Most of us who spend our time prancing through gallery openings from week to week, sipping acidic white wine and mingling with likeminded aesthetes probably give little thought to the hectic prep work that goes into making an opening night seem polished and enthralling. When I stepped into the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, I thought it was closed for construction; little did I know that the workmen and vacuum tubes crisscrossing the wooden floor were part of a thorough pre-show clean-up.
The space, on the west side of Peoria Street just south of Randolph, is located at street level, fronted with a gorgeous glass facade that allows natural light to illuminate the first of three rooms. One of the most noticeable art galleries in this dynamic but sequestered West Loop district, it is probably one of the oldest, too. In 1983 Rhona Hoffman separated from her union with the Hoffman Young gallery in an effort to continually focus on works made by established and emerging contemporary artists in various mediums. Dozens of international artists have called this space their home at one time or another, including Dawoud Bey, Annette Lemieux, Jenny Holzer and Richard Tuttle.
It is also important that the work featured at Rhona Hoffman offer the viewer a conceptual or socio-political reference point. On my visit, as I walked through the bi-level rooms into the pitch dark back gallery, a five-screen video installation by Kutlug Ataman was still being arranged. Faint wires hung from the ceiling connecting to enormous screens that seemed to dangle at precarious angles around the center of the room. Each screen projected different aspects of a man's butterfly collection. As the man's voice traveled through the speakers I wondered if this piece was supposed to have a conceptual or socio-political angle, but then thought to myself: Art creates a chance for the viewer to decide. (Sarah Pearl)