Michelle Grabner

  • Robert Davis and Michael Langlois, Dads, 2008, oil on two canvases, each 34 1/2 x 28".
    picks March 19, 2009

    Robert Davis and Michael Langlois

    Robert Davis and Michael Langlois have collaborated for over ten years and are committed to deliberate imitation. Their oil paintings of miscellaneous images do not stem from the tenets of Photorealism, as it might first appear, but instead from the critical underpinnings of appropriation. However, their team-copying act is not intended to undercut the authority of painting. On the contrary, they hope to reinforce it. They plainly state on their website, “We enjoy taking a mundane image and transforming it into something significant and visually arresting.”

    Yet what is most significant and visually

  • Vincent Fecteau

    The viewer may find it disconcerting when Vincent Fecteau’s wonderfully erudite abstract sculptures reveal themselves, on close inspection, to be made of papier-mâché. Plaster, ceramic, or cast bronze seem the obvious media in which to produce such classically formal exercises reveling in unpretentious plays of shape, volume, color, and contour. But Fecteau is not compelled by elaborate lost-wax casting techniques; instead he uses simple means, building up these recent works with paper, glue, and gesso.

    Curator James Rondeau notes in the exhibition brochure that “few artists have made such

  • View of “Dennis Balk,” 2009.
    picks February 20, 2009

    Dennis Balk

    There is a renewed enthusiasm for the freedoms inherent in parafictions, falsehoods, and deception in contemporary art. Take, for example, the work of Reena Spaulings, Toni Burlap, Claire Fontaine, and Donelle Woolford. While pseudonyms and aliases expose limitations intrinsic to individual practices, lies and falsehoods inflate narrative impact, expanding political and entertainment value. The art-world sage Dennis Balk is a master at creating competing visions of reality. He has zealously presented his fictions in the form of plays, props, diagrams, drawings, books, and various other instructional

  • Mickalene Thomas

    Mickalene Thomas’s exhibition “Girlfriends, Lovers, Still Lifes, and Landscapes” far exceeds the decorative wallop of her first solo show two years ago at the same venue. She has become masterful at maximizing ornamentation and slick in her fearless color combinations. Her paintings, which combine large fields of poured enamel, thin brushy passages of acrylic paint, and thousands of fastidiously applied glitzy rhinestones, brazenly bring the feminist-inspired politics of the Pattern and Decoration movement to genre painting.

    Landscape with Woman Washing Her Feet (all works 2008), which measures

  • Greg Stimac, Red Diamond, 2008, archival pigment print, 27 1/2 x 60".
    picks January 18, 2009

    “Bad Moon”

    Shunning novelty and artistic ego, Steven Husby’s two small, hard-edged abstract paintings are unrivaled in this group show. These immaculate grayscales, both Untitled, 2008, are so perfectly proportioned and precise in their value shifts that they could be prototypes for gradient scales in the printing industry; they leave no trace of Husby’s hand or subjective imagination, and they conjure Giacomo Balla and Bridget Riley equally. Esteban Schimpf’s God, Imagine the Storm on Jupiter, 2006, is juvenile by comparison. Here, orange paint is sprayed onto a blue bedsheet spelling out the piece’s

  • Amy Mayfield

    A chintzy drape and kooky lettering cut from various materials spelling out the backward show title, “Doog vs. Live,” marked the entrance to Amy Mayfield’s absurdly ornamented theater. The exhibition was festooned with craft projects, colloquial decor, and a selection of paintings that appear to exhaust every possible method of applying acrylic paint. Underfoot was a multicolored geometric field, a pattern of triangles painted on Masonite flooring. Houseplants, blobby expanding-foam stalagmites adorned with blooms of push-pins, pheasant feathers tucked behind rheostat switches, and animal cutouts

  • Joseph Grigely, We're Bantering Drunkening About What's Important in Life, 2007. Installation view.
    picks December 18, 2008

    Joseph Grigely

    Deaf since the age of ten, Joseph Grigely has dedicated his fifteen-year artistic practice to researching the various translations and subsequent shifts in meaning that take place when music, language, and informal talk are communicated through visual form. His compressed survey comprises eleven works created since 1999. The show is anchored by his masterly 2007 video installation St. Cecilia, an eight-minute production depicting the Baltimore Choral Arts Society singing familiar Christmas carols with unfamiliar lyrics. These baffling verses are the result of Grigely’s lip-read translation of

  • Rashid Johnson

    Walls of ruddy oak paneling provided a posh backdrop to Rashid Johnson’s third solo exhibition at Monique Meloche, for which the artist loosely transformed the long narrow gallery into what appeared to be an exclusive black gentlemen’s recreation center, punctuated by rim shot after rim shot of racial spoofs delivered in the form of gauche assemblages. Incorporated in these sculptural configurations were Johnson’s notorious parodic photographs, as well as houseplants, bowls of shea butter, a beige shag carpet, a wicker chair, tacky decorative paintings, sundry brass knickknacks, and more. Taken

  • Carrie Schneider, The Kiss, 2008, color photograph, 40 x 50".
    picks October 30, 2008

    Carrie Schneider

    Although the artist is the principle figure in the photographs and films that make up Carrie Schneider’s first solo exhibition at this gallery, this is not a show of self-portraiture. Instead, Schneider is playacting, assuming roles and portraying caricatures from Finnish- and Estonian-inspired mythology. This is a risky practice for a young artist, since today’s favored chronicles are based in highly subjective and idiosyncratic experiences. By contrast, Schneider esteems conventional and moralistic forms of storytelling, thus risking cliché. Yet she avoids the pitfalls inherent in staging

  • Maggie Hills, Disturb the Comfortable/Comfort the Disturbed, 2008, oil on canvas, 48 x 60".
    picks October 22, 2008

    Maggie Hills

    In painting, juxtaposing geometric forms with organically structured systems typically sets up incongruent pictorial relationships that evoke theories of representational critique and other endgame strategies. Yet in “BLUNDERLAND”—an exhibition of new works by British painter Maggie Hills—this diametric opposition becomes an unexpected emotional quagmire. Her lush landscapes, inhabited by singular modernist buildings or architectonic sculptures, elicit empathy, passion, and sentimentality. These high-pitched emotions resonate neither from her sketchy atmospheric landscapes nor from the geometric

  • Danielle Gustafson-Sundell, empty (a minute, a month, a year, a day), 2005, mixed media, dimensions variable.
    picks October 21, 2008

    “Can Bigfoot Get You a Beer?”

    Exhibition curators Anthony Elms and Philip von Zweck plaintively write, “Some of the artists in ‘Can Bigfoot Get You a Beer?’ may be familiar. Or possibly the objects encountered only seem recognizable, a blur in the eyes and a thing in the mind. After all, when fools rush in, blobsquatches are known to run. And we are rooting for the fools.” This don’t-trust-what-you-see rhetoric is of a piece with the work of the mostly Chicago-based artists collected in a vast (by local standards) third-floor apartment gallery. The highlights are the three contributions by women in the show. Laura Mackin’s

  • Molly Zuckerman-Hartung

    At the bottom of the checklist for Molly Zuckerman-Hartung’s exhibition at Julius Caesar was a Shakespeare (mis)quote: “Macbeth: If we should fail? Lady Macbeth: We fail. But screw your courage to the sticking point and we shall not fail.” This might be a motto or abridged artist statement for Zuckerman-Hartung, who has gathered up her courage and screwed it to the continued project of rethinking abstraction.

    The artist seems to imagine abstraction as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari do, as an infinite field of potentials; contrary to any conception of abstraction as an endgame of absences and