The American Folk Art Museum in New York has been in the news a lot lately–and sadly too; it looks like they’re closing. Faced with the pressure of massive debt, the AFM sold its flagship building on West 53rd Street to MOMA and shrank to its smaller, auxiliary 5,000 sq ft location in Lincoln Square–what they allegedly rent for $1/year. The building on 53rd was built from scratch by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects specifically for the collection and opened in December, 2001. At the time “it was widely hailed as a sign of hope, both for the museum and New York. Here was evidence the city could recover from the terrorist attack of a few months earlier: a shiny bronze structure smack in the heart of Midtown that would be the first major art museum to open in Manhattan since the Whitney Museum in 1966,” (NYT, August 24, 2011). Since then the AFAM seems to be a lightening rod for particularly relevant trouble. “For example, its former chairman, Ralph O. Esmerian, promised to donate his collection of folk art, including a version of Edward Hicks’s ‘Peaceable Kingdom,’ but Mr. Esmerian also put the painting up as collateral against money he owed, and in 2008 it was put up for auction. In July Mr. Esmerian, who is no longer on the board, was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud,” (NYT, August 19, 2011). Perhaps again, as an indicator of our socioeconomic environment, the AFAM was forced to default on its construction loans in 2009. Their projected income from ticket sales and donations alike exceeded the reality of their position. The museum defaulted on its debt and this past May, its board decided to sell the building to its neighboring institution, the MOMA. While the sale got the museum out of its immediate hole, they were unable to raise additional funds for operating costs. Now the question seems to be, how to dissolve the institution? Where will these objects go?
What happens when a museum with such a carefully and specifically curated collection sells/donates its collection? The work itself seems as much defined by its relationship to the institution as the institution is defined by its work. If, for instance, Henry Darger is repositioned within the Brooklyn Art Musuem’s repertoire, and should they exhibit his work in conjunction with contemporary works does that change the way we view Darger? Does he start to emerge from the margins of “Outsider Art” into a space with different categorical potential (and therefore influence)? Obviously and for various reasons, Darger would never (nor should he) hold the status of a Pollack, for instance, but would his position and relation in our history-of-art-timeline change depending on his status within a specific collection? Would the same apply for the quilts in AFAM’s collection–how would these objects be integrated in other exhibits? Were everything to end up in a National History Museum, would we forget to think of these objects as art objects, considering them first and foremost practical artifacts endemic to a new country developing a cultural vocabulary? The historical implications/academic associations created by an institution’s curatorial hand suddenly becomes apparent to me.
As AFAM collected and exhibited this particular body of work it sought to define the significance of its collection, simultaneously reinforcing the significance of its own institutional contribution. Suddenly the work of curators shows its essential contribution to discussions around art. (While an obvious point, well curated experiences are often so seamless, that I take their curatorial authority for granted. I hardly notice it, focusing instead on the narrative it propagates.)
That said, and appealing to the internet ether (sometimes I feel I’m sending messages to outerspace) I don’t want the AFAM to close. Obviously I’m not in a position to fully comprehend the circumstances or needs of this institution as it goes through what must be a devastating time, but here are two postcards to metaspace:
Dear American Folk Art Museum, While we never shared the same state, your presence has helped me develop over the years, pressed me to follow paths of my own work and insight that I might have otherwise diminished and dismissed. Thank you so much. Yours truly.
Please don’t tear down the AFAM building. It would be such a waste! Perhaps instead you could incorporate its structure into your own and bring a new life to the building’s history. We must all protect one another, somehow. Yours truly.
So we at the “Bad at Sports” have been trying to only post calls occasionally, but this one seems kind of special. This one involves helping to construct a South Side Community Center. It sounds pretty freaking amazing. The downside seems to be that it is on the south side of Chicago and thus it joins the ranks of many of our favorite community-oriented projects which we don’t manage to get to as often as we would like.
Why can’t this be happening in Albany Park? they asked that we update with the following info…
“I wonder of we can add that we will be open every Saturday from 10-6p.m. until we open October 1st for studio visits, house tours and work days!
Each week we will have a builder/renovator on deck to teach us a special skill like how to putty windows, interior painting techniques, how to tile a floor (these should be read mentally with an upbeat voice that lifts at the end of each life skill, thick with the stuff of exuberance and anticipation!) In true Tom Sawyer style!”
Check it out it might also blow you mind. What follows is the invite to the opening of the space and the call for builders, helpers and community fans.
