April 17, 2015 · Print This Article
We were late and I was sweating. I had botched my own plan to arrive: my plan was to meet a friend at his house nearby, then walk together to Bikini Wax from there. I never told my friend that we would meet him at his house, however, and when we arrived there he was gone, on his way to Bikini Wax, hurrying because he thought he has going to be late. So we walked up Patriotismo, through Escandon, up to Benjamin Franklin—the avenue Bikini Wax is perched on, the avenue that divides upper-middle-class Escandon from bougie Condesa from lower-middle-class, sometimes slummy Tacubaya. There is an Oxxo down the street and a mediocre restaurant next door. One of my favorite vegetarians once told me they had great burgers there. I don’t believe him.
You enter Bikini Wax through an alley. The layout is famously bizarre: a one room ground floor with an enormous stairwell, a claustrophobic second floor with a kitchen that doubles as a main room and a narrow hallway that leads to apartment’s three bedrooms and the bathroom, which, like the apartment, is famously dirty. Exiting the kitchen/main room, there is a precarious spiral staircase that leads to an expansive roof, from which you can see a fair amount of the city at night. This show — “Object – Space – Behavior,” Isauro Huizar’s first solo show at Bikini Wax — was not at night.
On the ground floor, there was a toy organ. I appreciated it, not yet knowing that it wasn’t part of the show. We quickly took the stairs to the second floor, where Huizar’s work was, but nobody was there. We walked around for a second, noticing a sagging stack of freshly-done shrink-wrapped laundry in the main room—Bikini Wax’s usual exhibition room. In the near bedroom, a ring of books, stacked neatly according to their corresponding letter of the alphabet—As here, Ms there, no Xs or Ys—stood sentinel around the bed. In one of the far bedrooms, a tight oval of house plants barred entry; in the room across the hall, the only room without a bed, objects huddled in like colors against the far wall. The entire apartment was clean and orderly, the soft Sunday light calming what might otherwise have seemed lurid and manic into something that felt soft and generous.
We then took the steps to the roof, where everybody was. People were sitting in U, chatting. Our friend was there, sitting quietly behind an umbrella that was perched on a table in the middle of the U, vaguely shading an assortment of fruit, donuts, fruit juices, and fruit-flavored vodkas on the table, blocking one side of the U — the side my friend was on, where we sat — from the rest of it. In the corner nearest to us, a boy sat sullenly drinking one box of milk after the other. I wondered vaguely if this was a performance, and if it was part of the show. I thought about him vomiting. Isauro came over and offered us a donut. We accepted.
We stayed for quite a while, much longer than we usually stay at openings, chatting idly with people, meeting a dog, drinking fruity vodka drinks. People kept talking about the trash, that it was all squirreled away somewhere, that the apartment looked so much different without it. People were milling around, relaxing. Having the opening in the morning seemed to turn the usual opening routine on its head. I thought for a second about Pablo Helguera’s book Art Scenes: The Social Scripts of the Art World, wherein he dryly dissects the event of the art opening into a set of calcified roles, pervasive, unavoidable, and detrimental to the formation or circulation of new ideas—perhaps you’re the disruptive artist? the regulating academic?—and wondered if this shift of context perhaps allowed for a shift in sociality. Everything seemed friendly, nice, unforced. The few people trying to network seemed to have forgotten their cards. A woman across the umbrella from us regaled the people near her with stories of her life in the sort of lightly accented English specific to middle-aged women visiting Mexico. I thought, what a nice subtle gesture.
Was it? Look at that image of objects stacked against the wall: don’t they look a bit scared? If you were standing in that room, how would you feel? What would you do? What can you do? Huizar works as an interior designer, making commercial or domestic space more condusive to spending or living for its inhabitants; here, he uses interior design to make a series of domestic spaces unlivable. Or rather, while one could certainly live in one of these rooms, sleep in that bed surrounded by 20-odd stacks of watching books, or in the other room, disguised by a huddle of house plants, it would be a sort of living in which it would impossible to discount the presence of those objects.
Objects cast affects; this much we know well. Usually these affects are instrumentalized by design, interior or otherwise: a long table suggests a feeling of familiarity and comfort, a speed bump suggests an attitude of alertness and care. They also limit the field of possible action: in the restaurant with one long table, you feel discouraged from eating alone; in the street with the speed bump, you must slow down. In Protocol: How Controt Exists after Decentralization, Alexander Galloway describes the speedbump as the quintessential protocological object—an object that delimits a field of possible action.
Read in this way, “Object – Space – Behavior” was neither subtle nor nice. Rather, it is a violent intervention into domestic space, bringing the objects that normally disappear to the forefront, forcing us to reckon with them, to decide what to do now. Most people, including myself, just got the hell out of there and went upstairs. The new arrangement of the objects, as present—looming, watching, in a scrum, backed against the wall—created a space that didn’t necessarily feel like an art space but did absolutely feel like an object space. That room belongs to these books. How can we live in a domestic space that does not privilege humans? How do we reckon with our objects? What are our options? What field of possible action does the laundry cast?
