By Lauren Viera, Tribune reporter

    Chicago Tribune Review

    If the future of Chicago's contemporary art scene looks anything like the current exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center, we're in for some good work.

    "Ground Floor," HPAC's aptly named survey of local work from recently graduated masters of fine art, is a collection from 21 individuals who are, for the moment, delicately dancing between the safety of grad school and the unknown world beyond. While a handful of the works here look as if they resulted from a last-minute cram for final charette, 95 percent of the work is incredibly promising.

    Jessie Mott is among the standouts. A Northwestern University-graduated painter (and here we thought they all came from the School of the Art Institute), Mott has mastered each of the current trends in young painters: of delicately applied gouache-on-paper works: watercolor splotches paired with threadbare ink lines, new-age colors, otherworldly subject-matter (in her case, animal hybrids) and lots and lots of white space.

    The handful of paintings here are near perfect in their execution, but Mott's best contribution to "Ground Floor" is the video she produced with film and video artist Steve Reinke. Titled "Everybody" and underscored by Madonna's dance track of the same name, the four-minute glimpse into the living world of Mott's creatures is hilarious and smart.

    Also smart: Michael Sirianni's beautiful, clean-lined sculptures culled primarily from standard shop-class objects (Plexiglas, mirror, etc). The University of Illinois at Chicago grad's "Almost Over the Rainbow" and "Peephole" sit side by side on the wall of the exhibit, surrounded by the hoi polloi of other sculptures, and seem to rise above them. The simplicity of Sirianni's style — barely visible monochrome cutouts, perfectly placed arches of reflection — speak to his patience and poignancy.

    There's a lot more to see here: Emily Hermant's delicately crafted woodwork, Samantha Jaffe's neatly arranged found earmuffs, Bonnie Fortune's "Sounds of Care" hot line and Daniel Lavitt's amazingly narrative sculptural hideaway, "Sorry I Missed You," which compartmentalizes every aesthetic of a home, from reading-chair fabric to kitchen counters, fireside chats and potted plants.

    Get to know these names. Chances are, you'll be seeing a lot more from them in the future.

    -- September 24, 2010


    ChicagoLand Review by Madeleine Bailey
    from Chicago Art Magazine

    One of my favorite museums to visit in Chicago as a young (and not so young) person was The Museum of Science and Industry, largely because of Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle. This over-sized dollhouse, originally owned by a 1930’s silent film star, seemed to me the height of luxury and privilege. Walking around it, I could never even begin to imagine what Moore’s actual residence housing the miniature castle must have looked like. Containing furniture and architecture literally encrusted with diamonds, emeralds, and pearls, engaging with the exhibit was an exercise in opening a treasure trove of the imagined. A miniature paradise of elegant rooms, it seemed swollen with the potential for the fantastical, for magic.
    Miniature though it may be, Daniel Lavitt’s “ChicagoLand” at Peregrine Program sleeps far away from fairy godmothers and Walt Disney endings. Rather than that imagined paradise, Lavitt’s carefully constructed miniature sets transport the viewer into starkly existent, albeit quirky, realities. With scale shifts both subtle and great, Lavitt explores locations as diverse as Chicago imagist and art collector Roger Brown’s house to the failed Cabrini-Green public housing development. In a city rich with historical, political, racial, and artistic narratives, this is a version of Chicago you have not seen, a stripped-down series of slivers of the city filtered through the experiences of the artist. Daniel Lavitt shares with us both complete and fragmented versions of selected architectures. In gestures both small and large, ordinary and neglected real estates shrink and expand with Alice-in-Wonderland tendencies.
    Through the oddly satirical and sexualized surreality of this socio-economic spread, Lavitt’s tableaus manage to delicately flirt with that space between stark reality and the unknown. To bend down and peer into one of the office-box cardboard windows of his Chapter 12 public housing reveals a reward of glowing globes of grape-like veined glass. Similarly, inspecting the fist-sized circular hole in a brick painting leads to the discovery of moss, coyly crawling out this Duchampian orifice in a supremely surreal gesture.
    What I found most charming about this installation was that unlike the primness of Moore’s castle, which is elevated on a platform and surrounded by protective railings, Lavitt’s modest world of cardboard and wood is firmly planted in that same space the viewer occupies. In these works, Lavitt teases us as he entices us to physically interact with his Chicago, as each invitation to peer into a piece is simultaneously frustrated, obstructed, and denied in turn. A flip of a light switch activates an excessively small lamp perched on an otherwise unadorned MDF panel painting, shedding little light upon the piece. Approaching another work, the lights brightening the windows of a residence holding a tiny drawing turn off as soon as you get close enough to inspect it.
    In a complicated world, the simplest gesture can speak volumes. Through tactile interaction and more formal visual considerations, to enter into “ChicagoLand” is to partake in the excavation of an environment at once deconstructed and falling apart, while simultaneously in the process of being re-imagined and erected. Melancholy and playful, rich with histories real and anticipated, this is a show that satiates on many levels.

  • *CHICAGO ART REVIEW*: Daniel Lavitt

    From Chicago Art Review

    Peregrine Program is a small, brand new gallery in the Riverfront Work Lofts building in Pilsen, ran by SAIC’s Edmund Chia. After spending a few minutes trying to find out how to get into the place (turns out it was the red door), then a few more finding the elevator, I arrived at the smallish one-room loft that contained Chicagoland the mostly self-lit show of miniatures by Daniel Lavitt.

    In Chicagoland, Lavitt tells his story of living in Chicago through miniatures. Having grown up with the Thorne Miniature Rooms collection, I’m immediately happy to see anything crafted at a small scale; and while there wasn’t a hobbyist’s exactness and minute quality in Lavitt’s work, ideas of relative scale and privacy were acknowledged and played with really well. In The Mozart Street House, the gallery wall intersects the face of a house at an off angle, and in the upstairs window, a lamp light lights a room or a studio with a painting on the wall. In a clever turn on the King Kong voyeurism of miniature rooms, a motion sensor tucked under the eve of the roof controls this light, darkening the room whenever a viewer passes in front of it as if clicked off as if by a paranoid and drapeless artist worried about early exposure.

    Many of the pieces are pretty straightforward, cool little combinations of light fixtures or miniature lights, content to stick to the novelty of scale and causal relationships within a work. A few go for something more descriptive, like Lavitt’s, Project #33250, which injects human individuality into the modular domesticity of urban housing projects, and plays out that story in colored lights and tiny paintings in standard issue cardboard boxes.

    Chicagoland has the kind of intimate, fun atmosphere that this kind of sculptural work is great at, and there were some notable moments of concept and craft connection. It’s pretty light fare for a show about urban living, but personality and play was the point and it has plenty of both.