This Is Why Indiana Is The Shit

November 28, 2011 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Jeriah Hildwine

Stephanie and I took the Metra to Hammond, Indiana, where Linda Dorman and Tom Torluemke picked us up at the station, and brought us back to their place.  We ate pizza around their dining room table and then drank beer around a campfire in their backyard.  (Linda drank Coke, Tom O’Doul’s.)  Tom had built a perfect teepee fire, abashedly using compressed firestarters (which he called “cheating”) to light the fire.

 

Installation view of "Water" at Sidecar Gallery, featuring work by James Jankowiak, Tom Burtonwood, and Holly Holmes.

They took us to Sidecar Gallery to see “Water,” a show of work by Tom Burtonwood, Holly Holmes, and James Jankowiak.  Tom Burtonwood created a wallpaper of a computer-generated alphabet consisting of isomorphic perspective renderings of three-dimensional blocks (like Tetris pieces), each rendered in a different, simple pattern of marks.  It looked like a 1980s visualization of some kind of data set, but in fact represented an alphabet or code.  Apparently it incorporated QR codes which stored a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for a website that would decode the alphabet for you…but, lacking a smartphone, we didn’t try it.  Burtonwood also created some small wooden sculptures that mimicked the form of the wallpaper.

Painting and wallpaper by James Jankowiak, sculpture by Tom Burtonwood.

James Jankowiak also created a wallpaper of sorts, covering several walls of the gallery with parallel strips of brightly colored plastic tape.  But his major works are small, square, incredibly precise paintings of minutely varying shades of color.  The works in this exhibition consisted of concentric circles.  In one, each circle was a slightly different shade of blue.  In another, a green torus vibrates electrically against a red field.  In a third, blues, browns, and whites alternate on a beige field.  One’s first thought is of course of sectioned Jawbreaker candies but a moment’s thought links them more closely with Josef Albers’ color studies.

Work by Tom Burtonwood at Sidecar Gallery.

Both Jankowiak’s and Burtonwood’s wallpapers served as backdrops for their own, and each other’s, small paintings and sculptures, turning the exhibition into more of a collaboration than a group show.  In the front room was one of Holly Holmes’ recent wooden sculptures, in which thin strips of wooden lathe are bent into a complex, looping form, like a diagram of the flight of a bumblebee, or a crazy zero-gravity roller-coaster.  I’ve seen a previous work of this type by Holmes, at Chicago Urban Arts Society, as part of Wood Worked, in which the material of the piece was left raw and unfinished.  In Water, it was painted in blue and white.  In each case the color and surface seemed an homage to the theme of the exhibition.

We had tickets for the 11:10pm South Shore Line Metra train home, but Sidecar was shutting down at 10pm, so instead of waiting around the train station in the cold for an hour after the show, Linda hooked us up with her friend Erik, who agreed to bring us back to Chicago.  But, he said, we had to make what he assured us would be a brief stop at a friend’s birthday party.  That’s how we ended up at Cisa Studio.

The birthday boy is this kid Flex, one of the guys who runs Cisa Studio in Hammond Indiana.  I call him a kid because he’s full of youthful energy, but in fact this is the eve of his 40th Birthday.  The vibe is like a house party or maybe like the office Christmas party for a tattoo parlor.  Erik introduces us as we walk in the door, and everybody is so nice, welcoming us with warm handshakes and cold beer.  The bathroom is immaculately clean, and the main space is stylishly decorated, with mood lighting and music befitting the occasion.  We meet Flex, see some of his work (a portrait, in spraypaint on canvas, very realistically executed), and then he shows us the backyard.

This involves three layers:  first, downstairs to an indoor, basement-like space where people gather to smoke around a big plywood table covered in drawings and graffiti writing.  A massive digital printer sits against one wall.  Signs advertise various services:  fine art paintings, signs, and airbrushed images for your motorcycle helmet, gas tank, leather jackets, and cars.  There’s a motorcycle helmet with an absolutely flawless airbrushed rendering of the comic book character Venom on it:  more of Flex’s work.

From there we moved into the garage, where a classic car sat, grind marks showing bare metal through the primer:  a work in progress, speaking of infinite potential.  In the back corner, a motorcycle sported a Minigun-type cluster of barrels emerging from its exhaust pipes.  I don’t know, but I imagine that they spin and belch fire when the motorcycle is running.  I sat there, spinning the barrels by hand, entranced.

Airbrushed motorcycle gas tank by Cisa Studio.

The backyard itself hosted a bench that had been airbrushed by some of Flex’s friends as part of a public art commission.  I looked around, and admired the facilities:  an absolutely gorgeous, spacious workspace.  What’s more, Flex told me, their rent is less than what Steph and I pay for our bedroom-and-a-half apartment in Ravenswood!  “This is why Indiana is the shit,” Flex explained.  It’s hard to argue with that.

