Bertram Litoff. “Untitled,” c. 2003-2005, digital photographs of paused live television, 4″ x 7″ prints.
The group show “Documentia,” which explores the drive to document from meditative to compulsory, feels right at home in SideCar, an old residential house that has been converted into exhibition space. The most remarkable work was not created by a trained artist but rather found by curator Erik Wenzel: digital photographs of still-frame prime-time television taken by amateur photographer Bertram Litoff. Displayed in simple clear sleeves in rows of three, many of the images focus on TV news personalities reminiscent of Robert Heinecken’s 1980s “Newswomen,” but Litoff’s inclusion of random animal scenes confuses any linear narrative for his hunting. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Weird Telephone, Only Dials One Number. Black, Western Electric model 2500.
A phone that only dials one number—(270)301-5797—may be useless to most people. But such a phone is at the heart of Video Game Art (VGA) Gallery’s one-day exhibition, “Weird Telephone, Only Dials One Number.” Curiosity may lure people to The Nightingale, the event’s host, this Saturday, March 21; visitors could also be drawn to the partnerships between several organizations sharing similar interests. Together, this collaboration can elicit discoveries, interactions and new experiences among attendees in The Nightingale’s interdisciplinary, mixed-use space. Read the rest of this entry »
Lori Felker. “A Trip to Always Falls,” 2015,
video projection and headphones, seventeen-minute loop
“Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure” declares its ethos with clarity and directness in advance of any art. There is no irony in this claim nor in the work, a diverse presentation of mixed media that represents the culmination of six artists’ recent Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH residencies. Curated by HATCH resident Erin Toale, the exhibition meditates on David Foster Wallace’s notion of the “anti-rebel,” an imagined figure whose earnest and dogged effort, Foster suggests, might be the much needed antidote to all that is too cool in today’s hip culture. Accordingly, the artists here are visibly struggling, not with the quest of “making it” but with questions of practice and identity, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »
Meg Duguid standing with her installation “Supercomputer” at Slow in Pilsen.
After a dreary trek through Pilsen’s sludge-laden sidewalks, I’m happy to see Meg Duguid waving enthusiastically to me from inside the fogged windows of Slow. Paul, the gallery’s director, stands to her left and Yesterday, the gallery’s canine mascot, faithfully on her right.
On an evening just as dreary in 2005, Duguid entered a tiny bookshop in Brooklyn. Browsing for nothing but a way to kill some time between her side jobs and studies, she happened across a book that contained a screenplay James Agee wrote for Charlie Chaplin in 1947. Inspired and intrigued, she sent an unsolicited letter to the Agee foundation, requesting to bring to life the script that had—for whatever reason—remained unproduced. The foundation’s answer was no, and Duguid moved on.
Flashing forward in time and back to the Midwest, the backsides of fifteen stacked televisions rise to greet me as I enter Slow. Large blue and orange extension cords twist and tangle their way toward electrical outlets on either side of the gallery, powering the luminescent glow coming from the anterior of the electrical blockade. The piece is silent, save for a high-pitched drone coming from the circuitries. Read the rest of this entry »
From left to right; Sanford Biggers (photo credit Alex Freund), Sandra Delgado (photo credit Janna Giacoppo), Nari Ward (courtesy of the artist Lehmann Maupin New York and Hong Kong) and Roberto Carlos Lange (photo credit Molly Donahue).
The Joyce Foundation recently announced the four collaborative teams that are the recipients of the 2015 Joyce Awards, receiving an award in the sum of $50,000 each. The four partnerships are between artists of color and prominent arts and cultural organizations within the Great Lakes region in order to present new work specifically designed to engage with the communities where the projects will take root, while also serving as a model for the rest of the country.
This year’s awardees hail from boisterous art cities and include Helado Negro (moniker for musician and composer Roberto Carlos Lange) pairing with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series from the Twin Cities, Jamaican-born artist Nari Ward and Detroit’s Power House Productions, Colombian-American actress and playwright Sandra Delgado in collaboration with Chicago’s Teatro Vista and interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Read the rest of this entry »
Jesús Rafael Soto. “Pénétrable de Chicago,” 1971. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro.
By Matt Morris
Friends of mine are used to me bristling against the word “normal,” and many of the art students I teach have opted to avoid it lest they elicit a mini-lecture that questions the production of normalcy as an underlying societal force. At issue is how normative conceptions of being come about in relation to what is deemed abnormal: this could be queer, minority or, as I’m considering here, the production of the category of disability. 2015 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), leaving me with questions of what the art world has done over these decades to not only comply with government-mandated civil rights law but to actively imagine modes of engagement that appreciate differently abled bodies and minds of both art audiences and artists as an opportunity to create new forms of meaningful experience.
In his 2011 essay “Beautiful Progress to Nowhere,” Chicago-based artist, writer and educator Joseph Grigely wonders, “…The arts need disabled people; but it’s not clear what exactly defines this need. Is it because difference is ‘good’? Or is it because the experience disables those who interact with us, thereby rewriting the tacit rules by which we share space together?”
Perhaps innovations in how art can be a place of interaction for low and non-sighted individuals, those who are deaf, people with special needs for mobility and other perhaps difficult to predict differences in bodies stresses the incommensurability of shared experiences in art: it’s not the same for any of us, no matter what shared abilities we might have. I spoke with Dr. Carrie Sandahl, head of the Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities at UIC, “Everybody can get some experience of the artwork with their own history and apparatus, but it doesn’t have to match. Why do we think that it’s ever going to match? Audiences are going to bring different things.” Read the rest of this entry »
Jaime Davidovich. “The Live! Show,” 1980
Argentinian artist Jaime Davidovich moved to a New York teeming with ideas, conversations and possibilities during the 1960s and seventies, when it was gritty, dangerous and artists could afford a building in SoHo. Whereas Gordon Matta-Clark, Donald Judd and the Judson Dance Theater give the period its experimental flavor, Davidovich’s pioneering efforts in artist-run public television never received recognition like abstract video artists Stan Brackhage or Paul Sharits. 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 »
Nate Young. Installation view of “Untitled (Pulpit No. 1),” 2014, and “Untitled (Altar No. 1),” 2015
By Matt Morris
Is art that appears to be “about art” ever only limited to that scope of investigation? I’d say it’s doubtful, mostly because mechanisms of power reproduce themselves throughout social institutions, so to reflect upon the constitutive components of an artistic medium (as well as its historical and contemporary contexts) possesses at least the potential of a transferrable method by which one might fashion new freedoms—not through a rebellion from upheld traditional forms but through critical relationships to them. The monochrome continues to do this. Distilled to an uninterrupted plane, color, texture, scale and the tools for applying material (all usually in some way present in most artworks) are amplified, inviting investigation into the parts that comprise the art. In the best of cases, consideration of the conditions of display is inspired as well. The monochrome as a form also holds up under projections: historically used for such diverse conceptual conceits as Suprematism, color field painting, the “radical painting group,” and most recently one of several working modes bizarrely attributed by Ken Johnson to “soccer mom” aesthetics. A century after Kazimir Malevich painted his canvas “Black Square” in 1915, artists continue figuring out how to take apart the language of art-making so that the parsed vocabulary can speak to the power of the entire system. Read the rest of this entry »