Friday, October 03, 2014

Art Expo Chicago - 2014

Lorraine Shemesh


Approaching  these shows like a treasure hunt
rather than doing a thorough survey of each and every gallery,
I really can't comment on how they have changed over the years.

Recent expos do seem to place greater emphasis
on abstract painting,
but perhaps that's just  because I'm paying more attention
to that genre now.

But there still is a lot of figurative
and even observational painting,
my favorite being the large, thrilling
swimmer shown above.

This is the first time I've seen this artist
who specializes in underwater views of women swimming.
It answers the question:
"Why is life on earth so wonderful?"

She also specializes in water, light, and paint.

Nicolas Africano

It's a bit more angular than its Tanagra predecessors,
but basically this cool, relaxed figure
dates back 2500 years.
The good news is that Africano pieces
have been in the Chicago art fairs for a decade or more,
often in more than one gallery each year.
The bad news is that  he's been the only contemporary
classical figure sculptor in all that time.

Benny Andrews (1930 - 2006)

This was my introduction to this artist who,
 like many, but not all , African-American artists,
is narrative and dramatic.
(with its three-dimensional materials,
this piece is much more effective in person)

Carly Silverman (b. 1983)

In a previous show , this artist presented
a  child and home centered world.
Here, we have  adults on the street,
and it's not as satisfying.
But everyone has to grow up,
so let's wait and see
what her next show will be  like.

Richard Diebenkorn 
David Park (1911-1960), 1955
 These two west coast  abstract/figurative painters
were shown last year
and I wouldn't mind if showing them both became an annual event.

Michiko Itatani

No other Chicago painter specializes in buoyant optimism
and the sense of wonder.

Manuel Neri, 1970's

Neri came to specialize in the partially realized female torso.

These works are pleasant enough,
but so are floral arrangements.

Manuel Neri, 1958

On the other hand,
this early abstract painting
seems to be the resolution of  great
and irresistible  forces

Robert De Niro Sr. (1922-1993), 1969

These large, calligraphic nudes
look much better in their original size.

Robert De Niro Sr., 1970

I see Matisse in these nudes,
but I also see a defiant  New York spirit
that chose to join the early 20th C. celebration
of brash heterosexuality.



TM Davy (b. 1980)

A very charming, expressive portrait.

But I wish the gallery had also shown some of his nudes,

Vera Klement ( b. 1929), 1965


I like the melancholy mood of this early painting
more than the ontological concerns
of her recent work


William Beckman (b. 1942)

Still-life painters of bottles
are often fanatical about perfectly rendering
the labels printed on them.
But here, it doesn't seem to matter,
the zig-zag of colorful paint tubes is so dynamic.


Andrew Wyeth, 1988

The gallery also had a Wyeth landscape,
but nowhere near as engaging as this portrait

Jina Park (b. 1974)


For whatever reason,
I love to see paintings of places
I don't enjoy being in.

I don't think this guy enjoys being here either.

So mind-numbing in reality,
and so enjoyable in a painting.


John Santoro

I think I've enjoyed a painting by him
in every Chicago fair that I can remember

Kyle Surges

Here is a young still-life painter who takes his product label lettering quite seriously,
and who  is the latest addition to the roster of
(which happens to specialize in mid-century American abstraction -
more of which is shown at the end of this post)

This is really goofy, and ugly, stuff
that hasn't interested me since age four.

But the painting of it feels so beautiful.

Go figure.


Roger Brown


More goofy subject matter,
but I did laugh out loud,
recalling adolescent speculations
concerning the romantic life of Catherine the Great.


Wolf Kahn (b. 1927)  2011

A very strong painting from a man in his mid-eighties.
I wish  more students of Hans Hoffman would paint landscapes.


Zoltan Sepeshy, 1945

This feels so saturated with that uncomfortable 1940's vibe.


Chantal Joffe (b. 1969)

This  feels more like a real woman
than the other images found on the internet.

Lino Lago


I'm not a big fan of joke paintings,
but they can be welcome diversions
in a hall filled with thousands of paintings

Catherine Maize

Another painter who's brought to the Chicago art fair every year.


