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

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