Do you understand?

October 16, 2015 · Print This Article

I was standing with Rolando, looking at ¿por qué no fui tu amigo?, a solo show by Daniel Aguilar Ruvalcaba, curated by Chris Sharp, currently on view at Kurimanzutto, in the rear gallery. We were looking at an array of audiovisual equipment — rechargeable batteries nestled in their recharger, an audio recorder, a printer, a hard drive, an iMac, a mouse, a keyboard, a couple GoPros, some stands for cameras or audio, headphones, and so on — on the floor of the gallery, against the smooth white walls. Rolando was telling me, pointing to the thick-stock, laminated gallery notes he was holding — he had the ones for Aguilar Ruvalcaba’s show, I had the ones for Minerva Cuevas’s show, in the main gallery — that the equipment had been used to shoot a video, that would later be shown elsewhere, and that now it was for sale on MercadoLibre, the eBay of the Spanish- and Portugese-speaking world. I was saying something stupid about how great of a MercadoLibre photo it probably was, or was going to be, when a gallery attendent walked in and asked us, in Spanish, “do you understand?”

In his later writing, Roland Barthes employed the figure as an organizing element. In each figure, anecdote, history, and philosphy collide, usually with notes in the margin about where they are from: Symposium, Taoism, Werther, A.C. Barthes describes the figure beautifully, longingly, as “what in the straining body can be immobilized,” something that sticks in the memory, but is somehow incomplete, something that we catch in a moment, “insofar as we can recognize.” The figure is necessarily incomplete, and in its incompleteness foregrounds that which suspends it. For me, this is the best way, or perhaps the only way, to talk about ¿por qué no fui tu amigo? There are three figures in the show: first, an ad in the newspaper am, distributed in the state of Guanajuato, in central Mexico; the second, two white-backed counterfeit bills, one MX$100 and one MX$200, each folded as if it were a tiny book; the third, the audiovisual equipment set up for a prosumer photo that Rolando and I were standing in front of when the attendent walked in. The blunt visual presentation of each figure—everything looks like exactly what it is—bounces attention away, into the notes or the guided presentation, teasing, cajoling, or maybe just forcing the viewer to learn about the various trajectories and interpretations that each figure strains between. It is in this learning that each figure becomes more complex, begins to blur, and the beauty of the show emerges.

The show is arranged in narrative order, beginning with an the ad in the newspaper am, which is distributed in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico, where Aguilar Ruvalcaba is from. The ad originally appeared in am on December 31, 2014; and January 2 and 3, 2015. This is the first context in which the ad appears, and the first public to whom it appears. This public, people in the state of Guanajuato who purchase am for MX$10 and have an interest in the classifieds, viewed the ad in its original context, as an ad. At this point, being viewed by the classifieds-reading public of Guanajuato, the ad is not an artwork, it is an ad. It does not matter, at this point, that Daniel Aguilar Ruvalcaba, an artist, has printed this ad, hoping to use it as the starting point for a body of artwork. It does not matter that Daniel’s father, Juan Manuel Aguilar, owed a debt to BBVA-Bancomer, nor that Daniel has recently received a grant for emerging artists from BBVA-Bancomer. It does not matter that Daniel has decided to use this grant from BBVA-Bancomer to try to pay off somebody else’s debt to BBVA-Bancomer, more specifically somebody else named Juan Manuel Aguilar, not a particularly uncommon name. The ad is constricted by its context, in the paper, spread across somebody’s lap, or a table, or a bar, maybe rolled up in a ball and stuffed under the grill to get the coals going. Maybe a few people in Mexico City knew about the ad, knew about it as an artwork, but am is not distributed in Mexico City. They couldn’t help. The classifieds person-seeking ad, though, is a sort of visual-literary form, and this particular ad is interesting within that form. It is situated in tense relation between the sort of extortion schemes typified by the Nigerian prince e-mail, self-help product advertisements, and missing persons advertisements. Especially here in Mexico, where extortion, phony aspiration, and disappearance are all common, sometimes compounded into one: a few months ago I read that cartels often use the form of the aspirational ad—”this job could change your life!” sort of thing—to lure people into building tunnels, transporting goods, etc, for them, usually killing those hired once the job is done. Importantly, these are qualities available to any person in Mexico reading the classifieds; it is not necessary to be part of any sort of art-appreciating public to see any of these relationships. These are qualities the ad holds as an ad, and nothing more. Indeed, this is one of the things most engaging about ¿por qué no fui tu amigo?, how deftly it engages everyday visual forms without hiding behind a mask of faux-irony.

