Juan William Chavez, “Untitled (sacred real estate),” 2012. 14 lamp posts, installation at Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis. Photo: Shaun Alvey
The ghost of Pruitt-Igoe looms large in St. Louis. The 33-building public housing complex, designed by Minoru Yamasaki (who was also the architect of the World Trade Center) and completed in 1954, has long fascinated architectural historians and enthusiasts alike. Designed in accordance with Le Corbusier’s utopian “Towers in the Park” vision, its demolition began less than twenty years later in 1972 as the site fell prey to dried-up funding, mismanagement, and subsequent decrepitude and crime. According to architectural theorist Charles Jencks writing in 1977, the notorious demise of Pruitt-Igoe, captured on film and televised widely at the time, marked the day that “modern architecture died.” Today, the site exists as a giant scar in the St. Louis landscape, fifty-seven acres of urban forest just north of downtown. It is an emotional scar too, a reminder of how modernist ideals and public policy failed not only the individuals and families who lived in the towers but also, to some degree, the city at large. In fact, the decline of Pruitt-Igoe coincided with the exodus to the burgeoning St. Louis suburbs that began in the 1960s; today, 89% of the metropolitan population of 2.8 million lives outside the city limits (compared with roughly 75% in 1972), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
I think about Pruitt-Igoe a lot because I live in its aftermath. I see it in the blocks of boarded-up houses on Jefferson Avenue that I pass every day on the way to and from work. Similar houses can be found all over the city, a side effect of a population (and a tax base) that continues to decline forty years later. I also think about Pruitt-Igoe when I’m at work at the Contemporary Art Museum in the neighborhood of Grand Center. An established cultural district, Grand Center nonetheless still faces lingering assumptions that it is a rough part of town, situated as it is near the Delmar Divide that bisects the north and south sides of the city — the north side being home, not coincidentally, to the large footprint called Pruitt-Igoe.
Pruitt-Igoe demolition, April 1972. Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
The story of Pruitt-Igoe is by now well known and documented so I won’t go into detail here (and recommend the terrific 2011 documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth for that). What I’m interested in is the force field-like appeal of the complex, particularly images of its punctum-style demolition, for contemporary artists. Through video and installation to social practice, a number of artists are continually circling back to Pruitt-Igoe for inspiration. Using a small cross-section of familiar artworks as case studies, I’ll explore what it is about the site that offers such rich fodder for art practice today.
French artist Cyprien Gaillard’s Pruitt-Igoe Falls (2009) is perhaps the best-known example. This silent seven-minute video depicts fixed-frame footage of the 2008 demolition of a building in the Sighthill housing project in Glasgow, Scotland. Halfway through the video, the image morphs into a shot of Niagara Falls at night as seen from the American side. In the piece, Pruitt-Igoe is relegated to an allusion as well as a sobering precedent for the shortcomings of contemporary public housing. The name also serves a semantic purpose, offering a way to connect the image of Pruitt-Igoe’s collapse—and, by extension, the collapse of High Modernism—to other spectacles, such as Niagara Falls and the recent phenomenon of ruin porn (i.e. anythingaboutDetroit). Though barely perceptible in Gaillard’s footage, the tiny figures in the foreground of the Sighthill frame reinforce this notion, their camera flashes punctuating the image as they snap photographs of the crumbling building. Gaillard’s video thus reenacts Pruitt-Igoe’s unforgettable demise in a highly cynical fashion, trapping it in the endless cycle of the loop, where it can be repeatedly gawked at for sheer entertainment.
Michael Rakowitz, “Dull Roar,” 2005. Inflatable Pruitt-Igoe sculpture with timer and fan, text plaque, modular wooden platform, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects, New York.
