This week has been like a road trip through midwest; halfway through the week, I felt like I was taking a drive from Chicago, to Cleveland,Â arriving in Kansas City, and then Indianapolis â€” so many stops over such a vast (and flat) distance in a magical and illogical order; additional posts on more abstract ideas â€” performance archives, or The Cremaster Cycle, or even what the best size of a book might be â€” those seemed to mark the longer distances between destinations. Times when the radio wasn’t on particularly loud, and perhaps all of us passengers had emerged from a musing lull into dialogue.
It all began with a podcast interview with Chicago’s ownÂ William Pope.L, who’s show is currently on view at the Renaissance Society until June 23rd.Â The interview, conducted at the Three Arts Club discusses Pope.L’s RS exhibit and the performance â€” Â Pull:Â Â “Non-stop from June 7-9, hundreds of Clevelanders will manually pull a truck across the city. Images collected from people across Cleveland– hopefully you included! â€” about the meaning of work in our lives will be projected from the truck as it is pulled through North Collinwood, Glenville, University Circle, Hough, AsiaTown and downtown; to West Park, Clark-Fulton and Ohio City.”
Jereiah Hildewine writes about watching the entire Cremaster Cycle, comparing it to other noteworthy cultural keystones includingÂ Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Benjamin’sÂ Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction:
Just as nobody can remember thatÂ Star Trek 4Â is calledÂ The Voyage HomeÂ (and consequently everyone calls it â€œThe One With The Whalesâ€), the weird sequencing and semi-narrative structure of theÂ CremasterÂ films makes it hard to remember which one was which.Â The above-linked synopses will give you a long-form breakdown of whatâ€™s in each film, but if youâ€™ve seen them and are having a hard time remembering which was which, hereâ€™s a quick guide in the form of suggested subtitles:
“There is not one way to know a performance work, there are many, and it is for that reason that the quality of performance is brought to light through the normalizing tendency of the archive.”Â Anthony Romero mulls over the authority that archives impose over collective experience, especially as it applies to performance:
The archives is a technology of bureaucracy. They are way stations for data and accumulated temporality, flattened proofs of the â€œofficialâ€ experience. The system of the archive itself is responsible for this kind of alienation. Categories, decimal numbers, and white gloves are methods of sanitation that work to preserve the individualâ€™s experience/state requirement. Once cataloged, memories of childhood, legal forms, receipts, and other accouterments are neatly laid beneath layers of fabric and cardboard. So precious are these relics that the archive must continually migrate them from one outmoded media to the next. The performance relic, however, subverts the safety of the archive.
Indianapolis is in the house.Â Which is to say poet and former resident of Chicago, Wendy Lee Spacek, is going to be posting about art events in her fine city over the course of the summer. This particular issue describes a number of cultural happenings, from poetry readings, to Mucca Pazza, to surreptitiously painted mail boxes. She also describes what sounds like an incredible show wherein a group of artists installed work in a long since abandonedÂ Old Indianapolis City Hall:
The show was curated by graduation Herron Seniors Taryn Cassella, Anna Martinez and Andrea Townsend. Where TURF was an exhibition of installation art, VACANT included work across mediums. I especially enjoyed Jordan Ryanâ€™s section off the main library detailing the history of the building.Â
Kansas City resident, Carolyn Okomo, started her guest series this week, publishing an interview she conducted with graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown. In her words:
Since self-publishing his wildly successful first novelÂ ClumsyÂ in 2002, heâ€™s created numerous other painfully funny autobiographical comics, co-written the 2012 star-studded filmÂ Save the DateÂ (starringÂ Party Downâ€™sÂ Lizzy Caplan andÂ Mad Menâ€™sAlison Brie)Â and penned a hilarious series of graphic novels that explore the challenges of being both Darth Vaderâ€“ruler of the evil Sith empireâ€“and a single dad.
Brownâ€™s newestÂ Star Wars-themed bookÂ Jedi AcademyÂ (out on Aug. 27), is a coming-of-age story about a boy named Roan and his adventures mastering the Force while juggling all the issues that come with being a middle schooler.
