Guest post contributed by Brent Fogt.
Though we may be traveling, we carry with us not only our supplies and our desire for adventure but also our obsessions, doubts and fears. Regin Igloria makes this point forcefully in “How Different It Is to Be Outside” at the Chicago Cultural Center. He coopts the symbols of American road trips — the highway construction signs, way finding stations, roadside advertising, etc.— to investigate his own complex experiences with travel.
The timing of his exhibition is ideal, because school is out, and millions of Americans are now packing their cars and making a beeline to one of the 58 national parks in the USA, wanting some kind of direct experience with nature. If that experience involves hiking, they will likely encounter a brown information kiosk at the entrance to each trail. Igloria, an avid hiker and runner, faithfully recreates such a kiosk on the north side of the gallery, but with key modifications. Where park rangers might post al map or other information, he suspends a tiny piece of foliage and pins a dissected blue envelope inscribed with the word “rest.”
To the right of the kiosk is a black highway sign. Void of words or symbols, the sign sits atop a bright orange trailer with sandbags anchoring black wheels. Attached to the trailer is a metal leg from a ping-pong table, which functions as a kind of steering wheel and injects an element of humor to an object typically associated with caution and danger.
With no maps, arrows or text to tell us where to go, the kiosk and highway sign encourage us to reflect upon our personal desires. This invitation for self-examination is reinforced by Igloria’s careful integration of handmade sketchbooks into each sculpture. At the bottom of the kiosk, for example, a dozen sketchbooks rest between two planters, and in the highway sign, another dozen are shelved inside a small podium. The cover of one book reveals the word “lose,” but otherwise their contents are hidden from view.
In a wall display on the south end of the gallery, Igloria offers us a peak at what’s inside these books: a series of skillfully rendered drawings and paintings, along with journal entries and even coffee sleeves he collected while traveling. In one journal, Igloria fills one page, over and over, with the words “when expectations lead to disappointment.” Another page chronicles the chills, hunger and discouragement he experienced on a hike in Oregon. He addresses his art practice head-on in one entry:
“I never considered my work to be specifically about joy, about specific moments of happiness. But really when I look back at it, it is. It’s always taking into consideration things that essentially bring me happiness, even if it is despite the struggle, the conflicts that occur in the process of getting there.”
Igloria captures this tension between the desire for happiness and the obstacles one faces along the way in a series of paintings on the Western edge of the gallery. The paintings are crisply rendered and brightly hued, radiating a sunny optimism. The mood shifts, however, in the center of each canvas, where he alters familiar logos or icons. An “ice” logo, for example, becomes “why.” A nametag becomes “no one asked.” An oval logo (“Ford” perhaps) becomes “other.” Some of the canvases are blank, representing experiences—and struggles—yet to happen.
Near the paintings in the center of the gallery rests a cargo carrier leaning on stacks of books. Made of canvas and wood and designed to sit atop a car rack, the carrier resembles a small boat or even a twin bed. The juxtaposition of the cargo carrier and the books is especially poignant, because both are containers, the former for supplies and the latter for thoughts and ideas. Many of us travel to escape our routines and find comfort in nature, but the escape is momentary, because we carry our inner conflicts and preoccupations along with our camping gear.
Regin Igloria: How Different It Is to Be Outside
On view until August 21, 2016
Chicago Cultural Center
Michigan Avenue Galleries, 1st Floor South
The Atlanta Contemporary currently has two exhibitions centered around regional identity. The group show It Can Howl, “takes a look at the numerous experiences of the American South.” The solo exhibition, The Dapper Comes to the Walkers collects Dapper Bruce LaFitte’s drawings of New Orleans marching bands and street scenes. The south is an enormous, sprawling region with shifting boundaries. It contains diverse peoples and places. It has long histories and complicated presents, evident in names and markers, statues and parades. It also has forgotten, hidden histories, absent from the stories we are told and we tell ourselves. These shows begin to expose the boundaries between what is seen and what we hide.
In It Can Howl, the garbage cans of Nancy Lupo’s Train immediately grab the viewer’s attention as they snake across the gallery spilling their cherries. The walls of the garbage cans seem to waver with the weight they carry, the objects embedded within them compromising their integrity. The blurring of real cherries and fake cherries, quail eggs and chocolate soccer balls gestures to and obscures the conspicuous emptiness of the garbage cans. The work fills the gallery with its overflow of materiality, yet it ultimately remains empty, a series of signifiers pointing to an absence hidden in front of us.
Chloe Seibert’s Welcome is gouged and eaten into the wall to create the text. It is a greeting that speaks of absence, peeling back the layers of paint on the wall and drywall to the studs and hidden infrastructure. The wall text lists drywall as the only material, yet it is its absence that we see. The absent drywall removed to the storage room, to the dumpster, to the landfill is as much the work as what is left behind in the gallery. The visible absence points to the built history of the gallery and infrastructure that hides our waste and disposes what we have abandoned. Its gesture of welcome rings hollow within the gallery, but its removal resonates far beyond.
Dapper Bruce LaFitte’s drawings in The Dapper Comes to the Walkers point to specific moments. They are specifically sited to post-Katrina New Orleans, explicitly linked to a history and present experience of black life. They attempt to catalogue loss and absence through exacting, precisely enumerated presence. They are an accounting of people marching, people watching. The exuberance of their playing and the joy of their listening are flattened, frozen in time. This precision coexists with the narratives of Hurricane Katrina, the injustices that surrounded it, and the ongoing changes it has wrought on New Orleans.