Pruitt-Igoe has also surfaced in several of Michael Rakowitz’s artworks, such as his recent room-sized installation at dOCUMENTA(13) titled What Dust Will Rise? (2012) and, most extensively, in Dull Roar (2005). The latter recasts the towers as inflatable pop-ups, akin to a commercial blow-up mattress you might have in your own home. In the installation, they are surrounded by a 360-degree wooden viewing platform that allows the viewer to fully circumnavigate the balloon-like buildings as they continually inflate and deflate on a timed cycle. Rakowitz, like Gaillard, captures the image of Pruitt-Igoe’s destruction in a simulated mise en abyme that points to the implicit spectacle of that moment. Interested in the idea that parts of the rubble were allegedly used to construct new mansions in the nearby suburb of Ladue (which, according to Rakowitz, was the most expensive neighborhood in the U.S. at the time Pruitt-Igoe fell), he also made several related drawings depicting these mansions propped atop the rubble. The inflatable aspect of his project is particularly acrid and pithy, reducing the complexities of the story to an amusing one-liner. Nonetheless, Rakowitz unflinchingly gets to the point, demonstrating how the destruction of Pruitt-Igoe was but one symptom in a larger enactment of domestic housing policy designed to exclude poor, non-white citizens from the American dream.
Juan William Chavez, “Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary,” 2010-present. Courtesy the artist.
While these two projects pinpoint the demolition of the buildings as the penultimate moment, Juan William Chavez is interested in everything that happens after — the potential of Pruitt-Igoe now. For several years, Chavez, who was born in Lima, Peru, but grew up and currently lives in St. Louis, has been making a series of artworks about the physical site where the complex once stood. Together these comprise what he calls a “living proposal” in an attempt to better understand what Pruitt-Igoe might mean today. After first setting foot on the grounds in 2010, he took a series of photographs and made a film about what he saw – dense vegetation and a healthy bee sanctuary. The bees have become key players in his inquiry; as he explains it, the former Pruitt-Igoe complex has been replaced by an indigenous insect community that can actually thrive on the site. Along with his partner, Kiersten Torrez, he opened a space near Pruitt-Igoe called the Northside Workshop. They have taken up beekeeping and planted an edible garden, and they work with local students, artists, and community organizers to create programming that explores the active potential of the Pruitt-Igoe footprint. Chavez’s work on Pruitt-Igoe brings additional dimensions of the story into relief. Through his efforts, I’ve been introduced to other stakeholders who are similarly committed to the site’s rehabilitation, such as St. Louis architectural historian Michael Allen and former Pruitt-Igoe resident and journalist Sylvester Brown, who launched an after-school project for at-risk high school students to grow local sweet potatoes and market their product. (The actual land is not completely up for grabs, however. Local developer Paul McKee purchased a two-year option on the site that expires next year.) Chavez’s work is therefore symbolic but also pragmatic, aimed at building awareness and galvanizing community action to transform the Pruitt-Igoe grounds into a dynamic and truly democratic public space.
I asked Juan about Pruitt-Igoe’s appeal to contemporary artists and he reminded me of the scene in Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi featuring images of the complex immediately before and during the actual demolition. The film traces the outline of the decaying buildings both inside and out. By this point, the complex is little more than a ghost town and Philip Glass’s haunting score turns it into something out of a horror movie. Juan describes this image of a crumbling Pruitt-Igoe as an “epic moment” analogous to moments in early cinema in which we experience time directly, as in the Lumière Brothers’ Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895) or Thomas Edison’s ElectrocutinganElephant (1903). It is also evocative of something more contemporarily mediated on a global scale, like the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This visual register of Pruitt-Igoe’s demise, coupled with Charles Jencks’s aforementioned comment about its implication in the death of architectural modernism, imbue it with a mythic pathos that still holds sway today. So what, then, can artists like Gaillard, Rakowitz, and Chavez communicate to us about Pruitt-Igoe? A sober memory? A case of what not to do? Pruitt-Igoe is all of these things. It may be a graveyard but it is also a garden. And perhaps art can sustain it in ways that housing and economic policies couldn’t.
Mauser, Nicole. Untitled, 2012. Acrylic and collage on paper.