Isauro Huizar (Culiacán, Sinaloa, México. 1985) Develops professional work in interior design focusing on commercial spaces.
Work by Aimée Beaubien.
Johalla Projects is located at 1821 W. Hubbard St. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Work by Susan Giles
Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Reception Sunday, 3-5pm.
Work by Soohyun Kim, Meredith Lackey and Sherwin Ovid.
Gallery 400 is located at 400 S. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by Ian Pedigo.
65Grand is located at 1369 W. Grand Ave. Reception 6-9pm.
Work by Yani Aviles, Justin Chance, Connor Crable, Hunter Foster, Alyx Harch, Andrew Lu, Katie Rapheal, Amina Ross, Chase Schoonmaker, Emily Schulert, Simone Siegel, Cait Smith, Kelsey Strebler, Kate Ulschmid and Tongyu Zhao.
Hidden Dog is located at 2151 W. 21st St. Reception Friday 7-10pm.
Publicly announced two weeks ago, Ingrid Schaffner will curate the fifty-seventh Carnegie International, an exhibition staged every third to fifth year at the Carnegie Museum as the oldest international survey of art held in America. Until this appointment, Ingrid has been Chief Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia for fifteen years.
Seated often in her office encircled by exhibition posters and pinned cards, Ingrid is sprightly, with waist-length hair twisted into an arabesquely wound bun. As Ingrid relocates to Pittsburgh, her birthplace, she leaves behind her distinctive Philadelphia home built by architect Anne Tyng, whose designs and methods Ingrid presented in a 2011 solo exhibition at the ICA. Ingrid’s formed sympathy with the architecture is underscored by her zeal for living within its walls, and sharing Tyng’s building with visitors. The three-story wooden house is taut and narrow, with a structural complexity that, rather than being cold and foreboding is warm and inviting. This attitude is readily visible in every exhibition she organizes, which include thorough monographic presentations of Karen Kilimnik, Jason Rhoades, and Polly Apfelbaum, among others.
Also left behind will be biographical anecdotes that I think of as synonymous with her: enthusiastic mention of a favorite museum, the Puppet Theater Collection in Munich, Germany; preparations of meals from the Ottolenghi cookbook; a retained dislike of green peppers but an enthusiasm for bread; an askew framed word portrait above the dining table, reading “fine light fair/ clear skin and a/ sharp yet delicate/ truly elegant/ appearance”; and a strict observation of Sunday as a day for oneself.
Karen Kilimnik, 2007, installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
Erin: As part of your described plan to curate the Carnegie International alongside a group of “traveling and thinking partners”, will the curatorial partners operate as advisors to you, as sounding boards, or as auxiliary curators who also put forward artists for possible inclusion?
Ingrid: The traveling and thinking partners are not expected to also serve as curatorial advisors. Though I do hope the sense of partnership will extend beyond the limits of each journey ~ and that we will be (telegraphically) traveling and thinking together in terms of our collective body of work throughout the process of my organizing Ci18. Since it’s impossible to touch down everywhere, I imagine we will convene in Pittsburgh first, to decide where in the world it seems most urgent and relevant to travel.
Erin: Your proposed research strategy for curating the Carnegie involves travel to unfamiliar regions, unfamiliar both to you and to your partners. By “unfamiliar”, do you mean traveling for the first time to regions of the world unknown to you? Or does unfamiliar also imply visiting artists who you have had a long-standing, but unfulfilled, curiosity about?
Ingrid: Yes to all. But most simply put: say you’re expert in the Antipodean art scene, then I want to go to Eastern Europe with you. Because if we went to New Zealand we would just see what you already know and you would be my guide. I would rather we were both equally open to who we meet and what we experience. At the same time, the knowledge and predilections each traveling partner brings to the table—or itinerary—will be extremely valuable to creating the connections and starting points you need to navigate new terrain.
Erin: Does this working method imply an avoidance of art you have previously exhibited?
Ingrid: I hope not. Working with an artist over time is a privilege. Plus I don’t think that the charge of the Carnegie is to run around and discover completely other ways of seeing and doing one’s work. Rather, it’s an opportunity to widen and deepen the scope and beat of what one knows and is passionate about—and then transmit that through the form of an exhibition.
Erin: I am looking to your previous interest in archives, particularly demonstrated in the exhibition you initiated, “Deep Storage” first curated at Haus der Kunst in 1997. Does your attraction to archives parallel your interest in curating? Is the uncovering of a remnant in history similar in behavior to seeking out unnoticed or overlooked aesthetic production?
Ingrid: I like to be in exhibitions that operate on many different levels, that ignite sparks of association—formal, conceptual, historical, political, theoretical, subjective—and that slow you down in the process of looking, participating, or whatever is called for in the process of absorbing the work on view. So yes, there is something to being in an archive and doing research—to letting what you find lead to places unknown—that is for me fundamentally akin to my curatorial approach.