Then Juan Manuel Aguilar called. As the story goes, Juan Manuel Aguilar had two debts, a large one and a small one. The artwork could be created: the fake bills are printed in an edition to match the large debt of Juan Manuel Aguilar, and will be sold for an equivalent amount of real bills to an heir to the BBVA-Bancomer fortune; the audiovisual equipment could be purchased and used to shoot a video, supporting the provision of the BBVA-Bancomer grant that asked for part to be used in “production.” Finally, the ad could appear in its second context, in the gallery. In the gallery, the ad, which is no different than the nearly 50,000 ads printed in the three days of am’s production, is an artwork, in limited edition, presented to an artworld audience by a gallery attendent who explains it as such. Here it exists in relation to a history of artworks that have appeared in public newspapers, and here it holds a different kind of significance, a different sort of interest. Whereas many artistic interventions into public newspapers involve some degree of poetry, symbolism, or irony, this ad seeking people named Juan Manuel Aguilar who owes a debt to BBVA-Bancomer is exactly that, an ad seeking people named Juan Manuel Aguilar who owes a debt to BBVA-Bancomer. The “general” public, the ficitional public invented by all specialized fields to designate all those who are not in that field, who are assumed to receive something “beneficial” from art, often tied to antiquated ideas of enlightenment or genius, receive nothing. Juan Manuel Aguilar, one particular Juan Manuel Aguilar who decided, against the odds, to call, receives debt relief. This is also not aspirational—”just try!”—for if Daniel were a cartel, Mr Manuel would likely be dead.

Indeed, in the gallery, towards an artworld audience, the ad is almost hostile. There is nothing beautiful about it, there is no evident hand of genius. It does not neatly tie in with global discussions of any sort, being tied inextricably to two individuals, both named Juan Manuel Aguilar, to a Mexican financial institution, BBVA-Bancomer, to the particular local strangeness of BBVA-Bancomer giving grants to emerging artists. The ordinariness of the ad—sure, it’s a little weird, but it’s definitely not a piece by Jenny Holzer, you know? it makes no effort to explain or contain itself, it doesn’t get deep and it certainly isn’t universal—bounces the viewer’s attention elsewhere. This, I suppose, is where the notes and/or the explanation comes in: they are necessary to see the work. They are necessary to see the ad straining between its trajectories between the newstand and the grill as 50,000 papers, the newstand and the gallery as a limited edition, the newstand and the collector’s home, the newstand and the homes of any number Juans Manuel Aguilar; straining between being unread and unnoticed in print or presented online with the importance accordant to one of more important galleries of Mexico City; being interpreted by the concerned parents or fried or lover of one Juan Manuel Aguilar as a bad idea, don’t call, you’ve heard about this kind of thing, and another very different Juan Manuel Aguilar as perhaps not so bad an idea, why not give it a try?

Each figure in ¿por qué no fui tu amigo? is like the first, straining in some way between locations, trajectories, interpretations, their mundanity initially deflecting attention to the web of possible trajectories and probable interpretations suspending them in their current position, making them shiver and blur. I am tempted to call this contingency “radical,” but of course it isn’t, it is a very mundane, very commonplace contingency. In their mundane contingency, the figures that comprise ¿por qué no fui tu amigo? reflect the daily strain of most objects and most bodies, caught in a momentary, yet brutally constricting, context, straining anonymously towards the next.

Nitty Gritty

October 8, 2015 · Print This Article


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Friday, October 23, 2015 to Thursday, November 12, 2015
Opening Reception: Friday, October 23, 6 – 9 pm

The Chicago Artists Coalition is proud to present Nitty Gritty, a HATCH Projects exhibition of new works by Alejandro T. Acierto, Kayla Anderson, and Blair Bogin, and curated by Sadie Woods.

Nitty Gritty features artists who examine the modus operandi of ritual, preservation, and paradoxical longings through sculpture, sound, photography, video, and installation. Through these works, concerns of the social, ecological, and alternative practices come to light.

