Posts tagged #chicago exhibition

Review: Abstract Workhorses Group Show

Review: Abstract Workhorses

April 29, 2017

By: Amy Haddad

“Energy and motion made visible—memories arrested in space,” Jackson Pollock expressively wrote. On April 29 similar themes emanated from the exhibition, “Abstract Workhorses,” at Arts on Elston Gallery in Chicago. Visitors were immersed by Ken Hogrefe’s mural-sized painting, “On Arriving,” which contained rapid brushstrokes of paint; relished the dance of color in Christine Connor’s “Untitled;” slowed to contemplate Rebecca George’s “Atmung;” and grazed on the refreshments placed upon pieces of furniture made by Arthur Connor. The show underscored that art is not just about what you see, but what you feel.

“Abstract Workhorses,” comprised of abstract painting and furniture, featured four artists with decades of art practicing experience among them. Rebecca, who in 2012 founded The Art House, a professional studio school, has been painting for more than 30 years. Ken, a consultant and industry expert for DuPont, is a lifelong artist and Artist in Residence at The Art House. Christine has exhibited work in several group shows in Chicago and is also an Artist in Residence at the Art House; she has more than 25 years experience as a practicing artist. And Arthur began his art practice as a painter; now he makes furniture—an art medium in itself. Their experience gave credibility to the works displayed.

Ken Hogrefe, “On Arriving.”

Ken Hogrefe, “On Arriving.”

Start with the front gallery, where Ken’s “On Arriving” commanded visitors’ attention by size alone: it spanned an entire gallery wall. Energy emanated from swift brushstrokes of yellows, blues, and reds, with large white swathes atop; it was also visible in the canvas itself. Instead of laying flat against the wall, small folds throughout the canvas mimicked a gentle wave-like motion.

Rebecca George, “Clandestine.”

Rebecca George, “Clandestine.”

Adding to the conversation were several paintings by Rebecca and Christine that hung on the opposite half of the gallery. These pieces were smaller, but the effect was just as powerful. Some paintings, including Rebecca’s “In Congress with Myself,” confined the vitality of abstraction with a frame. Most notably, though, was her painting “Clandestine.” Its mostly darker color palette, exposed medium, and modest size proved to be the perfect complement to Ken’s painting. Together, they created a welcomed visual tension.

Curated section of Christine Connor and Rebecca George's work.

Curated section of Christine Connor and Rebecca George's work.

Progressing through the exhibition, the side gallery contained several abstract works that required deep thought. Here, visitors found canvases with thicker and darker strokes of colors. An aptly placed couch was an invitation to sit and think about this work.

Visitors were richly rewarded in the hallway, as they traveled between galleries. Here, two contributions from Christine stopped people in their tracks. “Untitled” was visually arresting: a framed painting contained staccato movements of pink, yellow, and black colors with a hint of glimmer. “Burgeon” was similarly composed. A soothing dialogue resulted between them.


The back gallery offered an amalgamation of abstract paintings by Ken, Christine, and Rebecca. Moreover, sprinkled throughout the show were pieces of Arthur’s furniture, including a bench and chest. Several pieces were intentionally abstract, Arthur said, and influenced by artists from the 1930s, such as Ben Nicholson and Louise Nevelson.

Exhibition shot with Arthur Connor’s pieces.

Exhibition shot with Arthur Connor’s pieces.

Arthur’s furniture served a crucial role by making abstract art relatable. Traditionally, people struggle with abstraction. It can be challenging to make sense of lines, drops, drips, or strokes of color on canvas. That said, mixing his furniture with abstract paintings created a home-like feel: visitors could picture living with abstract art.

The show’s abstract theme was helped by a plurality of voices. Individually, each artist conveyed their notion of abstraction differently, be it through color, medium, or scale, and thus gave visitors a breadth of interpretations of nonrepresentational artwork to consider. Collectively, however, they conveyed the power of abstraction: engaging the viewer to have their own personal experience.

The event was punctuated by two very talented guests who contributed their own art form to relate to the show: Amy Hogrefe of Maggie's Daughter catered the exhibition with inventive and delicious abstract artist-themed appetizers and desserts, while cellist Teddy Rankin-Parker graced attendees with a powerful and emotional performance. Clearly the hard work of all paid off as the show turned out over 100 guests during its five hour reception. 

Teddy Rankin-Parker playing cello for a packed gallery during the Abstract Workshorses show.

Teddy Rankin-Parker playing cello for a packed gallery during the Abstract Workshorses show.

Amy Haddad is a writer at BigTime Software. She is also a freelance writer and blogger. Read her blog, Art Diversions, at And follow her on Twitter at @amymhaddad.

Third Coast Review: Rebecca George

Rebecca George: Turn the Other Eye at the Arts On Elston

By Nicole Lane on April 20, 2016

He could tell by the way animals walked that they were keeping time to some kind of music. Maybe it was the song in their own hearts that they walked to.”

