The Chicago Art Scene


ALA Booklist / March 15, 1999 / Page 1282
Donna Seaman

Sundell, Ivy. The Chicago Art Scene. 1999. 152 p. Crow Woods, P.O. Box 7072, Evanston, IL 60204. $27.95 (0-9665871-9-7) DDC 709.
Books about Chicago's dynamic, diverse, and distinctive visual arts are too few and far between, and none have ventured beyond the usual focus on the city's most famous artists as boldly as Sundell's finely produced volume. Determined to broaden the public's limited and stale perception of Chicago art. Sundell used pages like museum walls and asked three distinguished art experts to serve as jurors and, in essence, curate a group show of the best of the city's current painters and collagists. They selected 68 artists, each of whom is represented by three pieces reproduced in full-color and accompanied solely by their artist's statement and a brief biography. The resulting range of styles, subject matter, mood, and intention conveys a strong sense of Chicago's great patchwork of cultures and experiences and charts art's evolution from classical images to abstract expressionism and back again. What these works have in common, besides their city of origin, is high technical proficiency, a fascination with detail, and a love of color. 1999

"Chicago as a mecca of art? Why not? Rising on one side from the prairie and on the other from a great lake, it is a city of endlessly interesting planes and angles and diffusions of light. A recent show, inspired by the book, 'The Chicago Art Scene' (Crow Woods Publishing), made the point by featuring the work of 68 contemporary painters." / March 1999
by Jurek Polanski

'The Chicago Art Scene' is an exhibition which begins with a book. An excellent book. Perhaps even a landmark event for the current art environment in Chicago. And it just might prove to do more for living artists and contemporary art in Chicago than all the combined grants, arts appreciation courses, and "blockbuster" shows of the last few years....

'The Chicago Art Scene' is a successful effort to gather together practicing artists of quality, direct from their studios and individual venues, and present an overview of what is currently being done for the art-going public. This project as much as possible stands apart from the categories and '-isms,' cliques and affiliations or professional coteries that are a norm in the art world. It is a well-executed contribution to art-at-large.

'The Chicago Art Scene' book ranges from established celebrities like Ed Paschke through to newly emerging artists, and includes quality work from nearly every conceivable expression and style, media and career status...

It is an honest project. Exhaustively so. The Editor and initiator, Ivy Sundell, outlines her intents and methods of seeking out artists and jurors; the jurors outline their methods and criteria for selection; and all sources and collaborators are fully acknowledged. And sixty-eight estimable artists are showcased, complete with informative biographies, artist statements, and high quality reproductions which accurately survey each artist's output. The book documents itself meticulously, and there is little one can add. It even closes with a two-page directory of artists' phone numbers and where present, Internet Home Pages.

Near North News / August 14, 1999

Local artists in beautiful volume
by Arnie Matanky

The big, beautiful 'The Chicago Art Scene' is a must for your own coffee table or as a gift for a treasured friend.

It showcases 68 contemporary painters, ranging from David H. Abed through Louis Zygadlo and including Lee Barth, Mary Reed Daniel, Lisa Parenteau, Ed Paschke and Amy Lee Segami.

Each artist is represented with excellent full-color reproductions of typical work, biographies, phone numbers and the artists' own statements.

The artists represent a cross-section of current work by diverse local painters. They are selected by a panel consisting of Tim Ade, Grace Cole and Marta Pappert.

The cover carries a striking depiction of Wacker Dr. near Michigan Av. at night by Takeshi Yamada.


"Ivy Sundell's book on Chicago art is an exhaustive examination of the variety of ongoing styles one can find here. It is a beautiful and well-researched document. This book will be regarded as an important asset for years to come."
Ed Paschke, Artist, Northwestern University Professor of Art

"A lot of pages with a great deal of text and graphics of all dimensions. I really enjoyed going through it as it is a lovely piece."
Jeannie Araujo, freelance writer for Rand McNally, formerly with Encyclopaedia Britannica, reviewer

"I have been absorbed in reading your Chicago Art Scene publication. It is beautifully put together and I love reading each artist's statement which helps to understand their art through their eyes. I'm really impressed with your professionalism as a first and yet so polished and articulate."
Doris Lilliott, Sudbury, MA.

