Visual Arts

Young at 75

The SSCAC’s 75th Anniversary exhibit highlights long histories, new practice

Stephen Urchick

“What might have once spoken to freshly-split timbers and a new picket fence is now a fixer-up.” [draft]

Visual Arts

Troubled Recovery

Colm McCarthy’s “Killed” documents child casualties from the Irish Troubles

Courtesy of the Artist

“I wanted to bring them back, larger than life and in color, so that people could look at them, and know their names, and know what happened to them.”

Visual Arts

The Body’s in the Background

“Migrant Files” leaves its mark at ACRE Projects in Pilsen

Stephen Urchick

By what right does someone exhibit a doormat as artwork? Billy McGuinness’s twelve-foot wide dirt-monument gets on the wall as part of “Migrant Files,” a three-artist—McGuinness, Jaxon Pallas, Austen Brown—show currently up at ACRE Projects in Pilsen, on the basis of a pretty good idea. McGuinness’s mat began as a strip of canvas—the same stuff you’d stretch into a painting. He laid it on the floor, just past the visitor’s door to Division XI of the Cook County Jail. It ended as an intricately anonymous record of human movement over time and a self-proclaimed (although decidedly tongue-in-cheek) “high-modernist object.” Continue reading

Visual Arts

Fantasy Writ Large

Level Eater 5.0 teleports into the Co-Prosperity Sphere

Stephen Urchick

Curator Ed Marszewski grabbed me by the shoulder. “You have no idea how seriously these kids—,” he checked himself mid-sentence, nodding at the grey heads in the crowd, “these old men take this!” Continue reading

Visual Arts

Shifting Spaces

"Exodus" at the Arts Incubator

A lot of good design went into giving the Washington Park Arts Incubator a welcoming and airy street-side façade, with its big, vulnerable glass windows. An artwork like Alfredo Salazar-Caro’s “In and Out, In and Out, In and Out” demonstrates just how easy it is to shut that illusion of openness down.

Visual Arts

There is No Shadow Here

"Air Affair" at BLUE1647

In 1951, Robert Rauschenberg exhibited a series of canvasses painted white all over, in part to test how we might think about the simple play of gallery lights and shadow on a surface. Roberto Adrian Rodriguez, in his recent solo show “Air Affair” at BLUE1647 in Pilsen, took that same historical interest in the insubstantial qualities of a painting, smashed it together with extensive 3-D graffiti practice, piped it through an airbrush, and mixed it with some actual grit. Continue reading


Playing at Power

Carlos Matallana gamifies Chicago in “The Anger Games”

So how does that feel, to be in a position of power like that?” The young woman in the frame tossed her head at the invisible interviewer. Artist Carlos Matallana and I were sifting through raw, man-on-the-street footage from the first beta run of his large-scale roleplaying simulation, “The Anger Games.” Continue reading

Games | Visual Arts

2-D Levels Up

"Bit Wars" at BLUE1647

Stephen Urchick

Video games get a rough shake. If they’re not openly denounced as child’s play, few people give the rhetoric of procedure—the idea that “playing” can impart something unique—a second glance. As a visual art installation focused on video game aesthetics, “Bit Wars: Art Tribute to 8bit and 16bit Videogaming” had its work cut out for it from the start. Continue reading