― Laura Adams Armer

The solo exhibition, Turn the Other Eye, which featured 75 pieces created by Rebecca George, invited viewers to engage with the artists ability to work with various mediums and the strength in which she has to compose pieces in a multitude of styles. From more traditional and realistic, to figurative and abstract, George’s vast oeuvre from 2011-2016 is incredibly diverse, while her subject matter remains rooted in her compassion and connection to the relationship between animals and humans. Georges work is infiltrated with the theme of loss and its expressive nature is represented through painting, printing, drawing, and sculpture.

Read entire article...

Curatorial Interview: Turn the Other Eye

By: Amy Haddad, Arts Journalist

April 15, 2016

Rebecca George—artist, adjunct faculty member at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The University of Chicago and founder and Director of The Art House—opened her one-night solo exhibition, “Turn the Other Eye,” at Arts on Elston Galleryon April 15. In addition to seeing nearly 75 pieces of art, guests enjoyed food and drink, along with music by Shaun Zimmerman and Matt Woodhead of Windy City Classical Guitarists.

The interview that follows, which provides details about George’s newer works and the exhibition, includes comments from art historian Virginia Voedisch, who wrote the show’s catalog essay; the show’s designerBeth Borum; and curators Christine Connor, Mary Dorrell, JoAnn Hayden, Arthur Connor and Ken Hogrefe.


Rebecca George’s “Turn the Other Eye” exhibition at Arts on Elston Gallery.

Q: Virginia Voedisch, you write in the catalog essay: “Coinciding with the animal-themed works are lush, figural paintings that more deeply probe the issue of identity and transformation.” In eeping with the ideas of identity and transformation, the exhibition takes place during the spring—a time associated with rebirth and renewal. 

In your opinion, how does this transformational theme relate to George’s exhibition overall and to her newer works in particular?

A: Transformation plays an essential role in the exhibition. The show examines themes of transition between life and death through George’s animal works. It also reflects a personal transformation for the artist herself: the relationship with her animals as mother, guardian and caretaker.

Being an artist is to be immersed in transformation. In part this means transforming an idea into a visual image. It also refers to transforming as an artist—not only creating, but also learning how to manipulate your tools of expression. At the same time, there is the idea of bodily transformation: how we see our physical selves at different stages of our life; and determining whether our physical selves help or hinder us from our accessing our spiritual selves.

Q: Why is it important for some of George’s earlier rabbit pictures to be exhibited in conjunction with her newer works? How does this pairing advance the exhibition’s theme?

A: “Turn the Other Eye” is about George’s identity as a painter and person, according to Hogrefe.  The souls she shares her life and space with are going to creep into her work. Dorrell shares a similar view, acknowledging George’s exploration of identity and connection to her animal companions are not separate experiences.

Both Hogrefe and Dorrell recognize how the artist’s incorporation of animals has evolved. George’s last show, “Have Many Rabbit,” was more straightforward, whereas the current show integrates animals into a larger narrative. “Reveal Thyself,” for example, is a meditation on the passing a particularly loved rabbit, Ollie, where Rebecca recasts herself in the funeral pose of her companion. Moreover, Dorrell adds that visitors will find companion rabbits or cats woven into the canvas of George’s figural paintings.

Q: Beth Borum, how do you envision visitors moving through the space and experiencing the exhibition?

A: Arts on Elston Gallery feels like you are walking through someone’s home. There is a sense of intimacy as you weave from room to room, viewing George’s work. Each room is anchored with work that confronts the visitor, albeit gently. The closeness of the walls where the art hangs offer solace and privacy as visitors look, interact and experience the George’s work.

Exhibition shot of “Turn the Other Eye.”

Q: Given the variety of subjects and media making up “Turn the Other Eye,” how is George’s work organized within Arts on Elston Gallery?

A: Dorrell explains the exhibition's organization from the visitor’s perspective. Upon entering, Dorrell describes, visitors are introduced to Rebecca’s recent transitional and lush figural work, along with her large, transformative abstract ones. Visitors are then guided through George’s rich collection of paintings, prints and drawings in the remainder of the gallery. These pieces document her love and loss of animal companions, as well as a continued revelation of self in her figural paintings, Dorrell summarizes.

The five curators focused on the stylistic and emotional relationship in George’s work during the hanging process. Hogrefedraws a parallel between curating art and the act of painting on a canvas: in both instances “you look at what's happening and decide, based on what the painting is telling you, what the next move should be.”

Q: Arts on ElstonGallery consists of several small rooms—some of which have decorative accents, such as crown molding. The overall space looks and feels different from a “white cube” gallery. To what extent did the space influence your curatorial decisions?

A: Arthur Connor, Director of Arts on Elston Gallery, says the several rooms making up the gallery work to the show’s benefit. This is because each room offers a different feeling or sensation, thereby telling a different story. Hogrefe also comments on the space, noting that Arts on Elston Gallery offered a sense of discovery and opportunity for surprise.

Exhibition shot of “Turn the Other Eye.”

Q: Five curators were involved in this show. How did the curatorial team work together? 

