Kelly Lloyd. “I painted the elevator doors the color of my skin. C1, 21,1—E0,13,0—KX0,22,1—V0,37,0,” 2014, acrylic on elevator doors
by Matt Morris
I had been trying to muster the holiday cheer to write a whimsical column about winter window displays when I read the news that the St. Louis County grand jury tasked with the decision to indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot eighteen-year-old Michael Brown to death in August chose not to pursue justice. Since the announcement, I’ve been in vocal and incredulous discussions over the sadistically intricate ways that political and social suppression, economic disadvantage, the bizarre militarization of police forces and even President Obama’s muted responses to this and other murders of unarmed black people have conspired in a construction of an impossibly powerful systemic racism. I’ve felt the deep urge to run. In my mind I see the text “RUN” Rashid Johnson spray-painted in white across a mirror that was included in “Message to Our Folks,” his survey at the MCA two years ago. This is a run from lynch mobs and paramilitary cops and deplorably violent histories that span centuries of America’s past.
Rashid Johnson. “Run,” 2008,
mirror with spray paint
Our society has been shaped without consideration to the personhood and value of nonwhite lives, therefore their sadness, outrage and even their deaths have not been permitted to have any impact. Confronted with this daunting problem built into the very structure of this country, my conviction that art has the potential to powerfully interject into the thick of restrictive, racist assumptions has been bolstered by several recent projects that investigate how visibility for people of color’s lives is situated into public and institutional spaces. Read the rest of this entry »
Participants in panel “The Materiality of the Image.” Panelists Daniel Gordon, Anthony Elms, Barbara Kasten and Shane Huffman being introduced by symposium organizer Laura Letinsky.
Can you trust a picture? This was the preeminent question to emerge from a daylong symposium on contemporary photographic practices hosted on November 21 at the University of Chicago. Organized by artist and UChicago faculty member Laura Letinsky, “Unsuspending Disbelief,” a symposium of three panels and several open discussions, took as its point of trajectory a conflicted ontological viewpoint of the photograph. What is the potential of a photograph to confirm what we want to believe, and to show us what we cannot see on our own? Read the rest of this entry »
By Matt Morris
“They hop between revolving scenes, juggle various professional identities, seek out and improvise ever-new situations and contexts for staging what can be recognized and evaluated by their peers as art, all squeezed into schedules already bloated with myriad non-art activity.” This is how art critic and Northwestern professor Lane Relyea depicts the contemporary art laborer in his 2014 essay “Afterthoughts on D.I.Y. Abstraction,” a digestible think piece that shares the concerns he investigated at length in his 2013 book “Your Everyday Art World.”
His take is poignantly accurate. Our town (and increasingly more of the art world) runs on multi-hyphenate cultural producers who not only make art but also curate, write, teach and run alternative galleries. We’re embedded in a pervasive labor economy that has mutated into part-time work status, short-term contracts (or no contracts) and a demand for flexibility, availability and diversified skill sets. I’ve been writing this text along with two other articles and a grossly overdue catalogue essay this week, while teaching two courses at SAIC, troubleshooting shipping and consignments for an exhibition I’m curating, and stubbornly insisting on the better part of two days in my studio because I’m falling behind in my production schedule for an exhibition next year. My workload isn’t extraordinary or even varied beyond the status quo. It’s not exceptional that I slip between myriad roles; in fact it’s all day, everyday for most of us.
