Author Archives: dajoseph00

Alison Ruttan: if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail


Line in the Sand (2015), Alison Ruttan

The exhibit “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is currently on display at the Chicago Cultural Center through May 10, 2015. The installation consists of four works; two sculptural, one photographic and one video by Alison Ruttan, an Illinois-based artist whose research-based approach has led her to depict the destructive, violent and savage aspects of a humanity operating within a war-torn world. In A Bad Idea Is Good Again (2010 -ongoing)Ruttan has constructed nearly twenty high-rise buildings, miniature in scale and size, in various states of ruin to demonstrate the process of decay that ensues when a city is caught in the crossfire of war. The collection of buildings sits like a ghost town, effectively producing feelings of uncanny to the onlooker aware of the fate of its missing inhabitants. Similarly, Ruttan’s Line in the Sand (2015) displays nearly five hundred abandoned and destroyed miniature cars in a procession line, the scene recalling the 1991 event in which the Iraqi military attempting to retreat from Kuwait were attacked by American and Canadian forces. Even in times of surrender, wartime strategies prove to be unrelenting in their sacrifice of human life. In The Four Year War at Gombe (2009-2011), human actors, wrought with blood and bruises, stage several murderous acts within the photos, further illustrating the capacity humans possess for inflicting violence during times of war. Ruttan presents a cohesive body of work, infusing fresh perspective onto a rather exhausted theme. Viewers are prompted to consider the damaging aftermath of war by considering the physical structures that remain wasting in its path.

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)

Graffiti Art Re-defined: Dean “ZEUS” Colman – Opening Reception May 2nd


Vertical Gallery is proud to present the debut US solo show of London artist Dean Zeus Colman. Zeus draws inspiration from urban culture to create dynamic, experimental compositions that have re-defined graffiti art.

Captivated by the hip-hop scene of the 80s, he began expressing his creative talents on the street using walls, trains, and open spaces as his galleries. His latest work represents an innovative fusion of graffiti techniques and typography, fine art and sculpture, and reflect both his background on the streets and his formal training at Chelsea College of Art.

Vertical Gallery, May 2, 6-10pm Opening Reception with the artist

1016 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60622

Doris Salcedo: Review


Left: Plegaria Muda (2008-10)

Right: Atrabiliarios (1992-2004)

Stepping off the elevator onto the fourth floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the visitor is immediately confronted by the Doris Salcedo exhibit (Feb 21 – May 24). Considering that Salcedo’s body of work aims to raise awareness about those affected by political violence in Latin America and around the world, this rather abrupt entry into to the exhibit is quite effective. In order to arrive at the wall text that indicates the official start of the exhibit, one must first weave through several pairs of stacked wooden tables intended to individually represent coffins, and collectively, represent a mass grave.  Human hair. Worn shoes. Rusted Doorways. Domestic furniture. These are some of the other materials used by Salcedo throughout her body of work to call attention to the violence, torture, disappearance and death inflicted upon thousands of victims.

Salcedo’s method for repurposing highly recognizable, domestic objects in the majority of her work is an effective choice. With a relatable frame of reference as an entry point, she then catapults the visitor toward a state of contemplation. Our newsfeeds are refreshed daily by acts of violence committed against humanity, and although these crimes may not impact the average Chicagoan in 2015, Salcedo is asking us to stop, pause and reflect. The curatorial aspects of the exhibit seem to further complement and enhance Salcedo’s endeavors. The lighting casts a low-white glow across the walls and floors; this creates a subdued effect throughout the exhibit which aligns to the melancholy subject matter. The structure of the ceilings has been lowered in some rooms, and the spaces are sectioned off to give each art work its own exhibition space. This structural format enables the viewer to become engulfed by each individual work without the interruption of what came before, or what lies ahead. There is an exhibition guide providing thorough explanations of each work, a helpful aid considering the minimal use of wall label text. Overall, the exhibit space adjustments and explanatory tools intended to educate the visitor gesture toward a marked coherence between the artist’s aims and the curatorial production of the exhibit.

Salcedo’s artwork is a response to unthinkable crimes against humanity; her method of mourning those left behind. Although some of the crimes referenced in her works happened many years ago, Salcedo is beckoning us to join her in taking a moment to reflect and honor the many lives lost.

Exhibit Opening – Calibán; an exhibition of Puerto Rican contemporary artists


Exhibit Opening: Calibán, an exhibition of Puerto Rican contemporary artists hosted by The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC) 

NMPRAC is pleased to inaugurate the exhibition, Calibán; artists Chemi Rosado Seijo, Karlo-Andrei Ibarra, Melvin Martínez, Radamés ‘Juni’ Figueroa, Jesús ‘Bubu’ Negrón and Alia Farid this Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 6 pm.

The exhibition brings together a group of renowned contemporary Puerto Rican artists featured in the publication, Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes of Phaidon Press, which positions to San Juan of Puerto Rico among the twelve cities avant-garde in contemporary art worldwide.

