Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Carroll Street Open Studios

Here is more great work that I saw at the open studios in Carroll Street, Chicago, last weekend. Beautiful constructions and work on paper by Judith Mullen, intriguing objects by Joan Giroux, and a terrific ab-ex painting by an artist whose name I didn't uncover.

The Gods of Dreams

I recently saw an interesting show of work at a gallery not too far from my Chicago apartment. Morpho Gallery runs a regular 'emerging artists' competition, and they were exhibiting the winners of the last few competitions. The first piece that caught my eye was by Michael Klaus Schmidt:


The bold shapes and collage elements have references to cloisonne ceramic work, or collagraphs in the printmaking realm. They also remind me of 1970s poster design, which must be something to do with the curved shapes ending in heavily outlined forms. There's a lot of texture in the different areas, too, that stops them coming off as flat and dull. I believe the artist has collaborated with theatre people, and you can see the cross-over in the graphic impact of this work.

I liked this painting by another artist in the show, for its colours, and good organization of all these shapes. It's something that lots of artists seem to be doing at the moment, but this is doing it quite well:


And then this one, because I am a sucker for pure abstract art with layers of delicious textures:


Morpheus was the ancient god of dreams, who would appear to our dormant selves in any human shape he desired. I assume the gallery's name derives from the character in Ovid's Metamorphoses. It's an appropriate choice for a place that displays art, which gives us objects but embodies the spectral presences of forms that come from a place far outside our own selves.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Visit to the Studio of Connie Noyes


An artist’s studio, it has been said, is half science laboratory and half Aladdin’s cave.

I was reminded of this when I visited the studio of Chicago artist Connie Noyes recently, on the third floor of a grand brick factory building that once manufactured Ford Model Ts. As soon as the steel doors swung open, Noyes guided me on a pathway that led between old and new paintings concealed in bubble-wrap and leaning against walls, tables laden with the recycled and cast-off materials that she uses in her current work, and works in progress standing against other walls, reclining on other tables, or lying on the floor, amid pools of wet and dried resin that she pours in cascades over her materials.

We talked a lot about process. Whether in a series of works incorporating enlarged digital photos, pigment, resin, and hilariously gaudy frames, or in a piece that cocoons hundreds of peanut shells in a bright gold layer, Noyes spoke about finding her way by working with the materials. The size and dimensions of the work, the particular tone and texture that results, even the title, aren’t fixed until the end. I asked if she used recycled materials (packing peanuts, plastic pens, marshmallows (well, maybe they were fresh rather than recycled)) because of environmental concerns, but she said it came more from psychological motives. She mentioned the disparity between our inner  life and the image we project to others, a point which I take to mean that she is working with a disparity between the cast-off nature of her materials, and the brilliantly shiny, glossy, alluring surface that she arrives at when she’s done.




This way of working wasn’t particularly helped by going to grad school at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her experience there made her feel torn down by the teachers’ advice, and nonplussed by their heavily theoretical bias. Noyes’ work is clearly about texture, and matter, and a visual experience so rich that you almost want to eat her painting/sculptures. I call them sculptures because even though the materials lie on panels, and they hang on the wall rather than being freestanding, you experience them as objects in space, in your space—the space of your visual field, flooded by a torrent of outrageous colours, and occasionally overtopped by their physical presence.



And what was the first piece of art she ever remembers making? When she was six years old, there was a Child Craft encyclopedia, its pages filled with pictures by lots of famous artists, and she drew a bunch of drawings around the edges of a page that contained images from Picasso’s paintings.

That’s another thing that an artist’s studio resembles: a child’s art class. Not the kind where the teacher scolds you for getting your hands dirty (as happened to Noyes’ own daughter once), but where you yourself are your own teacher, and you have permission to make the biggest mess you want, to throw stuff around and work through the failures until something good comes out of it.

Connie Noyes is having an Open Studio on Friday, October 18, 2013, at 6pm, 629 W Cermak, Chicago. Her work can also be seen in a group show at the Zhou B Arts Center, 1029 W 35th Street, Chicago, opening November 15th.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A fashionable assemblage of elegant notables



Salon n.

2. a fashionable assemblage of elegant notables (as literary figures, artists, or statesmen)



Last Saturday evening, October 5th, Patty and I held a salon at our Chicago apartment. Patty is a writer and I am a visual artist, and since about 2003 we've hosted one party a year (sometimes more) at which we invite the many writers we know to read something from work in progress or published work, the artists to bring some work along and talk about it, and any musicians to play a song if they feel inclined. It's more of a party than a salonin the traditional sense--no Gertrude Stein holding forth about modern art in the corner, no competing for attention or ascendancy. Just an opportunity to eat, drink, and share some work to combat the isolation that usually goes along with the writer's and artist's lot.

This recent one was great for many reasons, chiefly that so many people contributed, and so many were there for the first time. In addition to the photos from the salon posted here, below are links to the elegant notables' work online, where I could find them (I will add more as I find them).

Writers


Geoff Hyatt, Birch Hills at World's End (novel).
Patricia Ann McNair, The Temple of Air (stories).
Gail Wallace Bozzano, interview.
Wyl Villacres, excerpts.
Columbia College Chicago student writers (link).

Visual artists


Lynn Tsan
Sal Campbell
Rita Grendze
Lynn Neuman
Dimitri Pavlotsky
Deborah and Glenn Doering
Kevin Swallow
Joanne Aono
Mare Swallow
Doug McNair

Musicians


Randi Russo (links to the song, Invisible, that she sang for us)
The Dawsons (Ted's band, Mr Mayor and the Highballers, is performing at the Battle of the Jug Bands on October 25th

And finally, I played ma gee-tar a bit, but here is me playing better than I did a few nights ago:



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Previewing a new web series

Last week, I met Martin Garcia at my Chicago studio to talk over art related things (though we also talked about English football, which heathen US sports fans refer to as 'soccer').

Martin is an artist who also uses video, both for his own work and to record stuff for other artists and galleries around Chicago. Recently he formed a production company to work on a web series called Our Cultural Center, which will consist of a series of 2 minute films set in a fictional arts organization whose funding has just dried up. The series is called Our Cultural Center, and Martin has hired a group of real actors to work on each episode, which will feature art created by real artists from around Chicago, too.

The stated intention is to talk about art and the art world in a humorous way, and simultaneously to raise the profile of art in Chicago and the issues facing the art world. It's an ambitious project, and I hope it gets the viewers it deserves. The series is scheduled to begin airing via the internet on October 21st, 2013.


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