Lafitte is self-consciously aware of viewership and his presence within the art world. The text written across each of his drawing underscores the complicated presence of a gallery-represented, “outsider” artist within the institution. In writing “I love my/job/making art critics work/lol,” LaFitte is aware of his presence within the art world. The broken narrative he creates across his drawings attempts to connect the world from which he draws his experiences, love, and distress and the art world from which we view his drawings, yet our viewing environment remains a sterile white cube, however brightly painted in traditional Mardi Gras colors, forever divorced from the flattened drawings that contain so much life.
The works in It Can Howl and The Dapper Comes to the Walkers are rich. The exhibitions are paired well, and the works individually and together continue to unfold and make me think deeply about what is visibly present in the gallery and what remains hidden, the objects of the art world I know how to see and the architecture that props them up, hiding in plain sight. I am new to this place. I am learning how to understand the heat and humidity, the new species of trees and insects. I am still attempting to understand its history and present and my place within them. I am only beginning to see the surface. I know there is far more hidden before my eyes.
June 18, 2016, 7-10PM
Work by: Alberto Aguilar, Basma Alsharif, Robert Burnier, Alex Chitty, Katy Cowan, Assaf Evron, Danny Giles, Gordon Hall, Sofia Leiby, Jose Lerma, Shana Lutker, Matt Morris, Gina Osterloh, Claire Pentecost, Tim Portlock, Josh Reames, Amanda Ross-Ho, Sanaz Sohrabi, Stephanie Syjuco, Tony Tasset, and Lori Waxman, among many others.
Mana Contemporary: 2233 S Throop St, Chicago, Illinois 60608
2. House Shoes
June 18, 2016, 7-10PM
Work by: Mariam Ezzat, Viki Hicky, Emily Kostrzewa, and Matthew Luther (Curated by Crystal Palmer)
cornerstore:1903 S Allport #3F, Chicago, IL 60608
June 22, 2016, 6-8PM
Work by: James Barnor (Curated by Renée Mussai)
Stony Island Arts Bank: 6760 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60649
June 17, 2016, 5-8PM
Work by: Jessica Caponigro, Diane Christiansen, Deborah Handler, Anna Kunz, Zoe Nelson, Josue Pellot, Josh Reames, Allison Reimus, Ryan Richey, Philip von Zweck, Erin Washington, and Amanda Williams (Curated by Jessica Cochran)
McCormick Gallery: 835 West Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607
June 18, 2016, 2-5PM
Yollocalli Arts Reach: Barrett Park 2022 W Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL 60608
The Visualist will occasionally feature an additional project that happens to be situated away from Chicago.
Special Mention: HOMOCCULT 2.0 – S+S PROJECT in MEXICO CITY
On view through Sunday, June 19th
Work by: Adam Rose + April Lynn, Asher Asher, Gio Black Peter, Erika Bulle, Elijah Burgher, Tania Chavez, Jos Demme Howard, Cristian Diaz, Felix d’Eon, Clothilde Double, Orlando Estrada, Rosé Hernandez, Serena Jara, Vycktorya Letal, Armando Lozano, Meg McCarville, Daniel McKernan, David Nasca, Mipanocha Rurru, Keijaun Thomas, Tsade Trigo, Lechedevirgen Trimegisto, Caleb Yono, and Sara Zalek
@ Los Insurgentes, Fundación del Centro Cultural del México Contemporáneo, ArtSpace Mexico, and Museu de la Ciudad
June 12, 2016, 10AM-6PM
Work by: Carris Adams, Derrick Adams, Lisa Alvarado, Assaf Evron, Becky Grajeda, Faheem Majeed, Ayanah Moor, The Black Athena Collective, Nazafarian Lotfi, Martine Syms, Cheryl Pope, and Amanda Williams
Tour Starts at 2313 W. Grand Ave, Chicago, IL, Chicago, IL 60622
June 10, 2016, 5-8PM
Work by: Shani Crowe
Africa International House: 6200 S. Drexel Ave Chicago, IL 60637
June 12, 2016 4-7pm
Work by: Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson
Roman Susan: 1224 W. Loyola Ave, Chicago, IL 60626
June 11, 2016, 4-7PM
Work by: Amy Sherald
Monique Meloche Gallery: 2154 W. Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
June 14, 2016, 9PM-12AM
Elastic Arts: 3429 W. Diversey Ave, #208, Chicago, IL 60647
Work by: Rudolf Eb.er, Dave Phillips, and Joke Lanz + Andy Ortmann + Fred Lonberg-Holm/Paul Giallorenzo/Ben Baker Billington
As we all know change is a constant in our Chicago artworld. Today, Bad at Sports marks a massive change for us.
As longtime readers/listeners know, Stephanie Burke has long been the author of our “top five things we’re going to check out this weekend” list. For the last eight years she has been banging around seeing everything there was to see in Chicago, all the while guiding many of us with her wit and insight as to what should not be missed.
This last year has seen many changes for both Stephanie and B@S as an organization and it is time for her role with us to evolve. Her brilliance will continue to inform our collaborative efforts and thinking, but her new role will be revealed this fall. For the moment, she can be found gallivanting across this country reconnecting with her camera and her art.
Today we welcome a new monitor of what must be seen and Stephanie passes her gifted eye and foresight to no less a seer… Tomorrow, THE VISUALIST will begin their tenure as the governor of what must be experienced. All witness and be aware, it is the “Bad At Sports top V by the Visualist” and all shall be emboldened by its wisdom.