Midweek Clips 9/23/09

September 24, 2009 · Print This Article

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Bravo’s “Art Star” reality show hasn’t even hit the air waves yet, and already we’ve got another art contest on our hands. Our vote for most ridiculous news of the week comes with the Guggenheim’s announcement of Rob Pruitt’s “First Annual Art Awards,” modeled after Hollywood’s Oscars. Pruitt conceived the awards to celebrate “select individuals, exhibitions, and projects that have made a significant impact on the field of contemporary art during the past year.” Oh, and just to keep things bubbly, the star-studded list of presenters will include boyfriend-girlfriend art/fashion design couple of the moment Nate Lowman and Mary-Kate Olsen. There’s a formal dinner afterwards, and after that an after-party and, and….oh, just click on the link and read the rest for yourself (including the video of the nominee announcements). I can’t take anymore. The rest of our midweek round-up, some of which is actually meaningful (though you’ll have to be the judge of that) as follows:

*Art Institute of Chicago appoints Alison Fisher as the Harold and Margot Schiff Assistant Curator of Architecture in the Department of Architecture and Design. Her focus will be on the Art Institute’s architecture holdings from 1850 to 1945, and she will oversee the drawings, models, and archives of Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan and other American architectural masters.

*Artist Mark Bradford among those awarded 2009 MacArthur Genius Grants.

*Bill Viola changes mind, decides to meet with Pope for Vatican cultural dialogue on the relationship between faith and art.

*Franklin Sirmans appointed chief curator of contemporary art at LACMA, succeeding Lynn Zelevansky.

*Proposed Pennsylvania budget agreement extends state sales taxes to arts and cultural performances and venues but exempts movies and sports events; Philadelphia arts leaders organize in protest.

*Brandeis committee recommends keeping Art Museum open, but punts on the issue of the proposed sale of its collection.

*NEA Chair Rocco Landesman explains reasoning behind demotion of communications director Yossi Sergant.

*Paul Chan’s “Top 5 Things That Will Get You Arrested in Minneapolis” aka Top 5 Things We Should Do Together To Make Something Interesting.” (Via Eyeteeth).

*Virtual flip book: View all 160 pages of Proximity magazine in less than 20 seconds. Then go buy the real thing. It’s a good issue, as always.

*A visit to an exhibition about the history of Ikea.

*Artnet writer Grant Mandarino provides Cliff’s Notes on the new Fall art magazines.

*Chicago job posting: Projectionists and room monitors needed for upcoming College Art Association (CAA) Annual Conference in Chicago. If you’re interested, see here.

Conrad Bakker’s Untitled Project: eBAY/DEPRESSION GLASS

September 23, 2009 · Print This Article

Conrad Bakker–he of the individually hand-carved and painted replicas of a year’s worth of Artforum, made available at the genuinely unbelievable low price of $72, the art magazine’s own subscription fee–has just launched another of his untitled eBay projects that plays with notions of originality and market value. Bakker’s Untitled Project: eBAY/DEPRESSION GLASS is a series of nine oil paintings on panel each measuring 7 x 9.5 inches and based on photographs of depression-era glassware placed for auction on eBay. (The paintings are on view right now as part of the University of Illinois’ art and design faculty exhibition at the Krannert Art Museum). Last Friday Bakker put the paintings themselves up for auction (they can be found in eBay’s Pottery & Glass > Glass > Glassware > Depression category) but this time, he’s donating the proceeds to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. Bidding closes in exactly 4 days, 23 hours and 34 minutes (as of this writing) and thus far prices remain ridiculously low–the priciest (the green bowl pictured below) is still only at $274. Yes, I may well drive them up by posting this, but it’s for a food bank after all. Take a look at some of the works on the virtual block, and if your wallet allows get thee over there and ramp up the bidding.


Conrad Bakker, ""Hazel Atlas Royal Lace Cobalt Blue 3 Footed 10in Bowl"

Conrad Bakker, “”Hazel Atlas Royal Lace Cobalt Blue 3 Footed 10in Bowl”

Conrad Bakker, "Indiana Glass Company Red 3 Toe Crimped Bowl"

Conrad Bakker, “Indiana Glass Company Red 3 Toe Crimped Bowl”

Conrad Bakker, ""Anchor Hocking Depression Green SANDWICH 6 1/2" BOWL"

Conrad Bakker, “”Anchor Hocking Depression Green SANDWICH 6 1/2″ BOWL”

(Via Open Space via C-Monster).