Jamilee Polson Lacy also writes from Kansas City, discussing her final project as Curator-in-Residence at the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City. That project,Â rises Zora,Â isÂ “a multi-venue visual and performing arts exhibition, [that] explores Kansas City as an urban labyrinth” through a plethora of various artists and multi-media, multi-durational art works:
Theories of the labyrinthâ€”and there are many which span the ages of Greek and Roman mythology to early Christianity, Karl Marx to Umberto Eco, Cervantes to Borges and Calvinoâ€”demonstrate the thing as both concept and literal form that ultimately represents time. The labyrinth is an infinite series of choices to be made through time and space, and we get to decide whether to be conscious of those choices or not. I think the city, which quite obviously mimics a literal labyrinth, presents a plethora of choicesâ€”some exciting and dangerous, some banal and commonplaceâ€”so itâ€™s nearly impossible not to think of it as a conceptual labyrinth as well.
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Terri Griffith set out to write a book review ofÂ Hilton Kramerâ€™sÂ Abstraction and Utopia,Â and found herself discussing her appreciation for small-sized, intimate edition, including book in the 33 1/3 series:
Â Their smaller than average 5Ã—7 size is cute as pie. The 33 1/3 series is published by Continuum and started in 2003 with Warren Zanesâ€™ treatment of the 1969 classicDusty in Memphis, by Dusty Springfield. A few other notable recordings that undergo inspection areÂ Aja, by Steely Dan;Â Swordfishtrombone, by Tom Waits;Â Marquee Moon, by Television. Seriously though, there are as of thisÂ writing 86 titles, so certainly there is something for everyone. Donâ€™t expect a â€œmaking of.â€ These little gems are more essayistic and idiosyncratic than that. Check out Phillip Shawâ€™s treatment of Patty Smithâ€™sHorses. Itâ€™s the first book of the series that I read, and itâ€™s a delight.Â
Unlike visual art, when it comes to books there is something unseemly about discussing form. We are taught that books are solely their content and we should not judge them by their cover. The paper may be nice, but it isnâ€™t indicative of the quality of the writing. Or the cover photo is lovely, but the plot has gaping holes. When I was little, I loved little books. Sometimes I loved them just because they were little. I had the whole Beatrix Potter mini-book collection going on in my room. I mean who could forget the adorable Tale of Squirrel Nutkin? My favorite of all the books was Maurice Sendakâ€™s Nutshell Library, which is a collection of five tiny books united in a diminutive box. The stories were fun to read and they rhymed, which made them easy to memorize, but what made me come back to them time and again was their itty-bittyness.
As an adult, I am surprised to find this sort of preciousness still effective. It seems as if I should have outgrown this sort of thing by now. Currently, Iâ€™m reading my way through (in no particular order) the 33 1/3 series. In case you havenâ€™t had a chance to pick one of these up, theyâ€™re slim, mostly fewer than 100 pages, meditations on a single album. Their smaller than average 5×7 size is cute as pie. The 33 1/3 series is published by Continuum and started in 2003 with Warren Zanesâ€™ treatment of the 1969 classic Dusty in Memphis, by Dusty Springfield. A few other notable recordings that undergo inspection are Aja, by Steely Dan; Swordfishtrombone, by Tom Waits; Marquee Moon, by Television. Seriously though, there are as of this writing 86 titles, so certainly there is something for everyone. Donâ€™t expect a â€œmaking of.â€ These little gems are more essayistic and idiosyncratic than that. Check out Phillip Shawâ€™s treatment of Patty Smithâ€™s Horses. Itâ€™s the first book of the series that I read, and itâ€™s a delight.
Melville House is home of the novella. The novella is perhaps the most perfect of forms. Longer than a short story, shorter than a novel, the novella is best described why what it isnâ€™t than what it is. Melville House does the novella well. I just finished reading The Death of the Author, by Gilbert Adair, a mere 150 pages. Turns out this was just the right length for this little mystery-like satire addressing the ridiculousness academia and the sometimes foolishness of theory. Any longer and I think I might have taken the literary theory too seriously. Besides contemporary novellas, they also have a line of novellas by classic authors. Youâ€™ll find short works by lots of your favorite authors: Chekov, Proust, Cather, Wharton, Tolstoy, and of course Melville.
