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A Weekend Full of Art

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With the waning popularity of physical books Brian Dettmer's tour de force pieces excavate the beauty, power and nostalgia of paperback novels. Like an archaeologist, he digs, explores and presents the evidence. This series is made from myriad paperbacks which relate to the phrases he's reproduced within them. The new work, at Packer Schopf, is unique and amazing. Also on view are labor intensive pieces by Chris Bathgate and Kathy Halper.

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There's a riot of fabulous color in the alternative media work of Claire Ashley and Sam Jaffe at Mush Room. Ashley's inflatable sculptures define new territory in the expanding vocabulary of sculpture. Paired with Jaffe's innovative knit, woven and constructed yarn wall works each piece makes me want to grin and the whole room makes me giddy. There are no blues here.

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Russell Bowman shows wonderful art that we don't often see in other Chicago galleries. In conjunction with the SOFA show at Navy Pier (more later) the gallery has some exquisite pieces by unschooled, un-art-educated, brilliant artists. Thornton Dial's paintings are a cacophony of outside-the-anointed-norm of what constitutes a 'solid' work of art, yet he slays what so often passes for a great painting. Coupled with the innate genius on the quilters of Gee's Bend in rural Alabama we bask in natural talent, insightful compositions and pure creativity. Another joyful exhibit.

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Across the street, at Catherine Edelman are the compassionate, personal, almost private photographs by Gary Briechle of people on the rugged coast of Maine. The details are what's important as the blacks and grays convey the power and tenderness of these images.

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Zolla/Lieberman is presenting Jamie Adams' art historically based, complex, very real paintings of Jamie Adams' family. Also on view are new paintings by sculptor Jin Soo Kim who has shown with the gallery for decades. Her images are made by diluting paint to the point where the paint spreads from her powerfully blowing on tiny dollop after dollop, rendering forms we are prone to read as human.

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Morpho Gallery is opening a show of new work by Mays Mayhew. Inspired by an intellectual curiosity about the physiology of love and the echo of its disappearance, her work is wistful and fun, as a quite serious aspect pervades it.

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Around the corner, in Hammond, Sidecar is opening Water, Saturday night, a group show with Tom Burtonwood, Holly Holmes and James Jankowiak. These are 3 artists who are always pressing ahead, pushing their aesthetic and breaking new ground. Sidecar's been doing solid shows for a while now. They are worthy of our respect and the drive.

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The SOFA Show is back at Navy Pier this weekend; starting today. It's an attractive mix of craft and art, with a lingering emphasis on glass. A lot of what's on display is virtuous, well made and beautiful -- a mix of art and craft. For me, the difference between craft and art is a matter of content, and the ability to perceive, or not, the soul of the artist in the work. I enjoy this show for its beauty and handmade excellence. All things needn't be cerebral. Elegance and quality can be inspiring and fulfilling too.

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A portion of the fair is reserved for the Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art, though it is billed as two fairs under one roof. There is a comfortable relationship between the aesthetics of the two presentations, though the Intuit Show is much smaller and much more about soul and substance, communicated by untrained artists who created out of pure necessity. They are glorious examples by significant artists here. The presentations by two or three galleries make the whole trip to Navy Pier worthwhile.

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Lots of art to see! Let's go,
Paul Klein

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