We smoked cigarettes, talked to the Cisa crew, and drank more beer.  Then we were gathered, slowly and chaotically, into a rough herd, with the purpose of ambling down the alley to the studio’s exhibition space, a separate building a block down, to see Arte Muerte 2011, the 4th annual occurrence of this “Day Of The Dead” themed exhibition.  On the way I met the crew’s photographer, the most heavily-tattooed guy there, long-haired, with a rock-and-roll aesthetic that goes some way towards explaining his nickname, “Tommy Lee.”  To look at him you’d expect him to be biting the head off a bat or something, and turns out to be an incredibly sweet and super righteous dude.

Arte Muerte consisted of Day of the Dead altars and two-dimensional wall art, all encompassing themes of death, family, ancestry, tradition, ritual, and a Latino or Mexican cultural heritage.  The aesthetic of the work ranged from psychedelic and graffiti to Aztec and Maya glyphic writing, Catholic saints, and plenty of skulls.  What struck me most immediately about the show was that not a single thing in it felt ironic, exploitative, or appropriated:  there weren’t sculptures of altars, they weren’t about altars, they were genuine and sincere embodiments of this tradition.

After checking out the exhibition we made our way back to the studios where some of the guys were breakdancing, and we all did tequila shots in celebration of Flex’s birthday.  The Cisa studio crew talked to be about growing up together, and about how they hung out with Keith Haring when he was in Chicago.  They showed me a picture of them all, years ago, hanging out with Haring.  Erik mentioned working at Genesis Art Supply back in the day, and I asked him if he’d known Wesley Willis.  They guys all started telling stories about hanging out with him back in the day, of setting him up in the store to sit there and draw.  One of the guys proudly told me that Wesley had given him a drawing, which he still had.  Another had Willis’ old Casio keyboard from when he was growing up.

Invitation card for Erik DeBat's exhibition, "Risk & Reward."

Many hours, many stories, and many beers later, we were all feeling pretty ready to head out.  Another couple was catching a ride with us as well.  Erik DeBat, our ride, had made sure to moderate his consumption and was quite sober and fit to drive.  The rest of us were all pretty sauced, but I was still pretty lucid, and due to my long-leggedness our fellow passengers had afforded me the front seat, so I had much opportunity for conversation with Erik.  We talked about his work, and he gave me a copy of the catalog from a recent exhibition he’d had:  Risk & Reward, at The Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, in August of 2011.  I open it up, and I see this painting of The Hulk, and something looks familiar about it.  The catalog essay is by Tony Fitzpatrick and it all falls into place:  I’ve seen Erik’s work, and probably Erik himself, at Tony Fitzpatrick’s place.  He gave me a card for an upcoming exhibition (Recursion, at 2612 Space) featuring Erik’s work as well as James Jankowiak, Mario Gonzalez Jr., Victor Lopez, and William Weyna.  I wasn’t able to make it to that one, but he also told me that he’s got a show coming up at Firecat Projects, in May 2012.  I generally make it to all of the openings at Firecat, but I’m looking forward to this one in particular.

Jeriah Hildwine is an artist, educator, and art writer for ArtPulse, Art Talk Chicago and Chicago Art Magazine.  Jeriah lives and works in Chicago, with his wife Stephanie Burke.




There is Good News (Dan Gunn) and Bad News (Jim Kempner)

September 2, 2011 · Print This Article

First the “Good News:”

You might not know this, but for the last 6 months the Bad at Sports has been doing a once a month art “gabfest” for the Art 21 blog. One of the folks we do that “gabfest” with is a former guest of the show, Dan Gunn, and he has a 12 x 12 exhibition that will open to the public tomorrow. We can’t wait to see it and I am sure you feel the same.

The “Bad News.”

I got an inexplicable e-mail this week from Jim Kempner, all it said was “Gallery Closed.” Now this might not strike many of you Midwesterner’s as important or relevant news (what is one more closed New York space) but that is where you, my friend, are wrong.  The reason is that Jim Kempner is also the purveyor of “The Madness of Art.” Which began with this episode of raw genius and the Chicago legend Tony Fitzpatrick. We can only wonder if there will be more of “the madness” to come.

 

UPDATE: Seems like the gallery is still out there killing it big style. Also the Madness’s third season just dropped.  Check it out at… http://themadnessofart.com/category/season-3/

 

TONY from The Madness of Art on Vimeo.




Episode 304: The Kadist Art Foundation/ Lauren Levato

June 27, 2011 · Print This Article

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This week: Double header! First Brian and Patricia talk to the fine folks at the Kadist Art Foundation in San Francisco. Next Christopher Hudgens and Richard talk to Artist Lauren Levato about her new show at Firecat Projects “Lantern Fly Sex Cure”.




Rant of the Week: Tony Fitzpatrick on Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and Arizona

January 17, 2011 · Print This Article

Tony Fitzpatrick. Star for Tucson, 2011.

Any of you who follow what I post on this blog should know by now of my deep and abiding love for rants. Let’s capitalize that term, because it deserves it: Rants. In my book, Rants comprise a sorely neglected literary genre in and of themselves. I like to collect them, and when I find a Rant (almost always via the Internet) that is intelligently argued and extremely well-written, I literally bounce up and down on my chair with glee.

