Sunday, October 22, 2017

Roland Kulla ~ "Industrial Strength" at ZIA Gallery

This past Friday, I drove up to ZIA Gallery in Winnetka to see the current exhibition of paintings by Roland Kulla. Unable to attend last week’s opening reception, I was excited to see Kulla’s latest work on the gallery walls.
Roland Kulla, Calumet Double Lift II, 40x53"

Roland Kulla has created a new series of large-scale acrylic paintings under the title of “Industrial Strength”. With a long history of utilizing the bridge as subject, Kulla begins to move past the cropped detail of abstraction to full-framed recognizable industrial landscape. But Kulla hasn’t totally discarded the abstract-complexity of industrial pattern; he has included it as a way to frame the scene. He presents a secondary subject—a speeding train or the yellow line of an unoccupied road—and surrounds it with patterns of steel. In a refreshing twist, the identifiable works are often flanked by canvases depicting just abstract pattern. Both versions offer the viewer an abundance of detail to explore.

ZIA|Gallery is located at 548 Chestnut Street in Winnetka, Illinois. The gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-5pm and by appointment. The exhibition continues through November 11th.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"From Here – Desde Aqui" work by Pedro Javier Palacios and Rodrigo Montoya Ortiz at the Laura A Sprague Gallery of Joliet Junior College

Rodrigo Montoya Ortiz "Huitzil" Mixed Media

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 21st, 6:30-8pm

After I finished Grad school in the late 80’s—earning a terminal degree in Painting—I moved to Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. It was actually Buena Park but Uptown was just across the street to the north. I lived in a secure high-rise building with a twenty-four hour doorman. It was a “changing” area. On most weekend nights, the sounds of gunshots were a substitute for the crickets of my suburban upbringing. As I explored my new surroundings, I was intrigued with the graffiti-filled walls of the neighborhood. The paintings I had been making were nothing remotely related to Graffiti, but I was fascinated with the style, or maybe just the fluid shapes, use of color and dripping paint. And then there was the rush from the implied danger. 

Living blocks from the lakefront, I had this fantasy of publishing a “call for graffiti writers”—having them meet at Montrose beach park. I would supply them with all the required materials including stretched and primed wall-sized canvases to paint as they wished. When completed I would arrange for the canvases to be exhibited in one of the high-end Chicago Galleries—elevating the perception of graffiti from vandalism to intellectual social commentary. Well, I never brought that idea to fruition but someone did. Unknown to me at the time, graffiti-inspired work had begun showing up in New York galleries—beginning in the 1980s.

As I entered the Laura A Sprague Gallery of Joliet Junior College, memories of my past were triggered. The current exhibition presents mixed media works created by Pedro Javier Palacios and Rodrigo Montoya Ortiz under the title “From Here – Desde Aqui”. The pieces range from relatively large graffiti-covered canvases to smaller digital graphic explorations that seem to reference the timely subject of immigration reform. The objects within the exhibition include ornately decorated spray-paint cans and numerous wooden found objects laced with digitally reproduced drawings of religious iconography. This sort of found and re-purposed imagery is incorporated into most of the work on display. 

Rodrigo Montoya Ortiz "Emojis" Image Cut Out, spray Paint on Spray Can

A quick read of the artist statements highlights the influences of graffiti, faith, nature and cultural heritage. The unique combination of these elements—within a single show—offer the audience an unusual challenge… attempting to decipher disjointed and fragile through-lines. The exhibition is an interesting collaboration with some beautiful—and unique—pieces. It should be explored unhurriedly.

The opening reception of “From Here – Desde Aqui” will be held on Thursday, September 21st from 6:30-8pm at the Laura A. Sprague Art Gallery of Joliet Junior College. The Gallery is located at 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, Illinois 60431. The exhibition will continue through October 16th. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 8am to 8pm.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Corinna Button - Interfaces

Through this Sunday…
There are only a few days before the conclusion of “Interfaces” … Corinna Button’s exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center. If you haven’t yet experienced Button’s work, now is the time. 