Exploring the significance of the human voice as a communicative tool, Alejandro T. Acierto considers narratives of marginalized identities and histories through the use of breath. As a play on futuristic archaeology, Kayla Anderson stores organic objects in acrylic reliquaries as a speculation on the contradictory practices of environmentalism and preservation. Blair Bogin generates documentary-based combinations of photography, video, and writing with a series of interpretive astrological charts, where esoteric divination meets folk psychology. In this work, Bogin narrates her life to accentuate individual characteristics with poetics, humor, and an aptitude for expression.

Acierto, Anderson, and Bogin query notions of community, survivalist cultures, and identity formation in the exhibition, Nitty Gritty. You are cordially invited to attend the opening reception on Friday, October 23 from 6 – 9pm. Participating artist Blair Bogin will host her monthly Wax Long, a full moon storytelling event, at the Chicago Artist Coalition on Monday, October 26 from 7 – 9pm.

WAX LONG / Hunter’s Moon (in Taurus)

A night of bare hands, blood and blades for food, recreation or trade under full HUNTER’S MOON. This month featuring scary tales and performances by local artists, acrobats & unexpected apparitions.

Gathering in various apartments, venues, urban farms and parks around the city of Chicago, Wax Long invites the community to share personal stories, found folklore or performances that coincide with the seasonal themes of the full moon. If interested in ever hosting or telling tale, email


Alejandro T. Acierto is an artist and musician working in time-based media.  He has exhibited his work at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Issue Project Room, Participant, Salisbury University, SOMArts and presented performance works at the Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival, Center for Performance Research, Center for New Music and Technology, and Slingshot Festival for Music, Art & Technology. Acierto has held residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Banff Centre, and High Concept Laboratories. He is currently a 2014-15 HATCH Projects artist-in-residence and a 2015 FT/FN/FG Consortium Fellow at the University of Chicago. Acierto received his undergraduate degree from DePaul University, a MM from Manhattan School of Music,  an MFA in New Media Arts from University Illinois at Chicago, is a recipient of the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis at the Darmstadt Festival for New Music, and founding member of contemporary chamber orchestra Ensemble Dal Niente in Chicago.

Kayla Anderson is an interdisciplinary artist and writer. She received her BFA with dual emphasis in Film, Video, and New Media and Fiber & Material Studies in 2013 and her BA in Visual and Critical Studies in 2014 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been exhibited in venues throughout the United States and abroad including Currents International New Media Festival, West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival, Regis Center for Art,; Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography, Grey Projects, N?i Projects, Johalla Projects, Tritriangle, Woman Made Gallery, The Nightingale Cinema, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Her writing has been published by Leonardo Journal & MIT Press and presented at SIGGRAPH 2014, SIGGRAPH 2015 and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at the UCSB. Anderson is a 2014-15 HATCH Projects artist-in-residence, a 2015 Visual Arts Fellow of the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, and recently completed residencies at ACRE and Elsewhere.

Blair Bogin is an interdisciplinary artist living in Chicago. She earned a BA from Indiana University Bloomington and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is founder and host of Wax Long, a full moon performance event in Chicago, Illinois. Additionally, she conducts Circle for Square, a pop-up community art space at the Logan Square Farmers Market. She is a William Merchant R. French Fellowship recipient, a 2015 Edes Foundation Fellowship Nominee and a recent artist-in-residence at HATCH Projects, ACRE, Elsewhere Museum, Ox-Bow, Platte Forum Colorado, Spread Art Detroit & Hub14 Performance in Toronto.


Sadie Woods earned her BA in music at Columbia College. She participated in Ecole du Magasin’s international curatorial program in France, received a Visual Arts Certificate from the University of Chicago Graham School, and has exhibited work at Anchor Graphics, Chicago History Museum, City of Chicago, and Hyde Park Art Center. Woods has performed nationally and internationally as a deejay for cultural institutions and tastemakers 3Arts, 6018North, Alliance of Artist Communities, Audience Architects, Chicago Cultural Center, EXPO, Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Public Art group, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Magasin-CNAC, Make Music Chicago, Marwen, Museum of Contemporary Art, National Museum of Mexican Art, Ragdale Foundation, Rebuild Foundation, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and the School of the Art Institute while holding residencies throughout Chicago. Woods is a 2014-15 HATCH Projects resident curator and is currently pursuing her MFA in Sound at the School of the Art Institute. Her practice includes exhibition making, theater sound design, and participation in collaborations within communities of difference.

