Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chicago Connection: The 5 Artists Project

I'm happy to be part of Chicago Connection: The 5 Artists Project, which has its opening reception Friday, Aug. 8th, at Ossia Fine Arts Space in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan. As the guest curator for the show, I've had the opportunity to work with Karen Schulz-Harmon, curator and owner of Ossia, and 5 fantastic Chicago artists: Frank Connet, Iris Goldstein, Darrell Roberts, Mirjana Ugrinov, and Dale Washington.

Here is the text for the catalogue I wrote to accompany the show.

Ossia Fine Arts Space

Karen Schulz-Harmon, professional cellist and educator, opened Ossia Fine Arts Space in the Fine Arts Building in December 2006. Located on the 5th floor, with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a balcony and courtyard, the space has been host to shows by primarily Chicago-based artists. As a member of The Chicago Trio, she uses the space as an art gallery/performance venue to showcase talented artists and musicians. Ossia also features other special events, which have included a fashion/jewelry show and an environmental lecture/discussion. And this Halloween 2008, Ossia will host The Vanishing Art: An Evening of Magic featuring Chicago magician Ryan Lawrence. See Ossia’s Website for details on current/upcoming art exhibitions, concerts, and events.

Previous exhibitions at Ossia Fine Arts Space include:
-The Cello Series. “Musicians give you sound; I will give you my images.” Works by Eric Mecum.
- Spring. “Like each earthly spring, there is anticipation, then wonder anew as colorful new life bursts forth.” Works by Christine Ilewski.
- Initiation. “The fire-treated works embrace the volatility of life. They testify to the truth that all of our perceptions of beauty lie in the imperfections of man.” Works by Josh Garrett.
- Text and Time. Chicago-based composer Drew Baker and his brother Brett Baker, a New York-based, Guggenheim-winning painter, join forces to bring us Text and Time. Their collaboration seeks to overcome apparent barriers between the spatial and the aural/acoustic through that which is both – language.
- Snapshot. Can a snapshot be a remembered second of anyone’s life? Photography as fine art. Artists: Liza Berkoff and Marc McGowan.
- the unknown. Guest-curated show by Rebecca Martin and Samaiyah Wright. This exhibition featured works by 12 undiscovered Chicago artists, who happen to work together as employees of the Art Institute. Together, these 12 diverse artists are the “the unknown.” Individually, each is an undiscovered painter, photographer, sketch artist and sculptor. Artists: Steve Archer, Ruth Barabe, Amber Brown, Libby Burnette, Kristin Hulka, Boris Lucero, Jamie Medeiros, Casey Murtaugh, Tim Swezy, Pilar Tena, Christopher Wanklyn, and Jen Welsing. This show also featured undiscovered singer/songwriter Tovi Khali and her band (Jen Na Sais Quoi).
- UNTITLED. A study of contrasting styles and how they overlap. Artists: James Basile, Deborah A. Doering, Richard Laurent, and Eric Mecum.
- Coffee and Windows. Views of surrealism and social realism. Artists: Beatriz Ledesma and Anita Miller.
- Group Show. Focus on the juxtaposition of various painting styles of four Chicago-based artists. Artists: Jill McLean, Eric Mecum, Mie Tamura, and Sigfredo VĂ©lez, Jr.

Ossia Fine Arts Space Fine Arts Building 410 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 537 Chicago, IL 60605 773.220.2356. Gallery owner: Karen Schulz-Harmon. Email: Website: Hours: By appointment. Call or email. Fridays, noon to 4 p.m. (call 312.506.7723) Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. (call 312.506.7723)

Art Opening, Ossia Fine Arts Space,
Fine Arts Building, Chicago

Chicago Trio (left to right, Mirei Hori,
Christie Abe,Karen Schulz-Harmon)

Guest Curator, Amy A. Rudberg

I created the art blog ArtStyle Blog, A Voice for Artists in Chicago a year ago to interview promising artists in an e-zine format on the web. My goal was to make their art more accessible to the public. Now, while I am no longer involved with the blog, I believe that the works of these five contemporary Chicago artists should be showcased together in a public forum.

I have talked and met with these artists in their studios and homes and asked them hundreds of questions to get an idea of how and why they create their art. I have inquired about their lives, education, families, backgrounds, philosophies, beliefs, influences, techniques, practices, choices, and dreams. And yet, with all of this information, it is difficult to describe definitively how they create their works of art, but I do know that all of them are at the height of their artistic powers.

