Fresh on the heels of Liam Gillick’s recently closed exhibition, which showed how unfulfilling a post-studio practice can be, the Museum of Contemporary Art opened “Production Site,” their contribution to the yearlong, citywide Studio Chicago project, which seeks to re-energize the city’s artists to get back in the studio to make stuff. While so many artists today use digital technologies, contract outside fabricators and expand the role of art beyond the studio-to-gallery system, “Production Site” proves that museums still need studio artists. Curator Dominic Molon charts the transformation that objects undergo between their private creation and their public reception. Some of the mythical, magical heat that bubbles over in the artist’s studio then dissipates in transport to the gallery or museum, but more often than not, the thirteen artists in this presentation tend to reveal that they can conjure stunning effects regardless of place. So, we end up with an engaging, visually vibrant show that nominally tries to link artists around this theme, but the artists take such markedly different turns on this journey that we ultimately get the impression that “the studio” means markedly different things to different artists.
Chicago-based artist Justin Cooper presents a suite of accomplished drawings alongside a video that documents a visit to his studio in a rabid, feverishly animalistic way. The studio in question was a temporal space the artist used during a summer residency at Skowhegan, not his home base. Likewise, Amanda Ross-Ho presents nine massive sections of wall from a previous studio space, allowing us to revel in the quirky, collage-like remains of past projects, research photos, personal effects and drywall. This striking piece is more about the loss of personal space than a celebration of space as the impetus for creativity.
Tacita Dean’s wonderfully slow and saturated film homage to Marcel Broodthaers, by investigation of his former studio in Düsseldorf, provides a perfect counterbalance to Andrea Zittel’s eco-obsessed studio, A-Z West, in Joshua Tree, California. Of all the artists, Zittel has most successfully melded her home and work space into a free-flowing place with little separation between art and life. Likewise, two new projects use the museum to generate the creative spark. Mumbai-based Nikhil Copra performs as a fictional Victorian-era figure, who obsessively draws on the museum walls in charcoal, and Chicago-based Deb Sokolow presents another of her conspiracy-laden, semi-fictional drawings; featuring a schematic of her studio, the drawing will evolve during the course of the exhibition as the artist returns every two weeks to update the story. These projects posit a relationship to the studio that is not site-specific and not frozen in time—by recognizing that the studio is when and where the artist is, they can carry the contemplation and production with them like a snail carries its home on its back. (J. Thomas Pallas)
Through May 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.