Top 5 Weekend Picks! (8/14-8/16)

August 13, 2015 · Print This Article

1. Skandoughless Fashion Show at Roots & Culture

Work by Lindsay Cashews.

Roots & Culture is located at 1034 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday, 7-10pm.

2. Nothing Named Nine Times at Roman Susan


Work by Ruth Hodgins.

Roman Susan is located at 1224 W. Loyola Ave. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.

3. Uppers and Downers and All-Arounders at Rational Park


Work by Ben Chlapek.

Rational Park is located at 2557 W. North Ave. Reception Saturday, 6-10pm.

4. Free Speech & the Transcendent Journey of Chris Drew at DEFIBRILLATOR


Film by Nancy Bechtol.

DEFIBRILLATOR is located at 1463 W. Chicago Ave. Screening Saturday, 7-10pm.

5. Re-integrator: Crosshair Studio’s 20th Anniversary at Galerie F


Work by Dan MacAdam.

Galerie F is located at 2381 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.

Review: Dana Arnold, A Short Book About Art, Tate (2015)

August 7, 2015 · Print This Article

arnold main 2

Dana Arnold’s book may be short, but the breadth of art and art philosophy encompassed here is stunning. In less than 200 well-illustrated pages she brings together cave art with Picasso, and takes us from an Ottoman mosque to the classical museums of Rome and the white cube spaces of 21st century Britain.

One moment she gives us the Mona Lisa and the next she deals with Damien Hirst’s shark and will find parallels in their reception and fame. Arnold tells us that the now historic hype surrounding the YBAs is an example of deconstruction and she brings in Derrida, Kant, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche and Hegel to her pithy tome with the lightest of touches.

The structure of the book is simple and the six chapters of perfectly digestible length. Arnold has themed her art historical survey around Looking, Materials, Mind, Devotion, Power and Sex. But these categories are elastic, so that civic duty makes it into the chapter on devotion and Sex is a premise to discuss gender. Female artists are championed at every turn and you sense the loss which society has brought about by restricting artistic opportunities for women.

However, things are not quite as bad as they might appear. Arnold notes that no women made the cut for Vasari’s celebrated The Lives of the Artists. In fact the 16th century text extols the virtues of several female artists and dedicates a chapter to Properzia de’ Rossi. Another glitch occurs when the author refers to Picasso as a Catalan artist; though I’m sure Barcelona would like to claim him he spent his childhood in Málaga.

Perhaps the inaccuracies are inevitable, a few facts were always going to go astray in this format. Arnold’s accessible book is only as scholarly as it needs to be. And it shuttles back and forward in time and hops across borders with real élan. It is as satisfying to dip in from the contents, as it is comb through from beginning to end. And the further reading is none too intimidating. Since Arnold is a Professor in Architectural History she has done well to render her subjects so accessible.

She will tell you, if you need to be told, that Jackson Pollock (for example) would paint drip by drip, pour by pour. She will tell you he laid his canvas flat on the ground. But elsewhere she will assume a certain familiarity with, say, Pavel Althamer and list his somewhat obscure collaborators as if well known to everyone.

All of which means A Short Book About Art is a good read for both newbie and aficionado. In her way, Arnold makes newcomers of us all. Whether you want a short introduction or a reintroduction this book will hold your attention.

Top 5 Weekend Picks! (8/7-8/9)

August 6, 2015 · Print This Article

1. Ask the Oracle at Heaven Gallery


Work by Claire Arctander, Ann Gaziano, Annie Kielman and AP Shrewsbury.

Heaven Gallery is located at 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave. 2nd Fl. Reception Friday, 7-11pm.

2. Public Collectors: Hardcore Architecture at The Franklin


Work by Marc Fischer and Public Collectors.

The Franklin is located at 3522 W. Franklin Blvd. Reception Saturday, 6-10pm.

