A graphic, editorial overview of art, artists, and visual art events, found in and around Chicago over the course of the preceding month. All artwork copyright original artists; all photography copyright Paul Germanos.
Mothergirl @ Happy Collaborationists / ACRE Residency
Above: Mothergirl, a performance art duo featuring Sophia Hamilton, foreground, and Katy Albert, background, working within wooden boxes.
Above: The Happy Collaborationists, Meredith Weber, left, and Anna Trier, right, hosting Mothergirl’s “Two Women Do Three Things,” on February 9, 2013.
“Two Women Do Three Things”
February 9, 2013
Happy Collaborationists, in partnership with ACRE Residency
1254 N. Noble
Chicago, IL 60642
Martin Creed @ MCA Chicago
Above: A 10 second exposure, hand-held, indicating the kinetic potential of Martin Creed’s popular piece “MOTHERS.”
Above: Visible in the museum lobby, background, are the geometric architectural paintings Work No. 798 (2007) and Work No. 1349 (2012).
Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS)
Museum of Contemporary Art
MVDR Plaza – till May
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Chris Smith @ The Franklin
Above: Chris Smith’s “Visitation Rites” art burn in progress on Februrary 9, 2013.
Above: Chelsea Culp and Ben Foch view Chris Smith’s “The Visitorâ€™s Hours” within The Franklin, opening night.
Above: A gallery patron embraced by a neighborhood resident during the opening reception.
“The Visitorâ€™s Hours” and “Visitation Rites”
February 9 – 24, 2013
3522 W. Franklin Blvd
Drawerâ€™s Drawing @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM
Above: Leslie Baum’s “In the Forest,” 2012, full work and detail.
February 3 â€“ March 3, 2013
Julius Caesar and Peregrine Program
3311 W. Carroll Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624
Curated by Carrie Gundersdorf and Eric Lebofsky
Artwork by Leslie Baum, Avantika Bawa, Elijah Burgher, Lilli CarrÃ©, Chris Edwards, Anthony Elms, Richard Rezac, and Paul Schuette
Peculiar Poetics @ Design Cloud
Above: Kayl Parker’s 60″ x 75″ photographic print on vinyl
Above: “Peculiar Poetics” curator Alysia Alex, opening night.
February 1 – 23, 2013
118 N. Peoria, Suite 2N
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by Alysia Alex
Artwork by Kayl Parker, Brea Souders, Stephanie Gonot, Bridget Collins, Mate Moro, Aron Filkey, Marthe Elise Stramrud, Sasha Kurmaz, and Sol Hashemi
Plant Life @ Western Exhibitions
Above: Front to back, artwork by Heidi Norton, Scott Wolniak, and Tyson Reeder.
Above: “Plant Life” curator Geoffrey Todd Smith, opening night.
February 1 – March 9, 2013
845 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by Geoffrey Todd Smith
Artwork by Chinatsu Ikeda, Eric Wert, Heidi Norton, Jonathan Gardener, Mindy Rose Schwartz, Scott Wolniak, and Tyson Reeder
Shit is Real @ devening projects + editions
Above: “You Can’t Win Them All” by Cody Hudson.
Above: Artwork by Aron Gent, as photographed during the opening reception at devening projects + editions, on February 3, 2013.
Above: Aron Gent at his own gallery, Document, photographed on February 1, 2013.
“Shit is Real”
February 3 – March 9, 2013
devening projects + editions
3039 W. Carroll,
Chicago, IL 60612
Artwork by Aron Gent, Carrie Gundersdorf, Cody Hudson, Sofia Leiby, Josh Reames and Cody Tumblin
Judith Geichman @ Carrie Secrist
Above: Gallery patrons view Judith Geichman’s installation during the opening reception.
Above: Chicago writer and artist Erik Wenzel, bon vivant in the shadow of existential doubt, at Judith Geichman’s opening reception on February 9, 2013.
“New Paintings and Works on Paper”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Carrie Secrist Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Color Bind @ MCA
Above: Rudolf Stingel’s oil painting “Untitled (after Sam),” 2006.
Above: Joel Shapiro, Untitled, 1971, foreground; Glenn Lingon “White #11,” 1994, and Imi Knoebel, “Untitled (Black Painting),” 1990, background.
“Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White,”
Organized by MCA Curator Naomi Beckwith
November 10, 2012 â€“ April 28, 2013
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago, IL 60611
Mary Patten @ threewalls
Above: Mary Patten’s “Schizo-Culture” performance live, February 9, 2013
Above: Dr. Darrell Moore as Michel Foucault in “Schizo-Culture” at threewalls.
Mary Patten: “PANEL”
January 11 – February 23, 2013
119 N. Peoria #2c
Chicago, IL 60607
Sarah Hicks @ Thomas Robertello
Above: Ceramic artist Sarah Hicks greeting a guest at her opening reception on Friday, February 22, 2013.
February 22 – April 6, 2013
Thomas Robertello Gallery
27 N. Morgan St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Goshka Macuga @ MCA Chicago
Above: Goshka Macuga’s “The Nature of the Beast” booked for a meeting, social dimension evident, on February 12, 2013.
Above: “Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not,” (panel 1).
“Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A”
December 15, 2012 â€“ April 7, 2013
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Luc Dratwa @ Kasia Kay
Above: Exterior window, looking in gallery from sidewalk, at night.
February 22 – March 30
Kasia Kay Projects
215 N. Aberdeen St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Tom Costa and Christina McClelland @ Roxaboxen / ACRE Projects
Above: Christina McClelland, foreground, and Tom Costa, background.
Above: Christina McClelland at the opening reception on February, 10, 2013.
Tom Costa & Christina McClelland
“After the After Party”
February 10, 2013
Roxaboxen Exhibitions in partnership with ACRE Projects
2130 W. 21st St.
Gabriel Vormstein @ moniquemeloche
“Tempus fungit â€“ amor mannet”
February 1 â€“ March 30, 2013
2154 W Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
Johanna Billing @ Kavi Gupta
“I’m gonna live anyhow until I die”
February 9 â€“ March 30, 2013
Kavi Gupta Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
Robert Burnier @ Andrew Rafacz
Above: Robert Burnier at his opening reception on February 9, 2013.
“The Horseless Carriage”
February 9 â€“ March 30, 2013
Andrew Rafacz Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus @ ACRE Projects
Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus
February 10 â€“ 25, 2013
1913 W. 17th St.
Chicago, IL 60608
Xavier Cha @ Aspect Ratio
February 9 â€“ March 8, 2013
119 N. Peoria St., Unit 3D
Chicago IL 60607
Paul Germanos: Born November 30, 1967, Cook County, Illinois. Immigrant grandparents, NYC. High school cross country numerals and track letter. Certified by the State of Illinois as a peace officer. Licensed by the City of Chicago as a taxi driver. Attended the School of the Art Institute 1987-1989. Studied the history of political philosophy with the students of Leo Strauss from 2000-2005. Phi Theta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Motorcyclist.
Public Collectors is a self-proclaimed paper blog, as well as a website and Tumblr feed, that seeks to archive and make freely available material that may have no other venue: lists, conversations, collages, notes, fliers, temporary tattoos, classified ads, etc. “Public Collectors” is library, museum, zine, reference center, and studio simultaneously (and probably – necessarily – it is more then that as well).
I may have been largely attracted by the gold sparkly cover when I picked up a copy of “Public Collectors” at Zine Fest a few weeks ago. The glittery paper is wonderfully complemented by the diagram of a fragmented and grimacing human face – shown both frontally and in profile, and topped by the caption “FEELING AND EMOTION IN EVERYDAY LIFE” (the image is scanned from “Psychology: The Fundamentals of Human Adjustment,” published 1946).
A disparate and well curated collection of images and ephemera, it includes such gems as a handmade flier for a lost hat, and a photo of a sign featuring an image of the drag queen Divine.
The project is run by Marc Fischer of Temporary Services. The material included is gleaned from Fischer’s own collections, but also is donated for public accessibility. The website version of “Public Collectors” is an amazing reference for – well, probably things that you didn’t know you had to be referred to yet but maybe, somehow, you always wanted to be. It has links to a woman’s blog on which she has posted PDFs of all her notes from college, a link to a fantastic video of Danzig discussing his book collection, a link to photos someone posted somewhere on the internet of the inside of their mother’s house (she’s a hoarder). There is a list of links to web documented collections, including cigarette lighters, “do notÂ disturb” signs, hip hop party fliers, the sound of cats purring (a personal favorite of mine), pictures of celebrities playing tennis, and creatively designed periodic tables. The world is a wonderful place.
