By Michael Workman
Unlike New York or Los Angeles, in Chicago you still have a chance to watch the American experiment in action: the coastal cities have become much more international than Chicago and the Midwest. Chicago remains its own brand, its own distinct personality, one that artists and writers have carried through its various historical incarnations, a soup of public corruption, glamorous criminals, hard-drinking, desperate men and slinky, jaded women, “the city that works.” It’s true, we can do without the PR here, just give us the finished product. I bring all this up to accent the widely agreed-upon consensus that Chicago’s art culture at present suffers the discords and occlusions of a plainly uncertain future. Right now, in other words, it looks like we’re up shit creek. It’s happening across the board. Writing has played a large part in its disintegration, since the fall of the New Art Examiner magazine more than five years ago, with no recognized art-critical authority currently capable of tracking Chicago’s place in the new, distinctly global grid. The implosion of Art Chicago earlier this year—at a time when art fairs around the globe are enjoying a state of unreal boom—has artists wondering if Chicago’s capable of sustaining an art marketplace with any relevance beyond the boundaries of the Midwest. These changes are reflective of major shifts across all media. Newspapers, for instance, are slowly surrendering their classified sections to Craigslist and the ability to scoop news to blogs. Broadcast radio is facing down stiff competition from the satellite market and television will soon enough have to deal with the spawn of YouTube. Video games are the new comic books, MP3’s are the new CD and Terrorism is the new Communism.
Welcome to the new fall season in Chicago. It’s worth painting a brief picture of the state of things in anticipation of next week’s long list of gallery openings, a coordinated event citywide which marks the start of the traditional fall season. It’s always a tough job sorting out which shows are worth your time, so we’d like to offer a few suggestions. First off, try cutting some time off your art tour by checking out a few shows early. Out of the long list of exhibitions worth your attention, two of the most interesting are opening in advance of their receptions. Shane Huffman at the Hyde Park Art Center this week opens “Wanna be part of the human race,” and while the reception’s not until September 17, you can actually get in a sneak peek as early as September 3. Huffman’s past work has shown a unique ability to reframe important conceptual terms for time, space and the interplay of the natural sciences with issues of personal resonance, such as the onset of fatherhood. Huffman was mentored by incomparable Chicago artist Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, and has floated for some time at the periphery. Hopefully this exhibition marks a new visibility for him.
At the Glass Curtain Gallery this week, early birds will have a chance to check out “Inactive/Active,” open from August 28 though the public reception isn’t until September 7. It’s no secret that I’ve long been a fan of the emerging discipline known as “new media” art, which can encompass anything and everything from found software, ASCII text art and drawing machines to robotics. This show features some of the city’s leading practitioners of the form, including Newcity “Breakout Artist” Sabrina Raaf, as well as Shawn Decker, Heidi Kumao, Fernando Orellana, Amy Youngs and Ken Rinaldo. While catching this kind of work has largely remained under-the-radar, it’s nice to see new media receiving more mainstream attention. These two shows should whet your appetite for the feast of opening night September 8, when it seems like every gallery in the city flings opens its doors. Chicago definitely needs a new direction—more than ever we need new faces, new ideas, new media and new hope, and the city needs it now. Hopefully we’ll catch a glimpse of what possibilities the future can hold in these coming months’ exhibitions. Make sure to check out Newcity’s annual “Fall Forward” coverage in next week’s issue for a complete list of what to see—not only for shows opening that weekend—but throughout the rest of a fall season that promises to deliver some of the most exciting work in recent memory.
Shane Huffman shows at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 South Cornell Avenue, (773)324-5520, through October 8. Inactive/Active shows at the Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 South Wabash, (312)344-6650, through September 29.