Jason Foumberg

  • interviews January 23, 2018

    Mike Cloud

    Mike Cloud is a Brooklyn-based painter. His upcoming solo exhibition, “The Myth of Education,” offers shaped canvases and collages that blend iconography and abstraction in order to address various myths in the art world—from the dichotomy between representation and abstraction to what he calls the “myth of greatness.” Here, Cloud reflects on his teachers and how ideas are passed through generations of artists. The show is on view at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago from January 26 through March 22, 2018.

    YOU CAN BREAK art education down into a series of stories. Your

  • picks October 05, 2017

    Dani Leventhal and Sheilah Wilson

    Video artists Dani Leventhal and Sheilah Wilson have been known to shock viewers with home-movie-style artworks that revel in taboos such as roadkill and blood, but their new collaborative video installation, Stack for Carrington’s Hyena, 2017, takes a quieter look at motherhood and parenting. A short video loop reveals the artists and their prepubescent daughter lying on the kitchen floor together, all seminude, stacked like animals napping after a feast. The slumped bodies merge into a breathing, sculptural mass. The video projection is mapped askew over a site-specific structure comprising

  • picks May 20, 2017

    Zhang Peili

    Zhang Peili’s first US museum solo exhibition, “Record. Repeat.,” is an intense, grim encounter with China’s propaganda-media machine. Although Zhang has worked in painting, mail art, and kinetic installation over four decades, this focused survey of twelve major works from 1988 to 2012 makes a strong case for Zhang as not only China’s first video artist, as he is honorably known, but also as one of China’s most poignant critics of broadcast and surveillance technology. Similar to an investigator or a painter, he tends to set a single scene per video channel: hands repeatedly breaking and

  • picks April 14, 2016

    “Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago”

    Whether or not the sixteen artists known as the “Monster Roster” liked their moniker is ultimately not up to them, given that this first serious survey of their work canonizes their collective mood into a movement. The name is fitting, as corpses, golems, and ghouls abound, along with dismembered arms, legs, and faces of scraped paint that resemble melting skin. Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, H. C. Westermann, and June Leaf are the most well-known of this Chicago-bred cohort, but some of its best artists were isolated by their decision to live and work outside of New York. They include Theodore Halkin,

  • picks February 19, 2016

    Alex Chitty

    As the term “intelligent design” already has a use, we should appropriate it for art. It could describe the way artists assign consciousness to designed objects and the way consumers implant personae into mass-produced items. Alex Chitty’s still-life sculptures are sprinkled with this kind of metaphysical power, animating ceramic jugs, mugs, tools, trinkets, and other artifacts. Common and rare, old and new, and natural and faux objects are mounted on shelving in Chitty’s museum of material history—domestically scaled but conceptually aiming to tickle the fourth dimension.

    Six modular sculptures

  • picks May 11, 2015

    Fraser Taylor

    Fraser Taylor’s work in “Orchid/Dirge,” an overdue thirteen-year survey, perfectly captures the transactional relationship between viewer and art object—the artist’s surrogate body. A “Missed Connections” personals clipping implanted in the painted collage of a man’s deconstructed black suit, titled Bulk, 2002, seems like an artifact of desired emotional engagement. Metaphors of touch proliferate throughout the show, through various textures such as those in the jagged wood-and-wire sculpture series “Black Flowers,” 2009–11, along with drawings of floating phantom limbs and penises in prints

  • picks March 10, 2015

    Doris Salcedo

    Ten major series of sculptures by Doris Salcedo fill the museum galleries like a labyrinthine graveyard for the artist’s first retrospective. Clumps of human-scaled objects summon an atmosphere of collective mourning, similarly provoked by her large-scale public interventions, the latter of which are represented here only by a documentary video. Twenty-nine years of sculpture by the Colombian artist commemorate the inglorious deaths and traumas of victims of gang violence in Los Angeles or a banana-plantation massacre in Colombia, among other atrocities. Survivor testimonies conducted by Salcedo

  • interviews November 24, 2014

    Allison Smith

    In “Set Dressing,” Allison Smith’s first solo exhibition in Chicago, the Oakland-based artist shows photographs taken at living-history sites such as Colonial Williamsburg and Plimoth Plantation, where quotidian stories of American settlement and handicraft are daily reenacted and displayed. Smith’s art subtly revises America’s nationalist creation myths through interventionist tactics such as appropriation and humor. “Set Dressing” is on view until January 31, 2015, at the Arts Club of Chicago.