Kansas City is in the midst of a seasonal transition. It isn’t spring—the city got eight inches of snow last weekend—but it’s not winter either since everyone wore sleeveless shirts in the 80-degree sunshine less than a month ago. Instead, this transitional time of year is foggy, both literally and figuratively. Literally in that there are fogs and mists and long-lasting dawns and dusks; figuratively in that one can’t quite figure out what time of day/ month / year it is, how to dress for the bi-polar temperatures, and whether or not to wear a sundress or take off the snow tires. What’s more is the fact that the city is gorgeous and lush with new growth on some days, while on others there is dirty, melting snow and unearthed trash everywhere. (People here seem to recycle only when it’s warm out.) Fortunately, when the fog roles in, a kind of limbo takes over for a bit to create a little mystery while we wait out this seasonal transition.
kansas city noir, 2012.
This transition, with the fogginess it ushers in, makes the perfect ambience to read a book like kansas city noir. Edited by local celebrity Steve Paul, senior writer and arts editor for the acclaimed Kansas City Star newspaper, this collection of short stories penned by Kansas City-based fiction writers presents crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak, foggy settings. My favorite story, Yesterdays by Andrés Rodríguez, remembers Milton’s Tap Room, a once iconic Jazz bar which transitioned over the years into to a laidback dive where folks of all stripes could hang before it closed in the late 80s. Garcia uses “smoke and mirrors” to give a fictionalized yet fantastic account of the Easter weekend that the bar’s owner Milton Morris mysteriously disappeared. Though the disappearance is an assumed death, Rodríguez writes it as a transition from one season of life to another. The reader never knows Morris in the flesh, but with blurry combinations of stark color, dark shadows and violent gestures, Rodríguez renders Morris and his Tap Room with a dangerous, foggy haze appropriate for this seedy local legend.
Along these same descriptive lines, Yesterdays has a great quote that gets at the essence of the seasonal transition that happens in Kansas City this time of year:
It was nearly Easter. There had been a torrent of rain for two nights, knocking all the blossoms of dogwood and catalpa to the sidewalk in splurges of color that soon turned black and globby. And in the storm sewers, the spring damage and leftover winter leaves lay together seeping like an undrinkable tea. (175)
Near/Far, 2013. Installation view courtesy of Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art and Misha Kligman
As indicated in the quote, transitions—seasonal or otherwise—are unruly. Kansas City artists Nicole Mauser and Caleb Taylor make paintings and collages which illuminate the wild, sometimes dark, often whimsical transitions that happen in the studio. Taylor, who currently has a show up at Sherry Leedy Gallery, presents a series of paintings that, like spring’s arrival, struggle to emerge through the dense fog of the artist’s heavy black brush strokes. But with the collages, Taylor is able to clear out the fog where necessary in order to contrast harsh lines and geometries with soft shadows and dazzling light. Indeed, these compositions read like atmospheric interludes designed for scene transitions in Film Noir flicks like Panique and Kiss Me Deadly.
Taylor, Caleb. From left to right: C. R. Series #7 – Transitions, 2013. Collage on found book page; C. R. Series #13 – Untitled, 2013. Collage on found book page; C. R. Series #5 – Window and Windows, 2013. Collage on found book page.
Mauser, Nicole. Untitled, 2012. Acrylic and collage on paper.
Mauser mounted two shows this spring: Pressure, Speed, Hesitation, and Drag at Western Missouri State University and Viscosity at the Gladstone Community Arts Center. These two new bodies of work have each been mangled up in a battle between the history of abstraction and the future of materiality. As is evident in the Yesterdays quote above, it’s what is left on the battlefield that’s so interesting. And these beautifully bad paintings on canvas and collaged works on papers, with their “splurges of color that soon turned black and globby,” show just how exhilarating it is to be in transition.
Mauser, Nicole. From left to right: Vicissitudes, 2012. Oil and acrylic on panel; Presque vu, 2013. Oil and acrylic on panel.
