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Man's Best Friends, 1999
© David Csicsko

Art For Animals' Sake
July 14 - August 14, 1999

Las Manos Gallery
5220 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois 60640
Telephone: 773/ 728-8910
Tues-Sat: 12 - 5 PM

Art sale to benefit
Community Animal Rescue Effort (C.A.R.E.)
and Tree House Animal Foundation

Michelle Peterson-Albandoz, Diana Vallera, Nicole Hollander, Heather McAdams, Nicole Ferentz, Sheri Berliner, Akemi Cohn, Janice Matsumoto, Jordan Scott, Jennifer Berman, Riva Lehrer, David Csicsko, Tom Bachtell, Pat Olson, et alia

The models are beastly; at opening night, half the public were animals -- and the artists loved them.

"Art for Animals' Sake," now showing at Las Manos Gallery in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood, presents a wide range of Chicago artists offering artworks to benefit two prominent shelters for dogs and cats; and it is an opportunity to purchase some excellent art.

Curious, 1999
Watercolor and Ink
8 "x 10"
© Judith Berkshire Jones

The exhibition presents art ranging from the photorealistic oil paintings of Diana Cutrone, through the expressionistic pastel and serigraphs of Julie Jankowski to a variety of collaged objects. And it offers prominent and nationally acclaimed contributors such as artist/cartoonist Nicole Hollander and Heather McAdams, Tom Bachtell and David Lee Csicsko.

Diana Cutrone has three animal portraits in oil: "Bison," "Baboons," and "Rhino." Cutrone works in a long-established tradition of polished, almost photographic realism. Her portrait work, much of it commissioned, reflects a abiding desire for representational art that is accessible and her technique is faultless. "Rhino" captures that animal in full charge toward the gallery viewer. This, as well as "Baboons" and "Bison" serve as a contrast, a reminder that animals include far more than the pets that have come to depend on people.

If domestication has shaped animals away from a natural state, it has not only allowed us to project human traits into our view of them, it has, in many cases, actually caused them to assimilate some aspects of human behavior. Sheri Berliner's large color photographs of dogs seems to capture the latter phenomenon. These are personality pin-ups, a bit of film star still-shots in canine cast.

Sylvia (a syndicated cartoon), 1999

© 1999 Nicole Hollander

Julie Jankowski is represented by "Anthem of the Animus," a dry pastel on paper, "Red Dog" and "Yellow Dog," and a number of smaller pieces. Direct and expressionistic, with strong dominant color modes, these do catch the eye. Jankowski's pieces in "Art For Animals' Sake" seek to evoke the feral legacy of the familiar dog. Some of the pieces definitely bring to mind the cinematic and literary fascination with wolf themes: human hands may tame, but the animal mind harbors remembrance. And the human mind also remembers, with unease.

What Cats Do Best,
Carbon Pencil
8" x 10"
© 1999 Pat Olson

"Art For Animals' Sake" also includes numerous works which pay tribute to the natural grace of many home companions; particularly cats, who perhaps (as felines tell it) have tamed humans... at least reasonably well. Chicago artist, Pat Olson, uses flowing, suggestive line and shade in "Untitled," which seems an almost Oriental study in feline napping. These are enjoyable works of art: as 'congenial' as the models themselves. Janice Matsumoto's portraits of cats on the opposite north wall of the gallery also please in a kindred manner.

Much of the art at Las Manos Gallery offered for sale to benefit C.A.R.E. and the Tree House Animal Foundation is characterized by a playful whimsy and humor. Artist Tom Bachtell, well-known for his print illustrations, has offered a series of dancing pigs. The free grace of the rendering (and of the porcine subjects) is a note of sheer delight -- a touch of Fantasia-like ballet on the hoof. And David Csicsko, well known for his pastels in publications such as Chicago Magazine, has also added work to benefit C.A.R.E. and the Tree House Animal Foundation.

Side Lift Pig, 1999
© 1999 Tom Bachtell

Las Manos is co-owned by two Chicago artists, Diana Vallera and Michelle Peterson-Albandoz, who have further added to the benefit exhibition with selections of their art. Peterson-Albandoz has executed a body of paintings on the glass panels of reclaimed, weathered windows, some of which are presented in "Art For Animals' Sake." Brightly colored and with a stark directness of line and stroke, they convey a certain Chicago Primitivisme.

There are a number of artists in "Art For Animals' Sake": some with growing reputations; some, like Riva Lehrer, well-known within the art community; and one who is a day-by-day part of the lives of millions, for the back third of Las Manos Gallery is used by Nicole Hollander, creator of the cartoon strip, "Sylvia." And "Sylvia," along with her precocious felines and their canine foil, have obvious support and sympathy for "Art For Animals' Sake," and Las Manos Gallery. Just ask them. (Ask the cats; after all, they really run the whole show. Really.)

Las Manos Gallery fits well into the Andersonville community. Across the street on Clark, at Women and Children First bookstore, signed copies of Nicole Hollander's newest book, My Cat's not Fat, He's just big Boned, are available.

In addition, Heather McAdams, another popular Chicago cartoonist, is a participant in "Art For Animals' Sake" and the author of several enjoyable books as well.

"Art For Animals' Sake" runs through August 14th. It benefits a deserving cause and offers a selection of realism, humor and a wide variety of painted whiskers. It's a fun visit. (The cats said so.)

--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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