Levi David Van Gelder (1816-1878) produced the earliest examples of his distinctive micrographic artistry, during the 1840s, while working as a printer and lithographer in his native Amsterdam. By imaginatively combining minuscule words and letters and integrating them with oversize decorative word panels, some accomplished by the application of collage elements, Van Gelder achieved his uniquely characteristic style of calligraphy and while still in Netherlands produced at least four separate exemplars of these engraved mizrah plaques. In 1864 Van Gelder, along with his wife and children, relocated to the United States where he settled in Chicago.
Laura Berger (previously featured here) is a visual artist living and working in Chicago, Illinois. She received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2002. Berger has shown her artwork both nationally and internationally, with exhibitions in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, and New Zealand.
Her existential explorations take place within minimalistic environments, populated by a cast of culturally diverse naked human bodies. These entities are often engaging in spiritually enriching activities, both together and alone, highlight the importance of our basic human connections and the time required to reflect and grow.
Jaume Plensa produces monumental sculptures in steel, glass, marble, polyester resin, concrete, and bronze. He is best known for his Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millenium Park, two 50-foot-high glass towers set amidst a pool of water, which play giant video portraits of Chicago residents that periodically purse their lips and spout water into the pool.
Predominantly producing figurative sculpture, Plensa has created larger-than-life-sized heads constructed of fine, stainless-steel wire mesh so that their surrounding environments are visible through the works, and bronze figures cast from his own body.
Nicholas Ballesteros is a visual artist based in Chicago Illinois. He received his Bachelors degree in Art from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities alongside a design minor. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Fine Art from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
While his past work has utilized appropriated media to form collages, drawings, and videos his more recent work takes a new direction. Having taught himself to paint through a digitally mediated paint-by-numbers technique, Ballesteros utilizes a conceptually driven painting practice to explore the depths of domesticity and intimate love. Simultaneously the intimate point of view of his collages also reflect outward to the objectified social world of metadata, virtual realities, states of emergency and financial crises.
Chicago based artist Nick Cave is widely acclaimed for his exuberant “Soundsuits”—wearable sculptural forms based on the human body, intricately composed out of a vibrant assortment of second-hand materials.
Simultaneously sculptures, costumes, and musical instruments, the Soundsuits are meant for motion. Cave and other dancers wear them, transforming them into transfixing blurs of color and sound for performances and video works. Contemplated on mannequins, the Soundsuits seem to embody the full range of human emotions. Some, covered with a pelt of dyed twigs with baskets for heads, resonate sadness; others, composed of a crazy array of colorful blankets or thrift-store tchotchkes, burst with joy and humor.
Chicago artist and musician Gregory Jacobsen chooses to render in his awkward acrylic, confidently sensual world flags in butts, shit beaks, and fleshy chunks of meat caught in seemingly intimate moments.
The candy-coated colors draw the viewer in, only to confront them with a heap of labia coupled with mangy flesh slabs in a chunky meat heap, or a cheery young girl toppled over with a flag stuck in her vagina, a voyeuristic pig smirking behind her. The viewer doesn’t exactly know how to feel, confronted with these awkward, intimate affairs rendered in unsuspecting hues, an effect Jacobsen is after.
Much like the piles of fleshy, gloopy shapes that walk a fine line between vagina and open wound, the exact purpose of his work is difficult to pin down. Obsessed with failure, ambiguity, and comedic tragedy, Jacobsen appears to care for the characters he creates without fetishizing them.
Chicago-based artist, Ben Marcus makes comics that feel inspired by all things trippy, alien, and David Bowie. His favorite manga is Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. His comic has a particular clarity in the line work because he wants the reader to keep track of the plot. Clean and clear language for dramatic and poetic purposes.
“The proportions of the facial features is important to me and I draw and re-draw them. Too many times. I wanted my characters to have a contemplative complexity to them. A depth of consciousness that a sense of animation is born of. I drew everything by hand and scanned it and added the half-tones in photoshop.” Ben Marcus
Kerry James Marshall uses painting, sculptural installations, collage, video, and photography to comment on the history of black identity both in the United States and in Western art. He is well known for paintings that focus on black subjects historically excluded from the artistic canon, and has explored issues of race and history through imagery ranging from abstraction to comics.
“It is possible to transcend what is perceived to be the limitations of a race-conscious kind of work. It is a limitation only if you accept someone else’s foreclosure from the outside. If you plumb the depths yourself, you can exercise a good deal of creative flexibility. You are limited only by your ability to imagine possibilities.” – Kerry James Marshall
Brazilian street artist and muralist, Eduardo Kobra continues to electrify cityscapes with vibrant, geometrical and extremely detailed images. Just last May, Kobra and his team, who are known for painting cultural icons, hit downtown Chicago to honor one of its natives and incredible bluesman, Muddy Waters. The 10-story mural of Waters brings energy to the streets of quintessential Chicago as a high profile addition to the Wabash Arts Corridor campaign beautifying blank walls in Chicago.