Upon entering Everybody gallery, you’re surrounded by eighteen-by-twenty-four-inch paintings, one or two on each wall. Or at least, that’s what I gather from the installation photos, as this exhibition is not and will not be open to the public for its duration. The paintings in this first room are busy scenes. “Amstel Blvd.” depicts a junkyard, wooden pallets, rolls of wire fencing and other materials that are haphazardly piled atop one another. In “Seaway Marina Boats,” a line of dinghies are suspended over the water, a crane and outbuildings in the background; their reflections doubling the composition in wavy, watery lines. For all the business of the images, one thing stands out: there are no people.
This new series by Jocko Weyland, planned long before the pandemic, deals with out-of-the-way, rarely traversed places that suburban kids love to explore. Dead-end streets with forgotten cars, far corners of junkyards or abandoned lots, pieces of machinery or a hulk of a bus left to be reclaimed by nature. This exhibition, the second solo show Everybody has staged with Weyland, will be the gallery’s last.
Alex Von Bergen, Andrew Shuta and Christian Rameriz (with the later addition of Maya Hawk), launched Everybody in 2016 as an artist-run project space in Tucson. Most were students at the University of Arizona, and all later left the city for other pursuits. Hawk and Von Bergen opened a Chicago iteration of the space in August 2019.
“We’re not killing the project per se, we’re plotting some things digitally and physically, [we hope] here in Chicago and back in Tucson as well,” Von Bergen says. “It’s a time to reassess things, which is cool in its own way.”
Tucson was where the gallerists initially met Weyland, who at the time worked as a curator at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art. I first learned of Weyland through his long-running zine series, “Elk,” which were esoteric, saddle-stitched compilations of images and text borrowed from other sources. Some issues came with a CD, with tracks meant to be played while contemplating a specific page. Others were the work of artists or writers from around the globe. Weyland came of age before the internet, when the beauty of discovering things organically still existed. “Elk” was certainly a product of that, although the artist’s former job as a photo archivist for the Associated Press also played a role in these pre-Tumblr aesthetic assemblages.
That ethos also comes into play here, in quiet, isolated moments captured in gouache. In an effort to make the experience of viewing this work more dynamic, Everybody has an audio clip of Weyland reading on its website, from a recent essay he wrote on the coronavirus, the importance of solitude and the lingering influence of Joy Division’s “Isolation.”
“One might argue that though not superficially desirable, going through the occasionally distressing exercise of self-imposed distancing, invoking the unresolved emotions and convoluted feelings entailed, is often what’s needed to get to something else entirely,” Weyland reads. “A personal fencing-off leading to self-knowledge and a communion with you, and even more importantly, true psychic and intellectual independence.”
In this exhibition and the accompanying audio, Weyland offers one small way to avoid feeling isolated—whether you’re staying at home or are an essential worker, whether quarantining alone or with others. There is peace to be found when you disconnect, when you remove yourself from a circumstance, when you truly look within. You may not have the option of exploring your own abandoned place, a decrepit house or an off-season marina. But you can put on headphones, listen to Ian Curtis share a moment of uplift and explore the poignant scenes in the final exhibition at Everybody. (Kerry Cardoza)
Jocko Weyland’s “The Book I Read In” is online at everybody.gallery