Not Knowing at Heaven Gallery, Chicago


Not Knowing curated by Gwendolyn Zabicki
September 1 – October 15, 2017

Writing is a process of dealing with not knowing, a forcing of what and how. We have all heard novelists testify to the fact that, beginning a new book, they are utterly baffled as to how to proceed…At best there is a slender intuition, not much greater than an itch.
–Donald Barthelme, Not Knowing

An artist embarks on her task without knowing what to do. There is some kind of energy that she is manifesting as she works, and it has a larger form. To know in advance as to what that form is, is to reduce it.
–George Saunders on Not Knowing

When inspiration strikes, it feels as if it comes from outside oneself. The process of making art involves a kind of subtle foreknowledge, an awareness of the work before it exists, and communication with neurological processes deep within the wordless mind. In the search for answers, an artist finds more questions lingering in that uncomfortable place of not knowing. The result of that discomfort, according to Barthelme, is the possibility that the artist might show the viewer, “the as-yet-unspeakable, the as-yet unspoken.”

Good art is hard. An artist can over-think and become paralyzed, but to Barthelme, “Problems are a comfort” because it is through problem solving, or making choices, that the artist moves from not knowing to finding a unique and defining style. Take for example, the story of one of Chicago’s great culinary achievements– the Italian beef sandwich. Essentially, poor entrepreneurs on Maxwell St. figured out how to turn salt, cheap cuts of meat, and stale bread into an inexpensive, delicious meal. They were constrained by cost and by what ingredients were readily available. Similarly an artist responds to and creates constraints, imposing limitations or rules within the work. Paradoxically, it is within these constraints where freedom and innovation are found.

Being an artist is to live within a series of constraints and limitations. Today, an artist must make her way in the world within structures that are in the process of collapsing, dissolving, or becoming irrelevant. The rigid gender roles of the past, normative definitions of family and caretaking, are all being renegotiated. The particular methodologies parent artists (and female parent artists in particular) have to come up with in order to continue to work while parenting are not yet standardized or obvious. They must be hammered out individually. The artists in this exhibition make a different kind of work– thoughtful and contemplative art made alongside working, teaching, and raising a family. Overlapping limitations and opportunities define their style. They embrace “not knowing” in the way they make their work, but also in the uncertainty and the freedom of living in this state. They are: Claire Ashley, Karen Azarnia, Clarissa Bonet, Robin Dluzen, Dan Devening, Andreas Fischer, Celeste Rapone, Melody Saraniti, Ann Toebbe, and Noah Vaughn.



Review: KIOSK at the Tarble Arts Center, New City


Dan Devening, KIOSK at the Tarble Art Center, Eastern Illinois University
Charleston, IL
January 17 – March 9, 2014
New City

2013 is being canonized as abstract painting’s comeback year. In the past twelve months, Newcity alone has featured more than fifty articles related to abstract art and artists, and while this past fall’s EXPO Chicago was packed with painterly condo décor, the good stuff is getting harder and harder to find. Perhaps that’s why you’ll need to sojourn downstate to see one of this winter’s most compelling investigations of contemporary abstraction.

In “Kiosk” at Eastern Illinois University’s Tarble Arts Center in Charleston, artist Dan Devening—longtime professor of painting at SAIC, founder of Devening Projects + Editions and one of the minds behind the recently opened West Loop space Paris London Hong Kong—presents a series of twelve untitled colorful and loose (but decidedly conscious) abstractions that probe the limitations of conventional structure and illusory space.

Disembodied brushstrokes, curious snippets of text, half-tone patterns and visual non-sequiturs suffuse this focused exhibition. Though these gestures typically butter the bread of trendy “provisional” and “casualist” painters, they are, in the hands of Devening, anything but. The artist’s embrace of collage evidences careful deliberation. It’s as if Devening, not content to bandy about a brush with fingers crossed, locates the perfect spot where a stroke of cadmium red achieves maximum impact and rather than quickly dash it off, he stifles his impulse, applies the paint to an additional sheet of paper and then later glues it in place, pushing visual tension to a near breaking point in the process.

