Salvation Army in South Africa anti-abuse campaign image
By Matt Morris
Seeing is not a solitary activity, and it’s not simple. Perception is first of all dependent on context, not only because the specificities of an experience are ascertained through contrast, but also due to the ways each of our unique acculturations informs how we see. Comprehending visual information then turns out to be a social activity, evidenced most clearly in the debates that arise when we don’t see things the same way. And of course, these turbulent discourses around what is perceived are at the expense of appreciating just how much goes unseen—through suppression, movement beyond our sensory faculties, or systemically strategic elisions in how the seen social is structured. This then is one of the often tacit but urgent responsibilities of visual culture and art: to pressure and interrogate the boundaries of perception, to render the invisible visible. Changing how we see is first perceptual but actually political work, and it’s being done across viral Internet memes, sharp-witted turns in how organizations understand multicultural diversity, and artistic research into invisibility. Read the rest of this entry »
Garth and Pierre. “HEAD(S),” 2014
photographs mounted to bank pins
Among the four wildly diverse approaches to representing the human body photographically on display here, Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s is the most inventive, although not the most meaningful. Dewey-Hagborg picks up cigarette butts and discarded chewing gum off the city sidewalks (depicted in her color shots), subjects the detritus to DNA analysis, runs the genetic profiles through a facial algorithm, and produces 3D resin portraits that presumably resemble the people who left the remains of their consumption for the scavenger-artist to appropriate (the droppings also grace her mini-installation). The three particular subjects whose faces look out at us from the gallery wall are all young, attractive and relentlessly clean, with an airbrushed appearance that belies the butts and gum from which they have been reconstructed. Read the rest of this entry »
Alexandria Eregbu. “Zion,” 2015
drywall, track spikes
This joint exhibition of new works by recent SAIC graduates Alexandria Eregbu and Alfredo Salazar-Caro is a deft combination of divergent practices fused at a fertile point of departure. As the exhibition title implies, movement begot by conflict and political turmoil is the underlying theme of the work on hand and sets the stage for interpretation. Although each artist draws from their own backgrounds—Salazar-Caro addresses immigration and the United States-Mexico border while Eregbu seizes on a constellation of issues touching on the legacy of slavery, the rise of Boko Haram and stereotypes of African athleticism—the works appear contiguously in the gallery with a rhythmic harmony that unites the sculpture and video (and video game) therein. Visual continuities set side-by-side link Salazar-Caro’s “From Space There Are No Borders,” a vinyl printout of a satellite image of the United States-Mexico border hung from floor to ceiling, with Eregbu’s “Zion,” an oblong slab of drywall set upright against the street-facing window bank covered in a pattern of track shoe spikes. Together the formal beauty of the shiny, textured pattern of spikes and the colorful composition of digitally stitched satellite pictures belie the sinister implications of violence and exclusion folded carefully into these works. Read the rest of this entry »
Jeff Gibson. “Product (detail),” 2014,
ink-jet wallpaper, dimensions variable
Jeff Gibson culls images from the internet’s massive store, choosing JPEGs of products silhouetted against white backgrounds, highlighted perfectly by their surrounding vacuous atmosphere. When combined, the images call out to each other in a fashion not immediately recognizable, playing against the objects’ shiny machinery or garish design. “My roots are in pop and conceptualism so a lot of my subject matter is from popular culture and bears that stain, and I am only happy to rub the world’s nose in,” says Gibson. Gibson views all his images as products, calling attention to the aesthetics of consumerism via visual taxonomies. Read the rest of this entry »
Wherever artist Puppies Puppies exhibits, he has a knack for sensitively responding to the conditions and qualities of that context while bringing forward his own nuanced fascinations with Internet memes, popular culture and fantasy. Whether on his irrepressibly funny Facebook page or in recent exhibitions in Chicago, Oaxaca, Los Angeles and Japan, Puppies draws together signs of our times to be repackaged and redistributed in a spirit of generosity that also usually compels him to bring a few of his friends in to collaborate with him or appear in his stead. He never shies away from the weird; uncanny juxtapositions are central to his milieu.
