Review, Abstract Workhorses Group Exhibition

Review: Abstract Workhorses

April 29, 2017

By: Amy Haddad


“Energy and motion made visible—memories arrested in space,” Jackson Pollock expressively wrote. On April 29 similar themes emanated from the exhibition, “Abstract Workhorses,” at Arts on Elston Gallery in Chicago. Visitors were immersed by Ken Hogrefe’s mural-sized painting, “On Arriving,” which contained rapid brushstrokes of paint; relished the dance of color in Christine Connor’s “Untitled;” slowed to contemplate Rebecca George’s “Atmung;” and grazed on the refreshments placed upon pieces of furniture made by Arthur Connor. The show underscored that art is not just about what you see, but what you feel.

“Abstract Workhorses,” comprised of abstract painting and furniture, featured four artists with decades of art practicing experience among them. Rebecca, who in 2012 founded The Art House, a professional studio school, has been painting for more than 30 years. Ken, a consultant and industry expert for DuPont, is a lifelong artist and Artist in Residence at The Art House. Christine has exhibited work in several group shows in Chicago and is also an Artist in Residence at the Art House; she has more than 25 years experience as a practicing artist. And Arthur began his art practice as a painter; now he makes furniture—an art medium in itself. Their experience gave credibility to the works displayed.

Start with the front gallery, where Ken’s “On Arriving” commanded visitors’ attention by size alone: it spanned an entire gallery wall. Energy emanated from swift brushstrokes of yellows, blues, and reds, with large white swathes atop; it was also visible in the canvas itself. Instead of laying flat against the wall, small folds throughout the canvas mimicked a gentle wave-like motion.

Adding to the conversation were several paintings by Rebecca and Christine that hung on the opposite half of the gallery. These pieces were smaller, but the effect was just as powerful. Some paintings, including Rebecca’s “In Congress with Myself,” confined the vitality of abstraction with a frame. Most notably, though, was her painting “Clandestine.” Its mostly darker color palette, exposed medium, and modest size proved to be the perfect complement to Ken’s painting. Together, they created a welcomed visual tension.

Progressing through the exhibition, the side gallery contained several abstract works that required deep thought. Here, visitors found canvases with thicker and darker strokes of colors. An aptly placed couch was an invitation to sit and think about this work.

Visitors were richly rewarded in the hallway, as they traveled between galleries. Here, two contributions from Christine stopped people in their tracks. “Untitled” was visually arresting: a framed painting contained staccato movements of pink, yellow, and black colors with a hint of glimmer. “Burgeon” was similarly composed. A soothing dialogue resulted between them.

The back gallery offered an amalgamation of abstract paintings by Ken, Christine, and Rebecca. Moreover, sprinkled throughout the show were pieces of Arthur’s furniture, including a bench and chest. Several pieces were intentionally abstract, Arthur said, and influenced by artists from the 1930s, such as Ben Nicholson and Louise Nevelson.

Arthur’s furniture served a crucial role by making abstract art relatable. Traditionally, people struggle with abstraction. It can be challenging to make sense of lines, drops, drips, or strokes of color on canvas. That said, mixing his furniture with abstract paintings created a home-like feel: visitors could picture living with abstract art.

The show’s abstract theme was helped by a plurality of voices. Individually, each artist conveyed their notion of abstraction differently, be it through color, medium, or scale, and thus gave visitors a breadth of interpretations of nonrepresentational artwork to consider. Collectively, however, they conveyed the power of abstraction: engaging the viewer to have their own personal experience.

The event was punctuated by two very talented guests who contributed their own art form to relate to the show: Amy Hogrefe of Maggie's Daughter catered the exhibition with inventive and delicious abstract artist-themed appetizers and desserts, while cellist Teddy Rankin-Parker graced attendees with a powerful and emotional performance. Clearly the hard work of all paid off as the show turned out over 100 guests during its five hour reception. 