Jamilee Polson Lacy is an artist, curator and writer based in Chicago. For 2012-2013, Lacy is the Inaugural Curator-In-Residence for Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, where she organizes exhibitions, educational programming and publications for Charlotte Street’s Crossroads District gallery, la Esquina. In Chicago, Lacy additionally operates as the founding director of Twelve Galleries Project, a transitory, collaborative exhibition experiment. She has engaged in solo and collaborative projects with many creatives and institutions, including A+D Gallery at Columbia College Chicago, The Black Visual Archive, Chicago Artists’ Coalition & Hatch Projects, Hyde Park Art Center, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Western Exhibitions, Quite Strong, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, among others. In addition to writing for Bad at Sports and numerous catalogue and exhibition essays, interviews, and articles, Lacy has published Color: Fully Engaged, a book of interviews and essays, and written series for Art 21, Flash Art’s Umelec Magazine, and most recently Outpost Journal. Lacy holds two undergraduate degrees in studio arts and art history and a Masters of Comparative Literature and Arts from Northwestern University.
As of late I have been writing a great deal about strategies and modes of resistance. I have been thinking about the usefulness of dance, of the power of embodied action to simultaneously imagine and enact alternatives to dominant schemas of value that exclude what Judith Butler has referred to as the “ungrievables”. Those whose lives are devalued by social conditions and governmental policies to such an extent that if their life were to extinguish it would go unnoticed.
“…someone, anyone, who already understands him- or herself to be a dispensable sort of being, one who registers at an affective and corporeal level that his or her life is not worth safeguarding, protecting and valuing….If it turns out that I have no certainty that I will have food or shelter, or that no social network or institution would catch me if I fall, then I come to belong to the ungrievable.”
Butler goes on to write, “ yes, the ungrievable gather sometimes in public insurgencies of grief, which is why in so many countries it is difficult to distinguish the funeral from the demonstration.“. While I am inclined to agree with her position I wonder still about the alternative social networks and temporary communities that might arise out of these public “insurgencies of grief”. Where might the well choreographed reaction take place? and is this kind of activity not a site, at least temporarily, of unity? A place from which we find in each other the courage and strength to stand up against legislation and societal conditions that prevents us access to our most basic necessities and that actively stop the expression of our whole being. Courage, as Cornel West has said, is after all “the great enabling virtue that allows one to realize other virtues like love and hope and faith.”
But how might we make this place? From where might we build these sensations of collectivity? These kinds of questions gather around my desk as I huddle safely behind notes and speculate on the dangers just outside. I have to believe an answer hides in the language and history of modern dance. Have to, because it is where I am at the moment, where I rest, where the majority of my time collects and because I have felt the political potential of dance. This is what led me to the work of Rebekah Kowal.
Romero: “Can you tell me how you arrived at and what the process was behind the writing of your book, “How to Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America?””
Kowal: “The book started as my attempt to examine the role of modern dance choreographers working in the US in the 1950s as there wasn’t a book published on this era at the time (late 1990s). It began as a dissertation, which I completed in 1999. Then, over the course of ten years, I radically revised and substantially added to this manuscript in order both to provide greater contextual depth and sharper focus on the politics of race within the modern dance field and American culture more generally, as these had a significant impact on what choreographers created and on how audiences received or made meaning of these works.
The main argument, that 1950s modern dance choreographers were on the front lines of cultural change in their choreographed embodiments of ways of acting and being different than the norm, had been the driving force behind the dissertation. Moreover, the dissertation contained a chapter that compared the choreographic elements of the Greensboro sit-ins in 1960 to Anna Halprin’s choreographic methods during the same period in terms of the ways in which they similarly “de-familiarized” the ordinary. This idea took on new dimension in an article I published in 2004 (The Drama Review) that looked exclusively at the setting and situation of the Greensboro sit-ins from the perspective of the cultural politics and physical space of the city itself. In writing the final manuscript of the book, after having written all of the case studies, I began to see a continuum of sorts defining choreographic “action” as a manner of being in the world. The book is organized in this manner, to illustrate this continuum and the political and phenomenological efficacy embodied in the movement practices of each of the choreographers I studied.”