This piece is modest in size and price,
but not in its Platonic confidence.

Raul Diaz (b. 1952)

An Argentine architect turned painter - and now sculptor.

This piece has more sculptural quality
than most figurative sculpture made today.

If existential philosophy had a church,
this would be its altar.

Reuben Nakian, (1887-1996)
"Nymph and Dolphins", 1980-81

Pretty lively for an octogenarian,
but it looks more like a fried batter tempura
than the figures named in the title.
Its forms cannot withstand
its centrifugal energy.



Susan Grossman

 With almost all  color removed,
this feels like a memory.
And I like my memories of New York.


Alfred Leslie,
"Afternoon Soaps"

This is from the series,


Gallery signage dated this piece to 1983,
Leslie's book lists it as 1976,
so perhaps there is more than one version.
There is something so American
about this woman.
But she seems to be trapped by that identity.
She's not exultant and free floating
like Shemesh's swimmer
shown at the top of this post.


Wesley Kimler
"Islands of the Damned"

Chicago's celebrated bête noire is adamant about not having a gallery,
but Zolla-Lieberman  installed this piece in the show's café anyway.

No date is given on the signage,
but since there's a video
showing it being taken off the wall of his cavernous studio,
it must be recent.
It's not exactly what I would like to see while wolfing down
a ham sandwich,
but it certainly does share the artist's nightmarish world
while still asserting "and yet I survive"
800 years ago, bishops would have sought him out to paint Hell
on a wall of the cathedral


********and now we move *********
*********to the abstract paintings in the show*********

Yuh-Shioh Wong,  (b. 1977)

You can take the girl out of China,
but you can't take China  out of the girl.

And since this painter comes from Taipei,
she's closer to late Qing painters like Xugu
than to PRC Russian/Chinese painters like my friend, Mary Qian

These pieces are watery-dreamy- beautiful.


Yuh-Shioh Wong,  (b. 1977)

And I would like to call back to her.

One of these pieces is titled:
"Calling across the watermelon field for you"


Esteban Vicente (1903-2001), 1990


Yet another octogenarian painter in the show,
this time, cat like, he has condensed down
to balancing a few simple moves.
Coming from a military family,
I suspect he studied fencing

Hananiah Harari (1912-2000),  1949

Surprising enough,
in the same year.

A man of many talents.

Lee Hall, (b 1935) ,  2012

Angst is so absent from this painting,
it might be considered merely decorative.
But I like the decorative.
A peaceful life is always an important achievement.
If Hall had begun her career 30 years later,
she might well be working in encaustic

William Conger

Conger's work has been getting smaller and more intense
as he nears the end of his long career.

It's exciting to see him rage against mortality.

John Ferren (1905-1970), 1937

John Ferren's claim to fame
may have been the time
he helped Picasso stretch the canvas for Guernica.
But he was quite a painter himself,
somewhere in between the angst of abstract expression
and the hedonism of color field.

If he were born 50 years later,
he might have  worked with glass  instead of paint.


Judith Rothschild (1921-1993),  1945

I like spending these few moments sharing the life
of a wealthy, talented, intelligent young Manhattan woman.
Even if I never get invited for dinner
at her town house on the Upper East Side.

My grandmother painted something like this
but with a more melancholy feeling.

Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008)

The energy in Japanese abstract expression
seems to come from outer, natural
rather than inner, psychological conflicts.

Leo Amino, 1955

Unfortunately for the figure sculptors of that time,
this is what contemporary sculpture was supposed to look like in 1955.
But it still feels something like a standing figure,
and it still feels balanced and proportioned.


Jim Lutes

Lutes continues to remind us of "Snowden's secret" from "Catch 22":

"The spirit gone, man is garbage"

(a few years back, his show actually included
a clear plastic bag full of refuse)

But close up -- this fleshy garbage is almost beautiful.

Magalie Guerin, b. 1973

This recent MFA from the SAIC
offers that kind of puzzling look
in which Corbett Vs. Dempsey specializes.

