Thursday, March 12, 2009


There's a bunch of openings tomorrow in River North. Brave the cold and see openings at Bae, Edelman, Cooper, Glimer, Gruen, Habatat, KH, Perimeter, Roche and Zolla / Lieberman.

Cathy will be showing Achim Lippoth, a German photographer known for his striking pictures of children. When I stumbled upon his Together #12, I was struck with what Lawrence Weschler calls convergence. It totally reminded me of Jill Greenberg's photograph of adolescent boys play fighting. There's something wild to me about the fact that these two shots exist the way the do. They could be the same boys, just years apart. There must be something larger behind the composition, something revealing something innate about us.

I was possibly more struck by the fact that I couldn't find Jill's images of adolescents fighting anywhere. I mean, like, anywhere. I went over 50 pages deep in google images. They have been removed from her official site and are nowhere to be found. Very odd. I have a screen shot of one from a proposal I did for the Elmhurst Art Museum a while back. I'll really know if someone is reading this thing if I eventually get a removal or desist request from Jill or her representatives. So, Jill's image will remain untitled and unlabeled here because I have no place to verify that info.

I'm assuming they've been removed in anticipation of Clamp Art's show Kids Behaving Badly (which I remember being the title of Greenberg's series, but I could be wrong) which opens on the 19th in NY. Check if out if you're there. Should be an outstanding show with the likes of Nan Goldin, Larry Clark and David Armstrong among others.

Achim Lippoth, Together #12, 2004

Jill Greenberg, from (possibly) Kids Behaving Badly series

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chi Votla

The Armory and Volta were last week. There are still people arguing here in Chicago about the tone of Volta seeing as it has space in NY and Basel, but when (essentially) the same show comes to Chicago, it's called NEXT. There's arguments to be made for both sides (which if you want to get into you'll need to have a beer with me), but Volta NY currently has three Chicago galleries represented.

It is by no means a bad representation, quite the contrary, but it does raise it's suspicions. Kavi's the founder, and far be it for me to claim that he shouldn't be here considering that David does show in his own gallery, but, David leaves that decision to a Curator (yours truly), yes, one that he pays, but one which I think we could all argue does his best to stay unbiased and ethical. Then you've got Andrew Rafacz, whose gallery I've loved since it was BucketRider, and who I think is an amazing curator and who represents one of my favorite artists, Cody Hudson, but who also pays rent to Kavi. And then there's Walsh, who has great programming for a niche market, but who is within steps of Kavi's (and Andrew's) space. It just makes me wonder if Kavi visits outside the realm of where he parks his car in the morning, but I suppose I'd be making the same argument if Walsh was swapped with Meloche, who'd easily be just as deserving of a spot, and for all I know, was offered and declined. Meh. Should have been a really good representation anyway.

Volta's programming requires that there only be one artist in the booth, which is a refreshing change and a great idea. It tends to focus the viewer while at the same time wearing them out less. Walsh is focusing on one of my very favorite Chicago artists, Von Kommanivanh. Von's work is spoken in terms of Basquiat all the time. Now, I love Basquiat, really, and Von's work does owe some of its postmodern strokes to his work, even dropping in the tell-tale crown in Crooked Characters. There's even tiny little crowns in America in Gray, but which owes a larger debt to Klimt. Von's work is far too complicated to distill it to any similes though. It is completely unto itself and remains some of the most powerful work I've had the pleasure to stand for a very long time in front of. When Flatfile was above Walsh, I would go down and sit on the floor in Julie's space and just stare at Von's work. Its simultaneously aggressive, scrappy, thoughtful and delicate. It's this sense of effective dichotomy that lends great strength to Von's canvas'.

Von Kommanivanh, Crooked Characters, mixed media on canvas, 8' x 10', 2005

Von Kommanivanh, America in Gray, mixed media on canvas, 2005, 102.5" x 106.5"

Von Kommanivanh, Reform Nuisance, oil on canvas, 2003, 70.5" x 59"

Von Kommanivanh, This is Rhythm, mixed media on canvas, 2005, 119.5" x 146"

Von Kommanivanh, Untitled, mixed media on canvas, 2005, 81" x 83"

Rafacz is showing Jason Lazarus. One of Jason's prints, Self portrait as an artist burning down the Museum of Contemporary Art, has a dear place in my heart. I wish I had come up with it. But that's what Jason does. He shoots in a deceptively simple manner with striking results. We all should be able to take the shots that he's got, but we're never aware that way or never have a camera handy or, frankly, aren't that good of photographers. His shot of the lights at the Obama rally is something that is extremely hard to capture even though it looks like it's virtually nothing. Check out his website for that shot - it won't really look that good reproduced here. I hope that Andrew does well with Jason, if for nothing else, so that he can do a booth again with Cody Hudson. I'm sure I'll mention it again and again, but Cody made the very first piece of art that I offered to buy without knowing what the price was. Unfortunately it was already sold, and what later killed me is that it sold for, like, $200 or $400 or something ridiculous. Next time I'll get a preview.