R: “In your work choreography appears to have a political function both on and off stage. There is the choreographing of political activity We might think of occupations, sit ins, interventions, and other kinds of performative activism in this way. Then there is the staging of choreographic dissent, modern dance being an example. Can you speak to the political potential of choreography in relationship to these functions?”
K: “In a couple of ways, the senses of political significance attributed to bodily action to which you allude in this question strike at the heart of some of the main reasons I wrote this book. I wanted to call into question some widespread and casual assumptions people make when considering the kinds of political activism you mention, on the one hand, and the choreography of concert dance, on the other. I thought that it was a mistake to believe that organized political action happened entirely spontaneously, with no preparation and/or planning in order to ensure its approach and efficacy, which I why I thought to investigate the Greensboro sit-ins as a kind of choreographed event both in the aforementioned article and in the book. Similarly, I felt that many modern dance choreographers who emerged as leaders in the field in the 50s had not adequately received their due as progressive artists, or that the progressive spirit in modern dance that had driven its development through the early to mid-20th century had not been sufficiently illuminated. I wanted to debunk myths surrounding the 1960s in concert dance, that portray it as harkening back to the 1930s in its activism and, therefore, as not continuous with reformist efforts in the 1950s. I also hoped to use the notion of action as a theoretical lens through which we might shed light on the role of certain approaches to concert dance as transformative, for doers and/or viewers, and therefore efficacious in ways traditionally affiliated with ritual experience. There are important differences to consider, however, when seeing nascent civil rights political activism and 1950s concert dance as comparable especially with respect to what is at stake and risk for the actual bodies on the line, and I hope that I acknowledged these contrasts even as I found grounds for overlap and comparison.”
It’s the time of year when, as the frost giants finally abdicate their annual reign over Chicago, applicants the world over are getting their responses from Master of Fine Arts graduate programs. Since mid-February they’ve been braving the slings and arrows of “We are sorry to inform you,” “It is with regret,” and “We wish you every success,” occasionally tempered with the cold comfort of some statistic or mention of the unexpected number of applicants and their impressive collective quality. Some are still dangling, hanging to the desperate hope of a waiting list. Many, though, have been receiving their notifications of acceptance, and with those come choices, sometimes difficult. At least three people I know personally are in this situation this year, and it got me to reminiscing, second-guessing, and Monday-morning quarterbacking the choices I made in my education, and also thinking about the choices facing my friends.
Some applicants are accepted only into a single program, at which point the decision pretty much makes itself, especially if that program was one of the applicant’s top choices. In other cases, if accepted by a “safety,” the choice is between accepting admission into a program that wasn’t one’s first, second, or even third choice, or licking one’s wounds, getting back to work, and applying again the next year, in hopes of getting into a more competitive program.
I actually found myself in this situation ten years ago, in 2003, just after graduating from my undergraduate program at Humboldt State University (my degree was conferred in December 2002). I had applied, rather casually, to a few graduate schools, not really taking the process particularly seriously. Mass Art, Pratt, RISD, and Tulane University all wisely concluded that I wasn’t quite ready, while SAIC informed me that yes, their application deadline was a firm one, and that I’d have to apply again next year.
After receiving all this bad news, I finally received an offer of admission from the University of New Orleans. I had applied to UNO, along with Tulane, primarily out of an interest in its role in the Gothic subculture; even as late as 2003, I was thinking it’d be a good place to meet girls in black lipstick. I had visited New Orleans on a road trip with a friend in summer 2001, and it seemed like an interesting place: I found a porcelain doll’s arm and some fragments of what I’m pretty sure were human bone in the topsoil of a cemetery, and at the New Orleans Art Museum I saw Odd Nerdrum’s “Five Persons Around A Waterhole,” which let me tell you, when I was 21, seemed to me to be the paragon of contemporary art. I know, I know.
