reviews

  • Phil Berkman

    Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (MCA Chicago)

    Phil Berkman, a conceptual artist, is also Chief of Security at the Museum of Contemporary Art. His performance, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, addressed the absurdity of equating art with money; it occurred just as the theft of three valuable Cézanne paintings at Chicago’s Art Institute focused attention on museum security.

    Berkman folded a one hundred dollar bill into a child’s paper airplane and pushpinned it to the wall. Then he stationed young uniformed security guards to watch the money (they rotated every 20 minutes or so)—coincidentally all were artists too.

    Entering this “guardscape” as

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  • Vito Acconci

    Young Hoffman Gallery

    In An Idea for Storage in a Small Downtown Chicago Gallery, Vito Acconci used the space as a kind of depository for memories about and associations with childhood–not the storybook kind but that related to one’s primal screams. Unlike his earlier sound-structure installations, this one, possibly in response to the simple cubic space, had only three sculptural units and one continuous two-word dialogue. As a result, nondetailed cues suggested universal feelings.

    For the dialogue/poetry/music, Acconci fed three loudspeakers with three separate stereo channels, each speaker unseen but “talking”

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  • Jerry Peart

    ConStruct

    Jerry Peart’s painted aluminum sculpture is exuberant in a colorful, theatrical, outlandish way, full of vanity-table purples, pinks, and chartreuses. One curved surface leads into another; the pieces swoop and lean in a sort of continuous, swinging rhythm of joined, rebounding arcs, with hi-gloss elements framing negative spaces and each work balanced on some fishlike flap or giraffish leg.

    The release of his small sculpture in editions seems a good idea. The parts are cut out and painted, in persistent Chicago steel sculpture style, with Peart doing all the work himself, fabricating and signing

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  • Vera Klement

    Marianne Deson Gallery

    In the 1960s, Vera Klement painted on a massive scale, largely in response to the abundant Chicago building-lobby exhibition space, in which anything under nine square feet is totally lost. Klement (a small-frame woman) found a pragmatic way of scaling down parts of her work so she could handle and transport it—Chicago building-lobby shows usually provide no transportation. She constructed canvas sections which, when juxtaposed, looked like the continuous surface of one painting, but could be easily disassembled for carrying home.

    But this physical division could not help but affect the content

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  • Ellen Fisher

    In her performance Figurines, Ellen Fisher seems to undergo a variety of scale changes. When she enters we see her normal human proportions. Then she kneels in a sort of subterranean space below a small table whose top becomes a horizon, as if she were some giant spirit who extended up to the sky. Next, sitting on the table, she pulls a male and a female figurine out of her dress and dangles them on strings, suggesting that she is some disembodied force of political control. Then, in a black mask and net costume, she leaves the table and dances in front of a bright spotlight; the impression is

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  • Nicholas Africano

    Nancy Lurie Gallery

    It would be easy to dismiss Nicholas Africano’s work as the soap opera of New Image painting. Because his figures act in dramas of friendship and the family, their situations may seem clichéd, their emotions exploited, their privacy infringed upon. However, soap opera gloats over pain and passion and delights in sleaziness. It stimulates voyeurism, draining everyday life of emotional depth while pretending to show crises. Soap opera fails to understand the significance of events or feelings and becomes pacifying and monotonous, but Africano plumbs the emotional intensity of crucial moments and

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