3. Field Study at David Weinberg Photography


Curated by Katherine Ware and Meg T. Noe, with work by Nealson Armour, Natalia Baluta, Sarah Christianson, Ciurej and Lochman, Rachel Cox, Karen Darling, Barbara Diener, Jessica Ekern, Adam Forrester, Dana Fritz, Cameron Gibson, Tytia Habing, William Harper, Lindsay Hutchens, Sandra Klein, Chrissy LaMaster, Adam Lampton, Cristen Leifheit, Janice Levy, Joyce Lopez, Holly Lynton, Sarah Malakoff, Carsten Meier, Angela Mittiga, Mayu Nagaoka, Paccarik Orue, Julie Pasila, Simon Pyle, Tealia Ellis Ritter, Rob Rocke, Ken Rosenthal, Zack Sabin, John Steck Jr., Jamey Stillings, Suzanne E. Szucs, Millee Tibbs and Terri Warpinski

David Weinberg Photography – 300 W. Superior St. Reception 5-8pm.

4. Vernacular Photography Festival at Comfort Station

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Curated by Ron Slattery

Comfort Station is located at 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception 5-8pm.

5. Hungry Souls at Pilsen Outpost

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Work by Jasso.

Pilsen Outpost is located at 1958 W. 21st St. Reception 6-10pm.

Artist Residencies: Are They Worth It? (Part 2 of 2)

August 4, 2015 · Print This Article

(Continued from last month)

I’ve attended two residencies, one at Vermont Studio Center in August 2007, and one at LillStreet Art Center in Chicago in spring of 2008. The two programs were as different from each other as they could be, and provide some context for the variety of residencies that exist.

New residents in the dining hall at Vermont Studio Center.  One of them is me.

New residents in the dining hall at Vermont Studio Center. One of them is me.

Vermont Studio Center is located in Johnson, Vermont, a small town surrounded by maple forest. The facilty consists of numerous buildings: living quarters, studio buildings, a lecture hall, and a cafeteria. The program is typically one month in duration and residencies take place year round (as opposed to Skowhegan, a summer-only program). Several visiting artists give presentations and studio visits. Interested participants may join the founder for daily yoga sessions. I did not.

Lillstreet Art Center is located in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, right next to the Brown Line platform. The facility is located inside an old ceramic tile factory, and consists of three floors of classrooms. The ground floor contains a cafe and the ceramics classrooms, which are the bread and butter of Lillstreet’s program. The second floor contains mostly for-rent artist studios, with more classrooms on the third floor for painting and printmaking. The artist in residence, at my time, simply made use of an unoccupied classroom as a studio; now there is a partitioned space in one of the classrooms. There is no cost to be an artist-in-residence at Lillstreet, in fact I was given a materials stipend and also the opportunity to teach classes (for pay). The timeline was not clearly established at the time of my residency; it ended up being close to six months. (The reason some things were poorly defined during my time there was simply because it was a very new program; I think I was only the second painter in residence there.)

The decision to attend any artist residency is dependent on a variety of factors, almost all of which are specific to each program. I would (or, I should say, did) make this decision by asking myself the following questions:

1. How’s my current studio practice going? Am I highly productive? If so, would the networking/community/change of perspective of a residency be an asset, or a distraction? Am I struggling to make work? If so, might a residency give me time and space that I lack at home?

2. Can I be away from home for the duration of the residency? Durations vary from as short as two weeks up to a full year. A long residency provides more time to get work done, while a shorter one is easier to fit between one’s other obligations (family, teaching, etc.). If you can afford the time off, ask yourself: instead of a residency, could I simply tell everyone to piss off and lock myself in my studio for a month? If not, a residency might be a good option.

3. What’s the cost of the program? Residencies range from expensive (several thousand dollars) to free (some offer full fellowships to some residents, others are free to all who attend), and some in fact provide meals, lodging, and/or a stipend to cover expenses while you are there. If there is a cost, can you afford it? Some, including VSC, will allow you to pay off the residency over a few months after attending, making it easier to afford. And, if you can afford it, is it the best use of your money, or would it be better spent elsewhere?

