Residual Histories: An Interview with Arturo Herrera

November 20, 2013 · Print This Article

Purveyor of melancholy cartoon moments, amorphous shape and line, melting abstract symbolism and form fluidly, Arturo Herrera creates new meanings from global popular culture and the discarded memories available at thrift stores. With gorgeous abstract dialogue, he cuts into our subconscious, seeking dark realities in the seemingly innocent imagery of childhood. Yet this is globally corporate sentiment which he makes us aware of; in homage to past Modernist movements, he hopes to awaken our senses from the dreamy haze they reside. References to Pollack appear as dripping webs of networked possibilities in immigration halls, allowing art to be the key to success in the cutthroat Americas. Simple gestural brush strokes, epic in scale on institutional walls, have the purity both the Ab Exs and cartoonists long for. With clear precision and acute awareness, Herrera depicts the line between the Surrealist’s dream and the failure in Dada. Partaking, we become the tight rope walker and must balance accordingly between his worlds and Art’s past. For his upcoming exhibition at Corbett vs. Dempsey in Chicago this December, he reveals new work within the intimacy of the printed book; showcasing several altered found books in a sensibility all his own; muted yet powerful, melancholic yet strong, abstract yet concrete, visceral, tangible. In this, he enlivens us to the subjugation our senses experience in the digital age.

I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Arturo this Fall during his visit to Cranbrook Academy of Art, in Bloomfield Hills, MI.


Detail of "Graphiker der Gegenwart - Lesser Ury"

Arturo Herrera Books, 2012. Set No. 2 of six individual sets. Detail of
Graphiker der Gegenwart – Lesser Ury Lothar Brieger, silkscreen and mixed media on paper. 7.9 x 5.9 x 0.3 inches. Courtesy of the artist.


Tom Friel: You don’t seem to deny the narratives of your source material, but instead keep an emotional or subconscious link to the meaning of the original imagery while altering the visual elements through college and abstraction. Does a process like this ultimately aim to create new stories or truths? Could your invented meanings become equal with the original, and if so, do they become a part of the narrative from the source imagery?


Arturo Herrera: Using everyday printed materials which are instantly recognizable leads the viewer directly into the image and at once a connection is established. Crashing our invented, private meanings onto a newly constructed image only adds to the impact of the original source. This undoing of linearity is attractive to me.


TF: Just to compare some of the works you were doing a few years ago, like “Get it Right (Pink)” [2005], “Untitled (From the Top)” [2004], to more recent works like “Richard” and “Giuseppe”, both 2012: the latter are visually dense works overloading the eye with a multitude of colors and shapes, while the earlier pieces I mention are almost minimalist in nature. Throughout, there is lyricism in the compositions, that everything was always meant to be there from the start. Is the complexity of these later works an evolution from the previous, or are you responding to another type of collage so prevalent today — the bombardment of information via the internet and media, where things are literally linked by tiny one word threads as their commonality? Or perhaps is it a similar symptom of 21st century living; a constant acceleration through technology and the inflated availability of choice. (Since collage so often directly deals with the idea of choice…)

AH: The recent works ‘Richard,’ ‘Giuseppe,’ and ‘ Johannes‘ are three mixed media editions I made for Pace Prints in 2012. That same year I had the solo shows called Series at Corbett vs Dempsey in Chicago and at Thomas Dane in London. My intention with that body of work was not to overwhelm the audience with information but a way of exposing a personal lexicon. To put it all out there if you wish. The goal was to make something polluted and non hierarchical. It dealt more with wanting to see what a disintegration of my own sources could look like. I guess it is an organic process that every artist goes through.

TF: An overload via critical mass. They are quite nice, and I guess I was curious also because of how successful these, and other highly intricate works are that you have recently completed. Maybe its the control you have over the collage process that allows for so much to happen in one work and it not be too much, but  just perfect.