I don’t know what Fischer’s curatorial restraints are – perhaps it’s purely intuitive – but the general trend is towards subcultural ephemera, such as the poster for an Alice Cooper tribute band or the page from “New Dominant,” a British publication of dominatrix classifieds.
What strikes me most about “Public Collectors” is the nurturing formation of alternative collections – collections based on, formed and informed by a unique and maybe not coherently logical set of interests or constraints. I don’t know if I entirely agree with Fischer’s assertion in his curatorial statement that the material in “Public Collectors” is passed over by libraries and museums. I myself work in a library where one of my responsibilities is to file additions to our collection of ephemera related to the history of printing. This includes finely printed broadsides and prospectuses, but also just a lot of what would generally be classified as junk mail. Additionally, several collections from CPLs Harold Washington Library are referenced; the cover of the collection of non-musical recordings in included in the issue I own.
Also, an interview with the former curator of Harold Washington’s picture collection is included on the website in a download-able PDF booklet.
I think more to the point is the culling of these materials from their disparate locales into new aggregate collections. It is this method of collecting – both a relic of the victorian era and/or a focused re-interpretation of the image overload received daily from the internet and digital media – that is not fostered by many institutions. It is D.I.Y. collecting at it’s finest and most articulate. In scanning these images and re-blogging them, I guess I am adding “Public Collectors” to my own collection, and to the collection that is Bad at Sports.
Bailey Romaine is a printmaker and bibliophile (and maybe a collector of sorts) currently living in Chicago.
Guest Post by Eric Asboe
In a time of increasingly conceptually-based, historically-located, over-explained art practices, it can be refreshing to enter galleries devoid of writing, white but for the objects on the walls and spilling across the floors. In contrast to the recent sprawling Cindy Sherman retrospective and the forthcoming Art(ists) on the Verge exhibition that explores interactive or participatory networked based practices, Painter Painter at The Walker Art Center and R.U.R. at The Soap Factory appear to be spare, quiet returns to formalism.
Sarah Crowner’s eye-grabbing Ciseaux Rideaux and Judith Hoffman’s immense Rebuilt and Torn Down (The Soap Factory) draw visitors into the galleries. Works deeper in the exhibitions begin displaying the time and effort of their creation. Colin Lyons’s The Conservator displays hundreds of corroded copper and zinc plates, while suspending others in the act of powering the large chemical battery. The paint of Alex Olson’s Proposal 9 and Proposal 10 is marked by her visceral brushstrokes and knife pulls. Nadine Anderson’s video work presents a less physical, but clearly felt digital manipulation. The multiplied, blended, superimposed video elements draw the viewer into the process of their creation.
These glimpses into the processes of the artists point to the larger concerns of both exhibitions generally. As static and formal as the works appear to be, the exhibitions are truly invitations to move beyond the walls of the gallery, to delve into the process of art making, to begin exploring the artists’ bodies of work and their relations to contemporary art practices.
Eric Crosby and Bartholomew Ryan, the Painter Painter co-curators, write in their “Notes for an Exhibition” that through extensive research, studio visits, and conversations they have come to understand painting today “as a means, not an end,” that for the artists presented in the exhibition, “painting is a generative process” Â Similarly, Ben Haywood, the R.U.R. curator and Executive Director of The Soap Factory, states that the site-specific works of R.U.R., all explore the role of “direct work in the creation of the art object.”
How that “process,” “work,” extended conversations, and deeper understandings manifest themselves in the art objects is not immediately apparent in the exhibitions. Fergus Feehily’s three paintings speak directly to one another, but they do not necessarily demonstrate the “personal formal play that the artist has called on his materials to negotiate,” that Ryan writes of witnessing in Feehily’s studio. Similarly, Kimberly Ellen Green’s untitled ceramic works fill The Soap Factory with their interlocking, architectural curves, but their connections to what Haywood sees as the “reproducible industrial atom” are abstracted.
