[visualculturist has been on sort of an un-planned hiatus, because its primary contributor has a different — and substantially more time-consuming - day job. but as he adjusts to the new rhythm, he promises to pick up the pace.
The new gig is shouting distance from the Schlesinger & Mayer/ Carson Pirie Scott/ soon-to-be Target store, site of the Sullivan galleries, where SAIC BFA candidates are holding their annual show. So I popped over to have a look.]
It’s been a while since I’ve read or heard anyone discussing the baby Art Star phenomenon — i.e. where an artist is plucked directly from a booth at a graduation exhibition and catapulted into [relative] fame and fortune. But it’s still early in the season for the shows, so we’ve still got time.
My guess, though, is that one isn’t going to emerge from the show of work by BFA candidates at the School of the Art Institute that’s up at Sullivan Galleries until next month. Which is not to say there aren’t some pieces that I liked. I’m not sure how the curators allocate space to the artists, but — at least the way I navigated the show, in more or less a counterclockwise fashion — it wasn’t until I got very close to the end that I saw anything which really seemed to suggest a lot of talent.
That is, at least until I found myself at the far northeast corner of the gallery space, where I was confronted with this arresting self portrait by Reisha Perlmutter.
I like the extreme close-up framing of the image and the sophistication of the brushwork. [While I really liked the landscapes on her website, I was a little disappointed with the other portraits she showed there because they just seemed more conventional.
Taylor Telyan identifies herself as a textile designer but the richly textured, lavishly detailed felt piece she’s showing here is definitely my idea of “fine art.”
I similarly like Lorraine Barger’s subtle and sensuous wool and indigo piece.
The cleverest thing I saw was Alexis Rodefer’s “Collected Research on Differentiating Monthly Housing Expenditures in Chicago:State and Madison” The artist has drawn watercolor renderings of several dozen Chicago houses, keyed to various locations on a city map, on each of which is indicated its monthly cost of occupancy.
The concept was interesting, and the execution was admirable — I’m a sucker for mostly anything involving maps, the little watercolors themselves are quite lovely.
and the whole piece is a great installation [although I’m not sure it qualifies as “installation” art].
(I can’t help but think that I’ve seen this idea before — at another SAIC graduate show — but I can’t substantiate.)
Finally, no matter what you think of the work in the show, it’s worth a trip to the 7th floor to look at the Sullivanian terra cotta framing the window reveals.
They are items of great beauty, and it’s great to see them this close, even if they’re not in pristine condition.
The preview of an auction at Wright Gallery remains one of my great personal pleasures: I have often likened it to going to a great, small design museum where you can touch everything.
It’s fun to look at the items in the catalog and online, but really, nothing beats going to Wright’s show room and seeing how the staff creates the display vignettes.
I went the day before the auction, where Wright’s staff was happy with the merchandise and clearly enthusiastic about the sale. I talked with Claire Warner, who is back at Wright to develop its contemporary art program, and who said she thought this group of pieces were the strongest the house has ever presented, and I am inclined to agree. Although this sale has fewer lots than some of Wright’s previous offerings, they are all relatively high-ticket.
As soon as you entered the space, you were confronted with one of the major pieces in the sale: a great secretary designed by Gio Ponti; Crowned with a split pediment, it’s almost “post-modern.” Estimated at $30-50K, it didn’t sell.
Other Ponti items fared better. A pair of 1954 lounge chairs for a house in Caracas, estimated at 20-30K, went for $92,750. They are shown here with a dazzling brass table with retractable shelves by Gabriella Crespi, which sold for its high estimate of $20,000.
This great little “unique coffee table” from the Caracas project went for $6.875, just below the high estimate.
A gate from the Caracas house sold for $5,000, below its 7-9K estimate.
This flashy “illuminated bar cabinet,” manufactured by Fontana Arte, that Ponti designed in collaboration with Pietro Chiesa, was estimated at 20-30K, but sold for $74,500.
And this very sweet vanity and chair that Ponti designed for the Royal Hotel in Naples, estimated at 7-9K, went for $13,750.
It’s hard to explain Tim Samuelson’s significance to the cultural vitality of Chicago. The fact that the city created a job for him — as its official Cultural Historian — probably says it all. But if you want to understand why he’s such a an important force, take a look at “Sullivan’s Idea,” the show he’s curated about Louis Sullivan at the Cultural Center.
Actually, you might call the show “Tim Samuelson’s idea, as executed by Chris Ware,” because the quality of the show has much to do with the graphic and spatial sensibilities of Ware, the celebrated comic book artist and creator of “Jimmy Corrigan” and The Novelty Acme Library series as well as increasingly regular contributor as a New Yorker cover artist .