It seems there are a lot of formal discussions you wish to engage with the work, like engaging the medium or the visual qualities of abstraction. While collaging is a piecing together of disparate images and meanings to create new meanings, we approach abstraction as a collage our brains compose. In other words, we often try to create concrete images out of the abstractions, like Rorschach tests. Having experienced abstraction in art for so long, we tend to allow abstraction to remain as these pure visual and undefinable moments. Elements of Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Pop can be found in your work. So often, we try to define artists by their relationship to art of the past. While many people may respond to art in this manner, it can dominate the conversations around the work. Is this something that is interesting to you, or do you find the comparisons to derail broader meanings of the work?



Arturo Herrera Ariadne auf Naxos 2012, collage and mixed media on paper, three elements, 25 1/4 x 19 1/2 inches each. Courtesy of the artist.



AH: Even though I am interested in all those movements especially modernist painting, surrealist collage, abstract expressionism, and pop art not very many people have discussed that aspect of the work in depth. The earlier texts hovered around children’s fairy tale and the psychoanalytical subconscious. At the moment the discussions deal more specifically with abstract painting and its references and the continued impact of collage in today’s contemporary art practice.


TF: Many of your older works utilize cartoon imagery in them, or reference cartoons through a similar line quality; fluid curvilinear lines which undulate and ooze, they drip and tumble around the page in an abstract free fall of white gloved hands morphing into a propellor or a bulbous nose. These increasingly abstract works strongly reference one of the more common and beloved cartoons cliches: the cloud surrounding a cartoon brawl, with arms and noses peeking out in what is an otherwise hard to visually explain mess of action, passion and ecstasy. Locating your composition in one still image instead of many animated cells, the undefined moments of action wage without clear understanding of whose limb is whose. So, almost lifted directly out of the very cartoons is a scene which your work often explores, the familiar returning to the unfamiliar. This is a very important element of your work, the sense of subverting established cultural entities, like Disney cartoons. It also lends itself to the uncanny, which I don’t think you’ve ever talked about concerning your work.

AH: Collage combines dislocated fragments that usually generate irreverent images full of irrationality. No uprooted source that has been cut, juxtaposed and glued into a new visual entity remains the same. Some of my works play with violence, sexuality and absurdity. It is important having these as borders of psychological interaction. It brings an unexpected, latent meaning to an established/familiar cultural icon and that contributes to the resonance of the work.


TF: You have described your initial involvement with collage as a means to create art without much money, space or many materials. At this point though, you have defined a practice within it, and so it seems you have come to embrace collage wholly! In addition, you have done many wall paintings and felt pieces; the felt works being increasingly sculptural. Are there other mediums now that your circumstances are different you would like to invest your time in more, or does the immediacy and directness of collage make it the perfect medium for you?

AH: I started working with paper when I first moved to NY in the late 80’s. It was the ideal medium because it was easily available and inexpensive. It was incredibly fast to make collages and it allowed the small working area to be relatively clean and free of toxic fumes. I was fortunate later on that I had the chance to work with painted MDF, raw steel and photography. Right now I am painting with oils on canvas and on linen. It is amazing how different and slow the process is. I have been changing gears lately and the challenge is invigorating.





Arturo Herrera Stampatore 2012, collage and mixed media on paper, 14 x 17 1/4 inches. Courtesy of the artist.


TF: Books have a visceral connection to us that many other objects do not. They are both precious and pulp repositories of ideas and culture, high and low. Their rich history in  human development and civilization contribute to a realness and visceral quality. Its such that, abandoned books can carry the sense that their ideas and information contained within are obsolete or out of fashion, even if that isn’t truly the case. With the decline of printed books, your sense of the obsolete is pointed. Its almost as to keep these objects alive in the present, we need to alter them in ways that we can feel or sense beyond the LED or LCD screen. There is such a different relationship to using a Kindle or laptop to read a book, that having that physical presence altered, makes us aware of the distance we have created and slowly removed ourselves from. Though the Kindle tries to recreate the experience of a physical book, it loses the character and intimacy. Can you give a preview of your upcoming exhibition this December at Corbett vs. Dempsey?


