Although the summer does not seem to end, the mornings have a barest scent of fallen leaves. The angle of light at mid-afternoon has changed. The responsibilities of work and school and life have returned. This last gasp of summer is its most painfully sweet moment. It concentrates long, drawn out summer months into shortening days; it overwhelms us with sweetness while acknowledging its own limits. These limits, these glimpses ahead at fall are reminders that the trees and houses that have stood hidden, robed in summer splendor persist underneath the green.
Last week, the Hunter Museum of American Art hosted Art Alive!, a night of conversation and performance inspired by Helen Frankenthaler’s Around the Clock with Red. The large painting was the backdrop for the evenings activities. Assistant Curator of Education Rachel White led conversation about the painting, placing the work and Frankenthaler into a larger historical context and the context of the museum and the other paintings in the gallery. Kayla Mae Anderson’s performance with four dancers and the conversation that followed extended the time spent with the painting and invited wide ranging interpretations from audience members.
I left the museum, filled with the discussion, the movement, thoughts of what type of attention I paid. The evening stayed with me as I moved through the week, eating lunch, looking again at Frankenthaler’s other paintings, checking the mail, and it followed me through the gallery walk last weekend, accompanying me through crowded receptions of small talk and open studios.
I visited Around the Clock with Red again a few days later, still holding the evening, the performance, the conversation, and, as I looked at the painting again, I realized that more than the evening, I had been living with the painting. It had not changed. Its paint was as static as ever. The textured reds still anchored my eyes while sending them towards the edges of the canvas. The large apricot swath across its middle was as raw and exposed as before, still making me feel as if the top of my head were taken off. The multitude of gestural languages Frankenthaler speaks were as compelling as the first time I saw them. The painting persists through the other layers built up around it. I saw the same painting with the same eyes, but the permanence of the painting, its lasting objectness stripped away the layers I had built around it.
The historic, economic, cultural, and other frameworks Around the Clock with Red and any painting have accrued over time are inescapable. We cannot separate it from the art market with its presence in a survey museum and the reminder of who the donors were. We cannot view it outside the structures of power and cultural domination inherent in a museum and the white male dominated art world that Frankenthaler knew and we still know. We cannot lift it from endless cultural consumption which thins our attention every direction we look.
Saying the painting still lives within those layers is obvious and facile, but, within that statement’s simplicity, we should not forget the power of an object to leave us breathless, to move us beyond words, to help us carry and share the weight of those frameworks. There is work to be done to identify and name the structures that support and enable our cultural and civic institutions and our personal lives. We must acknowledge that we continue to exist within a series of large and small, more and less noticeable frames. We are not erasing those frames by recognizing and celebrating the objects they contain. We revel in our bodies precisely because we carry our skeletons around with us wherever we go.
The long hot summer is over. The season is beginning again. Thus, for this week and next, we shall feature a Top 10 Picks! Enjoy.
Friday 9/4/15 –
Work by Alexander Valentine.
Fernwey is located at 916 N. Damen Ave. Reception 7-10pm.
Work by Chris Uphues, Buried Diamond, and Killer Acid.
Galerie F is located at 2381 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception 6-10pm.
Curated by Alexandria Eregbu with work by Aay Preston-Myint, Adam Liam Rose + Alex Zak, Amina Ross, Betsy Odom, Elijah Burgher, Gordon Hall, Katie Vota, Kiam Marcelo Junio, Margaret Bobo-Dancy, Matt Morris, Oli Rodriguez, and Rami George.
Sector 2337 is located at 2337 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception 5-8pm.
Work by Anthony Romero, Josh Rios and Eric J. Garcia.
Trunk Show is located at 1859 W. 19th St. Reception 6-8pm.
Saturday 9/5/15 –
Curated by Joseph Ravens, Oli Rodriguez and Frederic Moffet with work by Miao Jiaxin, Zachary Harvey, Caitlin Bacon, Whitney Johnston, Charles Lum, Barbara DeGenevieve, Amber Hawk Swanson, Kean O’Brien and Isaac Leung.
Defibrillator Gallery is located at 1463 W. Chicago Ave. Reception 7-10pm.
Work by Alex Bradley Cohen and Steve Ruiz.
Roots and Culture is located at 1034 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception 6-9pm.
Work by Local Honey.
Slow Pony Project is located at 1745 W. 18th St. Reception 6-9pm.
Curated by Scott J Hunter with work by Daniel Baird, Jessica Caponigro, Alexandria Eregbu, Danny Giles, Sofia Moreno, Matt Morris, Amina Ross, Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Ivan Lozano and Dan Paz.
The Franklin is located at 3522 W. Franklin Blvd. Reception 6-10pm.
Work by Collin van der Sluijs, Mike Perry, Cody Hudson, Daniel Frost, Hedof, Jordy van den Nieuwendijk, Amanda Marie, David Shillinglaw and more.