Presented in the Cleve Carney Gallery of the Hyde Park Art Center located at 5020 S. Cornell Avenue—in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood—Button Presents a series of both two and three-dimensional works that interpret the multifaceted experience of being a woman. 

Referencing the Cubist movement and utilizing the female form as muse, Button’s treatment of the subject often incorporates multiple angles at once—suggesting the paradox of femininity and a multifaceted existence. Utilizing layered materials with embedded textures and scratched surfaces; she alludes to the encrusted complexities of a woman's reality. With a twisted dichotomy, each painting, print and sculpture addresses the beauty that women expose to the world—with fashion and pageantry—but the work also exposes the veiled layers of a darker reality. 

This is a “must see” exhibition. The Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S. Cornell Avenue in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. For additional information visit

Influenced by German Expressionism, interdisciplinary artist Corinna Button seamlessly incorporates printmaking techniques into her paintings and ceramic sculptures. She has had more than twenty solo exhibitions and has been featured in numerous group shows and fairs across the world, including Artists Interpret Shakespeare at Elmhurst Art Museum (Elmhurst), and Chicago Invasion at Blue Rider Gallery (Taipei, Taiwan). Her artwork can be found in the public collections of the BBC, The University of Aberystwyth and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Button completed the Center Program at Hyde Park Art Center, where she reignited her interest in new techniques and forms in clay. While in Chicago (2010-2016), her practice was rooted in a studio at Zhou B Art Center. She holds a BA (honors) in painting from Leeds Metropolitan University School of Art and a postgraduate degree in printmaking from Croydon School of Art. She is an elected member of The Royal Society of Painters and Printmakers, London and currently lives and works in London, UK.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

CURATORS CREATE continues through July 7th

Installation view: Charles Gniech, Untitled 40" x 60" 

The exhibition titled CURATORS CREATE continues at the Bridgeport Art Center through July 7th. The exhibition presents a diverse assortment of work produced by ten regional Artist/Curators, including: Mary Ellen Croteau, Charles Gniech, Sergio Gomez, Stano Grezdo, Lelde Kalmite, Alan Leder, Dolores Mercado, Betty Ann Mocek, Joyce Owens and Georgia Schwender,

The Bridgeport Art Center is located at 1200 W. 35th Street in Chicago. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday 8am - 6pm and Sunday 8am - 12 noon. Parking is free and available on the north side of the building. The gallery is located on the 4th floor. Learn more at:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Igor & Marina at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery

An exhibition of paintings by Igor Kozlovsky & Marina Sharapova—better known in the art world as Igor & Marina—is currently on view at the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. The show—titled Classic. Witty. Mysterious.—is a spattering of imagery, selected from various bodies of work that have been created over the past five years (2012–2017). The imagery remains consistent in technique with beautifully rendered porcelain figures presented against an array of gorgeous backgrounds—uniquely perfect for each individual canvas. Surprising symbolism is injected throughout the show.

Igor & Marina, Amulet, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48" 

Amulet, an oil on canvas painting measuring 36 x 48”, depicts two beautifully ghostly figures—standing back to back and connected by their flowing red hair—woven together and adorned with pearls. The wonderful shapes within the background, mimics the hair's frayed loose ends. The figures become apparitions, dressed in fashionable attire covered with gridded modules of transparent pattern. Each wears an amulet around their neck as a symbol of protection from an entity that seems to blow through them. 

Igor & Marina, Detail, Amulet, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48" 

Igor & Marina’s subjects seem to focus primarily on women and children. The paintings offer a re-imagined approach of classic paintings from which the compositions are derived. But this imagery becomes timeless through the hands of this prolific duo. The eternal characters are dressed in period fashion which at times, could vary well be surealist couture. Amazing imagery. 