Jason Lazarus, Self portrait as an artist burning down the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL), 2004

Jason Lazarus, Self portrait as an artist making something contemporary, 2004

Jason Lazarus, Wall of Fire, Labor Day, 2006 (Cleveland, OH), 2006

Kavi, whose gallery is a mystery to me, will be showing Angelina Gualdoni. I'm not familiar with Gualdoni's work, but it looks really nice. Kavi's programming is, for me, very hit or miss, but I've heard it argued that my emotional response to the shows reveals the strength of the art. I'm not convinced that just because I hated Sterling Ruby's Inscribed Monolith (EPA-Alabaster) that it was any more effective because of my emotion. I'm pretty sure it just sucked. And, yes, Jeff Carter, Hans Hemmert and, yes, I'll say it, even Ciaran Murphy kind of bug me most of the time. But then he shows Melanie Schiff (last year's Volta booth) and my hatred melts away, because I pretty much love Melanie's work. If you couldn't check out Angelina's work at Volta, just show up at Kavi's sometime between March 27 and May 9 of this year to see her works installed.

Angelina Gualdoni, Given Ground, We Build it Everyday, acrylic and oil on canvas, 42 x 36, 2009

Angelina Gualdoni, Letter from the Generations, acrylic and oil on canvas, 48 x 72, 2006

Angelina Gualdoni, Blush, acrylic and oil on canvas, 60 x 48, 2008

Friday, March 6, 2009

So it's not like it is news to that many people anymore, but Flatfile is closing. It's strange to type that. Flatfile is closing.

I can't really pinpoint my emotions about it. It's like some sort of dull sadness. Like how you'd feel if you asked how someone's day was going and they said, like, their dog died last week, and you'd feel legitimately sad for that person, but you, like, don't know that person or their dog, so, within a minute or two, you just go back to what you were doing. Except in this equation I guess I know the person. And the dog. I don't know.

You know how you sometimes get your heart broken, but then you have to man up and be like, well, if I got my heart broken, then the other person probably go their heart broken, just maybe not the same way or at the same time or in the same place. Maybe. I don't know.

I guess whatever it's like, it is certainly like the largest square foot gallery closing in Chicago. Whatever my emotional ambivalence, it seems like a loss. Rhona was overheard saying, not about Flatfile, but about all the galleries that have been closing in general, that it's just the nature of the business. When we went down to talk to Ginny about the cover of Chicago Gallery News, she showed us brochures from 1990 and I didn't recognize, like, 2/3 of the galleries listed. Galleries come and go and the ones that stay, well, they are the ones that stay.

It will be interesting to see where all the artists shake out. When Fassbender closed, Flatfile and Alfedena took on a lot of the programing. Now that both those galleries are closed, along with countless others, it will be a while before a significant amount of legitimately great artists get substantial shows in Chicago. Here's to hoping some (or all) get some great shows in New York in the meantime.
Michiko Itatani, Visitors, 2005, Oil on Canvas, 72x84

Thursday, March 5, 2009

LeBourgeois at Packer

A couple of weeks back I went gallery hopping and stopped by Aron Packer's opening. In the lower space of his gallery, or "The Lab," he has some great stuff, including works by Louise LeBourgeois. Louise has shown well in Chicago at galleries like Lyonswier, Gescheidle, Alfedena, Printworks, and now Packer.

Her work is simply installed and there's something like four paintings on the wall of what most would call, small size (12x12.) They were a highlight of the evening, but if I'm honest about it, one in particular left a deep impression on me. It is a piece titled Still Water. So I went about getting an image of it a few days ago and was thoroughly confused when I tracked it down on Louise's website and it was . . . well, it was upside down. And I thought, well that's a funny mistake. Except of course, it wasn't a mistake, because I also found it on her flickr account and there were several comments on it. I said to myself that there was no way the artist posted it in two different places, upside down, with comments.

So yesterday I went back to Packer and went straight down to the Lab and there was the piece, just like it was on Louise's website. Well, now I thought maybe I was loosing it, so I went up and asked Aron if it had always been like that. Long story short, it had been placed upside down at Aron's the night of the opening.

But this puts me in a weird spot as someone who should be part of the art intelligentsia (thought I'd never claim to be.) I'm sitting here, as a curator, thinking that the piece is actually significantly better upside down. It takes on a whole new abstract level. It becomes less straight forward and more dream like. I actually laughed when I first saw it because I thought it was witty and smart and showing me something I hadn't thought of. Essentially it's a simple landscape of three evergreen type trees in a field near the waters edge and the reflection of that scene in the water. The composition is set up in a sort of 1/3 or maybe even 1/4 manner with the physical reality in the upper 1/4 and the reflection in the bottom 3/4. The reflection is slightly blurred as if a hush of wind has disturbed the surface without making any waves or ripples.

But, if you flip the piece 180, the nature of the whole thing changes drastically, especially when you consider the title. You start with the visual of the upper 3/4 of the piece that, rather than looking hushed, looks disturbed. It's not quite like haze through heat. It's more like what you feel like you'd see seconds before a blackout. Like if you fainted in a field, this is what you'd see. Except that the reflection in the water is crystal clear. What was the land and sky is now the reflection in water, but the reality is blurred and the reflection is actually clearer. It was a little rabbit hole moment for me and I thought it was charming and funny and smart in terms of an artistic decision.

But of course, it was neither a decision nor an intention of the artist. And evidently she said, like, hey Aron, that's upside down. I hate to admit that I had such an emotional resonance to the work when that was not the intention. I know how hard artists work toward an idea and Louise's work exhibits an exceptional hand. But I also know that once you make it and show it and it's out there, then it's out there and people see what they think they see, not always what's there. If I bought it, it would definitely hang the way I first saw it - sorry, Louise.

Louise LeBourgeois, Still Water, oil on panel, 2009, 12x12

Louise LeBourgeois, Still Water, oil on panel, 2009, 12x12 (upside down)