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September 11, 2004

Gallery Briefing

Bedlam in the Districts, or A simple reminder of why I hate openings.

Nearly every space and hallway presented its own fire code violation last night and I found myself in the shittiest of moods, silently hating on strangers for their hair and their clothes (but I guess that's the way it often goes in the wooly West Loop Gate). At times I think I had trouble breathing, so there was really no question of letting the art do so. I'm getting a tad melodramatic here but suffice to say that simply looking at the art was not an easy feat last night.

Plus, I had to swallow hard and shell out cash for lot parking in River North (this after swallowing hard and shelling it out for garage parking earlier in the day at the Field Museum). Argh.

On top of all this a whole lot of art seemed quite ready and determined to piss me off. But, as I was hardly approaching it with anything resembling healthy impartiality or good faith, I'll lay off it for the time being. The lows were abundant, but I'll stick to the highlights.

My recommendations, bearing in mind that I have yet to have the opportunity to really 'see' the art, so to speak...

Henry Darger at Carl Hammer

To christen the season in this, their 25th year, the folks at Carl Hammer have gone with a guaranteed smash: "Alternate Worlds and the Creative Genius," devoted entirely to their main man, Henry J. Darger. I can hardly complain about this. Indeed, I'd fully expected to find at least a few Darger's there last night.

I probably don't need to bother describing or explaining Darger or his naked little girls to anyone out there, so I don't think I will. The curious and uninitiated ought to take a peek at this essay on Carl Hammer's web site, for starters.

There's not much to say really but this: if you don't know Darger, you should; if you do, this will be nothing unexpected, but nothing disappointing either.

And, as per usual, their exhibition upstairs is also worth a few minutes of your time.

[*Update 10/25/04]

'Frozen in Light: A Roomful of Images, Photography in Chicago,' curated by Matt Goebel at Zolla/Lieberman

Bring your reading glasses and cartographic skills with you to Zolla/Lieberman.

The group photo exhibition in their large gallery is absolutely filled to the brim, hung salon style. And rather than bother with wall labels (or even those notorious wall numbers), the gallery has prepared what must've been a 15-page title/price list with floorplans and wall diagrams. This left hundreds of patrons madly flipping and deciphering to find just who did what. That, coupled with the most outsized, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in River North last night, made for a mostly disagreeable experience.

(An aside to all area gallerists: I work a half block from Office Depot. I'm totally willing to spring for a couple packs of Avery labels if it's a matter of legwork. Really, you can order right here if you'd like.)

Best I could judge from the midst of the jostling mob, the show is a real mixed bag with a handful of stinkers and probably an equal number of real winners. I'd cough up some names, but I'll wait for the Zolla/Lieberman crew to update their website so I can actually have a full list to work from. At any rate, this one is definitely worth your while to check out (absent the opening night maelstrom). I know I'll be returning.

Brian Ulrich's 'Copia' and Jonathan Gitelson's 'Social Studies' at Peter Miller

Among the better photography at Zolla/Lieberman were some rather affectless (and unpopulated) shots by Brian Ulrich of interiors of grocery and convenience stores that immediately brought to my mind certain photos by Gursky. I did like these but, as I commented to a friend at the time, I know I've see some works by Ulrich that I've liked much more. A number of these have popped up in various Peter Miller group displays lately and I was positively thrilled to walk into this gallery at the end of last night's trek (at which point I'd found myself otherwise depressed) to find their front gallery entirely devoted to his candid photos of shoppers caught gazing into oblivion.

The middle gallery and a small project room are home to Jonathan Gitelson's semi-narrative constructions, with which I was not previously familiar. Between his large comic book-style photo narratives, three six precious books and a couple of video projections, there is plenty to recommend here as well.

I plan on going back to see this one again, and I'm taking someone with me.

David Noonan, "they became what they beheld" at ThreeWalls

If ThreeWalls artist-in-residence David Noonan's solo show suffers from any deficit it is the small number of paintings on display. This is not much of a complaint and it surely springs from the limitations of a brief residency. Still, I'd love to see more of his work in this vein.

