Art Review Archives:
Pilsen East Artists' Open House 1999
Halsted and 18th Street Pilsen Neighborhood Chicago, Illinois
The 29th Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House is a three day event in one of Chicago's growing artists' districts and, although it is a relatively short-term event, it is worth noting for future art walks. The artists who live and have working studios in Pilsen East range widely in their media and quality of art, but it is a true open studio walk, not just another street fair. It is well organized and mapped, informal and offers the opportunity to view art, speak unhurriedly with artists and visit some interesting local eateries. The Podmajersky family (of Podmajersky Management, Inc.) have supported artists and the Pilsen community for over forty years, which does lend a distinct character to the area; and Universal Federal Savings Bank is also a vigorous promoter of the artists and the art walk. The latter funded free Chicago Trolley Tours, which ensures that the few outlying studios can be well visited. And free parking is available -- in Chicago this is always welcome.
The East Pilsen art walk includes over 50 studio, gallery and impromptu sites -- cafes, churches and open space. And most of it is organized by those directly involved: the artists and local establishments. Several groups of artists have arranged for swing, jazz and varied concerts. Whatever their tastes in music, it is all lively and enjoyable. This notice is written at the opening night, when the trafficked streets are a pedestrian delight and every artist's door is open. Some artists, even those with elaborate art projects which cannot be vendable, are happy to just sit down to conversation with the alert and curious.
There are some particularly notable stops. (Forty-one are officially noted in the free map, and several more are posted a la carte.) One can only sample a few among so much. One of the studios which lingers in mind is that of Larry Roberts, whose multi-media paintings at 1838 South Halsted Street are varied and impressive expressionist abstractions. These are certain to be featured in a future showing and deserve notice. One notes that the ambient music of the studio, in a somewhat Teutonic Brian Eno-ish vein, is a perfect viewing environment.
In a very different vein, the book and print work of Melissa Jay Craig also stands out as first-rate. Craig is an artist with a fine and demanding technique, and her work ranges from a large tree stump sculpted from discarded books, through fine and highly Dadist books, to cyanotype and van Dyke prints. Melissa Craig is a book artist on the faculty of Columbia College, Chicago, and is slated for an upcoming exhibition there. And it will be a showing to be reviewed.
The York Building, hosting a group exhibition at that 1932 South Halsted address, features over ten individuals. Stephanie Serpick presents a particularly notable series. Several paintings display portraits of clothing sans corpus, or torsos to which the heads are vaporized and recrystallized as various fruit ensemble. Serpick is another artist worth watching.
So much of officIal 'Artdom' is obsessive about the most 'cutting edge' innovations, as if that was what art was all about... But the East Pilsen Artists' Open House allows for much more... (It is, after all, an open venue). At the "Bic's Hardware Cafe," 1733 South Halsted Street (shades of Bumfrey Hogart!), are several bronze sculptures by Susan Clinard. They are expertly cast, evocative and display a command of technique and expression. The cafe is excellent, but Clinard merits serious evaluation. (Her card reads 312-455-1'541... and her work merits future reviews).
Brian Sperry... acrylic on canvas and panel... Sperry is building upon Braque and Picasso -- raw cubism in his own direction -- and at first viewing, Sperry's art seems familiar... but one comes back to it, and back, and back. Art history is replete with periods in which one artist innovates and several (if humanity is fortunate) hone and refine the innovation. Sperry does fine art. He works at 564 West 18th Street.
In all, the East Pilsen Artists' Open House is worth visiting. And worth watching in coming years.
Over fifty foci of art... And for the Thirtieth time it will be more... One will have to sift and judge for oneself... but the 30th Annual Pilsen East Artists' Open House will be even better. ArtScope.net does thank the artists of the East Pilsen neighborhood, the Podmajersky family and Universal Federal Savings Bank for an art walk worthy of the name. And those who aid them, such as Xanthie Drankus who supplied illustrations of artwork.
--G. Jurek Polanski
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