Michelle Grabner

  • Deborah Kass, Daddy I Would Love to Dance, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 78 × 78".

    Deborah Kass

    The vertical text-based painting Just a Shot Away, 2015, commands the entrance hall to Deborah Kass’s inaugural solo exhibition at Kavi Gupta, a mainstay of Chicago’s West Loop for nearly twenty years. Rendered across a variegated black ground, the stacked cerulean text is culled from the rock anthem “Gimme Shelter,” the opening track on the Rolling Stones’ 1969 album Let It Bleed. The graphically composed painting and its appropriated stanza set the stage for a scintillating collection of works that graft borrowed language—funny, banal, upbeat, and grim—onto Minimalist-inspired compositions

  • Clotilde Jiménez, The Family Tradition, 2020, charcoal, fabric, and wallpaper on paper, 20 × 20 1/2".

    Clotilde Jiménez

    “The Contest,” Clotilde Jiménez’s first solo exhibition at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, featured eleven prodigiously sized collages and a quartet of bronze busts. Jiménez’s robust figurative oeuvre has consistently highlighted the intersectionality of queerness, blackness, class, religion, and Hispanic heritage. This show continued such investigations, but they were sifted through a more personal narrative: The artist described his presentation as an “open letter” to his formerly estranged father.

    For the collages, Jiménez assembled a range of materials—including fabric, plastic, charcoal, and acrylic

  • Harold Mendez, The years now (detail), 2020, mixed media, dimensions variable.

    Harold Mendez

    A mass of snarled tree roots girdles the middle stretch of a long, galvanized-steel fence post in Harold Mendez’s but I sound better since you cut my throat, 2017. Juxtapositions of organic materials with “artifacts” culled from different contexts characterized the artist’s sparse and contemplative installation spanning two modestly sized adjoining galleries at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. The subtly bent and twisted pole, wedged at a forty-five-degree angle between the floor and the ceiling, crosscut the white cube’s volume and evoked the iconic architectural interventions of

  • View of “In Poetry and Silence: The Work and Studio of Lenore Tawney,” 2019–20. From left: Waterfall, 1974; Waters Above the Firmament, 1976; In Fields of Light, 1975.

    Lenore Tawney

    IN 1957, at the age of fifty, Lenore Tawney (1907–2007) left Chicago and moved to 27 Coenties Slip in New York to begin creating the second half of her pioneering oeuvre. Prior to her move, she had studied with Alexander Archipenko, László Moholy-Nagy, Emerson Woelffer, and Marli Ehrman at the Institute of Design in Chicago, and with Finnish textile artist Martta Taipale in North Carolina. These experiences shaped her early career as a weaver skilled enough to develop a diaphanous, nonhorizontal, drawing-like technique dubbed “open-warp.” In the catalogue for her current show at the John Michael

  • Allan McCollum, The Shapes Project: Shapes Monoprints (detail), 2005–, framed laser-jet prints, dimensions variable.

    Allan McCollum

    Curated by Alex Gartenfeld and Stephanie Seidel

    Arrangements of Allan McCollum’s iconic Plaster Surrogates, 1982–, occupy museum walls around the world, serving as exemplars of authorial and institutional critique. Yet as this survey of five decades of work will make clear, the artist’s practice now demands a more expansive interpretation. Alongside pieces such as Perfect Vehicles, 1985–, and Over Ten Thousand Individual Works, 1987–, deadpan ideational proxies and imitations of mass-produced abstraction, the show will feature McCollum’s recent collaborations with regional communities and historical



    As was fitting for a show dedicated to a Dada scholar, “FMSBWTÖZÄU PGGIV-..?MÜ (FOR STEPHEN FOSTER)” examined the disruptive capacities of invented languages and the material qualities of letters, symbols, and words. The eponymous curator, historian, and writer, who died in 2018, was a professor emeritus in the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa and a mentor to the gallerist Shane Campbell, who is an alumnus of Foster’s department. Foster’s curatorial work included the influential exhibitions “The Avant-Garde and the Text,” cocurated with Estera Milman at the Visual Studies

  • Theaster Gates, Mama’s Milk, 2018, metal, neon, 114 × 116 × 12 3⁄4".