So I had applied out of a sort of schoolboy’s crush on the city, and I’d been accepted. By that time, though, the end of March, I’d had a sort of awakening, and had realized that despite having just received my degree, I still had a lot to learn about the actual techniques of painting. My interest was in figurative representation, but I had been pushed away from it by my instructors and classmates, probably in large part because I wasn’t very good at it. Instead, I had been making paintings that were a sort of workaround, essentially drawings on toned canvas, and these were pretty well received. My classmates and faculty were supportive, I showed some in local coffee shops and restaurants, even sold a few (albeit at undergrad-in-a-small-town-coffee-shop prices). But ultimately I knew the work was shit. Or, at least, I thought I did; in hindsight, it might have actually been an interesting direction to go in, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. At any rate, by the time the schools I’d heard were good had all rejected me, and UNO had accepted me, I had decided that the work I’d applied with was terrible, and concluded that I “wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have someone like me as a member.”
The point of all this masturbatory, navel-gazing, canker sore-licking reminiscence is that whatever choice you make, you’ll have the rest of your life to second-guess it. And, if you’re anything like me, you will. If I’d accepted that offer of admission, I would have moved to New Orleans in summer of 2003, having just started a series of large self-portraits dressed up as other people (friends, famous artists, and artist stereotypes), which was kind of clever and funny in an undergrad sort of way. A military saying is “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” and how this body of work would have gone over at UNO’s grad program will remain forever unknown. Would I have been pushed in a more interesting direction with it? Encouraged? Sidetracked? Challenged? Coddled? There’s no way to know, but thus relocated, my influences and peers all rearranged, it’s impossible to imagine that I would have gone on to make the same work as I ended up making after deciding to decline their offer and spend another year working on my portfolio to reapply.
As it turned out, I didn’t accept the offer, instead electing to spend another year working on what I thought of at the time as my first real body of work, that dozen or so self portraits. I felt pretty good about them at the time, thought I had a decent shot at getting into a more competitive graduate program the following year. I busted my ass, pulled some crazy all-nighters. I was an animal. I was a machine. All summer, I worked. Some friends and I, all in the same boat, spent Thanksgiving break in the painting studio; we knew how to shimmy across a roof and in through a window so we could paint even when campus was closed. On Thanksgiving, three of us had a little potluck dinner, using the model stand as a table. And then we got back to work. I bought Rock Star (or was in Monster?) at Costco by the case. December came, and with it, the deadlines. I applied to nineteen schools. I was rejected from every single one.
If I’d accepted that offer from UNO, I would have been finishing up my first year, instead of collecting a massive stack of rejection letters. As it was, I started a new body of work, better than the last (I actually still like a few of those paintings), and tried again, and that third year was accepted into three of my top choices: Mass Art, Cranbrook, and MICA. They were all basically good programs, and I had to choose between them. None had offered me a full fellowship, the proverbial “free ride” that MFA students sometimes get, which would have made the choice easier. (Some programs are free for anyone who’s accepted, but none of these three were.) I had a friend at Cranbrook, which was tempting, but ultimately I decided that the Hoffberger School of Painting at MICA was the best fit for me, due to its director Grace Hartigan’s emphasis on figurative representation. I started at MICA in August of 2005. A month later, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, leaving me to wonder what would have happened to me if I’d gone to UNO. Would I have found a teaching position in the area and been hit by the hurricane, or would I have found work elsewhere and dodged the bullet? If I’d been affected, how? Would I have stubbornly refused to evacuate? Might I even have been killed? More likely, I would have survived, and it’s almost impossible to conceive that I wouldn’t have made work about it, but would it have been any good?
Like Maximus said in Gladiator: “The choices we make in life echo in eternity.” The problem is that we can’t always know how our choices will echo. Whether or not the wingbeat of a butterfly can really effect weather systems a continent away, unexpected outcomes are certainly the rule rather than the exception. So maybe, as you’re mulling over your options for MFA programs, you should picture Jeff Goldbloom playing with droplets of water on the back of your hand, explaining that there is no way you can know what consequences your choice will have.