Vertical Gallery is located at 1016 N. Western Ave. Reception 6-10pm.
Sunday 9/6/15 –
Work by D. Denenge Akpem, Eliza Bennett, Laci Coppins and Nakia Gordon, Alexandria Eregbu, Isaac Facio and Benedickt Diemer, Whitney Huber, Taylor Hokanson and Dieter Kirkwood, Cole Don Kelley, Barbara Layne, Hiro Murai for Flying Lotus, Tameka J. Norris, Betsy Odom, Scout Paré-Phillips, Jennifer Ray, Aileen Son and Fo Wilson.
Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Reception 3-5pm.
Curated by Allison Lacher, with work by Jessica Caponigro, Jeffrey Michael Austin, and Rafael E. Vera.
Chicago Artists Coalition is located at 217 N. Carpenter St. Reception Friday 6-9pm.
Work by Jaime Angelopoulos and Cody Tumblin.
LVL3 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday, 6-10pm.
Work by Murat Adash, Mark Barker, Levi Budd, Anna Bunting-Branch, Robert Crosse, Angharad Davies, Lila de Magalhaes, Peter Ferry, Stephen Kwok, Mitsu Salmon, Michal Samama and Keijaun Thomas.
Julius Caesar is located at 3311 W. Carroll Ave. Reception Sunday, 1-5pm.
Work by Victoria Martinez, Krista Franklin, Josue Mora, Gilberto Sandoval, Amara Betty Martin, Tyrue “Slang” Jones , Reginald Eldridge, Jr., aka RJ EL, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Oscar Arriola, Rae Bees, Matthew Silva, Ricardo Gonzalez, Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes, Emmanuel White Eagle, Tissueart and Perpetual Rebel.
The Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts Gallery is located at 1538 W. Cullerton St. Reception Saturday, 6-11pm.
Work by Travis Krupka.
Hidden Dog is located at 2151 W. 21st St. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.
Entering whitespace gallery from the hazy, sweltering Atlanta noon, escaping the cascades of kudzu and endless advertisements of the coming millennials, I walked through a wall of cold air into the artist talks for Soft Eyes, a group exhibition curated by Pete Schulte. I was shocked into re-seeing by the spareness and order of the exhibition. The show, a translation of an online exhibition, realizes an austerity and distancing of the internet. The works resist easy entry, forefronting carefully crafted surfaces. Each artist works with a unique language that feels distantly related to others spoken around the gallery.
There are limitations to the digital world and distinct advantages to pulling these physical works together. Cracks and fissures form in the reserved surfaces, drawing in the viewer. The resonances arising from the juxtaposition of Julia Fish’s pieces slow the crossing of the threshold they span. The vibrancy of Andy Moon Wilson’s colors and dense patterns call from across the room. The friction Katy Fischer describes between the arrangement of her small paintings and objects and their highly-studied and finely crafted surfaces compels close viewing.
Soft Eyes rewards slowing down at these entrance points to extend our vision beyond the individual artworks. Each of the works in the show ultimately unveils a depth of care and time that results in their quiet, reserved surfaces. The time spent laboring over the work is evident in Leah Raintree’s finely detailed, topographic map-like drawings. Time invested generating an artistic practice blossoms in Amy Pleasant’s reinvestigations into moments of creation and life buried within her studio. Each of the artists has honed a language uniquely their own, singular in its application yet resonant with the other languages that fill the gallery. All of the works are deeply considered, and, as with the best translations, Schulte has allowed each work the space and time to breathe lives from the others that would otherwise remain unspoken.
In closing the artist talk, Hamlet Dobbins talked of art being a river of time — teacher to student, artwork to artwork — each arising from and forming the river. This analogy, reflected in the multi-generational, multi-relational show, is comforting, as summer heat continues with no end in sight. I need reminders of time’s continuing presence and slow passage — tardier sunrises, grey hairs that suddenly appear, the rise and fall of a dog’s breath as we sleep and wake to slow accretions of a life built together.
I continue to live with Soft Eyes, exploring the depths and truths contained within its layers, and I have begun to modify the analogy to think of art as an oceanic current, flowing through the dynamic ecosystems of the world, pushing and pulling bits of plastic and phytoplankton into and out of its flow, one part of a water cycle so vast and far reaching into our past and future we no longer know if we are clouds or raindrops or ocean water shaping the course of the world around us.
Soft Eyes is on view at whitespace until September 12.
Work by Lindsay Cashews.
Roots & Culture is located at 1034 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday, 7-10pm.
Work by Ruth Hodgins.
Roman Susan is located at 1224 W. Loyola Ave. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.
Work by Ben Chlapek.
Rational Park is located at 2557 W. North Ave. Reception Saturday, 6-10pm.
Film by Nancy Bechtol.
DEFIBRILLATOR is located at 1463 W. Chicago Ave. Screening Saturday, 7-10pm.
Work by Dan MacAdam.
Galerie F is located at 2381 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.