AH: The new show at Corbett vs Dempsey consists of found books that have been silkscreened painted, stained and /or painted. There are sixty books in the series grouped in six boxes of ten books each. By obliterating their content, I destroy their original function while transforming them into something entirely different. These discarded paperbacks and hardcovers become new again as constructed artworks. They continually refer back to their origins while proposing multiples readings on history and art, the obsolete and the fetish, the precious and the abject.


“Arturo Herrera: Books” on view at Corbett vs. Dempsey Dec. 13 – Jan. 25, 2014

1120 N. Ashland Ave., 3rd Floor, Chicago, Illinois 60622


I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Arturo this Fall during his visit to Cranbrook Academy of Art, in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  Thanks to Arturo Herrera for his time in the many stages of this interview. His kindness and warmth are much appreciated. Also thanks to Julia Hendrickson and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Sarah Turner and Trisha Holt of Cranbrook Academy of Art for their help; without them, this interview would not have been possible.

Recoloring Queer and Transgender Performance Art: Reflections on Recent Performance Panels

November 19, 2013 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Autumn Hays 

Let us start off by acknowledging that there is a distinct difference between Queer and Transgender subjects. It’s important not to lump these two together. Though related and often overlapping, these are not interchangeable terms. Queer being a reclaimed pejorative for gay, and transgender being a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender. (see more.) With that in mind what I would like to look into a reoccurring concern in the discussions that take place around both queer and transgender performance art.


Artist Micha Cárdenas. (photo- Fran Pollitt)

In the last month I have seen multiple panels touching on the subject of new Queer and or Transgender works. There was a definitive connection between all panels: and attempt to shake up current the definitions, and what some define as new codified zones of safety. When I say zones of safety, I am referring a kind of identity politics that sits safely in a form of expression that is confortable enough for new standards of acceptance. Artworks that sit in this comfort zone fail to realize the full potentiality of the subjects and often begging to forum it’s own predictable cliché. The challenging of the formulation of a tamed queerness or transgender performance is an often-highlighted theme appearing in new works. The formulation of a safely circumscribed zone undermines the attempt to reconsider the subject due to an inadequate scope.

Queer and or transgender arts panels often attempt to define the new wave of artists making work in these areas. Today many artists are attempting to define a new direction that departs from the identity work that came out the 80s and 90s. Often these earlier works are ascribed the quality of crying out for recognition. Much of the work being produced today is looking for finer definitions, as opposed to this preliminary awareness.


“Queer Chicago” ‘ Artist Keijuan R Thomas. Defibrillator on 19 October 2013. (photo- Isabelle McGuire)

We could go on to talk about the subject of the word Queer as discussed during the roundtable “New Queer Aesthetics” in late October. Queer New York International Arts Festival (QNYI)  had come to Chicago to exhibit a Queer Fest as an extension of the one in New York at Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery . The Chicago show featured artists Suka Off, Bruno Isakovic, Gabreiela Mureb, and Keijaun Thomas. Queer fest distinctly pulls itself away from other Queer festivals which they feel are accepted ideas of the term Queer. As one of the festivals curators, Zvonimir Dobrović, explained, the festival seeks to redefine and challenge preconceived notions of the term Queer. Not all work is made by the LGBT community and instead is defined loosely by a sort of norm-challenging ascetic. After struggling through various definitions, redefinitions, embracing, rejections, fears of washing out the word of meaning completely, and other post-modern linguistic dilemmas an audience member mentions queerness in regards to race, specifically the colored queer. Why is this important? Because the conversations began to progress from the semanticlogical, what is Queer, to what are current Queer issues are concerned about, who are we dealing with the queer female of color in art today.