I wish my “Rant of the Week” column truly could be a weekly thing, but alas, I rarely find Rants that are good enough to link to. My #1 requirement? That the Rant be skillfully executed and generally well-written.  It should feel like a real essay, not like a nasty blog comment dashed off in the heat of the moment. #2 requirement? Laugh-out-loud funny. #3? That it powerfully express the writer’s righteous anger, even if I don’t fully agree with the writer’s take on that particular subject.

In my view, Tony Fitzpatrick’s latest column on Artnet meets all three of my “Good Rant” requirements. Mind you, there’s a fair amount in there that I don’t personally agree with — but that’s not the point here. This is a Rant — it’s supposed to be extreme, rhetorically-speaking, and in this case it’s written in response to a vicious, violent attack that was more extreme in its effects than words could ever be. There are certain aspects of Mr. Fitzpatrick’s prose that make me shudder and shake my head, but there are other parts that are undeniably rousing. It’s like, Yeah baby!! Someone actually said the things that everyone else is afraid to say, and they said it loud and proud! It’s that aspect of the Rant, that break-the beer-bottle-against-the-table-and-go-for-broke-type of rhetoric, that draws me to them again and again.

The irony is not lost on me that the Right has its infamous Ranters too, and that it is their brand of heated rhetoric that some claim is at the root of the Arizona shooter’s attack. But I am still unwilling to forgo the Rant altogether in favor of more even-handed, muted, controlled and “correct” types of argument. I think Rants have a place in political discourse, hell–in any form of discourse. And I don’t want to give up on them.

Obviously, not every political statement should take the form of a Rant. But Tony Fitzpatrick is an artist who is well-known for speaking his mind, and he is in classic form here. Take a look at the brief excerpt below, then click on over to Artnet,  read Fitzpatrick’s piece in full, and decide for yourself. Or just enjoy it for the great example of good old-fashioned Rant literature that it is.

“There was a time when I regarded the Tea Party as noisy, but mostly harmless geeks — with their Triangle Hats and Jefferson quotes, they reminded me of the same dopes who were in the Civil Defense League when I was a kid. A crowd of Dolts and Dumb-bells who were mostly in it for the hats, the walkie-talkies, and the opportunity to hold forth like the assholes they watch on TV. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and other lesser McCarthyites who’d like to tell the rest of us how to be Americans and have cast themselves as victims since Barack Obama was elected. You know the types — they forswear big Gub’mint, until their particular industry goes tits-up and they need a bail-out — they hold the Constitution sacrosanct, but gave not a fuck when the Bush administration shreds Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights in the name of Homeland Security. Where were all the Triangular Hats back then?

When John McCain picked Sarah Palin for his running mate, a little over two years ago, I thought it was his way of giving up. If you look at the tape of the end sputter of the McCain campaign — one could tell this was a guy who really didn’t want the job — He was always a temperamental fuck — a guy who honestly resented being asked questions — any question — he was clearly a man far more used to giving orders than having to explain himself or his position. You see, John McCain, for all of his years as a political animal, thought he was running for CEO of the United States. He cultivated the skills of an executive and not those of a President. You can’t fire Congress. At the end of his campaign, one could tell he was relieved to have lost.

Palin, if you believe all of the subsequent reportage, was a disastrous candidate, unable to stay on message, full of platitudes and an appalling lack of depth when it came to issues of a global nature. Her home-spun, golly-gee, small-town Dip-Shit act played with the Republican base — the culturally conservative South loved Caribou Barbie. Never mind the howls of protest from her own state colleagues, claiming she wanted to remove books from public libraries she found objectionable. Sarah Palin was able to take a threadbare ideology and stretch out its shelf-life. She parlayed her Gidget goes to Alaska shtick into a now-canceled TV show, in which she takes almost surreal delight in blowing the brains out of Alaska’s native wildlife. It is odd to see a public official that turned-on by firearms.” Read more.




Top 5 Weekend Picks! (11/19 & 11/20)

November 18, 2010 · Print This Article

1. The Night Parade at FireCat Projects -

Inaugural exhibition at FireCat Projects (formerly Fitzpatrick’s working studio), featuring new works by Tony Fitzpatrick.

FireCat Projects is located at 2124 N. Damen Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.

2. Time Switch at Kasia Kay Gallery -

Photographs by David A. Parker.

Kasia Kay Gallery is located at 215 N. Aberdeen St. Reception is Friday from 6-8pm

3. Deb Sokolow at Western Exhibitions

A solo exhibition of new works by the artist.

Western Exhibitions is located at 119 N. Peoria St. Reception is Friday from 5-8pm.

4. Access at Pentagon Gallery

Work by Hiba Ali, Natalie Brilmeyer, Woori Cho, Meg Dancy, Justus Harris, Walter Latimer, Kira Mardikes, Tilly Pelczar, Marie Socha and Vincent Uribe.

Note the new location: Pentagon is now located at 2655 W Homer St. Reception is Friday from 7-11pm.

5. Goodbye Turquoise at LVL3

Work by Samantha Bittman, James Cooper, Racer Levan, Montgomery Perry Smith and Leslie Supnet.

LVL3 is located at 1452 N Milwaukee Ave, 3. Reception is Saturday from 6-10pm.