Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago

Profile of a Web Platform: Contemporary Art Daily

Curator Profiles, Multimedia No Comments »
Contemporary Art Daily staff from left to right: Bryce Dwyer, Brook Sinkinson Withrow, Maddie Reyna, Forrest Nash

Contemporary Art Daily staff from left to right: Bryce Dwyer, Brook Sinkinson Withrow, Maddie Reyna, Forrest Nash

Since its premiere in 2008, Contemporary Art Daily (CAD) has become one of the most popular online resources for what’s hot in international exhibitions. Founded by the Chicago based artist/critic Forrest Nash, CAD posts documentation from seven to eleven international exhibitions of contemporary art a week. Nash is joined by InCUBATE’s Bryce Dwyer, Julius Caesar’s Maddie Reyna and Forever and Always’ Brook Sinkinson Withrow.

CAD’s postings notably lack a critical position—free of commentary and support text. This has led to questions as to what degree CAD operates as a journalistic enterprise, providing a survey of international art on a given week, and to what degree its selections are motivated by a curatorial impetus. In a conversation with Newcity Art, managing editor Dwyer elucidated on the group’s process and provided insights as to its mission. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: What It Means for Chicago to be in the Middle

Curator Profiles 1 Comment »
Curator and artist Christopher K. Ho

Curator and artist Christopher K. Ho

By Christopher K. Ho

Christopher K. Ho was recently curator in residence at the Hyde Park Art Center to co-organize “The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle,” an exhibition and events series that considers the role of the art center in its seventy-fifth anniversary year. Ho is also an artist, art educator and writer, and is based in New York.

Grunt work undergirds a lot of creative industries, including art making, even though its value and importance is often overlooked. The contemporary art world loves outliers and geniuses. But there is a broad swathe in the middle that has been going at it for many years, and it’s the characteristics of this group that I and my co-curators Allison Peters Quinn and Megha Ralapati wanted to highlight in “The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle.”

“The Chicago Effect” proposes civic engagement as an alternative to the ideologically pitched political and activist art that dominated our field after the late 1960s. When I was at Cornell and Columbia, that is what I was taught; “1968” had become institutionalized through participants who later became professors. Today, reexamining the middle is ever more pressing. The exhibition looks at compromise positively. It’s not about taking a politically extreme position, whether left or right, but trying to occupy both your own and your opposite’s viewpoints: a moderate position. Like that swathe of artists who fall between outliers and geniuses, the transformative potential of the socio-political middle ground is underestimated. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Mural Crusader

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photo

By Jason Foumberg

Lauren Pacheco wants to boost Chicago’s street-art scene, but city policy has her up against the wall.

Chicago has a reputation as a Mecca of public art, but official public art campaigns tend to grow only on the new construction of libraries, police stations and senior centers, and rehabbed CTA stations. Meanwhile, long stretches of derelict railroad and viaduct walls cut through communities. People call this blight.

Lauren Pacheco drives around Pilsen looking for heavily tagged walls and studies gang territory heat maps to scout locations for new street murals. “Put a mural up in that area and, in some cases, it immediately stops the gang tags,” says Pacheco. “Most of the time, murals are respected.”

Pacheco is the assistant to Alderman Danny Solis of the 25th Ward, which includes Pilsen, Chinatown, Tri-Taylor, Heart of Chicago, Little Italy and portions of the West Loop and South Loop. With Alderman Solis, Pacheco developed a plan to boost the production of legally sanctioned street art and community murals, called the Art in Public Places Community Arts Initiative (AiPP). Alderman Solis and Pacheco have been very successful, commissioning sixty murals in just two years. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: A Fresh Look at SoHo in the 1970s

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Gordon Matta-Clark, Suzanne Harris and Tina Girouard

Gordon Matta-Clark, Tina Girouard and Suzanne Harris

By Jason Foumberg

Jessamyn Fiore never met Gordon Matta-Clark, but he has always been part of her life. “I grew up in a loft that my mother and Gordon had converted from a factory building,” in downtown New York City, says Fiore. “We had his art around. His family was like my family. His friends were like my friends.” Matta-Clark died in 1978, and two years later Fiore was born to his widow, Jane Crawford. “Once Gordon passed away, my mother devoted her life to his work and his legacy,” says Fiore.

Although Matta-Clark was just thirty-five when cancer ended his life and his prolific art career, the art world wasn’t ready to sweep him into the dustbin of art history. And we still haven’t—no doubt due, in part, to the hard work of caring for his estate, a tremendous task that Crawford and Fiore now share, as of last year.

