Rebus Issue # 4 and Matthew Bowman

December 12, 2009 · Print This Article


The New Issue of Rebus is out! For those of you who don’t know but ought to, Rebus is an online journal of art history and theory organized and published by doctoral students out of the University of Essex, UK.  I’ve been a fan of Rebus since I was first made aware of it last spring.  I was struck by the straightforward agenda of sharing ideas. Which, under normal circumstances, are rarely read or disseminated much beyond their academic system.  To a certain extent I think Rebus mediates the gaps between those dust-collecting hardbound dissertations lining the shelves of collegiate libraries next to the esoteric journals published within any field of study which a requisite level of specificity to necessitate doctoral study and the casual contemporary art writing consumer. Put another way, I dig the accessibility of this journal.  So Rebus issue 4 is hot off the presses and is edited by Dr. Matthew Bowman and Dr. Stephen Moonie.  I’ve been so very lucky, as Dr. Bowman agreed to my idea that he share some of his thoughts on the journal and on his specific interests within the scope of critical theory. I particularly enjoy his interest in time as an under investigated element in art history, theory and criticism, most probably to do with my own personal interest in mitigated meaning and ways of understanding experience. Check out the new issue 


The following is a short, simple and earnest interview with Dr. Matthew Bowman.

JG– Would you share a bit about yourself for our lovely readers, for introductions?

Photobucket MB-I originally completed my degree in fine art, but soon comprehended my preference was to write about art rather than produce my own. I wrote my MA dissertation on Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, arguing that its processes of reproduction functioned as open-ended conditions of displacement which are immanently temporal, a manifestation of Duchamp’s fascination with “delay.” My PhD research took a different tack, analyzing the October journal. I focused mostly upon the journal’s early years (1976-1981), years which virtually transformed the face of art-critical discourse. Rather than give a straightforward historical account of October, however, I elected to argue that the journal in those years fundamentally reconfigures our comprehension of medium-specificity by pointing to the way artworks, especially after “the crux of minimalism,” reinvent the medium. Of course, early October perceives itself as rejecting the question of medium-specificity as a modernist issue, but I contend there are resources within October that encourage us to reconsider what a medium is, and how it operates within an expanded field. I completed my dissertation October and the Expanded Field of Art and Criticism in 2008. At present I’m lecturing part-time in contextual studies at Colchester Institute, and working in the History of Art department as well as Arts on 5 at the University of Essex. Between these activities I co-edit Rebus: A Journal of Art History and Theory.

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2010 Whitney Biennial Artists Announced

December 10, 2009 · Print This Article


The New York Times has just posted the full list of participants for the 2010 Whitney Biennial. As you may recall, next year’s biennial will be curated by former BaS guest Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari. Congratulations to Julia Fish, Curtis Mann, Scott Short, Theaster Gates, and Jim Lutes who are the only five Chicago based artists to make the list.

For a full list of particpents please check out the New York Times article here.

Some Notes on Hosting

December 10, 2009 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Jennifer Breckner

Some Notes on Hosting

Brian O’Doherty, in his seminal 1976 book, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, takes the traditional gallery space to task, critiquing the manner in which its white walls became the de facto authority that conferred the status of art upon any object that resided within its space. Serving as a template, the white cube format—white walls, rectangular or square shape, wooden floors, and lit from the ceiling—may be utilized anywhere and continues to be implemented widely, including in most of Chicago’s beloved apartment galleries.  What are some tactics for moving beyond this model in these types of smaller domestic environments so that a more equitable space may be envisioned?[1]

Presented as neutral but being far from it, the sanitized, white-walled space came into being during Modernism and quietly claimed more and more power over time so that eventually it became more important than the art that was displayed within.  “We have now reached a point where we see not the art but the space first,” asserts O’Doherty. [2]  The white-cube model continues to be the premier method for the display of art within institutions such as the formidable museum, blue chip commercial gallery, and even the not-for-profit “alternative” gallery.  Its structure conveys knowledge and authority; it asks of the viewer a quiet, almost religious-like devotion.  While it often is a useful background for artwork to be seen on, the white-walled gallery may also be a place of exclusion and judgment where privilege, breeding, economic status, educational background, and social cache allow various stages of access and exclusion. It is a space of contention, often leaving visitors in the precarious position of questioning their right to be there.