In addition to the statements prepared by the curators, The Walker is presenting talks and interviews with artists from Painter Painter as well as releasing blog posts and video interviews from all fifteen artists throughout the duration of the exhibition. The Soap Factory’s supplementary materials include artist talks and audio and video interviews with Haywood and artists. These types of additional views of the artists and artwork of the exhibitions are certainly not new, but, as curators point away from the gallery, away from the observable work of the artists, for deeper and maybe truer understanding of those artists’ work, the curators play just as large a role in creating the materiality of the exhibition as the artists.
Both Painter Painter and R.U.R. demonstrate the wonderful complexity and formal delight of contemporary artistic practices, and, similarly, the supplementary material provides deep insight into the practices and processes of the artists. The balance between the exhibitions and supplements, however, demonstrates the difficulty inherent in multiply-sited, art-object-as-documentation exhibitions. Olson writes in an interview with Crosby, that painting’s “greatest asset is that is has no function other than as an art object. It isnâ€™t fooling anyone: itâ€™s extremely clear about what it consists of and what itâ€™s offering.” With that simplicity and surface in mind, how, then, can we navigate the slippery slope between the very present “art objects” of both Painter Painter and R.U.R. and the processes that they purport to exemplify? How do we balance our engagement with the work of the artists and the work of the curators?
Eric Asboe is an artist, writer, and cultural worker. As Art Director of Public Space One gallery and performance space in Iowa City, Iowa, Asboe helped shape its nationally-engaged exhibitions and programming, including the microgranting meal SOUP and the award-winning Free @rt School. Asboe’s creative works prioritize process over product and explore the boundary between practice as improvement and practice as way of life. Forthcoming projects include ubuwebtopten.com. He currently lives and works in Minneapolis.
Guest Post by Jamilee Polson Lacy
Kansas City, in my opinion, is a sentimental place. I often hear KC natives recount the expansive history of Northeast KC, an historic 19th century neighborhood which is now a little rough around the edges but still incredibly interesting and diverse, recall the Jazz bars East of Troost, or speculate about what really happened in the days when the â€œPrendergast Machineâ€ controlled the West Bottoms. One of my favorite times to eavesdrop is when I hear longtime residents waxing nostalgic for streetcar rides to Swope Park in the 1950s. Every time I am lucky enough to hear such things, I imagine myself inhabiting the setting and time of these other folksâ€™ memories.
Similarly, the arts scene in KC has seen lately a confluence of presentations demonstrating artistsâ€™ longing for many pasts, presents and futures. I think they are trying to connect with their former, current and hopefully-to-be selves. In some cases, these artists show that they merely wish to spend a little time somewhere else, to escape, to vacation even. In others cases, though, artists seem want to be in two places at once, or to teleport themselves across space and time in order to gather images and artifacts to pile up for exhibitions. And in other, other cases, artists (and I too!) hope and pray versions of themselves, doubles, doppelgangers are out there doing good work on their behalf.
These artistsâ€™ notions about such things are really quite silly. Well, until they arenâ€™t.
They are especially not silly when considered alongside KC-based fiction writer Annie Fischerâ€™s 2012 essay, â€œWish You Were Here,â€ which somehow, amazingly, sums up all of these wild ideas. So, for this monthâ€™s post on artiness in KC, I give you an illustrated version of â€œWish You Were Hereâ€:
Please Note: The italicized notes following the images are mine, not Annie Fischer’s.
â€œWish You Were Hereâ€
By Annie Fischer
In Anne and Dirkâ€™s kitchen, where Iâ€™ve embraced the best and worst kinds of self- indulgence for ten years, the topic of conversation is dÃ©jÃ vu. I canâ€™t remember why.
Dirk is troubled that there is no definitive rational explanation for it, this false sense of familiarity.
I am troubled that brains can play tricks.
Anne is troubled that it did not occur to her to be troubled by our troubles, and asks for not the last time, â€œWhat is wrong with you both?â€
Iâ€™ve been reading lately about Capgras syndrome, a disorder in which one holds the delusion that an intimate has been replaced by an identical-looking imposter. Two French psychiatrists, Joseph Capgras and Jean Reboul-Lachaux, first described the syndrome in 1923, in the case of a female patient complaining that â€œdoublesâ€ had replaced her husband, children and neighbors. Doubles also figure in Freudâ€™s 1919 essay on DAS UNHEIMLICHE, â€œthe uncanny,â€ a concept he describes as â€œthat class of the terrifyingâ€ that is both familiar and foreign at once. Heidegger tackled DAS UNHEIMLICHE, too, and its associated anxiety. Heidegger called it UNHEIMLICHKEIT: â€œnot-being-at-home.â€
â€œWeâ€™re homesick,â€ I suggest. â€œOur doubles are homesick, too.â€
Anne shakes her head. She says, â€œMy double is having an excellent time.â€
Portraitist Jaimie Warren and her costumed coterie travel across art history and pop culture. Warren, though a KC resident and staple of the local arts community, opened a solo show at The Hole NYC last month. See more of Jaimie Warren atÂ http://www.dontyoufeelbetter.com.
