by Whet Moser
The exhibit The Chicago Aldermen Project: 50 Aldermen/50 Artists, curated by Reader assistant editor Lauri Apple and Jeremy Scheuch, closes tomorrow at Johalla Projects (7 to 11 PM, 1561 N. Milwaukee). You can see all the works here, but here's my favorite:
14th Ward: Ed Burke
It's not as eye-catching as some of the other great pieces in the show, of which there are many (more on that in a second), but it's a subtly fantastic portrait of one of the most powerful men in Chicago: an alderman for over 40 years, chair of the finance committee with a seat on the judicial slate-making committee, an influential lawyer, and husband of a state Supreme Court justice. Greenburg shoots him so that he's camouflaged by his wall of awards and recognitions - an unsubtle aesthetic choice by Burke - and it says this is where the sausage gets made. It makes a nice companion piece to Stephanie Dean's portrait of far-northwest side 41st Ward alderman Brian Doherty in his comparatively modest surroundings (he's the city council's only Republican).
I'd be remiss not to praise some other good portraits. 27th Ward alderman Walter Burnett's portrait, by the talented young photographer Lucas Blair Simpson (born in 1985 and only a couple years out of college; his series Frikilándia y la Juventud Rebelde is recommended), is given added weight if you know he grew up in Cabrini Green. Former child model Aron Gent's submission for 29th Ward alderman Ike Carothers (same link as Burnett) is poignant when you recall that he just got indicted for allegedly accepting $40k in home improvement from a developer - grim and lonely, a requiem for the political career of an operator.