Art Review Archives:
30th Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House - 2000
Pilsen East District, Chicago
The 30th Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House is scheduled to run from Friday, September 29th (6PM until 11PM) through Saturday, September 30th, and Sunday, October 1st (12 noon to 7PM), 2000. The Pilsen East district of Chicago centers on South Halsted and 18th Streets, and its numerous former industrial buildings and private studios house the working quarters of many veteran and emerging artists. Two primary supporters of the Artists' Open House are Universal Federal Savings Bank and Podmajersky Management, the latter of which has prepared a three-fold printed guide to the studios, galleries and accompanying events. It will be available at the South Halsted and 18th Street reception and lists the well over fifty participating venues, as well as accompanying musical, dance and performance events.
One of the particular pleasures of the Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House is that it remains a true artists' event: working artists open their ateliers, take time to talk about their work, at length and in leisure, and although there is plenty of food and entertainment, art is the essential focus - a fact which often draws collectors, outside galleries, and art agents. And Universal Federal Savings Bank provides a Chicago Trolley service, which makes even outlying exhibitions readily accessible.
With over eighty individual artists at fifty venues officially listed (and there are always more, a la carte), no notice could hope for more than a brief sampling of the wide variety in style, intent, and proficiency of the resident artists. Mention might be made of several Pilsen East artists who have sparked particular interest in recent years.
Larry Roberts (1838 S. Halsted, 1st floor) has been reviewed in www.artscope.net earlier, as part of ArtsVision's "The 8th Show" (May 1999) at the Time-Life Building. His participation in that show was the eventual outcome of the 29th Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House when ArtsVision Curator, Marlene Marino, visited Roberts's open studio showing. Roberts's art draws upon a range of mixed media: panels and raw lumber (materials of his daily construction work); acrylics, oils, glazes; a balancing of wet, liquid techniques with thick impasto; and varying textures against flat surface painting. Roberts's art, as noted in a prior review, bears affinities with artists such as Paul Tchelitchew or the Russian Pavel Filonov: there is a similar experimentation with underlying figuration, a perceptual seed, refocused through the act and materials of painting. Forms and their visual matrix dissolve, at times, in washes and, elsewhere, in thickly applied paint areas -- only to re-emerge in evocative new guises. The apparent, in Roberts's art, is a vehicle for what, in content, edges toward a metaphysical awareness. Many of his paintings on wood do parallel the icons of Eastern Christian spirituality in format, but Roberts creates environments, ecologies both of imagination and of this threatened earth; there are even cosmologies and microcosms.
Melissa Jay Craig (Carpool, 1907 S. Halsted) is a noted Chicago book artist, although that term may be too confining. While Craig is skilled and innovative within the familiar book arts, she has extended and adapted their materials and techniques in the creation of unexpected and highly effective works of fancy -- bookforms in which natural objects and artifacts serve as text; or books as the medium to evoke natural form, which then plays against their human manufacture. Melissa Jay Craig's Prairie Stories #4, recently exhibited at the Gwenda Jay/Addington Gallery, Chicago, exemplifies that first species of bookform. In her sculptural pieces, the artist employs a variety of organic fibers and objects. In Craig's studio she displays a tree stump... of books, which illustrates her further inventiveness and stands witness that The 30th Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House presents a wide offering of art.
Bryan Sperry (Pilsen Theatre, 556 W. 18th St.) paints on board as well as metal. While Sperry's art displays variety, often through reinterpretation of now accepted approaches, his analytic style shows affinities to both Georges Braque and Piet Mondrian, and these works are very effective. Sperry's reduction of plane and contour as the artist discerns them in his subject leads to their reassembly in the painted image in a manner with strong graphic quality: an asymmetric, mobile-like balance of elements within a unified, dynamic composition. Throughout, Sperry reveals a personal idiom which marks his work as his own.
Maria Tirabassi (Tirabassi Studio, 564 W. 18th St.) is another Pilsen East artist to note. If her art evokes both the clever and the charmingly naif, it at times calls to mind the spirit of Marc Chagall, and in some pieces, with bright hues and a linear directness, seems a gentle homage to Fritz Hundertwasser. Tirabassi's Church Fountain is fanciful, colorful and an explicit pleasure.
Objects don't obey. Images don't know their place. The art of Stephanie Serpick (1832 S. Halsted St., 2F) creates a sense of contemplative unreality. Much art does -- but Serpick employs a refined figurative approach in eerie visions that suggest a visual sense which puppeteers the all too complacent rational assumptions of what we accept as 'real world.' One of this artist's great strengths -- and it is a subtle power -- is to build an ambiguity between the expected and the accepted, and the perceived and intuited. Her painting, The Night Blessing (28"x26"), clearly displays that strength. This piece presents two disarrayed feathers, pinion to pinion, in the upper third of canvas, while a clove of garlic waits in the darkened foreground at lower left. But, as with the perceptual illusion contained in Rubin's Vase (a vase, or two heads face-to-face?), a viewer discerns a silhouetted form, central and to the fore. Only the slimmest glow of line at left draws the figure to a viewer's attention as being a presence distinct from the dark background. It becomes a solid, palpable shadow being. In addition to her Open Studio at the Pilsen East Artists' Open House, Stephanie Serpick will be featured in "Tricks and Gifts," an exhibition of her work at the Art Lounge, Chicago Illini Union, 828 South Wolcott Avenue, University of Illinois at Chicago. Serpick's "Tricks and Gifts" runs September 18th through October 28. (Info: Campus Programs: 312/ 413-5070).
Kirby Briske's recent work frequently seems a fantastical allegory to an undeciphered testament; much in the genre which claimed William Blake, Henry Fuseli, James Ensor.... There is an eerie, unnatural and subliminal quality to his palette; an inherent motion at work within his composition; often the elements of quasi-theological typologies: human forms bear wings, and whether bound or at liberty, their gestures imply intense restlessness.
There are over fifty studios and exhibition areas in The 30th Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House, and a number of scheduled concerts, dance and allied performances, even theatre and performance art. This art exposition will run from Friday, September 29th (6PM until 11PM) through Saturday, September 30th, and Sunday, October 1st (12 noon to 7PM), 2000 and centers around the Pilsen East district of Chicago. If one starts at South Halsted and 18th Streets, the printed guide will map out the numerous exhibition areas and private studios; and whether on foot or by Trolley service, the visitor will find much of interest. The 30th Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House is a genuine art walk that offers much to look forward to.
--G. Jurek Polanski
Editorial Note Russian artist, Pavel Filonov, was noted in www.artscope.net's review "Painting Revolution" (July 2000). The interested reader will also find a review of last year's Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House in this website's Visual Arts archives.