Contemporary Art


Gallery Press

February 2010



January 8 - February 26, 2010



May 2009
Great Paintings at Melanee Cooper Gallery
By Darrell Roberts
Chicago Art Examiner

Cheryl Warrick

Kathleen Waterloo

Melanee Cooper Gallery at 740 N. Franklin has one of the best Chicago galleries paintings shows of gallery artists Michael Kessler, Alicia LaChance, Cheryl Warrick and Kathleen Waterloo. Cheryl Warrick's diptychs and triptychs are superbly conjoined landscapes, images and abstractions that at first notion may not be your typical idea of radical different genres of paintings that would be combined in one painting, but the artist pulls it off with sophistication and creates paintings viewers want to keep looking at. Kathleen Waterloo's encaustic paintings are always so elegant with her use of color and wax, they look and smell terrific. Kathleen's paint application with the layering of wax encaustics and use of color is outstanding as always. Melanee Cooper Gallery is a terrific gallery for paintings and art lovers who collect great works of art. This is true not only by visual taste but in teh many sales the gallery has had for the artist. The artists in Melanee Cooper Gallery would be a nice addition to any collection.

February 2, 2009

Review: Matthew Dennison/Melanee Cooper Gallery
When looking at Matthew Dennison’s paintings, a viewer may get the feeling that something is slightly awry. The narrative scenes, depicting people in daily, normal routines both indoors and outdoors, do not outright defy reality, but skirt about its edges. The angles of the houses are just a bit off, the figures disproportioned with exaggerated characteristics, comprising a kind of surrealistic Americana—Norman Rockwell meets Eric Fischl. Dennison’s paintings, in both title and content, remain purposely ambiguous, refusing to commit to a specific time period or event. The exception is “Electric Car,” which depicts a happy-looking couple with a bright-yellow car in the foreground, while simplified wind turbines turn behind them. While the car and wind turbines refer to contemporary issues—especially of a serious nature—the generic, Caucasian couple looks as if they’re leaving their 1950s Levittown community to embark upon a picnic. This manufactured aspect carries through to Dennison’s other pieces with the addition of a layer of industrial-strength enamel paint. The result is a glossy, flat surface that Dennison manipulates to allow certain areas of the oil painting to show through. Look carefully and you’ll see most figures’ faces lack the enamel and glow from the oil painting underneath, an indication that not everything on the surface is all right. (Patrice Connelly)

Winter 2008

Melanee Cooper, owner of the eponymous MELANEE COOPER GALLERY (740 N Franklin St. 312.202.9305), reveals a deep appreciation for the painting process. Her gallery specialized in work with rich surfaces and interesting textures, whether the artist's style is figurative, landscape, abstract or something more difficult to define. Cooper represents a mix of emerging and midcareer artists, from the young Jeremiah Ketner, whose hip, figurative images are directly inspired by anime and manga, to Michael Kessler, whose layered, abstract paintings are in more than 30 museums and more than 50 corporate collections. Also on view this winter are new abstract paintings by Jill Sutton, whose science-inspired imagery is moving toward a more atmospheric approach while still maintaining fine detail.

Palinode, 2008 | acrylic on panel | 48 x 48

December 2008

Septeber 12, 2008

Alan G. Artner, Chicago Tribune

Kathleen Waterloo paints abstractions in encaustic, an old and sensuous medium. Her colors shimmer up through layers of wax to cause instantaneous seduction. But these days triggering that kind of response is not enough for artists who seek to deepen their discourse through work based as much in ideas as craft.

Waterloo's paintings at the Melanee Cooper Gallery move in that direction. Trained as an architect, the artist here responds to buildings, imaginary (by Giovanni Batista Piranesi) and actual (by Gordon Matta Clark, Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry). She also pays homage to artists such as Agnes Martin and Robert Mangold, whose work has strong architectonic qualities.

In her large paintings, Waterloo's familiar vocabulary of stripes, bars, commas and hooks is pretty much undisturbed and her architectural references are embedded within them. But a series of smaller pieces bring architecture to the fore, as shapes of the incisions Matta-Clark made in derelict buildings become primary motifs that Waterloo has superimposed on blueprints. These rely less on color and the seductions of surface, looking more improvisatory, experimental.

At Melanee Cooper Gallery, 740 N. Franklin St., through Oct. 31; artist's talk 5 p.m. Oct. 24. 312.202.9305.

Chicago Travel 2008
Located in the River North Art Gallery District, the Melanee Cooper Gallery houses some excellent paintings focusing more on intellectual and descriptive topics. The gallery is well facilitated and always thinks of ways to promote the artists. On exhibit here are some works by the countries finest artists, besides they also give talented and upcoming artists a chance to showcase their works. Find works by artists expressing though abstract, landscapes, figurative and mixed media. Encaustic artists are also given special encouragement and attention by the gallery. The gallery is also a Member of the Art Dealers Association of Chicago.