Originally, the plan for this monthâ€™s post was to write a book review, which I started a bunch of times. Somehow, I couldnâ€™t quite get excited about it. There is nothing wrong with the â€œbookâ€ I was reading, Hilton Kramerâ€™s Abstraction and Utopia. For a while, I thought it was because I had picked the wrong text, but it turns out that what I really wanted to talk about was the unseemly subject of form. Abstraction and Utopia is published by e-publisher Now & Then, and at only 16 pages, this work seems unlikely to have been published as a stand-alone print book. In fact, this essay is actually reprint from The New Criterion. A 16-page book may seem like no bargain, but I bought it because of its brevity. It also had an abbreviated price tag.Â At the same time I also purchased The Story of a Photograph: Walker Evans, Ellie Mae Burroughs, and the Great Depression, Jerry L. Thompson. I had a four-hour plane ride ahead of me and I wanted something I could finish in one sitting. For the first time, I really understood the flexibility that e-books offer. Until that point, I considered them a way to, letâ€™s say, carry the entirety of In Search of Lost Time around in my purse, a feat impossible in the pre-digital age. But the possibility of digital publishing allowing short works to exist on their own, as opposed to being stuffed into an anthology is extraordinarily freeing both as a reader and as a writer. Perhaps e-publishing will give small works a home, and maybe even start a renaissance of the short form.
Lastly, as a random bit of book-related information, check out this video of Seattle Public Libraryâ€™s world record setting domino book chain.
It’s a good night for the West Loop!
Work by Conrad Freiburg.
Linda Warren Projects is located at 327 N. Aberdeen St. Reception tonight, 6-9pm.
Work by Baccara (Madeleine Bailey and Helen Maurene Cooper).
Chicago Artists’ Coalition is located at 217 N. Carpenter. Reception tonight, 6-9pm.
Work by Owen Kydd.
Document is located at 845 W. Washington Blvd. Reception tonight, 5-8pm.
Work by Daniel Bennett.
Aspect/Ratio is located at 119 N. Peoria St. Reception tonight, 6-8pm.
Work by Alex Chitty.
Andrew Rafacz Gallery is located at 835 W. Washington Blvd. Reception tonight, 5-8pm.
Guest Post by Jamilee Polson Lacy
Iâ€™m wrapping up my stint as Inaugural Curator-In-Residence for the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City. My final project, rises Zora, a multi-venue visual and performing arts exhibition, explores Kansas City as an urban labyrinth. While the labyrinth as a thematic premise initially seems a little hippy-dippy, itâ€™s one that actually encompasses and incorporates so much historically, philosophically, artistically, and more. Theories of the labyrinthâ€”and there are many which span the ages of Greek and Roman mythology to early Christianity, Karl Marx to Umberto Eco, Cervantes to Borges and Calvinoâ€”demonstrate the thing as both concept and literal form that ultimately represents time. The labyrinth is an infinite series of choices to be made through time and space, and we get to decide whether to be conscious of those choices or not. I think the city, which quite obviously mimics a literal labyrinth, presents a plethora of choicesâ€”some exciting and dangerous, some banal and commonplaceâ€”so itâ€™s nearly impossible not to think of it as a conceptual labyrinth as well.