Amy Haddad is a writer at BigTime Software. She is also a freelance writer and blogger. Read her blog, Art Diversions, at And follow her on Twitter at @amymhaddad.

Third Coast Review: Rebecca George

Review of Turn the Other Eye, A Curated Art Party

By Arts Editor: Nicole S. Lane

April 20, 2016

Rebecca George: Turn the Other Eye at the Arts On Elston

By Nicole Lane on April 20, 2016

He could tell by the way animals walked that they were keeping time to some kind of music. Maybe it was the song in their own hearts that they walked to.”

― Laura Adams Armer

The solo exhibition, Turn the Other Eye, which featured 75 pieces created by Rebecca George, and a n exhibition catalog with a foreword from art historian Virginia Voedisch, invited viewers to engage with the artists ability to work with various mediums and the strength in which she has to compose pieces in a multitude of styles. From more traditional and realistic, to figurative and abstract, George’s vast oeuvre from 2011-2016 is incredibly diverse, while her subject matter remains rooted in her compassion and connection to the relationship between animals and humans. Georges work is infiltrated with the theme of loss and its expressive nature is represented through painting, printing, drawing, and sculpture.

Sizes of the works in the exhibition varied between 2.75” x 3.75” to 60” x 50” and demonstrated George’s skill to work on differing scales and in an assortment of media. Nestled between paintings were small scale ceramic pieces that paid homage to her animals, her long-standing muses, her bunny’s. The 2D representations characterized the subject matter in an abstract sense, free-floating and translucent, while the ceramic pieces, for example, “Resting Pose,” gave the bunny’s a physicality and permanence.

The exhibition was not displayed chronologically, and rightfully so. George’s interest in animal life and human life is fused and therefore has no time stamp — her message remains the same. The curatorial decision to display the works based on aesthetics and subject matter completely spoke for itself, no matter the date in which it was created.

The more narrative based works from her earlier years included “Burial” which created a literal sense of loss and innocence. George’s recent works are abstracted, expressive, and blur the lines of the narrative that can be present in past pieces. Her definitive shift to working with splashes of color, large scale canvas, and translucence led the viewer towards a more gripping understanding of the artists transition. Her growth in her work is obvious.

In “Reveal Thyself” a collapsing subject encompasses the entirety of the upper horizon. The position is reminiscent of George’s earlier works where she repeatedly illustrated a figure in a fetal position, for example, in “Pentimento” and “Figuration.” In “Reveal Thyself,” George reminds the viewer of her haunting themes of loss and abandonment.

The piece “Qui Tacet Concentiure Viteur” which translates in Latin to, “He who is silent is taken to agree” was the most vivid work in the exhibition. The piece fused George’s past style to her current trends in more recent paintings. A cloaked figure stood in the center, hands exposed, with a layering of animals surrounding the individual. The subject pushed and pulled against the foreground and background of the work, which created an emotional dynamic of permanence, or lack of.

The exhibition opened at the Arts on Elston on April 15th and was on view until April 17th. View works from the Turn the Other Eye Collection.

Rebecca George is the director of The Art House and is an adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago, Business of Artists.

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Les Femmes Folles: Women in Art

An interview with artist Rebecca George by Sally Deskins


Imprint of Loss, Rebecca George

Rebecca George is exhibiting in Feminism Plural at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, opening Friday. She generously shares with LFF about taking her career in her own hands founding The Art House, feminism in her work, stellar advice for being an artist, and much more…

SD: If you could make one wish for art today, what would it be?

RG: A stronger bridge between artists making work and people interested in learning more about it (potential supporters, collectors, etc), regardless of the artist’s geographic location. The small markets for contemporary artists are often exclusive and fail to represent the best quality work being made, in favor of presenting work of artists whom are already known. Read more...

