F ing Good Art
Number Four
December 1 2000

all the art we can fit into tiny, tiny print
for entertainment only

Homewrecker at Monique Meloche

This is really stretching the definition of an apartment show - Monique, seasoned veteran of the MCA, Phyllis Kind and Vedanta, has filled the walls of her three-story yuppie incursion into Ukrainian Village with a collection that could define a particular aesthetic.

She's got a lot of the interesting artists who aren't getting a lot of play, and some who are only seen elsewhere. Lots of them. Allison Ruttan's new abstract porno video is excellent, and Tobias Bernstrup less abstract, less pornographic video is good, too: video-game graphics technology entertainingly put to even more useless purposes. There are vintage and new fetishistic formalism pieces by Carla Arocha, and a debut of Joe Baldwin's drawings. She missed a few of my favorites who would fit -- like Mindy Rose Schwartz, Derek Fensler, and Melissa Schubeck -- but the check-list is already ten pages long, including Dzine, Wesley Kimler, the Law Office crew, Laura Mosquera and the thug Joel Ross. This is an important show -- Monique has a handle on a funny, figurative, cynical, decorative, pop thing that I'm sure she'll continue when she figures out where to put her commercial gallery.


And from Pedro:

This is not really a group exhibition but a show of force from an important art dealer. As expected, Monique delivers -- showing off her good taste and savvy commercially-driven aesthetic.

Homewrecker is also very pornographic and youthful, but that is a good thing. Tobias Bernstrup's computerized characters looking for love in club scenes is cool and sad, Rob Davies and Michael Langois macho paintings of models are simple and cute and something high school students would love to hang up on their bedroom wall. In what seems like a sort of mug shot, Rebekah Levine's photo of a leg in high heels is an extension of a self portrait under an LA police sign shown at Dogmatic Gallery a couple of months ago. Levine's un-sophisticated glamour is about decadence, pride, and the stupidity of fashionable art personalities.



(I really wanted to be publicly two-faced, but the nice review got lost at New City.)

Aside from the akward name (destined to become "enema" as easily as Vedanta is "vendetta", and to be confused with Monique's MM), the biggest problem is that it is so nice -- friendly people, pleasant creative expression. The cozy atmosphere is more conducive to pot-luck suppers than to art. Good luck to them, but also a reminder that even ARCtemesia is finally realizing that a soft, nutureing, neutering womb alone doesn't produce art worthy of respect. It's time for some tough love.

The biggest event of the opening evening, though, reminded the comfy zone that there is a world outside of their small circle: an angry, drunken artist intervention. I know the guy -- an intelligent, art-educated man who thought he had found a comfortable working-class neighborhood where he could go native. Then he sees the camel's nose under his tent flaps. I understand and support his attitude, if not his specific actions. When Bridgeport turns into Wicker Park it will be a windfall for the developers and a pox on the rest of us. Who really has claim to a neighborhood -- a long-term renter, someone who is able to buy a storefront building, or exhibiting artists who commute in once in a while?


Well, let's be real here, Bulka. The show was bad -- and not Michael Jackson BAD -- but really bad. So formulaic, so safe, and so Art News Review Section aesthetic.

The worst part is the historical recount of events related to the art objects, from Duchamp to Hirschhorn, as told by Stephanie Skestos an assistant at the department of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Art Institute. If the work can't stand by itself why justify it? Most of the works here are not found-objects with a couple of alterations but objects custom made for the sole purpose of addressing some sort of political statement about cultural identity in the age of globalism


Bill Smith at Standard

I would say that Bill Smith, currently showing at Standard, is probably a little touched in the head, but I mean that in the best way possible. Which one of us experts in physics, diesel engine mechanics, and fractal geometry wouldn't be wary of large crowds, spending most of our time in our rural studios reconstructing the possum skeletons our dogs dragged in?

It doesn't matter. What does matter is that I opened Standard's door, curled up on the show's installed carpet with the two cats David Roman just adopted, and sat utterly transfixed for over an hour by the large blossoming kinetic sculpture suspended in the middle of the front room. Antennae parts revolving, striking hair-thin wires attached to contact microphones, it was all strung into a flower-shaped instrument for random sound composition.

