Picking artist and curator Philip von Zweck (currently part of a group show at Green Lantern Gallery) out of the crowd at the latest opening at VONZWECK was as easy as looking for the most comfortable person in the place. “These are the best slippers,” he says, smiling at his feet. “They wear out kind of quick, but they’re so comfortable. I got them at Ikea, and for some reason the color of each pair I buy has gotten lighter and lighter.”
After returning to Chicago from New York City in 2005, his hope was to move into a much larger and more traditionally suitable space for art exhibitions. As it were, VONZWECK came into being by preserving the white cube of his then empty living room while moving into a one-bedroom apartment in Humboldt Park. Other than the futon, and on opening nights the cooler full of cold, cheap beer, everything in the space is part of the current exhibition, now through January 2008, Tyler Britt’s “July.”
“It’s a great way to experience artwork, I get to live with new things every month,” von Zweck says. So named for the label on the intercom button, “which is similar to, but not exactly my last name,” the gallery operates early Thursday evenings so as to not disturb the other residents of the building. Appointments are available by request with either von Zweck or the exhibiting artist since they receive a set of keys for the duration of the exhibition. In fact, knowing the artists well enough to trust them with keys is a primary consideration in selection, and as of now no one has ever been caught napping on the futon under the auspices of art promotion. Work is often available for purchase, and in the event of a sale, the closest thing the gallery takes to a cut is reimbursement for the opening-night beer.
From Pilsen to Rogers Park, Chicago once was a bastion of the multifarious forms of the independent gallery. Yet now, with this heyday barely a memory, VONZWECK is one of the few remaining residence-based galleries in the city. Says von Zweck, “No, I wouldn’t say I’m a role model, a lot of other people did this first, but I would definitely encourage everyone to open a space of their own.” With the difference between a plain-old apartment and publicized art center being just a well-worded press release away, there is no reason to not throw on some slippers and seize the opportunity to explore the wide open spaces of the Midwest art world. (Lisa Larson-Walker)
VONZWECK is located at 1626 North Humboldt, (773)208-7222.