Kansas City has an interesting history that accommodates a show like rises Zora. It, like most cities inland west of the Eastern seaboard, was designed on a grid, which, according to its first known utilizer and urban planner Hippodamus of Miletus, is societyâ€™s attempt at ordering the labyrinth. So, in the simplest sense, Kansas City features lots of beautiful right angles that repeat from the street level Jeffersonian grid into the design of enormous buildings and neighborhood squares. But what is more interesting, are the random parts of the cityâ€”those which donâ€™t conform to this guiding grid, this attempt to order the city and its users’ navigation and time within it. Places where the highways meet and tangle up or where the parks and the rivers and the construction disrupt the perfect patterns are great of examples of how the labyrinth canâ€™t be controlled by a grid or a society. And in every case, there are multiple labyrinths that overlap and collide as neighborhoods, cultures, and ways of existing in the universe all configure as complex webs of timeâ€™s effect on everything. These systemsâ€™ inability to control the labyrinthâ€™s physical manifestation correlate to humanityâ€™s ultimate powerlessness to control or change the actual course of time. Only time changes us; we can never change it.
This idea of time as a series of labyrinthsâ€”also mazes, matrices, and networks, which are all versions of the labyrinth conceptâ€”emerges again and again in contemporary art. Artists, like Theseus navigating his way through Daedalusâ€™s labyrinth to its center in his efforts to conquer the Knossos minotaur, traverse complex, even confusing problems of time and space to reach some sort of goal. At that point, the artist must pass through one labyrinth to another. In other words, the artist comes to a rite of passage. Â Italo Calvino, my favorite labyrinth expert, metaphorically discusses this rite of passage in every novel. In Invisible Cities, from which the rises Zora project title is taken, we see Marco Polo artfully describe and navigate the mysteriously international labyrinth that is Venice to the great Kublai Khan. In If on a winterâ€™s night a traveler,Â the reader, which may or may not be you or me, must navigate the labyrinths of literature, language, and lust. And in the under-appreciated Mr. Palomar, we experience alongside a man, Mr. Palomar, the many rites of passage that come with middle age and the realization that death is a real thing just like every other life event/labyrinthine transition.
The rite of passage has a long history in tandem with the labyrinth. Though we think of the labyrinth as inherently Greek in its roots (which isnâ€™t incorrect as the first reference to the labyrinth is the oral tradition that tells of Daedalusâ€™s architectures), it too is found throughout time and across geographies as part of pagan and tribal culture. Indeed, labyrinths as mystical symbols and ritualistic structures marked communal and individual life transitions including harvest, friendship, protection, love fertility, adulthood, death, and the list goes on and on. In Central and South America the Aztecs and smaller lesser-known tribes constructed the most elaborate hedges and mountain wall labyrinths, while in Scandinavia the Middle Age citizens built Troy towns to protect their maidens. In many cultures there is the walk about, for which the labyrinth is materialized as a vast geographical expanse of the unknown, within which one must learn to make choices outside their cultural context. I mention the walk about specifically because in two weeks a few of Charlotte Streetâ€™s Urban Culture Project (UCP) Studio Residency participants will open a thoughtful group show at their designated gallery space called WALKABOUT. Â The UCP Studio Residency program is unique in that it provides an important opportunity for Kansas Cityâ€™s young and emerging artists to have the space in the form of a free downtown KCMO studio and exhibition venue to develop their work and the professional practice. The program operates on an academic yearly cycle, and is therefore winding down for this yearâ€™s residents. Featuring five artists who will leave the residency transformed in one way or another, this WALKABOUT exhibition strikes me as the perfect metaphor for the rite of passage they will soon experience.
