By Michael Workman
It’s always like this. Walking through the West Loop gallery district this past Thursday was not unlike wandering into a ghost town, sans tumbleweeds. Every year in mid-August, the sea pulls back before the storm rages in to flood the mainland, a few quiet end-of-summer moments before the frenzy of the fall openings. But for now, dealers are still away at their summer homes or enjoying the last warm weeks outdoors—as was the case when I paid a visit to gescheidle at 118 North Peoria (www.gescheidle.com). I’d gone in to have a look at “Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!” back while the show’s curators and artists were installing and was finally getting around to checking out the completed exhibition. Though the gallery was officially closed, director Susan Gescheidle happened to be in, making phone calls in preparation for a week away kayaking. Thus is late summer in the art world.
It’s nice to see gescheidle finally coming into its own. While Mark Adkins has received a lot of press recently in The Reader, Tribune and Sun-Times, the gallery’s main show offers a generational glimpse as relevant to the gallery’s purpose as it does the “double troubles, science fiction, fantasy, blurred realities and inner visions” that are the show’s subjects.
Having been around for a number of years now since its original incarnation in River North, gescheidle came out of Lyons Wier Gallery—now in New York—and has long been regarded as a bit of a rascal in the neighborhood, with early shows tracing a risky fringe—often openly salacious—with the likes of Orly Cogan and Peregrine Honig leading the charge. Since its early days, the gallery has evolved in its taste, adding notables such as Lorraine Peltz, Marci Rae McDade, Diane Christiansen. That evolution has occurred in no small part because of group shows such as the the “Sex. Drugs. Rock n Roll” show with Brooklyn artist Jen DeNike, “la frontera,” curated by Randall Garrett of Plush Gallery, and now “Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!” It’s another signal show for gescheidle, continuing the gallery’s collaborative ethic, with curation by Anat Ebgi and Jose Carlos Diaz. Art-world watchers will recognize independent curator Ebgi and Miami artist Diaz (as Worm-Hole Industries) as co-founders and organizers of the FRISBEE shows in Miami and New York. Gescheidle’s got a savvy for tapping smart people like these, and the slow attempt to foment nationwide artistic interaction yields impressive results.
Primarily in the art: there’s much to recommend in this show, starting with the TM Sisters’ collages, including the smallish-scale “the earth looks better from a star, that’s right above from where you are.” These mixed-media works recall the collages of Scott Treleaven, contrasting stark black-and-white figurative photos cut out and arranged against backgrounds of geometric color. Samuel Nyholm’s affable pen-and-ink drawings of art-gallery openings, hung directly across from the gallery’s front desk, are at once cocky, acid commentary and the record of an arid social gawker. Erik Lang’s fashion-influenced C-prints (he has shot covers for magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler), “bathtub” and “talking to myself” are special-effect tableaux. In the former, the artist is perched nude at opposite corners of a rooftop, while in the latter two Asian women strike impossible poses in a tub piled high with bubble bath. My favorite by far, however, is Colleen Asper’s colored pencil drawing, “Google.” It depicts the company’s search page exactly as you’d see it on any browser, with the artist’s name typed into the dialogue box. It reflects the artist’s aspiration to self-knowledge—to an identity only accessible through appeal to the wider world—a goal similar to the gallery’s long, joyful search for a voice it has at long last found.
Speaking of finding your voice, it was fifty-two podcast episodes ago that Richard Holland and Duncan MacKenzie first met while planning an exhibition for the Oak Park-based The Suburban Gallery, run out of the garage of artists Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam. Since then, Bad At Sports (www.badatsports.com) has emerged as a unique and essential online art media resource, Holland has purchased a house in Oak Park and MacKenzie, subject of the unceasing Canada-bashing that permeates the show’s signature jovial repartee, continues the downward spiral of despair of life in a smoke-filled crack-house basement (just kidding Duncan—no protest letters, please, I already get enough hate mail). In all seriousness, while the Bad At Sports team has no real plan for longevity, the project has already outlasted such artist-interview predecessors as thekit.org and can hopefully manage to keep churning out their weekly program for some time to come. And, speaking of listening in on artists, this Thursday at Thomas Masters Gallery, Parisian ex-pat artist David Gista pairs up with Chicagoan Tim Anderson to speak on the subject of “parallels, variations, and sources of influence between American and French artists.” It’s an event sponsored by the exciting new art salon group, ThinkArt.
“Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!” shows at gescheidle, 118 North Peoria, (312)226-3350, through August 27. Bad At Sports shows at The Suburban, 244 West Lake Street in Oak Park, (708)763-8554, August 18, 8pm. David Gista and Tim Anderson at Thomas Masters Gallery, 245 West North, (312)440-2322, August 17, 5:30-9pm.