April 2, 2015 at 6 pm

3015 West Division Street
Chicago, Illinois 60622

Silence, a response to Doris Salcedo


Taking place over three Tuesday evenings (starting 3/24), Notes on Empty Chairs is a series of three interactive performances by Chicago-based artist Kirsten Leenaars that explore themes of empathy, loss, and remembrance in response to the exhibition Doris Salcedo. The performances are cumulative and collaboratively developed with local community groups. Audience members are challenged to become active spectators and partake in the theatrical events.

This first performance, Notes on Empty Chairs (part 1), explores the notion of (an empathetic) silence, both as a complicit space as well as a space for remembrance and listening. Rather than posing speech, or one’s voice against silence, silence is proposed as a way not to grasp but to reach emotively for other forms of connecting to what often remains invisible or unspeakable. The performance incorporates spoken text, sound, and a simple choreography or movement as performers and audience travel through the museum.

MCA, Tuesday March 24, 2015, 6-7 pm

Admission free on Tuesdays.

Tue, Mar 24, 2015, 6–7 pm

Woman Made Gallery – Opening Reception, March 13th


Woman Made Gallery’s 18th International Open features works by 37 female artists whose works encompass a wide range of contemporary media, subject matter and approaches. This year’s International was selected by New Zealand artist Gill Gatfield. Women artists worldwide were invited to submit artwork to this annual juried exhibition, which generated submissions from across the spectrum of art practice and includes video, photography, drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, fibre, sculpture and installation

Woman Made Gallery

685 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60642

Opening Reception 6 – 8 pm, March 13. Show open till April 23



House of Cards, and I’m not talking about Netflix


Opening reception of Erika Rothenberg’s House of Cards at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery next Friday, March 13th . The show will showcase one of Rothenberg’s ongoing projects involving the collection of greeting cards from around the world, begun in 1991.

Zolla/Lieberman Gallery

Opening, 4:30 to 8:30 pm

325 W Huron St

Chicago, IL 60654

Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, Chicago’s longest-running independent printshop

The exhibit “ROLLED, STONED & INKED: 25 years of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative” is coming to an end on February 28  at Expo 72.


From City of Chicago website:

Deborah Maris Lader, Founder and Director of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, will present a tour of ROLLED, STONED & INKED on Thursday, February 26, 3pm, in the Expo 72 Gallery at 72 East Randolph Street. This entertaining romp through all things printmaking will enlighten and educate, and celebrate why the 25th birthday of a fine art printshop is something to talk about. The show closes two days later, so this is an excellent chance for folks to get their ink on. Free and open to the public.

MCA Artist Talk: Richard Hunt

Celebrating his 80th birthday this year, one might expect that sculpture artist Richard Hunt is beginning to slow down, but this is hardly the case.  With a growing list of current commissions, Hunt can be found at work in the same studio space he’s occupied since 1971; albeit, the piles of left-over chrome steel have multiplied since that time.


The sixty minute Artist Talk hosted by the MCA on January 29 was one of those rare occasions to listen to a living, legendary artist address questions regarding his process and sources of inspiration. The discussion co-led by Naomi Beckwith, the Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the MCA, and Daniel Schulman, the Director of Visual Arts at the Chicago Cultural Center, enabled Hunt to provide personal accounts regarding his sources of inspiration and creative process. Through his exposure to sculptural works by artists Julio González and Pablo Picasso, Hunt was inspired to take a jewelry/metalsmithing class at the School of the Art Institute, where he was enrolled as a student. At the time, SAIC did not have a welding/direct metal program, so Hunt set up a small studio in the basement of his parent’s home. The early signs of his success were imminent when Hunt sold one of his pieces to the Museum of Modern Art, while still a student at SAIC. Following graduation, Hunt began to exhibit at the Allen Gallery in New York City, a long distance from Texas where he was stationed in the army. Hunt recalled memories of driving his station wagon from Texas to NYC to transport his finished works. As the discussion continued, Hunt shared that his preferred metal of choice was chrome metal. When questioned on his choice for found metals, Hunt candidly responded, “Not only that it already had a life, but that it was less expensive.”


Hunt looks to the scrap metal pieces strewn about his studio for inspiration, claiming that these pieces help suggest the next thing he should make. Hunt’s direct metal approach allows him to fuse these items together, and experiment with also taking them apart. He particularly enjoys the improvisation aspect that this approach permits. Although lesser known for his works on paper, Hunt described these paper-based works as expressive gestures which allow the drawing to travel off the paper, indulging his interest in objects that take flight in the space around us. As the talk came to an end, the facilitator asked whether Hunt considers himself an abstract artist. With his response, Hunt induced a collective laugh from the members of the packed auditorium, as he stated “I would call myself an abstract artist, but some would say, in a way, that’s calling yourself nothing.”

There are currently two Hunt exhibitions running in Chicago through March 29; MCA DNA: Richard Hunt and Richard Hunt: Sixty Years of Sculpture at the Chicago Cultural Center.