Hot (okay maybe only lukewarm at the moment) Topic Alert: the Crisis in Art Criticism

March 26, 2010 · Print This Article

Jenny Holzer, Television Texts, 1990. © Video Data Bank Chicago.

This week New City published an essay by its arts editor Jason Foumberg on the state of art criticism amidst the rise of blogging, online websites, and other forms of interactive media titled The State of the (Visual) Art. I didn’t read this as a piece on the status of art criticism in Chicago per se, as I think some may have, but rather as about the difficulties of defining (much less practicing) this thing called ‘criticism’ at all in online, social-media driven contexts. Foumberg’s essay is part of a larger series of articles at New City that are exploring the state of criticism in the age of Yelp!,  Amazon book reviews, and other online social feedback devices. The other pieces can be found here, here, and here (this last one is about Yolp!, a Jersey Shore parody of Yelp that’s really funny). The comments that ensue are interesting, but there aren’t a lot of them and there’s not too much back-and-forth…yet. But today Christopher sent me a link to Michael S. Thomas’ blog Stagnant Vowels, in which he’s posted a response, of a sort, to the New City article, which immediately bumped Mr. Foumberg’s piece up to “hot topic” status in my mind. (Thomas’ response might itself almost qualify as a good old-fashioned Rant, and as I’ve said before, I am to rants as a moth is to a flame….Jason, in contrast, doesn’t rant: he muses.).

In his post, Mr. Thomas, who was the director of the well-respected and now defunct Dogmatic Gallery in Chicago, calls us out over here at Bad at Sports for basically being slutty opinion mongers on a par with t.v. talk show pundits. He writes:

“The flux or crisis isn’t with experts or authority per say, its in the distribution of opinion as though it were reasoned discourse. It’s in the ongoing creation of model’s for the dissemination of hyperbole without rational checks or balances. Whether it’s Glenn Beck, or Jon Stewart, or Bad at Sports these models can do much to obfuscate legitimate dialogue if not entirely cripple its formation.”

I have to assume he’s talking about our blog in particular, as the podcast’s one-on-one interview format is pretty much the antithesis of opinion journalism. But I want to know — where is all this ‘legitimate dialogue’ (emphasis on the word ‘legitimate’) that we in particular are guilty of obfuscating? Tell me where it’s happening, and I’ll gladly get the hell out of its way!

In all seriousness, though, I don’t at all disagree with Thomas on his larger point. In fact I think most of his post hits it right on the mark, particularly in his assessment that lack of editorial oversight might be precisely what makes online art criticism so problematic (I’m paraphrasing his argument, but that’s what I took away from it). Thomas finds fault with the recently launched Chicago Art Magazine for precisely these reasons, and although I shall remain neutral on the matter of his specific target, I tend to agree with many of the larger arguments he’s making. Such as this one:

“But I would argue that without editorial oversight or a progressive long term vision for growth, an endeavor such as this one is hopelessly mired. After all criticism and opinion are not the same. Amateur criticism is little more than the ALL-CAPS and bold fonts version of a comment roll, and paying said amateur is in no way a transformation of this reality. So what makes a misinformed critic not, a knowledgeable and, or an opinionated amateur? Time, energy, condensed thoughts, research, an apishly large library surrounded by lovely black and white photographs of water fowl, and other bric-a-brac? No its constancy and persistence in the pursuit of understanding and conveying the qualities that define the arcane and metaphorical reality of objects and their surroundings.”

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Top 5 Picks! (3/26-3/28)

March 25, 2010 · Print This Article

Hallooo! My darling dearies, it’s me again, the bringer of picks and the peddler of shows. Again, I’m not actually going to be around this weekend (this and next I’m in Cali, weekend after that Kentucky, then New Your the following weekend, if all works correctly). I will think of you all as I drink a 40 on Potrero Hill and watch the sun set over San Francisco Friday night. I’ll be thinking of you, and ALL THE ART YOU ARE OUT SEEING IN MY ABSENCE! No getting lazy just ‘cus the crawler’s out of town. Get your ass out there and support your community. Got it? Good! All right, here you go…

Where did #1 go? To the land of Outdated Press Releases, that’s where. Continue on to #2.

2. Waiting Room at Spoke

Waiting Room, a piece presented by Stephanie Nadeau, involves, you guessed it, waiting. I know Stephanie from out time at the ‘Tute, and have admired her work for as long as I’ve known her. For this work, ya’ll who show up will be invited, and I quote, “to come spend your time. Our mission is to allow you to contribute your time comfortably and productively while remaining completely idle. Wait for as little or as long as you like, it’s entirely up to you. Stop by anytime for your free timecard and we’ll get you started on a rewarding and enjoyable waiting experience.” Come wait with us.

Spoke is located at 119 N. Peoria. Waiting Room is open Saturday from 12-8pm.

