Thursday, September 28, 2017

Jennifer Packer at the Renaissance Society

These are some of the most luscious, passionate florals I've seen by contemporary artists.

Their beauty is diverse and wanton  - as if the plants want to keep growing - with new and different blossoms - extending beyond the boundaries of the frame

But what's even more surprising is where they are now being shown: The Renaissance Society gallery on the campus of the University of Chicago.  It has been a showplace for avant garde art ever since 1915.

When was the last time a traditionally beautiful and observational floral painting was hung there ?


Perhaps we might call this the Kerry James Marshall effect.

KJM is the painter who made history and American Scene painting acceptable in the world of academic contemporary art.

Why did he succeed ?

Because he's very good at it --- and just as importantly---- he's telling the story about "Black Lives Matter"


Of course... one might ask  how these flowers have anything more to do with African Americans than with Americans of Polish, Italian, or  Scandinavian backgrounds.

So I'm not sure that Packer would have gotten this show -- unless she also painted portraits of Black people.

Her figure painting is less satisfying for me.  They seem more like story illustrations than like paintings.

They seem to belong on the cover of a novel - the kind that  tells a sad story of people who feel trapped in their lives.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Strolling through Art Expo 2017

 Nicholas Africano

Looking back at my view of  the 2006 edition; I realize that I'm finding less figurative art  at the annual Chicago art fair.

Though there are some artists, like the above, who have appeared every single year.

That's OK with me -- I like to see what Africano has been up to --  and there's still enough stuff to keep me entertained -  but this is feeling less and less like a major  international  - or even national - event.

Marlboro  (who used to show Odd Nerdrum) returned last year to test the water - and then apparently decided that it was too cold to swim.  And the London gallery that always brought Euan Uglow has disappeared as well.

In this perusal of the 2017 Expo Chicago, I'm presenting the pieces in the order in which I saw them while walking through the exhibit hall beginning at the northeast corner.

I'd never seen a life size Africano bust before. Very cool. Who would have thought that there would be such a market for Neo-Classical sculpture.

Norman Bluhm ( 1921-1999), 1962

Bluhm was almost an exact contemporary of my father.  Both of them grew up in the Midwest, survived the Army Air Corps in WWII,  and then came home to be artists.  Their art was as different as the 1930's was from the 1950's --- but both of them began to change dramatically in the 1970's and 1980's -- and not especially for the better. They both got sillier.

Norman Bluhm, "Shantagalisk" 1967

This enormous enso really caught my eye. (that's a gallery woman's head blocking the lower left corner)

The struggle and joy of the heroic generation.

BTW - Shantagalisk  (Spotted Tail) appears on the internet as the name of a legendary Native American chieftain from Wyoming. Wonder where Bluhm picked it up.

Girjesh Kumar Singh

Though brought to Art Expo by a London  gallery, this artist is native to India where he still works.

These heads are in sculptural relief --  make from recycled bricks and mortar found in demolition sites.

As the artist explains - he wants the imperfections of the material to be considered.

They show sensitive modeling and are in the great Ghandaran tradition - though they are clumsy and awkward  by comparison.

I wish that Singh would forget about recycling debris nd simply use fresh clay to perfect his modeling.

But without some kind of gimmick -- his work might not have made it to Chicago via London.

Joshua Backus

Art Expo has been carefully vetted to include only the leading galleries of Chicago or elsewhere. Emerging galleries have been included in a special area - like a children's table at family dinners.

The above piece, however, was not brought by any gallery at all -- it was carried to the show by the  Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago - to exemplify, perhaps, its recent graduates.

I'm not sure it does.

DOVA is rather heavy on cutting-edge art theory --and this is nothing more than a very good abstract painting.

But that's enough, for me, to make it stand out among the thousands of much more expensive pieces on the floor.

Herman Aguirre

Here's  the work of another young artist.  He's still in the MFA program at SAIC, but he's already been picked  up by Zolla Lieberman Gallery.

 Stephen Balkenhol (German, b. 1956)

 "I must reinvent the figure to resume an interrupted tradition".

I love this guy! First saw his work at the 2013 edition of Art Expo.