"I have a copy of The Chicago Art Scene in my possession, and must say it is very beautiful and a wonderful collection of work done by long neglected Chicago area artists! Thank you for helping create a new and better awareness of the wonderful talent of Chicago area artists!
Rita Dianni-Kaleel, artist

"...a published, full-color collection of works by nearly seventy contemporary Chicago artists... Styles range from the fluidly impressionist watercolors of Erik Koelle and Margaret Derwent Ketcham to Sharon DeLaCruz's multi-media zen quilts, to John Rush's haunting, mythological figure paintings and Al Tyler's vibrantly modern and yet somehow retro figures."
Shelly Ridenour, New City

"Sundell compiled a visually striking book, and gave a boost to several Chicagoland artists." Timothy Rooney, Daily Herald

"...the Chicago region lacks a book featuring local artists. Her (Sundell's) new book, The Chicago Art Scene, fills the gap...The bios and personal statements provide a context for the pictures and give glimpses into the artist's lives."
Elizabeth Canning, North Shore Magazine

"The Chicago Art Scene, Ivy Sundell's 1998 survey of local artists ...stood the standard exhibition process on its head. Rather than a catalog designed to document a show, the book was conceived as a stand-alone method to spotlight the Chicago art community. It was so persuasive of local artists' merits, however, that gallery owner Charles Belloc Lowndes decided to feature all of the book's 68 artists in a group show..."
Anne Nordhaus-Bike, writing for Chicago Artists' News

"Beyond the pretty pictures and lists of art schools, grants, awards and galleries, we get a glimpse into the personal sides of the 68 featured artists..."
Marcia Gawecki, writing for Chicago Sun-Times

"Art created after the most active era (1960-1980) of the Chicago Imagists. Great reproductions.
THE CHICAGO ART SCENE by Ivy Sundell is a 151-page book (9 3/4 inches by 11 1/4 inches) printed on high quality glossy white paper. The front and back cover are each actually 14 inches wide (not 11 1/4 inches wide) but the publishing company folded the four inches at the up-and-down edge inwards in order to prevent dog ears. The book was published in 1998, and this date helps provide the scope of the artists that are disclosed in this book. The subtitle reads: "Sixty-eight contemporary artists." The Chicago art scene is best known by a group known as CHICAGO IMAGES. This group consists of the subgroups, HAIRY WHO, NONPLUSSED SOME, and MONSTER ROSTER. Of the CHICAGO IMAGIST artists, the most prominent include, Roger Brown, Ed Paschke, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, and Karl Wirsum, and Sarah Canright. Although the Chicago Imagists were most active during the 1960's and 1970's, I was glad to see that one Chicago Imagist (Ed Paschke) was included in this book. In my opinion, this book is a great choice for people who think that "Chicago art" is limited to only the CHICAGO IMAGISTS.

THE ARTISTS. Each artist is represented by two pages and by two or three photographs of their paintings, and a biography that occupies about a half-page. None of the artists are photorealists (photorealists include, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, and Charles Bell) and none are Pop-Artists. Several of the artists in this book paint in the style of New York abstract art, and these artists are Lee Barth (swirling sheets and ribbons of color, resembling ocean waves or flower petals), Rimas Ciurlionis (gobs of thick colors, mostly in light brown and tan, with a painted big oval that surrounds most of the brownish gobs), Mary Daniel (messy scribbles), Ascha Drake (Cubist-style designs, similar to those of Georges Braque), Min-Ja Oh Lah (paintings have a magical, luminous quality similar to that in Stephen Kaltenbach's Portrait of my Father, but Min-Ja Oh Lahs' paintings do not contain anything that can be recognized as being an object or as a person). The three paintings by Tracy Pristas and the three paintings by Gregg Stecker are somewhat similar to those in the Abstract Expressionism style, for example, as found in the painting, The Art of Marriage, by Robert Motherwell. Lee Tracer is represented by three paintings, where one of them is a square-shaped array of one hundred small squares, where each square contains a messy image of an open mouth or a closed mouth. Mark Tansey, an artist from San Jose, California, has also painted this type of array (see Tansey's painting, A Short History of Modern Painting, which has a square array of about 60 little squares, where each square shows a person involved in an ordinary domestic activity). But Mark Tansey's paintings are infinitely better than those of Lee Tracy.