Noonan selectively bleached stretched pieces of black fabric, creating improbably rich and textured imagery. I found the selection of subjects suprisingly varied considering his nostalgic focus on "genres of horror and the supernatural in the cinema of the 1970s and early 1980s." These works definitely demand some more of my time.

But don't listen to me. Listen to Terence Hannum; read his odd but probably appropriate (written while "listening to Led Zepplin’s second LP, a hand-me-down from his father, over and over") review of the show at panel-house.

**Update: It seems Noonan is simultaneously showing in NYC at Foxy Production (Foxy represents him). Tyler Green proclaims, "David Noonan's bleach-on-black-canvas paintings at Foxy Production were the funky-cool on-canvas hits of the weekend."

Leslie Baum, 'My Mountain, My Molehill' at Bodybuilder & Sportsman

I found myself unable to concentrate or focus worth a damn by the time I reached Bodybuilder but I really do think I like these paintings. Something about the play of color and form, decoration and space, gloss and texture. Or something. One work even made me dig on the color purple, which is something of a feat in itself.

Again, I need to give this show another glance, sans the hubbub. But I'd urge you to see it and judge for yourself.

Robert Davis + Michael Langlois, 'I against I' at Monique Meloche

After a brief absence, Monique Meloche has rematerialized in the space vacated in Julia Friedman's recent flight to NYC. Davis and Langlois' apparently photo-based paintings didn't really float my boat overall, but I did find their portrait of Haile Selassie rather lovely. I reserve my highest praise, however, for the sole drawing in the bunch, a graphite portrait that is fronted on Monique Meloche's website but which I had to fight off a crowd at the back of the gallery to see in person.

In more 118 N. Peoria news, former floor four dweller FLATFILE has moved to 207 North Carpenter. I'd imagine it's FLATFILE Contemporary's former space that gescheidle will be moving into come October, though either of FLATFILE's former abodes would prove a decent upgrade for gescheidle size-wise.

"Gallery Briefing"
Posted by Dan at 05:34 PM


It was a crush, wasn't it? I never made it to River North at all. A friend has work at Around the Coyote, but I don't think I'll make it this year -- other commitments tomorrow and had voter registration tasks today.

Did you get to see Sistler's work at Printworks? (one of my favorite places). That and gescheidle are usually about the only reasons for R.N. any more. Oh, all right... Zolla-Lieberman, tho I'm not usually good with photography.

BTW, I never saw the drawing you speak of at MM.

Miss Julia Friedman already, though. Always good drawings there.

Posted by: Fresh Paint on September 12, 2004 at 12:02 AM

I was thinking of going to ATC yesterday, but the Bears' season opener came on and then a miserable Cubs loss, so I found myself preoccupied.

I found the work at gescheidle disappointing. I had roughly the same response as to the paintings in the front gallery at Aron Packer, though, again, another visit could easily disabuse me of this opinion.

I didn't stop by Printworks at all. I was dragging a friend around with me and was on a tight schedule. The pics on their site make it look worth checking out, though.

The drawing at Monique Meloche: it was hung back near the desk and it's the only image from the exhibition featured on their site. Here's a direct link to it.

Posted by: Dan on September 13, 2004 at 09:39 AM

Bears opener.... I knew they should have drafted me.

Posted by: Fresh Paint on September 15, 2004 at 01:09 PM

Referenced in this post:

'they became what they beheld' David Noonan @ Threewalls
Bodybuilder & Sportsman
Brian Ulrich: Not If But When
Carl Hammer Gallery
Carl Hammer Gallery: Henry Darger
FLATFILE Galleries
Foxy Production
Foxy Production: David Noonan
Gescheidle Gallery
Iconoduel: Farewell, Mr. Darger
Jonathan Gitelson
Jonathan Gitelson: Books
Jonathan Gitelson: Poster Art
Jonathan Gitelson: Videos
Julia Friedman Gallery
MapQuest: 207 N Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60607
Modern Art Notes: The Weekend in Chelsea
Monique Meloche Gallery
Office Depot
Office Depot: Basic Supplies and Labels: Labels
Peter Miller Gallery
Peter Miller Gallery: Brian Ulrich
Peter Miller Gallery: Jonathan Gitelson
Realms of the Unreal—Stephen Prokopoff
ThreeWalls Gallery
Zolla/Lieberman Gallery