Last week I reviewed a show by Edra Soto at Rowland Contemporary for the Chicago Reader. Here’s the full review:

Identity art tends to be repetitively earnest–my ethnicity is spiritual! my people have suffered!–but Edra Soto realizes that putting your tongue in your cheek can stimulate your brain. Though her new show at Rowland Contemporary–“The Chacon-Soto Show: Featuring ‘The Greatest Companions'”–ostensibly focuses on Iris Chacon, an iconic Puerto Rican TV star, Chacon is almost never glimpsed. A bunch of apelike action figures with painted masks perch on a filing cabinet in one corner of the space, while giant, labial paper flowers squat before the gallery attendant’s table. The paintings on the wall mostly feature anonymous simians and the occasional fluffy dog, all flamboyantly dressed and gyrating on nightclub stages that vanish into garish abstractions. Everything drips tackiness–except, surprisingly, the faces of the apes in the paintings, which are sharply and evocatively rendered. Here a she-ape kicks up her hindquarters with a look of exquisite delight, there an apparently adolescent missing link furrows his brow in what looks like constipation. Elsewhere two females bend over provocatively, their faces obscured, while in the background lurks a blurred, masked figure. What would we see if they turned toward us? Are they human or not? In the context of the room, their identity becomes not a celebration or even a statement but a question–funny, sexy, mysterious, and more than a little uncomfortable.

Lot’s of great images from the show at Edra’s blog here

I also reviewed the fabulous Chicago metal outfit Arriver (coincidentally, the band of Dan Sullivan, Edra’s husband.) Here’s a slightly longer version of the review that ran in the Reader.

Getting older means significant others, kids, jobs, and not a ton of time to spend writing preposterously intricate metal songs and practicing them till you’re so tight it hurts. Don’t tell that to the guys in Arriver though; guitarists Dan Sullivan, and Dan MacAdam, bassist Rob Sullivan, and new-to-this-band drummer Joe Kaplan (Viza Noir) have been playing together in various combinations and under various names for more than a decade, now, and they have no intention of stopping. Their second album, scheduled hopefully for sometime next year, will include not one but two rock operettas: the first about the Russo-Japanese war and the second about Simon Mann, a British officer who engineered a failed coup in Equatorial Guinea. Whatever the topic, though, their music is a smorgasbord of heavy, touching on doom, thrash, and prog, with just enough classic rock heroism thrown in to give it a “fuck-you” swagger. A thunderous new song titled “Simon Mann” keeps trying to lock into a stolid trudge and then lurching into jerky rhythms and weird dissonances, like a death metal band suffering a series of painful seizures. It just goes to show that middle-age doesn’t have to turn you into an embarrassing dinosaur. Instead you can get smarter, more accomplished, and more disciplined as you march towards the perfect metal apocalypse.