    I WAS RAISED in the suburbs of Washington, DC, and was always aware of a strong patriotic aesthetic

  • picks November 02, 2014

    Sabina Ott

    I had an epiphany about Sabina Ott’s sculptures while riding a rollercoaster. Sliding through the Swiss Alps on Disneyland’s Matterhorn, beneath the Southern California sun, I saw it: pastel lights glowing on faux snow. Ott’s similarly garish, mystical mist of neon spray enamel on carved polystyrene and spray foam is an environment-design technique she may have smuggled from Los Angeles’s happiness industry during her tenure there in the 1990s. “Here and there pink melon joy” is her sensational debut large-scale solo exhibition in Chicago.

    Ott’s vision of candy-hued icicles as hanging lamps is

  • picks July 29, 2014

    Matthew Girson

    Matthew Girson contemplates the Jewish American experience in his solo exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. “The Painter’s Other Library” comprises sixty-eight oil paintings and one video that portray three primary subjects: a library bookshelf, a blackout curtain, and a Nazi bonfire. All the painted images are depicted either in hushed, dark hues or as black monochromes. Although Girson has not included titles on any of the book spines, the lighting in his virtual library would be too dim for reading, anyway. The artist provides a perceptual experience—adjusting the eyes to see in the

  • diary February 25, 2014

    It Takes Practice

    EVER WONDER why so many art and art history professors are leftist liberals? No, that’s not the setup for a joke. The answer may become clearer if I rephrase the question: What does social activism have to do with art and with teaching? Education breeds equality. (That’s the goal, anyway.) By that metric, an academic convention of teaching artists and art historians—the annual College Art Association conference—should be as enlightening as a Zen retreat. Late the week before last, CAA members convened in Chicago for the 102nd edition, armed to tackle the big questions.

    While an ice storm barred

  • interviews February 03, 2014

    Faith Wilding

    Born in 1943 in Paraguay, Faith Wilding is an artist, activist, and professor emerita of performance art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Wilding was a key figure in the the nation’s first feminist art programs, at Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno) in 1970, and at CalArts in 1971, and she continues to work with the collective she cofounded called subRosa. “Fearful Symmetries,” her debut retrospective, is currently on view at Threewalls in Chicago through February 22, 2014. The show coincides with Wilding’s lifetime achievement award from the Women’s

  • interviews November 04, 2013

    Monika Baer

    Monika Baer lives and works in Berlin. Her first US museum solo exhibition runs through January 26, 2014, at the Art Institute of Chicago. The show includes nearly thirty paintings spanning the past twenty-some years of Baer’s career, from 1990 to 2013. The exhibition travels to the Williams College Museum of Art in 2014.

    I USUALLY think about my work in terms of themes and nearly all of my paintings are made in series. Most of the larger ones are a series of four, though I maybe only need three or five and sometimes it’s more, as in the so-called “Breast” paintings—of them there are quite a lot.

  • interviews September 25, 2013

    Josiah McElheny

    A new exhibition by Josiah McElheny sites The Club for Modern Fashions, a mock glass house, in the public exhibition space of a members-only art club in downtown Chicago. Performers wearing vintage fashions, from the 1920s through the 1970s, occupy the Mies-style period room within the Arts Club of Chicago weekdays for one hour at 11:30 AM, when the club’s members arrive for their luncheon. Also on view is McElheny’s 2012 film The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women's Picture. The installation, performances, and film screening continue through December 14, 2013.

    THIS EXHIBITION is deeply connected to

  • picks June 17, 2013

    Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford

    In “Hall of Khan,” Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford makes daring use of a vast gallery at Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center. “Hall of Khan” is presented as a classical statue court, exploded into a carnival of perilously propped—and sometimes living—sculptures. The artist has updated conventional monumental statuary with tottering assemblages culled from cast and dyed urethane foam, pink polystyrene, lumber, glue, and a horse that occasionally shows up in the gallery to don the artist’s customized saddlery. The total spectacle turns a tradition of ceremonial civic statuary on its head. The artist’s

  • picks May 03, 2013

    Alex Jovanovich

    Life’s pacing—from past to future, until death, and maybe beyond—provides the rhythmic texture for “Some Poor Girls,” Alex Jovanovich’s exhibition of eight objects: three projector slide shows, four graphite and black-ink drawings, and one artifact. Cast in a mood that used to be called spleen, this writerly exhibition of the artist’s verses, confessions, and abstractions is so evocative the works could be spiritual if they weren’t so existential.

    The transmission of emotion across time, over blank spaces, through ellipses: This narrative theme unfolds in the artifact—a love letter (on a piece