These five artists – Frank Connet, Iris Goldstein, Darrell Roberts, Mirjana Ugrinov, Dale Washington – have lived and worked in the Chicagoland area for most of their adult lives. Their work reflects the rhythms, patterns, and nuances of urban life and its natural surroundings, as well as inflections of social and cultural diversity. As professional artists, educators, and arbiters of their own unique styles, they create works of art that some may describe as “inner-directed” art, stirring something within the viewers to question something within themselves. These artists create contemporary art in hand-dyed textiles, relief sculptures and color-pencil drawings, abstract oils that are almost sculptures, abstract acrylics and textiles in installation pieces, and abstract ink drawings, mixed-media paintings, and assemblages. While each artist’s pieces reveal a unique style, the show conveys a sense of cohesiveness in terms of artistic vision, narrative content, and appeal to the senses.

Frank Connet

6140 W. North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60639
Phone: 773.637.7007

- Textile restorer and artist with more than 20 years of professional experience
- BFA, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO
- Teaching experience: Penland School of Craft, 2008; Visiting Artist, Kansas City Art Institute, MO; Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL; Southern Illinois University, Fiber Department
- Gallery representation: Textile-based work, Douglas Dawson Gallery, Chicago; works on paper, Kate Hendrickson Fine Art, Chicago; Jane Sauer Thirteen Moons Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
- Exhibiting since the mid 1980s; started showing textile work in 1998

Selected Exhibitions
Material Difference, Group Show, Chicago Cultural Center, 2007; Clamped and Bound, Solo Exhibition, Douglas Dawson Gallery, Chicago, 2007; Silk Road Oasis, Illinois Artisan Program, Chicago Tourism Center, 2006; Frank Connet & Jiro Yonezawa, Jane Sauer Thirteen Moons Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, 2006; Fiberart International 2004, Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, WA, 2005; Gift, Bequest, and Purchase: A Selection of Textile Acquisitions, 1998-2003, the Art Institute of Chicago, 2004-05; Fiberology: Six Extraordinary Contemporary Fiber Artists, Montgomery College Art Gallery, Rockville, MD; Museum of Arts & Design, New York, 2004; SOFA Chicago 2003, Heltzer, Navy Pier, Chicago

Artistic Process
As a textile conservationist, Frank Connet has had the opportunity to study, analyze, and restore museum-quality historic textiles. With this knowledge and his interest in natural dyeing techniques, he creates abstract textile wall hangings that are “quilted” paintings, reminiscent of natural hand-dyed Japanese kimonos or West African strip woven textiles.

His artistic process starts with natural dyes and fabrics, which he sews and pleats and then dyes on average thirty to forty times to achieve the desired colors and patterns. He uses the Japanese Shibori process: “A series of hand-sewn stitches are drawn tightly to bunch or pleat the fabric into a dense mass, which is then dyed. The process permanently alters the surface of the wool, hemp or cotton, creating lines, ridges and washes, both of color and texture. Layered natural dyes create a limitless palette of hue and depth.” After the dyeing process, the fabrics are dried, cut, sewn, and pieced into textile hangings. He also creates Shibori “sculptural” pieces, which are many yards of dyed fabric pulled tightly into a three-dimensional form.

Many of his pieces are inspired by nature – transitions, cycles, patterns, symbols, and structures. His compositions are a series of mainly geometric shapes in monochromatic blues, grays, and browns, sometimes enlivened with a dash of red or yellow. What makes his pieces come alive is his instinctive layering of monochromatic blues, showing hidden depth in the background, and on top of that, a series of rectangles with different colors and line patterns, almost symbolizing windows into the unknown if one dares to look through them.

A thought-provoking piece Estuary II is surely about nature with its watery and reflective blues and lines that look like ripples on the surface. But, one could also easily say that the piece symbolizes a cityscape, an urban jungle with tall buildings and stacked windows featuring zebra-pattern blinds.

Frank Connet. Estuary II. 2007.
Hand-dyed wool, cut and sewn,
50 ¼” x 84 ¼”.

