Gallery season truly something to behold

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
September 5, 2003

Today marks the opening of Chicago’s Fall gallery season. Whether you’re a serious art buyer or a simply a looky-loo like each of us, there’s surely something for everyone at this weekend’s openings. Paintings, sculptures, photography–it’s all covered here. We’ve even got the 411 on a 3-D computer project. You can’t beat the price–it costs nothing to look. Then, too, there’s the bonus of chatting up the artists. Many will be on hand at the openings of their new exhibits.

We chose 20 Chicago galleries to visit–completely at random–to hopefully give readers a better idea of what Chicago’s burgeoning gallery scene is all about. We approached the assignment as many of you might approach visiting a gallery–clueless to the core. To wit, we respectfully offer up our “layperson’s” critique of the art we saw (folks, we’re not art critics, just novice gallerygoers)–both ongoing exhibits and the shows that are opening today. What we found surprised us at nearly every turn–every conceivable form of artistic expression is available at Chicago art galleries. And don’t worry, if like us, you don’t know a thing about art. You don’t have to–that’s why the gallery owners are almost always on hand; avail yourself of their wisdom.

Remember too, that much of the fun of gallery hopping is to simply wander in and peruse at your leisure. Some galleries require appointments for viewings, so call ahead.

So get out there, check out a gallery or two, and maybe even bring home a work of art. And don’t let the strange gazes of your friends and family temper the spirit of your new acquisition. As they say, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

In addition to the galleries listed below, check out The Guide pages of today’s WeekendPlus for an extensive list of the area’s galleries (including the ‘burbs).

ANDREW BAE GALLERY, 300 W. Superior, (312) 335-8601.

“Korean and Japanese Works on Paper: Paintings and Prints”; through Sept. 26.

The torso in Jeong Ho Park’s photograph is long, lean and impossibly sculpted. With hips as sharp and rare as a perfectly cut diamond, the woman in the picture is so divine you almost forget her breasts are bare. But then again, I’m not a man. Anyhow, compare this to Wonsook Kim’s whimsical lithograph, “Dream,” where a young woman is asleep underneath a sea of stars.

The mission: Gallery owner Andrew Bae showcases Asian and Asian-American artists at his serene River North Gallery. His approach to art is intuitive. “When you like somebody, you don’t have a theory behind why you like them,” he says. “You just go by the good feeling you get from them. I go by a similar approach with art. It’s what I feel inside.”

The pieces at the current show range from $1,000 to $7,000–a bargain compared to some of the larger oil paintings on exhibit here that fetch upwards of $21,000. –Jae-Ha Kim

UNIT B GALLERY, 1733 S. Des Plaines, (312) 491-9384.

Opening Sept. 12: “Object Play” a joint showing of the works of Dolan Geiman and Steve Hokanson; through Oct. 5.

Unit B is one of a handful of galleries referred to as the “new kids on the block.” All are small, artist-run spaces located in the near south side (Unit B is run by Kimberly Aubuchon, who is herself an artist). Let’s face it, nothing beats discovering an emerging artist before they’re discovered and given shows in River North. For one, the art tends to be much more affordable. Pieces go for $100 and up.

In the current exhibit, Dolan Geiman’s mixed-media paintings have a pop art sensibility to them. In contrast, Hokanson’s bronze, steel and copper sculptures are industrial explorations of line and space.

Aubuchon also sells some swank mugs, bags and shirts that feature the gallery’s logo. I’m partial to the grey messenger bag ($24.99)–it’s functional art. –Misha Davenport

JEAN ALBANO GALLERY, 215 W. Superior, (312) 440-0770.

“Jules Feiffer: Drawings, Cartoons and Book Art”; through Oct. 18.

You enter this bright, airy gallery and instantly feel right at home. Some of this is thanks to the charming Jules Feiffer installation that dominates the main show room. Forty of the New York artist’s works hang on the walls. The pieces are accessible and not at all intimidating for novice art browsers who’ll be charmed by his whimsical flair. His pieces range from $1,500 to $3,500. But don’t let the price tag keep you away.

Gallery owner owner Albano offers this tip for fledgling buyers: “You don’t have to have thousands of dollars to enjoy art. You can come and just browse. And if you really fall in love with something, you can buy a catalog for $10 or purchase a painting over an installment plan.”

One thing that won’t be going on my wish list is Diane Cooper’s quirky found art pieces. While I appreciated her ingenuity, I can’t imagine hanging a piece that incorporates film strips on my wall. –JHK

ARON PACKER GALLERY, 118 N. Peoria, (312) 226-8984.