While Relyea’s analysis is useful in symptomatizing our labor and, indeed, we may all be acting out tacit directives that guarantee even more insidious modes of capitalism and lifetimes of instability for a burgeoning “precaritariat,” I’ve wanted to better understand artists’ presumed motives for working across disciplines in personally attuned panoplies of creative output. I wrote to a number of other folks in Chicago to hopefully compare notes and maybe commiserate. Everyone who replied was frankly honest about diversification as a means to make a living while also holding to the possibilities that these hybrids allow (or at least once allowed) for nimble forms of criticality and subversion. Read the rest of this entry »
“Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways,” installation view, Smart Museum of Art
“Carved, Cast, Crumpled: Sculpture All Ways” plays to the museum’s strengths in depth and breadth of visual and cultural material, transforming the entire museum into an inquiry into “the essential qualities that define sculpture.” The show’s opening gambit errs heavily on the side of tradition, exhibiting mostly modern European figurative works in bronze, stone and clay. A cast concrete architectural fragment by Frank Lloyd Wright is the sole exception, though its pairing with an abstracted Lipchitz bronze figure seems to argue for the legitimacy of the former via the aura of sanctified modernism. The exhibition continues at this pace through several galleries, showing Picasso, Calder, Moore, Arp and a host of other twentieth-century Europeans and Americans. A single non-Western piece, a Guinean carved wood mask, questions the well-trodden claim linking African “primitivism” to Western developments in abstraction. Read the rest of this entry »
Josef Strau. “Raft,” 2014
The application referenced in the title of Josef Strau’s first museum exhibition in the United States, “The New World Application for Turtle Island,” is a fantastical art-and-text alternative to the formal procedures for a green card, and Turtle Island is a name given to the North American continent by its indigenous peoples. The Renaissance Society is filled with the Austrian-born nomad’s sensitively indulgent bricolage of Americana used to deconstruct histories of European invasion and colonization alongside his more personal accounts of exploring the United States and Mexico. Strau poses uneasy questions about the ethics and aesthetics that accompany cultural trade, not least of all his globetrotting presence as an after-effect of prior violent usurpations of place. His knowingly disjointed installation grapples with the conditions of being an outsider—and perhaps more confounding, an insider—in these places he holds dear. Read the rest of this entry »
Esau McGee. “Untitled Chicago Ave. Landscape,”2013, mixed medium collage, 24 x 24 inches
Selected from more than 100 nominees, the Hyde Park Art Center has announced the artists to be exhibited in its third biennial exhibition Ground Floor: Evan Baden, Hannah Barco, Greg Browe, Houston Cofield, Maggie Crowley, Barbara Diener, Assaf Evron, Andrew Holmquist, Kelly Lloyd, Jesse Malmed, Esau McGee, Ben Murray, Celeste Rapone, Kyle Schlie, Tina Tahir, Keijaun Thomas, Daniel Tucker, Ramyar Vala, Julie Weber and Nicole Wilson. All of these artists have recently completed their Masters in Fine Arts at five of Chicago’s highly ranked MFA programs: Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »
Book Release for Green Lantern Press’ PQRS in fall 2013
Green Lantern Press has announced that in October they will open Sector 2337—a new space in Logan Square that will function as both a storefront gallery and a bookstore. The space will host three exhibitions a year supplemented by a series of public programs. In addition, the Press’ online bookstore will be represented in the space with books specializing in contemporary art, poetry, theory and independent press titles. In their press release, Green Lantern Gallery & Press founder Caroline Picard and New Corpse co-director Devin King said, “By marrying these threads—contemporary exhibitions, readings, performances, poetry, and printed matter—we continue the spirit of The Green Lantern Gallery and Press, making community, culture, and discourse easily accessible to Chicago.” Read the rest of this entry »
Ruth Horwich died on Monday, July 21, at ninety-four years old. She and her late husband Leonard were renowned art collectors and supporters of numerous Chicago art institutions. Since the 1950s, they collected work by Chicago Imagists, European Surrealists, and the works of many unknown, young, self-taught and folk artists. Their collection also includes many notable examples of work by the artists Alexander Calder, Roberto Matta and Jean Dubuffet. In fact, Dubuffet’s “Monument with the Standing Beast,” a large public sculpture that stands outside the Thompson Center was a partial gift of their Leonard J. Horwich Foundation. Ruth Horwich was one of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s founders in 1967, and has been a trustee of the museum since 1984. Their collection of Calder mobiles and stabiles are part of the Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan to the MCA, and happen to be on view currently in “MCA DNA: Alexander Calder” through May 2015. MCA curator Lynne Warren wrote to Newcity with a thoughtful tribute, saying, “She was so generous to MCA; she donated pieces by Roger Brown, Barbara Rossi, Kerig Pope, Frank Piatek, Konstantin Milonadis, Anne Wilson, H.C. Westermann and others, and would be the first to step up to match grants (back in the days when governmental agencies gave purchase grants!) to acquire Chicago-based artists that she didn’t necessarily collect, including Jim Lutes, Frances Whitehead and Laurie Palmer.” (Read Warren’s full tribute below.) In total, the Horwich’s have added twenty-nine pieces to the MCA’s collection, among them Calder’s 1949 “Four Boomerangs,” Marisol’s 1962 “Jazz Wall” and the 1963 H.C. Westermann “Rosebud.” Read the rest of this entry »
Centered: Allison Reimus. “Yellow Rectangle,” acrylic on wood, 2012. Hung above a teak sideboard by Hans Wegner for Ry Mobler Denmark, with other furnishings by Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Sarrinen and Jens Quistgaard.
