Claudine Ise

  • Peter Otto, Hand of History (ode to John Heartfield), 2009, oil on canvas, 21 1/2 x 43".
    picks March 23, 2010

    Peter Otto

    The weight of fallen bodies haunts Peter Otto’s recent paintings and drawings, which are strewn with narrow, rectangular, coffinlike elements. The Dutch painter’s partiality to neo-expressionist modalities is apparent in his use of vibrant, high-key color, forceful mark-making, and cryptic iconography. Skulls, smoke, crutches, flowers on rickety stalks and heads on stakes all float in ambiguous settings that appear to melt and shift before the viewer’s eyes. These hallucinatory pictorial spaces evoke the crippling effects of war and political repression on the mind, body, and will. There are

  • View of “Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out,” 2010. From left: William Kentridge, Tabula Rasa I, 2003; Balancing Act, 2003; Moveable Assets, 2003; Feats of Prestidigitation, 2003.
    picks March 11, 2010

    “Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out”

    “Production Site” highlights the studio as a place of work, as well as a compelling aesthetic subject in itself. The “selected visual history of the artist’s studio”—installed on a wall directly outside the exhibition galleries, as an initial point of reference—includes a variety of iconic images: Jackson Pollock throwing his body into an “action” painting; Lee Bontecou in her New York studio, blowtorch in hand; Andy Warhol seated alone in his cavernous Factory. There’s even a film still of Julianne Moore as an “avant-garde feminist artist” from The Big Lebowski (1998).

    This ancillary display

  • Laura Letinsky, Untitled #2, 2008, color photograph, 32 x 40".  From the series “The Dog and the Wolf,” 2008–2009.
    picks February 03, 2010

    Laura Letinsky

    In her first series of domestic still-life photographs (“Morning, and Melancholia,” 2002–), Laura Letinsky put the contemporary kitchen countertop and the traditions of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings under analysis, as it were, revealing them both to be purveyors of deep-seated cultural meanings. In Letinsky’s subsequent bodies of work, the white tablecloth—traditionally a sign of cleanliness and elegance—figures as a screen on which a culture’s ideas surrounding food, desire, and sustenance are projected and consumed.

    Succulence and decay, desire and the sense of repulsion that often

  • Lauren E. Simonutti, She Left a Light on but They Were Never Coming Back, 2007, toned gelatin-silver contact print, 5 x 4".
    picks January 27, 2010

    Lauren E. Simonutti

    Lauren E. Simonutti’s black-and-white images depict meticulously staged representations of life as she experiences it, starring herself as the main character. In 2006, the Baltimore-based artist was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar and schizoaffective disorder and since then she has lived alone, in “self-imposed isolation,” taking photographs in a house where none of the clocks tell time correctly––a house that is, for Simonutti, a haven, a stage set, a performer, and a collaborator.

    Using sheets to create drapes, walls, and screens, she turns a single small corner of her home into theatrical

  • Richard Rezac, Aesop (09-06), 2009, cast Hydrocal, aluminum, dyed silk, 17 1/4 x 24 x 20 1/2".
    picks January 24, 2010

    Richard Rezac

    A quirky equilibrium characterizes Richard Rezac’s sculptural abstractions. They evoke the sleek minimalism of contemporary interior design as readily as they do the curvaceous flourishes of Baroque architecture, yet they claim allegiance to neither. Although Rezac is known for a concise, poised formal rigor, his recent sculptures prove he’s a master at contrasting textures, too. Viewed at a distance, many of their surfaces appear pristine, but closer inspection reveals tiny nicks, scratches, and smudges that serve to humanize his project.

    The exhibition includes preparatory drawings that offer

  • Carrie Schneider, Slow Dance, 2009, still from a color video, 6 minutes 30 seconds.
    picks December 14, 2009

    Carrie Schneider

    Carrie Schneider’s photographs and videos plumb the depths of human intimacy, often by depicting, in grotesquely literal and occasionally comic fashion, the psychological baggage we bring to personal relationships. Family dynamics, particularly the fraught relations between siblings, loom large in the artist’s work, where a loved one’s embrace can be both comforting and repellent. In previous works, Schneider clung to mounds of earth with the fervor of a lover (Fallen Woman, 2006), reenacted a series of emotionally charged familial encounters (Family Videos, 2006), and limned the physical

  • James Welling, 0818 (Glass House Series), 2006, digital ink-jet print, 33 5/8 x 50 1/2". From the “Glass House Series,” 2006.
    picks December 05, 2009

    James Welling

    “Hapax Legomena”—words that appear only once in a writer’s oeuvre—is the title James Welling has given to this compact yet conceptually wide-ranging exhibition of forty photographs culled from the past thirty-five years. Inspired by Hollis Frampton’s series of seven “Hapax Legomena” avant-garde films, including the groundbreaking (nostalgia) (1971), Welling has assembled a group of singular images––cut-ups, prototypes, painted photographs, and other poetically isolated one-offs that enjoy a parenthetical relationship to the artist’s better-known bodies of work.

    Among the earliest images are two

  • View of “Heartland,” 2009. Left: Cody Critcheloe, Boy, 2009. Right: Carnal Topor, Purifications of the CalmDome, 2009.
    picks November 02, 2009

    “Heartland”

    This eye-opening group exhibition highlights the work of visual artists and other cultural producers who take tactical advantage of their peripheral geographic relationship to major urban cultural centers. From its title onward, “Heartland”—a collaboration between the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands—simultaneously embraces and debunks regional clichés. The independent spirit, bootstrapping gumption, and friendliness often attributed to midwesterners, for example, here takes the form of a determined DIY mind-set, a willingness to collaborate,

  • Doug Ischar, MW 1, 1985, color photograph, 26 x 40".
    picks October 01, 2009

    Doug Ischar

    The languorous tangles of seminude men in Doug Ischar’s photographs resurrect lost moments in queer urban history. Heads resting against thighs, hands reaching across bare torsos to stroke damp hair; the glazed eyes and drowsy expressions of these men result not from sex or drugs but from the pleasures of sun and heat. Taken in the summer of 1985 at a gay lakeside hangout in Chicago known as the Belmont Rocks (removed in 2003 as part of a revetment project), Ischar’s images capture an era through its cultural effects: gold chains and zebra-striped bikinis, an outdated issue of Vanity Fair under

  • Philip von Zweck, Note, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30".
    picks September 28, 2009

    Philip von Zweck

    Philip von Zweck is known as a producer not of objects but of contexts, as he calls them, which have included a radio show, a well-regarded domestic art space, and numerous collaborative projects situated outside mainstream or commercial institutions (even his 2007 solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, was a group mail-art project). His latest exhibition is framed as a “return” to studio-based practices and, more important, to the vulnerabilities of working alone. Comprising a series of new paintings—nearly all of them abstractions—it presents risks not only for the artist but

  • View of “Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture,” 2009.
    picks August 12, 2009

    “Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture”

    This expansive survey curated by Doug Fogelson of the Chicago-based independent publisher Front Forty Press convincingly argues that the apocalyptic impulse still looms large in the contemporary imagination. Complementing a handsomely designed hardbound volume published late last year, the exhibition of thirty-four local and international artists is eclectic in its approach, encompassing both the mythic and the kitsch aspects of doomsday thought along with its more subtle and idiosyncratic variations. Inevitably, perhaps, the show’s imagery tends to coalesce around crumbling urban wastelands,