I never could have known that Hurricane Katrina was headed for the city I would have moved to if I’d accepted UNO’s offer, nor could I have known that by staying in Humboldt for another two years, I would meet the woman who would become my wife. There’s a certain hippie, New Age kind of mindset that may be more prevalent on the West Coast than in Chicago, that the universe has some sort of plan, that everything happens for a reason, and looking in hindsight at some of these consequences leads some to say, “Well, see? There you go! It all worked out.” But of course, if it hadn’t , something else would have worked out. If I’d never met my wife, I would probably have met somebody else. (Tim Minchin’s got a great song about this.) If I can draw any lesson from my experience, it’s that the most important outcomes of any decision tend to be the ones you can’t predict, and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it anyway.
In the interests of concluding with something a little more actionable, I’ll share two pieces of advice I received while looking at graduate programs. The first was “Follow the money,” that is, go to the school that will result in the least student loan debt. This is great if you are offered a full scholarship to your top choice, or even one of your top choices. But it’s difficult if you’re facing the choice between taking on a major debt load to attend a program that really feels right for you, versus getting a free ride at a school that feels slightly less right to you. Add to this the fact that some programs (Northwestern, for example, and also UIUC I believe) are free for anyone accepted, and at others you can teach in exchange for a tuition waver and sometimes a stipend to live on. It’s a tough choice, not one I ever had to face, but one that some of my friends are facing right now. One mitigating factor in favor of getting to the school that’s best for you, debt be damned, is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This says that, in effect, if you work full time for a non-profit public service institution for ten years, while making your scheduled student loan payments on time, at the end of that period they’ll forgive the rest of your loan debt. Considering that a.) a primary reason a lot of people pursue an MFA degree is in order to teach, and b.) that most colleges count, and that c.) you can make fairly low student loan payments on the income-based repayment plan, this means that you can go to the fancy MFA program, teach for ten years (if you can find the work, and that’s a big “if”), make modest loan payments of as little as eighty bucks a month, and then you’re free and clear. This takes some of the hurt and fear out of going to a more costly school that might offer the kind of program you’re looking for.
The other piece of advice I got, though, was that the most important aspect of graduate program was the city you’d be living in while attending. It makes some sense; certainly we see players in Chicago’s art scene who represent students and alumni from not just SAIC but also Columbia, UIUC, UIC, and more; attending graduate school in Chicago can be an entry point into Chicago’s art scene regardless of which school one attends. On the other hand, Yale’s MFA program pretty obviously has influence outside New Haven, Connecticut. Cranbrook is located in an almost monastic retreat in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, not particularly close to Detroit or anywhere else, and yet its graduates show up, doing well, all over.
I only ended up in Chicago out of sheer, dumb luck. I stuck around Humboldt for another year because I wanted to go to a school that was ranked highly by U.S. News and World Report, and then another because none of them would have me. On a whim, I went to crash Freshman Orientation to pick up on freshman girls and scam free pizza. Three years later, I married one of those girls, Stephanie Burke. She’s quick to point out that she was a transfer student, not a freshman, and also there for the free pizza. After she spent a year with me in Baltimore while I finished up at MICA, she applied to her own round of MFA programs. It was her first year applying, and she got into three excellent programs: Virginia Commonwealth, MICA, and SAIC. SAIC had been her top choice, and Baltimore hadn’t really set any hooks into either of us compelling us to say, so we pulled up our stakes and headed for Chicago. Five and a half years later, we’re rocking and rolling in an incredibly vibrant art scene, and while it’s hard for me to imagine doing so well anywhere else, the road that led here is one I couldn’t see at all from where it started.
Many of history’s greats are known to have painted a sun-dappled landscape or two in their day. Everyone from Winston Churchill to Dwight D. Eisenhower, and even Adolph Hitler have handled a palette. Just like Van Gogh and Gaugain’s portrait exchange, Eisenhower even painted a portrait of his venerable ally, Churchill.
Surprisingly, 43rd President George W. Bush has finally managed to join their ranks, not in political savvy, but through his newfound pastime of “makin’ paintin’s.” By now the entire internet is aware that George W. Bush is a prolific artist, having painted at least 50 dog portraits as well as some landscapes and even a couple n00dz. For once, What’s the T? couldn’t be more proud of our former Commander in Chiefing, and we have created a special hypothetical art collection based on his oeuvre.