In my apartment, at my desk: I re-read the latest batch of texts and emails, a weekâ€™s worth or so.
When I reply, I tell him I wish he wouldnâ€™t dash off these cryptic messages and then disappear again. Itâ€™s maddening, this new habit. It seems careless, and done in secret, and not meant for or mindful of me. â€œI want to believe thereâ€™s something uncompromised in it,â€ I tell him, â€œsomething familiar.â€ What I mean is, who is this imposter?
Sometimes he would forget his watch on my dresser in the mornings, and in the afternoons I would fasten it to my wrist for an hour or so. I liked to hear it tick.
He says: â€œNothing worked.â€
He says: â€œWe worked.â€
He says: â€œI care more than you can imagine.â€
In THE STRANGER, Meursault â€“ imprisoned â€“ kills time taking mental inventories of his old apartment. He recalls the color and texture of the furniture, the objects atop the furniture, the details of the objects: every crack, every chipped edge. â€œOnce I learned how to remember things,â€ he tells the reader, â€œI wasnâ€™t bored at all.â€
Thereâ€™s lots of room for romance in existentialism â€“ I actually said that once.
â€œThe more I thought about it,â€ Meursault continues, â€œthe more I dug out of my memory things I had overlooked or forgotten. I realized then that a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored. In a way, it was an advantage.â€
In a way. On the one hand.
What my mother likes to say, during the most serious conversations: â€œOn the other hand, she wore a glove.â€
At 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, I throw out his toothbrush. Its absence is what I see in the medicine cabinet now. I sleep on his side of the bed; some ghost sleeps on mine.
I tell him all of this, of course.
I, too, want an audience for my inventory.
Poor Meursault. It is terrible â€“ it is so disadvantageous â€“ to be kept from being bored.
If Only A Fool, curated by Chris Daharsh for City Ice Arts, inventories this group of artists’ attempts toÂ re-iterate, re-use and re-present themselves andÂ their surroundings. See more at www.chrisdaharsh.com.
â€œSO NICE,â€ visitors say of Kansas Cityâ€™s residents. â€œPeople here are SO NICE.â€
â€œWonderful,â€ a local murmurs in reply. â€œAre people not nice where you come from?â€
â€œNo, no â€“ it isnâ€™t that,â€ visitors say. â€œWe knew everyone would be nice, weâ€™ve always heard that about this place, everyoneâ€™s always heard that about this place. Weâ€™re just surprised by HOW nice.â€
The local suggests that perhaps the dissonance occurs not because the visitors have encountered an unexpected depth and/or breadth of friendliness, but because they have confirmed through lived experience what cognitively they had already accepted, consciously or not, as true.
The visitors frown. â€œHmm,â€ they say. â€œMaybe. Probably not.â€ â€œNo, probably not,â€ the local says. The visitors, once more: â€œItâ€™s just: SO NICE.â€
They havenâ€™t had occasion to visit my pharmacy, I think. At my pharmacy, grim-faced girls in uncomfortable-looking lab coats approach the counter and stare or sigh until a customer intuits it is his or her turn to speak.
These girls, with their heavy reluctance â€“ I want to ask them, â€œCan I help you?â€
People in KC are so nice that they let Xijing Men travel across the world to make up fake countries and olympics so that they can reinvent themselves. People in KC are so nice that they let Xijing Men draw crazy stories ofÂ doppelgÃ¤ngersÂ all over the wall. People in KC are so nice that they will lay on the concrete floor to please Xijing Men. See more of The Xijing Men; Tsuyoshi Ozawa, Chen Shaoxiong, and Gimhongsok exhibition atÂ http://www.kcai.edu/artspace.
