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The Five-Year Plan: Breakout Artists 2004-2007: Where are they now?

Artist Profiles, Breakout Artists Add comments

By Rachel Furnari and David Mark Wise

To mark this fifth edition of Breakout Artists, we decided to check up on the artists we’d featured in the past and see where their careers have taken them.

David Coyle
David Coyle’s villainous video impersonation of Dracula landed him on the Breakout Artists list, and though he’s relocated to Brooklyn, he still paints vampires, as well as moody portraits and abstract compositions. His recent solo shows at Gallery 40000 in Chicago and Project Row Houses in Houston have highlighted his continuing work in video, a practice that continually revives itself with ideas from other mediums, often found in pop culture. He was recently nominated for The Altoids Award offered by the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

Brian Taylor
Brian Taylor has almost fallen off the map, though he is still collaborating with local artist and gallerist Philip von Zweck. In 2007, the two mounted a project, “Yours Truly,” at the Main Gallery in Las Vegas.

Siebren Veerstag
Siebren Veerstag now lives and works in New York City, where he showed last year at Max Protetch. Veerstag maintains his connections to Chicago and his solo project this winter at Rhona Hoffmann found him still preoccupied with futuristic technological models, using both digital mapping and code to explore the aesthetic possibilities of a diagrammatic temporality in elegant photography and films that make a material object of duration.

Gabe Fowler
Gabe Fowler can still be found in the art scene, if only rarely on its gallery walls. After attending the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in the summer of 2004, Fowler moved to New York City in 2005 and worked “like a dog for galleries and rich people.” Tiring of this unfulfilling (and all too familiar) rigmarole, in 2008 Gabe opened “Desert Island,” his own Brooklyn comic-book store. Next year Fowler is expanding with a Desert Island publishing imprint that will focus on limited-edition artist books.

Deborah Stratman
Photographer and filmmaker Deborah Stratman has always been interested in the shaping force of a particular environment—its determining effects on landscape, the use of space and people. Her current work on the “Marfa Sessions” in Donald Judd’s Texan town is an effort to integrate environmental audio (the passing train horn) with an audio installation of bagpipes in a public call and response form. In the last few years she has completed a trilogy of films about the paranormal in the information age, and her next film, an “experimental documentary essay,” is grounded in the story of a 1950s Marine officer who survives after he is forced to eject from his fighter jet at 48,000 feet and trapped for forty-five minutes in the violent drafts of a thunderstorm. Stratman intends this to be a meditation on patriotism, national identity, nature’s might and “elevated threat.”

Saya Woolfalk
Woolfalk has benefited from several awards and residency programs in the last few years, including the Whitney Independent Study Program in 2006, a Fulbright grant to Brazil to investigate performance and craft traditions and a current residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2005 she had a show with another 2004 Breakout Artist, Rashid Johnson, at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art and has performed in events at Deitch and Harvard. Her art maintains a critical ethnographic and feminist approach that highlights bricolage and reassemblage of our “socio-visual landscape.”

Bonnie Fortune
Bonnie Fortune’s feminism is still on display in her video and film, but her emergent role as social and art activist drives her involvement with Mess Hall; the radical ecology of Free Walking; and, with her partner Brett Bloom, an optimistic collaborative/organization: Let’s Remake the World. In addition to leading art projects and exhibitions, Let’s Remake has become a publisher, library and online repository of shared materials for social justice.

Mike Wolf
Once an experimental video artist, Mike Wolf’s Network of Casual Art (or Cumulative Art) trades in a collaborative cultural exchange that melds fine art and exhibitions with social events, lectures and guided tourism. Wolf is one of eleven “key holders” at Mess Hall, the experimental cultural space in Rogers Park that brings free social activism and art programming to the general public. As part of his collaborative practice he is involved with local interdisciplinarians like Temporary Services and Let’s Remake the World in projects that focus on issues of alterity, community and ecology.

Rashid Johnson
Rashid Johnson just finished his first solo exhibition in New York at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, leading New York Times critic Holland Cotter to crown him the new prince of post-black. Although he was trained in photography, Johnson has moved into installation, sculpture and painting to create an otherworldly social club for a fictionalized group of black intellectuals. His collaboration with tag-team painters Rob Davis and Michael Langlois will be featured with Steven Turner Gallery at the NEXT Fair and he is currently working on a solo exhibition that will open at Kunstmuseum Magdeburg in June.