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Alfredo Salazar-Caro. “I Don’t Need Power at the Cost of Spilled Blood (Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité),” 2014
A booming drone engulfs you as you enter the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, a vicious vibrating to the chest and inner ear. This omnipresent noise is the first sensation in GlitChicago, an exhibition of Chicago glitch art—work surrounding the errors seen in digital systems—and showcases the work of twenty-two artists. Many of the works are interactive, expressing core tenants of Glitch Art, including “0P3NR3P0,” 2014, a project that allows anyone to submit their own Glitch work to the open-source database, put on by Nick Briz and Joseph YOlk Chiocchi. Jon Cates’ piece “?4\/\/?(?)H?!\/?,” 2014, displays a bricked sculpture holding a USB drive that contains a compressed archive of Glitch Art for free download—data in which Cates has collected and archived for the last fifteen years and contains more than 113.13 GBs. The data has never been shared publicly before this exhibition, and contains media such as photos, videos and emails, adding a further digital layer to the hyper-focused new media-centered exhibition. Read the rest of this entry »
Adam Schreiber. “Untitled,” chromogenic print, 2013
Earlier this month the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts announced its 2014 grant cycle, awarding over $520,000 to sixty-eight projects that further the Graham’s mission of supporting work that expands and reconsiders ideas in architecture through exhibitions, films, publications and research projects across a range of media. Of the many international grantees, nine are based in Chicago, at close range to the Graham, which is housed in the historic Madlener House in our city’s Gold Coast. Read the rest of this entry »
Project Projects’ “Test Fit”
By Jason Foumberg
A new method of curating diverges from the standard model of curator-as-expert, but instead of watering down the practice by crowd-sourcing, this new train-of-thought curating culls from the seemingly endless stream of digital images in order to casually organize them. The exhibition is infinite. Image-sourced exhibitions, whether in real gallery spaces or online, tend to flatten the collected images and emphasize their logic of connections. It’s a loose logic. The organizational flow emphasizes the personality of the organizer, as well as the conditions of browsing and receiving images in a fast-paced viewing environment, rather than the slow contemplation of single images or masterpieces.
This is the case in “Test Fit,” an experimental exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, facilitated by the museum’s curatorial department of design in which the NYC-based graphic design team Project Projects (composed of Rob Giampietro, Prem Krishnamurthy and Adam Michaels) plucked images from the museum’s permanent collection database and arranged reproductions of art objects—paintings, drawings, decorative objects and more—into an idiosyncratic display in the Modern Wing. No original art objects are included, the walls are painted mental-institution blue, and the reproduced images are all printed in black-and-white, at their original sizes. The effect of the associative image collection is almost convincing as a romp through Project Projects’ brain, but it’s their object labels that are most original. Accompanying Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s “Nuclear 1, CH,” the label reads: “This is a painting of the end of the world. What is your strongest memory of the sky? In the city, it always looks like an illusion.” Each image is appended with these daydream narratives. The real Moholy-Nagy painting can be viewed downstairs, in another exhibition. Read the rest of this entry »
Molly Springfield, from “The Proto-History of the Internet”
By Jason Foumberg
If there was an awkward reveal during “Publication in the Expanded Field,” Triple Canopy’s presentation this past March (as part of Columbia College’s Interdisciplinary Arts Department visiting artist program) of their Internet art magazine, it didn’t come via their slogan, “Slowing down the Internet,” nor in their ability to convince writers and artists to transform their materials into purely digital terms, such as a downloadable program that randomly casts shadows across your desktop, nor in their conviction that technology is finally satisfying both the archival impulse and the creative drive. No, the eye-opening moment arrived as an aside during the Q&A: Triple Canopy, the art magazine on the cutting edge of the digital divide, confessed the hope to one day anthologize its online magazine into a printed book. It’s too expensive to keep up with ever-evolving technology, said their web developer, so a book would be permanent, a safeguard against the dematerialization of electronic content. This reversal, this coveting of the physical, ink-and-paper format by a new media group, turns the crisis of the publishing industry on its head. We have experienced the future of the published page, and it is inadequate.
If Triple Canopy were a book, it might read like “Blast Counterblast,” a newly published collection of artists’ writings and short fiction from the WhiteWalls imprint, edited by Anthony Elms and Steve Reinke. Both Triple Canopy and “Blast Counterblast” envision an ideal reader who wants to be educated, inspired and surprised, all at once—and they push readers through exciting interfaces and design enhancements. Triple Canopy presents text as a multimedia experience, and the essays in “Blast Counterblast” have words heightened with colored ink, like suggestions for hyperlinks that the reader must connect. These modifications are subtle, respecting the fact that content should ensnare readers too. Read the rest of this entry »
from the 256 project
By Jason Foumberg
It seems like centuries have passed since the term “cyberspace” sparkled with hope for a technological utopia where we could zip along the information super highway direct to the future. That route, if you recall, was plastered with animated GIFs, those cartoonish website animations of such snazzy effects as rainbow text spinning on its axis and dancing emoticons. The Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, was a primitive tool, producing pixelated images in limited color palettes and, like many things that live and die on the Internet, was quietly replaced by more complex codes and software. Yet, as long as there is old technology there will be old-technology enthusiasts, and the animated GIF, like many other bad habits from the 1980s, is making a comeback in a big way.
Visual artists are on the front line of the GIF renaissance, and it’s not a big leap to consider animated GIFs as artworks. They can be entrancing, visually punchy, funny, strange or boring, and many have become iconic. Artists are not only creating new animations in the 8-bit format, but also constructing complicated GIFs using new software, and others are acting in a curatorial way to harvest classic GIFs from the early Internet, archive them, and re-present them in educational contexts. Read the rest of this entry »