Alicia Eler

  • picks December 12, 2013

    “We'll All Make Out Better Than Okay”

    A giant white gym sock covering a robotic arm that once functioned in a Detroit auto-manufacturing plant speaks in a deadening monotone to passersby. He talks about what it’s like to become useless and rambles about other topics as well: “My name is Mr. Weekend, and I am an artaholic. I am an infinite loop. I never rest, I only consume.” The installation, Mike Simi’s Mr. Weekend, 2010, hovers over curator Danny Orendorff’s group exhibition, which considers questions about the economic recession, underemployment, the working poor, gentrification, single motherhood, women’s rights, and the grim

  • picks October 22, 2013

    “Mount”

    In this group exhibition, curator Peregrine Honig channels the historically romanticized American cowboy, positioning him as one who mounts but never rides. John Woods’s three-hundred-pound Marbles and Coins from MacArthur Park, 2008, is the show’s literal and symbolic anchor. The artist frames this thrift store landscape painting of the MacArthur Park Lake in Los Angeles with marbles and covers it in pennies that were fished from the actual lake by hired laborers. Jack Daws’s Life on the Farm (Butterfield), 2010, utilizes a David Rees–esque repetitive comic style to poke fun at the idea of a

  • picks May 14, 2013

    Abigail DeVille

    If “X” marks the spot, and three Xs mean “poison, do not drink,” the seven Xs that make up the title of Abigail DeVille’s exhibition suggest a marking of double the poison, plus one drop for location. The socioeconomics of place are at the heart of DeVille's site-specific detritus installations, which act as land art for the twenty-first century. In this installation at the intimate gallery on the far north side of Rogers Park, DeVille collects the remains from a disemboweled foreclosed home, and reinstalls them inside four white walls. Salvaged items include discarded wooden beams, a velvet-covered

  • picks January 14, 2013

    Dutes Miller

    Dutes Miller’s queer utopia is a romp through Adam and Steve’s Garden of Eden. “In the Garden” presents the gallery-as-landscape peppered with clusters of oddly sexualized finger-fungi outgrowths harvesting on patches of fake grass, blotched-out images of vintage gay porn models, and BDSM hooks for hanging bodies. Miller uses craft-oriented materials such as pink glitter, neon string, and liquid white chocolate to transform deviant sexualized objects into decorative, desexualized elements of a new queer aesthetic that indulges in visual and oral pleasures. His work comments on the superficial

  • picks October 18, 2012

    Gilad Ratman

    In Israeli artist Gilad Ratman’s five-minute, single-channel video The Days of the Family of the Bell, 2012, ten shaking bodies morph into a variety of temporary organic formations. Through this work, Ratman suggests our human dependence on one another regardless of the pain incurred from moments of heavy leaning and lifting. This sparsely curated exhibition comprises the single video and two production stills excerpted from it.

    For the video, Ratman directs a total of ten performers—five are hired professionals with whom Ratman has no relationship, and five are friends he has asked to participate.

  • picks October 23, 2008

    Rodney Graham

    In his sixth solo show at this gallery, Canadian conceptualist Rodney Graham continues to curiously rework historical moments. Rotary Psycho-Opticon (all works 2008), a replica of a sculpture used by the band Black Sabbath, combines the illusory, dizzying effects of 1960s Op art with an acid-trip-inspired bicycle ride. The work comprises a ten-foot-tall slab of black-and-white aluminum printed with a dot pattern; one must push the pedals of the silver bicycle positioned behind the piece to activate a second sheet of star, swirl, and dot patterns that, when in motion, creates a pinwheel-like

  • picks September 19, 2008

    John Opera

    In his new body of work, the Chicago-based photographer John Opera skillfully and conspicuously leaps from landscape to abstract photography. When creating works in the former category, Opera nearly takes an ironic jab at the genre’s tropes but ultimately smartly reworks his references, particularly in the show’s centerpiece, Zoar, 2006–2008. Shooting from across a meandering stream at Zoar Valley in upstate New York, the artist captures a solitary man—a hippie, perhaps—with his shirt off and his hair long and tousled, sitting next to a fire while peacefully smoking a joint. The piece alludes

  • picks July 08, 2008

    “Ladylike: A Proper Take on Feminist Art”

    One wouldn’t expect an exhibition titled “Ladylike” to present a view of feminism that narrowly focuses on female-identified women artists and thus excludes feminist-inclined men and transgender, transsexual, and intersex persons. Despite this limited scope, artworks that explore feminist identities via Second Life avatars, 1950s-era gender norms, and old-world folklore stand out.

    In her short video I Am a Fashionista (IRL, I Wear the Same Pants Everyday), 2006, Stacia Yeapanis explores virtual bodies, dressing her Sim avatar in fifty of fifteen hundred downloaded outfits, chronicling her online

  • picks June 03, 2008

    Tom Denlinger

    Tom Denlinger’s thoughtful exhibition—of photographs and a video—challenges notions of the local landscape as bland or static. Denlinger brings to the subject a keen sense of three-dimensional space, the museum context, and representations of landscape in art history. To make Around the Art Institute of Chicago: Seurat, 2006, Denlinger re-created in diorama form a heap of garbage entwined in leaves and branches found near the museum, covered it in plastic, projected a slide of Seurat’s iconic A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand Jatte onto and through it, and photographed the conglomeration.