I am spending five days at the beach. Exactly five months ago I spent six days on another beach, some 1,800 miles west of this one. Any distinction I might make from memory between the physical landscapes â€“ clarity of water, intensity of sun â€“ I would have to invent. Beach is beach to me.
On the first beach, in May, I would lie on a damp lounge chair for an hour or so after sunrise each morning and listen to the waves hurl themselves against the shore with such desperation and regularity that I felt I could not breathe. When the rhythm became too oppressive, I would go upstairs. One morning I took two showers in five hours just to try the shampoos.
Here, on the second beach, the waves ahead remind me of the experience and the feeling I had on the first beach five months ago. I compare this memory with the one that comes next â€“ the new memory of remembering the first beach, the memory created here on the second beach â€“ and I recognize in the second memory an absence of the anxiety in the first.
From what I gather, the shore on this beach simply suffers less reckless waves than the first beach.
This explains the difference.
In a way.
At the grocery store down the street, I spin a circular rack of postcards. Iâ€™m looking for something specific, something with porpoises and a setting sun.
I find one of a pair of gulls studying the horizon. It reads, â€œWish you were here.â€
I consider sending it to him. I consider sending it to the girls at the pharmacy. I consider sending it to Annie Fischer, in Kansas City, Mo., so something is waiting when she returns.
As I walk out empty-handed â€“ because I do not wish to be familiar with this particular moment in this particular place; I do not wish to be reminded â€“ a new comparison of memories reveals that the absence of anxiety has been replaced by the presence of anxiety.
As the exhibition’s title suggests,Â Centuries of Self: New Works by Seth Johnson (organized by Greenlease Gallery Director Anne Austin Pearce) researches, culls from, believes in the possibilities of a self’s multiples realities.
I fly home, I unpack. Days pass, then weeks. I visit kitchens, and allow visitors in mine.
No matter: The gulls remain faithful.
It helps to think my double feels homesick tonight.
Jamilee Polson Lacy is an artist, curator and writer living and working in Chicago. Lacy founded and currently directs the Twelve Galleries Project, a transitory, collaborative exhibition experiment. Her independent curatorial projects focus on the visions, colors, histories and ideas shared between authors, architects and artists, while her artwork and writing searches for what is lost and gained between text, image and object. She has engaged in solo and collaborative projects with numerous creatives and institutions, including A+D Gallery at Columbia College Chicago, The Black Visual Archive, Chicago Artistsâ€™ Coalition & Hatch Projects, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Quite Strong, among others. Publications include Color: Fully Engaged in addition to multiple exhibition essays and interviews. Lacy holds two undergraduate degrees in studio arts and art history and a Masters of Comparative Literature and Arts from Northwestern University. She is the 2012-2013 Curator-In-Residence for Kansas Cityâ€™s Charlotte Street Foundation, where she is organizing three exhibitions and publications for Charlotte Street’s la Esquina gallery.
February 24, 2013 · Print This Article
I first came across SPARE residency at this past year’s MDW Fair, held at the monstrous industrial complex adjacent to the defunct Fiske coal plant and now known as Mana Contemporary Art Center. The fair was kind of a clusterfuck, but I somehow made my way through the madness to SPARE’s small table displaying smart, well designed books and postcards – all printed on a Risograph GR3750 stencil printer.
Among the things that caught my attention were “The Commodity,” a love story told in receipts, by Caitlin Warner and “A Family Home” by Megan Hopkins.
Another book that caught my eye was “Vaporware” – SPARE’s collaboration with Christopher Roeleveld of Working-Knowledge, a fellow Chicago Risograph owner – which was made specifically for the occasion of MDW.
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of paying a visit to the home of SPARE’s Risograph – which also happens to be the home of Kyle and Shannon Schlie, their 9 month old son Theodore, and dog Roxanne. The family lives on the third floor of a graystone walk-up a stones throw from Harrison Park in Pilsen. Bookshelves made of recycled lumber and an array of vintage medicine cabinets hung over the bathroom sink decorate their cozy apartment. Two of the three bedrooms are dedicated to the residency: one is living quarters for the resident and the other houses the Risograph printer. Lining this small wood paneled workroom are shelves holding books, paper, a long arm stapler, basic book making supplies, and various other tools.
