Michelle Grabner

  • John McAllister

    The ten works (all 2017) that constituted John McAllister’s exhibition “botanic haunting soft-static” were systematically built out of visual vocabularies that bridge the pictorial and the decorative, comprising organic contours and geometric patterns, tonal atmospheres and linear perspectives, thick outlines and full-spectrum transitions, distant horizons and shallow window frames. McAllister calls upon still-life and landscape traditions to host these seemingly contrary structural languages. The influence of modernists such as Henri Matisse, Odilon Redon, Édouard Vuillard, and Gustav Klimt

  • Nate Young

    Vestigial representations of the occult were harnessed in “Cleromancy,” Nate Young’s exhibition of six works from the past year that obliquely layered a range of personal and political histories, touching on subjects such as black jockeys, the Great Migration, divining, and family mythology. Densely distributing the works on three walls of the light-filled gallery, Young invoked a symmetrical, chapel-like display punctuated at the end wall with Untitled, a two-part piece. Composed of a single horse bone mounted on a walnut pedestal in front of an illusionistic graphic depiction of a similar

  • Martha Tuttle and Henry Chapman

    Martha Tuttle and Henry Chapman have long shared a poetic appreciation of painting and a fondness for geometric abstraction, in particular that of Agnes Martin’s canvases. The two artists—who were colleagues in graduate school at Yale University and subsequently studio mates in Queens but now live on opposite coasts (Chapman in Berkeley, California, and Tuttle in New York)—were reunited at Rhona Hoffman this past summer. The exhibition showcased their intense personal dialogue by examining a group of 2017 paintings that favor order and the formalist principles of wholes and repetition

  • picks April 10, 2017

    Jessica Halonen

    Jessica Halonen’s exhibition has more than the color blue in common with author Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (2009), which features a prose style that threads together 240 fragments around blue and its many historical associations. Halonen’s elegantly precise exhibition comprising four discrete works advances an appreciation for refined craft, art history, the aesthetic of wonder, and scholarly research into the eighteenth-century discovery of Prussian blue. Similar to the literary snippets of Bluets, each contribution to this show commingles the familiar with the inexplicable, science with enchantment,

  • picks March 16, 2017

    Jeffrey Gibson

    For two days during the winter of 1993, Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Coco Fusco performed as ostensible natives from the mythical island of Guatinaui in the main lobby of Chicago’s Field Museum. In a sturdy cage, the pair of artists enacted supposedly traditional dances, crafted voodoo dolls, watched TV, and paced the interior perimeter of their confine. Fusco wore a grass skirt and face paint, while Gómez-Peña donned a wrestling mask and blue shorts. The performance was an act of absurdist cultural appropriation, which in turn exposed the unethical and routine practices of Western colonization and

  • picks January 31, 2017

    Albert Oehlen

    Since the 1980s, Albert Oehlen has routinely deployed the tree as a programmatic conceit, a rudimentary scheme that has allowed for mischievous invention within the language of painting. As a rhizomatic figure, the tree offers vast and circuitous navigation potential. It possesses a core (trunk), diverging pathways (branches), and an infinite number of regenerating underground conduits (roots), and thus it is an ideal trope for routing and re-routing painting’s histories and influences. It is not surprising that the artist insists on using the anatomy of a plant over purely abstract and inorganic

  • Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson’s exhibitions “Wildfire Test Pit” and “Black to the Powers of Ten,” which have taken over two galleries of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, a venerated teaching collection at Oberlin College, are sagacious follow-ups to the artist’s recent installation at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In the CMA’s Glass Box Gallery, an architecturally scaled glass vitrine inserted into the museum’s original Beaux Arts edifice, Wilson presented a spare installation of merely four works. Conversely, these exhibitions represent his largest combined project to date: an abundant gathering of the artist’s

  • “Louise Fishman: Paper Louise Tiny Fishman Rock”

    In tandem with an independently organized retrospective at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, this hometown survey of Fishman’s fifty-year-long career features the painter’s esteemed large-scale gestural abstractions alongside a selection of intimate studio investigations—an assortment of miniature paintings, sketchbooks, and small sculptures—that share the same physicality and unapologetic emotional punch as her bigger, iconic works. The exhibition’s hinge is Self-Portrait, Fishman’s 1960 self-portrait as a boxer,

  • Paul McCarthy

    White Snow Placemat Drawings, WS, 2013–14, a set of six scallop-edged paper place mats, each depicting an assortment of quickly drawn, naked, dripping, hairy figures engaged in various acts of dominance or submission, set the tone for this simultaneously abject and exuberant show. The coffee and grease stains absorbed into the paper fibers of the place mats evoke bodily fluids discharged by the penciled figures inhabiting the indeterminate pictorial spaces that crowd the savaged found supports. These works were among the fifty-seven included in what was—somewhat unbelievably—Paul

  • Joseph Yoakum

    The fabulist and inveterate drifter Joseph Yoakum was known to claim that he had traveled the world as a circus man, a soldier, and a train porter during the first six or so decades of his life. In 1962, at the age of seventy-one, he took up drawing and began working out of a storefront gallery on Chicago’s South Side, quickly becoming the self-taught paragon of the city’s art community. Yoakum’s visionary landscapes had an especially profound impact on the developing visual styles of the Chicago Imagists, who were rising to international prominence in the late ’60s (and who made him an honorary