Iris Goldstein


- Painter and sculptor with more than 20 years of professional experience
- MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; AB, Smith College, Northampton, MA. Studied sculpture with Leonard Baskin, also with Cosmo Campoli at the Contemporary Arts Workshop in Chicago
- Taught children’s film making classes after school, University of Chicago Lab Schools
- Artist-in-Residence, Haguro-Machi, Japan
- Member, ARC Cooperative Gallery, Chicago
- Exhibiting since 1979

Selected Exhibitions
5' by 2', Members Exhibition, ARC Gallery, Chicago, 2007; Muses and Musings, One-Person Show, ARC Gallery, Chicago, 2006; Open Studios, Exchange Exhibit, La Genie de la Bastille, Paris, France, 2005; W.A.S.P.S Chicago Exchange, Patriothall Gallery, Edinburgh,Scotland, 2005; EastWest, Group Show, Liu Haisu Art Museum,Shanghai,China, Catalogue, 2005; Small Objects, Group Show, TZ Gallery, Chicago, 2004; Articulations, Two-Person Show, Atelier Art International, New York, 2003; 30th Anniversary Exhibition, ARC Gallery, Chicago, IL, Exhibition Co-Chair and Installer of the work, Editor of the exhibition catalog, 2003; A Capitol Commute, Gallery 10, Washington, D.C., 2002; ARC in Japan, Matsugoaka Gallery, Haguro-Machi, Japan, Atelier Gym Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2001; Wer Weiss Wozo es Gut Ist? GEDOK Gallery, Hamburg, Germany; Art of the Third Coast, Red Head Gallery, Toronto, Canada, 2001

Artistic Process
Observing Iris Goldstein’s plaster-relief sculptures, one wonders how the pieces stay upright on the wall, as they look like dense twisted pieces of wood, clay, or stoneware. Using plaster-covered aluminum screening, she creates relief sculptures that not only seem to defy gravity but also have an extra dimension to them with their wave-like and curved formations, similar to organic forms in nature or even wormholes in space.

Earlier in her career, she worked on labor-intensive wood sculptures and then discovered the plaster-over-aluminum-screening method from a friend. The process involves cutting pieces of aluminum screening and shaping them by hand and then using wire to hold the shape, stretching cheesecloth over the shape, painting several coats of plaster on the surface, and then painting and adjusting the shape as the plaster dries. As the piece starts to dry, she sands the surface for a smoother look, carves the surface, or leaves the paint brush texture. Sometimes the shapes are stapled onto a wood backing. After the piece is completely dry, she applies a protective coating on it. In the end, the piece is very durable, light weight, and easily transported.

With a palette ranging from earthy browns and grays to iridescent jewel tones, she explores the “connections between surface form and an emotive exploration of color.” The curvilinear geometric and natural shapes draw us in to take a closer look at the shifting colors, forms, and textures. Providing an almost meditative quality, the shapes sooth us with their undulations and repetitive patterns. Some of the pieces exhibit a subtle aura of sensuality and magnetic energy, and one has an urge to run a finger along the surface to connect to it.

Gesture 11 illustrates the artist’s ability to depict the flowing patterns found in nature in an abstract piece. Resembling a body of water with geography intermingling with the flowing tides observed from above, this piece provides a reminder of the beauty of nature and one’s own inner rhythms.

Iris Goldstein. Gesture 11.
Figures and Ground Series. 2008.
Aluminum screen, plaster, acrylic paint
on wood, height 16” x 9” x 2”.

Darrell Roberts


- Painter with more than 10 years of professional experience
- MFA, BFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; BA, Art History, University of Northern Iowa
- Teaching experience: Taught painting at Hyde Street Art Center, Chicago
- Grants: Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, career development, 12/07; George Sugarman Foundation, purchase of paint and career enrichment, 11/07; Dedalus Foundation, full fellowship to Vermont Studio Center, 11/24-12/21/07; Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, 3/07
- Represented by Thomas McCormick Gallery, Chicago
- Exhibiting since 1997

Selected Exhibitions
Fresh Paint - a group exhibition of Chicago Painters and Abstraction 2008: Summer Group Show, Thomas McCormick Gallery, Chicago, 2008; Luscious, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, 2007; i feel good, i feel great, i feel wonderful, L2 Kontemporary Gallery, with Ana Fernandez, Los Angeles, CA, 2007; Texture and Tone, with Meredith Brickell, Joe Pintz, Lillstreet Art Center, Chicago, 2007; The Texture of Change, with Robert Putnam, Brickton Art Center, Park Ridge, IL, 2007; material + light, with Ana Fernandez, Paola Cabal, Bill Morrison, mn gallery, Chicago, 2007; Urban Landscapes, Noir Gallery, Jacksonville, IL

Artistic Process
Growing up in Eldon, Iowa, Darrell Roberts has lived and worked in Chicago since 1997. Influenced by art critic Harold Rosenberg and artist Hans Hoffman, he reveals that his painting process is similar to the “push and pull on the growing metropolis” – the never-ending construction and re-building of buildings and roadways in the city. He started his profession as a figurative painter and then found more enjoyment as an abstractionist.

