This is the fifth installment of the Visiting Artist column. Here, Marissa Lee Benedict reflects on several of her art-research projects, of “propositions.” Benedict shows at Threewalls (119 North Peoria) through June 13.
Located on the border of Illinois and Indiana, off of Avenue O, Wolf Lake is neatly bisected by the state border; an invisible geopolitical line made visible by a two-lane road running vertically through the middle of the body of water at a precise longitude of 87º31’W.
Wolf Lake was first brought to my attention a few months ago, as I discussed my need to find water sources from which I could collect algal samples; sites which would speak to my interest in finding dis/connections. While I was sitting in his studio a few months ago, David Allan Rueter mentioned that last year he had driven down to Wolf Lake to walk its shores, tracing the edges of the fractured lake by foot.
Walking the shoreline of Wolf Lake, it’s difficult to find soil, the road and dikes being mostly composed of slag, gravel and lakefill. I’m afraid that most of what passes for soil is, in fact, dirt: soil’s less microbially active cousin. Wolf Lake, along with neighboring Calumet Lake, was once among the most biologically diverse pockets in the Midwest. To take a water or soil sample from Wolf Lake 150 years ago would have been to collect a cosmic paraphernalia of organisms. A century of heavy industrial use by the surrounding steel mills has radically reduced this biodiversity, but despite this, I have hope that the samples I collect will come alive. With the chill of winter on the lake, the ground is still frozen in early March. Many of the organisms will be dormant, arrested in their metabolic activity by the freezing cold. I’m un/certain of what I will find as I dip my hands into the frigid waters, my fingers going numb and lifeless as I walk back and forth across the state line, filling two containers: one from the Indiana side of the waters, and one from the Illinois. Read the rest of this entry »
Cover by Edie Fake, 2011 Breakout Artist
By Jason Foumberg, with contributions from Abraham Ritchie, Bert Stabler, Pedro Velez and Meredith Wilson.
What is contemporary Chicago art? What is a contemporary Chicago artist? These used to be dirty questions, ones you didn’t want to answer because they could pin you down, box and tag you, and file you away. Remember Chicago Imagism? Yeah, we can’t forget it. It’s enough to say that contemporary Chicago art is not a thing; it is an ecology. In other words, it is alive, and its diversity keeps it thriving.
This is our tenth annual selection of Breakout Artists. Each year, a handful of artists catch our eye—at exhibitions, in studios, or on the web, and we recognize something Chicago-ripened about their way of being and making. We want to press pause on the streaming channel of contemporary reality, and say, hey, this is what right now looks like. We want you to see it, too.
This is the fourth installment of the Visiting Artist column. Paul Hopkin is an artist and founder of Slow, a gallery in his home in Pilsen.
An exhibition at Slow by artist Theodore Horner, age 10.
Before I ever took studio art classes, I met a painter, became interested in his practice and purchased work from him. I still have it hanging in my apartment. Living with art has taught me plenty about how to see.
We tend to visit culture rather than live with it. Art is in a museum. Sure, we hang things to adorn our walls—to decorate—but we expect that people with “real art” are wealthier than us. Is it strange that students who dedicate their education and lives to studying and producing art have often never lived with any? Do we expect someone else to support the arts?
Just as I can eat a healthy diet—not junk food—on a limited budget, I can afford to live surrounded by brilliant ways of seeing. I can have a richer life without ever owning work by someone famous, can find immense variety inside of modesty. For every famous artist there are literally thousands of brilliant points of view that will remain unknown, unless we seek them out and bring them home.
We need to live with art to get to the better parts of it. True, some art is made to be experienced in a gallery. Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” is a thrilling artwork to experience away from home, just as in upscale restaurants we certainly eat decadent, exotic ingredients. In both cases we are better for not having to live with such indulgence. With art, we don’t always need to own something so over-the-top to find satisfaction. Read the rest of this entry »
“It was all Melissa’s doing,” eighty-five-year-old John Wehmer says by way of explanation, referring to Columbia, Missouri gallerist Melissa Williams. Last spring Williams visited Wehmer in his home on a hunch and eventually convinced him to unearth a body of two dozen large abstract paintings, many of which had been unseen in storage for decades, in a show that will now open at the McCormick Gallery this weekend after a stunningly successful showing in Missouri. The exhibition offers yet more evidence of the undersung role of Midwestern artists in mid-century abstract painting. Read the rest of this entry »
Harvard economist Richard Freeman has called this generation of twenty-somethings “lost,” which is a nice way to say screwed. Underemployed and underpaid, floundering in an anemic economy, it’s a terrifying time to start a business. Lisa Muscato and Sean Murty, the owners of the fledgling combination shop and art gallery Paperish Mess, don’t seem too worried.
Their project of opening a shop has a reckless bravery to it. The couple staked their own money in Paperish Mess, which features a lovingly curated collection of objects from more than seventy-five independent artists and a rotating art installation. Lisa and Sean have yet to draw paychecks from the store, but then again, “a paycheck was never something we wanted to base our lives around,” they say. Instead, they see themselves, and their shop, as serving a “greater good.”
“We’re building up a community of artists that will appeal to people… we want people to come in and be inspired… empowered to do whatever they want,” says Lisa. “Local businesses are better for vendors, for artists, for owners, for the community. We saw a lot of vacant spaces, not a lot of local businesses, and we want to invest in the neighborhood… Better a space like ours in a storefront than a corporation.” Read the rest of this entry »
Aron Gent and Betsy O’Brien, “Uncomfortable Spaces,” 2013. Courtesy of the artists and Heaven Gallery
This is the third installment of the Visiting Artist column. In this installment, we reprint a letter Shannon Stratton wrote to the Chicago art community and read aloud at the 2013 CAA conference in New York.