Samuelson’s encyclopedic knowledge of a dizzying array of topics, usually [but not necessarily] related to Chicago, is nothing short of astonishing. Beginning in the late 1960s, he would routinely scan the lists of demolition permits filed at the city’s Building Department and, more often than not, know exactly what was being demolished on the site. This enabled him to dash over to the property and see what he could salvage from the building, which is why he has such an extraordinary personal stash of important architectural fragments. [All but three of the many fragments in the Sullivan’s Idea show are from his collection.]
Samuelson says he began planning the show in 2005, in anticipation of the 150th anniversary of Sullivan’s birth in 2006, but really, you could just as well say he’s been thinking about it for his whole life, given how entrenched he’s been in the subject matter since he was a kid. He says that when he first started planning in earnest, people were already starting to arrange events to mark the 100th anniversary [in 2009] of the Burnham Plan of Chicago, and that he was afraid that Sullivan “was going to be forgotten — again.” He had always been irritated that, if Sullivan was considered at all, it was always as an historical figure. He wanted to give a sense of the architect’s impact during his lifetime.
Part of Samuelson’s motivation stemmed from his personal desire to somehow go back and re-experience what he felt when he experienced a work of architecture for the first time — “the pure emotional power of a building.” He acknowledges that, because you’re typically showing plans, drawings, photos and fragments, most architecture shows fail to convey the sense of the buildings themselves. Here, by using enormous enlargements of photos taken when the buildings were new, ingeniously arranged in the Cultural Center’s triple-height galleries, he’s been largely successful in suggesting actual architecture.
Since I wrote about the egregiously painted terra cotta ornament recently uncovered on Clark Street, I have revived my personal obsession with the stuff. It is absolutely everywhere you look in Chicago, so I’m posting some gratuitous shots of some of my favorites [I’m guessing I’ll be posting more at future dates]
You have to look beyond the hideous signage that obscures a lot of it:
But some of it remains pretty much as it was intended:
During the 1920s, automobile showrooms and repair shops often had the most elaborately decorated facades
But the original Krause Music Store on Lincoln Ave
is probably the most amazing small terra cotta installation in Chicago. Louis Sullivan designed the facade; it was his last commission before his death in 1924, and while he was a penniless drunk at the time, he obviously hadn’t lost his aesthetic chops.
The restaurant space at Clark/Newport is empty [it’s had at least three tenants in the last ten years or so] and the signs are gone from the building, so the terra cotta ornament that they’d been obscuring for the last few years is visible again.
Mostly this acts as a reminder that in a previous incarnation, someone apparently convinced the building owner to let them paint it green. I’m guessing that the original cream glaze had crackled, or maybe green just worked better with the restaurant’s theme. In any event, it’s green, and I am not encouraged that a subsequent occupant of the space is going to invest the considerable effort it would take to remove the thick layer of what looks like oil-based enamel.
It’s sort of nice to see these tiles again, despite the fact that it drives home the sad reality that people simply don’t pay any attention to architectural detail, and terra cotta ornament is close to — if not at — the top of the list [my list, anyway] of Neglected and Overlooked Fibers of the Urban Fabric.
I was a little surprised that, when the NY Times paid tribute to Peter Marino a few weeks ago, reporter Suzy Menkes didn’t mention the new [ish] Chicago Barneys at Oak and Rush. Maybe it’s just too obvious.
[photos taken before Barneys salesperson told me I couldn’t take pictures in the store]
[picture “courtesy” of Google Images]
But I think Peter Marino deserves mountains of credit for what he’s meant to architectural interiors and our overall idea of haute luxe. It’s not as if he’s never gotten any attention — the Times’ Patricia Leigh Brown [Highland Park HS Class of ’72, in case you wondered] had his number as long ago as 1987.
Still, I don’t think the world at large gets how influential he’s been. I knew about the Chanel, Armani and Vuitton flagships. But Kleinfeld’s?
If you watch Say Yes To The Dress — TLC’s reality program about Kleinfeld Bridal, the quintessential emporium of its category — it’s kind of alarming to realize what an important role the physical environment of the store plays in the show’s overall impact.
This is definitely a departure for reality TV — so much of which is completely devoid of production design. It’s shot in “real places,” so it just is what it is, which can be a lot of fun — the houses of the various Housewives, for example — but is mostly just a blur. SYTTD is shot entirely in the Kleinfeld store in Manhattan [except for the occasional wedding day coda], and the whole place acts as a wide, white backdrop that looks like a set design.
The Kleinfeld store looks like a set design because it is a set design. All retail is — it’s a staged environment created for selling: retailing as entertainment. And the more theatrical or cinematic [in this case videographic,I guess] the merchandise is, the setting for it has to follow, and nobody does this better than Peter Marino.Read more