Review of ART BY AMERICA, Co-Curated by Rebecca George

Art by America at The Art House: Trends and Traditions in Two-Dimensional Contemporary Art 

By: Amy Haddad, Art Diversions

June 20, 2015

The list of great 2-D artworks over the past two centuries is endless, from Paul Cézanne’s “Mont Sainte-Victoire” to Jackson Pollock’s “Number 1 (Lavender Mist).” Increasingly, 2-D contemporary art competes with art that comes off the wall—inhabiting visitors’ space or tacitly asking for physical interaction. Yet 2-D art was all but absent in the June 6 opening of “Art by America 2015 Juried Exhibition: A National Review of Two-Dimensional Art,” co-sponsored by The Art House and the Arts on Elston in Chicago. The 2-D theme, along with a size constraint (20” x 20” x 4”), unified the 250 artworks submitted by 145 accepted artists from around the United States, including Texas, Oregon and New York City.

The Art House, a Chicago-based art organization that offers studio classes, professional practices, support and exhibition opportunities for the visual arts, initiated “Art by America” to assess America’s tendencies and practices in 2-D contemporary art. Rebecca George, Founder and Director of The Art House and co-curator of the exhibition, also explained its focus on the artist: this juried exhibition “provides exposure for a wide range of artists, including those who may not have sufficient opportunities for recognition due to limitations to exhibit or present their work locally.” That said, “Art by America” offered artists of all levels the chance to have up to two pieces of art reviewed by jurors, win cash prizes in four award categories and have their work professionally curated and exhibited. Undoubtedly an extraordinary experience for artists, the show’s opening was repeatedly a joy for more than 300 attendees. Read more...

Interview with Rebecca George

Le Femmes Folles, Women in Art

Republished on June 10, 2015 by Nuria Sheenan, Director of Chicago Artists Resource: ART IS AN ACTION

Labour of Love, Ink on Paper

MAY 11, 2015 with 3 NOTES        


By: Sally Deskins

Rebecca George is exhibiting in Feminism Plural at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, opening Friday. She generously shares with LFF about taking her career in her own hands founding The Art House, feminism in her work, stellar advice for being an artist, and much more…

Where are you from? How did you get into art?

I’m from the south side of Chicago– I’ve been interested in drawing since I can remember. I pursued it throughout high school and college, which led to teaching art as well.

Tell me about your upcoming show and why it’s important to you.

Feminism Plural at Woman Made is an opportunity to exhibit with a group of talented and innovative women artists around the subject of being a woman. In recent years, my work has explored related themes of the female body, identity, cultural conditioning and impermanence. This will be the first show I’ve participated in where all the artists are women and the work is all related somehow to being a woman.

Do you think your city is a good place for women in art? Do you show your work elsewhere/is there a difference in how your work is received?

I have found Chicago a challenging place to find opportunities as an artist, but that didn’t stop me from creating them. I founded The Art House in 2012 through which I have supported a large amount of local adult visual artists in their studio and professional practice. The Art House also exhibits work and in fact, is about to begin curating its first national exhibit: Art by America. We partner with artists and other art spaces, such as Arts on Elston, to help promote artists and increase opportunities for exhibiting work.

Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, examined the perspective of femininity and race in her work, and spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

In that I feel somewhat insistant about the right women have to choose not to marry and have children– cultural conditioning in many societies still look down upon unmarried women who raise animals instead of children. I represent myself struggling within myself in much of my paintings. The animals appear in that narrative as well. 

Imprint of Loss, Oil on Linen

Review of Group Show: CARISTA

Group Exhibition Review, February 21-22, 2015  

by: Emily Alesandrini

State of Being, Oil on Linen

The Art House founder Rebecca George participated in a richly diverse group exhibition in February at Arts on Elston gallery. Emily Alesandrini visited the show to interview the gallery's director, Art Connor, and the family of artists and friends who's art was on display. Caristia’s artists include: Heather Aitken, Celene Aubrey, Arthur Connor, Christine Connor, Elizabeth Connor, Mae Connor, Karl Fresa, Gordon France, Rebecca George, Eileen Madden, Dan Mullens, Vanessa Shaf. Read more...