“Transgender/Arts- A Roundtable on the Future of Transgender Cultural Production” at the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago on 6 November 2013. (photo- Noah Davies / SAIC)

This November I attended a panel at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Transgender / Arts : A roundtable on the future of transgender cultural production, which  included panelists Trish Salah, Jules Rosskam, Julian Carter, David Getsy, and Micha Cárdenas. During the panel many valid points were made about Transgender art. Micha Cárdenas presented important question to the panel, “Where are the trans women of color in art?” Many of the panelist themselves who specialize in Transgender arts could in fact not think of a single artist. The panel began to discus a kind of film festival, performance and art transgender normative narrative. A washed down version, where you began to see something constrained, not quite all the way there. Sitting in a place somewhere in academia where it is comfortable and safe.


“Autonets” Artist Micha Cárdenas. (photo- Fran Pollitt)

How does performance readjust and challenge Queer and Trans identity without losing site of the community in general? There is something that happens to us when we are about to fully realize the other; we find a way to compromise, to only go so far. Many Queer or Trans artist today are attempting to push at the boundaries of a newly accepted normative narrative and point at the things we are forgetting, those who still don’t have a voice. The Art world, the world, is still white male dominated. In a way the lull of sleep we put ourselves in this supposedly post-feminism, post-racism, post- sexism, post-gender issues world that we keep referring to as better than it was before is more dangerous. Because hiding under that comfort is the fact we haven’t changed all that much, we should be forging new grounds and making sure it doesn’t fall asleep.

If I was asked where the new queer or trans aesthetic is headed today, I would say somewhere within the struggle of continuous disturbance, in the understanding that things aren’t there yet and we have to keep shaking it up, shaking ourselves up, so we don’t become our own worse enemies, the perpetuators of a normative Queer of Trans identity. As performance art specifically keeps pushing on with another panel at the Hemispheric Institute for Performing Arts, this week discussing “Race & the Colonial Impulse: Queer Performance Practices”, I look forward t a continued discussion that bridges gaps in the dialogue between racial queer and transgender  issues in the arts.



Autumn Hays is an Artist, Curator, Teacher and Writer. She graduated the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an MFA in Performance where she received the John Quincy Adams Fellowship. She received her BA in Visual Arts at UCSD. Hays was the recipient of numerous scholarships, grants and awards including two major Jack Kent Cooke association scholarships.Currently she is assistant curator at Defibrillator and Directing Coordinator of the Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival.

Episode 429: Michael Velliquette and Oliver Warden

November 18, 2013 · Print This Article

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Michael Velliquette and Oliver Warden
This week: The Amanda Browder show rolls in to town! Amanda talks to Michael Velliquette and Oliver Warden


Michael Velliquette has a show up at DCKT Contemporary!

MICHAEL VELLIQUETTE (b. 1971) is a mixed media artist known for his densely detailed and dimensionally complex paper sculptures, installations, and drawings.He has recently had solo shows at DCKT Contemporary, New York, NY; Disjecta, Portland, OR; Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York, NY; and Rhodes College, Memphis, TN. His museum exhibitions include Slash: Paper Under the Knife at the Museum of Art and Design, New York; Art on Paper at the Weatherspoon Art Museum; and Psychedelic at the San Antonio Museum of Art. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Wisconsin Art; the Racine Art Museum; the Progressive Corporation; Western Bridge, Seattle; The John Michael Kohler Art Center; The Linda Pace Foundation; The State of Wisconsin; Boston Children’s Hospital and the San Antonio Museum of Art. A catalog chronicling his work from the past 10 years titled “Michael Velliquette: Lairs of the Unconscious” was released in 2011 through Devibooks Publishers.

Michael Velliquette is a Faculty Associate in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and organizes the independently run project space Lovey Town.


Then a conversation with Oliver Warden about his project Globall!

What is GLOBALL?

GLOBALL is a new take on a social network created as a work of art by artist Oliver Warden.

“Basically, I want to pass seven wooden balls, one for each letter in GLOBALL, hand to hand, person to person, around the world.