In another corner, a dried maple seed was perpetually suspended in its natural helicopter spin over a fan. In the back room, an undulating set of ribs changed the pitch of wires being struck by a thin rod, set atop of a small float that was sent joggling about by air bubbles forced into the cup of water on which it rested. A verbal description does little justice to the visual and sonic experience of these intricately engineered toys and knock-out sculptures of this show.

The rest of the pieces by comparison are merely gadgets, present in the space to provide a quasi-scientific mood using cute optical effects (pretty though they are) and humming motors, all seeming like kooky home accessories one might find in a SkyMall magazine. These compliment the thrift store furniture used to prop them up, giving the whole installation the air of idealistic scientific marvel I associate with the techno-utopia of the fifties.

I do not agree with Bill Smith that this work can function as an homage to the beauty of nature or even to the mathematical harmonies inherent in the world around us. I've often thought the intended homage should really be owned up to being an expert use of one's knowledge of natural mechanics. The perfection of nature, in my opinion, is an homage unto itself, unable to be enhanced by the work of artists.

But Bill Smith's works are still marvels unto themselves. Painstakingly crafted in found materials and configured into scientifically precise compositions which belie a deep and careful understanding of structure and engineering, and amazingly respectful to the potential inherent in material.


Joe Baldwin Retrospective at Law Offices

In their new outpost Law Office has installed a retrospective of Joe Baldwin's paintings. This five year glance backward is a collection of 12 works in as many styles. Each related to the next through a thin veil of paint only. Some were pleasing to the eye and, yes, I do like Spirit of England on the most slavish of aesthetic levels -- the colors.

The advance praise received by Joe Baldwin from peers, educators, and collectors was more enthusiastic and explicative than a bestselling book's dust cover jacket and moreover than the work itself. The idea that these paintings are as sublime as Gerber, Loehr, Bryan, Ajemian, and Fischer feel they are is a testament to how hard this show is trying to be serious while maintaining its distance through humor. Are we to be stunned by Baldwin's lack of sincerity, or praise him for his ability to be flip?

The exhibit is more about the commentary than about the paintings themselves -- Baldwin is working within an area of semiotics, the text, although in a supportive role, is primary in it's mediation of the experience and explanation of the retrospective. What is to be contemplated here: how deftly he can slither from one weak state to the next in a faint, nearly non-existent manner, in which even the most complex work recalls an immaterial truth. In the language of recognition Baldwin's work is unseeable, he asserts no identity, but rather remains polyvalent and therefore ineffective.


Things I hate about artists -

But maybe my expectations are unrealistically high.


What I hate about artists:


Next issue: what artists hate about us

Clean at Gallery X

A couple of undergrad students at SAIC have come up with a very interesting and compelling exhibition based on cleanliness, performative acts, and its implications towards sculpture. Working as an entity, note that nothing in the gallery is labeled, "the group" -- Lynsia Wade, Brooke Chaffe, Renee Goodenow and Vance Harrison -- intervenes from time to time in the space by cleaning up, re-painting walls, or maintaining a couple of props custom-made for performance activity.

One of them is a room within the gallery space with white walls, chairs, magazine racks, floor, picture frame, trash can, and a plant. The room is a sculpture but also an object by means of the white color which unifies the structure and the exhibition space. The sculptures, rooms, and individual works stand on their own without any need of the performative act or mission statements and that's where the success of this exhibit lies. The kids have reached a healthy balance between concept and craftsmanship.

For information (312) 899 5131 show runs trough 12/14/00. Don't miss it!


Wesley Kimler at Thomas McCormick

This time I'll have to pass, although I enjoy a good Kimler from time to time, the new paintings can only help make a good case for Julian Schnabel text-based paintings of the late eighties. The best thing in the show is James Yood's pitiful and long narrative justification of Kimler's supposed heroic search for substance.


Pantera and Reverend Billy

Trust me on this one, Heavy Metal is back with a vengeance. Just listen to the latest Pantera CD properly named Reinventing the Steel, or just watch one of Reverend Billy's interventions at Starbucks. Without a doubt or guilty feeling we can all agree that capitalism is as good as a toned down caffeine craving. Who cares if Starbucks is careless about their policies, or if Philip Anselmo encourages young Americans to indulge in whiskey, weed, and Black Sabbath.

