One of the best things about Art Chicago is the opportunity to see the work of internationally famous artists rarely shown here.
Michael Snow, from Toronto, is noted for his avant-garde films but less well-known in Chicago as a prolific artist in many media: drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, books, slide performances, holograms. Snow often takes a humorous approach to the creation of representational art, particularly the way imagery changes nature--and distances the viewer from it. Among several Snow works at Wynick/Tuck Gallery (Booth E204) is Lobsters, a 1974 photographic diptych showing a raw lobster alongside a cooked one; the joke, one guesses, is an implied parallel between the transformative processes of photography and cooking.
Hamish Fulton, who's British, seeks to heal our breach with nature by making his own walks the focus of his art. Spending days or weeks in a distant locale, he takes only a few photographs, which he later prints in large, posterlike form with text (or prints posters of text only). These don't fully document his travels but refer evocatively to them, leaving the viewer less interested in going where Fulton went than in walking somewhere himself. Galerie Tanit (Booth C223) is showing a large photograph taken at the intersection of two walks Fulton took across Ireland, one in 1977, the other in 1985.
Wes Mills, an Arizona native who now lives in California, is known for his exquisite abstract pencil drawings; six 1997 works are at Galerie Haus Schneider (Booth E124). Mills's dense, skeinlike networks of lines coalesce into visions of pure energy, clusters that are simultaneously massive and weightless, achieving a concentrated, meditative power.
Mills was just a child when Rudolf Schwarzkogler died, falling or jumping from his window in Vienna in 1969. Today the most famous "fact" about Schwarzkogler is a lie: that his death followed a performance in which he cut off his penis. The artist did not mutilate himself, but looking at Schwarzkogler's creepy, even gruesome photographs of his "Aktions"--performances staged to be photographed--at Galerie Krinzinger (Booth B218), it's not hard to see why the misconception lives on. People clad in bandages, often accompanied by medical equipment of various kinds, suggest a surrealistic vision of surgery gone wrong. Looking more carefully at these strange, hermetic images, one begins to feel the self-abnegating asceticism, the oddly poetic attempt at a purifying ritual, behind them.
Art 1999 Chicago is open Friday through Tuesday at Navy Pier's Festival Hall, 600 E. Grand. For more information, see Friday below or check out the art listings in Section Two. Call 312-587-3300. --Fred Camper