September 2007

Now in its third evolution as a gallery, Melanee Cooper Gallery is a unique, contemporary art gallery that deals exclusively in paintings.

Owner Melanee Cooper maintains a small, select group of emerging, mid-career and established artists. These artists create a variety of media and styles including abstract, figurative, contemporary naïve, photo-collage and pulled paint.

Represented artists include Allen Bentley, Susan Hall, Michael Kessler, Cheryl Warrick and Kathleen Waterloo.

The gallery is guided by a strong surface-oriented aesthetic. Artists are bound together by an interest in texture and surface exploration. Here, viewers will find some of the most innovative, creative work in contemporary painting.

Melanee Cooper Gallery is strongly committed to both its artists and collectors. Over the years, they have nurtured their artists' careers and their clients' collections. Artist catalogs are available upon request, and the staff is happy to answer any question you may have.

Visit the River North gallery today and enjoy its convenient location and beautiful, inviting space.

December 2007

Marilyn Holsing

Melanee Cooper Marilyn Holsing paints narrative, pastoral scenes that look like they could have been plucked from a piece of patterned toile. The French connection does double duty in the "Young Marie" series, represented her by ten works on paper featuring the doomed queen imagined as a child in solitary play on her Versailles farm.

In Young Marie Builds a Pig Pen (2007), the girl, in a party dress, sits on a bed of flowers in a corral that appears to be made of apples. In Young Marie at Her Toilet (2005), birds circle the protagonist's head, holding strands of her hair perhaps a stage in composing a mountainous hairdo. Compelling scenarios-including one in which the girl balances a stack of china teacups-along with Holsing's skill with her subject's wary facial expressions, save these works from veering completely into the realm of repetitious and whimsical children's book illustration.

Young Marie at Her Toilet, 2005 | mixed media on paper | 41 x 33.5

Over several decades, Holsing has perfected her labor-intensive technique of painting in tiny brushstrokes atop a surface of casein and gesso on paper. Her accumulations of small precise pencil and gouache lines in a muted colors intentionally resemble needlework, creating the illusions that the artist stitches these charming and slightly disconcerting idylls. - Ruth Lopez.

October 2007

Blue, Green, Magenta Series work by Dieter Mammel and Young Marie Series work by Marilyn Holsing
September 7 - October 27, 2007

Melanee Cooper Gallery
740 N. Franklin
Chicago, IL 60610
tel.: (312) 202-9305
hours: Tue-Fri 11a-5p, Sat 12p-4p

Two artists with disparate techniques and subjects featuring the illustrated narrative are paired at Melanee Cooper Gallery this early fall season, and are worth taking a look at.

Young Marie as a Fire Eater | Mixed media on paper | 24 x 19 in. | © Marilyn Holsing 2007

Young Marie Stargazing | Mixed media on paper | 24 x 19 in. | © Marilyn Holsing 2007

Marilyn Holsing is represented with her Young Marie Series of paintings based on the artist's fictitious concept of a young Marie Antoinette, developed after the artist took a trip to France and Versailles. The series shows an idealized portrait of Marie in various fantastical situations, including fire-breathing, plate-and-cup balancing, performing an aerial acrobatic act, tightrope-walking, and having her hair braided by a flock of assorted birds. Ms. Holsing doesn't pretend to put her young Marie in any historical context -- in Young Marie Stargazing, for example -- by showing a string of electric bulb lights in the paintings, and putting Marie in semi-contemporary dress, emphasizing the fantastical nature of the series.

Each work is painstakingly painted with small marks of gouache on a casein wash background to give the faux finis appearance of needlework on silk. The artist's statement notes that if she made one mistake, the whole work had to be thrown out and begun again from scratch. Annoying for sure, if a little tedious, though the artist's choice of process is well-suited to her subject matter: delicate, intricate, and deliberate.

Young Marie as a Fire Eater | Mixed media on paper | 24 x 19 in. | © Marilyn Holsing 2007

My first impression of Ms. Holsing's work reminded me of the self-portraits of another contemporary artist, Julie Heffernan (reviewed in, October, 1999). The ridiculousness of a child as a fire-breather, or with a platoon of birds braiding or knotting her hair, have an air of innocence and playfulness while at the same time, a sinister undercurrent that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Certain keys to the identity of the child, though, will lead the viewer to unmistakably identifying the child in question to be Marie Antoinette (at least, through modern conceptions of Marie): the name, the ever-present 18th-century hairdo, even the needlepoint-like quality of the medium. Though Holsing's muse was Versailles and Marie Antoinette, nowhere is there an allusion to the real Marie Antoinette's childhood in Austria. These are the illustrated idyllic fantasies of a young child laid out to satisfy our voyeuristic cravings of celebrity, though not inherently dark images thinly veiled by pleasant apparitions such as Julie Heffernan's work. The tragedy lies only in what we know of Marie Antoinette in her later life. In many ways, this is how most people view their own lives, and we find these echoes in, for example, the concept of being born under a blue sky, but dying in a dark forest. Personal identity is forever ingrained by our childhood experiences; so when we are surrounded by that dark forest, we always find ourselves shocked and amazed. Marilyn Holsing's work never takes you into that dark forest: her conceptual Marie remains blissfully ignorant of any future; fantasizing, and (hardly) mundanely living with the innocence of an overprivileged child.

