Laurie Palmer

  • Diana Thater

    In two recent video works entitled China (all works 1995) and A Confusion of Prints (work for two video monitors), Diana Thater examined the opposition between the wild and the domestic, the natural and the man-made. Using unedited footage of two wolves during training sessions (the animals were bred in L.A. and have appeared in the films Cry Wilderness, White Fang, Quest for Fire, and two Playboy videos), Thater at once evokes and demystifies the conventions of the documentary by emphasizing the process of filming itself. In China, the videotapes, recorded by six cameras that had been placed

  • Vincent Shine

    An enormous “fruiting body” clung to the side of a white pedestal halfway down a narrow space off the main gallery. Situated between the fragile clover and the precious gold bug, this agglutination (which the artist describes as “tomentose,” “blood red when wounded”) looked like an obscene quantity of plasticene pushed into a provisional place, its surface carefully smoothed and articulated to resemble something—but nothing I’ve ever seen; possibly viscera, though the context suggested fungi. Its worked surface retained the familiar marks of figure modeling: the plane of the knife, little divets,

  • Joe Scanlan

    Joe Scanlan’s hypothetically useful objects suggest inventions conceived to fulfill certain functions around the home, and their construction implies a thrifty economy based on resourcefulness and recycling. For example, Potting Soil, 1990, is made from a mixture of sawdust, which is a construction by-product of Bookshelves, 1990; egg-shells are a by-product of the whites used to form Starter Pots, 1989–91, and coffee grounds, in this self-referential context, must refer to the fuel that keeps the artist working into the night. Similarly, Kitchen Table Dropcloth, 1990, a neatly tailored canvas

  • Tom Friedman

    Laundry detergent, toilet paper, toothpaste, and erasers are all materials dedicated to removing dirt or error that have been manufactured to disappear once their work is finished. But Tom Friedman makes abstract formalist sculptures that emphasize their particular material qualities—their aqua-freshness, and their squeezability. Dry detergent was miraculously splayed in a blue galactic swirl on the floor; diluted green toothpaste was painted onto the wall like an expanse of David Hockney water; and an indeterminate length of toilet paper was perfectly rerolled and displayed on a pedestal without

  • Paul Chidester

    In Paul Chidester’s 12 small egg-tempera and oil paintings, collectively entitled “Corn,” red words name little-known constellations, and black ones designate obsolete varieties of corn. Between the verbal references to the rural Midwest, one glimpses the faded concrete and brick of a crumbling city infiltrated by pale green vegetation.

    The circuitous arrangement of these phrases, imitating the growth patterns of vegetation, do not actually enter the virtual space of the image but trace its shapes on the surface, gently reaffirming the picture plane and thus recalling the image’s material nature.

  • Gaylen Gerber

    Reflections off the Plexiglas surfaces covering Gaylen Gerber’s graphite drawings, coupled with glare from the stark, white gallery walls, frustrate attempts to read the images, which are rendered with such a gentle touch as to be virtually invisible in the first place. I can’t say what these works picture, because I couldn’t make them out; what I know depends on hearsay and literature, not firsthand experience. With a great expenditure of sweat and time, a few details begin to emerge—a shape, a snarl of lines—but they disappear again on closer inspection. Each image amounts to a spotty collection

  • “Problems with Reading/Rereading”

    In this show, guest curators Jeanne Dunning and Hirsch Perlman presented work that balks, stutters, or is painfully shy; that is plugged, reversed, or on idle; work that gets stuck in the throat, caught in the filter; that flaps and makes a noise—rackety, rackety, rackety—and won’t go down. Rather than ably and dutifully “communicating,” i.e. presenting solutions to esthetic problems, this work problematizes the very idea of esthetic solutions, and gives the lie to the notion of linguistic or textual transparency. By resisting an easy read, the work transfers the reader’s attention to the material

  • Stephen Prina

    333 West Wacker Drive is one of Chicago’s most distinctive post-Modern buildings.Its sinuous curve follows the curve of the Chicago river and its shimmering green glass is the color of iridescent silk, of certain shades of water—and, now, of corporate office space. Stephen Prina’s work, which was installed in the first floor gallery of this building (an additional site for the Renaissance Society) seemed to have been infected by this ubiquitous green. Monochrome Painting, 1989, consists of 14 green canvases painted with the same acrylic enamel. This green stops light, stops illusion, stops