Gallery 1: “Homefront Invasion,” digital prints by Mark Mothersbaugh; Gallery 2: “Visual Palindrama (anddnaanddnaanddna)” paintings by Miranda Zimmer; both run through Oct. 4.

Miranda Zimmer is not now–nor has she ever been–a member of the synthisizer group Devo. That would be Mark Mothersbaugh and he’s being shown in gallery 1.

Zimmer’s success cannot be attributed to spill-over from Mothersbaugh’s show, though. It takes a certain kind of artists to find a new use for a Ralph Lauren paint chips. Zimmer uses them as mini-canvases. Gallery owner Aron Packer says he plans to display over 600 of them in the show; $75 each or 3 for $200. –MD

GWENDA JAY/ADDINGTON GALLERY, 704 N. Wells, (312) 664-3406

“Kwang-Young Chun: Aggregations”; through Oct. 7.

Growing up in South Korea, Kwang-Young Chun used to help his grandfather meticulously wrap herbs and medicine in sheets of mulberry paper. Today, the sixtysomething artist is world-renowned for his avante garde pieces that incorporate history with modern art.

The average price for the seven pieces on exhibit here is $15,000. Once you get a look at the intricate pieces, you can understand why. Using antique mulberry paper that dates back 80 to 100 years, Chun folds them into tiny geometric pieces. His “aggregations” evoke a range of emotions–from awe to sorrow to bittersweet tenderness.

“His pieces are amazing,” says gallery co-owner Dan Addington. “One person looks at it and says it could be a gorgeous rock garden. Someone else looks at it and sees an aerial map of the world. It’s what you make of it.” –JHK

THOMAS McCORMICK GALLERY, 835 W. Washington, (312) 226-6800.

“Without Compromise: the Art of Melville Price (1920-1970)”; through Oct. 11.

Melville Price might not be the best known of the abstract expressionists (most people immediately think of Jackson Pollock). The McCormick Gallery itself admits that much of Price’s work slipped through the cracks the first time around. Even so, that doesn’t mean anyone should be quick to dismiss his work. “Without Compromise” focuses on a broad range of works from 1948 up until his death in 1970. –MD

CATHERINE EDELMAN GALLERY, 300 W. Superior, (312) 266-2350

“In Flight: New Views by Terry Evans”; through Oct. 4.

This gallery is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a solo exhibit by Chicago-based photographer who specializes in aerial photography from hot air balloons and small planes. One photograph is a gorgeous, lush landscape with a giant clam shell in the middle. Wait–that’s not a clam. It’s a sand-trap on a golf course made from a landfill.

Evans’ work is part of an ongoing project to be shown in Millennium Park two years from now. Come get your sneak peek now. –JHK

BYRON ROCHE GALLERY, 750 N. Franklin St, Suite 105, (312) 654-0144.

“Painting a Better Future for You” new paintings by Daniel Raedeke; through Oct. 17

Byron Roche has one simple rule when deciding what art gets hung in his gallery: he picks works he likes to look at.         And what he likes includes landscapes and abstract works by contemporary American artists.

He considers it his mission to keep contemporary art alive by not just selling art, but developing artists. He happily answers questions about an artist’s background and their technique.

The gallery itself is brightly lit, with large, storefront windows filling the space with natural light. The current show by Daniel Raedeke reminded me of a cross between pop art and Miro. The smaller pieces start at $800, with the larger pieces fetching upwards of $5,200 and more. –MD

MARY BELL GALLERIES, 740 N. Franklin, (312) 642-0202.

“Jack Roberts: New Work”; through Nov. 19

Abstract artist Jack Roberts is a favorite at the Mary Bell Galleries. It’s no wonder why. His works are vast, colorful and vibrant. The pieces are substantial–both in size and price. Ranging in size from 50″ x 50″ to 60″ x 80″, the paintings cost between $5,000 and $7,000. Still, his fans are as diverse as the landscapes he depicts.

Among his biggest supporter is Mary Bell, who admits she has been known to snare a piece or two for her private collection. For those who’d rather not break out the 401K just yet, look into the prints. They start at $500. –JHK

MARX-SAUNDERS GALLERY, LTD., 230 W. Superior, (312) 573-1400

Ken Saunders–co-owner of the gallery–has seen it a thousand times. Men enter the brightly lit gallery and pull their arms tightly to their sides and women clutch their purses for dear life.

The gallery has an international reputation for featuring the best artists working with glass, and no one wants to be the proverbial bull in a china shop.

