THE BLOG

Summer Art Exhibits Highlight Local Talent

08/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is it the middle of summer already?

This is fabulous time to view art in Chicago galleries. For a lot of reasons there is much less pretentiousness in summer than at any other time of the art year. It is in summer that galleries anticipate fewer sales and less traffic, so they hold back the "stars" and put out the "kids," typically in group shows.

Instead of seeing art that you know is supposed to be good, because you've read about it in some self-inflated NY publication, you are looking at art that you've likely never seen before, have never heard about and lo' and behold you need to judge it, appreciate it and ponder it on your very own terms. Damn, this is a healthy experience.

You know I try really hard to only do previews, but one of the best shows of the year opened two weeks ago and I couldn't write about it until now. That show is at Zolla/Lieberman and was curated by the two kids who work there for William. They thoroughly kicked ass, selecting mostly Chicago artists, though some of my favorites are from downstate. This is just a glorious mishmash of good art in lots of divergent media, from ceramics, to packing tape on glass, to sandwiches of paint, to barely painted drywall cutouts, to photography. It is all fresh and new. The exhibition insists that I order my own aesthetics. There is so much there to like it is hard for me to keep it all in perspective. I'm very proud of Brian and Rachel, who did the curating. There is talent here.

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Two shows opening this weekend are right around the corner. Fabulous, approachable, conscientious, caring and insightful Catherine Edelman has one of her recurring group photography exhibits of a dozen new Chicago photographers. Great work here, too.

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You know what else? In summer the art on exhibit is cheaper.

Jean Albano has been a wonderful Chicago art dealer for two decades and has mounted a beautiful exhibit celebrating her 20 years of presenting some of Chicago's best. What a pleasure to see a fresh Margaret Whartons and Karl Wirsums.

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There's something special and new while also old and familiar about Anna Joelsdottir's art. Dividing her time between her native Iceland and Chicago, Anna brings a unique perspective in her work that melds Chicago influences with global forces. Sometimes I'm reminded of facets of Joan Mitchell in her art, and sometimes her linear quality is reminiscent of Cy Twombly, but I find him pretentious and Anna accessible. There's a love of art and process here. Joelsdottir spent 18 months making the painting that cascades from the windows, drawing and painting on both sides of the vellum -- and it isn't for sale. It's just a prototype. She's good and getting better and I already own one.

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Over in River West, Three Walls is opening a fun, interactive, multidisciplinary exhibition and performance. Invariably Three Walls presents fabulous artists who most often get international recognition shortly after their shows. Prescient, talented and friendly.

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There are also a dozen artists in Packer Schopf's new exhibit, which is cutely titled Size Matters, mostly because all the pieces are large. All the group shows I've just seen, comprised significantly of Chicago artists, are quite strong. As in touch as I like to think I am with what's going on here artistically, I'm constantly impressed with how much new talent I discover. Not only that, I think it is important to acknowledge that they are many mid-career artists here who continue to make the best work of their lives, often while guiding, teaching or mentoring.

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Take a look at the show at Corbett vs Dempsey where we have another fine selection of Chicago talent -- this time recent graduates of the School of the Art Institute. If you look closely here it is hard to avoid the influence of Ray Yoshida. It may be difficult to quantify what constitutes a 'Chicago School' but we have one -- and it closely resembles Chicago's personality.

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Lastly, I want to share my enthusiasm for Tom Torluemke, whose opening at the Michigan Avenue Galleries of the Cultural Center I missed. Tom is a wonderful artist and human being, who also ran Uncle Freddy's Gallery in NW Indiana with his wife, Linda. Creative, talented, multifaceted and responsible, Tom is a good role model for how an artist can function and succeed. Well done, Tom.

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I'm only scratching the surface of what's on view in Chicago this weekend. There's a lot of good, fun, accessible, mostly local art to see. Enjoy!

Thank you