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Summer Reviews: Orange Skin, Salon Blonde and More

By Madeline M. Nusser

Orange Skin Opening

Tasty guest-listers, plus-ones, and cocktails drifted languidly amidst delicious design at the launch party for the spanking new showroom of the interiors powerhouse known as Orange Skin. Two local architects opened Orange Skin's original Wicker Park doors back in 2001 specializing in contemporary European design rarely seen within America. On the crisp June night of their River North expansion, the crystal clear lines of Kartell "Louis Ghost" chairs received their first American viewing alongside the soft edges of Minotti lounges and the punchy orange Margis dog house. The showroom's lower-level entertained further with inflatable PVC "Chill-Out Rooms" and photographs of local artists immersed in their favorite showroom product picks (including some of our beloved SAICers). The launch may have ended, but click your heels to either locale for a viewing and a chat with the staff of gracious design aficionados.

Orange Skin: 223 W. Erie, 1429 N. Milwaukee, www.orangeskin.com

Salon Blonde's Fashion Benefit

The Mercedes Benz dealership on Clark St. encapsulated another well-heeled crew in August at Salon Blonde's fashion benefit for the Leukemia Research Foundation. The gleaming catwalk showcased a sumptuous array of fall tweeds, cashmeres, chiffon, and satin. Mainstream fashion houses such as Prada and La Perla busted out in long-time force. However, the local boutiques including p.45, apt. no. 9, Bynum and Bang, and the Fashion Co-Op proved the most provoking with their sophisticated mix of emerging designers and stylists. I heard a bit of heavy breathing at the entrance of SAIC alum Lara Miller's edgy knit and jersey pieces. Although only on view to a specific set of financial and style elite, the show revealed visions acutely immersed in an international style dialogue yet grounded in our local peeps.

Solo Show Solo Soul

Woodland animals, psychedelic rainbows, and disco balls abounded at Vedanta's summer show entitled Solo Show Solo Soul. Thus the peripheral aftermath of this year's Whitney Biennial took shape here in Chicago. Organized by Chris Johanson, the group exhibition provided each of the eight artists with the opportunity to devise a solo show within a section of the gallery. "Learning to Love You More," Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher's interactive collaboration and Chris Corales's collages stood strong in their subtlety as well as their spaciousness--the labyrinth of cubicles honed viewer's navigational skills. Overall, while the show provided an excellent example of current trends fueling contemporary discussions and disgust, it did little to contribute to the dialogue.

Vedanta Gallery: 835 W. Washington

The New Collusion

Curatorial team Katherine Hixson and Sandra Dillon investigate the interplay of commercial culture and contemporary art revealing that each borrows from the other in this show which featured multimedia work by Conor McGrady, Timothy Ripley, Henrik Plenge Jakobsen and others. Highlights were Siebren Versteeg's CC, a digital program suggesting similarities between authoritarian news casting and blogging, and Nevin Tomlinson's abstract paintings, an attempt to steal form from Photoshop and place it back within the realm of painting. In this exhibition, rather than reducing the role of collusion to concession, Hixson and Dillon successfully present it as a means of criticality in artistic practice.

Chicago Cultural Center: 78 E. Washington

Other Spaces

This show featured photography, painting, and screen prints by Robert Bain, Stacie Johnson, Motoko Kamada and others. The pretext of two-dimensional work with the general theme of "space" sets up a conundrum well explored by the artists. Alyssa Miserendino's photographs of empty rooms with fresh divots in the carpeting delineate space defined by absence, while Luis Zavala's painting "Carniceria" creates its own space by layering canvases atop crates, the overlapping of which imitates the claustrophobia of an urban environment.

Contemporary Art Workshop: 542 W. Grant Place

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