Igor & Marina’s Classic. Witty. Mysterious. will remain on exhibition at the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery—located at 325 W. Huron, Chicago, Illinois—through May 20th. Additional information may be found at: or by calling 312.944.1990

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Yale Factor: "4 Decades" at the Zhou B Art Center

In the mid 1980s, I was studying Illustration at Northern Illinois University. To my recollection, the program offered two professors with which to work… Jay Paul Bell and Yale Factor. Both were amazing father figures who had high expectations of their students and—as with most children—the students never wanted to disappoint them.

As well as being talented Illustrators, both Jay Paul Bell and Yale Factor were—and continue to be—fine artists. For most of his career, Bell has been producing beautiful large-scale paintings of rural landscape… not too strange considering NIU’s cornfield location. But Factor has moved through numerous subjects of passion—from beautiful graphite renditions of faces, to obsessively complex painted landscape, and personalized still life compositions that play with the viewer’s sense of reality. The work of Yale Factor presents a compulsively detailed exploration of the subject. And for the past five weeks, the evolution of Factor's career has been on display in a retrospective titled “4 Decades” at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. 

Yale Factor "Ruminations of a curious mind"

I visited the exhibition last night. It was beautifully staged with a central alter of paintings, which I believe were produced in the 80s. They offered ridiculously detailed, old-world renditions of the acquisition of knowledge… Opened books presenting scientific illustrations accompanied by various lab specimens, or wrinkled roadmaps defining a journey intertwined with unique personalized objects. The paintings are intriguingly unique. 

Yale Factor

But as I explored the room, I found—on an exterior wall—an intimate study of a gasping piranha. I was intrigued with this image: A beautifully rendered powerful animal, struggling to breath…mouth open exposing its razor sharp teeth—body wrenched… searching for the water from which it was taken. The incident takes place against a soft-focus surreal achromatic background—perhaps an oil stained beach or haze induced sky. Conceivably a comment on the current global climate crisis? 

The exhibition closed last night during a “Third Friday” event but the opportunity to view Factor’s work remains. He has a studio/gallery within the Zhou B Art Center, located at 1029 W. 35th Street in Chicago, Illinois 60609. Contact him at:, or by phone at: 815.762.5243

Friday, March 10, 2017

Joliet Junior College: Studio Art Faculty Exhibition

Foreground: Charles Gniech, "Breath" acrylic on canvas 60" x 72"

The JJC Studio Art Faculty Exhibition opened this week in the Laura A. Sprague Art Gallery of Joliet Junior College, located at 1215 Houbolt Road in Joliet, Illinois. The exhibition includes a wide variety of media by thirteen of the fine art professionals, currently teaching at the college.

Exhibition director, Joe Milosevich, organized the compilation of diverse content expressed through assemblage, sculpture, painting and digital media. The exhibition includes work by Terry Adams, Susan Franker, Elise Kendrot, Todd Reed, Steve Sherrell, Lloyd Wassenaar, Ann Blaas, Margie Glass-Sula, Eric Gorder, Joe Milosevich, Gary Schirmer, Garry Vettori, as well as myself.

I am please to be included in the exhibition with two recent works… “Breath” a 60 x 72 inch, 2-panel acrylic painting on canvas [shown above] and an “Untitled” acrylic on canvas painting, measuring 60 x 40 inches, from 2016.

My work continues the exploration of meditative surfaces—inspired by the sacred and mystical stone circles found throughout Great Britain. With nature-inspired color harmonies, the once-fluid media weaves an ornate surface producing a mesh of complex tone and texture. The work has evolved into imagery of trickling formations that encourage contemplative introspection.

As I roamed the exhibition, I found myself drawn to the work of two specific artists… These are colleagues with whom I have yet to encounter. 

Margie Glass-Sula, The Pulpit, Oil on Canvas, 24 x 24

Exhibiting a number of intimate canvases—as well as a floor-standing wooden sculpture—is artist, Margie Glass-Sula. With beautiful forms inspired by nature, her work exudes a sense of peaceful harmony. Presented in quiet tints of color, the abstracted forms seem to be inspired by protective barriers found in nature. The work conveys the essence of seedpods, seashells, hives and nests but not with literal interpretation. The work takes us to another world… a world not commonly seen in our busy urban lives.

