13 September 2006

fall gallery walk 06

Another fall season kicks off with the annual River North Gallery Walk. Always a pleasure, the galleries open their doors to the general public with offers of wine and fresh art, and this year, like the last, we came in droves.

For some reason, your intrepid reporters lacked the capacity of last year and we only chose our most favored galleries to view. Isn't that always the way? Our first stop and must see for yours truly was the Martha Schneider Gallery. The photographer Lalla Essaydi in the main gallery further explored the themes of parodying statues, using text (all over the subjects and background) as a way to explore the rewriting of life itself, and the feminine figure covered in cloths in the Eastern style. Though this work was quite brilliant on a number of levels, it lost its appeal in its sense of repetition from piece to piece.

The Marx Saunders Gallery shares a hallway/stairwell/entrance with Schneider but nothing else. Inside, the cast glass nude torsos of women by Stephen Weinberg were absolutely breathtaking. Weinberg uses an ages old technique with glass, so frosted and yet transparent, it feels like a chunk of sea glass one was lucky enough to find in the sea. Weinberg does best with outright nudes where the sinewiness of the model's body comes through, but his vision fades with the inclusion of bra and panties on one of the torsos. The classicism associated with the work simply dies when you realize the set might be Victoria's Secret. As in most of our gallery visits, we always adore the work the gallery owners represent full time or can't bear to part with and keep either in their offices or in other parts of the gallery. We loved the whimsical glittery mosaic figures of Keke Cribbs, which were mirthy enough to fit in a child's room, but frenetic enough to set an adult's imagination awry.

Our next stop was Habitat Gallery which was featuring glass marionettes by Simon Maberley. This work was simple yet sophisticated, whimsical yet serious enough to place in a law office. The color and position of the glass figures changes from piece to piece which kept the work lively and not stagnant when viewed as a whole. Our blog's creator was taken with some sculpture work that played with metal, glass and shapes. One looked like an egg with the white dripping out, while another looked like a misshapen tear drop. A Dave Chiluly painting hung in the back office area, which was the most surprising thing I saw that night. It was just a piece of paper splattered with different bright, bold colors and four distinct circular shapes that looked spray painted and could have been anything, pitted cherries, bowls, globes, and yet, it was obvious that Chiluly had done this piece, even though this was not a glass sculpture like those he's famous for.

Our next notable stop was the Perimeter Gallery where we viewed the abstract nearly metallic landscapes of Janis Pozzi-Johnson. These works lacked a defining something to fixate on, but also had quite a soothing feel about them. In the downstairs gallery, sculptures by Neil Goodman took us for a turn out of the ordinary. His sculptures were all free standing pieces that seemed to rely as much on physics and geometry as artistry. Reminiscent of radiator piping, these pieces had so much craftmanship that it was nearly painful to view.

We squeezed into the Jean Albano Gallery to view "Family Treetment" by Wirsum-Gunn. The outstanding pieces were the line art paintings that had traces of graffiti style and held a futuristic pop-art style. This work was vibrant and delirious, like a drug-induced vision or dream.

Next, we headed to the Andrew Bae Gallery to view block art prints of photography through a very innovative process by Tetsuya Noda. The show was appropriately titled "Diary, uncovered" and as we wandered through the pieces, which were striking, somber, and amusing at times, it did feel like we unearthed information about the artist himself. Through use of mimeograph machine, Noda scans his photographs and then creates a wood block for printing. The images have a dated feel to them, despite being less than twenty years old. Each piece tells a story. In its entirety, it felt like we were leafing through an old photo album littered with the remnants of life we can't throw away, postcards, receipts, pictures of almost nothing important.

Last but not least, we made our final stop at the Lydon Fine Art Gallery which was featuring the ethereal, abstract landscape work of Tracy Lynn Pristas. What Pristas does best that other artists working in abstract form lack is the ability to gradiate pleasing colors so minutely that you feel as if you are glimpsing the work through a prism. Also, Pristas plays with layers of paint for contrast to the eye and in some of the pieces, like "sun light dance," she uses this technique to focus the viewer's eye to the shaft of light that is in all its glory on the canvas. Trevor Bell's unusual sloping canvas and bright bold nearly solid color paintings are still being represented, a true testimony to the word "fine" in Lydon's claim. More modern than most of the work they represent, Bell's pieces are big and cannot be denied as excellent.

There are more galleries in Chicago than one can account for, trust us, we have tried. And yet, what makes the River North Galleries special is that they continue to search for what is pleasing, surprising and fresh. You can be sure whenever you make a visit to any of the galleries mentioned in this piece that is exactly what you will find. Also, you will find strong work that experienced gallery owners in this area know is truly exciting art, season after season.