CarianaCarianne could have been a one-note artist, known primarily for her extraordinary aesthetic and legal struggle to be recognized as two distinct people, Cariana and Carianne, within her singular body. Fortunately, the realization of this ongoing project continues to find new territories for enacting their fundamental duality. Attempts have been made under a philosophy of “border-less biology” to legally patent a life-form for a doubled body, which has led to creative ways of documenting CarianaCarianne’s “collaborative body”: “Apparatus for Recording and Reinserting REM Sleep Footage into Future Dreams to Alter Non-REM Consciousness” is a lyrical exploration of possibilities for entering another person’s dreams or to re-enter one’s own; and “Optical Apparatus for Altering Brain and Sight Recognition to Create a Merged Image Field” is a biotech fantasy of a merged left and right ocular field. Last year, CarianaCarianne’s work was shown at MASS MoCA, DePauw University and Polvo Gallery.

Dolan Geiman
Dolan Geiman, “artist for hire,” is still in Chicago! Geiman and his longtime collaborator and girlfriend Ali Walsh have worked hard to capitalize on his often nostalgic and vernacular visual language for several commercial ventures: a successful online business at, which sells original artwork, multiples and clothing; art event-planning; and custom decor and gifts. Geiman and Walsh travel nationally to numerous art fairs throughout the summer and fall, and will be featured on an episode of Discovery Channel’s new lifestyle show, “Planet Green.”

Cody Hudson
Cody Hudson’s crossover artwork combines fine-art techniques with graphic and clothing design, and graffiti-style public interventions. Along with his commercial enterprise, Struggle Inc., he continues to find a receptive audience that includes the skaters who love his deck designs and international art scenesters in solo shows at A.L.I.C.E. Gallery, Brussels and Pool Gallery, Berlin. For now, Hudson continues to find Chicago an appreciative city. Last November he was featured in the MCA’s “12×12” series and participated in a rock ‘n’ roll show at Jil Sander.

Jason Lazarus
Jason Lazarus’ enigmatic “Self-Portrait as an Artist” series, in which he has photographed himself, art-world figures and art institutions and everyday objects to represent the various elements of an ultimate and infinite self-portrait, has taken a turn toward “the political and the experiential,” that often relies heavily on titles and interior text for humor, irony and feeling. He just wrapped up a solo show at Bucket Rider in Chicago where he debuted his first monograph, and will be joining their booth at the NEXT Fair.

Rena Leinberger
Since showing at Chicago’s Gallery 400 and ZG gallery, Leinberger has worked on the faculty at SUNY’s New Paltz campus in the School for the Fine and Performing Arts.

Krista Peel
Krista Peel isn’t afraid of decoration. It is the explicit subject of her hand-built roomboxes, dollhouses and dioramas—idealistic spaces that are filled with miniaturized art and household furnishings that she designs and executes. After successful years in Chicago, Peel moved to San Francisco and has been working to fill her shop with inexpensive bright paintings, earrings and prints, all part of an interest in the democratization of fine arts and home decor. Her work is currently on view in San Francisco at RAG Co-op.

Brian Ulrich
Brian Ulrich is busy. Since he was featured here, his photography has been seen at Rhona Hoffman, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Walker Art Center and the Renaissance Society. That’s just the beginning for this artist, teacher (SAIC and Columbia College), curator and blogger, who remains a vital part of Chicago’s young photographers’ community. Ulrich’s fine-art photography has retained its ambivalence and vibrant visual playfulness toward ordinary and sometimes dehumanizing scenes of production and consumption.


Industry of the Ordinary: Adam Brooks and Mathew Wilson
“Things have been going pretty well,” says Adam Brooks, one half of Industry of the Ordinary. At Los Angeles MoCA’s Allan Kaprow show, they staged “Re-Work” in which Hollywood sex workers were engaged at their nightly rates to paint a hallway as they wished, redoing Kaprow’s “Work” from 1969. The collective has been busy with many other projects, including one at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, in which oxygen tents were tinctured with celebrity scents, and a permanent work has been installed at the Wicker Park/Bucktown Library.

Jon Gitelson
Gitelson will be showing work in the New York Photo Festival in Brooklyn this May. He was commissioned to do a permanent installation at the Brown Line Armitage CTA station, in which narratives of passengers’ memories of Chicago places are paired with Gitelson’s photographs of those places. He continues to explore the furtive behavior of people in semi-public spaces in his “Garbage Can” project, and he is currently archiving his family’s super-8 movies.

Elisa Harkins
Still active as a street artist, Harkins has branched out and incorporates this aesthetic into BFF, an art performance she does in collaboration with Hunter Husar of MahJongg, incorporating songs and animations into live music shows. She is now co-gallerist, curator and webmistress at Heaven Gallery. She has been invited to do her latest installation, “Totems,” in St. Louis and New York, but is looking for a residency that will allow her to keep it in Chicago.