Researching the work further, I found Glass-Sula’s artist statement. It reads—in part, “My work explores the quiet simplicity of things….”.

Steve Sherrell, String Theory, Acrylic on panel, 36 x 24

Another standout in the show is a painting by Steve Sherrell titled “String Theory”. Drawn into the beauty of the interconnected organic cellular forms—created with both transparent and opaquely layered wet media—I was reminded of the sculptures of Jean Dubuffet. But Sherrell’s 2-dementional painting has greater depth then the 3-dementional work created by Dubuffet …clearly two artists with dissimilar intent. Sherrell presents a complex collaboration of flat shapes with loosely outlined quivering edges. Neutral tones with quiet hints of color, present a unique organic structure that seems to float—yet connects to distant forms of similar structure.

I looked down at the identifying label to find the title “String Theory”. Now, the study of physics is not my strong point but I have a recollection that string theory defines minute particles—not as we think they are but as vibrational energy. It’s the scientific version of new age thinking of the 1990’s. Steve Sherrell’s “String Theory” is a beautiful though-provoking piece.

The JJC Studio Art Faculty Exhibition is well worth the trip out to Joliet. The Laura A. Sprague Art Gallery is located at 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, IL 60431. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 8am to 8pm. The exhibition continues through March 31st.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Importance of "Breaking Criminal Traditions"

Foreground image by Joyce Polance, Background image by Charles Gniech 
Installation view from the Breaking Criminal Tradition exhibition at The Human Rights Institute Gallery of Kean University

Following is a wonderful article by Elana Knopp of the Union News Daily. The article discusses the importance of the "Breaking Criminal Traditions" exhibition, which has been on view at The Human Rights Institute Gallery of Kean University in Union, NJ since June 2016. The exhibition closed eariler this week.

‘Breaking Criminal Traditions’ exhibit 
calls attention to human rights abuses 

By Elana Knopp 

An exhibit highlighting human rights abuses around the globe, “The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions,” opened this month at Kean University’s Human Rights Institute Gallery. The fine art exhibition, featuring the work of 24 artists from around the country, calls attention to the ongoing ancient rituals that kill or maim millions each year, yet are not considered crimes.
The Human Rights Institute Gallery at Kean University is located at 1000 Morris Ave., Union. “The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions” runs through Dec. 16.

The exhibition debuted in 2013 at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and brought topics such as honor killing, child marriage and acid violence into public consciousness and into public debate. The exhibit continues to expand and evolve, with a unique presentation designed specifically for Kean’s Human Rights Institute Gallery.

Cheryl Jefferson, executive producer of Breaking Criminal Traditions, said that when she first learned of the scope of these human rights abuses, she was driven to learn more. “This resonated with me so fiercely,” Jefferson told LocalSource during a phone call. Jefferson [said] that since 2013, the exhibit has evolved. “With each show, we try to add more layers,” said Jefferson. Curator Chuck Gniech chose approximately 50 pieces of fine art in a variety of mediums.

Gniech, curator at the galleries of The Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago, told LocalSource that his background in creating exhibits benefiting nonprofit organizations such as Heartland Alliance and Worldview Education and Care was a good fit for the project. “My history as a curator — creating shows with underlying human rights themes — and the numerous artists with which I’ve worked — made my inclusion in the project a perfect marriage,” Gniech said.

Gniech said that once Jefferson defined each of the human rights topics addressed in the exhibition, he searched for fine art pieces that alluded to the issues at hand. “With a unique version of the exhibition presented at each new venue, I explore the human rights topics conceptually,” Gniech said. “This is a conscious choice. There is plenty of very dark and horrifying work that many would assume would be perfect for the show. But my intention is to present approachable work with multiple levels of symbolism and meaning. The work becomes a jumping-off point for discussion — the means to begin a dialogue, expanding awareness and promoting change.