VERA SCEKIC. The paintings were inspired by science. CHROMOSOMES & SEA provides wiggly-worm shapes that were inspired by the shapes of chromosomes, and inside each chromosome is a blurry oval, where the oval is either blue or white. Chromosomes in real life do not contain ovals inside of them, but complexes of chromosomes during cell division do contain a circular object called a centromere. This painting has two panels, the top panel being a realistic painting of ocean waves, and the lower panel being the chromosomes with a black background. The two other paintings shown for this artist contain stylized particle tracks that were inspired by images of particle tracks acquired using a bubble chamber.

AL TYLER. These are colorful paintings of African-Americans, where the paintings are in a realistic style. The remarkable painting, PROJECT GENERATION, shows a chain link fence that is close to the viewer, where fence consists entirely of gray-colored human figures with arms reaching upwards in a V-formation, and legs strutting outwards also in a V-formation, where the hands and feet of all of the gray figures are connected to form the fence. The lowest row of gray-colored human figures is standing on a brick wall, and from the feet of each person in this lowest row what is emitted is a large puddle of blood.

In the back is a man, boy, and woman, each with an ordinary expression (not grinning and not angry either), and the man and women both look to the viewer, and the boy looks at the woman. The woman wears corn row hair, while the man and the boy each have Angela Davis-style afros.

ALEKSANDER WALSH. The book provides three paintings, each being a combination of a still-life painting and a human subject portrait painting. The painting called Last Supper does not show Jesus with his apostles. Instead, this painting shows three men engaging in a friendly and lively discussion. One of them is wearing a white cloth wrapped around his hear, and he wears a white gown with wide baggy sleeves and a green cloth is draped over one shoulder. This man's body faces the viewer, but he looks directly to the right edge of the painting. At the right edge of the painting are two other men, each wearing a gray-colored baggy gown. The hands and bare feet of each of these men are painted in a very realistic style. In the background are three statues in the classic Greek style. In the foreground, in a very realistic style, is a swimming fish that floats in the air, and a sliced cantaloupe that also floats in the air, and a couple of pears, and a couple of sliced apples. The painting includes a floor that takes the form of a melange of marble tiles and a carpet with swirls. The background takes the form of bits and fragments of a domed building. This painting is similar to THE ETERNAL CITY by surrealist painter, PETER BLUME.

MONIKA MEDVEY. These are realistic paintings of people indoors in an urban setting. The images have an engaging soft quality similar to that painted by New York artist, Reginald Marsh.

RICHARD NAPIER. Urban scenes showing rows of small apartment buildings and or rows of small mom-and-pop businesses (clothing store, jeweler, etc.). The style is a likable style similar to that of Edward Hopper.

KATHLEEN NEWMAN. Landscapes near Lake Michigan, in a style similar to a cross between Claude Monet and Winslow Hopper. The text reads, "My current work responds to the flat, watery landscapes out i the forest preserves near my home."

JAMES OSTLUND. There are two realistic paintings of human subjects in a dignified pose, and one painting of a few bunches of garlic sitting at the edge of a table. These three paintings each have large areas of darkness in the background, and sometimes also in the foreground, where the subject matter of this painting contains areas of unexpected bright highlights.

ED PASCHKE. We find three paintings using the bright colors typical of this artist. None of these paintings include the stylized horizontal television static patterns that are instantly recognizable and compelling. Instead, one human face is patterned with a series of 25 sets of double pinstripes, with eyebrows like floating cigars. Another painting shows a man with closed eyes (each eye resembling an almond nut in its shell), where his left cheek and areas around the left eye are decorated with a tattoo of a green flower. Next to the man's mouth is something resembling papaya with a wedge cut out of it. The third painting is a man's face with horizontal pattern of colored lines on each ear, and two large vertical tattoos one on each cheek, where each covers the eyelids of the man's closed eyes."
Tom Brody, Amazon review, 3/5/20

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