Another exhibition in town, Barry Andersonâ€™s The Janus Restraint: The Ascension at The Studios, Inc. directly considers rites of passage as Anderson himself as an artist, a father, and a citizen of the great big universe experiences them. The Studios, Inc. is another residency program in town that provides free space to artists. Unlike the UCP Studio Residency, this one is for mid-career artists who have developed studio practices in Kansas City over a considerable period of time. Artists are given a huge space for three years, with the possibility of renewing for a second three-year term. The space and the artists tenure at The Studios, Inc. is subsidized both by The Studios, Inc. board/organization and a local patron, who both in exchange for their generosity receive an artwork from the artist for their respective organizational and personal collections. Perhaps the most exciting organization in town because it nearly bursts with possibility to be something more, The Studios, Inc. operates on the most interesting model and really does support some of the cityâ€™s most interesting artists with space. Unfortunately though, the organization lacks vision in that their collection is rarely shown and, other than providing free workspace and an exhibition (in an on-site gallery space that could be really remarkable if its exhibitions were professionally curated and also sprinkled with some out-of-town flavor to contextualize/expand the production of Studios, Inc./Kansas City artists), they do little to promote their residents on a national or international scale. Andersonâ€™s exhibition, though it consists of entirely new work, feels like a retrospective precisely because it seems like it should be so pivotal to the artistâ€™s career. In some capacity, each artworkâ€”photography, video, sculpture, and installationâ€”takes on Andersonâ€™s personal, professional, and existential transitions. The show even has an urgency as it practically screams, â€œWhat am I going to do next?!â€ A serious question considering that this glorious exhibition isnâ€™t likely to be reviewed outside of Kansas City. There is no national/international coverage here, no critics with freelance relationships with Artforum, Art in America, Frieze, or the likes, and it seems to me like no one in town is working to do anything about this serious problem. (I actually hope that when I leave KC, Iâ€™ll be able to create a rite of passage for another to provide KC-specific commentary on Bad at Sports.) After this year in Kansas City, I can very confidently say that amazingly prolific artists like Barry Anderson are plentiful here, but who will ever know, and more importantly, who will ever care if no one writes about them for the rest of the world to see? Though Andersonâ€™s solo show beautifully mines a variety of rites of passage on many fronts, there seems to be none in sight for him in this respect.
There do finally seem to be pathways opened up for new blood at Kansas Cityâ€™s art museums, which, though I hate to say it, present some of the most inconsequential contemporary art programming in the country (with the exception of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, an incredibly smart contemporary art museum and private collection that lives miles away outside Kansas City in Johnson County, and KU’s Spencer Museum, which lives 30 minutes far away in Lawrence, is pretty good, too). The Nelson-Atkins Museum is the biggest game in town. Much of the communityâ€™s patronage goes into this institution, though it reflects very little interest in that same community that supports it. There is no regular local contemporary art feature or commission, and there are very few quality or comprehensive contemporary art exhibitions to expose the cityâ€™s prestigious art schoolâ€”theÂ Kansas City Art Instituteâ€”population. The Nelson-Atkins has appointed a new Curatorial Director, Antonia Bostrom, who I hope comes to the museum with at least a little interest, respect, and enthusiasm for art being made today. Also, the Kemper Museum, a private collection and exhibition program of contemporary art run by one of the cityâ€™s wealthiest families, finally hired a curator after last yearâ€™s layoff scandal calmed down. Given the banal sensibilities and rigor-lacking qualities of the exhibitions chosen and organized by the museumâ€™s current senior-level administration, I doubt (but really hope) that this curator, Erin Dziedzic, will bring with her the clout needed to integrate local and cutting edge art and issues into the programming plans and change the museum. But, Iâ€™m holding my breath that this rite of passage will include local artists because Iâ€™m an optimist!
Maybe itâ€™s because Iâ€™ve reached my own transition point in that Iâ€™m finishing my own residency and leaving this cityâ€”and thus passing through a formative stage of my lifeâ€”in mere weeks, but I feel like there are identifiable rites of passages happening all over Kansas City right now. In recent months, three of the cityâ€™s arguably biggest contemporary art players have announced that they will transition out of their longtime roles in the contemporary art world.
1)Â Â John Oâ€™Brien, owner and director of the Dolphin Gallery, one of the cityâ€™s few commercial galleries, has decided to get out of the business. This is a huge blow to many artists who already feel the suffocating grip of an almost non-existent art market in Kansas City. But poetically and poignantly, O’Brien’s daughter Caitlin mounted the last show at her dad’s gallery, showing that a family tradition for contemporary art will likely bare fruit in Kansas City some day. One hopes that Oâ€™Brienâ€™s labyrinth which holds numerous Kansas City artists of all stripes could spill into the realm of Bill Brady KC, a gallery run by the New Yorker, but given Bradyâ€™s lack of interest in the local folks, I donâ€™t see that passageway being paved anytime ever. I do hope, however, to see a young townie open her gallery doors with a roster that promotes a collection of Kansas Cityâ€™s emerging and longstanding artists alongside the international talent with which they are equal stock.