Working with small canvasses (usually 12” x 12”), he uses oil paints mixed with pumice to build layer upon layer of color, lines, forms, and textures. Inspired by construction sites, nature, and found objects, he takes photos daily with his cell phone during his walks through the city. In his studio, he begins painting with a brush and then progresses to layering with a knife, which is also used to apply the paint-pumice mixture thickly. He constructs/deconstructs his paintings and builds layer upon layer of swirling paints in low relief -- sometimes extending to the sides of the canvas.

The colors in his paintings are very vivid and bring his compositions to life. Influenced by colors in his environment, he sometimes tries to duplicate interesting manufactured colors to include in his pieces. When he works in a series, which he usually does, and arranges the paintings side by side, one immediately senses a lyrical cohesiveness of the entire group. The pieces are tied together like a compelling narrative of the urban landscape. The conscientious viewer is immediately drawn into the paintings to get a closer look at the layers of paint and to uncover the mysteries that lie beneath.

This painting is part of his series Sidewalk Voyages. One is struck by the depth of the painting -- not just by the physical layers but the textures, colors, forms, and lines as well. Knowing that he is inspired by his surroundings in his daily walks, one senses the ebb and flow of nature, perhaps debris blowing in the wind, and life happening all around us.

Darrell Roberts. Untitled. Sidewalk Series.
2008. Oil and pumice on canvas, 8” x 6”.

Mirjana Ugrinov


- Interior designer and painter with more than 20 years of professional experience
- Studied art history, Case Western Reserve Graduate School, OH; BFA, Studio Art, Kent State University, OH
- Teaching experience: Instructor of studio and commercial art and art history, Cooper School of Art, Cleveland, OH; Co-Director of Interior Design Department and Instructor, Virginia Marti Fashion Institute, Lakewood, OH.
- Director of Coventry Art Gallery, Cleveland, OH, 1978-81; Consulting Board Member, ARC Cooperative Gallery, Chicago
- Gallery representation: Art Metro Gallery, Cleveland, OH; Bonfoey’s Galleries, Cleveland, OH; Brenda Kross Gallery, Columbus/Cleveland, OH; Teresa De Chant, Art Consultant, Cleveland, OH; Center of the Earth Gallery, Charlotte, NC
- Exhibiting since 1980

Selected Exhibitions
Free art for your wrists, mixed media bracelets, TransCultural Exchange Project, London Bienniale 2008; Contemporary Art by American Women, Art in Embassies Exhibit, Belgrade, Serbia, 2008; Poetic Dialogue, installation with Robin Behn, ARC Gallery, Chicago, 2008; Le Genie de la Bastille, Francois Cosson Studio, Paris, France, 2005; Edinburgh Art Festival, Patriothall Gallery, Scotland, 2005; A.I.R. Gallery, New York, 2005; Eyelounge Gallery, Phoenix, AZ, 2005; University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL, 2005; Chicago Cultural Center, 2003; East West Gallery, Cleveland, OH, 1993-1997

Artistic Process
Working as a designer of commercial interiors with her husband, Branislav, at Ugrinov Associates, Inc., a space planning and design firm, Mirjana Ugrinov finds the time to create her own fine art in her studio. She walks about twelve blocks from her home to her studio, located a stone’s throw from the beach where she goes for inspiration when she needs it.

Growing up in the former Yugoslavia and then living in Ohio, and Chicago since 2001, she has incorporated nature, geography, landscape, and spiritual themes in her art. Her paintings and fiber art vibrate with vivid expressionistic colors. Working quickly, she uses acrylic paints mixed with various mediums to build layers and textures on the surface of her canvas. Sometimes she adds fibers and sand-like textures to her paintings. Her bold, warm-cool color combinations complement her mark-making and forms, giving them added depth. Recurring themes appear in many of her paintings, including geometric forms that look like doorways to hidden worlds.