    Theaster Gates

    Three neon signs punctuate Theaster Gates’s powerful installation of new paintings and sculptures. Progress Mill, 2018, the only work occupying the spacious entrance gallery, takes the form of a single generic infographic. White and red neon tubes delineate the circular symmetry of a reductive pie chart outlined in black, seemingly bereft of any textual information but in fact adapted from W. E. B. Du Bois’s visualizations of Black demographics in the United States in 1900—specifically Du Bois’s black-and-red line drawing titled “Proportions of Whites and Negroes in the different classes of

  • Nathaniel Robinson, Untitled, 2016, oil on canvas, 15 × 22".

    Nathaniel Robinson

    In “The Sensible Range,” his 2013 exhibition at Chicago’s Devening Projects, Nathaniel Robinson offered up an installation of simplified vernacular sculptures. Last year, in his exhibition at New York’s Magenta Plains, “No One’s Things,” he deployed scale shifts and graphic color to highlight the uncanny in the shapes of disposable cups, a milk jug, and a pup tent. Robinson’s most recent exhibition at Devening Projects was straightforwardly titled “Paintings” and marked a departure from deftly crafted trompe l’oeil objects to representational paintings. Even in this shift, Robinson proved adept

  • Daniel G. Baird, Vessel (Left), 2019, patinated cast bronze, 12 × 7 × 5".

    Daniel G. Baird

    A long, thin, rectilinear basin traced the perimeter of the gallery at the intersection of the walls and floor in Daniel Baird’s immersive allegorical environment murmur, 2019. Occupying the position normally held by a baseboard radiator, the basin contained a submerged collection of pumps and hoses. Pushed up against the gallery’s outer wall, on the floor, was an absurdly long power strip whose glowing red light confirmed that a live electrical current was running through the attached tangle of black cords, enabling water to travel from a holding tank up to ten spigots, most mounted on the

  • View of “Sara Greenberger Rafferty,” 2018. Foreground: 3, 2018. Background: Wallpaper for THE LAUGHTER, 2018.

    Sara Greenberger Rafferty

    At the entrance to Sara Greenberger Rafferty’s saturated précis on the props of studio photography, two black-framed photographs, each indexing thirty-nine scanned 35-millimeter slide images arranged in a loose grid, hung side by side. The tiny positive images exposed in Slide I and Slide II (University of Michigan Extension) (all works 2018) documented a variety of color-calibration and white-balancing cards, often juxtaposed with a white human hand as a test subject. Evincing Rafferty’s material interest in transparent supports for photographs, these ink-jet prints were transferred onto clear

  • Torkwase Dyson, Joni Lee Blackman, 2018, diptych, acrylic on canvas, each 84 × 72".

    Torkwase Dyson

    Colliding abstract shapes dominate the seven canvases that constituted Torkwase Dyson’s exhibition “James Samuel Madison.” The title of the show gestured toward the symbology of the shapes: Madison is the artist’s maternal grandfather, who migrated from the American South to the North as a child and who personifies, for Dyson, the politics of migration and movement that she formally explores in her paintings. In the gallery’s press release, Dyson explained that “the body unifies, balances, and arranges itself to move through space . . . a skill used in the service of self-emancipation within

  • View of “Gaylen Gerber,” 2018.
    picks December 11, 2018

    Gaylen Gerber

    If you spend enough time scrutinizing the artifacts gathered in Gaylen Gerber’s survey exhibition, you will discover a moment of leaching, where a sepia stain seeps through from a twentieth-century wooden protective figure, sullying the pristine white layer of paint intended to cover it. In this rare uncontrolled moment of the exhibition, the material world leaks through the confines of a conceptual project that probes the constructs of cultural value, originality, and authorship. Gerber’s sixty works (all titled Support, n.d.) consist of a range of objects (diverse in provenance and purpose)