Michelle Grabner

  • View of “Anne Collier,” 2014.
    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

  • William J. O’Brien

    William J. O’Brien’s feverish material explorations regularly succumb to restrained, taxonomical displays when entering the public arena. At Chicago’s Renaissance Society in 2011, O’Brien installed a tiered arrangement of modestly scaled ceramic objects. Last winter, he hung grids of felt compositions and framed oil pastel and inkwash works on paper at Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York. For this survey exhibition at the MCA, to be complemented by the first major catalogue devoted to the artist’s work, roughly one hundred of O’Brien’s abundant artifacts will be “organized

  • John Opera, Woman in Window, 2012, cyanotype on stretched linen, 24 x 20".

    John Opera

    Whether as an architectural blueprint or a photogram, the cyanotype is infinitely alluring. Articulated by or within a field of deep Persian blue, images produced by this rudimentary two-chemical photographic process can be more graphically beguiling than even the most richly toned silver gelatin print. John Opera knows this. “People, Places, and Things,” his exhibition of eleven modestly sized works (all 2012), dispassionately indexed six seemingly unremarkable image types—bottles, ropes, chains, hands, fossils, and the portrait of a young woman. Yet the blue splendor saturating the

  • Jerome Acks, Album (#1–80), 2012–, found albums, spray enamel. Installation view.

    Jerome Acks

    The aesthetics of record collecting are a lingua franca for many contemporary young male artists exploring their social and creative identity. The adolescent vinyl fiend, it would seem, remains, however anachronistically, a fixture of the art world. So I couldn’t help but let out an exhausted sigh as I walked into 65Grand’s storefront gallery this summer and saw Jerome Acks’s installation of seventy-three altered album covers and a display of related plaster casts. Immediately, the work of New York artist Ted Riederer came to mind; schooled in the DC punk scene, Riederer has been uniting art

  • Rosemarie Trockel, Study for R. W., 2012, digital print, acrylic, pencil, 28 3/4 x 28".

    “In the Spirit of Walser: Rosemarie Trockel”

    At the time of his death this past April, the UK-born dealer and influential Chicago gallerist Donald Young left us with perhaps the most inspired and absorbing exhibition of his roughly fifty years working in the arts: a string of six projects—by Peter Fischli and David Weiss (who died shortly after this review was first written), Moyra Davey, Thomas Schütte, Rosemarie Trockel, Tacita Dean and Mark Wallinger, and Rodney Graham and Josiah McElheny—created in response to the oeuvre and character of the enigmatic Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878–1956). For each mini show, seven framed

  • Taryn Simon, Charles Irvin Fain, scene of the crime, the Snake River, Melba, Idaho, served 18 years of a death sentence for murder, rape and kidnapping, 2002, color photograph, 48 x 62". From the series “The Innocents,” 2002.

    Taryn Simon

    Taryn Simon’s exhibition at the architecturally distinguished Milwaukee Art Museum offered up a generous and inquisitive photographic archive that spanned ten years and three distinct projects: “The Innocents,” 2002, portraits of people wrongfully convicted of violent crimes; “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar,” 2007, images of sites and holdings generally inaccessible to the public; and “Contraband,” 2010, a series that documents, with clinical precision, items seized over a given week from airline passengers entering the United States. Depending on her subject matter, Simon employs

  • Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Ni Totem, ni Tabou, 2011, digital print on PVC, 39 3/8 x 52".

    Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven

    “Electric Ladyland,” the title of curator Hamza Walker’s essay for Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven’s recent exhibition at the Renaissance Society, is a spot-on nickname for “In a Saturnian World,” the Belgian artist’s latest and nearly unnavigable gaping opus. “Electric Ladyland” also befits Van Kerckhoven’s background as a trained graphic artist who since 1981 has been both an active member of Antwerp’s experimental-music scene and someone who has long embraced an array of visual languages in the studio to explore various polemical, philosophical positions. The characterization of “electric” also

  • Gregg Bordowitz delivering a talk on the opening night of his show “Talk Is the Object” at Iceberg Projects, Chicago, May 21, 2011.

    Gregg Bordowitz

    When art and text conspire, compelling incursions into the politics of meaning may result. Take, for example, Joseph Kosuth’s contribution to Documenta 9 in 1992, for which he shrouded wall-mounted artworks with black cloth bearing screenprinted quotations by such thinkers such as Wittgenstein: “OBJECTS I CAN ONLY NAME. SIGNS REPRESENT THEM. I CAN ONLY SPEAK OF THEM.” The installation was titled Passagen-Werk (Documenta Flanerie), 1992, and delivered theoretical sound bites in place of identifiable objects as a means to frame art as a system of critical language signs. Gregg Bordowitz’s work

  • View of “Sheila Hicks,” 2011. Foreground: May I Have This Dance? (detail), 2002–2003. Back-ground: La Mémoire, 1972/2010.

    Sheila Hicks

    Vanishing Yellow (1964/2004) is very small, at least in comparison to the many works Sheila Hicks has made whose scale verges on the architectural. Yet, at barely 9 x 8 inches, this simple cotton-thread composition exemplifies the genius of the seventy-seven-year-old fiber artist, whose first major career retrospective opened at the ICA Philadelphia this past spring. Employing a basic slit-weave construction, Hicks has anointed the lower-left quadrant of this coarse-threaded off-white woven “painting” with yellow horizontal bands. The resultant object is as intimate as a manuscript illumination

  • Josh Kolbo

    “Pictures have a knack for supplanting the concrete, sliding as though self-lubricating around the globe, like poltergeists, they haunt the world they represent like vague recollections, inhabiting concrete forms briefly until slipping off to another host, a billboard here, a magazine page there, creating momentary associations, and chance resonances,” artist Walead Beshty recently wrote. Frustrated by this tendency in photography, Beshty turned to Adorno to explore the ways in which images might be able to “reclaim moments of heaviness,” challenging photographers to engage the concrete. This

  • John Henderson, Flowers, 2010, framed color photograph, 15 x 13".

    John Henderson

    “The Frugal Genius,” John Henderson’s first solo exhibition, offered four small paintings (the longest of which was twenty by sixteen inches), three cast-aluminum reliefs made to resemble paintings, one screen, and one framed photograph. The installation ringed the walls of Golden Gallery’s intimate storefront space with works that encompassed the range of painting’s many and often puzzling endgame strategies. From sweeping arabesque lines to tight fields of blocky impasto, a mash-up of gestures was represented, as Henderson self-consciously restaged various canonical modes of painterly expression

  • Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2010, enamel on linen, 96 x 78".

    Christopher Wool

    “There is always form there, whether it’s a form that can be repeated—and I’ve been trying for some time now to back away from that. I like to find something new each time, [taking up] the sum total of my experience.” This keen and succinct articulation on process, desire, and invention, delivered in a radio interview from 1996, might have issued from the mouth of Christopher Wool. Instead it is an observation on compositional method by the underground jazz musician Joe McPhee, a longtime influence on the painter. And leave it to the idiosyncratic Chicago gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey to host