Gene Siskel Film Center | What’s the Matter with Kansas?

September 22, 2009 · Print This Article


What’s the Matter with Kansas? directed by Joe Winston is based on Thomas Frank’s best selling novel which shares the same name. This film does, however, differ in it’s setting from the book. It acts a bit more like a squeal than as an adaptation. The film begins with the 2006 attorney general elections instead of the books 2004 presidential elections. Throughout the documentary we uncover the surprising liberal history of the state of Kansas.

Lacking a narrator, the film presents itself as a collection of portraits from various members of the Kansas community, both liberal and conservative. Within the first 20 minutes of the film we meet Angel Dillard and Brittany Barden who are both Republican activists, farmer Donn Teske, and my personal favorite, artist M.T. Liggett. Most of the beginning of the film touches on some of the hot topics, such as abortion and gay marriage that have swayed voters over to the Republican Party. It really is unfair to compare this film’s documentation of people’s thoughts on abortion with Tony Kaye’s stunning film Lake of Fire but I am going to have to draw a line to that film. If you haven’t seen it go out and get it. It really is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in the past five years. FYI it’s not for the faint of heart. At times I found the film a little long even with it being only an hour and a half. Aesthetically it felt actually rather well composed. There were plenty of meandering shots that gave you an idea of some of the economic hardships that the citizens on Kansas were facing. I also enjoyed the voyeuristic look onto the other political spectrum while still staying in my liberal bubble. Truth be told, I might have been more invested if I had read the book or had been from Kansas.

Gene Siskel Film Center
164 North State Street
Chicago Il 60601

Tuesday, September 22nd, 6:15pm and 8:15 pm
Wednesday, September 23rd, 6:15pm and 8:15 pm
Thursday, September 24th, 6:15pm and 8:15 pm

Tuesday’s Video Pick | Jesus Christ Superstar

September 22, 2009 · Print This Article

This week’s pick is inspired by C-Monster’s End of summer at PS1 in NYC post. I must confess, I love musicals and when I saw a photo of of the Jesus Christ Superstar album I knew it had to make it’s way onto the picks. I don’t think anyone can deny Carl Anderson’s talent as Judas. Ugh, such a guilty pleasure.

Mall Squatters, Word Hijackers and Life Hackers at Gallery 400

September 21, 2009 · Print This Article

Michael Ruglio-Misurell, Project #12.

Michael Ruglio-Misurell, Project #12.

On the surface, you wouldn’t necessarily think that a fake shopping mall disaster area courtesy of Michael Ruglio-Misurell, a somewhat spare solo show of text-based drawings by Kay Rosen, and a rotating group video program addressing the subject of individual artistic agency would have so much to say to one another. Yet in many ways, the accrual of meaning from one show to the next makes Gallery 400’s current exhibition lineup work even better as a whole than each show does separately. All three exhibitions in one way or another address the making and unmaking of worlds, whether by choice or consequence. Ruglio-Misurell’s Project #12 is an all-encompassing environment of found junk put together in a manner that evokes a shopping mall eatery that’s been abandoned by consumers and taken over by squatters. Evidence of human efforts to make this disaster zone habitable, if not functional, abounds. Amidst the rubble, there are signs of human intervention and pathetic forms of “making do”: a makeshift tent/sleeping area, plastic trays linked together to form temporary walls and, perhaps, zones of privacy. Who is making use of the food court? Vagrants? Crackheads? Teenagers looking for a covert place to fuck?

To be sure, Project #12 evokes a certain economic timeliness, given the U.S.’ current climate of consumer reticence coupled with the whole dead mall phenomenon. Recalling the sculpted chaos of Tomoko Takahashi’s or Jason Rhodes‘ discard landscapes and perhaps to some degree Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s more recent Black Acid Co-Op crack-den environment at Deitch Projects, Ruglio-Misurell’s installation speaks to the uses to which people put “dead” commercial spaces after the latter’s primary functions have been economically effaced. Yet one would be hard-pressed to find anything joyful, much less Utopian, in Ruglio-Misurell’s apocalyptic vision, despite those discrete moments of sculptural clarity that the artist inserts into the chaos. No, Project #12 evokes the desperation of Katrina-like scenarios, where individuals, abandoned by the State in one form or another, are left to rot in their own filth and fend entirely for themselves.