The eponymous “Kiosk” is a spindly wooden structure from which dowel-like arms protrude. It provides a unique support upon which several of the artist’s works-on-paper hang. Serving as both a piece of freestanding sculpture and a mechanism of visual dissemination, “Kiosk” creates an area of intriguing material uncertainty. Refreshingly, Devening tackles three-dimensional problems of space, balance and gravity with consideration equal to his two-dimensional collages. Despite its slim proportions, the artwork’s thoughtful arrangements project an aura of surprising weight and volume. With the speed limit on I-57 recently increased to seventy mph, you’ll be there in no time. (Alan Pocaro)


ROCKET RUN at Nebraska Weselyen University


Curated by Alexander Herzog
October 22 – November 23, 2014

Sixty-two Chicago-area artists were asked to define abstraction, its limitations and how it is informed by our daily lives. Their answers will be found in one of Nebraska Wesleyan University’s largest Elder Gallery exhibits, “Rocket Run.”

Curated by artist Alexander Herzog, Rocket Run will be on exhibit October 22 through November 23. The exhibit features painting and photography.

Featured artists include: Geoffrey Todd Smith, Allison Reimus, Michelle Bolinger, Esau McGhee, Cole Pierce, Todd Chilton, Scott Stack, Samantha Bittman, Scott Wolniak, Josh Reames, Zoe Nelson, Jacob Goudreault, Matt Irie, Andrew Falkowski, Rose DiSalvo, Ron Ewert, Alexander Herzog, Steven Husby, Eric Lebofsky, Karen Azarnia, Noah Rorem, Andy Hall, Michelle Grabner, Judith Geichman, Elijah Burgher, George Liebert, Sofia Leiby, Brad Killam, Jessica Labatte, Peter Fagundo, Kelly Kaczynski, John Opera, Judy Ledgerwood, Darrell Roberts, Dan Devening, John Phillips, Robert Burnier, Leslie Baum, Luis Romero, Jerome Acks, Ryan Travis Christian, Dana DeGiulio, Kaylee Wyant, Titus Dawson, Andrew Holmquist, Rafael Vera, Jessie Mott, Matt Morris, David Linneweh, Richard Hull, Deborah Boardman, Zachary Buchner, Mara Baker, Ryan M Pfieffer, Rebecca Walz, Carmen Price, Eric Ruschman, Erin Washington, Candida Alvarez, Craig Yu, Oli Watt and Justin Witte.


On Stanger Ways at Scotty Enterprises, Berlin, Germany


Allison Wade, Volker Saul, Michael Pfisterer and Dan Devening
June 28 – July 19, 2014

On Stranger Ways features Allison Wade, Volker Saul, Michael Pfisterer, Sterling Lawrence and Dan Devening; a group of artists from the United States and Germany affiliated with the Chicago gallery Devening Projects. The show, much like the work presented, is an aggregate of carefully selected and loosely connected ideas and materials assembled into a logical whole. Within the work of each artist, we recognize a desire to order, to make sense of the stuff each finds as they navigate the world. Order is a good word; it suggests an imposition of will, a rightness of placement and context. It happens through the dichotomies and juxtapositions that occasionally occur in the work; at other times, form is separated from context to arrive at essential new properties. The material-based work reflects strategies inherent to how research, experimentation and consideration lead to a resolute position. The artists are collecting, documenting, isolating, distilling and displaying; they’re also applying very subtle and poetic moves to their process to reveal something newly discovered. On Stranger Ways feels like a loosely woven fabric; the fibers are distinct but the composition they create has a beautiful sense of order and completeness.

On Stranger Ways, installation view. Scotty Enterprises, Berlin.

pendent ex ea at Autumn Space, Chicago


Dan Devening
pendent ex ea
June 22 – July 17, 2013

Autumn Space is pleased to present pendent ex ea, an exhibition of recent work from Chicago artist Dan Devening. Roughly translated, pendent ex ea means “to hang it out,” a title aptly exposing some new concerns by this artist primarily known for his painting. The exhibition opens on Saturday, June 22, from 6 – 8 pm.