Earlier this week, Peanut Gallery, an exhibition space and art studio collective located in Humboldt Park announced that its lease would not be renewed in October. Peanut is one of several businesses at the corner of California Avenue and Augusta Boulevard that will be closing or relocating to make way for new developments being planned by landlord Gio Battaglia. Peanut Gallery co-owners Charlie Megna and Kelly Reaves took to the space’s Facebook page with a public explanation of their situation and future plans, “We ARE NOT CLOSING, just want to make that clear. But we are going to have to move come October and we may be taking some time off during the winter to figure out our game plan. We will still be active in the arts community and will continue on.” In advance of shuttering their current location, several exhibitions are scheduled: opening July 13, “Ugly Smile” is a group show curated by Mike Rea and Geoffrey Todd Smith, then opening in August will be an exhibition of work by David Krofta. Peanut Gallery, 1000 North California.
Earlier this month, 4th Ward Project Space was opened by three SAIC graduates, Mika Horibuchi, James Kao and Valentina Zamfirescu. As the gallery’s name suggests, it is located in Chicago’s Fourth Ward—Hyde Park, in other words. 4WPS is a decidedly non-commercial venture with goals toward creating more opportunities for artists to explore their practices without the pressures of the marketplace. When reached for comment, Kao spoke to their motivations in starting an alternative gallery, “We understand the importance of community for artists, but we also understand how the attendant privileges of wealth, whiteness and patriarchy often steer the art community away from what matters most—namely, excellent art. 4WPS aims to provide a platform for artists who may be underrepresented or typically overseen to create and exhibit works that provoke critical discourse rather than monetary gain.” Their current exhibition of video installation by Greyson Hong is on view until July 4. 4WPS, 5338 South Kimbark. Read the rest of this entry »
Giulio Cesare Casseri, “Tabulae anatomicae” (detail), 1627
Representations of the human body can never exist apart from the cultures and technologies that produce them. Two physicians—Mindy Schwartz and Brian Callender— mined the University of Chicago’s impressive collections to produce a compelling history of anatomical and medical imaging. Their findings stress the idea that medical illustrations are products of collaboration between physicians who need visualizations as guides to their practice and for teaching, and the artists who produce them. Although the exhibit begins with a woodcut in a book by the second-century Roman physician Galen, medical illustration really flourished in France because the technologies for reproduction—etching, lithography, the workshops and the craftspeople that produced and disseminated books and fine prints—were in place to record the progress of science.
Where there are artists, imagination will creep into the territories science might like to claim for observation. A large, haunting three-color engraving by Gautier D’Agoty from 1746 of the flayed back of a woman whose head is slightly turned to be available to the viewer was called the “flayed angel” by the Surrealists. The print reveals a woman’s back, and her muscle structure, while vividly dramatizing the complications of the medical gaze. Read the rest of this entry »