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Back to Reviews 96

Arthur Siegel, 
Untitled (Barbara) 

Aaron Siskind, 
Pleasures and Terrors 
of Levitation Series, 
ca. 1956.

Gyorgy Kepes, 
Broken Venus, 1938. 

Nathan Lerner, 
Light Volume, 1937.

Yasuhiro Ishimoto, 

Richard Rezac, 
Cremona, 1996.

Gordon Powell, 
Drum, 1996.

Gordon Powell,
Untitled, 1996, wood, 
oil and wax, 
c. 22 x 14 x 22 in.

Gordon Powell, 
Untitled, 1995, wood,
wax and oil, 
21 x 30 x 24 in.

Raye Bemis, Untitled, 

Raye Bemis, Untitled, 

Kiki Kogelnik, 

chicago report 

by Victor M. Cassidy

Chicago is giving itself a megadose of its 

own art history this fall. Already up are 

"Second Sight," the first-ever survey of 

Chicago printmaking, and "When Aaron Met 

Harry," which focuses on an influential 

period in Chicago photo history. On Nov. 

17, the long-awaited "Art in Chicago, 1945-

1995," opens at the Museum of Contemporary 

Art. "Second Sight: Printmaking in Chicago 

1935-1995" runs through Dec. 8 at the Mary 

and Leigh Block Gallery of Northwestern 

University. This exhibition of 150+ 

printworks by more than 80 artists was 

curated by James Yood, a lecturer at 

Northwestern and Chicago's leading art 

critic. An illustrated book-length catalog 

with three essays and documentation 

accompanies the show.

Roughly speaking, "Second Sight" divides 

into three parts---printmaking from the 

Great Depression through the `50s; the 

Chicago Imagists (the late `60s to the 

present); and other schools of printmaking 

from the `70s to the present. Though much 

of the show is well-organized and 

instructive, its final portion is 

overcrowded with irrelevant work that 

reduces it to incoherence. Before the late 

`60s, Chicago printmakers were 

conscientious artists who produced 

attractive work in traditional modes. 

Nothing they made compares to the 

breakthrough work of Europe or New York at 

that time. The most gifted of these 

artists---Leon Golub and H.C. Westerman---

did their best work (not necessarily as 

prints) after they left Chicago. Some 

others, like Roland Ginzel, are better 

painters than printmakers.

Chicago printmaking came abruptly to life 

in the late 1960s with the arrival of the 

Imagists---Ed Paschke, Karl Wirsum, Gladys 

Nilsson, Jim Nutt and others. Instead of 

appealing images like "Mother and Child," 

these artists give us street goons, sex 

aplenty, cannibalism with a wink, and nutty 

puns. Raucously energetic and subversive, 

Imagist art still looks fresh after more 

than thirty years.

The third part of "Second Sight" is 

supposed to show tendencies in Chicago 

printmaking that followed Imagism, but it 

makes little sense. In order to be 

politically correct, Yood includes several 

artists in the exhibition who have no 

profile as printmakers and whose work has 

little relationship to the themes of his 

show. Yood's catalogue essay is more 

restrained, expertly describing Chicago art 

after Imagism, naming the important artists 

and ignoring the politically correct ones. 

He knows exactly what he is doing. It's a 

shame that he worked so long on "Second 

Sight" only to undercut himself.

"When Aaron (Siskind) Met Harry (Callahan): 

Chicago Photography 1946-1971" is the best 

exhibition of contemporary art in Chicago 

at present. Harry Callahan joined the 

faculty at Chicago's Institute of Design in 

1946. Siskind arrived five years later. 

Until 1971, when Siskind departed, the two 

men were colleagues whose teaching and 

practice influenced a remarkable generation 

of photographers. We see this legacy in 

200+ photographs by 58 artist-

photographers---a jam-packed show.

There is a gratifying wholeness to "When 

Aaron Met Harry." Straightforward and self-

confident, the artist-photographers in this 

exhibition show us life as it is. They 

respect the humanity of their subjects and 

never peep. They do not push personal 

agendas. Their abstractions and experiments 

make visual sense. This matter-of-factness 

is seen in Callahan's familiar portraits of 

his wife Eleanor. These show a modest, 

contented woman who knows how to live. 

Though Callahan's images glow with love, 

there is nothing sentimental about them.

Yasuhiro Ishimoto, a Callahan student, 

shows his teacher's influence. In 

photographs of Chicago's humble, Ishimoto 

presents his subjects as human beings 

without romanticizing their poverty or 

using them to make political statements. 

Callahan was the first Chicago photographer 

to record the unique light of the central 

city and the peculiar way that peoples' 

bodies relate to the structures of the 

elevated train. Ray Metzker, another 

Callahan student, has picked up where he 

left off. Callahan's landscapes have 

inspired Joseph Jachna and Kenneth 

Josephson, whose outdoor scenes are 

especially successful.