According to the artist, the series concept was developed based on the real Marie Antoinette's agrarian fantasies to be closer to the common people of France -- a fashionable ideal of the French aristocracy before the revolution. And therefore, from a more studied perspective, the feats that Holsing puts her Marie through, do in a way convey not only the ridiculousness of the real Marie's agrarian fascination, but also the circus-like feats the real Marie would have had to go through to convince a public both common and aristocratic of her sincerity, and to fend off the libel that surrounded her court.

Diver | Watercolor and ink on ungrounded canvas | 33 x 39 in. | © Dieter Mammel 2007

Unlike Holsing's warm and fuzzy Marie, there is a cold, hard edge to Dieter Mammel's watercolor and ink wash paintings in his Blue, Green, Magenta Series. Reminiscent of Gerhard Richter's "unpaintings" with a nod to Morris Louis and Degas, Dieter Mammel's work is both semi-photographic and painterly, with a strangely removed indifference to his subjects that is somehow and simultaneously touchingly familiar, stressed by the monochrome cold color schemes.

Most of Mr. Mammel's work shows a child in some situation or other. In Diver, Dieter shows us a boy with a snorkel and goggles that looks as if he's asleep, yet underwater due to the greenish hue of the painting. You don't know whether he's asleep, drowned, or whether just a flash of a camera made him narrow his eyes. The viewer is not quite sure what to interpret. Sleep can feel like a nitrogen narcosis, what deep-sea divers refer to as a "rapture of the deep". Beach Boy has a boy (the same boy?) playing in the sand on the beach. In Ava, it's not clear what this little girl is doing or where she is. Her right hand is near her mouth. The left hand is an amorphous blob at the bottom of the painting. If she's holding something in her left hand or grabbing at something, you don't know what it is. Several paintings depict adults in situations with similar absence of context. In Blue Note 2 a man is drawing on a surface (a chalk-board?). If he's writing something, you don't know what it is he's writing, and so, don't know what the man is trying to communicate. You know only what Mr. Mammel decides to show you. There's a man (skiing?) in Helvetia but the artist has chosen to put a large "+" sign over the man's behind -- the significance of which is completely lost without more information.

Blue Note 2 | Watercolor and ink on ungrounded canvas | 23.4 x 31 in. | © Dieter Mammel 2007

Mammel's technique borrows somewhat visually from Gerhard Richter's "unpaintings" where cold, removed, snapshot-like paintings are "destroyed" by smearing the paint while it's still wet, except Mammel instead uses heavily watered-down pigment to stain the painting surface. Conceptually, the effect is much like trying to paint a detailed scene with only a wet-on-wet watercolor process, but the lack of detail is created mostly by the technique and effect of staining. There's an inference here of detail, therefore, similar to Asian ink-drawings. The artist shows a keen sense of which wet-on-wet process will produce what kind of surface effect. It's this process that helps him decide what to show and what to hide -- or isolate. Richter's purpose was to "destroy" the image, but Mammel is only building it up, choosing not to show everything by stopping with the underpainting.

Mammel's composition relies strongly on a snapshot quality that, together with the cold-color choices with little real whites, stressed by the unprimed canvas that they are painted on, strongly suggest The Smiths' album covers designed by Morrisey and subsequent videos filmed by the late filmmaker Derek Jarman, in which people and situations are emotionally framed. The result is a window into personal introspection and isolation even while in the midst of a group. This is a "magnifying glass into the soul" approach to the figure in contemporary settings: A bath, at a chalkboard, asleep, on the beach, where we don't and can't really know the context, but can infer through our own experience. We either have been there, or we haven't. If we have, we think we know what is going through the mind of the figure in the painting -- but we don't, really, made painfully obvious by the lack of further clues than what the artist has chosen to give us.

--Richard Donagrandi

Richard Donagrandi is the executive producer of, and an artist himself, living and working in Chicago.

Blue, Green, Magenta Series work by Dieter Mammel and Young Marie Series work by Marilyn Holsing, are showing at Melanee Cooper Gallery through October 27, 2007. All images used by permission through Melanee Cooper Gallery.

July 23, 2007

Among the 20 dealers officially participating is
Melanee Cooper Gallery, representing Matthew
(After Tornado, 2007, above), Miranda
and Jeremiah Ketner.