, A Revolutionary in Etiquette: Connosieurs of SWAG, 2010; and these, to zoot suits or the tailored look worn by people of color in different locations and time periods, the diaspora, as a statement of refusal but yet appropriation and validation. It’s a loaded endeavor and doesn’t even begin to consider the shift created in painting decades before by Impressionism’s nontraditional use of color, edges, and light. All of which are prominent players in photographic hierarchy, that are noticeable in Motley’s work.

Does the viewer, or artist, under the circumstance need to be able to make these connections? No, they don’t, and, some may like to. Both exhibitions prove that issues of time and saturation are very much a part of art viewing and art making.

Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity, is on view through July 12 at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 South Michigan Avenue.

Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, is on view through August 31, at the Chicago Cultural Center, 4th Floor North, 78 E. Washington St.

Liz Larner Scultpure – Review

“…you can take pictures out here right?…”

“I don’t get it.”

The one thing about site-specific installations and public art is that you don’t necessarily have to get it, and heck yeah—you can take pictures by it, it’s all but implied. Public and site-specific art is standard in most metropolitan cities and Chicago’s event and tourist spot Grant Park is, of course, no exception. Think the head-and-armless walking men, Agora, sculptures by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz that sit at the park’s south end. Visitors are more than invited to walk among them, as doing so is what activates them as public objects.

The same can be said of more familiar pieces as you near the park’s tourist hub, Millennium Park. It’s easy to note the site’s importance to the piece it houses.  Take for instance the much-visited Crown Fountain by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, or the British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate for instance. Taken altogether, one can see the combined effects of ethnic diversity and changing times converging into the specificities of the site.

It’s a proper backdrop to the Art Institute’s Modern Wing addition and it’s limb-like stretch to that of the park. The Nichols Bridgeway, as it’s called, designed by Renzo Piano who also designed the Modern Wing, provides through curving steel and observed “springiness” an affecting transition between the outdoor buzz of the park and the somewhat hushed Terzo Piano and Bluhm Family Terrace.

With views of the skyline and park distanced as so one is able to take in recent sculpture installation pieces by American artist and sculptor Liz Larner with some repose. (It’s a good moment to take a picture, really, it is.) The pieces, X (2013), and 6 (2010-11), play off each other and surrounding spaces, including the Modern Wing itself, by easy association. They’re most effective in the space by suggestion, meaning that by way of the space provided, a raised wooden platform underlying large but nonthreatening steel forms, with soft angles and sloping contours, you’re invited to move about and at times within revealing multiple views of the city. X’s cool, thin mirror-polished steel is softened more so by its long prostration and incompleteness. 6, on the other hand, is more playful to X’s cool in that it twists, spins, and bends it’s “monkey bars” assimilating sharp architectural angles and X’s cool in the background.

On leaving however, whether one takes the brideway or not, what may come to mind is not just that the sculptures and their angles are soft, diverging, or appealing; but rather that art, architecture and public spaces are always in a state of flux.


Liz Larner, X (2013)

Liz Larner, 6 (2010-11)

Liz Larner, 6 (2010-11)

The Modern Wing – Art Institute of Chicago

111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Erik Frydenborg : Nebula Winners at Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Image courtesy Andrew Rafacz Gallery.

ANDREW RAFACZ is pleased to announce Nebula Winners, a solo exhibition of new work by Erik Frydenborg in Galleries One & Two.

Chicago, IL, April 25, 2015– ANDREW RAFACZ continues 2015 with Nebula Winners, a solo exhibition of new sculptural works by Erik Frydenborg. The exhibition continues through Saturday, June 6, 2015.

Nebulous winters. Nuclear options. Dictionaries stuffed with ugly alphabets. Erik Frydenborg has just one hundred years to forget them all.

Beneath incorporated skies, soul deserts littered with reminders of reminders. Collected buildings, space and spaces, stitched together roads of gibberish. Undigitized content peppering horizons. Everything in time and place, but none of it in here or now.

In a clean salon, metal sentinels guard black boxes. Weightless tomes betray solid states. As hours turn to seconds, Frydenborg must unlock their sense records, before the nearest star flames out.

Pause galactic sunrise for a sponsor’s message: Words. Keep Living Clear. The rest has been removed for want of time, loose pages that once kept pace have now congealed.

In an installation of new hybrid objects, Frydenborg combines cast, painted aluminum sculptures with a series of silkscreened freestanding panels, loosely approximating the visual syntax of science fiction paperbacks.

Andrew Rafacz Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago IL 60607

Imaginary Landscapes at Mana Contemporary

Lisa Alvarado. “Traditional Object 6”

Lisa Alvarado. “Traditional Object 6.” Image courtesy Newcity.

Returning to a space of your past is the best way to wipe away the rose-colored nostalgia tint from your glasses. Through Imaginary Landscapes, Mana Contemporary presents an exploration of the relationship between space, time, and memory. Four Midwest-based artists delve into the uncertain space at the nexus of the three, and the result is a collection of sculptures and images gathered by Chicago-based curator Allison Glenn. The show features work by Lisa Alvarado, Assaf Evron, Robert Burnier, and Caroline Kent.

© 2015 South Side Weekly

See Imaginary Landscapes at Mana Contemporary
2233 South Throop St., 4th floor, through May 31.