Archive for April, 2009

Review: Jason Hackenwerth at AXA Art/Artopolis

April 28, 2009

By now, you’ve heard some variation of this joke: A young ingenue mingles with a group of big-wigs at a social luncheon of sorts on the Upper East Side. At some point she is asked by some of the attendees if she is in a relationship. She truthfully responds that yes, she is. Curious, the attendees ask her what her boyfriend does for a living. She responds that he is an artist. “Really?”, the guests lean forward and smile, “at what restaurant?”

Yep, artists have it hard, really hard, and it’s not surprising that many (many? more like most) have to resort to cleaning houses, busing tables, bartending, and if Illinois’s history is anything to go by–run for governor, until they make it in the field. But pulling balloon tricks as a clown in Times Square?

That was the reality for Jason Hackenwerth, who, after nearly 20 years of shaping balloons into poodles and kittens, has turned his skill into an art form, and a most exceptional one at that.

Using nothing but his lungs to inflate his large-scale installations, Jackenwerth turns the balloons into majestic compositions that are part Venus Fly Trap and part underwater amoeba. Despite their grandiose size, the pieces are light as a feather, intimidating as they are mesmerizing.

The simultaneous occupation of the pieces as objects of desire and and subjects of fear allows them to circumvent an immediately recognizable space. They are as organic as they are lifeless, soothing as they are unnerving.

Hackenwerth cleverly taps into a style popularized by Yayoi Kusama and Louise Bourgeois in the 1960’s, producing artwork that refers to the body (or “a” body) without any didactic references to a body part. You want to caress the installations as much as puncture them. However, as opposed to Kusama or Bourgeois, Hackenwerth’s works are also ephemeral by nature, highighting their fragility and heightening their dramatic effect without going over the top.

Simply put, Hackenwerth’s work at AXA Art should be one of the best at this year’s Artopolis. Nothing to clown about here.

Artist Jason Hackenwerth


Moi? Sarcastic? Never!

April 22, 2009

The examples are endless: “Me? A snob? As in possessing a discerning palate that differentiates me from the rest of the riff-raff? Never.” Or how about “Governor Blago? Yes, love the guy. Upright, humble, simple, altruistic, wish he’d never left the political arena.” And of course, “Winter in Chicago? A total breeze, you barely notice it. Your cuteness will not be compromised, your skin will not turn green, and your favorite pair of boots will not be !@#$# ruined.” We’re just sayin’.

The theme, of course, is sarcasm, and only in Chicago will you find an exceptionally talented group of comedians dedicated to spreading awareness of the twisted humor’s appeal.

The Sarcastic Squad, founded by Adam Guerino, also features laugh-out-loud comedians Eric Lutz, Beth Sterling, Cameron Esposito, Mike Lee in addition to others on a locan and national caliber.

Opening its third season at Berlin this Friday, April 24th, at 10pm and running until May 29th, the show promises a medley of stand-up, sketch, improv (musical and otherwise) spread over two stages, with audience members in between.

Admission is $5, and includes DJ Greg Haus “Cosmix” spin, the electronica dance party known throughout Lakeview for bringing down the house. And no, we know what you’re thinking, this time we’re not being sarcastic, if you can believe it.

It’s Been a Lange Time Coming

April 4, 2009

For those of us who have lived here long enough to call Chicago a home, the idea of having four seasons sounds flat out silly. After all, in Chicago it’s all some derivative of winter, with the season stretching from June to August generally referred to as “It’s-Still-Not-Warm-Enough”, or, in some circles, “Next-Summer-I’m-Moving-To-L.A.” Admit it.

That said, instead of waiting for the warm weather to come, which may be in the next 2-3 years (no, not months, years), it’s time to think about creative ways to stay indoors without getting cabin fever.

The solution? The art exhibition this Saturday, April 4th by Karen Jo Lange. Titled, “Compartmentalized”, the exhibition will take place in five different areas at the John Calkins’ Showcase Home (1504 Byron St) from 6-10. Thirty pieces in total will be on display in the vacant single family home, and the artist, of course, will be available to discuss her oeuvre.

Considering that this will provide you with the comfort of being in someone else’s home, enjoying a great art show, AND keeping it light on your wallet, finding a better deal would be next to impossible. Unless, of course, you’re moving to L.A. this weekend.


Karen Jo Lange, Untitled, 2008

Mizrahi Loves Company

April 4, 2009

No woman can herself a true fashionista without knowing (since these days it’s not just about owning) a set of must-have terms, from “sexy”, and “chic”, to “poddy” and “kawaii”. While most of these, of course, vary from generation to generation and from one season to the next, a few have withstood the test of time.

Take, for example, “snappy”, that perfect adjective originally used by Liz Claiborne to describe her fashion line. Fastforward to 2009, and you now hear the term used by fashion star Isaac Mizrahi to describe his new collection for the Liz Claiborne fashion house.

Opting for the “American version of Chanel”, Mizrahi goes for clean lines, classic basics, punches of color, and fun patterns. With over 200 pieces in the collection, including jewelry, bags and shoes, Mizrahi delivers an amazing yet approachable treat.

On Friday, April 3rd, Mizrahi came to The Ivy Room at Tree Studios to celebrate the launching of his new line for Liz Claiborne. The event was sponsored by Carson’s, and CS Magazine. Lucky visitors got to meet the designer, enjoy some cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and watch models casually showcasing some of the latest designs. All of a sudden, “snappy” is the new “sexy”.


Fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi and Shlomi Rabi, at the Ivy Room at Tree Studios, Chicago