Tucked away under these shelves are large pod-like crates housing the different color ink drums for the Riso. The inventory of books and postcards that have been printed at SPARE occupies other boxes. Posters and printed materials paper the walls. A Spiderwort plant hangs by the sole window, which looks out across the neighboring rooftops.
At first glance the Risograph looks a lot like a standard office copier. However, when you open it up, there is a large cylindrical ink drum inside, around which a stencil of the image to be printed is wrapped. As the paper feeds through, ink is transferred through the stencil onto the paper. One color is printed at a time, and while registration is finicky due to the nature of the process, colors can be layered in really interesting ways.
SPARE has been in operation for about the past year and has hosted 4 residents so far, for 1 or 2 weeks each. Kyle and Shannon provide room and board as well as access to the Risograph and workroom. When I was at their house, their most recent resident had just completed a run of books, which were stacked neatly in the workroom.
The following is an email correspondence that followed my visit.
Bailey Romaine: How did you come to Risograph printing and what about it was so appealing to you? How did the residency develop out of or around your interest in this machine?
Kyle Schlie: I came to it through making books, which is in part a search for ways of making and printing on a small budget. I really liked the Risograph prints Iâ€™d seen, and wanted a way to print things myself, and the price was right, so it made sense to try it. One of our stipulations in getting a Risograph was that we needed a framework for allowing others to use it too. Since Iâ€™d been interested in the Riso for a while I figured others would be similarly interested, so we developed a residency program that we ourselves would want to be a part of and built it around the Riso.
BR: When I met with you at your home a few weeks ago, we talked a bit about the network of Riso printers that you have been finding your way to – or have been finding their way to you – since you acquired the press. You mentioned Issue Press – a small press based out of Grand Rapids that prints with a Risograph – as well as a number of Chicago artists who have Risographs in their homes or studios. Can you talk a bit more about these connections you’ve made?
KS: I wish I could claim more intention behind those connections. Theyâ€™ve mostly been initiated by other people, or out of sheer necessity on our part. In Chicago, Christopher Roeleveld of Working-Knowledge and Clay Hickson who operates Tan & Loose Press found me shortly after getting Risographs and are each doing great things with them now. Itâ€™s typical for people with a Risograph to reach out to others as problems, questions, or sharing opportunities arise. Risographs being used for small press stuff is more common now and seems to still be growing.
BR: It’s a pretty intimate gesture to invite artists you’ve never met before to come stay with you and your family. Did the two of you have any reservations about how it would work out?
KS: Not really. Thereâ€™s no way to know about things like that and at a certain point you just have to try it. The upside seemed great and we focused on that. Every person weâ€™ve had so far has been awesome and the experience for us has been uplifting way beyond printing and making books.
BR: It seems like you’ve had residents come from all over. How have applicants come across SPARE? What sort of outlets did you take advantage of to get the word out?
KS: This is another question I wish I had a better answer for. Our approach has been to go for things we feel are worthwhile, then figure out and adjust along the way. Weâ€™ve had the residency posted on websites that post opportunities for artists. Initially we made almost no effort to let people in Chicago know what we were up to, since we anticipated more appeal for people abroad because weâ€™re offering room and board in addition to the bookmaking stuff.
We donâ€™t how people find us, but emails and applications continue to come in. Itâ€™s not a great answer but thatâ€™s how itâ€™s been for us. Of course, we too are open to suggestions from people who actually know about these things.
BR: You are currently getting your MFA and your work seems pretty materially diverse. What do you think is the importance of making books – particularly in this aesthetic that both you have and SPARE seems to foster, that is somewhere between the finely crafted and the ad hoc?
KS: I think finely crafted can be ad hoc, and vice versa. I guess, to make a connection between my studio work and Risograph printing, Iâ€™m interested in whatâ€™s available or neglected and bringing it on board in service of certain ideas Iâ€™m pursuing. The Riso falls into this category. Itâ€™s no-hassle mass-printing before digital technology, and has fallen out of favor commercially and institutionally so mostÂ printers, schools, and churches are getting rid of them.
The aesthetic of the Risograph is unique in large part because of how it operates. I like that the process is visible in the final result. Weâ€™re making books by hand and though the Riso makes prints easily and in large quantities they come out slightly different each time. The machine has lots of quirks which require responses from the operator that often challenge how a book gets made. Itâ€™s a great in-between technology in that itâ€™s mostly automated but inexpensive, and can quickly make one print or a lot of prints.
