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The Flowers, 1996
Acrylic, Paper and Spackle
34" x 24"
© Maria Gedroc

The Chicago Art Scene
February 19 - March 20, 1999

Belloc Lowndes Fine Art
300 West Superior Street, Suite 203
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Telephone: 312/ 573-1157

An exhibition showcasing 200 individual two-dimensional works
by 68 artists working in and around Chicago today.

With fully illustrated book published by
Ivy Sundell and Crow Woods Publishing

"The Chicago Art Scene" is an exhibition which begins with a book. An excellent book. Perhaps even a landmark event for the current art environment in Chicago. And it just might prove to do more for living artists and contemporary art in Chicago than all the combined grants, arts appreciation courses, and "blockbuster" shows of the last few years.

Streets of Gold
Oil on Linen
16" x 20"
© David H. Abed

A perceptive and sensible person must have an aversion to, and suspicion of large art events. All too often they are the "blockbuster" promotions by establishments seeking to commercialize upon now-enshrined fashionables who no longer need it and profiting those who rarely recognized or aided their specimens while the latter are struggling to develop their art careers. But "The Chicago Art Scene" book from Crow Woods Publishing, and the consequent exhibition at Belloc Lowndes Fine Art gallery, stand as an achievement of private initiative which must shame the many museums and schools which did not see the possibility and run with it.

"The Chicago Art Scene" is a successful effort to gather together practicing artists of quality, direct from their studios and individual venues, and to present an overview of what is currently being done for the art-going public. This project as much as possible stands apart from the categories and "-isms," cliques and affiliations or professional coteries that are a norm in the art world. It is a well-executed contribution to art-at-large.

Evironmental Fallout, 1997
Colored Pencil on Watercolor
22" x 28"
© Beverly Ellstrand

"The Chicago Art Scene" book ranges from established celebrities like Ed Paschke through to newly emerging artists, and includes quality work from nearly every conceivable expression and style, media and career status. Its only restrictions, noted in the Foreword, are that entries be of repeated quality, and "limited to two-dimensional work, excluding photography."

It is an honest project. Exhaustively so. The Editor and initiator, Ivy Sundell, outlines her intents and methods of seeking out artists and jurors; the jurors outline their methods and criteria for selection; and all sources and collaborators are fully acknowledged. And sixty-eight estimable artists are showcased, complete with informative biographies, artist statements, and high quality reproductions which accurately survey each artist's output. The book documents itself meticulously, and there is little one can add. It even closes with a two-page directory of artists' phone numbers and, where present, Internet Home Pages.

Sky Rider, 1993
30" x 39"
© David McElroy

It is not a "Be All and End All." The compiler, Ivy Sundell, herself has noted what one cannot consider a failing, but rather an inevitability -- some deserving artists are indeed absent. But even massive, multi-volume retrospective compendiums cannot surmount that circumstance. What is surprising is that it is so difficult to challenge any of the inclusions -- certainly not on the basis of the works therein. And in art that is what must count. This is an honest and valuable addition to any library.

The works were judged by Tim Ade, Grace Cole and Marta Pappert, all with impeccable experience and credentials. In her juror's statement, Marta Pappert notes: "When the making of the art is going well, the passions and pleasure in its creation shines through the work itself. This shine is what makes for a strong visual experience that I find inexplicable but easily discernible,"

Jim, 1997
29" x 31"
© Tom Robinson

An art viewer can see innumerable exhibitions and read libraries of publications, after wading through which one sometimes gets fatigued. It is thus surprising how fresh, unexpected and interesting "The Chicago Art Scene" proves to be. I have given long thought to the venture's "downsides," if for no other reason than to balance out this present notice - or perhaps just for spleen on my part. If there is a "downside," it lies outside the book. One would firstly wish this could be a repeating performance. (Feasts inspire gluttony.) But secondly, the very nature of "The Chicago Art Scene" tests the mettle of the exhibition's host: there is so much of so much variety.

Belloc Lowndes Fine Art gallery however does meet the challenge nicely, and deserves credit for its fortitude and stamina in curation. Upon first entering the gallery, one is dazed, but it passes quickly into sheer enjoyment. A lot more enjoyment than the packaged expos and touristic art megamarts. "The Chicago Art Scene" at Belloc Lowndes Fine Art should be gone through at one's own pace and savored piece by piece. After all, one comes to see the art. Large expanses of wall are fairly common in Chicago. Belloc Lowndes Fine Art deserves praise for giving gallery-goers this rare opportunity and doing so with grace.

Untitled #2, 1997
Oil Stick and Acrylic
41" x41"
© Gregg M. Stecker

"The Chicago Art Scene" at Belloc Lowndes Fine Art should give serious pause to inquire about the agendas of established and official art institutions. Why hasn't something like this not been fostered earlier by some endowed museum in a real effort to get out into the field on behalf of living, contemporary art? Surely there must be institutes with endowments, resources, access and space which could do other than just tend their own greenhouse until a fait accompli beyond their walls eventually catches the archivist's eye. "The Chicago Art Scene" presents contemporary art "in the field," so to speak. It is far more enjoyable and stimulating than celebrity "blockbusters," orchestrated PR happenings or the "singles night with paint" often hyped by the haute monde. And one can actually purchase art from "The Chicago Art Scene" and bring it home. It's good value all around -- for living artists and for their patrons. The only regret here is that the exhibition only runs until March twentieth.

Perhaps Crow Woods Publishing and Belloc Lowndes Fine Art may set a trend: an objective, comprehensive and useful overview of art as it's coming in from the field. "The Chicago Art Scene" is now featured on the gallery's website: www.webrenaissance.org/belloclowndes.html

Summer Vision: Illinois, 1995
Pastel on Paper with Hand-drawn Frame
39 x 57"
© Nina Weiss

Several artists' Book Signings have been scheduled in conjunction with "The Chicago Art Scene:"

Feb. 28, Sunday, 3:00 PM, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 1701 Sherman Avenue, Evanston, Illinois

Mar. 14, Sunday, 3:00 PM, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 659 Diversey Parkway, Chicago.

On March 13 Art Encounter, a tax-exempt educational organization supporting art for all ages will conduct a tour of the exhibition.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Copies of "The Chicago Art Scene" may be purchased through the Barnes & Noble link in www.artscope.net

--G. Jurek Polanski

Jurek Polanski has previously written and art edited for Strong Coffee in Chicago. He's also well known and respected among the Chicago museums and galleries. Jurek is currently a Visual Arts Correspondent for ArtScope.net.

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