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Julia Fish

Karen Reimer is an artist who works from self-generated systems. She creates limitations that might confine anyone else, but the effect they have on her idiosyncratic art is liberating. Her work feels the freest, in fact, when it has the most restrictions.

A new series of embroidered cotton pillowcases, at the Monique Meloche Gallery, will not disappoint. Reimer has there worked under the greatest number of restrictions I can recall. How the series progresses visually is a record of its restrictions, and from piece to piece they're clearly on view, setting up audience expectations on how they possibly will be worked out.

I will not outline the system from which the artist proceeds -- other than to say it employs a progressing numerical series. Beyond that, some may think they then have "got it" and not see the work for themselves. One has to see the work because Reimer's restrictions are merely the engine to start a process that gains in interest visually as it goes on. Each piece is important only as part of the entire sequence. To break this sequence into single units or pairs would, I think, do irreparable damage. For those who want to see isolated pieces, the gallery has earlier ones, quite beautiful. But "Endless Set," can only be comprehended -- and admired -- while it's still all together, as a whole.

At 118 N. Peoria St., through May 31. 312-455-0299.

For 15 years Julia Fish has created art directly related to her home environment. Lest anyone unfamiliar with the work should think it is in the line of the domestic bonheur, or contentment, that comes from Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, I immediately should say Fish's art proceeds from decorative motifs in the home -- tiles, wood -- or room floor plans. She is not a representational painter interested in setting down any of the patterns of life that go on there.

A group of gouaches from 2006 and 2007 at the Rhona Hoffman Gallery addresses stairways and landings. So the home once more presents the artist with shapes that she presumably sees as more interesting than any she could invent. Her "profiles" of a few steps from each of two staircases -- one slightly less spare than the other -- are very slight indeed. But then she combines them and goes on to treat the landings in the same (brown and green) colors, and these pieces, while minimal, have a gravity and poise out of all proportion to their sources.

This is work of small refinements and adjustments. The world of everyday things generates it, but Fish's qualities of seeing and touch elevate the things to a plane on which they leave behind their humble character. For those attuned, it is something special in both its impulse and realization.

At 118 N. Peoria St., through May 22. 312-455-1990.

Nanette Carter's painted collages at the G.R. N'Namdi Gallery are grouped under the title "Aqueous," which may go some way to suggest the flowing forms she has created. But her emphasis, as she has written, is on the human body, so the irregular doughnuts that undulate over paper and walls evoke much-magnified cells, either in isolation or in conjunction with hard-edged geometric elements that set them off.

Carter has pieced together each of her "cells" from many small segments of Mylar that have several contrasting, densely painted patterns. The patterns may recall swatches of textiles. However, such swatches are all abstract and subservient to the artist's overall designs, which can sprawl for as many as five by eleven feet. These large shaped pieces, mounted directly on the gallery walls, are the most commanding of all on view, though a few framed small ones are even richer in their combinations, allowing painting to come to the fore.

An automatic link to the human body does not, however, take place when Carter's works assume the size of giant sea creatures. Still, her movement into the scale of murals is daring and for the most part persuasively, seductively brought off.

At 110 N. Peoria St., through June 14. 312-563-9240.

For as long as I can remember, artists at commercial galleries received exhibitions at two-year intervals, which allowed them to develop and if possible, deepen. Recently, however, more and more artists have been trotted out in solo exhibitions every year, which tends to work against the process of self-evaluation that can -- should -- occur when work stays in the studio longer.

An apparent casualty of the go-go atmosphere this time is Claire Sherman, a young Illinois painter who had an impressive first solo show of oils and mixed-media pieces in the United States at the Kavi Gupta Gallery in 2007. Now, 14 months later, she is back with only five large new canvases, and the result is distinctly uneven.

Exuberance is never in doubt. But Sherman is not equally successful with the abstract play of forms on her surfaces and the deep space of her landscapes. "Rapids II" and "Woods and Snow" are, in places, awkward as depiction. And "Moon II," which attempts to construct an imaginary landscape, collapses into surface thrashing. "Crevice" ably suggests the grandeur of Sherman's rocky subject -- at 108-by-84 inches, it had better. But the smaller, simpler "Island," with its single cluster of explosive color, succeeds in being the most direct.

At 835 W. Washington Blvd., through June 14. 312-432-0708.

Karen Reimer at Monique Meloche Gallery through May 31

Julia Fish at Rhona Hoffman through May 22

Nanette Carter at G.R. N'Namdi Gallery through June 14

Claire Sherman at Kavi Gupta Gallery through June 14

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