4. Do I need another line on my CV? This is a serious question. For some people, e.g. college professors, a residency can be an important part of a record of professional activity that can be quantified. You can spend a month doing nothing but working in your studio, and your department may not count that towards your research requirement, but spend the same time doing the same work at a residency, and they probably will. It sounds cynical but for someone who is struggling to meet these requirements, this could actually be a very good reason for attending a residency. (It’s a factor in my currently attending VSC, although not the dominant one.) Others, applying for graduate schools or teaching jobs, may feel that their CV is a bit thin and could use another line on it. I’d be cautious about this reasoning; graduate schools tend to mostly care about the work, and employers seem more interested in teaching experience and, if possible, super prestigious exhibitions. Residencies may not count highly in this regard, although some (especially Skowhegan) have a reputation that could work in your favor.

It looks kind of like an Ana Mendieta piece, but this is actually the result of my laying on the rock after swimming in the Gihon river at Vermont Studio Center.

It looks kind of like an Ana Mendieta piece, but this is actually the result of my laying on the rock after swimming in the Gihon river at Vermont Studio Center.

5. Do I need a vacation? A residency can be fun, relaxing, enjoyable, and really just a change of scenery. You can be social, get drunk, try to get laid, check out local sights, pick up some souvenirs, all the usual travel shit. Not every decision has to be cold, analytical reasoning. Sometimes a good time is reason enough to do something.

You will in fact need to weigh each of these factors several times. First, in deciding whether to apply to residencies in the first place, and to which to apply. Some residencies may be too long, too expensive, etc., to even be worth applying. Once accepted, you’ll have more information about the cost, whether any financial aid is available, etc. Your situation may also have changed. Before accepting, you’ll need to re-weigh these same factors again.

I weighed all of these factors in making my own decision to reapply to Vermont Studio Center. This was in 2013, and I was applying to attend in August 2014. I was hoping, of course, for a full fellowship. These are the most desirable way to attend VSC, bringing with them a bit of validation (and another line on the resume) as well as eliminating cost as a factor in attendance. I didn’t get one, but I had the resources to attend anyway. I accepted and put down my deposit. A bit closer to the time, though, and something else had come up for the summer, so I deferred my enrollment. I considered withdrawing from the program, forfeiting the small deposit but saving the remainder of the cost. I weighed the factors.

Work in progress in my studio at VSC.

Work in progress in my studio at VSC.

My studio practice had stagnated significantly since leaving Chicago. I have a decent studio space (a converted garage in my home), and a reasonable amount of free time (having managed to pack my 4/4 teaching load entirely into Mondays and Wednesdays). The problems I think have been a combination of disconnection from the active art scene I had gotten used to, some demoralization over no longer having a gallery with which to work, the relative scarcity of exhibition opportunities in Flagstaff, a lack of weekly gallery openings for inspiration, probably some internal issues in my own mind, and honestly a “too much of a good thing” issue with all the exciting outdoor and recreational activities in the area. I’ve managed to carve out some studio time but nevertheless, a solid month of not having to worry about household maintenance, friends wanting to hang out, etc., was a solid asset in this case.

There was no real reason not to leave home for a month or more. I have a friend to take care of the snake and water the plants. I can pay all my bills online. I wasn’t assigned any summer classes, and many of those who did have them assigned found them cancelled due to low enrollment; our department’s summer semester is over by now anyway. So I was certainly free to attend a residency this summer if I wanted to.

The full cost of a residency at Vermont Studio Center is $3,950; however, most (VSC says 90%) residents qualify for some form of financial aid, up to 50% of this total. My total was something like $2,300 or so, which included $600 in work study (dish washing at $15/hour for 10 hours per week). Some applicants are offered a full fellowship, the money coming from donors (“Artist Angels”, VSC calls them). The fellowships are merit based, unlike the financial aid which is need-based. I wasn’t given a fellowship, and the cost was a serious consideration. I had applied hoping for a fellowship, but not expecting one, and after some hard thinking decided that yes, I could afford it, and yes, it was worth it. VSC allows payment plans to spread the cost out over the next five months or so, making things easier. James got a full fellowship: congrats, buddy!