  • Erika Rothenberg

    Since 1991, Erika Rothenberg has employed the form and generic sentimentality of the greeting card as a means of examining a vast range of social ills and political injustices. Rothenberg’s cards, executed simply in gouache and watercolor, evidence the artist’s active imagination and keen facility for satire, tackling themes (per the plaques that served to organize this exhibition) of “religion,” “crime,” “arts and culture,” “sexual abuse,” “abortion,” “civil rights,” “health,” and “education”—in sharp contrast to the congratulations and well wishes one might expect. The resulting compositions

  • Michael Kaysen

    The exuberant pre-crash 2007 exhibition “Makers and Modelers: Works in Ceramics,” in which sixty-four ceramic objects by thirty-one artists crowded Chelsea’s Gladstone Gallery, was a watershed moment for the medium. Today, it’s difficult to remember a time when ceramics was largely relegated to the world of craft, where its forms were attentively cultivated, assessed, and distributed. Or an art world without Sterling Ruby’s basins or Jessica Jackson Hutchins’s slovenly ceramic and furniture sculptures. Michael Kaysen’s exhibition of twenty-one vessels, each titled Bottle and collectively dating

  • “Arlene Shechet: All at Once”

    For more than twenty years, Arlene Shechet has rigorously worked at the material limits of plaster, paper pulp, and glass. In the past ten, she has also—and with increasing concentration—explored the possibilities of clay. Her experimental work in ceramics demonstrates a fierce aptitude for uninhibited, even overelaborate, sculptural form. Artists such as Jessica Jackson Hutchins and William O’Brien are indebted to Shechet’s ongoing interrogations of brash color, texture, and mischievous display tactics, including mash-ups of functional objects with idiosyncratic

  • Walter Robinson

    As Walter Robinson’s paintings have evolved, they’ve come to serve as an uncannily accurate gauge for the American art world’s analogously shifting, and increasingly nuanced, attitudes toward consumerism and mass culture. The artist’s early-1980s works—straightforward depictions of drugstore purchases, Budweiser beer cans, a plastic My Little Pony figurine, and Robinson’s personal friends, the artists Martin Wong and Mike Bidlo and critic Carlo McCormick—feature banal subjects facilely scumbled in acrylic paint and initially registered as an ironic wink to the viewer. The portraits

  • picks February 12, 2015

    “Implicated and Immune”

    In 1981, the New York Times ran a story with the headline “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” Over ten years later—the year that drug-therapy “cocktails” became an effective treatment in slowing down the disease—the first exhibition to respond to the epidemic in Auckland, “Implicated and Immune: Artists’ Responses to AIDS,” opened in 1992 at the Fisher Gallery. That milestone featured work from artists including Jack Body, Fiona Clark, L. Budd, and Fiona Pardington. Carrying forward the discourses that have shaped the social and cultural impact of HIV/AIDS in New Zealand, this reprise of that

  • Lucie Stahl

    Lucie Stahl’s exhibition at the venerated apartment gallery Queer Thoughts in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood was a fitting last project before the gallery relocates to downtown Manhattan. Known for featuring work that embraces the shape-shifting properties associated with the concept of “postidentity,” Queer Thoughts reaffirmed its agenda with a corporeally charged installation punctuated by several cast-polyurethane molds of hands and faces and three of Stahl’s characteristic polymer-coated ink-jet prints of body parts submerged in gel. Stahl ferreted into the private domain of the third-floor

  • Mickalene Thomas

    On the heels of Mickalene Thomas’s widely screened HBO documentary Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman (2012) comes “I was born to do great things,” yet another heartfelt exhibition dedicated to Sandra Bush, Thomas’s late mother and longtime muse. In a departure from her 2012–13 show at Lehmann Maupin in New York, for which the artist projected the film in a side gallery removed from the “room within a gallery” installation that has become a recurring feature of her practice, here Thomas embeds the (now looped) film within a similarly immersive 1970s-era domestic simulacrum. In the present

  • Maddie Reyna

    Maddie Reyna is emerging as a dutiful acolyte of the British Conceptual artist Stephen Willats. “Jamaica Sweethearts,” Reyna’s recent pop-up installation at Julius Caesar, a prominent Chicago artist-run project space, examined art’s social agency in an apparent endeavor to demonstrate Willats’s cool polemics. Indeed, the show could have been pulled from the pages of Artwork as Social Model, Willats’s 2012 manual for artists “looking to find a meaningful relationship with contemporary society, and intervening to transform norms and conventions, to provide a new vision of a possible future.” Reyna

  • “Fiber: Sculpture 1960–Present”

    In 1986, Mildred Constantine, Neda Al-Hilali, and Mary Jane Jacob organized an exhaustive traveling exhibition titled “Fiber R/Evolution.” It included such luminaries in the field of fibers as Sheila Hicks, Anne Wilson, and Claire Zeisler, and it unapologetically reinforced craft’s relationship to gender and women’s work. Nearly thirty years later, “Fiber”features many of the artists represented in the breakout ’86 show (including Hicks, Wilson, and Zeisler) but expands its purview to include a broad range of generations, nationalities, and conceptual approaches, as

  • picks August 19, 2014

    Anne Collier

    Woman with a Camera (Diptych), 2008, is one of the works you first encounter as you enter Anne Collier’s first major museum exhibition, which encompasses ten years of powerful didactic photography. The illustrious diptych succinctly embodies Collier’s enthusiasm for iconic image-making and conveys her photographic authority and commanding appropriation. Lifted from Irvin Kershner’s film Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), the work’s black-and-white print on the left depicts a 35-mm camera pressed against film star Faye Dunaway’s eye. The work’s second image, on the right, is printed in color and pictures