S.H.o.P. (the Southside Hub of Production) in collaboration with Dilettante Studios would like to invite you to propose an installation, project, built-in, or work with other artists/designers/builders on existing projects, for our upcoming grand opening. SHoP recently signed a 1-year lease with the Unitarian Church on the Fenn House, (formerly the Blue Gargoyle) to develop a temporary cultural and community space as an extended iteration of the Op Shop, Laura Shaeffer’s ongoing project.
SHoP focuses on cooperative learning, skill sharing, community involvement and development, inter-generational events and programs, and developing manual competency. SHoP will house exhibits, salons and conversations, workshops, classes, potlucks, a kunstverein (community museum), a recording studio, a wood working studio, social clubs for various ages, a library for unpublished and self published works, a seed bank, and a time bank … and other things that may develop.
The Fenn House has 16 rooms, some available for rent as artists studios or small not-for-profit businesses. Some may remain open as installation spaces or experimental rooms that will be adaptable to artist/design projects. Follow this link for pictures of Fenn house. There will be an open house this Saturday the 27th, between 2 and 4 p.m. if you would like to see the space and propose an idea.
We would like to invite you to design/build something for the space, a piece of furniture, an installation, a treatment of a room, a playful interactive design of a room, a meditation on some aspect of domestic/family (in the broadest sense)/community life… or something we haven’t thought of yet. Projects will be judged according to relevance and suitability to the space and expected audience, which will include a wide range of age and ethnicity.
Aside from proposing your own projects, there are a couple of possible ways to contribute your talents and skills.
1. Artist/builder John Preus recently relocated furniture (desks chairs, office and classroom furniture) from his installation, the World as Text, at Columbia College down to the Fenn House, as part of his project, Slow Recovery. The project considers forms of care and usefulness, and will document the varied and ongoing transformations of the pieces of furniture over the course of their lifespan, as the objects are re-written into varied and novel functions. Some of the furniture will be turned into a bar/jungle gym, and Preus welcomes help from adults and their children in designing and building the Jungle Bar, which will serve local home brews to the parents, and lemonade for the kids. Parents can chill while their children get hopped-up on sugar.
2. Re-imagine John’s furniture in some other form, such as one of the following:
3. SHoP will need a number of functional installations that also welcome creative, artistic, poetic, conceptual play. Needs include:
-a stage for performances, either movable or able to be used as a seating platform, or able to accommodate potlucks, sitting/eating.
-modular and portable seating
-plant life installations-things in the space that involve living elements
-office, kitchen, bathroom and library interventions
Rather than being paid in dollars, any labor you put in for SHoP can be logged into the time-bank and later redeemed for other goods and services volunteered by other community members. More detail on how the time-bank works will be available soon.
Your names will be listed in all opening literature along with wall tags describing the pieces that you work on. Preus will be featured in an artist profile in an upcoming Chicago Reader as part of the beginning of the gallery season opening, and the SHoP project will be featured. Installations may be proposed for the entire year, or for a shorter period of time depending upon their function and durability.
Proposals are only a paragraph describing your project, or your interest in being involved in one of the listed projects. Skilled builders/designers can also volunteer to lead a team to build out one of the proposed Please send all proposals to: email@example.com
We look forward to hearing your ideas!
-SHoP cultural committee
This week, Brian, Patricia, and Art Practical contributor Mary Anne Kluth sit down with artist Elaine Buckholtz and gallery president Richard Lang at Electric Works in San Francisco where Buckholz’s solo show, Light Making Motion: Works on Paper and in Light, was recently on view. In her review, Kluth notes that Buckholtz, whose primary medium is light, “is a generous guide, making instructive objects that allow her audience to come to discoveries” about the “experience of vision as a phenomena unfolding in time… focus[ing] attention on shifting, fleeting, elusive sensations.” In this conversation they talk about that generosity, the installations on view, working with Meredith Monk, and the pleasures of going off the cliff, Wile. E. Coyote–style.
Buckholz received her MFA at Stanford University and has shown at the Swiss Technorama Museum, Winterthur, Switzerland; Pierogi Leipzig, Germany; the Wexner Center For The Arts, Columbus, OH; the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Idaho; the Claremont Museum, Claremont, CA; Stanford University, Palo Alto; California College of The Arts, Fusion Art Space, the Luggage Store, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.
You can read Kluth’s full review on Art Practical here: http://www.artpractical.com/review/light_making_motion_works_on_paper_and_in_light/
Work by Madeleine Baily, Steven Frost, Yasi Ghanbari, Elise Goldstein, Rachel Lowther, Ivan Lozano, Brian Maller, Alison Rhoades, Tessa Siddle, Fritz Welch, and Syniva Whitney.