I approach my projects as informed, but open inquiries—not defining statements—about a resonant theme or body of work that invites further investigation. I’m a great fan of independent study and surrealist-style questionnaires. For one of my favorite shows at ICA, the catalogue took the form of this bristling compendium of 80 answers to a solicitation to describe the queer voice, which seemed suddenly increasingly heard across culture. Talk about atomizing the binary in a single blast.
Erin: Recurring survey exhibitions such as the International often propose to display the most timely, geographically inclusive, and methodologically diverse group of artworks possible. Is there a term that you would like to add or remove from the list?
Ingrid: For now, I plan to shut my eyes and ears to such lists, as if diversity and inclusiveness could be so prescribed. No artist wants to be invited because they are “French” any more than they want to fill the “Community Engagement,” “Black,” or “Woman” slot. I’m always interested in how artists are making what we think about and see plural as well as prickly – critical of mainstreams that tend to run fast and not too deep. I’m all for art that eddies the flow.
Erin: Are you expecting this opportunity to change how you curate? Or how you looked for avenues and artists at the Institute of Contemporary Art and even prior?
Ingrid: I am leaving the ICA—one of the best jobs a curator can have, excellent colleagues doing inspiring work, a great university—to do the Carnegie exactly because it is bound to enrich my work. The opportunity is an amazing gift and goad, both. Because on the one hand, it’s like a giant research grant, on the other you have to realize your own ideals of what an exhibition of this scope and visibility can be.
Erin: The curators cooking for and hosting visiting artists have been a central component of your time at the ICA. Do you imagine cooking for the curators of the Carnegie International? And will being an adept chef be a litmus test for your traveling partners?
Ingrid: HA! At the Carnegie, we will have to see, but there’s good precedent: Rirkrit Tiravanija cooked and served Thai food to visitors of the 1995 Carnegie International. Actually, because I didn’t want it to be a retention issue for the curatorial department, initially, I cooked all the long table dinners following public events. It’s a way of honoring our guests and being more inclusive of colleagues. Just yesterday Anthony Elms reminded me that when he was considering coming to ICA, his friend the curator Anthony Huberman said, “I hope you like to cook.”
New work by Robert Buck
Iceberg Projects is located at 7714 N. Sheridan Rd. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.
Work by Karen Reimer.
Monique Meloche Gallery is located at 2154 W. Division St. Reception Saturday, 4-7pm.
Work by Jeanne Dunning.
Terrain Exhibitions is located at 704 Highland Ave. Oak Park. Reception Sunday, 2-5pm.
Work by Bria Williams, Kacie Lambert and Lauren Quin.
Outhouse is located at 212 N. Sangamon St. #3B. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.
Performance organized by Diaz Lewis.
Aspect/Ratio Gallery is located at 119 N. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Saying good bye is always hard. But sometimes, saying good bye is more like saying “See you later.” This is the case for us this month at Bad At Sports. Both Richard Holland and Jamilee Polson Lacy have revised their participation with our project and entered semi-retirement.
Jamilee left Chicago six months ago and took along her brilliant artist husband Steve Lacy (of Academy Records.) She remained as our Blog Czar for a couple of months before quietly handing the reins over to Dana Bassett. Jamilee embraced her role with B@S with gusto. Reshaping what Caroline Picard had produced and building a more efficient machine on top of it. Her strength allowed B@S to start seeing a stronger future for the project.
Jamilee left Chicago to be appointed Director and Curator of PC Galleries at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and she leaves all of us with a great hole to fill in our independent curatorial ranks. Few and far between are curators with the creativity, curiosity, depth, breadth, business sense, and raw ambition of our Jamilee.
Jamilee’s last Chicago exhibition at Columbia College’s A+D gallery, “Types by Display,” was easily the best graphic design-oriented exhibition presented in Chicago last year and I was grateful to spend a significant amount of time with it.
Richard Holland’s retirement is a harder thing to get my head around. What can one say about the leaving of a partner and founder? We have worked arm-in-arm together for 500 weeks and I love him like a brother. It is difficult for me to imagine the project without him. Our show will miss its ever-present host and his wit and erudition.
Richard leaves to focus on his growing Real Estate and Legal practices, and to spend a little more time with his family. There are also rumors he is amassing an army of hybrid space crafts for an intergalactic war.
“Thank you,” hardly seems to cover the debt we owe Richard and Jamilee. They have made a defining impact on the project’s past and it’s future and both leave shoes that can never be filled. But we will not be completely without Richard as he will continue to be a dominant voice on our twitter feed and occasionally will reprise his role as interviewer, producer, and editor. Likewise, Jamilee swore to me that she would return to writing and sharing the East Coast’s art world just as soon as she settles into a solid groove.