Mark Hunter Brown is a truly dynamic individual. I have known Brown for the better part of a decade, and I am relatively positive that I will never meet another person quite like him. With each day functioning more like the next chapter in a bizarre novel, his zest for life is infectious. Luckily, Brown is also an amazing artist, and has managed to document his interests and experiences through countless drawings and paintings. Though he gains inspiration from his travels, the work is not limited to the places and people he has actually interacted with. Brown is also heavily influenced by the written historical accounts of different cultures and people, but the work is not about visually representing his source material. Instead, he chooses to focus on the importance of the moments recorded history has chosen to ignore. There is this dead zone in between the great scenes of history that also warrants consideration, and Brown is keenly aware of this. When asked why he is drawn to this type of situation Brown replied, “because life doesn’t look like a Delacroix painting – it’s just people walking around and eating sandwiches. These moments seem more real to me…they’re equally compelling.”
While these scenes are not infrequent in his work, Brown’s practice is not limited to this type of subject matter. There is far less literal material in Brown’s oeuvre, and his vivid imagination becomes readily apparent when looking at paintings of huge figurative fortresses or anthropomorphized coo-coo clocks snorting bones off of a table. When viewed in context these paintings start to function as some sort of bizarre allegory, but their meaning is never explicitly stated. There is such a rich diversity in the distinctive worlds that Brown creates, and no piece is less detailed than the last. Whether he is teaching at Columbia, backpacking through Morocco, or boar hunting with monks in the Italian countryside – the need to process the world into visually compelling images has remained consistent within Brown’s life. Lucky for us, his mind seems to function like an endless supply of Google image search results that I have no desire to stop looking at any time soon.
Chicago-based Andy Burkholder has been posting a consistant supply of mind-clearing one-pagers on his wonderful tumblr. He’s got something special going, and he’s just riding the wave real hard. His work outside of the one-page bits is just as impressive, but more focused on experimentation, as opposed to a formally consistent body of work. Check out his web, his flick, and visit him at CAKE. A buttery smooth man.
In the fall of 2009 artist Michael Anthony Simon left Chicago behind, and moved to the countryside of Korea. He wanted to experience a new place and culture that would hopefully inform a fresh body of work that could exist beyond the constraints of the western art world. In the spring of 2011, contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei was arrested on falsified charges of tax evasion by a notoriously conservative Chinese government. The claims were suspect to say the least, and many silent protests were organized throughout the world by major museums and institutions calling for his release. These silent protests became a louder gesture than anything anyone could have audibly said. This act of defiant solidarity became a source of motivation for Simon in the year to come. Realizing that by attempting to silence something you make it’s presence that much more apparent he commenced on a series entitled “The Silence Paintings”. Analyzing the design and significance of the word ‘silence’ in different languages lead him to the creation of an intuitive process that would allow for compositions to develop naturally, but with purpose and intention.
Chad Kouri always dreamed of being a designer, and he took the first major step towards making that dream a reality with a freelance gig at the age of sixteen. Ten years later, he has become what some refer to as a cultural engineer. A founding member of the Chicago-based art and design incubator, The Post Family, previous Art Director of Proximity Magazine and recognition as one of Chicago’s Newcity Breakout Artists of 2010 are only a few of his numerous accomplishments. Kouri has been involved with more than thirty different projects over the last two years, and shows no signs of slowing down. For many, there is still a huge chasm between the worlds of design and fine arts, but this distinction is of no interest to Chad Kouri. Un-phased, he continues to breakdown the walls attempting to separate the two industries. A recent collaboration with artists Stephen Eichhorn and Cody Hudson at the Patty and Rusty Rueff Gallery marks his first foray into exhibiting at an institutional level, but with an upcoming solo show at the Rochester Museum of Fine Art slated for the winter of 2012 it will obviously not be his last. Kouri describes his practice as having, “equal interests in conceptual art, consumer culture, typography, design, jazz and the gray areas between these fields, my body of work is more a collection of various ongoing projects, thoughts and experiments tied together by a strong sense of composition, concise documentation and an overall vibe of optimism than a seamless display of a style or genre.” I am excited to watch this process evolve, and I wish him good luck for the future – but somehow I don’t think he’ll need it.
Chicago based artist Montgomery Perry Smith finds beauty in the unexpected. His process often includes taking discarded elements of once functional objects (i.e. the base of a papasan chair or a broken lamp) and coupling them with meticulously handcrafted details. The end result of which is a strikingly sophisticated body of work. Smith’s sculptures are as sexual as they are formal, but he is never hitting you over the head with it. Drawn forms are delicately paired with altered materials to create elegant compositions that reveal subtle references to sexuality. Since graduating with a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the spring of 2008, Smith’s artistic career has been steadily gaining momentum. A recent solo show at Sabina Lee Gallery marks Smith’s first foray into the Los Angeles art scene, but if the prediction of Smith’s future success by Chicago publication Newcity as one of nine “Breakout Artists” to watch in 2010 is as prophetic as I think it might be – we will be seeing much more of his work in the years to come.
Black Thorns in the White Cube is a group show that presents work by eight contemporary artists influenced by the “mystic obscurity” of Black Metal music. The exhibitors “explore haunted Germanic forests, descents into the void, visual translations of sonic experiences, ontologies of Black Metal band logos, and barren western landscapes.” Curator Amelia Ishmael is a Black Metal scholar – a mix of curator, art historian, and artist who specializes in the thorny intersections between Black Metal music and contemporary art. She is also the co-editor of Helvete, a journal of Black Metal Theory. The exhibition lands at the Chicago gallery space Western Exhibitions from Kansas City this Friday.
Antonia Gurkovska just graduated from the MFA program at SAIC and already has already landed a solo exhibition in Chicago’s Kavi Gupta Gallery and is exhibiting in the Armory Show. She favors surfaces that are stapled and dripped, sticky, slippery and oozing, emulating dripping orifices; but they somehow remain extremely neat, hygienic, settling in even, grid-like formations. A variety of painting materials are layered thickly, then crudely sliced to reveal further layers beneath, so the paintings appear reductive rather than additive. Her bubble wrap pieces, neither sculpture nor painting, serve to both reiterate her aesthetic of ovular forms and invite a reversal of material reading, where the packaging product sheds its banal connotations and instead becomes a beautiful, bulging, golden grid.
Chicago-based SAIC faculty and grad, Amy Honchell works with textiles to craft whirling installations of otherworldly landscapes. Honchell bends cloth, which protects us and keeps us warm, through a warped process that challenges the medium’s association with benevolence. Hochell’s mountainous compositions remove memories of blanket-swathed crib slumber, and stitch the trappings of journey and struggle in their place.