In addition to painting, she is also a fiber artist and uses acrylic and manipulated paper: She wrinkles the paper, sprays it, manipulates it, dips it into acrylic, and moves the paint around to create a dimensional collage. Another aspect of her art is digital -- she draws and paints using software, a stylus and tablet to create high-resolution art.

More recently, she has begun to work with poets and uses the actual text of some of their poetry as part of her installation pieces. In her collaborative projects, she has written out the text, transferred it onto paper or canvas, and then used paint, medium, and fabric to complement the text. She thinks of these installations as two people collaborating in a “very specific way – two art forms fused and existing together.” She celebrates and honors the beauty of poetry in her own art.

Her Stones installation, inspired by a poem by Cynthia Hogue, consists of mixed media paintings and constructed boxes with real stone elements. The poem talks about “immoral stones, caged and imprisoned, kept on the shelf, near the window.” She has an intuitive ability to capture the metaphysical elements of text and bring them to life in her artwork.

Mirjana Ugrinov. Stones. Installation, detail.
2008. Mixed media on canvas.

Dale Washington


- Painter, illustrator, and assemblage artist with more than 10 years of professional experience
- Attended Columbus College of Art and Design, OH, and University of Wisconsin-Madison; BA, Advertising, Columbia College of Chicago
- Teaching experience: Chicago Public Schools, ART Program; Hyde Park Art Center; Catalyst Charter School After School Program
- Grants: CAAP (Chicago Artist Assistance Program) Grant from Chicago Cultural Center, 2007, (used in his latest series of portrait work of Chicago’s art collecting community)
- 2003 Artist of the Year Award from Southside Community Art Center, Chicago
- Featured artist in the catalogue African Art: The Diaspora and Beyond, documenting the collection of Chicagoan Daniel Parker, Gallery Guichard, Chicago, 2005
- Exhibiting since 1996

Selected Exhibitions
Kiss on the Cheek: Portraits by Dale Washington, 2008; Sunrise, 2007, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; Spirit of Sankofa, Group Show, Neleh Artistic Expressions, 2006, Chicago; After Qualls, Group Show, Southside Community Art Center, Chicago, 2006; Art Di Gras, Group Show, Gallery Guichard, Chicago 2006; Power of Creation, Francine Turk Gallery, Chicago, 2005; Color and Movement, Southside Community Art Center, Chicago, 2005; Reflections, Framing Mode Gallery, Chicago, 2005; 2004 Art Exhibition, Group Show, Steele Life Gallery, Chicago.

Artistic Process
Growing up on the south side of Chicago, where he now lives and works out of his home studio, Dale Washington has depicted in his art everyday people and situations in the urban landscape. His walls at home are covered with some of the art from his latest series – portrait paintings, drawings, and assemblages – of Chicago’s art collecting community.

His current work reveals the nuanced personalities of artists, collectors, and administrators in pen and ink, ball point pen, oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, and mixed media. Working in both figurative and abstract styles, he skillfully captures the essence of a personality in the natural pose of the body, facial expression, dress, and immediate surroundings.

A meticulous craftsman, he first takes photos of his subject and then does several sketches in ink. Working quickly, he then draws and paints different versions of the same subject one after the other, using different mediums. In his spontaneous style, he creates a languid pose of a collector with a ball point pen and just as quickly, a pensive portrait in colorful pastels. His compositions are well organized and carefully arranged with enough detail to make the subjects interesting, accessible, and compelling to the viewer. Even his skillful assemblages, made with found objects, come across as organic representations of the human figure.

Living and breathing drawing and painting, with sketch book in hand, he reveals, “There is a way of doing things in the right manner, being positive about it, being patient, trusting that the outcome of whatever aspect of what you’re doing will work through to everyone’s advantage. I approach my art in the same way.”

As part of his series on portraits of artists, collectors, and administrators in Chicago, he captures the essence of his good friend Robert Minnerly, a singer/guitarist of Brazilian and Portuguese music. The vibrant colors bring the musician and his energetic music to life.

Dale Washington. Robert Minnerly. Portrait Series.
2008. Oil on canvas board, 18” x 24”.

Copyright © Chicago Connection: The 5 Artists Project, 2008. All rights reserved. Text by Amy A. Rudberg. Cover design by Mirjana Ugrinov. Ossia Fine Arts Space and Chicago Trio images provided by Karen Schulz-Harmon. All other images provided by the individual artists.

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