Saturday, December 03, 2016

Plein Air 2016

Stephanie Weidner

Here's my pick for this year's plein air competition.  I'm sure some profound psychology is connected to an obsession with doors.  Whatever it may me -- these are beautiful and haunting paintings.

The door is just barely open - but you can feel how cool and refreshing it would be to enter.

And it's fascinating how the artist has forcefully cut the painting in two, and played the right side against the left.

Barbara Herring

I also voted for Barbara Herring.  What a delightful afternoon.  It reminds me of a nautical jaunt my girlfriend and I  took in a local pond about fifty years ago.

Dana M. Johnson

A funky, sentimental setting that recalls urban realism of the 1930's

Errol Jacobson

Yikes -- this feels cold!  I feel bad for the artist if it was painted on site.

Lee Radtke

One of many charming depictions of our home.  This one feels especially urbane.

Mary Longe

A wonderful painting that feels like the set design for an opera - possibly an updated production of La Boheme.

Mary Longe is a remarkable painter.  This is her first appearance on this blog.
By the way, she is also a writer


Nancie King Mertz

I cycled down this elevated bike path back when it first opened.  It was a memorable experience - but I don't really care to look at roofs.   I'd rather bike through the city at street level.

Nancie is the club's most Impressionistic Impressionist.  Life passes her by as flicker of light  - then it's on to the next scene -- and the next painting.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Exhibit: Open House

 Andrew Conklin

Helen Oh

I know that Art is not a competitive sport -- but I can't help but comparing Andy and Helen when they are painting the same subject:  The Fulton Street Kitchen.

With its black-and-white checkboard walls recalling the stripes on the Florence Baptistery, what Classically minded artist would not be fascinated by that building?

Andy's painting is better because it sets a scene of human interaction -- the staff is taking a cigarette

But Helen's is better because it creates such a mood of mystery.  What has just happened?

So I call this competition a tie.

They are both wonderful painters - two of the best in Chicago.

Lois Eakin "Where R U"

A clever little genre scene that tells a story.

I hope this girl figures out how to get home safely.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Exhibit: Dance, Flowers, Life

 Alexandra Leventhal

This is the second iteration of Alexandra Leventhal's tribute to the Drawing Workshop, an institution in the world of Chicago figurative art for over forty years.

Under the guidance of George Sotos, it presented a unique focus on the human skeleton as the foundational structure of figure drawing.

I would call this approach bone-headed, in more ways than one -- but that's just one of my many worthless opinions.

Look at the work in this show and judge for yourself.

Alexandra's mournful bust, shown above, was my favorite piece in the show.

..except for the photographs by Richard Younker:

As noted in my last post -- I am not much interested in photography except for documentary purposes.

But I can't keep my eyes of these little slices of life.

 Andrea Bacalini

Alexandra also included a few  Italian artists whom she knows.

Definitely a different artworld from ours.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Exhibit: Conklin, Oh, and Paulsen

Andrew Conklin, Square Still Life Green (Ikea Pitcher), 2009

Helen and Andrew, one of the Academy's most remarkable couples ever, are mostly about the joy of seeing the real world - an enthusiasm not very fashionable since 17th Century Holland.

Andrew is also about a peculiar sense of color.  I would call it ultra-Yin - right there at the edge of  becoming too sweet and annoying.

Square Still Life Red (With Dogtown Skateboard), 2013

Way too much RED in this painting.  I love it.

Helen Oh

Helen brought  several of her small still-lifes -- all of which  featured a strong color in the background.

In the age-old battle between delicious,  significant detail and overall design, both Helen and Andrew are a little too fond of detail.

But not by much.

A rather spectacular figurative drawing.  Does it portray the same person - as both a performer and as a woman?



Helen's large acrylic still-lifes were quite interesting - though not satisfying except close up.

Larry Paulsen

When I first saw this image reduced down to fit on the exhibition postcard, I was sure it was a painting by Andy Conklin.  I had never seen Larry paint like this.  And he doesn't. This is a photograph he has printed.

I don't go to exhibits of photography.

Like the Palette and Chisel Academy, my interests center around how the figure can be drawn, painted, or sculpted.

But, to my na├»ve eye, these are remarkably good photographs - that do indeed feel like good paintings until you move up close.

