The Comfort Station in Logan Square
My first exposure to Comfort Station coincided with Matthew Hoffman’s 2013 exhibition “Independence.” A mysterious placard was erected in the shadow of the Illinois Centennial Monument. Like most of Hoffman’s work, it was aggressively present on social networks. In the background of some of the photos was a puzzling Tudor-style building that looked comically out of place in trendy Logan Square. The text read: “A motivational sign in a grassy field is nice and all, but it’s not going to do the hard work for you. That’s up to you.”
This wording resonates with the ethos and initiative of Comfort Station. It is a unique architectural landmark that places equal emphasis on both programming and exhibitions. In a recent conversation I had with both of the directors, Jordan Martins characterized their vision as such: “We identify as an ‘art space’ not just due to the exhibitions, but through all of our programs as a totality. The most important thing for us is the plurality, multiplicity and simultaneity of these events and programs and how they activate the space.” 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 »
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 »
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 »
Originally named newspace Chicago, curators Patricia Courson and Rachel Adams opened their habitated apartment gallery in April of 2006. Situated in a non-descript building next to the Chopin Theater, the gallery isn’t obvious—even with its new name, Lloyd Dobler Gallery—but with exciting shows like the current and successful “Spaces into Places” and upcoming shows of thirty artists designing a 1″x1″ button that will be displayed in the gallery and a video screening, “Really Rad Videos Part Deux,” Chicagoans need to take notice. I caught up with Courson to talk about the gallery’s evolution.
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“Quirky”: far out, offbeat, unconventional, whimsical.
Susan Gescheidle, entering her fifth year as a gallerist in a new West Loop space, describes the art she exhibits as “quirky.”
But is “quirky” commercially viable? In culinary arts for sure—people spend as much for quirky food by a trendy chef as they might for a work of art, and wait months for a reservation. In fashion, quirky also sells big—I’ve seen esoteric sneakers in San Francisco that go for four figures on back-order. But in visual arts most people seem more conservative, and Gescheidle is continuously challenged to make her gallery self-sustaining. After all, what’s quirky to some is arbitrary and freaky to others. “My relatives think I should sell pictures of flowers and kitty cats,” she laughs, “but I like edgy contemporary work, dark and mysterious.”
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