As co-director of the estate, Fiore, thirty-two, has not simply inherited the wealth of an important artist; Fiore has what she calls a “creative relationship” with Matta-Clark’s legacy, as if he were her art-father, his ideals about art and community fostering her own belief system.

Fiore’s story is fascinating because it reveals how an artist’s reputation is sustained, in our modern curriculum and imagination. It is not simply that a powerful dealer releases major artworks into the market at strategic moments; the legacy of an artist like Matta-Clark stays alive because an advocate like Fiore works to connect the core values of his artwork with those that are relevant to today’s artists. Fiore identifies a spirit of collaborative artistic empowerment in the work of Matta-Clark and his peers that resonates with today’s artist-centric art world.

“What is the role that friendships play within an artistic community, and within an artist’s practice?” asks Fiore. She has expanded her inquiry beyond Matta-Clark to look at 112 Greene Street, a live-and-work art center in a converted factory building, known by its street address, that incubated New York City’s political, post-minimal, feminist, performance and experimental art in the seventies. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Break: Amy Zahi on Curating

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130417_NinaArtShow_40No one cares about BFA students. Critics and curators want to deal with MFA students. The BFA students get ignored or not taken seriously as professional artists. They’re constantly hearing advice about getting out into the art world, but they don’t know anybody. They‘re afraid of just walking up to someone at an opening and saying hi. They don’t know who Michael Darling is. Someone had to teach me, too. Sabina Ott’s professional practice class [at Columbia College] changed my life. She took us out to see Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Mary Jane Jacobs, Claudine Ise, Michelle Grabner, Natasha Egan, J.C. Steinbrunner, Chicago Artists’ Coalition (Cortney Lederer, Tempestt Hazel, Sara Slawnik), and a slew of practicing on-the-ground artists.

For the exhibition [at the Arcade Gallery], the idea was to match five BFA candidates in their senior year with five professional working artists. Almost all of the BFA students are not going off to grad school after they graduate; they’re going to stay in Chicago and start art practices. What’s next? they ask. Or, I’m scared and I need to find a job. The show was an opportunity for the students to get out into the Chicago art world. They don’t know anybody but their own teachers. I wanted the students to see examples of artists who have graduated and entered the art world, to see artist practices and how they evolve over time. The students had to travel to their studios, research these artists’ works, be involved in choosing the pieces to exhibit (theirs and the artists), get their artwork show-ready, and be present to install. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: Changes at the Arts Club of Chicago

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Janine Mileaf

By Janina Ciezadlo

Despite the current belief in most quarters of the miraculous powers of social media, Janine Mileaf, the newly installed director of the Arts Club of Chicago, believes strongly in “bodies in a room together, generating ideas.” Her model is the salon culture of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France, presided over by educated women. Almost a century of wealthy imaginative women—the Arts Club was founded in 1916 by a woman—precede Mileaf as directors of the Arts Club. While Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were cultivating Picasso and the American expats of the early twentieth century, Rue Winterbotham Carpenter, the founder and first president of the Arts Club, brought the first exhibition of Picasso’s drawings to Chicago, and exhibited work by Leger, Rouault and Brancusi, while hosting performances by Martha Graham and Sergei Prokofiev. Chicago was “cultivating deep conversations in the salon tradition,” as Mileaf describes it, about contemporary art among the members of the club a decade before the Museum of Modern Art opened in New York. Many of the works introduced by members of the Arts Club became the foundation for the Art Institute of Chicago’s modern European collection. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of a Curator: Amelia Ishmael

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Amelia Ishmael described the opening reception of “Black Thorns in the White Cube” with the excitement of a teenager recapping her night at a concert. “Before anyone showed up, Scott [Speh] and I were listening to cars drive by and I thought that was really special. And there was this excellent rumble across the sky—never a thunderstorm, just this rumble, and I was like ‘Oh! Odin came!’” Ishmael is a self-described listener, although her curated exhibition of Black Metal genre art did not have any sonic components. Ishmael pronounces the work “black” with an enjoyment that seems to reflect her years of intense concentration on what the word represents. She moves weightlessly, hopping a bit when she gets excited.