  • David Rabinowitch

    The five groups of concentric circles that David Rabinowitch has carved into the plaster walls here are null sets, abstractions that deflect meaning. But Rabinowitch has put these empty sets to work in spatial and material terms, using their emptiness as images to shift attention onto the conditions of the space itself. Rabinowitch refutes the traditional and persistent function of the gallery as a neutral white container by taking away from the space rather than adding to it, and by carefully controlling the light. (He designed, as part of the installation, the set of windows that provide the

  • Marie-Jo Lafontaine

    Marie-Jo Lafontaine’s work has been criticized for its seeming glorification of power and aggression as expressed through the physicality of the male body. Recent video installations have focused on the spectacles of boxing, bullfighting, and weightlifting. The work shown here, Victoria, 1988, makes reference to the tango; it depicts a mortal battle between two men, fought hand to hand and eye to glistening eye. Not safely didactic or even obviously subversive, Victoria plays on our romantic fascination with the primitive and elemental; it reduces existential conflict to the level of brute

  • Nancy Forest Brown

    In her performances, Nancy Forest Brown assumes any one of a number of fictional personae, developed to such a degree that they seem to have been granted autonomous existence. But Brown always goes farther than the simple presentation of these characters, framed by the artificial limits of the stage. She always constructs a larger context that includes the audience and that often forces that audience into a confrontation with the character. In the past, Brown’s performances took place in unlikely locations, both public and private, often without warning (although rumor continues to play an

  • Barbara Bloom

    The prints, plates, and paperworks from Barbara Bloom’s Esprit de l’escalier (Spirit of the staircase, 1988)—originally made for an installation at Hallwalls in Buffalo last spring and shown this summer at the Venice Biennale—found a perfect forum in this tiny storefront gallery. (The title of the installation is an idiomatic expression meaning “a witty remark which is thought of too late.” It refers to the inevitable staircase one is descending when the realization comes of exactly what one should have said.) Seen with copious sunshine streaming through the windows, the work reeked of a refined

  • “The Whole World Still Watching”

    With this exhibition, cocurated by Dan Mills and Maureen Sherlock, the Randolph Street Gallery joined progressive groups around Chicago in commemorating the 20th anniversary of the demonstrations and police riots that took place during the 1968 Democratic convention. The exhibition—incorporating work by 25 artists ranging in age from 26 to 66—included “counter-monuments” specifically addressing the “counter-convention” of 1968, as well as works that testified more generally to diverse voices of political activism in current art practice. The work, by well-established and little-known artists,

  • Jeff Koons

    Jeff Koons’ work maintains an ambiguous position in relation to American consumer culture: a position of both confirmation and critique. Koons claims references, on one hand, to political issues of class and social responsibility, and on the other, to poetic metaphors for emotional and physical states, but his self-proclaimed determination “to find total liberation in the mainstream” leads to the privileging of the work’s status as self-conscious commodity. The artist’s articulate explanations—offered on videotape in the gallery’s downstairs orientation space—surround each piece like gift wrap,

  • Mike Kelley

    Mike Kelley shares with Georges Bataille the position of “excremental philosopher,” exploring the underbelly of patriarchal culture, and focusing on what is degraded, refused, denied, repressed, and embarrassing. With deft inflections, he turns the stereotypically “good” into the ugly, and infuses the stupidly familiar with just enough horror to turn its blandness inside out, replacing the smile with what it tries to cover up.

    Most of the work on exhibit here was grouped under the heading “Half a Man” and resembled what is typically defined as “women’s work.” The wall-hanging More Love Hours Than

  • Charles Ray

    Charles Ray had planned to show three pieces here, but problems with installation reduced the show to one: a single spinning disc of cast aluminum set flush in a false floor that was constructed in the front half of the gallery. This fortuitous circumstance showed the piece to best advantage, allowing it—even in its virtual invisibility—to activate the entire space. Ray’s work could, I suppose, be read simply as a technical tour de force. But the degree of fascination it provokes justifies a more complicated reading, connecting it to the current exploration of the commodity fetish in art. Because