I have been thinking about reaching out to you, but I haven’t. I haven’t written the words. The email. The text. I haven’t picked up the phone.
I have been thinking about you, I really have. I have been thinking about what you do for me… have you been thinking about me?
I have been thinking about gifts. I have been thinking about gifs. I have been thinking about ceremonies. I have been thinking about throwing ten parties. I have been thinking about constellations. I have been thinking about you, but I haven’t called and said thank you. Read the rest of this entry »
The phrase “sofa king” calls to mind that ubiquitous image of Homer Simpson, splayed out on his poop-brown living-room couch. It’s a Sunday afternoon in Springfield, of any state and town in the USA, and the pear-shaped Homer is clad only in white briefs; he balances a half-empty Duff beer on his belly while he snoozes and drools. The television blares the usual noise—news, sports, Itchy ‘n Scratchy. This everyman is king of the sofa for a day—or at least until Monday morning.
Christopher Smith decided to name his apartment gallery Sofa King in homage to this type of mundane existence. And with a generic, wholly American name like Christopher Smith, the artist believes in the power of the American man, whose name and habits may be indistinguishable from any other.
“When I Google image search my full name, I get mug shots of British criminals,” says Smith. “With a name like mine I have to find affirmation in the generic or I’m toast.” Read the rest of this entry »
It was something of a spectacle. In 1975 the American counterculture gathered at Columbia University in New York for a symposium on the subject of madness and prisons. “I didn’t realize it at first, but I was looking for a way out of academia,” Sylvère Lotringer remembers. Professor of French literature and philosophy at Columbia and editor of the avant-garde journal Semiotext(e), Lotringer organized the “Schizo-Culture” conference as a way to discuss the practice of torture conducted in psychiatric and penal institutions. He invited a medley of street and academia, grassroots activists and radical philosophers, for a colloquium that itself dissolved into madness. “Are you a writer or are you a militant?” Michel Foucault asked the mob of more than two-thousand participants. “I think that question is passé.”
Thirty years after this event, Chicago artist, activist and educator Mary Patten revives the forgotten dialogue of “Schizo-Culture.” In her four-channel video installation, titled “Panel,” she directed four performers to re-enact the debate among Foucault, the post-structuralist philosopher; R. D. Laing, radical anti-psychiatrist; Howie Harp, former mental patient; and political activist Judy Clark. The setting is austere—white table, glass water pitcher, cigarette, ashtray, notebook, pen. Read the rest of this entry »
Fred Burkhart/Photo: Jacob Knabb
By Bill Hillmann
Seventy-one-year-old photographer Fred Burkhart is a photo-documentary artist who has focused on various marginalized groups over his forty-five-year career. He has documented the Summer of Love in California, S&M groups, the homeless, the Gay Pride movement and others. Burkhart says he’s taken hundreds of thousands of photos in his lifetime. Many artists like to boast that they’d die for their art; Burkhart almost did. He was working on a photo-documentary on the Klu Klux Klan in 1995. After they found out he didn’t support their beliefs the KKK beat him to near-death.
Burkhart isn’t just a photographer; he also paints, draws and writes poetry and prose. He even sings. Burkhart created an arts-community in his old home on Halsted near Diversey. He called it The Burkhart Underground and it ran from 1995 to 2009. It was a Beat Generation-inspired open-mic and gallery that nurtured generations of young Chicago artists including Andreas Kapsalis, Sabrina Chap and myself.
A few years ago Burkhart fell ill with prostate cancer. It didn’t stop him from winning a Windy City Story Slam All-City Championship. The cancer has worsened and spread into his bones; his diagnosis gives Burkhart one month to live. This past January 19, after four-and-a-half decades of taking photos, Burkhart had the very first solo photography opening of his career, at Alibi Fine Art gallery. It was a raucous success, with a line out the door for most of the evening.
I traveled to Burkhart’s home in Uptown recently to talk with my spitfire, old friend. He still looks like an urban wizard. If the doctors are correct this may be one of Burkhart’s last conversations with Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »
Sam Lipp and Luis Miguel Bendaña/Photo: Ratko Radojcic
The name of Pilsen’s newest apartment gallery, Queer Thoughts, originated from its acronym rather than the other way around. Gallery directors Sam Lipp and Luis Miguel Bendaña dubbed it QT because the modest third-floor showroom off 18th Street is, well, cute. About the size of a walk-in closet, the room has pristine white walls and bright white fluorescents. A nearby closet functions as a video-screening room for the current exhibition by Thomas Schleinstein, a New York-based artist whose video shows hazy, unintelligible activity filmed through an ice cube. The main gallery appears empty at first glance, but further inspection reveals white spots intermittently painted on the white wall at eye level. Schleinstein sent specific installation instructions with the work: the circles were to be equally spaced at seventy-inch intervals.
Lipp describes the gallery’s program as focused on “post-identity” artwork. Post-identity is a relatively new buzzword that implies a sense of acknowledging one’s identity, be it sexual, racial or otherwise, and then moving on. Instead of looking through the lens of identity or pushing it aside altogether, post-identity art looks above it. Read the rest of this entry »