“This is work that I want to see in an art gallery,” says Ishmael. “When I started thinking about this exhibition, I started looking around to see if anyone had put together a show like this. There are some people working with metal music, but no one had done an [art] exhibition focusing purely on Black Metal.” Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of a Museum Director: Lisa Corrin

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It is a brilliant coup for Chicago’s art community that, on February 1, Lisa Corrin took the reigns as the Ellen Philips Katz Director of Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art. Corrin relocated to Evanston from her directorship at the Williams College Museum of Art, and prior to that, as Deputy Director of Art at the Seattle Art Museum, where she oversaw the commission of major works of public art in the Olympic Sculpture Park. Like several of Chicago’s newest museum directors, notably at the AIC and the MCA, Corrin is a former museum curator. She is a champion of contemporary art, and widely respected in her field for co-organizing Fred Wilson’s 1992 groundbreaking exhibition “Mining the Museum,” which essentially threw open the doors of the institutional critique genre.

How will Corrin position her own brand of advocacy for contemporary art in a city that is nearly saturated with major contemporary art institutions? I recently spoke with Corrin about her priorities for the Block Museum and how she envisions the museum’s role within the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Eye Exam: The Slow Way

Curator Profiles, Pilsen No Comments »

Jason Dunda's "Portrait of Paul Hopkin as the most Beautiful Effigy in the World"

By Jason Foumberg

Paul Hopkin is an artist who opened Slow gallery in August 2009 in a west Pilsen storefront. Slow is a curatorial project where Hopkin pairs two (and sometimes three) artists in an exhibition to see a conversation emerge. We chatted about his practice and vision for the gallery.

Tell me about the name Slow.

I am really interested in food, and have been forever. I used to automatically mistrust any artist who didn’t know their way around a kitchen. The connection of slow food and slow art is not coincidental.

Can you explain the practice of curating two-person shows, rather than solo shows?

Solo shows always “work,” but they seem to encourage the dreaded like/dislike response. It is hard to get someone to look at a show of a single artist and encourage them to think about what they are seeing at the same time. Pairing work in ways that are less obvious can draw out tensions, illuminate peculiarities in an artist’s point of view. That content often makes itself apparent as tension or a giggle rather than as a concise answer. Theme shows can dumb down too—they can simply generate an internal checklist—yup, that one is about robots too.

I fell for art because it was introduced to me as a way to change the way people see. I am still in love with the power and problems that that offers. The way I put shows together allows me to put something out in the world that is my take on things, but still keeps the artist’s work front and center. Read the rest of this entry »

Laughing at/with the Art World: Inside the weird enterprise of the Reeder family

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Photo: Colleen Durkin

By Ella Christoph

There’s no hiding at Club Nutz—the comedy club nestled into the second floor of a building on Clark and Hubbard Streets is a tiny, twelve by twelve foot space. Darkly lit with a spotlight on the stage, small balconies give some viewers a tiny bit more breathing room. Still, performers can’t avoid looking audience members in the eye, and vice versa. The club, the brainchild of brothers Scott and Tyson Reeder, and Scott’s wife Elysia Borowy-Reeder, sells itself on the claim that it’s the world’s smallest comedy club, as though that is something people seek out. But the owners claim it makes comedy way, way better. Scott compares it to watching a movie on a plane and laughing out loud even when the movie’s not funny. “There’s something about that enclosed space, and the fact that you might die, that leads to heightened emotions,” he says. It’s the same at Club Nutz. “Even a bad act has a certain intensity to it.”

The intimacy raises the stakes of the event—if a joke falls flat, there’s no hiding. Scott says there’s one serial performer that has shown up at Club Nutz a number of times. “He just told all these terrible facts about his life,” Scott says, laughing. “I mean they were terrible, a really rough childhood, and he didn’t present them in any funny way. And the content—I mean it was kind of funny, but it was heartbreaking. I don’t know if it would work at a normal comedy club. There’s something about the scale of it where it’s more intimate, or people can feel comfortable sharing something like that.”

The Reeders often work with small spaces. First and foremost visual artists, the comedy club is just the latest venture in their series of weird enterprises. Beginning in 2002, the Reeders curated at The Wrong Gallery in New York. The smallest exhibition space in New York, it was “nothing more than an expensive-looking glass door identical to those of the Chelsea white cubes it satirized,” the Reeders write. Designed and curated by class clown of the art world Maurizio Cattelan, Ali Subotnick and Massimiliano Gioni, The Wrong Gallery crossed lines without ever opening its doors. Peeking through the locked single glass door, labelled with the gallery’s irreverent name in simple black type, viewers could see whatever art they exhibited on the brick wall of the gallery, which had two-and-a-half square feet of floor space. After being evicted from its New York location in 2005, it moved to the Tate, where it exhibited pieces like Dorothy Iannone’s “orgasm box,” a colorfully decorated box framing video of Iannone’s face as she masturbated. Read the rest of this entry »