There is no point in arguing that Metal music is very sophisticated in its methods. Its efficacy in conveying attitude has been proven from Zeppelin to Slayer; so why not trust these individuals? Why not trust the Reverend? After all, they work for us. In their performative acts our anger is leavened and our hopes refurbished. All this in a very lighthearted but aggressive way. Interesting parallel to the Metal resurgence and oddly enough is the slow, but long in the making, comeback of Damien Hirst and the downward spiral of Mike Kelley into David Lynch territory. So lets get over the 90's easy going emotional stylings of Elizabeth Peyton because all signs are up for us to believe that we can be aggressive once again.


Paul Melvin Hopkin
at Bodybuilder and Sportsman

If the silhouettes were sexually aroused women, the lightboxes would be unremarkable bar-art. Now, straight girls tell me it is all too gay. Guys don't seem to notice. Go figure. I didn't know what to think in the shower.


Tulip's Gossip

.. and wouldn't you like to know who Tulip really is? Tulip's not telling.

Temporary Services
Public Inventions and Interventions

Temporary Services' latest installment was a jumbled mess -- between the cacophony of sound emanating from the multiple video monitors and the amount of work crowded into their tiny space -- it was difficult, almost impossible, to concentrate on what you may have been trying to read or see. Even when it was emptied of bodies this was still the case. I thought I needed to go on another day after the reception in order to actually look at the work, but what I discovered for my trouble was that I was wrong. The place was merely jammed with complex didactic work with little room to breath.

Included in this "show" were five videos, two sound pieces, a slide show, several text based work and documentation of works exhibited or produce elsewhere -- totally eighteen participants in all. This was a mammoth affair. High praise to all 18 participants whose works were interesting enough to compel reading and viewing in the hampered environment. Michael Blum's Haackesque video was perhaps the most art-like work to be seen. As much as Reverend Billy was a laugh -- he left me thinking. Under the direction of Jim Duignan the Children from the Back of the Yards neighborhood development of a Gang-Proof suit is as brilliant as it is unnerving.

My question: does Temporary Services have an impact on the world? Will the letter containing the commentary regarding the sculpture at Grand and Western be effective, or will it remain only commentary. Does Temporary Services intervene with a purpose, or is it simply a showcase? I will be accepting replies to be made into a booklet at a later date.

Temporary Services has had a great run as the alternative voice of art and related non-commercial events in the city, but the confused state of this "exhibit" Public Inventions and Interventions, Part 2: Public Phenomena indicates a need, perhaps, to curate. It may have been better seen as Part 2A and Part 2B.


River North
The shift seems to have happened

At this Friday's openings, while standing in the sidewalk smokers' lounge, a more cultured friend remarked that it was like intermission at the Symphony. I've never been to the Symphony, but it is probably true -- a lot of rich white folks looking for "culture," and being satisfied with handsome recycled kitsch.

Henry Darger at Carl Hammer

These are some very interesting scraps of the Darger manuscript. The tragedy of the whole project is that individual pages will adorn some rich guys' dens, while the entire legacy is lost. I've heard rumors of pages of description of the geography, flora, fauna, weather patterns, and mythology of the planet of the little naked children, but despair of ever being able to read them, because the sale of individual colorful bits is more profitable, and the preservation or reproduction of the entire document is too esoteric. Damned shame. Wouldn't this be a better use of available grant money than most of the creative expression we have to endure?

David Leonardis

I've heard complaints that he is even sleazier than Peter Miller, and his schmoozing style is much more car salesman than up-scale networking gallerist (this place is disappointingly retail), but ... his new space is very clean, and even the old space, two doors north, has lost the feel of crashing a private party. The work is still the same collection of Howard Finster, Y2K pop-culture, and boring celebrity photographs, but now they are easier to see. Chris Peldo's pop-culture silk-screened paintings are very pretty, Shane Swenk makes cool cartoon-decorated furniture, and Todd English's two small spooky paintings are the most interesting things I've seen this week (at least).

galleries to see tonight
(It is pointless to list)

It's the traditional show for small, inexpensive art gift shopping. But, anyway -- TBA, Lisa Erf at Byron Roche, and others in River North, Multiples at NFA and others in West Loop Gate, the girl galleries in West Town; Joymore in Humbolt Park. We'll spend more time commuting than looking at art.

Chicago On-line Reference Points

SMALL PRINT: Assembled and distributed as a service to you, by a collection of artist/critic/curators including: Michael Bulka, Pedro Velez, Julia Marsh, Leah Finch.

URL of this page: http://spaces.org/archive/fga/fga4.htm