2) Â Margaret Silva, the Hallmark heiress, has announced that she will close the cityâ€™s most nationally relevant venue, Grand Arts, a kunsthaus-type space that she funds mostly on her own dime. To me, this news brings the most despair. In a city that is home to some incredibly experimental cultural production, there must be a place where artists can see the work of other leading conceptual artistsâ€”their international contemporaries. Grand Arts brings in some of the best artists in the world to present challenging, provocative exhibitions and social practice programs. Unfortunately, the organization is much too quietâ€”they hardly market a thingâ€”and their programming schedule is inconsistent not to mention thin. Iâ€™ve been here nearly 11 months, and though they have a number of part-time and full-time employees, Iâ€™ve seen two shows there (with many months-long gaps in between them).Â But man, when Artistic Director Stacy Switzer finally gets a show up and going, itâ€™s darn good. Iâ€™ll be sad to see this place close its doors in 2015.
3)Â Â And finally, Charlotte Street Founding Director David Hughes, Jr. (full disclosure: Hughes is one of my bosses, for lack of a better term) will step back from the organizational helm over the coming months. Hughes, in collaboration with the organizationâ€™s diverse board and savvy Charlotte Street Co-Director Kate Hackman, has been instrumental to the success of the cityâ€™s most experimental and ambitious artists through the facilitation of Charlotte Streetâ€™s Visual and Performing Art Awards (aka thousands of dollars unrestricted CASH for artist winners), in addition to numerous exhibition and professional development opportunities for artists and others (like me!). Hughes will stay on with Charlotte Street in an advisory role, but he will pass the reins to a new executive director yet-to-be named.
Hopefully, these folks will expand the matrices that currently exist in Kansas City to accommodate new paths for contemporary art. While I know that many in town are worried, and they should be, Iâ€™m sure that the rites of passage between these folks and venues will pass on to someone ready for the challenge. And me, I have accumulated Kansas City artists into my own labyrinth, which I canâ€™t help but take with me everywhere I go. And the new Charlotte Street Curator-In-Resident, whoever s/he may be, will likely do the same because Kansas City artists and their work are magnificent and relevant. After all, the labyrinth is just time. And again, because Iâ€™m an optimist, Iâ€™m sure that time will keep moving along and shifting to open one passageway after another for Kansas City contemporary artists.
Jamilee Polson LacyÂ is an artist, curator and writer based in Chicago. Currently, Lacy is the Inaugural Curator-In-Residence for Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, where she organizes exhibitions, educational programming and publications for Charlotte Street’s Crossroads District gallery, la Esquina. In Chicago, Lacy additionally operates as the founding director ofÂ Twelve Galleries Project, a transitory, collaborative exhibition experiment. She has engaged in solo and collaborative projects with many 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, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Western Exhibitions and Quite Strong, among others. In addition to numerous catalogue essays, interviews and articles, Lacy has publishedÂ Color: Fully Engaged, a book of interviews and essays, and written series forÂ Flash Art’s UmelecÂ Magazine, Art 21 and now, Bad at Sports. Lacy holds two undergraduate degrees in studio arts and art history and a Masters of Comparative Literature and Arts from Northwestern University.Â
Since self-publishing his wildly successful first novelÂ Clumsy in 2002, he’s created numerous other painfully funny autobiographical comics, co-written the 2012 star-studded film Save the DateÂ (starring Party Down’s Lizzy Caplan and Mad Men’s Alison Brie)Â and penned a hilarious series of graphic novels that explore the challenges of being both Darth Vader–ruler of the evil Sith empire–and a single dad.
Brown’s newest Star Wars-themed book Jedi Academy (out on Aug. 27), is a coming-of-age story about a boy named Roan and his adventures mastering the Force while juggling all the issues that come with being a middle schooler.
Brown took the time to answer a few questions via email — keep reading to learn more about his past and current work in film and publishing.