This piece seems full of energy and purpose,
but where is it going and where did it come from ?

Jules Olitski,  1964

With it's strong sense of direction,
this piece makes quite a contrast
with the piece shown above it.

I was more familiar with Olitski's all-over
spray painted surfaces -
so these large,  dramatically balanced shapes
were a pleasant surprise.

Hans Hoffman, 1953


Here's the master of American abstract expression,
and this is the first piece of his that I've really liked.

It feels like you've been dropped into
someone's turbulent brain,
with a billion synapses firing at once.

Love this area of detail


Iva Gueorguieva (b. 1974)

Angst lives!

She lives in L.A.,
but this feels more like Brooklyn.


Michael Reafsnyder  (b. 1969)


Another southern California abstract expressionist
who feels more like the streets of New York
(during a garbage workers strike)

A world of continuous, cacophonous interruption.

But for some reason, I enjoy it.


James Rosenquist, 1989

Since he's been notorious as a pop artist,
and I've only seen his work in magazines,
I was a bit surprised
that this painting was so beautiful.
If it has irony - I don't feel it.
It looks like a painting of orchids,
even if they're ones that have been genetically modified
and over stimulated with growth hormones

Andrew Holmquist

Here's a young local painter
(he just got his MFA in Chicago this year)
whose work has often resembled the Rosenquist shown above.

But obviously he's taking his own direction
with a very inventive mind

Sara Sohn

Another young Chicago painter -
this one specializing in beautiful guts.

Straight lines cannot be found

Suzan Frecon  (b. 1941), 2014

I am properly annoyed by minimalism
(isn't that it's purpose?)
but this is more like traditional ceramics
in its simple satisfaction.
It even has the earth tones and shapes
of a good pot..

If you look closely,
you'll see how the edges are painted differently
on the top and bottom shapes.

Emerson Woelffer (1914 - 2003), 1950

I usually prefer the abstract expression
of the lesser known artists,
the ones who seem to be trying harder to please.

This would make a nice battle flag
in the war against all kinds of  fundamentalism

John Walker, ( b. 1939) "Seal Point Series", 2014

Another old painter making a lively showing,
this time on small, painted bingo cards (?!)

Abstract painters do seem to make the best landscapes.

Fritz Bultman, (1919-1985) 1963

Reminds me of the recent Christopher Wool show in Chicago.

It also reminds me of my hair at 6 am,
though this painting does make a lot more sense.


John Little (1907-1984), 1971


This is exactly what the McCormick Gallery specializes in,
and I'm so glad they do.

The world of mid-century American abstract painting
is so much larger than what is found in museums.

(just as the world of mid-century American figurative painting
is much larger than can be found in either art museums
or art fairs)

Sam Feinstein (1915-2003), 1950's

Here's another mid-century painter
that MCormick Gallery introduced me to.
(I wrote more about him here )


Theodoros Stamos (1922 - 1997)

Resembling the most eccentric of Chinese calligraphy
(the kind that even Chinese scholars cannot read)
And like that kind of work,
this piece is thrilling to see,
but doesn't really belong in permanent display on a wall.

It needs to be rolled up like a scroll
and only taken out for special occasions.

Vidvuds  Zviedris (b. 1976)

This is  the kind of thing I really like ,
though it's what one of my favorite local art critics , Alan Pocaro.

 he liked it instantly,
but it has "nothing to say"

For me, making life enjoyable is saying plenty and saying enough.

But on the other hand, one might note
that I had a similar response to the figure sculpture of Manuel Neri,
perhaps  because I make  greater demands on that genre.



Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Chris, I've been away from your meandering and beautiful blog too long. It's late and my attention is fading, but the chair painting by Catherine Maize just knocked me out. Thank you for sharing that.

October 08, 2014  
Blogger chris miller said...

Catherine is one of the few artists in this post whom I actually met (about 25 years ago). These days, I believe, she's living up in the Michigan woods - and still making deceptively simple paintings.

October 09, 2014  

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