The format of the typical gallery group show often allows aspiring artists to garner public attention through a modest sort of presentation. In practice, however, the model frequently provides a less fruitful experience for the art enthusiast—offering a cursory, if not completely unrevealing, glimpse into the emerging style, and often characterized by an obnoxious gaggle of the artists’ hipster friends overindulging on the complimentary Two-Buck Chuck.
According to Robin Rios, owner of Pilsen’s 4Art Inc. gallery, the equation also proves problematic from the point of view of those looking to gain exposure.
“I just didn’t feel like it was enough time for an artist, especially emerging, to get their feet wet,” Rios says. “You’re in a gallery and clients come in to see your work. Then they come back, again and again, and are introduced to a whole new group of artists. But then how does that previous artist get that client, who thought their work was great, to continue to see an evolution?”
Rios came up with a solution in 2005 when 4Art launched a residency program in which a group of more than a dozen artists exhibit multiple stages of their work over the course of six months. Capitalizing on Pilsen’s ascendant scene, the project tosses the residents themselves into the fray where they can communicate face-to-face with a wealth of prospective clients. Rios describes this type of engagement as essential in creating what she calls “the new collector” out of a generation less conventionally exposed to art.
For Elaine Park, a gregarious artist who likes to play with a diverse spectrum of themes and media, the situation seemed ideal.
“I think it’s pretty brilliant because I’ve never heard of anything like it before,” Park says, elaborating that she particularly enjoys divulging the process of her work. “It really allows you to have a connection with the audience.”
During one recent open gallery night, another 4Art resident, Roderick DeJesus, opted to exhibit his creative procedure by setting up a work space on the gallery floor. The admittedly reserved illustrator explained that it put him in an element to engage more comfortably with the audience. DeJesus’ comic-infused illustrations employ a smaller range of materials than Park’s art and also strike a more specific appeal, which, he says, is also why the residency program fit.
“First impressions are kind of hard,” DeJesus says. “Maybe I didn’t draw them in the first time, but then you get a second or third chance.” (Patrick Klemz)
“Phase V” of the 4Art Inc. residency program continues at 1932 South Halsted, (312)850-1816, through April. “Phase VI” is scheduled to begin in May.