A: Christine Connor and JoAnn Hayden both comment how the idea of community brought the curators and the show together. While the curators worked collectively and by consensus to curate and hang the show, Hayden explains there were also individual responsibilities. Hayden secured the musicians, for example; Christine, who is quite familiar withArts on ElstonGallery, offered expertise on lighting and the use of small spaces.Borum designed the invitations and exhibition catalog.

Q: Arthur Connor, some of the furniture you made is seen throughout Arts on Elston Gallery. How did you organize the furniture within the gallery, and how was it used?

A: The furniture pieces, such as small table-like pieces, work well in the gallery because of their neutrality and functionality. They do not take away from the artwork, but add something to the space itself: making the space more inviting. From an art perspective the furniture is like a still life, but it also served a purpose: as a gallery bench, for example.

Q: Ken Hogrefe, when curating “Turn the Other Eye,” how did you decide which artwork to include? 

A: George has been on a mission to reinvent her practice continuously over the past ten years; she has been almost relentless in exploring who she is as a painter. That said, it was foremost in everyone's minds to document George’s artistic evolution. Visitors can see the dialogue between personal meaning and expression countered by technical experimentation and expression in her painting style.

The show also has a number of smaller, more intimate pieces of art. These works round out George’s personality as an artist. Many of them are representational and exquisitely executed. These smaller works frequently depict details of George’s life with her companions—the rabbits and the cats. You feel a deep sense of love and gratitude for her "family" circle. It feels right to present both of these sides because, more than likely, you don't have one without the other.

Amy Haddad is a writer atVeritas Health. She also writes about art and technology on her blogs, Art DiversionsandTech Diversions, and contributes articles to Sculpture Magazine, Newcity and Create Hub.






REVIEW: Far-Flung, Contemporary Art of the Midwest

Review by Stephanie Coate

December 10, 2015

FAR-FLUNG: Contemporary Art of the Midwest

This exhibition featuring 40+ Midwestern artists was a partnership event between The Art House and Arts on Elston and opened on Saturday, December 5, 2015. I went to the event alone, yet was approached and welcomed by many other individuals, curious to know who I was, and eager to converse. It was quickly made clear that this was a very welcoming space and just by being there you were friend/family. This welcoming environment consists of two living rooms with leather couches, a kitchen area where people of all ages casually conversed and introduced themselves, and five smaller surrounding rooms. Each of the rooms comfortably displayed a selection of the 40 artworks that were selected to participate in the exhibition, Far-Flung, Contemporary Art of the Midwest. Additionally, two of the surrounding rooms serve as studios for the two Artists in Residence of The Art House, Beth Borum and Christine Connor. Both had work on display which complemented the overall exhibition.

Rebecca George, founder and Director of the Art House, and Arthur Connor, Director of Arts on Elston uniquely partner their two spaces that are kitty-corner from each other on opposite sides of the Elston & Albany intersection in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. The two join their missions together to jury and curate exhibitions regularly, building the creative community. "These exhibitions are a lot of work for the few of us who take the project on, and as such, are a labor of love," stated Rebecca when asked about the selection and curatorial process. “As artists ourselves, we (Rebecca George and Arthur Connor) take artists very seriously and want to support frequent opportunities for the public to view the high quality work of these artists”.

The only requirement to submit work was geographic to the Midwest. "Many levels of experience are displayed. Some new artists, some developed in their career, are all juxtaposed together" stated Connor. "Not lacking in quality or originality." 

Upon entering the gallery, the variety of artwork is cleanly lined at eye-level across three walls in the front room. Works by Aurua, Il artist Domingo Parada, James Chrazn's "Self Portrait" and Margie Criner's, Felt Sculpture "Departure" were perfectly balanced together in a room of abstract styles.

Becca Homes’, "Birdcage" broke up the abstracts with a more figurative and surreal impact between the rooms just before entering the kitchen area. Featured in a recessed shelfRobert Skwarts’ "The Wish Box" was on display, made of glass and metals. A divine, transparent device. Just before entering the second living room of a more salon-style layout was a delicate drawing by Harnet Matzdorf titled "Sisters", complimented by an intriguing sibling portrait painted by artist and author, Carol Anshaw. Moving through the second living room, Chicago artist Lynn Basa was on display with a contemporary, thick, latex-like painting and vibrant colors with "Forget Me Not" among a lovely variety of paintings of dancers, abstractions, Radiohead tributes, self portraits and animals.  

When entering the back room my mood shifted from lighthearted, to curious and harmonious. Chicago artist Soo Shin, "Eye of the Beholder" had a large sculptural work with an open composition constructed of welded metal, and leveled weight and movement who's lovely counterpart to "Untitled" by Ann Blaas, a larger abstract painting with green and earthly palette. A meditative space was created between the two.

It was hard to leave the exhibition as I enjoyed walking into spaces and accidentally meeting artists during discussion over pie, or walking into various art-filled rooms where serious conversations about where the contemporary art world is headed took place. The art was both professional and approachable, filled with "color and balance", with the hospitality and character set by the space and curatorial decisions that enhanced the overall exhibition - very (Contemporary) Midwest.