3. Radical Semantics at Pentagon

Here is another prime opportunity to sit and wait. Well, perhaps not wait. Held alongside Music From Big Pink, Radical Semantics features 16mm films by Eric Stewart, Alex Lake, Ross McFessell, Adam Neese and Randy Sterling Hunter. And I quote, “Radical Semantics is a survey of 16mm films by film-makers whose methods stand in opposition to the algorithmic and computer assisted processes that define many contemporary media works. Often working with home-made optics and developing their film in sinks and buckets, these filmmakers create short works that emphasize the expressive and opt for complexity rather than reproducibility and homogeneity.”

Pentagon is located at 961 W. 19th St., 1F. Screening is Saturday from 8:10-10:10pm.

4. Grand Opening of the New OpShop

Round two of Laura Shaeffer’s marvelous project, the OpShop. And I quote, “The Op Shop v.2 is thrilled to announce the grand opening of Adhocity: an ongoing, evolving where-it’s-atmosphere of dialogue and opportunities for the exchange of ideas, objects and histories inspired by the principles of adhocism.” Oh, and be sure to head downstairs to THE CREEPIEST BASEMENT EVER! Hooray!

The OpShop is located at 1613 E. 55th St. Reception is Saturday from 5-9pm.

5. Up For the Downstroke at 65 Grand

65Grand is awesome, and this work is awesome. What more can you ask for? Work by David Leggett.

65Grand is located at 1378 W Grand Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.

Q&A with Volume Gallery, A Roving Venue for Contemporary American Design

March 24, 2010 · Print This Article

Jonathan Nesci, THE NEW, 2010

Last weekend I checked out Volume Gallery‘s debut presentation, an exhibition of limited edition furniture pieces by designer Jonathan Nesci titled THE NEW. The show was held for three days only at Andrew Rafacz Gallery. Nesci, whose design firm Hale is based in Chicago and Scottsburg, Indiana,  finds inspiration in the idiosyncratic details of urban infrastructure: the angle of street curbs, the unobtrusive design and placement of electrical meters, the base of a street light. The limited edition pieces comprising THE NEW also reference minimalist sculpture: a day bed and side chair are named after Sol Lewitt,  a wall-mounted aluminum plate bookcase that self-consciously evokes a Donald Judd sculpture is called the Reference Shelf.

Nesci favors industrial materials like metal and concrete, coated in a matte white finish that draws in surrounding light. My favorite piece was the Standard Table: a concrete disc that appeared to float within a circular bed of powder-coated aluminum and steel. In the picture above, its pale grey tabletop appears chalky white — an example of the way that Nesci’s pieces suck up light and transform hard-edged materials into objects that appear light-weight and almost ethereal. I also loved the smart, streamlined Seattle Planter, a combination planter/umbrella stand, which ingeniously re-uses dripping rainwater to nourish the plants in its base (the piece was designed with rain-soaked regions in mind, natch).

Jonathan Nesci, Standard Table. Powder-coated spun aluminum, concrete, steel.

Jonathan Nesci. Seattle Planter. Wax-polished aluminum plate.

Appropriately, Sam Vinz and Claire Warner, the co-founders of Volume Gallery, chose a white cube-like gallery space to showcase Nesci’s editions. Future iterations of Volume will likely look very different. I asked Vinz and Warner if they could answer a few questions about their new endeavor, and they kindly agreed. Check out Volume’s website for information on the next show, an exhibition of new editions by Felicia Ferrone that will take place sometime next Fall.

CI: Tell me a little bit about both of your backgrounds. You worked at Wright Auctions for a time?

Claire Warner: I graduated with a BA in Art History from Denison University, with an emphasis in Decorative Arts, spent several years at Wright Auction in Chicago as a specialist and appraiser in 20th century and contemporary design. While at Wright, I had the opportunity to help organize exhibitions by contemporary designers such as Arik Levy and Martino Gamper. Also spent time working at Luminaire, Chicago.

Sam Vinz: I graduated with a BA in Art History from UW-Madison with an emphasis in 20th century European architecture. In 2008 I completed my MA in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute in London, and I wrote my dissertation on an analysis of the contemporary design market. I have worked at Phillips de Pury, Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, Wright Auction, and Chase Art Companies. [Read more]

“Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur”: Quinn Dombrowski Captures Library Graffiti at U of C

March 24, 2010 · Print This Article

The Chicago Tribune’s Live section has a profile today of Quinn Dombrowski, a photographer and University of Chicago grad who has a flickr site, and a self-published book, that captures the astonishing range of graffiti marking the interior of the Regenstein Library. The Trib notes that she has unearthed more than 1700 graffiti markings, some written in Arabic, Chinese, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and even dead languages.

Dombrowski’s project is amazing. I know I’m going to be thinking about it all day. Dombrowksi also has a website and a blog with additional details on the project, lots of images, and background musings on her graffiti findings, including her latest post, a really interesting analysis (including pie chart!) on the relatively low rate of homophobic graffiti appearing in the Regenstein Library. (All photographs taken by Quinn Dombrowski).

Steve Hamann Illustration on the History of Bad at Sports

March 23, 2010 · Print This Article

The great Steve Hamann does his take on the History of Bad at Sports as no one else could lol.
History of BaS by Steve Hamann