Thomas Scoon’s work–featured in their current exhibit–incorporates elements of stone and bronze with glass. Pieces are priced $3,500-$22,000.

Other works in the gallery start in the $2,000 range and spectacular pieces go for substantially more. Saunders says they’re great to look at even if you know you can’t afford them.

“I get a lot of people telling me they’ll be back if they ever win the lottery,” Saunders laughs. –MD

KRAFT LIEBERMAN GALLERY, 835 W. Washington, (312) 948-0555.

“Bronze and Bluestone sculpture by Boaz Vaadia,” through Oct. 20.

After seven years in Highland Park, this gallery moved to the West Loop in February. Ordinarily, the exhibits range from Andy Warhol paintings to the downright odd–Steve Tobin’s collection of heavyweight shoes are both creepy and fascinating.

The latest installation features Israeli sculptor Boaz Vaadia, who incorporates slate into his work. Don’t even think about attempting to swipe one of his pieces–they weigh up to 1,500 pounds. The only thing to rival their weight is the price. Vaadia’s sculptures range from $6,500 to $45,000. –JHK

FINE ARTS BUILDING GALLERY, 410 S. Michigan, Suite 433, (312) 913-0537.

“Natural Fictions” recent works by Kathleen King; through Sept. 27.

King has been a member of the Fine Arts Building Gallery for three years and “Natural Fictions” marks her second solo show there.

The building itself has been a haven for artists for over a century. I dare say it’s probably one of the few building left in the city that still employs an elevator operator. Part of the charm of seeing a show at the FAB is the building itself–a national historic landmark.

As interesting as the architecture and history are, they still take backseat (and rightfully so) to King’s mixed media abstracts. Colors seem to dance and swirl playfully on the canvas. Pieces are priced from $500-$10,000. –MD

G.R. N’NAMDI GALLERY, 110 N. Peoria, (312) 563-9240.

“Forty Acres” by Richard Mahew; through Oct. 18.

The stark industrialism of this gallery belies the warmth of the paintings inside. Mahew’s pieces depict harmony and tranquility. Working in both oil and watercolor, he draws on a multicultural background (Shinnecock, Cherokee and sub-Saharan African) for his landscapes. Some 25 of his paintings will be on display, ranging in price from $4,000 for a watercolor to $50,000 for an oil painting. –JHK

CARL HAMMER GALLERY, 740 N. Wells, (312) 266-8512.

“Animated” recent 3-D computer works by Joseph Seigenthaler; through Oct. 4.

Seigenthaler is best known for his hyper-realistic life-size sculptures–first in wax, then clay, then epoxy. The Chicago-based artist is a staple at the Hammer Gallery as well as the Chicago International Art Exposition.

Still, his latest show is a departure of sorts. Gone are sculptures of any sort–save for one lone piece. Instead, patrons will fine animated 3-D works–the media currently being explored by Seigenthaler.

The installation was not available for viewing at press time, but the exhibit will include a dozen works. The majority will be displayed via viewing stations custom designed by the artist. Additional pieces will be projected on the wall. All pieces are for sale, $5,000-$20,000. –MD

WALSH GALLERY, 118 N. Peoria, (312) 829-3312.

“Affiliations,” running through Oct. 11

The walls are yellow. The artwork on display is nothing short of amazing. A babydoll’s head “exploding” into space. A row of buffalos. A wall full of Maos. This is contemporary Asian art of the non-dragon kind.

Some of the coolest pieces incorporate politics with pop art. Shanghai artist Xue Song incporates ashes into Warhol-inspired pieces that depict Mao Tse Tung made up from the faces of dozens of Chinese workers. But the “Affiliations” show features the work of Ruby Chisti, Pradip Malde, David Servoss and Von Kommanivanh whose mural “Ten Animals I Slam In a Net” is his homage to the days when he and his Laotian family had to sleep bundled together in one bed. FYI, his title is a palindrome. –JHK

PRINTWORKS, 311 W. Superior St., Suite 105, (312) 664-9407.

“Ferocious Bonbons,” new drawings by Audrey Niffenegger; through Oct. 4.

The show hasn’t even opened and fans of Audrey Niffenegger have already snapped up several of her “Ferocious Bon Bons”–the 30 small works that will be part of the show. It’s a good thing they’re small. Printworks is a very intimate space and the perfect place for showcasing the artist’s whimsical prints.

The artist will be on hand for the opening and again later in the month where she will sign copies of her critically-acclaimed novel The Time Traveler’s Wife. Much like her art, the book–in stores later this month–has already been snapped up. New Line Cinema has already optioned it for a feature film. –MD


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