Unexplored Exhibits Local Colleges Are Land Mines of Quality Art

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Nelson Daily Herald Correspondent

For those who think they need to travel into Chicago to experience quality art - think again.

Superb collections of art often can be found in universities and colleges, built through generous donors or by experienced art department faculty members.

Within a span of a few miles, DuPage County residents can view an outstanding variety of art to satisfy almost any aesthetic taste.

Usually, but not always, these collections are housed in the campus library. The College of DuPage offers an unexpected selection of prints by the German expressionist Otto Neumann (1895- 1975) on display on the library's third floor at 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn.

The college owns works from Neumann's Dante Series and also later prints in which his figures are abstract to geometric forms that almost float on paper.

Curator Barbara Wiesen is expanding the permanent collection with acquisitions of contemporary art on display in the COD library. Wiesen wants to make the college's art "as public as possible." To that end, she recently launched a new site, www.cod.edu/art_collection/.

When you visit, before leaving the third floor, look for the collection of original World War II posters with an impact that still endures.

More art is on view in the McAninch Arts Center, east of the library. A display of contemporary Native American artwork is on the second floor balcony, representing 10 different tribes. On the same floor is a collection of black-and-white photographs by Algimantas Kezys.

Born in Lithuania in 1928, Kezys is a longtime Illinois resident who exhibited at the Art Institute in the mid-1960s. His work is distinctive for its exploration of line and shadow and drawing the viewer into the scene.

The main attraction at the Arts Center is the first floor, glass-enclosed William E. Gahlberg Gallery. Through its schedule of temporary exhibits, the gallery has the opportunity to introduce the latest in "cutting edge" art, ranging from video to mixed- media installations.

Showing through Aug. 4 are sculpture and videos on travel, tourism and culture by Chicago artist Susan Giles. With an emphasis on the iconic Statue of Liberty, a visit to this exhibition dovetails nicely with Fourth of July celebrations.

For breadth and quality, one would be hard-pressed to find a better art collection than Benedictine University's at 5700 College Road, Lisle.

Father Michael Komechak has been building the university's collection for more than three decades. His broad appreciation of art in every form is reflected in the wide range of work from fine art to folk.

When asked to name his favorite piece, Komechak replied, "Which child do I love the most?"

Many of the works he has collected are on view at Kindlon Hall, at the center of campus and home to the library, where every wall is filled with art.

The south end houses a collection of modern Japanese wood-block prints, including works by one of Japan's most outstanding post-war printmakers, Kiyoshi Saito.

Although he often chose modern subjects, he is best known for calm images of traditional Japanese landscapes and structures, both recently featured in the Art Institute's Asian collection.

On display at the hall's north end is a stunning set of 10 prints by Chicago artist Jeanette Sloan. She combines the great still life tradition with a modernist spin and is referred to as a photo-realist.

Her work captures reflections of color and light on shiny surfaces. If you look close enough, you may even spot a self- portrait.

In a review of Sloan's work, art critic Alan Artner described it as "providing a complexity that is very much in the realm of high art. …