Three Chicago sculptors---Richard Rezac, 

Gordon Powell and Raye Bemis---had 

excellent shows this month. Rezac filled 

three rooms of the Feigen Gallery with 

small-scale floor and wall pieces in wood, 

bronze, aluminum, steel, and concrete. We 

notice first how spare and subdued Rezac's 

sculptures are---and then we are astonished 

by their complexity. Rezac says he admires 

the forms of hand tools because the use of 

materials in them "is usually close to 

perfect." He wants his work to have "a 

rightness that seems indisputable." In this 

exhibition, Rezac explores some new forms--

an anvil-like shape which he produces at 

different scales in wood and metal; and a 

curious X with bulbous joints along its 

lengths. There is much to think about in 

this exhibition. It stays with you for a 

long time.

Gordon Powell's "Physical Range" at the 

Chicago Cultural Center includes laminated 

wooden floor and wall sculptures colored 

with linseed oil and wax in pastel hues. 

The waist-high vessel forms on the floor 

suggest pottery, says the artist. So they 

do, but Powell's inviting vessels are not 

of this world. It would be a sin to put 

anything in them. Drum (1996) is a roughly 

triangular wall piece made of yellow- and 

cream-colored circles which suggest an 

artist's palette. This singular work, which 

is neither a painting nor a sculpture, just 

happened, Powell says. He's not sure 

whether it is unique or the first of a new 

body of work.

Raye Bemis's "Conjunct" at the Fassbender 

Gallery is a breakthrough show, a vigorous 

leap into fresh territory. This artist is 

no stranger in Chicago. She has been active 

here for more than 20 years with many group 

shows, a major outdoor piece at Art Expo in 

1990, and a recent solo exhibition at Klein 

Art Works. Bemis, a formalist, works with 

simple shapes, patterned surfaces, and 

quiet colors. "Conjunct" is mostly wall 

pieces made of rusted steel mesh and 

colored wax. Some of the sculptures both 

hang on the wall and are cut into it, 

giving a mirror-like effect which is new 

for Bemis and very provocative.

Kiki Kogelnik, an Austrian artist, does 

something fresh with glass in her gigantic 

(30 art glass sculptures; 10 paintings; 32 

ceramic works) solo show at the Chicago 

Athenaeum. Kogelnik's sculptures are mask-

like self-portrait heads mounted on 

cylindrical pedestals. The forms of these 

works don't vary much from one piece to the 

next. Kogelnik develops the transparent 

interiors and pedestals to present a wild 

variety of themes---Millefiori Head, 

Medusa,Censorship,Octopus and 

others. According to a gallery spokesman, 

each head involved different glass-making 

techniques, some of which were developed by 

the artist's assistants to meet her 

expressive requirements.

Cooperatively-owned low-cost living spaces 

for artists are old stuff in every U.S. 

city but Chicago. In September, the Near 

Northwest Arts Council (NNWAC), a 

community-based organization that 

represents the interests of artists, 

announced that it had purchased a 40,000-

sq.-ft. warehouse for $275,000. By summer 

1997, this structure, in the artist-heavy 

Bucktown area, will be transformed into the 

Acme Artists Cooperative with live-work 

spaces for up to 20 artists and offices for 

three community organizations. Tenants will 

pay $3,000 to join the co-op and an average 

rent of $574 per month. Laura Weathered, a 

painter who heads NNWAC, has been working 

for years to make the co-op a reality. On 

several occasions, she located suitable 

properties, only to be outbid by real 

estate speculators who were developing a 

neighborhood that artists had made 


Another neighborhood that is becoming chic, 

at least for art dealers, is roughly two 

miles west of River North. In October, the 

Rhona Hoffman Gallery moved to 312 North 

May Street, one floor above Gallery 312, a 

quasi-commercial art space. Hoffman's 

operation will not change. She is pleased 

to have a more commodious space at 

reasonable cost. The neighborhood is not 

remote, she says. Nearby are Klein Art 

Works, Tough Gallery, Fassbender Annex, and 

galleries for the School of the Art 

Institute of Chicago and the University of 

Illinois Circle campus. She won't be 

surprised if more dealers move in.

Rhona Hoffman is the latest Chicago art dealer

to go on the Internet . Others are Spencer

Weisz, a vintage poster gallery; the TBA

Exhibition Space which currently has 

information about Art Chicago 1996, and 

Oskar Friedl Gallery The grand doyen of Chicago's 

net set is definitely Klein Art Works 

This, the ne plus ultra of art dealer home 

pages, begins with a splendid photograph of 

a Jun Kaneko installation at the Klein 

Gallery and contains a Gallery Credo plus 

more than 40 reproductions of works by 

gallery artists. The page continues with 

links to ArtNet, other publications and 

numerous artist sites---Rembrandt, Yves 

Tanguy and others. The Vermeer page has a 

handy "Vermeer Locator" map of the Western 

Hemisphere which shows where all his 

paintings are. Click on a red square and a 

Vermeer pops up. There are also links to 

several of Klein's avocational interests, 

among them the "Guide to Lock Picking" by 

Ted the Tool; the Chicago Bulls; a multi-

media tour of the solar system; and the 

maxims and quotations of Mark Twain. Klein 

does not believe that his home page has 

brought him any sales. He got several nice 

notes from artists, however, who sent him 


VICTOR CASSIDY is an art journalist based 

in Chicago.