The Streeterville-based Arts Club of Chicago was founded in 1916 and held its first exhibition of artist members’ work that year. Crowded and uneven, this year’s show, curated by director Janine Mileaf, includes 66 works ranging from photography to sculpture to oil on canvas, plus submissions by the club’s architects and designers (small-scale pieces hung on a back wall, almost like an afterthought).
After viewing some pleasant but predictable landscape paintings with titles like Irish Spring and some overly precious mixed-media works with titles like Seashore Spring, it was a relief to encounter Michael Olszewski’s fiber construction Evidence (2008–12), a soft carpet-like square textured with coils of black cord and dense clusters of black-and-white stitches. Elegant yet ominous, these markings read as abstract clues (hair? rope?) for a forensic scientist. While several works incorporate collage and thread, few are so refined and none so enjoyably unsettling—although I appreciate Diane Cooper’s expressive use of color in her fiber and acrylic work Thread Trail II (pictured, 2012).
Other compelling pieces include Richard Hull’s How (2011), a richly textured painting comprising waxy, cartoonish blobs. Yet there are plenty of clichéd, unchallenging works like Lincoln Schatz’s slo-mo video portrait of a young art student, Portrait of Selden Paterson (2010). Hopefully, future members’ shows will be more carefully curated or better organized within the lovely exhibition space, allowing the art more room to breathe.
[Correction: Mileaf coordinated the installation of "Arts Club of Chicago Members' Exhibition" but did not curate the show, which was open to all professional members of the club.]