Roxaboxen Exhibitions is located at 2130 W. 21st. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.
Work by Dave Murray and Letha Wilson.
LVL3 is located at 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave, 3rd Fl. Reception is Saturday from 6-10pm.
Curated by Andrew J. Greene, work by Ali Bailey, Jamison Brousseau, Mckeever Donovan, Christopher Gatton, Michelle Grabner, Nick Kramer, Samuel Lipp, William J. O’Brien, Jorie Rabinovitz, Matt Rich, Daniel Sullivan, Justin Swinburne, Kristen Vandeventer, and Lisa Williamson.
Iceberg is located at 7714 N. Sheridan Rd. Reception is Sunday from 5-9pm.
Work by Vicki Fowler, Trevor Martin, Katya Grokhovsky, Colleen Coleman, Hope Esser, Michaela Murphy, Marissa Benedict, Andrew Barco, Sabrina Reed, Caitlin Baum, Stephanie Plenner, Victoria Eleanor Bradford, and DJ Chris Hefner.
Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery is located at 1136 N Milwaukee Ave. Performances begin Saturday at 8pm.
Work by Teen Living Programs.
Firecat Projects is located at 2124 N. Damen. Reception is Saturday from 7-10pm.
On Saturday, August 13th Penny Duff and Michael Slaboch put together a series of “intimate music and audio art” events throughout Chicago’s Ukranian Village. Various musicians and artists performed between 1 and 6 pm, peppered through the neighborhood on a kind of walking tour.
It began on the front porch of 1042 N Winchester St. A Cheshire Cat made out of stained opalescent glass sat in the window of the front door, just over Plastic Crimewave’s shoulder. Sitting in colored pants and socks, (shoes placed neatly beside him on the edge of the stairs) he played a morning raga on his banjo.
From there, we traveled a few blocks to the backyard of 1032 N Wood and watched a honky tonk band, The Lawrence Peters Outfit. Overhead the sky grew dark. There were rumors of a storm and the telephone lines blew back and forth vigorously as LPO played their set ending with a song about a storm.
At 2:00 we walked over to Corbett vs. Dempsey–a mainstay of neighborhood, experimental music performance–to see Mark Booth’s live collage of “reconditioned and recontextualized aural fragments.” Outside it began to hail and the sky was exceptionally dark. The sound of ice pellets punctuated Booth’s gramaphone samples.
By the time we made it outside the weather had more or less passed. Although it had deterred the in-transit, shopping cart performance by Heartichoke–we still went on to see Andy Slater at 2047 W Walton St. Slater played a homemade monochord slide bass who sometimes mimicked heavy metal riffs on his twangy slab of wood. Dogs wandered around the backyard while he played and people stood around him on all but one side, some (like me) by the back gate, others on the stairs at his back.
Following this were several performances I didn’t get the chance to see: the meme on 2337 W Thomas, Matthew Hale Clark at 2237 W Rice, Piss Piss Moan Moan Moan and Shearing Pinx at Permanent Records and, finally at the Rainbo Club: Judson Claiborne and the Found Sound After Party.
That’s more or less the wrap up. What I wanted to say, though, what it made me think about, was how important interrupting regular experience is. Seeing an organized music event that takes place along a neighborhood walk amplifies your experience of the neighborhood and the music. Like an art show in an apartment, there is something domestic and, even, banal about the setting. With the exception of a block party, these spaces, streets and alleys are not generally intended for a shared, public experience. One’s expectations of the performance consequently and curiously suspended, insecure; anything could happen within this ill-defined and intimate structure. Furthermore, the freedom the audience has to stumble upon the event, or depart nonchalantly: there is no cost, no obvious gain for those organizing the experience. There are free scones on a front porch, new faces come at certain events as others depart, each porch/backyard is organized differently, inadvertently acknowledging the lifestyles of its flanking domeciles. Such moments deeply interest me because their naturalness does not appear, at first, contingent on any audience. Plastic Crimewave might just sit on a porch and play for his own pleasure. We might be just happening upon it. There happens to be a honky tonk band in that backyard. The people in attendance appear to know what they are doing, even though they say very little to one another and stand, for the most part, as strangers do–not touching. This is one of Chicago’s greatest strengths: that people administrate such events and, more so, that a public rallies behind them, activating the potential for aesthetic experiences in banal, everyday settings.