Michelle Grabner

  • Josh Reams, wheres my gun, 2018, acrylic, oil, sawdust, ash, dyed rag, and soil on canvas, 60 × 50".

    Josh Reames

    In each of the four paintings in Josh Reames’s exhibition “BO-DE-GAS,” uniformly distributed idiomatic images floated graphically on raw canvas surfaces. Punctuating each of the intimate gallery’s four walls, the paintings were supplemented with three black, wall-mounted handrails that sported a selection of attitude-declaring bumper stickers. The works are stylistically indebted to the appropriation work of the 1980s, such as the commodity-driven, logo-festooned work of Ashley Bickerton, Matt Mullican, and Peter Nagy, and to the later work of Laura Owens. Yet Reames’s lexicon of found imagery

  • A. Laurie Palmer, Sensing Connection to the Time Left (detail), 2018, fabric, thread, steel cable, hardware. Installation view. Photo: James Prinz.

    A. Laurie Palmer

    The Rogers Park community borders Evanston, Illinois, on Chicago’s far north side. In 1992, the collective Haha, comprised of artists A. Laurie Palmer, Wendy Jacob, John Ploof, and Richard House, initiated a project in a Rogers Park storefront that involved growing hydroponic vegetables and herbs for people with HIV. The project was called Flood. In addition to serving as a distribution point for meals and produce, the storefront functioned for three years as a hub for educational activities and alternative therapies. Not far from Flood’s former Greenleaf Street location is the noncommercial

  • passages May 15, 2018

    James Yood (1952–2018)

    IN 1989, the same year I started graduate school at Northwestern University, Jim Yood was hired as the college’s lecturer and assistant chair in the department of art theory and practice. He had stepped in to take the reins from the cantankerous art critic Dennis Adrian, who was proudly dispassionate about anything that diverged from a Chicago Imagist tradition. It was here where my deep and enduring respect for him began.

    For the past twenty-nine years, Jim has never stopped teaching me. He taught me the virtue of the art review. As a spirited advocate for Chicago, he underscored the cultural

  • Beverly Fishman, Untitled (Depression, High Blood Pressure, Bipolar Disorder, Opioid Addiction), 2018, urethane paint on wood, 91 x 106 x 2".

    Beverly Fishman

    “CHEMICAL SUBLIME" opened with a brutally colored, hard-edge abstraction, Untitled (Sleepiness, Antipsychotic, Pain), 2017. The work was one of nine shallow relief paintings on wood that punctuated the walls of the sizable main gallery and a smaller annex space. Extreme and confrontational in their color combinations, the compositions are derived from simple three-dimensional geometric forms, many with rounded edges, which are compressed to depths of two inches. The faces of the paintings are exquisitely constructed from machine-cut raised panels and negative cutaways, their side profiles exposing

  • Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg

    This midcareer survey of Berlin-based artists Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, “A Journey Through Mud and Confusion with Small Glimpses of Air,” marks their first comprehensive exhibition at a major museum in their home country of Sweden. Djurberg has been refining her Claymation technique since 2001, folding visceral allegories and painterly tableaux into fantastical tales propelled by the deep biological drives for sex, violence, and power. Berg, her collaborator since 2004, sets these narratives to hypnotic electronic soundtracks that offer profundity to the absurdity

  • John McAllister, once were wild, 2017, oil on canvas, 72 × 61".

    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, Interment, 2017, gold leaf, walnut, Plexiglas, horse bone, spray paint, LED, 28 1/2 × 16 × 6".

    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, Weather (7), 2017, wool, silk, dye, pigment, steel, 40 x 63 3/4".

    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

  • Jessica Halonen, A Clock Stopped (Flowers after Manet), 2017, acrylic on linen, 4 x 11'.
    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,

  • Jeffrey Gibson, In Numbers Too Big to Ignore, 2016, glass, artificial sinew, copper, metal, wool, wood, 61 x 43".
    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

  • View of “Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle,” 2016–17.
    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

  • View of “Fred Wilson,” 2016.

    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