According to Gniech, all of the criminal traditions represented in the exhibition are still practiced today — in various cultures — although sometimes by another name. “Here in the United States, honor killing is simply referred to as murder,” Gniech said.

Some of the criminal traditions showcased in the exhibit include acid violence, bride burning, breast ironing, circling, blind stitching, female genital mutilation, child marriage, child soldiers, war, guns, stoning, and human trafficking.

As provocative as the exhibit is, said Gniech, the works are approachable and thought-provoking. “There is nothing visually shocking or gory,” Gniech said. “I would want the viewer to understand that — perhaps, other than the work created by Richard Laurent, Teresa Hofheimer and Zoria Miller — the art that they are experiencing was not actually created by the artists to represent the criminal traditions.”

James Deeb, "Silent Witnesses"

Gniech cites as an example a work by artist James Deeb entitled, “Silent Witnesses.” “It is a Monotype that was developed from James Deeb’s interest in medical and dental x-rays,” Gniech said. “I found it appropriate for inclusion in the exhibition due to the implied content — the use of figurative abstraction with an emphasis on the bone structure of the mouth. Deeb has created a graphic image that alludes to the silencing of the repressed. But the tortured mouths seem to scream with tension.”

As the exhibition’s curator, said Gniech, it is his interpretation of the work that ‘implies’ the issues on exhibit. “The works are a representation of the traditions used to begin a discussion of human rights issues,” Gniech said. “It’s a daunting task, but bringing awareness to these global issues is the intent. We believe that awareness is the first step toward change. And I believe many of these issues are coming to the forefront of social conscience.”

Janice Kroposky, director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Kean U., told LocalSource that she worked closely with Neil Tetkowski, director of Kean University Galleries. “We use a two-pronged approach to exhibition selection,” sais Kroposky. “First, we look for work that reflects both the mission and goals of the Kean University Human Rights Institute. Second, we identify exhibitions that lend themselves to the creation of programmatic opportunities for discussion. Art has the power to introduce difficult issues through an alternate lens.”

Kroposky said that the pieces selected for the exhibition offer a portal of interpretation that ultimately leads directly to critical discussion of the issues represented. “Those of us who work in the field of human rights education do know about the issues,” Kroposky said. “However, to the first-time viewer, the topics addressed can certainly be disconcerting. The acts, taken as a whole, are perpetrated globally, including some occurring in the United States.”

According to Kroposky, educating the broader community is the first step in raising awareness. “Many of the issues represented in ‘The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions’ that affect humanity globally, also occur in the United States,” she said. “When these issues occur in the United States, they may not be recognized as the same. Therefore, educational opportunities provide the framework for sparking activism. There is no way to predict if an individual might be motivated to advocate for change, but the art gallery provides an opportunity to ignite the spark.”

Kroposky asserts that the exhibit looks at practices that are accepted in some cultures, while not accepted in others. “The traditions examined in the exhibition have been, and continue to be, monitored by major human rights groups because they pose physical and emotional harm. Judging other cultural norms can be a dangerous thing, therefore, it is imperative to support individuals or groups who are advocating for change within the practicing group.”

The vision of the Kean University Human Rights Institute, Kroposky said, is to promote understanding and tolerance across ethnic, racial, religious and other barriers, as well as to inspire action.

One of the works in the exhibit that stands out to Kroposky is a piece called, “Holiday in Fallujah,” by artist Dominic Sansone. “I interpret the work as a call to recognize that regardless of where we live or who we are, we share the common bond of humanity,” said Kroposky.

Jefferson, a participant in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, noted that the global reach of these complex human behaviors extends to the United States. “The exhibit allows us to take the first step toward change and to support the legal evolution that can only come from within other cultures and our own,” she said. “We forge ahead. I really believe we can keep hammering away at this.”

For more information, visit, or call 908-737-0392. For more information on “The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions,” visit