Michael  Reafsnyder (b. 1969 -  California), "Paint Train", 2017

Like looking under the hood of a sports car.

Diana Moore (b. 1946), 1989

I've seen her before at the Navy Pier art shows.

Why did her gallery bring a piece that's nearly thirty years old?

I hope she's still working.

Franz Kline, 1960  (12" X 16")

For whatever reason -- the amazing figure painter, my friend Mary Qian,
chose this painting for recognition as well.

You might need to see the actual paint on the actual piece to get much out of it.

It's thick or thin just where it needs to be.

It has no title -- but I would call it:
"Anxiety in Green"

Lui Shtini (b. 1978, Albania)  "Strapped Down"

Sorry for the distorted photo,
it deserved better.

I failed to record who made these wacky terrarium that contain streams of flowing water.

Also entertaining - someone brought a life size guillotine to the show (it did not appear to be functional, however)

Magalie Guerin

As always - she shares an intense,  uncomfortable energy. Presumably, she lives alone.

Thaddeus Wolfe

Looks like a gelato sundae
(with bronze inclusions)

Thaddeus Wolfe

This is art glass - but if made of Styrofoam and spray paint,
it would qualify as  Arte Povera.

Albert York (1928-2009), 1970

The only pretty landscape in the entire show.  Many talented people work with this subject matter at this high level -- but not many are featured in the New Yorker.  Jackie O owned six of his pieces.

Ben Tinsley (b. 1981)

I saw a cityscape by this artist several years ago.

The above might be called an urban vision as well

Joachim Ojanen (b. 1985 Sweden)

Tomory Dodge (b. 1964 - Colorado)

Tomory Dodge

What's with that funny yellow rectangle smack in the middle?
The artist now works in Los Angeles -
and this does feel like Hollywood

Robert Schwartz (1947-2000)

Another strange painting from this Chicago-San Francisco artist ---
just as puzzling and beautiful as the last one I saw here (2013)

It looks like the good life.

Robert Schwartz, "Athena and her Chariot", 1990

A very nice little sculpture - brimming with potential energy.
It would stand out in a collection of Hellenic originals.

Gertrude  Abercrombie, 1966

Another masterpiece from the wild lady of Chicago.

Ulf Puder ( b. 1958 - Germany)

This piece was cleverly displayed in a claustrophobic little niche.

Ulf Puder

Depressing -  yet beautiful.

Richard Diebenkorn, "Bay Area Girl", 1959

Elmer Bischoff, "Maroon Blouse", 1963

ABX goes figurative
with these two Cal Arts painters.
nice but a bit academic

Robert De Niro (Sr.), 1985

I'm a lumbjack and I'm OK
I sleep all night and I work all day

Paul Wonner (1920-2008), 1963

A student and colleague of the previous two painters,
Wonner was more of a story teller

Paul Wonner, 2002

This piece did not make it to Navy Pier,
but I had to show it anyway.
The artist and his muse.

Frank Lobdell (1921-2013), 27 October, 1949

From what I can tell on the internet, his paintings would get wackier as the years rolled by.

Robert Bauer (b. 1942)

This artist specializes in portraits of people who seem to have dark, inner secrets.

They could be characters in a Swedish murder mystery.

 Guillermo Munoz Vera (b. 1956 Chile)

A worthy successor to Claudio Bravo

 (this is a detail area of the painting shown below)

 William Beckman, (b. 1942)

Obviously, this man  grew up in the Midwest.  I wish Chicago had a gallery that could accommodate him.

Robert Nava (b.1985)

Like graffiti - but  better.

This piece came to Navy Pier via a gallery in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The artist was born in East Chicago, Indiana.

Milton Avery, 1947

A beautiful painting

Freidel  Dzubas (1915-1994) , 1973

A  denizen of the New York art world, 
he shared a studio with Helen Frankenthaler
and had shows curated by Clement Greenberg.

Grace Hartigan  (1922-2008), "Still Life with Cucumber", 1953

Esteban Vicente (1903-2001), 1997

Hard to believe that the artist who painted this was age 94.