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Since there’s California, then everything else in the U.S. ; -) I post an all-too-brief and woefully incomplete rundown of Chicago’s River North gallery district here in the East Coast section. A gentrifying, former warehouse district, River North boasts a generous supply of galleries. I usually rankle at the term, “outsider art”, but the Judy Saslow Gallery, which specializes in it, had some terrific work on view. I especially liked the back room full of quilt-like wall pieces constructed from plastic shopping bags of all kinds, from Saks to the corner store variety. I then caught the sparse, one-man show by Ben Butler at Zg Gallery. The knockout work of the show was a floor-to-ceiling wall piece cast from a solid sheet of plaster consisting of row after row of an astonishing variety of moldings slightly skewed off-horizontal. I also liked the photos and installations of hundreds of tiny plastic houses like Monopoly game pieces by Mark Campbell at Oskar Friedl Gallery. Campbell plays with scale and toys with notions of suburbia in these entertaining and colorful works. I ended up at I Space, the gallery of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign College of Fine and Applied Arts, and caught a senior show by budding product designers. Many projects walked that thin line between ironic utopian and deadpan utilitarian, a line I find highly entertaining. As text-intensive and difficult to absorb quickly as the show was, I was disappointed that the program does not offer the projects on the department’s web site.

- Ella Delaney [Tuesday, April 22nd, 2003]

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