Michael Ruglio-Misurell, Project #12

Michael Ruglio-Misurell, Project #12

Michael Ruglio-Misurell, Project #12.

Michael Ruglio-Misurell, Project #12.

In contrast to the in-your-face spectacle of Ruglio-Misurell’s disaster zone, Kay Rosen’s show is quiet and almost withdrawn (for this artist, anyway, whose text paintings can be billboard-bold in their effects). The walls are sparsely hung, the show consisting of a rarely-seen video shown on a small flat screen monitor, a collection of collage pieces housed in a glass vitrine, another smallish collage and a collection of altered book covers from mystery writer Sue Grafton’s bestselling Alphabet Mysteries in which letters spelling out the word ‘hijacked’ have been excised.

Kay Rosen at Gallery 400

Kay Rosen at Gallery 400

Kay Rosen, I Left Right in the Middle

Kay Rosen, I Left Right in the Middle

Rosen’s sly wordplay is always a delight to engage, especially when she makes you work at getting the joke. (I’m embarrassed to admit I still haven’t figured out how the missing letters from her Hijacked collage actually spell out the word “hijacked,” though I’m sure it’s staring me right in the face). The works chosen for this show are meant to provide material for a fall drawing class at UIC led by Julia Fish that explores the play between text and image, which, of course, is Rosen’s specialty. The works here are small in scale and unflashy, emphasizing the readerly aspects of Rosen’s approach over her (often less engaging) descents into one-liner territory (as in works like this one, a postcard piece which isn’t in this exhibition).

Rosen’s work is quite literally about reading between the lines, and its filled with sweet little epiphanies for word-nerds like myself. Yet Rosen’s work goes beyond those little moments to say something much larger about the role of language in shaping our world. We don’t have to search far and wide for alternatives to the status quo, her works seem to argue. They’re already there, everywhere around us, we just need to be willing take a few liberties with the governing text — “small shifts in perception,” as Anthony Elms puts it in his essay on Rosen’s show — to see the way out.

I visited all of these shows twice, both times on a Friday, the day when Andrea Zittel’s “Little Liberties” is the featured video (other artists in the video program include Phyllis Baldino, Alex Hubbard, Glenn Ligon and Patricia Esquivias). No doubt the juxtaposition of Zittel’s work with the others colored my impression of the three shows’ overall coherency, but I suspect that, given the video program’s overarching focus on artistic agency, any of the other rotating works would have resonated with the nearby shows in equally eye-opening ways. I’ve seen numerous examples of Zittel’s “designs for living” before, but always in museum or gallery settings that frankly tended to kill much of their impact for me. All of Zittel’s work is geared towards the goal of self-sufficiency via the design, fabrication and use of structures, systems and practices that bypass or simply slip through the cracks of dominant systems. To the extent that it’s possible, Zittel tries to live “off the grid,” and “Small Liberties,” a video that takes the form of a textually narrated slideshow, provides a rather straightforward introduction to Zittel’s work and the ideas about sustainability and independence that guide her practice.

Andrea Zittel, still from Small Liberties

Andrea Zittel, still from Small Liberties

It’s a silent piece, consisting of a series of photographs and short narrative vignettes about the people who have purchased Zittel’s A-Z Wagon Stations — custom built units that are a cross between a covered wagon and an air stream trailer for those seeking a space of contemplation and creativity that’s entirely their own.


The idea of “small liberties” neatly encapsulates the essential pragmatism that characterizes Zittel’s approach to everyday life and to social change. It’s not radical with a capital R (though it must certainly look peculiar to some)–it’s more of an incremental, “little r” radicalism that seeks not to coerce or co-opt opinion but simply to be left to one’s own devices. Whereas I imagine the invisible inhabitants of Ruglio-Misurell’s trashed food court are there because they have nowhere else to go–the State, as it were, has abandoned them — Zittel’s community of A-Z Wagoneers are bucking the system by choice. They want to carve out a space where the State leaves them pretty much alone (or at least, that’s the stance they are affecting). If this trio of shows works on you in the way they did me, you’ll leave slightly more convinced that these small moments of resistance are in fact where some of our most powerful choices lie.