BR: Absolutely – I think that this notion of taking what you have and turning it into something discrete and well made is very clearly at the heart of SPARE. I really love the subtle ways you have designed around the quirks of the printing process – such as playing with registration and seeing how it shifts over an entire run. I’m really interested in the postcard project you did recently. Can you talk a little bit about this project?
KS: When I started grad school I knew the residency would take a back seat but I didnâ€™t want to let the printer sit unused. And I still wanted to work with other artists but knew I couldnâ€™t handle someone living with us for a few weeks and working intensely on a book while I was away in my studio every day. For the postcards, we came to the idea of using a simple standard format and to work more with the Risoâ€™s inbuilt economy of printing. We contacted artists we knew and/or admired and offered paper and ink color options which were intended to maximize the printing quantity and variety and minimize the expense. I saw it as a chance to try different options on the Riso, almost in a print sample way, and see what others would come up with based on the options and restrictions we gave them. We worked with Dante Carlos to design the graphics and cards and I think they work really well in showcasing both the printing and the work the artists contributed.
There was also some hope that we could make a few dollars to support the residency program with the postcards, but that prospect seems unlikely. We canâ€™t complain too much but at times itâ€™s hard knowing that the residency will always be an occasional and maybe not very long-term thing because in addition to everything else it does cost money to run.
BR: Dante Carlos is also the artist who designed the “registration graphics” that you have up as gifs on the SPARE website? I think those are so great.
You guys have certainly been very generous in the way you’ve structured the residency. Something we talked about somewhat in depth before was the fact that Chicago really is lacking a good book store or gallery that supports projects like SPARE and could be a source of income to fund the residency (through books sales, etc.). How do you see your life post-grad school, Chicago, SPARE, and the printing/book making/small press initiative playing out? Are there things you would like to do or see other people do with these things in Chicago?
KS: I came to books through art, so I often think of them in that context. Because Iâ€™m interested in how objects, and the ideas they carry, move and live in the world, books open up a lot of options that arenâ€™t as likely for other art-type things. I feel like books have a potentially wider, or at least different, reach that interests me. Books circulate, books are distributed, and so on, which to me, feels like an exciting active process; one which I would like to take beyond just books.
I also like that books are slow and give me the opportunity to really focus and lose myself in them. And beyond books, Iâ€™m in favor of slow focused venues for processing what other people have made. I think this is something that has to be fought for. Iâ€™ve started talking about it through the book, and consequently the places that allow us to get the book in our hands, but it exists in other ways. For example, going to a film screening versus watching it on your computer in your office while eating lunch. Iâ€™m not against the other options but I do know that if I want a bookstore to be around I have to support a bookstore. I canâ€™t complain too much about the lack of anything unless Iâ€™m really working to help the things I value survive. So we have a residency program to provide the little bit of what we want to see remain. I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s the most necessary thing to do but itâ€™s what weâ€™re doing right now. Weâ€™ll keep offering artists our time and our printer, and food and a bed, and keep making books, and see what comes of it. Even thinking of it a success or a failure seems like a luxury right now. The poles are more like doing-it or not-doing-it.
I should also say regarding the previous conversation you hinted at, there are lots of great places, bookstores and otherwise, in Chicago. I just finished getting some new books ready to take to Quimbyâ€™s where some of the SPARE books are stocked. Quimbyâ€™s is really supportive and has been around for a while which I think strengthens other related endeavors. I think those foundational places are the key to allowing other scrappier things to emerge and grow. There are certainly other things I would like to see in Chicago but Iâ€™m optimistic overall about whatâ€™s happening. Iâ€™ve been trying to think of an idea or example while answering this question, and I donâ€™t have it, but hereâ€™s what I came up with. A Chicago Supplemental Library which includes all the non-book stuff that should be available. If I were doing it it would be a museum-library-laboratory hybrid kind of system with check-out-able equipment, artwork, assistants and a variety of other world-class programming. But Iâ€™m not going to run it so it could be just like a place to borrow an umbrella for an afternoon or whatever.
Bailey Romaine is a printmaker and bibliophile currently living in Chicago.