On each of these wooden balls will be the instructions of what to do with it in multiple languages (three different ones for each ball) and in pictograms. When you receive a GLOBALL:

1. Take a picture of yourself with it and send the picture, your first name, your location and the time to our website

2. Once on the website you can fill out a profile. There you can share your experience, connect with other GLOBALLers and follow your ball on its journey.

3. You’ll then be asked to pass the GLOBALL to a VERY GOOD FRIEND and explain the instructions.

Hopefully as each ball travels, everyone will think about words such as ‘share’ and ‘friend’ and ‘follow’. With a little luck, each GLOBALL will go on a voyage of friendship and connectivity around the world.”



November 18, 2013 · Print This Article

Two buses, Two shows

The Central Techno Authority really came through this past Friday as perpetually late but perfectly on time for not one, but two rounds of seriously heady electronic music. First off, I just want to say that I had been excited for this Oneohtrix Point Never show at Constellation for-ever. I heard from a murky internet source that the show was to be opened by Chicago’s Brett Naucke. However, it later surfaced that Naucke was premiering a quadrophonic composition at Experimental Sound Studio. For this iteration of ESS’s Oscillations Series, Naucke was going cultural with a piece based on Richard Serra’s sculpture Reading Cones. Obviously, I had to go to both.

OPN at Constellation.

I headed off on the long journey north to ESS on first the 74 east and then the 50 northbound to wherever Edgewater is. Despite the two buses, I arrived right on time to get a seat for Naucke’s set. I closed my eyes and felt like my brain was unraveling, in a pleasant way. Naucke’s 30 minute set was distinctly metallic, and gave off the aural vibe of the sculpture, which itself appears to be some sort of Staregate-like vortex propelling industrial wavelengths into the atmosphere. The sounds were given life and movement through the quadrophonic experience, which immersed the audience who were also fully zoned. The piece culminated with a twinkly modulation that echoed into silence and eased the audience back to reality. My reality was that I needed to get to Oneohtrix Point Never stat!

Bootleg of Naucke’s Composition for Richard Serra’s Reading Cones.

I unfortunately had to skip out on Alex Barnett & Ken Camden as I boarded the 50 southbound to the 77 back west to Constellation. To be honest, I was a little panicked– I had spaced out and forgot to buy tickets. The show had sold out, but reality wasn’t going to get in the way of my destiny. After another endless bus ride, I arrived at the venue ready to scheme my way inside. Shout out to the slackers who bought tickets and didn’t show up cause I got into the shit no problem. Sat down three rows back, right in front of point never’s Daniel Lopatin right as he began to play.

Oneohtrix Point Never’s encore at Constellation.

Lopatin’s sound has noticeably evolved with his most recent release on Warp Records and I was really curious to see how his new sound would translate live. Oneohtrix Point Never was initially known for the mellow post-apocalyptic feel he achieved by looping his Juno 60 and pitched down samples. His set reflected this change. Instead of his trusty Juno 60 dominating his rig, Lopatin’s faced glowed angelically under the ambient light of his Mac laptop. Although the method has changed, the vibe remains the same. The audience was treated to a series of electronic compositions incorporating many of his new techniques including melodious chopped up vocal samples and pulsing synthesizers and a surprising amount of bass and percussion. The pulsating live visuals played off the hyper modern digital Wabi-sabi design of his most recent album covers. The pairing of music and visuals created a polysensorial glimpse into our inevitable cold futures wandering aimlessly in small pods across space time into nothingness. As the set came to close, I felt uplifted. That night the impossible became possible.

On the CTA, time is not linear. Manifest your own reality.

Brandon Warren Alvendia (Chicago, IL) 36 y.o. male Filipino-American is a suspect in the petty theft of 2.5 sentences of a press release text from an undisclosed New York City Art Gallery. The perpetrator attempted to invoke Fair Use Doctrine and thus waived the use of the cryptomnesia defense. The victims will remain unidentified to protect the privacy of their families. Alvendia is expected to plead guilty and accept his sentence of a lifetime of community service.

