The first comic-art-review I ever made was inspired by a remarkable 2015 exhibition at The Comfort Station in Chicago’s Logan Square entitled Golden Spike: Rock Shop of the Anthropocene, featuring work by Conrad Bakker, Harry Kuttner, Lee Hunter and Ryan Thompson. It was organized by MK Meador and Stella Brown. The comic was never published, but the show remains vivid in my imagination. Together artists and organizers installed a cohesive “roadside attraction” that playfully stages evidence of humanity’s influence on geological material, torquing Frontier-fantasy trading posts and Pastoral tourist stopovers with Anthropocenic evidence culled from the the city. The specimens presented are not pure minerals but rather amalgamations of dirt, grit, and human industry. As such each rock reflects a massive network of industrial, economic, national, and political forces within which everyone—humans and nonhumans like—are implicated. The conceit of the exhibit therefore mixes “real” specimens with “authentic” artworks by the aforementioned artists. A far room features a small pile of short rusted strips of iron are “priced by length;” nearby a cardboard box on the floor boasts five pieces of Metra train tracks for a dollar. On a higher shelf above this box, pieces of “Tar Obsidian” in cotton-bedded gold cardboard jewelry boxes are available for sale as well. Information cards are positioned beside every sample, slipping between didactic museum text and sales cards used in fossil shops. On an opposing wall, Harry Kuttner hangs his sculpture some crushed Budweisers: a series of used, crumpled and sun-faded beer cans with smooth palm-size rocks protruding from their centers. In the main room, more rocks are arranged and encased in plastic boxes or wrapped in cellophane Cabrini Green Housing Complex rocks similarly for sale at affordable single digit prices and nearby with an information card that describes not only the location of the original building but also what the specimen contains (a mixture of brick and concrete). Positioned equivalently Conrad Baaker installs a series of painting of hands looking at rocks on shelves. This collection entitled, Untitled Project: The Crystal Land was inspired by a Robert Smithson essay about of the same name. Or Ryan Thompson’s Vogel-Cut Crystal Prototypes of assorted materials: a series of encased rods comprised of different materials which, according to their wall label were designed by an IBM researched who “turned his attention from magnetic disks to another type of information retrieval system—quartz crystals” and thus designed his “Vogel-cut” crystal form. This exhibition was designed like a stage set, and the effect is pleasurably wry and informative, demonstrating how these strange geological specimens encompass the larger mesh of human civilization in inert, everyday materials.
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