Friday, June 30, 2006



The best show to roll through since Dan Flavin. Warhol was nice, with it’s early minimal death-inspired themes that correlate with Polke and the Capitalist Realists, but was trumped by a media blitz that even would have made Andy roll his eyes.

Tillmans’ appeal may well lay in our more primitive, degenerate tastes. Such disgusting notions as attention to form, color, composition and texture play out in his work. His experiments with photography reveal true artistry. The lush camera-less photos are simply beautiful. They rival Rothko, Louis and Olitski. In Truth Study Center, source material and items of interest and influence are placed on tables; Tillmans presents us not just with a look at his process, but with a work of art. It hovers somewhere between collage, sculpture and encyclopedia.

The only low point is the cheesy For the Victims of Organized Religion where we are presented with a grid of glossy near-black sheets. We see our reflections. Are we the victims? A black mirror- that is so Spinal Tap. It is heavy handed but continues the thread of a strange correlation between Tillmans and grand color field and Minimalist art. A lot of the abstract pieces harmonize with painters like Ellsworth Kelly and early Brice Marden. The titling of For the Victims and its engagement with the wall also brings up Dan Flavin.

Tillmans’ background is in fashion and commercial photography. This also shows in the work. There is a mixture of slick advertising and punky DIY. This is dangerous territory for most. Snapping shots of friends at play, or in surreal, staged scenarios is a risk. But Tillmans pulls it off, not so much do those who follow his lead. All in all, this is an excellent show presenting a wide breadth of artistic investigations.
IMAGE: Wolfgang Tillmans• Icestorm • 2001 • color photo

He is a great comic artist, but what is the point of seeing his pages in black and white and non-photo blue? It is a behind the scenes sneak peak. And it has become the gold standard for mounting the “comics are art” argument. Well, duh, they are. But why hang pages on the walls? It is an obvious starting point, but this has been done for a while. Maybe hanging pages on the wall is some sort of ritualistic way of saying comics are art. As though they literally have to hang like paintings before they can exist as art. Even though comics are made to be read in books in color. Comics are great because they totally reverse the retarded Benjamin aura argument. Instead of having a singular meaningful art object and soulless reproductions, you have an incomplete original, and thousands of completed art objects.

It will always be interesting to see the pages, but really, so what? It smacks of something ill. Selling out? Horribly misrepresenting yourself? It’s not quite clear. But surely there has got to be a better way. Because this mode is nolonger valuable, and it turns this medium into hieroglyphics in a tomb. No one goes to a museum to read. This foolishness reaches its zenith in the grid of Wares watershed book, Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth reproduced page by page, end to end exactly as it appears in the book. The book, consequently, is available along with others to read a few steps away. And of course for purchase in the shop.

What is best about the exhibit are the sculptures, sketches, notes and mockups. These items are far more suited to be seen in a museum. Ware has at least two or three more sculptures he has made. And an infinite amount of sketches drawings and notes. Why not show more of those? Here we are only cruelly teased with a little of what surely must lie hidden.
IMAGE: Building Stories, Spring, 2002 • Photograph courtesy of the artist


This show is amazing. A line up of meticulous, alien and captivating figures confront you in the Baroque exhibition hall. Wicker men, zombies, monsters, fashion victims and tribal motifs elicit a very raw and visceral tension that hangs thick in the air. Thoughts of the macabre Skin Tight: the Sensibility of the Flesh at the MCA in 2004 and visions of Maya Deran’s The Divine Horsemen dance through your head as you pass between the motionless beings into the next room. To tiny monitors imbedded in walls show a Soundsuit (what the garments are titled) in action, and a creepy clown happening.

The rest of this second space is dominated by two giant tondos approximately 20feet in diameter facing one another. They shimmer in under spotlights in the dimness. They are like beautiful primitive objects you learn are associated with human sacrifice. With the dark and seductive feelings being evoked, you have to say that Nick Cave’s work is evocative.
IMAGE: Installation View • Chicago Cultural Center • 2006

She is pretty much the poor man’s Matthew Barney. Dunning’s work is centered on 70s body politics and is done in two very 70s media: photography and video. And they are presented in a slick Late 80s/ early 90s way. Unfortunately both those decades are over. It is kind of painful to walk from one clever trick to the next: ladies from behind, the body as landscape, fruit like bloody organs. The blob, a fat appendage affixed to mostly thin women, is the most Barney of all. The series that holds up best is the color field photos. The white brings up Piero Manzoni’s Achromes. It is also not cliched. Others,The yellow, The Pink, The Red, The Brown also bring up abstraction. They present visages of lush saturated color. Fruits suggest blood, flesh and muscle. The chocolate pastries suggest brain tissue or shit. All the issues of body and fluid are in these pieces, but minus the lame obviousness of the other work.
IMAGE: Jeanne Dunning • The Pink • 1996 • Silver-dye bleach print mounted to plexiglass • ed: 2/3 • 74 x 52" • Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago • Restricted gift of the Collectors Forum


DilettanteVentures said...

You've got Dunning's tired aesthetics pegged and you're spot on with complaining about displaying comics on a wall - it makes no sense (except to curators apparently). Tillmans is a mystery to us - his photos are serviceable enough, but why do they merit anymore attention than anyone else's? His work is relentlessly average - maybe that is the key to his appeal?

lazer said...

haha. yeah, I would have to agree with dilettanteventures on that one. I really was not impressed by that show. His photographs did not even look that good, the colors seemed quite dull, and some photographs looked quite amateursih (not that you cant make good dull photographs) I dont know.... it really seemed like some random fashion photographer who got chosen to put some stuff up. and theres much, much better fashion photographers than him.

..... I also cant stand when people compare photographers to painting. sorry man... I dont think that dude and Rothko had anything in common. but anyway....

Anonymous said...
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Viewer said...

You are one of the first Chicago folks I've read to nail Jeanne Dunning down. She's been stealing tired ideas a half decade late for her whole career. That's why it went over so quickly in the let's-copy-NY-Neo-Concep-80s. Esy to digest, since it's already been digested, puked up and re-puked.

Jason said...

Perhaps much of Dunning's work is a rehash of an earlier artistic style or period, but that does not necessarily discount her credibility as an artist, nor does it weaken the ideas being proposed. We seem to get in the habit of discrediting an artist when the work looks too much like other artists. It's sort of a problem of being too much 'in the know.' But I think Dunning deserves a fresh look. True, the body-as-landscape series is not fresh at all, and I too am tired of that idea. The other pieces in the exhibit were quite stimulating to me, especially the body/blob in bed series.

Often artists arrive at similar solutions to varying problems. The form may be the same, but the thinking process is different. As a viewer, I allow Dunning to explore what she wishes. These works may not stand on their own in the future, but they are definately part of a general, contemporary sensibility.

critic said...

The form is the same BECAUSE the thinking process is the same. Dunning's work was concocted, not thought of, in the late 80s to be exactly what art was supposed to be at the time. They are part of general sensibility: obeying orders. BOOOORING and stupid.