If the Palette and Chisel had 10,000 extra square feet of gallery space, I'd love to have it dedicated to beautiful portraits like this -- documentary photographs of all the hard working people who have modeled for us over the centuries.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Exhibit: Sculpture and Drawing 2016

Andrew Conklin  

There's much more drawing than sculpture in this iteration of the Sculpture/Drawing show.

Above is Andy's  tribute to "Torrit Grey" -- the pigment made annually from the dust collected at a paint factory.

It's wonderfully weird -- like a costume in one of my favorite films "Black Orpheus"

 James Burrell

A fine companion piece for the armed cowboy drawn by a Palette and Chisel member a hundred years ago.

 James  Eastwood

This is the remarkable Palette and Chisel debut of the tattoo artist voted "Best in Chicago" by the Chicago Reader this year.

It reminds me of 19th C. Japanese prints.

Margaret Small

Another tribute to the beloved Mary Qian


Rich Morrow

Rich has refurbished his humorous tableau created in honor of the 1994 Palette and Chisel elections.

Remember back when we actually had elections with more than one candidate for each position?

Remember back when we actually had membership meetings where people debated the choices facing the institution?

Politics, at any level,  makes people act funny and say outrageous things.

It's annoying and time consuming.

But it's also the consequence of people actually trying to accomplish things.

After the intensely disputed 1994 election, the Academy remodeled the basement, creating a new public studio space and restroom.   On the second floor, a private studio was converted to that public studio which is now in constant use by workshops and classes.

At the next disputed election (was it 1998?), the Academy re-affirmed its commitment to offering a wider program of classes.  (in 1990, there was only one). Opponents wanted the organization to return to being more like a private club.

The next disputed election arose when a  group a women wanted to become actively involved in our "old boys club".  They refurbished the two gallery rooms (which used to be a real dump). The loser in that election, Jane Ellen Murray, totally refurbished our kitchen out of her own pocket.

Our last disputed election, about ten years ago,  seemed to turn on the issue of whether we really wanted to have all these disputed elections.

The good news is that peace and quiet has prevailed ever since.

The bad news is that there have been no major improvements in programs or facilities.

Thanks to a multi-million dollar windfall, the organization now has the funds to make some major changes.

Will we finally begin an endowment?

Will we create a public studio in the coach house that is large enough to handle the special workshops  that have been cancelling so many open workshops on the third floor?

Will we begin a program of special exhibits that invites the participation of representational artists from the entire Chicago area?

We have a great opportunity now to make important improvements -- but none of it can happen without someone making waves.

Otherwise events, like water, will follow the path of least resistance, and our unique opportunity will be lost.

Nancie King Mertz

Love those blue dumpsters - a nice contrast with Tim Leeming's monochrome alleys.

Roger Akers

A sculptural tribute to Madame X, and the Academy's favorite historical painter.

Stuart Fullerton

Two of the best drawings ever hung on our walls.

Stuart has surpassed his teacher.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Exhibit: Livshultz Family

Is this the fourth or fifth iteration of the Livshultz family show?

Whatever --- it's always fascinating.

Above Misha  demonstrates that he would have qualified for a job in the Pharoah's workshops - back before Moses led his people into the  wilderness of iconoclasm.

So strong, peaceful, and timeless.

Here's a piece by his father, Chaim.

Minimal but succinct depictions of human form and character.

Here is this year's magnus opus.  As I recall, Chaim spent several decades working on this piece. Misha says that it is finished -- but I think that the whole is still less than the sum of its parts.

Organizing a life size, multi-figure, realist figure painting has got to be the greatest challenge in the visual arts.  (which is why I found the current show at the MCA by Kerry James Marshall so extraordinary) 

Here are studies  for two of the figures.

Here's a photo  showing the fallen tree that appears in the painting.

It also shows the Livshitz family.

Misha is the one saluting the camera.





Some very strong portrait busts - better than almost all the contemporary busts found in public settings.

I'm not sure -- but I think this was done by Misha before he left Minsk.

The landscape feels so intensely Russian.

Here is the series of one-day paintings that Misha did while looking out the window of the Palette and Chisel's dining room.

Very lively.

I like them more than some of the longer and larger studies that he did of the same subject.

As our Hindu/Russian member, Raul, has pointed out -- South Asian figure sculpture may also feature figurative reliefs on the furniture.