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Art Letter (02/08/08)

Perhaps you recall my disdain for the Museum of Contemporary Artís ridiculous rock Ďn roll show, but you know, in my visit there yesterday, I was thoroughly impressed with how much Chicago art is integrated into the MCA experience. Likely it is just that showís curator who is snubbing Chicago at the MCA.

I entered on the ground floor, where Chicagoan
Michael Genovese has created a studio space for himself so that he can interact with the public and demystify the creative process. Heís a damned good artist, a damned good guy and needs us to go over there and play with him.  Fun.

Iíve always loved
Gordon Matta-Clarkís art. A great free spirit and visionary. And for a guy whose art was all about cutting up derelict buildings I was surprised to discover how fastidious he was. Heíd cut a hole in a building or the corners off an old house while he was working on splitting it in half. But the thing is I always thought that his art was about the experience of viewing his altered structures. At the MCA show I discovered this other curious element of his work. When heíd cut holes, heíd save the cut-outs and when he removed the corners heíd save the corners. If I were doing his work Iíd trash the stuff he saved. I canít imagine anyone saving this crap, which in retrospect is beautiful and worth having. 

On the way upstairs at the MCA is a room and a half of
recent Chicago acquisitions, one of which Iíd appraised for a client a month ago.  On view are works by Chicagoans, Jason Salavon, Dan Peterman, Melanie Schiff. Kerry James Marshall, Rashid Johnson, Laura Letinsky, Scott Wolniak, Joe Scanlan and Tony Tasset.  Thatís impressive.

All these MCA shows have already opened, but they are worth taking in. Curator
Tricia Van Eck has generated a tidy, thoughtful exhibited titled Mapping the Self that is part of the citywide Festival of Maps which runs throughout Chicago concurrently. In Van Eckís show, maps and mapping are employed by artists as a tool for their their content, or is in fact their content.  Whatís particularly enjoyable for me is the integration of Chicago and non-Chicago artists, making the show globally significant and locally relevant. Thatís how I think it should be. Iím almost prepared to say that it is unequivocally the female curators at the MCA who should prevail . . .

Opening tonigiht at
ISpace, MCA curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm has curated a discombobulated, cohesionless exhibit; precisely the kind of show I have a problem with.  Yes, for the most part, the art and artists are good.  Thatís not the problem. The problem is the bleating attempt on the part of the curator to be an artist, to express a point of view that is irrelevant to the art on exhibit, and by definition does a disservice to the artists in an effort to augment the curatorís opinion. Groan. The premise here is that this exhibition addresses the continued absence of women in exhibitions (and often the upper levels of arts management.) To further make the exhibition themeless Widholm asked 4 other female curators to select a female artist for inclusion. Um, excuse me, but how does this create a worthy art exhibit?  How does this augment the appreciation of the art on view?  And finally. if the director of the MCA and 80% of the curators there are female who the hell is this show addressing?  Curators are servants.  They exist for the artists; not the other way around. Art does not exist so that curators can use it to make a point. The multiple curators of this exhibit have their heads screwed on backwards, pretending to prop up their subjects, when in fact they are doing nothing but using them.  Well-intended but incredibly misguided is the nicest thing I can say.

Okay, hereís a show I really appreciated - a little course, but very considered. At
Deadtech, Chris Reilly has installed a full-scale, fully operational, wind-powered quillotine. Sure, itís safe to stick your head in it, unless of course the wind is blowing too hard. Reilly is young, as in a 2006 graduate of the School of the Art Institute, but heís smart and his work is beautifully executed, which adds to its subversiveness.  Like a child with a transitional object of a blanket or a teddy bear which helps him relate, Reilly makes these objects to mediate between his take on the absurdity of the reality we live in and his sometimes fantastic and sometimes comic knee-jerk reactions to life in general. This is not happy work, but an element of it resonates with a cross of disturbing seriousness and downright fun.

There are two quality shows at
Alfedena Gallery, And though the exhibitions are up the openings are Friday the 15th. Downstairs is a series of small works by Dan Ramirez who created 8 pieces 13 x 8 feet for me at the new McCormick Place Expansion. Here he has a group of works on paper inspired by his studies of the structure and ambiance of the Saint Mary Cathedral in Toledo, Spain.  Vaulted arches exist in the cathedral and Ramirezís work, but it is the treatment of the surface in this, more than just the seductive, intricate forms, that ties the art together for me. Sometimes the texture is matte; sometimes itís glossy.  Sometimes it looks peppered, sometimes there are brushstrokes and sometimes itís smooth. These are thoughtful, thought provoking, sweet humdingers.

Upstairs, former art critic and present gallery director John Brunetti presents Timescape, a multimedia beautiful exhibit of works by
Ben Whitehouse, Louise LeBourgeois, Vera Klement, and Lisa Boumstein-Smalley.  All the works take Ďtimeí as a key ingredient of their content. I particularly respond to Whitehouseís 24 hour video of Lake Michigan, though as much as our lake changes I almost want it to be a month long.

All right.
Go out and make up your own mind. 
Then send me an email telling me Iím nuts and why.

Thanks for reading,
Paul Klein