Museum Quality Exhibits in 2 Chicago Galleries

I didn't want to write an ArtLetter. It's work. I don't want to write so often about gallery exhibits. I want to cover institutions. I don't want to write about fewer than 3 galleries. Argh. I'm breaking all my own rules because the shows I just previewed are thoroughly impressive.

Rhona Hoffman has two shows opening Saturday that would be outstanding at any museum. In my book, Carrie Mae Weems is a giant. She makes art that touches the soul, illustrating the inequities that permeate the human existence. Where she excels is in her ability to distill the tragedy of slaves' journeys from Africa to the United States and all that lingers.



There's familiar work and new work. And upstairs, Rhona and team have converted an auxiliary viewing gallery into a convincing theater built to Weems specifications where they're screening a video, but it's so much more than just a video, which builds on Weems' brilliant photography and includes Weems and others dancing and acting out stories about girls and race. Painstakingly beautiful work.


In the front room at Rhona Hoffman Gallery is a stunning installation of Anne Wilson's seductive, mysterious and slow-revealing, sewn works on family heirloom linens. The subtly, the history, the honoring of domesticity, and the intricacy of the art is spellbinding. I'm a fan.



On view at Linda Warren Gallery, Jason Brammer's new work is amazing. His hands are so good he could have been a surgeon. What he does with his art is magic - trompe l'oeil, but with content . Historically, the great trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) artists made captivating art with little no or no content. Brammer goes a step further. His journey back to the beginning of time, with nautical emphasis, consistently makes me feel like Jules Verne's resident artist escaped to Chicago. He's good - and we're lucky.



In Linda Warren's main room, Matt Woodward's oversized and overflowing drawings resembled battered and abused skins reminiscent of otherworldly documentation of human activity. There's an archaeological aspect which slowly reveals the content and inner layers of his art and obsession.



These shows are of museum quality in commercial galleries. The work is for sale, but unlike most museums there is no admission fee. Art galleries provide a service not only to artists and collectors, but to "normal" culture seeking people, like me. These galleries, and many others, deserve our appreciation.

Paul Klein