“Thumbing granite rocks into the womb of a marshmallow mermaid, sopping granite compound orgiastic waterfalls on the cotton fields of heaven.”
That is how the press release opens. Woah. This Saturday, August 8th, Scott Projects is welcoming London based artists Sopping Granite (Ben Vickers and Sarah Hartnett) for the show The First Letter of Every Word is You. Apparently, they exchange ideas via telepathy. Definitely check out their website, which seems to serve as part portfolio, part research notebook, and part collage.
Here is the link to the Facebook event page. Hope to see you there!
Last week the Chicago MCA’s Elizabeth Smith announced she would resign her post as chief curator at the end of the month, explaining that ten years in the position was long enough and it was time to move on. Fair enough. Curators are increasingly expected to be peripatetic nowadays, which suits our globalized art world and helps keep an institution’s perspective fresh and forward-thinking — but it also makes it hard for curators to maintain longstanding ties with local artists.
On a personal note, when I was an assistant curator in Los Angeles, I worked for the museum that co-organized Smith’s Lee Bontecou exhibition. At that time I was utterly taken by the romantic ideal that Smith’s relationship with Bontecou represented for me, and I still am.Â Smith pursued Bontecou for years before being given access to the reclusive artist’s work.Â When Smith was still a curator at MOCA in L.A., she organized a small Bontecou survey without any participation from the artist (though she tried repeatedly to get in touch with Bontecou). Bontecou eventually came to see the show, and wrote Smith a letter afterwards saying how much she liked it.
Over the years Smith developed a strong relationship with Bontecou, eventually gaining access to the treasure trove of work that the artist had kept mostly private after exiting the art world (or the New York art world, at any rate) in the early 70s. It’s no surprise, then, that Smith cites her 2004 Bontecou retrospective as a professional and personal highlight.
There are lots of different ways one can “be” a curator, but to me, Smith’s dogged pursuit of an artist who didn’t always want to be pursued, but knew she had to be, for the sake of art history if nothing else–represents a pinnacle of what the profession can accomplish. Smith’s low-key, artist-centric style of curating may be somewhat less in fashion nowadays, but I admire it tremendously. To me, she’s a model of how a curator can built strong ties and a relationship of trust over many years with artists whose work they believe in. Here’s wishing Ms. Smith the best of luck in her upcoming endeavors–I can’t wait to see what she cooks up next.
We don’t normally cover Chicago architecture and landscape issues in any depth on this blog, given that a) we’re nowhere near experts on the subject and b) the city has several stellar architecture journalists reporting on the scene and blogging daily about it. But when I saw the pictures below, my eyes literally hurt. My soul did too.
These are before and after pictures of the Michael Reese Hospital campus in the Bronzeville area of South Chicago, much of whose landscaping was clear cut this month, ostensibly to make way for a possible future Olympic Village site (and, after the Olympics are over, some form of mixed income housing). Of course, we haven’t even secured the 2016 games yet, and there’s no guarantee that we will — but the City has moved forward anyway. The result? A park that was once lush, green and peaceful has been literally scraped off the face of the earth.
The images posted above are taken from the Gropius in Chicago Coalition website, which issued a statement yesterday on the park’s destruction. An excerpt:
In an act of cultural and environmental violence that has shocked the South Side, the City of Chicago and the Chicago 2016 Bid Committee have destroyed the beloved central parklands at Michael Reese Hospital. Sparing only a few trees, the community parks have been â€œclear cut.â€ Hundreds of trees have been killed, and all shrubbery, flowers, and ground cover has been scraped from the site. The new scorched earth setting, carefully masked from the surefire embarrassment of public scrutiny behind a thin veil of preserved vegetation and construction fencing, is a shock to all who have known and loved the campus in its original state. The landscapes at Michael Reese were designed by Hideo Sasaki (of Sasaki + Novak, later Sasaki Walker), and Lester Collins, two of Americaâ€™s premiere landscape architects. The landscape designers both worked closely with Walter Gropius and his associates at The Architects Collaborative to develop the landscapes in keeping with Gropiusâ€™s architecture and site planning theories. Prominent Art and architecture Critic Lynn Becker has called these settings â€œsome of the most beautiful landscapes in the city.â€ (Read the full statement by clicking here).
What’s worse, the destruction won’t necessarily end with the flattening of the campus’ landscape. The Hospital buildings, which were co-designed by famed Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius, may also be demolished.
Tomorrow, August 6th, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks will meet to consider “whether to recommend to theÂ Illinois Historic Advisory CouncilÂ whether the campus should be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places,” Blair Kamin reported yesterday in his Cityscapes blog for the Tribune. “If the campus were given National Register status,” Kamin notes, “it would mean thatÂ state historic preservation officials would beÂ called in beforeÂ federal funds could beÂ used for demolition” of the buildings.
The Gropius Coalition has also put out an urgent call for Chicagoans who are invested in this issue to attend a critical community meeting next Tuesday August 11th. The meeting will cover the 2016 Olympic plans for the 3rd, 4th, and 20th wards (which contain Michael Reese Hospital) and will take place at the Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Michigan Avenue at 6:00 pm.Â The Coalition organizers note that
Alderman Preckwinkle specifically stated in an earlier meeting that the August 11 meetingÂ is the preferred forum for Chicago residents to voice their concerns about Michael Reese Hospital. A large turn out is essential, so please encourage your friends and family to participate! This may be one of our best chances to make an impact to the 2016 Olympic Committee. Remember that demolition is proceeding and without our support, the campus may not survive even until the IOC vote in October.
If you’re not already up to speed on the issue, here are a few more links to get you going, starting with Ben Joravsky’s article in the Chicago Reader illuminating the political angle of this debacle. The article’s headline suggests that the fate of Michael Reese Hospital “is just a taste of how the Olympics will drive public policy if Chicago wins the games.” Read Joravsky’s reportage and analysis for the Chicago Reader here: Michael Reese Hospital: The First Sacrificial Lamb; it’s critical to understanding the full ramifications of this issue.
Chicago architecture bloggers Lynn Becker and Edward Lifson have also been following the story; two links follow below:
Today on Boing Boing Xeni Jardin posted long lost footage of the Andy Warhol produced musical Plastic Bouquets- Man on the Moon. “The play was conceived by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas and his third wife, South African actress, Genevieve Waite, as a potential film or stage production originally entitled ‘Space.”
For more on the video footage and on the musical check out boing boing’s post.