The Jogging’s oddly clairvoyant portrait of G.W. from July 2012.
Because we know that you see that red and pink equal sign when you close your eyes and, honestly, who cares about Tilda Swinton?
We know you’re tired of reading them, if you ever did in the first place, so why not just stop writing artist statements once and for all? Iris Jaffe breaks down each and every terrible category. File under: So true. (Article courtesy of Emily Green.)
Upcoming exhibition and other life changing events all taking place on April 6, 2013
The stars must be aligning on April 6th since damn near every gallery in the city is having an opening. It’s ridic. In Logan Square, it’s finally Spring and the Comfort Station is reopening with an exhibition by Isak Applin and Adam Ekberg. Chicago’s fav Italian artist living in Vienna, Helmut Heiss, has also triumphantly returned for his upcoming ACRE show at Slow in Pilsen. Happy sources report that Heiss’s contribution is large and shiny.
Furthermore, Anthony Romero and Jesse Butcher have an opening at Happy Collaborationists that we heard is inspired by hippies and mud. Word is that Haseeb Ahmed and Daniel G. Baird’s opening at Roots and Culture will dramatically change the gallery space, incorporating a fountain and maybe even fish (but don’t quote us).
Smalltime Archiphile centers on architecture’s place – sometimes event-based, sometimes aesthetic– in usually small, marginal and forgotten incarnations around Chicagoland.
The Patio Theatre is arguably the most magnificent movie house in all of Chicago. With awesome programming by the Chicago Cinema Society, a revamped 1920′s Baroquesque interior and streamlined Deco marquee, Patio uses the vehicle of space, time and, more specifically color, to heighten its graphic grandeur.
Ornamentation and Chandelier on Ceiling
Color envelopes you in ways only rococo could – through ornamentation, stucco, mirrors, chandeliers, vaults – in variations of gold leaf, reds, blues, yellows and greens. The Patio Theater’s procession starts with its stark yellow and red sans-serif Deco marquee. Once inside, you encounter a nearly 20ft high chromatic ceiling ticketing foyer, followed by a minimally modern concession stand, and finally culminating in the most mindfucking auditorium punctuated by a starry night twice the size of the Music Box Theatre’s. It’s a series of effects that contemporary architects can’t even fathom approaching i.e. using color to form, shape, line and syncopate a procession, not as appliqué.
Patio’s use of color is palpable and interactive. The culmination of this comes in the auditorium’s screen covering that employs classic vaulting effects with an abundance of color to achieve simulacrum by easily inhabiting both traditional building technique (without traditional necessity) and pushing nuanced ornateness in graphic (without being kitsch).
Sitting there watching a Samurai classic like Shogun Assassin on a Saturday night in Portage Park, not Lakeview, Logan Square, Southport or any other “hot spot” is an added bonus to this prismatic gem. Architecture ‘looks’ all the time and the colorful Patio Theater trumps most classic Chicago movie houses in terms of how comfortable it is in its own skin – inside and out.
The Patio Theater is located at 6008 W. Irving Park Rd, Chicago, Illinois 60634.
From the Mutiny to the Bad Seeds, music is totally trending.
Fish, the band, at The Chicago Music CD showcase at The Mutiny on Thursday Night Photo courtesy of Chicago Music CD Record Label.
Cla$$’s 3ft triangle stole the show. Photo courtesy of Chicago Music CD Record Label.
My Bad’s Scott Reeder takes a selfie with adoring fans. Photo courtesy of Chicago Music CD Record Label.
#FREETHEUNIVERSE takes over The Mutiny Thursday night. Photo courtesy of Chicago Music CD Record Label.
Now you can stop dreaming about it. Nick Cave(s) sighting courtesy of Caroline Picard.
Everything we know about Passover we learned at Bobby Conn‘s final residency performance at the Hideout last Tuesday. His full band including Tim Jones fronted brass section was nothing short of a Pesach miracle.
Respect the crown: Kim Gordon with White/Light at the MCA last Tuesday night.