Matthew Hoffman
Hoffman continues to create carved words and phrases in wood, which he then hangs on walls in playful and thoughtful installations. Some carvings are quite casual—they feature crossed-out words—whereas others are dauntingly obsessive—one piece reads “It’s OK” in an “edition of 1 million.” Hoffman has shown in Chicago at alternative spaces All Rise and Country Club. When on the street Hoffman tags with the pseudonym sighn, and he regularly shows with the collective Allegoric.

Richard Holland and Duncan MacKenzie
There’s no question that Holland and MacKenzie, along with varying collaborators, produce one of Chicago’s most significant source for visual-arts reporting, Bad at Sports. Their weekly podcast has shown us that the art of conversation did not die with the radio star. This week marks their 138th episode—quite an accomplishment for a self-produced program by working artists. When the attitude isn’t casual and catty, it’s thoughtful and pertinent, covering issues as wide-ranging as art openings and ethics. Stay tuned.

Paul Nudd
Since his show at Jack the Pelican in Brooklyn, Nudd has curated shows at Western Exhibitions, the Butcher Block and COMA. He continues to paint, and has begun a series of large 6’ x 8’ canvases, some of which can be seen at his upcoming two-person show at the Hyde Park Art Center in collaboration with Casey Ann Wasniewski.

Sabrina Raaf
Raaf continues to create kinetic sculptures that investigate the boundary between the human and the inhuman, organic and artificial life-processes. Her uncanny and genuinely disturbing work has been exhibited internationally; a recent show at the Evanston Art Center included “Iclandic Rift,” a sculpture of magnetic ferrofluid and automated magnets that imagines a zero-gravity agriculture in a way that seems to leave the earth completely behind.


E.C. Brown
Brown recently closed the California Occidental Museum of Art (COMA) exhibition series in Chicago that was co-directed with Annika Seitz. About eighteen events and art openings were celebrated in the apartment gallery since its inception in 2006. Last fall Brown exhibited at Lisa Boyle Gallery in Chicago, and currently has work up at the Co-Prosperity Sphere for Version>08. Right now he is assisting with a new short film series called SpiderBug, started with his wife Catie Olson.

Annika Seitz
Over the last few years, Seitz has been active with a small independent gallery space called the California Occidental Museum of Art, or COMA,  a.k.a. her apartment, with E.C. Brown. Collaborative projects have included a closed-circuit broadcast of the preparation of an Indian meal, in which the sharers were also the audience. Now that COMA is no more, a final show will take place on Saturday, April 26, called STOMA, “the post-op area of COMA”—this show will feature artists from the Bay Area, Chicago and Paris, and there will be a spread of erotic cakes.

Anni Holm
True to her self-proclaimed reputation as the “busiest person in Chicago,” Holm is in the process of establishing an international artist-in-residence program, organizing a three-day multimedia art event, “artXposium,” that will happen in September, and is currently exhibiting in galleries in Chicago, Syracuse, Oslo and Helsingford, Finland. She is also working on a public art commission to develop a Nature Art Park in Reed-Keppler Park in West Chicago. She also served on the jury for an Earth Day event, judging art made by kids on paper bags.

Brian Sorg
Sorg has been continuously working on the “Davey” project, a documentary about the daily life of a young man who is now a sophomore in high school. Sorg has been selected for inclusion in the upcoming New York Photo Festival. His side projects include studies of the town Bensonville, Illinois, and documenting the ongoing O’Hare modernization program. In another of his projects he is going around Chicago photographing a fountain firework called “Lady Liberty”—a project that combines conceptual brilliance with his talent for making beautiful images.

Brandon Sorg
Before disappearing into the American hinterland, Sorg had several shows in Chicago and New Jersey, and he produced work based on his travels in Japan, Turkey and the US. When he comes back from the Western Lands, we can expect to see more of his trademark landscapes marked by culture and politics.

Greg Stimac
Since his “12×12” show at the MCA, Stimac has mounted a solo exhibit in Cologne, Germany at the Kaune Sundendorf Gallery for Contemporary Photography, and he is in a group show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis called “Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes” that travels to the Carnegie in May. Curator Tim Barbar of tinyvices selected Stimac’s work to be included in the New York Photo Festival, and he will be showing work at the Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago as part of their “Lawn Nation: Art and Science of the American Lawn,” beginning in mid-May—a show not to be missed.

Nathan Baker
Since his knockout exhibition of photographs at Schneider gallery in Chicago, Baker’s series of staged spills and accidents, titled “Rupture,” has traveled to Randall Scott gallery in Washington, DC. Baker lives and works in Chicago.

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