Installation at Women Weed & Weather.

The Weatherman Report

Gerhard Richter, Rain, 1988 (oil on canvas, 67 cm x 92 cm).

Cement Obstacle Foils Cyclists on Damen

Tired of the conventional potholes and run-of-the-mill cracks that dot and line every block of the city? Bike commuters were no doubt asking for a new kind of obstacle, and Chicago has answered the call. Introducing an impressive, and hopefully temporary, cement addition to the already difficult cycling conditions at Damen and Walnut.

It’s existed long enough to earn some traffic cones and warning signs, though the majority of the safety equipment has fallen over and drifted into the bike lane. Other rough-riding winners of the week include the nearly bike-proof eastbound stretch of Grand, between Pulaski and Central Park, and the viaduct on 23rd street, between Western and Rockwell, which last month featured a white loveseat that was perfectly situated in the middle of the craggy westbound lane. Keep reading the Traffic Report for more roadway gossip and Chicago street surprises in the future!

From Emerald City to blue painted beans, Saturday Night Openings Pop

A gem by Annie Strachan. at LVL3’s Emerald City.

LVL3 directors, Vincent Uribe and Anna Mort showing emerald solidarity at the exhibition’s opening.

Cutris Mann’s new cutout images of his studio are to die for.

A detail of Daniel Luedtke’s large scale mixed media sculptural work at the opening for Secound Primary at 3433.

Carson Fisk-Vittori and Derek Fretch during their triumphiant return to Chicago for the opening of Women Weed & Weather at Carrie Secrist Gallery.

WTT? visits New York, Gets Killer Mani

SO, here’s the T. Last week I was in NY for a wedding at Bryant Park.* The affair was black tie and I arrived in NY in desperate need of a manicure. In an usually unusual turn of events, I ended up in the East Village apartment of Miss Pop Nails, fashion manicurist to all my favorite drag queens, celebrities and designers. Being the So Fla yentas that we both are we totes hit it off, and Miss Pop gave me the most to die for manicure I’ve ever had.

Photo by Spencer J. LaFrandré.

Since I can’t keep anything to myself, here are some masterpieces nails that Ms. P created for the Guggenheim before the project was unfortunately scraped due to some “other” museums nail salon.

Masterpieces of nail couture.

If you’re like me, and can’t get enough of fly nails, follow Miss Pop Nails on tumblr/instagram and check out her tutorials. Here’s how to do my wedding nails on Cosmo. Living for her Warhol-inspired flower mani and the project with KAWS!

I died.

*A shooting went down on the ice rink the same night as the wedding! That was it’s whole own crazy story.


November 15, 2013 · Print This Article

The Life Instinct: unification, the eternal return, the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species, survival systems and operations, equilibrium.

– Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969!

Last May, when I wrote MAINTENANCE #1, I quoted the interview Bartholomew Ryan did with Mierle Laderman Ukeles, for Art In America in 2009. Maintenance, she told him, “is trying to listen to the hum of living. A feeling of being alive, breath to breath.” That’s still my lodestar for this column.

I write fiction most of the time, at Bookslut I write a reading diary on different themes, and here I write about specific solo publications – the reading I do, and bump into doing, here in Chicago. I write about “the people [the writers, the editors, the publishers] who are taking care and keeping the wheels of society moving.” I try to pay attention. Here where Our Scene is so rad and vibrant but also so segregated by neighborhood, schools, tone, etc., this is something we can always fail better at.

a page from THE CANTILEVER RAINBOW by Ruth Krauss, which I read this month but did not write about below

from THE CANTILEVER RAINBOW by Ruth Krauss (Pantheon, 1964), a terrific book I read this month but did not write about below. (This copy is available to the public on the J. shelves in the Poetry Foundation Library.)


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