If this type of space is rife with anxiety and power, then shouldn’t the apartment gallery be an antidote to this situation since the power within these spaces resides with individuals who have broader latitude and more autonomy—because the stakes are not as high as the commercial gallery or museum—to experiment with setup?  Yet most Chicago apartment gallerists seem interested in perpetuating the white cube and all its inherent structure and exclusions, even if the directors are not consciously aware that they are doing this.  In large part, the use of this modernist template is due to the fact that most apartment gallery owners are renting the space that they live in and serious changes to the infrastructure of their domestic space could have a negative effect on their lease. Or perhaps they do not see the gallery space as elitist and find it useful to follow the professional set-up.  More importantly, though, the institutionalization of exhibition methods has infiltrated even the tiniest self-produced endeavor and carries such weight that many individuals see their apartment gallery as a calling card to gain entrance to the realm of more professional institutions.

There are many of these self-initiated exhibition venues that do away with the materials of everyday life and gravitate towards the white cube blueprint.  An article on Chicago’s apartment galleries mentions an owner who was pleased that the exhibition part of her living space resembled a commercial venue and that all of the evidence of people living there had been removed out of sight.[3] This kind of approach is a mistake for how can one’s living space compete with the likes of a commercial gallery?  Instead of the domestic space striving to be more commercial and always falling short of the pristine effect and voice of authority that the museum or formal gallery embodies, the focus should be on finding inventive and innovative strategies of display that mingle art with living materials.[4] [Read more]

On the matter of public space: or my apartment gallery is an arctic explorer

December 10, 2009 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Caroline Picard

This essay was first published in the Artists Run Chicago Digest published jointly by threewalls and Green Lantern Press in 2009.

On the matter of public (1) space : or my apartment gallery is an arctic explorer

“‘Oh, you have a roommate?’

“ ‘Yeah, she’s actually here right now, but she’s sick….Don’t do that—she’s trying to sleep.’

“I heard them but pretended to remain asleep by keeping my eyes closed; [closing your eyes] is what passed for privacy then. My ‘room’ was in a corner of the kitchen on the other side of a folding screen. If you were tall enough, you could see me from either side at any time. The above exchange took place during the installation of a show when I happened to have a cold. I lived at the Green Lantern from 9/06 to 8/07. Recently out of college, I moved to Chicago to get my bearings. I had just spent two years living in the French countryside with no heat, no car, no Internet, no noise, no zines, no sushi, no shows, no jargon. When I moved in, I had never owned a computer. Suddenly I was in the middle of an art scene. [Read more]

Eric May of Roots and Culture on Chicago’s Apartment Galleries

December 9, 2009 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Eric May

(Ed. Note: May’s essay takes the format of responses to a series of questions about Chicago’s apartment gallery scene, posed by EC Brown of Floor Length and Tux).

Do these space have real cultural or regional impact? Does anyone really care if Chicago has 2.3 trillion small project spaces?

The overall arc of sixty+ years of independent art spaces in Chicago clearly has significance in that it’s become the tradition it has, and an activity that folks here seem to stay interested in. Beyond that, the factors of cheap rent, lack of venues, and DIY spirit lend to the reason why every other undergrad starts their own space and we end up with 2.3 trillion things going on. I think that perhaps one of the strongest cultural benefits is the self- education of young folks in organizing- something risky and entrepreneurial. It almost doesn’t matter if their project is “successful”- at least they’ve gone through the motions of taking on something bigger, outside themselves, and collaborative. And who will see all these activities? I think that’s up to the folks running these spaces and how hard they are willing to work to promote themselves and stay dedicated. Some survive, some don’t- lesson learned. A recent train of thought has questioned whether these spaces are a mere surrogate for the healthier, better supported art venues of the bigger cultural centers- a last ditch effort for artists to get their work shown. All said, in the end of the day, the work gets shown. Chicago can have a really healthy community-supported art scene. Regional impact beyond our own metropolitan area? Folks that I know in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kansas City, St. Louis, Ann Arbor, and Minneapolis pay attention to what happens here. I know people that, inspired by the independent space scene in Chicago, have embarked on their own spaces in their home cities. Flyover maybe, but at least Chicago’s got the busiest airport (do we even anymore?). Beyond that? Eh. Maybe I’m the wrong person to ask – I’ve been here my whole life! More press would be helpful… [Read more]