As a lecturer in Foundations at Northern Arizona University, I am full-time and benefits eligible, but not tenure track or tenure eligible. Nevertheless, my position is fairly secure; it is apparently something of a process to fire one of us. We are subject to an evaluation process that is called P&T (Promotion and Tenure) even for non-tenure track faculty. In this process, our performance is evaluated according to the distribution of our duties: in my case, 80% teaching, 10% service, and 10% research. A residency is generally classified as research, along with exhibitions and publications. So, attending a residency does “count” towards that category of activity. This was a factor, though not the dominant one, in my deciding to attend the residency again.

Vermont is rich in toads during the summer.

Vermont is rich in toads during the summer.

On my last question, “Do I need a vacation?”, I would say that I did not. I had already done a bit of travel this summer and was kind of fatigued from it. I’d just returned from a road trip in California, and after only two weeks back in Flagstaff, hit the road again. However, driving the rest of the way across the country and back worked pretty well with some other plans I had, to go camping in Missouri just before the residency began, for example, and to see friends along the way and on the way home. And I’ll be stopping in Chicago on the way back to pick up my bicycle and a few other things.

More Vermont wildlife.  This is apparently a Dobsonfly.  I'm not entirely convinced that it's not an escapee from Toho Studios.

More Vermont wildlife. This is apparently a Dobsonfly. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not an escapee from Toho Studios.

I weighed all of these factors and was still very much on the fence when my good friend James Angello told me that he’d be attending at the same time. I continued deliberating pretty much up to the deadline, but it was ultimately this factor that tipped the scales in favor of my going. Getting to spend some good creative time with my old friend, the possibility of some collaboration, and just the fact that it promised to be a lot of fine, convinced me that it was worth it. If you’re considering applying to a residency, or if you’ve been accepted and are wondering whether to attend, these are the factors you’ll have to consider. As I said, it is ultimately a decision you will have to make for yourself. But I’m having a great time so far, and I highly recommend it.

I’m a little more than halfway through the residency as I write this; I will have just completed it by the time you’re reading this.  So far, I’ve attended a few figure drawing sessions, two of which I actually used to do figure painting.  Some of the figure work were collaborations with James Angello.  We’d each start a piece and then, halfway through the session, trade seats, finishing each other’s work.  My style is pretty much academic realism, while his is more modern expressionist, so the contrast is pretty cool.  I’ve gone on a couple of hikes, caught a couple of toads (and released them, after moving them safely out of the road).  I saw a grouse (a weird, chicken-like wild bird).  Met some cool people.  But mostly I painted.

The residency has been quite productive for me.

The residency has been quite productive for me.

I’ve spent at least a few hours in my painting studio every day that I’ve been here.  I’ve got a set of 20 small wood panels with paintings in progress on them.  I hope to have them all finished by the time I’m done here.  If not they’ll at least be pretty close.  Then the long drive home.  I’ll be stopping through Chicago to pick up my bicycle and see some friends, maybe check out a couple of shows.  When I get back to Flagstaff, I’ll unpack, take my truck into the shop to have the power steering fixed, and start getting ready for the fall semester.  And, hopefully, return to my studio with a renewed work ethic and sense of direction.

A reward system can be a great way to encourage productivity.

A reward system can be a great way to encourage productivity.

Zeitgeist on Show in Recent Work by Damien Deroubaix and Andrei Rabodzeenko

July 31, 2015 · Print This Article

Damien Deroubaix: L’esprit de notre temps

Le Musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix, Les Sables d’Olonne, France

Until September 27

Andrei Rabodzeenko: Technotropic Romance

Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago

Until August 2

Tower of Babel, Steampunk style

Tower of Babel, Steampunk style

The lawyer defending Allan Ginsberg and The Howl against charges of obscenity claimed that the poet was inspired by the Book of Job. Sci-fi role-playing game Zenogears invokes the Bible with its “Goddamn Babel Tower Level.” Version 1.18 of Tower of Babel game for Androids features the Seal of Power that prevents God’s Wrath from interrupting Enchanted Hammers. Steampunk artists too are aficionados of Babel. And Mammon casts as dark a shadow today as ever. The triad of Babel, Mammon, and Job is synonymous with questions that humans have been asking for millennia—questions about ignorance and suffering, faith and pride, ambition and greed. And above all, about divine power.