Devening is an artist who has recently devoted significant time curating, exposing and presenting the work of other artists; his new body of work folds many of those precepts into a studio project incorporating paper, collage and installation. Although he describes himself as a die-hard formalist, the show reveals new conceptual strategies using display, attachment and context as frameworks driving the greater statement. The motivation behind this interest suggests an awareness of how the matrix of one’s life — or practice — keeps itself precariously in place while always in full view. It also folds in systems of information exchange like advertising, public signage, emoticons, pop-up ads and every other way messages are communicated. This is acutely evident in the large sculptural array upon which several paper works hang. Like an information kiosk historically found in town centers, the structure is designed to display both sides of each work; the audience moves freely between the structure and at their own pace. The kiosk is a presentation device that clouds our understanding of how we encounter static works. In this case, there are consequences. As one moves through the space, the viewpoint of each panel is interrupted and influenced by other parts of the installation inevitably leading to overlapping and obfuscation. The structure also exposes Devening’s fetishistic interest in how each panel hangs from the structure, as well as how material assembly is a highly considered part of each composition. Thread is used to sew paper to paper; holes perforate surfaces, and clips, staples and paper clips attach material to material. Each device is made declaratively obvious, but also pedestrian and informal, suggesting the potential for quick adjustments. Although an attitude of loose flexibility permeates the show, it’s clear that each decision is calculated and intentional.

Devening’s first solo show in Chicago in several years, pendent ex ea includes a lot that’s familiar from his past work. Line, field, surface, color and spatial anomalies continue to be subjects of interest; in this show that discourse is laid out with much less nuance and subtlety. The push here is for directness and clarity; hanging it out without flourish suggests a new level of relaxed inhibition from this Chicago artist.





Reason & Romance at 6b gallery, Elingen, Belgium


Reason & Romance
June 23 – July 21, 2013
6b Gallery, Elingen, Belgium

6B is the studio of painter and graphic designer Alain Biltereyst. Each year he makes this space available to present the work of artist friends in order to create a platform where Belgian and international artists can meet. In this way Biltereyst brings together innovative novice and established artists from different disciplines. Like many artists he is seeking alternative ways to show art outside the traditional gallery space. The exhibition this summer is a dialogue between contemporary abstract painters from home and abroad with an emphasis on back to the basis of painting: paint!

Reason and Romance


Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue


In June I am participating in the exhibition Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue

Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue
June 16 – August 11, 2012

OPENING RECEPTION, JUNE 15: 4:00–7:00 p.m.
ROUNDTABLE EVENT: Group Effort: Hand Papermaking, Collaboration, and Contemporary Art
6:30–8:00 p.m.

Curated by Jessica Cochran, Elizabeth Isakson-Dado, Hannah King, and C.J. Mace

This exhibition is about the discursive ways that artists approach paper as a medium, technology, and tool. Hand papermaking is a process that begins with the raw material of pulp and ends in sculpture, mixed media, and installation. To that end, this exhibition asks us to consider the utility of paper at the site of interdisciplinary contemporary arts and crafts. Elevating the primary role of handmade paper as a conceptual and formal “supporting partner” in contemporary art itself, Material Assumptions points to the versatility, nuance and subtlety of handmade paper as medium.

Works from Dieu Donné by:
Jessica Stockholder, Glenn Ligon, Richard Tuttle, Chuck Close, Polly Apfelbaum, Sonya Blesofsky, Mel Bochner, Ian Cooper, William Kentridge, Beth Campbell, Nina Bovasso

Newly commissioned works by: Dan Devening, Deborah Boardman, Ian Schneller, Annica Cuppetelli & Christobal Mendoza, Matthew Schlian, Kate McQuillen, Niall McClelland, Anna Tsantir, Daniel Luedtke , Zoe Nelson, Julie Schenkelberg, Susan Goethel-Campbell