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Greeting New Galleries

The best openings of early 2006.
Monday May 22, 2006.     By Joanne Hinkel
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

The latest from Kasia Kay.
photo: Courtesy of Kasia Kay
Ah, the promise of youth. With the walls freshly painted, brand new bulbs in the track lights, and the excitement of unseen artwork in the air, what isn't more exciting than a new art gallery? At Centerstage we treasure, perhaps above all else, the challenge of an unbeatable find. In an ever unpredictable art market where galleries come and go, here are four galleries new to the scene this year that we hope stick around.

Gillock Gallery Chicago, opened January 2006
To the art snobs out there who declare that "painting is dead," get thee to Gillock Gallery Chicago. In 2001 Connie Gillock began producing shows out of her Evanston home because she felt no local galleries were showing excellent technical painting. Gillock highlighted many such Midwestern painters, many of them professors at Northwestern and the School of the Art Institute, throughout the living and dining rooms of her Victorian house.

In January of 2006, Gillock kept things going in Evanston while also moving south, establishing a room of her own in Chicago, where she curates shows in a delightful 300-square-foot sunlight space in Ravenswood. What makes this space one of the city's most exciting venues is its devotion to painting, to its absorbing colors, gracefully rendered lines, and humanistic revelations through shading. The current exhibit, "Marion Krycka-Small Works" (through May 30), shows portraits of gutted fish and still lifes that echo the effects of Renaissance master paintings.

Estudiotres, opened May 2006
Though a true babe in the woods (the space opened the second week of May), Estudiotres may one of Chicago's most mature galleries. Nestled between Andersonville's Swedish bakeries, hot-spot eateries, banks and bars, this pristine white space reserves its walls for museum quality artwork. Its currently-running inaugural show, "IN THE LOOP," features seven multi-paneled photographs that gave a detailed yet panoramic view around Chicago's L stops. The eye behind the lens is Accra Shepp, a New York artist who has made the collections of MOMA and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Named after the graphic design firm that resides in the 2,000-square-foot basement of the building, Estudiotres appropriately brings quality to the its interior construction as well; the space bears a gorgeous wooden step in the middle of the room, with a companion sloping incline for wheelchairs, and interesting niches of wall space. Upcoming plans include show site-specific installations, more photography, multimedia work, a group show that synchronizes with Pride Fest and dedicated showings of Chicago artists in the back project space. Check it out for yourself; you can even down a Danish on the way!

Kasia Kay Art Projects, opened February 2006
It's impossible to avoid the West Loop when talking about Chicago's best art galleries. Though this gallery opened up quietly in February, it has created quite a buzz. Kasia Kay Art Projects brings a quiet, contemplative, and decidedly conceptual addition to Fulton Market, the meat packing district's hotbed of art activity. There seems to be a devotion to the female experience here, as a number of artists deal with issues of gender in thoughtful ways.

Installations are definitely the butter to Kasia Kay's bread: paintings, drawings, photography and video. The gallery maintains a presence at international art fairs, represents artists from both the U.S. and Europe, and boasts one of the most beautifully constructed spaces in the city. Visitors marvel at the architectural details, which include a bathroom with a sliding, retractable door; front entrance doors made of glass; and a sleek system of steps into the main room.

Moka Gallery, opened January 2006
God save Pilsen. We're hoping that Moka Gallery can save this 'hood from being Cold Stone Creamery-ed and Walgreens-ed into a cultural wasteland. And if any new gallery could preserve this endangered artist colony, it's Moka Gallery. Owner Jhonmar Castillo opened the space in January and instantly warmed Chicago's frigid air with eclectic energy, grouping together such artists as sculptor Sydia Reyes, gourd artist Mira Mickler Moss, and abstract painter Jhonmar Radames.

The range of media is only rivaled by the cultures represented. With artists from Venezuela, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Poland and the U.S., Moka may be the most international gallery in the city. While most of the area around 18th and Halsted Streets, known as the Chicago Arts District, is marked by studios that only open for 2nd Fridays and select hours on Saturdays, Moka Gallery is open throughout the week.


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