William Blake, Book of Job, 1826

Lots of people steer clear of these deep waters. Yet the ways each generation explores them feed the zeitgeist, or spirt of the times. Visual artists who set out on such explorations lend aesthetic forms to the zeitgeist by creating works that engage, challenge, and disturb viewers. Andrei Rabozeenko and Damien Deroubaix do exactly this in their exhibitions, Technotropic Romance and L’esprit de Notre Temps (The Spirit of Our Times).


Andrei Rabozeenko, Witness

After seeing a show of paintings by Chicago-based artist Andrei Rabozeenko last winter and visiting his studio, Loyola’s museum director Pamela Ambrose invited the artist to exhibit work in LUMA’s gallery for works on paper. His oil paintings incarnate enigmatic visions. They’re made luminous by abundant gold and the palette of stained glass. Rabozeenko’s Soviet education is on display in his paintings. He offsets the rigor and classical elegance of academic technique with visual narratives and flourishes of wit that spring from a probing mind and fertile imagination.


Andrei Rabozeenko, The Answer Is Yes

The bodies of work grouped as Archetypes and Metaphysics in Rabozeenko’s winter show suggested two wholly distinct visual idioms. Technotropic Romance’s works—26 works in chalk, charcoal, and tempera on brown paper and cardboard—presents a third idiom. Here the artist delves into questions about the human capacity to be captivated by knowledge and belief, activity and accomplishment.


Andrei Rabozeenko, Thoughts on the Book of Job, 4.

With their themes of human striving, confusion, anguish, and divine omnipotence, Job and Babel never go out of style. Rabozeenko takes them up in Technotropic Romance and extends his earlier exploration of mythic archetypes beyond the individual to society and species. Thoughts on the Book of Job, 4, is one in a series of six drawings. Here, a black pie slice in the upper left references a convention in Russian Orthodox icon-making that figures God as a black disk. White lines dart across the drawing and trace a complex geometry of connections among the forms. Quasi-legible text hovers around the figures echoing Job’s perplexity. The series format here is not used to represent the story’s sequence of events. Instead, the works in Thoughts on the Book of Job have a cumulative effect: they induce the vertigo that arises at the edge of an abyss.


Andrei Rabozeenko, New Babylonians, 3

The exhibition’s title expresses the artist’s curiosity about human fervor for activity and novelty. Rabozeenko’s past life as an architect is visible in the exhibition’s New Babylonian series. Humanoid figures like those in architectural drawings scale scaffolding on vertical structures that are adorned with eerie drips, blots, and smears. Construction and destruction proceed simultaneously.


Andrei Rabozeenko, Carrying the Day

The works are strengthened by the spontaneity and immediacy afforded by their media. Their opacity suits the artist’s musings. The rhythm of repeated gestural, figurative, and textual elements unifies the experience. Engaged viewers feel the cadence of Technotropic Romance. Those who flit through catch the zeitgeist in blips and tweets



Banners on every other light post along the seaside promenade and main streets in Les Sables d’Olonne announce Le Musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix’s summer exhibition of Damien Deroubaix. The city’s museum for contemporary art shares its space with the public library in a building that was a Benedictine abbey founded in the seventeenth century. Artists dream of creating shows for spaces like this with its expansive main gallery and attic gallery of creaking timber. Deroubaix’s exhibition responds to the museum’s architecture and a collection that features large holdings of works by Victor Brauner and Gaston Chaissac and as well as a gallery of maritime and ethnographic objects.


Victor Brauner, La Mère des Oiseaux (The Mother of Birds), 1965

A LUMA docent observed that young viewers connect readily to Rabozeenko’s works with their ambiguity and angst. Critic Olivier Grassier describes the art of the Frenchman Damien Deroubaix as imprinted with “trash, grunge and grindcore” culture and infused with an adolescent attitude and an emotional register that’s “brutal and aggressive, full of black humor, cruelty, and provocation.” His visual vocabulary spans millennia and continents: old masters and archeological finds; seashells and skeletons; heavy metal album covers and press photos.

Raoul Hausmann, Mechanical Head (The spirit of our time), 1919.

Raoul Hausmann, Mechanical Head (The spirit of our time), 1919.

The show’s title refers to Mechanical Head (The spirit of our time) by Raoul Hausmann, who was a leader of Berlin Dada. World War I marked Dada’s generation with life lessons about war, destruction, death and despair. Whether flavored by Gallic pessimism or Deroubaix’s years of study and art-making in Germany, his work combines the distress signals of Expressionists and Dadaists with the ghoulish auguries of Symbolists and Surrealists.

Sasha Schneider, Mammon and His Slave, 1896

Sasha Schneider, Mammon and His Slave, 1896

If Rabozeenko roams the human realm with his explorations of Job and Babel, Deroubaix wanders where humans morph in and out of bestial forms. It’s a realm where the life force of totems guards against human depredation. And where things are much worse than they appear. His images herald a zeitgeist tormented by bloodlust and greed.


Damien Deroubaix, drawing in L’esprit de notre temps

Museum director Gaëlle Rageot-Deshayes and Didier Ottinger delineate Deroubaix’s art historical context in their scholarly essays. His prodigious lineage includes artists such Goya, Picasso, Holbein, and Gaugin who created masterworks out of dread and desolation. After registering the black walls and scanning the paintings on the perimeter, the array of objects in the center of the main gallery summons those who eat dessert first.


Damien Deroubaix: L’esprit de notre temps, main gallery. Photo by Rebecca Fanuele.

The preface to the essays describes this central work as “a monumental tree that functions as a genealogy of artistic sources and references but also as a machine to create relationships among the symbols.” Forms that the artist shapes into his symbolic idiom hang like jackfruit from the exhibition’s centerpiece. And among the curiosities leaning against its trunk and strewn around it is a piece of wood with the word Rosebud.

Damien Deroubaix: L'esprit de notre temps, installation view. Photo by Rebecca Fanuele.

Damien Deroubaix: L’esprit de notre temps, installation view. Photo by Rebecca Fanuele.

Rageot-Deshayes and Ottinger point out that Deroubaix deploys symbols in the service of a specific mission and message. In his investigatory sketches, mural-like paintings, wooden sculptures, giant blown glass black head atop sawed-off white legs, and artifacts real or faux, the artist belts out his critique of rapacious regimes (ordung)—and their life and death consequences. Whether it’s swastikas, jihad, a starving black child, money issued by the Bank of Hell, or grotesque woman’s bodies, Deroubaix makes images his message.


Nkisi Nkonde, Kongo peoples, 19th–20th century, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

No doubt the artist has a principle for selecting the raw materials of his symbolical machinations. His repeated reference to the Congolese nkisi nkonde sculpture enacts the fascination with non-European anthropomorphic ritual objects he shares with early twentieth century artists. Though clearly steeped in European cultural and intellectual history, Deroubaix’s no snob. In fact, his bricolage of symbols and grunge aesthetic are the stuff of street cred.

Damien Deroubaix, Heart of Darkness

Damien Deroubaix, Heart of Darkness

Contradiction strengthens Deroubaix symbolic formulas. On closer inspection of the painting collages, elements of nightmarish scenes are on swathes of fabric that look like brocade and tulle. Gruesome realities like mass incarceration and mad cow disease get comic book text. Ordung is inscribed on decorative floral elements. The visual version of gallows humor—dice showing six on three sides for example—gives a moment’s respite from the drone of doom.


Damien Deroubaix, World Downfall

A hellish heat greets visitors to Deroubaix’s installations in the old abbey’s attic gallery on a hot summer day. Wooden beams, dim light, quiet, and solitude: it’s a place for time travel and contemplation. One installation arranges sea shells, Pegasus, animal skulls, and glass balls like a child’s treasures from a bygone age. Right here is the beating heart of Deroubaix’s exhibition. Right here is where righteous rage finds rest and something altogether different becomes possible.

Damien Deroubaix: L'esprit de notre temps, installation view

Damien Deroubaix: L’esprit de notre temps, installation view