Kim Jong Un Americans

October 8, 2015 · Print This Article

Kim Jong Un Americans 09.04.15_02_02
Friday, October 23, 2015 to Thursday, November 12, 2015
Opening Reception: Friday, October 23, 6-9 pm

The Chicago Artists Coalition is pleased to present, Kim Jong Un Americans, a solo exhibition with new works by BOLT Resident, Aram Han Sifuentes.

Rumors had it that on March 26, 2014 Kim Jong Un issued a mandate to make all North Korean men to wear the same hairstyle as the Supreme Leader, himself. His haircut is specifically known as the “Chinese Smuggler”. North Korean state-sanctioned haircuts serve as a way to keep out Western influences. Come get your own free Kim Jong Un haircut or hairstyle from our professional hair stylist. For the opening cuts and styles will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Afterwards, get your photo taken and we’ll add your image to the growing collection of Americans sporting North Korean’s newest fashion trend.


Aram Han Sifuentes is a social practice fiber artist and works closely with Chicago-based non-profit organizations, community centers, and public schools to facilitate workshops for immigrant communities. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Her solo exhibitions include “A Mend” at Hollister Gallery in Wellesley, MA, and her workshops include “Immigrant Takeover” at the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design in Ashville, NC, and “US Citizenship Test Sampler” at the Smithsonian Institution. She is also a DCASE grant and Puffin Foundation Ltd grant recipient. Han earned her BA in Art and Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008, and her MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013.


September 24, 2015 · Print This Article

We as Bad at Sports have mourned mentors, friends, and family here, but we have never had to mourn one of us.

Jeriah Hildwine was a complex member of Bad at Sports and his “take” on the issues we approach was often divisive, but we all respected and never questioned his commitment, enthusiasm, and the tenacity he showed. He never did anything in half measures whether you agreed with him or not.

We will all remember and honor his standard of engagement with art and the world, a standard that few could match.

Tonight we raise a glass to a comrade who lost his way.

Arizona Daily Sun

Suburban Milwaukee Saturday Night Fever

September 24, 2015 · Print This Article

Guest post by Lise Haller Baggesen

On Saturday September 19th –while Chicago was hustling and bustling with all things EXPO—the Suburban opened the doors to its new Milwaukee location.

Housed in a former Laundromat, which had suffered a total burnout leaving only the carrying structures intact, the property has had a gut rehab –Brad Killam style—and presents as a fresh, clean slate. Above the gallery is an apartment inhabited by de-facto gallery directors Alexander Herzog and Rosa DiSalvo-Herzog, who will be running the daily business of the space, as well as welcoming out-of-town artists in the residency upstairs.

With its large storefront right onto a street corner, the new Suburban vibe is less that of a backyard BBQ (sadly, Brad’s brats were missing), and more of a Mom & Pop Store of all things minimalist.

The Suburban

The works on show, by Scottish artist Fergus Feehily, were just that, as well as ethereal, elusive and cheeky –and as Michelle Grabner points out “not at all generous in the way Milwaukee is used to.”

This was more than made up for in the in the adjoining alleyway, which doubled as the site of Paul Drucke’s contribution to the 2015 Terrain Biennial –a pleasant reminder that you can take the Suburban out of Oak park, but you cannot take Oak Park out of the Suburban. A plaque on the wall baptized it “Angelique Roy’s Passage” and the narrow space set the perfectly confined stage for a “Gangway Performance” featuring Joshua Bellow, Margaret Noodin and Laura Hunter.

As the evening progressed, and police officers on bicycles watched from across the street, a mellow crowd of art students and weathered Suburbanites co-mingled outdoors and in, and neighbors stopped by to say hello. After hours the party proceeded to a nearby craft brewery featuring a homegrown DJ, organized by Green Gallery’s John Ripenhoff, but this was where I had to hit the road back to Chicago.


I made it home before midnight, and to all of you Chicagoans who used to be Suburban regulars, I will say: it is really not that far. So, if the post EXPO blues is getting you down, head North for some Suburban Saturday Night Fever!