Work by Meryl Bennett and Matt Taber, Britton Black, Anita Brathwaite, Guerrilla Smiles, Jane Georges, John Kurtz, Julia Haw, Marc Hauser, Deborah Lader, Jean Loup Sieff, Grace Molek, Harvey Moon, On The Real Film, Rabbits, Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Bill Sosin, and Xiao Tse.
HAUSER Gallery is located at 230 W. Superior St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Curated by Zach Dodson, Dan Gleason, and Caroline Picard, with work Jesse Ball, Irina Botea, EC Brown, Lilli Carré, Ezra Claytan Daniels, Edie Fake, Heather Mekkelson, B. Ingrid Olson, Frank Pollard, Aay Preston-Myint, Deb Sokolow, Bill Talsma, and Viktor Van Bramer.
Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Reception Sunday, 2-5pm.
Work by Justin Bendell, Terence Hannum, Thad Kellstadt, David More, and Bert Stabler.
The Franklin is located at 3522 W. