Ox-Bow? Its like adult Hogwarts for artists.

June 25, 2013 · Print This Article

Christian Kuras and I have been busily preparing for a class we should have called “The Decent into Awesome.” A class that brings together Avital Ronell, Silkscreens, and Juggalos/Celine Dion, publishing as form, and the new sincerity manifesto, so wrong it can only be right. It is going to be magic. We will make, talk, collaborate, share, and be awesome. (We will definitely figure out whether awesome is really something we want to be and no prior printmaking experience is necessary!)

Our friends at Ox-Bow just let us know that their are still a couple of slots open in our class and we thought we should remind you of the life altering good times that can be had at Ox-Bow. I am going to be polite and not mention the dance parties or Eric May’s (and co’s) amazing cooking or the blazing good times that will be had around the fire every evening. I will just mention that there are still slots available in the following classes and that it is one of the greatest experiences to give your art life.

Towards a New Sincerity with Christian “North” Kuras and Duncan MacKenzie (7/14-7/27)

Lithography with Mark Pascale  (8/11-17)

Egg Tempera with Carl Baratta (7/14-20)
Portrait as Starting Point with Andrew Winship (7/4-10)
Paint & Landscape:  Material as Narrative with James Kao (8/11-17)

If this was is not enough maybe you should check out these images and maybe you should come?

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Week In Review: Two of Two

June 23, 2013 · Print This Article

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PODCAST: This week Bad at Sports talked to critic, poet, gallerist, the award winning Director of the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts Director Jessica Baran, the self-same Baran who appeared in Kelly Shindler’s earlier this year here.

Chicago artist, Josh Reames, working on the Drain mural.

Chicago artist, Josh Reames, working on the Drain mural.

The week began with Dana Bassett’s EDITION #11, featuring emboldened news about public art projects, Threewalls’ 10 year anniversary party (Huzza!), the scoop on Logan Square’s post office, trends with face paint and the admittedly all-time favorite Who Wore It Better. Get it all here.

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We also saw a highly controversial post about the status of Feminism in Romania, written by Gene Tanta from the city of Buchrest where he is presently living:

American Feminism demands that society treat women as the equals of men under the law. The difficulty with positing such a legalistic position remains that law bleeds in and out of other parts of the social architecture.  The best trick Patriarchy ever pulled off was to make women believe they are equal to men since this makes women into gender-bound objects through the performative power of the word “equal”. To categorize women and men according to gender erases the individuality of both equally. Despite the paradox of losing one’s individuality to group identity in order to become freer, the social justice need for the work done by identity politics remains.

European Feminism demands that women look beyond gender expectations to become more themselves, more individual, and less beholden to the male gaze. Mina Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto” articulates this point bombastically enough: “Leave off looking to men to find out what you are not—seek within yourselves to find out what you are.” But of course any such interiority (whether at the end of a penis or vagina or anything in between) pulses stuck in the traffic jam between individual and society. These construction sites of gender make our society function … but at what cost and who pays for it? Can an individual take her own freedom or must a group give her that freedom?

Bad at Sports received a few emails that would argue a contrary position, and if you’re interested it’s well worth checking out Tanta’s Facebook comment thread a long comment thread. One of my favorite responses came from Vanessa Place who posted the following image and caption on Tanta’s FB timeline. Does this resolve the matter? I suppose not….

Bucharest 13.6.13 bien merci

Bucharest 13.6.13
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To anyone inclined to write a formal rebuttal (or more general responses for that matter), email me: lantern.g@gmail.com.

"Rocking Chair", Ralph Rapson

“Rocking Chair”, Ralph Rapson

Thomas Friel covered the Michigan Modern:

You’re not likely to see a better display of the most important architecture and design of the 20th century anywhere else this summer, so the fact that Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America only focuses on what came out of post war MI is even more remarkable. Starting with Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen’s highly influential submissions for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings at MoMA in 1940, and ending with a recreation of a living space in Mies Van der Roe’s Lafayette Park in Detroit, there are few stones left unturned…

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An interview with Lisa Radon was published b y our Portland Bureau of Radness, Sarah Margolis-Pineo, who described the artist as follows:

Lisa Radon eludes traditional definitions. Occasionally a geologist, previously a critic, and perpetually a poet, she dabbles in all manner of creative work from performance art to small-batch publishing. Driven by research and aided by collaboration, Radon’s projects are buoyed by a multitude of voices that, knowingly or otherwise, are ushered into her game. Much of her work can be conceived as a playground—or temporary autonomous zone—in which she spins circles around the structures of language and ideas, drawing liquid connections between word, image, and concept to insightful and poetic ends.

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Updates on the Carissa Hinz Hit and Run tragedy were posted by Richard Holland over the course of the week. “For those who missed the story yesterday, we reported the shocking death of artist Carissa Hinz, 21, last Friday as she was leaving Version Fest. She was killed by a hit-and-run driver who has yet to be apprehended. Please make all donations to Jackalope.” If anyone saw anything or knows anything contact the authorities.

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Thea Liberty Nichols posted a great piece from Laura Shaeffer, “the entrepreneur and custodian behind a number of projects housed within a handful of unconventional— and often under utilized— spaces on the Southside of Chicago, including Home Gallery, The Op Shop and Southside Hub of Production (SHoP).” Shaeffer writes:

Maybe artists and others who are attracted to unconventional spaces to view and think about art, like the mansion, the small townhome, the porch, the back yard gallery, the storefront, the park, and various unexpected public spaces, are more likely to want to examine their role in social change, themes of modern urban life in spaces that are themselves a challenge. There are artists who have certainly been repelled. I like the story of one artist who had proposed a project for an exhibit at SHoP, was invited to participate, and showed up on a typical day for us, where kids were hammering pieces of wood together on the front steps, students were running a yard sale in the front yard, some seniors were playing bridge inside, the house was buzzing with activity preparing for the installation of the next show. I saw a looming figure outside the house and then I saw him disappear, I asked a friend if they knew why this artist left the scene without coming in to meet us (I knew him from his resume and photos) She said that he ‘didn’t want to show his work in a house run by unprofessional hippies.’ This artist never responded to us again. I could see his point, but I love general (orchestrated) chaos, so I guess that’s my fate.

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Cory Arcangel, Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient Blue, Red, Yellow, mousedown y=22100 x=14050, mouseup y=19700 x=1800, 2010, (detail), unique C-print (image Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg)

Over the last few days, there has been time to ruminate over Robert Burnier’s post “The Outward Spiral” during which Burnier examines the fluctuating impact contemporary context has on historical (and current) interpretations of art:

Aside from any categories we might apply to our work, I like to think in terms of how things move; what dynamics keep us in the search, trying to create something, and trying to look critically at what is happening. There are aspects to life around the artist that change, like technology, politics, social tension and geography. These kinds of things morph at very different rates, some daily while others are fixed for millennia, which can create openings to explore as currents slide past each other. The artist can also look back and find a great deal unresolved, perhaps seeing something that was abandoned that could bear a lot more exploration. Alternately, in light of present circumstances, one can seek new meaning through an old, established idea. So in view of the approach to grappling with these issues as suggested by Kalina, I submit a few observations to consider in addition to the framing devices he offers us. I will touch on a few of these notions here, mainly focused on examples in painting and photography, knowing that they are only sketches or pointers toward a deeper investigation of these dynamics in future writing.

Week in Review: One of Two

June 23, 2013 · Print This Article

Because I missed my chance to post last week’s “Week In Review,” this Sunday is going to be a double whammy. I’m post last week’s Week In Review first, here, and then, this weeks directly after…If you’re confused now, just hang on to your hat. It’ll all make sense in the end. First, I start with the week before last….

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Bad at Sports’ PODCAST Land featured an interview with “Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis Director Lisa Melandri live and without a net at our opening, in front of a moderately baffled audience.” 

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Curious about what Amanda Browder’s studio looks like? Now is your chance to see, because she was in the New York Times (again!). #RAD 

Three Artists, Courtesy of Beginnings Gallery, Greenpoint NY

Three Artists, Courtesy of Beginnings Gallery, Greenpoint NY

The week begins and ends with comics, actually — and in this instance we started with Faye Kahn who published a piece called “Comics and the Aesthetic Economy”:

While social evidence that the rich is dividing farther away from the poor becomes more & more unavoidable, it seems that at the same time the art world is inversely nudging the them closer together. Traditional distinctions between “high” & “low” art are fading. In his essay “Comrades of Time,” discussing the definition of the term “contemporary,” Boris Groys states that “…at the turn of the twenty-first century, art entered a new era-one of mass artistic production, & not only mass art consumption.” Art-making is no longer restricted to a higher, educated or professional class. With the encouragement of advancing technologies from the ball point pen to the smartphone & increased visibility of the individual creative practice via the internet has reified this notion of art as “mass-cultural practice” ad infinitum (probably to some ad nauseum). To track the currency of art between upper & lower economic & academic classes & attempt to elucidate the creation of connecting middle classes of art, for instance independent comics & publication as well as social media experiments, it may be helpful to recognize the presence of commercial aesthetics in all classes. By following this reciprocal currency of consumerist media to high art & back, there are many significant signs pointing to a possible future of a classless art world. 

Ala Ebtekar, Paradise, (detail), 2011. Archival pigment print on canvas.

Ala Ebtekar, Paradise, (detail), 2011. Archival pigment print on canvas.

San Francisco-based Jeffrey Songco posted an interview with Glen Helfand, a man rumored to be “the only relevant art writer in the city.” Songco and Helfand sit down discuss, Proximities, an exhibit Helfand put together at the Asian Art Museum. When asked to describe what the show is about, Helfand replies:

I like to talk about the show from the standpoint of it being a challenge to solve. The Asian Art Museum has been interested in opening up its audience and to embrace more contemporary work. I had to start with the idea of why I didn’t feel so connected to the institution. I’ve always felt a bit of intimidation, not knowing a whole lot about Asian art, not knowing how to pronounce the names of various contemporary Chinese artists. I figure that people probably feel the same about the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Kibbitz. My initial premise was to highlight how artists have some kind of connection to Asia even if it wasn’t the expected connection.

Brian Nigus, 'Woris Insait Yu / Friends Inside the Mountains',

Brian Nigus, ‘Woris Insait Yu / Friends Inside the Mountains’,

Milwaukee resident, Shane McAdams, has begun a new series of posts, and in this particular case, writes about a low-to-the-ground project run by Ashley Janke, Lara Ohland, and Tim Stoelting, called The Imagination Giants:

After a year-and-a-half of writing about more basic cultural differences between New York and Milwaukee, the results of my cultural reconnaissance will now take the form of local art coverage. This being the first piece, I’d like to mention that, unlike NYC where almost everything including what passes for ‘underground’ are usually pre-dug, locating art culture in Milwaukee has proven to be a little, well, subterranean. So far the digging has been the most gratifying part of being here. Not having the luxury of a media guide dedicated to informing masses of art goers about what is yet undiscovered, is a pleasure. Searching for art in Milwaukee makes me feel feral – it’s the art equivalent to hunting and gathering.

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Kristina Estell. Posture is Everything (detail). Courtesy Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Amanda Hankerson.

Eric Asboe asks some important questions about building local art community in relation to a more global vision of contemporary art:

What role can local artists play in a global museum? MAEP [Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program] exhibitions are far more than an experiment in thinking locally. The exhibitions are dynamic; the artwork is excellent. More importantly, by supporting an artistic peer selection process, the MIA helps build a community of artists, specifically in and with the resources of a major art institution. Alan Brewer’s exhibition pushes the question further. When I met with him in his MAEP exhibition, he stopped to talk to a visitor, an older man who had written a description. They discussed his description and possibilities for recreations. The transformative power of that individual conversation and the way Brewer has empowered all visitors to the MIA to engage in completely new ways with its collection demonstrates to me the MIA is not just asking how local artists can shape a global museum, but, more importantly, how we can all shape the museums of the future.

Owners Bill and Rebecca with dog Ginny at "Neahkanie Mountain from Manzanita Beach" by Alfred Herman Schroff, 1919. Image taken on May 8, 2013.

Owners Bill and Rebecca with dog Ginny at “Neahkanie Mountain from Manzanita Beach” by Alfred Herman Schroff, 1919. Image taken on May 8, 2013.

I posted two interviews this week. The first is a result of the Open Engagement Conference in Portland, where I met and interviewed artist, Dillon de Give about his project, 4-6 Dogs at the Museum. I fell in love with idea of an interspecies social practice, though with good reason, DeGive is more practical in his approach (and terminology):

I love that phrase “inter-species social practice.” But I guess I would be a bit more conservative in my response. I’ve observed that dogs in public are always serving as mediators between humans. There’s a dog park across the street from my apartment and everyone seems to know each other! I live right there and I don’t know any of these people because I don’t own a dog. I am interested in other species as a conceptual complement to existing human-based social practices. I think that when we are talking about a given social practice we are implicitly making assumptions of what human-ness is, so having some idea of a non-human present in the discourse is, in a way, almost necessary. Why are cat videos so immensely popular with human viewers on youtube? On the other hand, imagining something like sociality existing between humans and other species is difficult to do in the present, because of our seemingly absolute need to monopolize the environment. In most cases it’s just not really a fair playing field where a balanced relationship that you might call “social” could pan out. But maybe in the distant future…

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Then I had a great opportunity to interview former SAIC graduate, Jaye Rhee, about her work with the The Merce Cunningham Dance Company, The Flesh and the Book. Among other things, we discussed Rhee’s interest in traditions of movement, and whether or not the body can become a unit:

I was more interested in the character and history of individual dancers under the umbrella of Merce Cunningham Company. Cunningham dancer’s movements are Mercified but individually they all have different characteristics. We all have different history as individuals, but there are also larger histories which a family shares as a smallest unit of the society, then there are larger groups and larger groups…..and so on. Merce Cunningham dancers make up another kind of familial unit. Even though the dancers’ movements were different, a few audiences actually recognized that the dancers somehow evoke Merce Cunningham’s style.

Our Findings From Spaceship Earth at Roxaboxen Exhibitions

Our Findings From Spaceship Earth at Roxaboxen Exhibitions

TOP 5 courtesy of Stephanie Burke 

CAKEPROGRAM 2013

Sara Drake posted a shout out for “the second annual Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, fondly known to comics creators and fans alike as CAKE.” (This, incidentally, is where I happened to be last weekend as well). It took place in a massive gymnasium at the Center on Halsted, featuring a huge throng of comic makers, buyers and additional public programming.

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“Lost Tribes of Renni”, Charlie Megna at The Annex, 2013.

Bailey Romain rounded out the week by interviewing Luke Daly about local (and ever magnanimous coop print shop) Spudnik Press’ latest programming addition, The Annex:

As more of a “clean” space than the printshop next door, the Annex also provides an expanded exhibition space for Spudnik. Curatorial duties rotate between Spudnik coordinators. The most recent show, Charlie Megna’s Lost Tribes of Renni, which opened last night, was organized by Luke Daly – a Spudnik member who has been a driving force in developing the Annex. Luke co-edits and runs the small press arrow as aarow. I also co-teach a class with him at the Annex, which will be running for the third time in the fall. Charlie Megna is the director of the Peanut Gallery and a founding member of the Peanut Collective. His show will be up through early August.

 

 

The Outward Spiral

June 21, 2013 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Robert Burnier

Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait (detail), 1434, oil on panel

Whence this creation has come into being; whether it was made or not; he in the highest heaven is its surveyor. Surely he knows, or perhaps he knows not.

 From the Cosmology Hymn of the Rig Veda, c. 2000-1700 BCE

 

In the initial remarks of his recent lecture at Northwestern University[1], Tim Griffin[2] offered as foundational that there is no timeless or natural state for art. G. Roger Denison[3], in his polemic on the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, Inventing Abstraction, employs a cyclical view of history to reel in some of the statements made by that exhibition’s curators, suggesting that a “Re-” in front of the title would have gone a long way to calm his nerves[4]. Richard Kalina[5] writes of painting born from its perennial destruction, calling the prevalent cross sectioning and boundary exploration not a “stasis, but rather a new kind of growth.”[6] These discussions can feel quite esoteric in a way, and yet if one pauses to consider the Sistine Chapel, for instance, and the way it sadly and slowly deteriorated over time, only to stir up an outrage at the garish colors produced after it’s restoration, it becomes apparent that the public is constantly wrestling with its own expectations of art’s duration. Additionally, Griffin spoke of a compressed, lossy JPEG image – seemingly complete and yet missing most of its original information – as a metaphor for spontaneous creation by art viewers and art historians; the radical necessity for reconstruction in the mind of someone observing. Denison takes a somewhat formalist approach as he draws comparisons among the art of differing eras, but nonetheless produces striking examples of historical syzygy, such as when he aligns the distant planets of Tantric and Supremacist painting two centuries apart or points out the sleek “modern” character of a Cycladic head carved perhaps 2,500 years ago. Kalina, for his part, seems compelled to fashion an outline of historical typologies as a kind of deck the artist can shuffle. He calls for “a non-judgmental format for viewing painting, and to allow for growth and expansion in a non-linear” way. From this I take the author to mean that nothing is entirely off limits form the standpoint of art history and time; that we should think instead terms of consolidation and dispersion, linking and decoupling. Similar to what I said in an earlier essay about craft[7], when I suggested we look for “usage before material specificity”, we should look for the usage of an historical precedent in present terms. All of these views are reconstructions of history – welcome ones for me. Even as the historical lines they push against are themselves constructions, they revitalize an openness in how a single work of art endures. But this also points toward how contemporary art production can have access to this shifting ground as a generative source. As things have come back around in the past, they can do so again for us – the same but different. But this is not a merry-go-round, nor is it a journey toward some definite horizon. It is a widening field of activity expanding around us even as it reverberates and echoes the waves of the past. We can observe the freedom art and artists have had to loop and interact with, and not necessarily march through, history, even as they exist for the present and point toward the future.

Aside from any categories we might apply to our work, I like to think in terms of how things move; what dynamics keep us in the search, trying to create something, and trying to look critically at what is happening. There are aspects to life around the artist that change, like technology, politics, social tension and geography. These kinds of things morph at very different rates, some daily while others are fixed for millennia, which can create openings to explore as currents slide past each other. The artist can also look back and find a great deal unresolved, perhaps seeing something that was abandoned that could bear a lot more exploration. Alternately, in light of present circumstances, one can seek new meaning through an old, established idea. So in view of the approach to grappling with these issues as suggested by Kalina, I submit a few observations to consider in addition to the framing devices he offers us. I will touch on a few of these notions here, mainly focused on examples in painting and photography, knowing that they are only sketches or pointers toward a deeper investigation of these dynamics in future writing.

 

Jan van Eyck, Virgin of Canon van der Paele, 1434-36, oil on panel

 

One steadfast source of change, as mentioned above, has been technological development. But as art observes this change it will necessarily index what came before as well. We can look far into the past, such as to the innovative oil painting of the 15th century Flemish master Jan van Eyck if we want to see the effects of a new technique or technology. He achieved a fidelity in surface and light that greatly added to the visual depth and presence of his paintings, enhancing the experience of story, idea and imagination in subjects that were themselves very well established. His Virgin of Canon van der Paele (1434–36) contains many of these innovations in the myriad facbrics, reflective surfaces and patterns, all bathed in a convincing light. And however utterly familiar the subject of Madonna and Child may have been, it is instructive how the artist could bring so much to it through his particular technique and vision, drawing it closer to the viewer than previously possible. And the cultural expectation to illustrate such subjects as the Passion of Christ, as exemplified in the Crucifixion and Last Judgement diptych (c. 1430–40) is fulfilled with new urgency and impact. The subject is reborn.

 

Cory Arcangel, Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient Blue, Red, Yellow, mousedown y=22100 x=14050, mouseup y=19700 x=1800, 2010, (detail), unique C-print (image Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg)

In our own day we can look at the work of an artist like Cory Arcangel, who has also tried to chisel something out of art history through new technological means. Although it got some mixed press, I thought there were a number of things to take from his 2011 Whitney exhibition, Pro Tools. There we saw a series of his Photoshop prints, which present themselves initially as machine-perfect geometric abstraction and color fields. On this level they speak plainly enough about modern art history, but more deeply they are conjugations of the character and limits of that digital medium on a most basic level. They seem to point toward a repeating, overarching pattern in history of medium exploration and technique discovery; of finding uses for them and expanding on the possibilities. It’s also worth considering that many of the functions and terms in Photoshop are themselves borrowed from other traditions that just weren’t worth changing, so they stayed in the software[8]. I’ve also always thought of Arcangel’s work as both “fast” and “slow”, liable to be obsolete in a year or sooner and yet connected to ideas that are truly glacial. An example would be his Paganini’s Caprice No. 5. It is resolutely about the way change affects us as we strive to remember who we are or were. Paganini’s romantic era composition is cut to ribbons by a software program that auto-tunes and selects the notes in the musical composition from a pool of amateur musical videos of mainly dudes on their couches playing guitar. The extremely short clips are reassembled back into a “song” of a decidedly estranged character.  This double-facing view – an old thing strained through new means – is essential to the way the work speaks of loss (or lossy-ness) through a distorted nostalgia, but also issues of the democratization of esthetics through a DIY impulse and the technological dispersion of information, for better or worse. In the end, as with van Eyck, our relationship to a cannon of art has been forever altered, but not erased.

Jeremy Bolen, 350 Feet Above the Large Hadron Collider #2 (matter/antimatter), 2012, archival inkjet prints, neodymium magnets

 

Besides generally contrasting with something prior exists the possibility of flowing with and redirecting it. Chicago artist Jeremy Bolen takes a position that mimics some prevalent aspects of the post-industrial age but draws radically different conclusions. He essentially hijacks the scientific method, but collates his “research” in a way that produces more questions than answers. His alternate use of such a tried medium as photography – whereby, in his words, he makes it additive rather than subtractive – continues this line of redirection. The photographic plane is thus a base on which he accumulates rather than frames. Specifically, the images result from visiting the sites of particle accelerators throughout the world, and capturing echoes of the energy nearby on sensitive photochemical paper. It problematizes institutional research in the sense that it is not necessarily authorized (the scientists at the research facilities aren’t always aware of where Bolen is working or what he’s doing) and that the energy particles he’s captured are arriving at locations they weren’t ideally “meant” to go – they are traveling beyond their preferred targets, such as in the series 350 Feet Above the Large Hadron Collider #1-4. Bolen not only captures the stray energy in these images, but re-situates them in a displaced representation of the location by layering a “conventional” photo of the site beneath. This also causes a rift in how results are obtained, as his are essentially esthetic, provocative and non-deterministic. It is as if he’s running behind the scientists plucking out the seams of everything they try to sew up. Bolen’s work not only expands on the possibilities of photography with his alternative approaches of imprinting an image but broadens our thinking about empiricism and knowledge acquisition in general.

 

Palladio’s refectory at the San Giorgio Monastery in Venice Italy. Image credit: The San Giorgio Monastery.

 

Even going back to using some method of photography to simply record something, we can see how photographic reproduction causes shifts in meaning based on its place in time. Veronese’s The Wedding Feast at Cana (1563), now at the Louvre, Paris, was recently painstakingly scanned, duplicated, assembled and “reinstalled” in Palladio’s refectory at the San Giorgio Monastery in Venice Italy, where it originated.  The reproduction of Veronese’s work is an expression of a longtime trend to “originalize” works of art from the past, either by restoring them to a location nearer their origins, in proximity to their original people, or by providing a context for them to be seen in a way somehow closer to what people in their time might have. The process by which this was achieved is fascinating enough[9]; but almost like an artificial appendage, it is provocative to think about how it both provides a useful, educational facsimile even while it underscores loss and speaks to shifting world political power as a kind of prime mover.

If we’re not necessarily breaking new ground all the time, does that mean we’re only fussing with details and adding adornments, or is there another way to see this? As Kalina says, we can draw from these accumulations to “make new spaces between existing areas, [and] reference new subject matter as the world around us changes.” I think of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty as a fitting metaphor. He was very interested in the idea of entropy, but instead of focusing on its implications of dissolution and decay, I prefer to think about how a crystal forms by the same process of lowering its energy state and yet arriving at more structure than before. The jetty seems to disintegrate slowly, even disappears and reappears as the water level changes, but it is in fact also accumulating accretions of salt crystals. To this we could add more earth, continuing the outward spiral. From any point we are free to look toward the center or toward the open sea, but we’d always be standing on its shore.

NOTES:
[1] Compression, a lecture at Northwestern University, Block Museum of Art, organized by the Department of Art Theory and Practice, May 22, 2013

[2] Formerly the editor-in-chief of Artforum and currently the Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Kitchen, a non-profit, interdisciplinary arts organization.

[3] Critic, essayist, novelist and screen writer living in New York City who has written on art and culture for Art in America, Parkett, Artscribe International, Flash Art, Bijutsu Techo, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, and numerous other international magazines and journals.

[4] Colonizing Abstraction: MoMA’s Inventing Abstraction Show Denies Its Ancient Global Origins, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/g-roger-denson/colonizing-abstraction-mo_b_2683159.html

[5] Painter and critic. He is a Contributing Editor at Art in America and is represented by the Lennon, Weinberg Gallery in New York. He is Professor of Art at Fordham University, where he teaches art history and studio art.

[6] The Four Corners of Painting, The Brooklyn Rail, December, 2012, http://www.brooklynrail.org/2012/12/artseen/the-four-corners-of-painting

[7] http://badatsports.com/2013/catholic-craft/

[8] Operations like cropping were, of course, previously quite physical undertakings with scissors or blades. Masks were just physical barriers to light in a photochemical process, and layers were simply layered negatives. The list could go on.

[9] Bruno Latour and Adam Lowe, The Migration of the Aura, or How to Explore the Original through Its Facsimilies, Switching Codes: Thinking through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts, ed. Thomas Bartscherer and Roderick Coover (University of Chicago Press, 2011), pp. 275-97

 

ROBERT BURNIER is an artist and writer who lives and works in Chicago. He is an MFA candidate in Painting and Drawing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. Recent exhibitions include The Horseless Carriage at Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Salon Zurcher at Galerie Zurcher, New York, the Evanston and Vicinity Biennial, curated by Shannon Stratton, and Some Dialogue, curated by Sarah Krepp and Doug Stapleton, at the Illinois State Museum, Chicago.

Making Yourself at Home – Laura Shaeffer

June 20, 2013 · Print This Article

Over the past ten plus years, Laura Shaeffer has been the entrepreneur and custodian behind a number of projects housed within a handful of unconventional— and often under utilized— spaces on the Southside of Chicago, including Home Gallery, The Op Shop and Southside Hub of Production (SHoP). Her approach is a combination of activism and common sense; community building and home-making. She honors domestic spaces as sites of radical, informal pedagogy, and this manifests itself in an important through line that runs across her projects; they act as platforms for kids to express their creativity and imagination, and indulge their curiosity. Alongside immersing them in art and cultural production, an important byproduct of this is kids’ engagement with other kids, families, neighbors and neighborhoods.

By remaining open, nurturing organic expansion and leveraging intuition, Shaeffer stewards growth rather then shoehorning artists into rigid themes or mapping them onto discrete timelines. She recounts the combination of circumstance and serendipity that led to the recent closing of SHoP and subsequent re-opening of Home Gallery for us, and outlines her influences, collaborators and thoughts on sustainability and longevity below.

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When John Preus, Mike Phillips, founder of South Side Projection, and I first started thinking about SHoP as a community cultural hub, we talked a lot about a need we all saw for a more un-programmed life, where idle time can be productive and where relationships have time and space to develop, between people, artists and generations. I love the idea of stewarding growth, looking after, caring for and managing an exhibit as a way of curating through encouraging artists to be more present and participate in the exhibit after the opening in ways that could make their work more accessible to others and in return inspire further thought and exploration on what it means to be an artist in our current culture, especially a more publicly or socially engaged artist. I tend to work intuitively and gravitate toward others who do as well. Working on shows with John and Alberto Aguilar was incredibly inspiring, they are both extremely challenging and creative thinkers. I found that a very good sense of humor and irony is most important in this kind of work and we were able to make each other laugh at the most crucial times.

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One common interest John and I shared with others who helped found this project, as parents and artists, was to create spaces for exhibitions, learning and socializing where children and older folks alike would come and be in an environment that was heterogeneous and allowed for spontaneous interactions. We talked a lot about the Piazza, the Town Square, the Adventure Playground movement, public places where everyone gathered, young and old to have a drink, converse, play freely, or make things… and to linger into the evenings. We also wanted a cultural space where we could bring our kids and they’d have their own environment in which to create together so we set up what we called the Autonomous Making Space (silly name we know) for them to explore their own ideas, and make up their own activities, structures, and games. SHoP drew much of its inspiration from the Junk/Adventure Playground movement begun in the 30′s in Europe by C. Th. Sørensen, a Danish landscape architect. These playgrounds become centers, accessible to the entire community, a place to gather and play freely and to develop intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Like the Adventure Playground, we wanted our Hub space to encourage children and adults to interact with and learn from each other. Ultimately, we wanted to create a space for people to feel ownership and take responsibility for the space itself because it exists as a result of their own efforts and brings the larger community together.

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In terms of spaces that have provided a source of inspiration, there are so many. Several are in Finland; Hirvitalo, a Contemporary Art Center, founded in 2006 as a cultural space in Pispala, Finland, a deeply kindred spirit; Pixelache, a transdisciplinary platform for experimental art, design, research and activism co-created by artist Andrew Paterson whom I had the good fortune to meet in 2007 at the Pedagogical Factory by Jim Duignan, founder of Stockyard Institute, who is a very significant inspiration for SHoP. Places like Experimental Station, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Mess Hall, Comfort Station and North Branch have provided guidance and inspiration as well. There are too many individual artists, projects and people to mention, who have been collaborators and co-producers over the years. Collaborations like Material Exchange, Kultivator and WochenKlausur have also been very influential.

After the Fenn house was supposedly sold (it is now back on the market!), we were charged with the daunting task of reducing the accumulated contents of a 16 room mansion to fill a 20 foot sea container, to be driven away and parked on the Resource Center’s land (thanks to the generous help and support of both Ken Dunn and Ken Schug and some wonderful volunteers). We had all grieved the loss of that beautiful space before we moved, but the lightness of being I personally experienced shortly thereafter made it clear that it is not the space itself, but the people who make the space meaningful through their care, their energy and their creativity. That location, while at once magical and wonderful, and which provided so much space for learning for us all, was also much more demanding than any Op Shop or Home Gallery exhibit and we really needed time to reflect, regroup and re-organize ourselves if we were to become a sustainable center for the community.

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I suppose the decision to open up Home Gallery again was a combination of circumstance and intention. We invited some of the artists that played a large role in SHoP as well a few new ones to our private home to intervene with our “private lives” in ways that would alter or disrupt our routines and as well, help us ease the transition back home and frankly, tend to the spaces that had been neglected while running a 16 room grass roots community arts center for almost 2 years. Our tiny home became the focus for the continuation of concepts and ideas we had been working with on a larger scale at Fenn House, allowing us to explore the more domestic and private side of these ideas.

The question of how we will continue to nurture and grow our projects outside of the traditional constraints of traditional organizational structures and frameworks is a very good one. We are discussing and further questioning this all the time. What might we gain by adopting a more organized structure and what might we stand to lose? As an art project, The Op Shop had a sense of freedom and extreme fluidity, SHoP for the 15 months of it’s existence at Fenn continued to enjoy that fluid, flexible and organic quality… but how long can that be sustained? Eventually a project has to grapple with these questions, I admire projects like Mess Hall who knew from the get go that they would not opt to become a non -profit and had a very clear vision for their mission in this sense. I feel we are still questioning the whole issue of becoming a non-profit and what that implies and how it impacts the project itself. In some ways we will not know before hand but one suspects that there might be a loss of this sense of intuitive process, fluid practice and to be honest, we may get away with much less. On the other hand, money is an issue and funding is needed if we are to continue in any long term way. I am and we are obviously conflicted about this issue!

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Maybe artists and others who are attracted to unconventional spaces to view and think about art, like the mansion, the small townhome, the porch, the back yard gallery, the storefront, the park, and various unexpected public spaces, are more likely to want to examine their role in social change, themes of modern urban life in spaces that are themselves a challenge. There are artists who have certainly been repelled. I like the story of one artist who had proposed a project for an exhibit at SHoP, was invited to participate, and showed up on a typical day for us, where kids were hammering pieces of wood together on the front steps, students were running a yard sale in the front yard, some seniors were playing bridge inside, the house was buzzing with activity preparing for the installation of the next show. I saw a looming figure outside the house and then I saw him disappear, I asked a friend if they knew why this artist left the scene without coming in to meet us (I knew him from his resume and photos) She said that he ‘didn’t want to show his work in a house run by unprofessional hippies.’ This artist never responded to us again. I could see his point, but I love general (orchestrated) chaos, so I guess that’s my fate.

As told to Thea Liberty Nichols via email, June 2013.

All images courtesy of Home Gallery and SHoP.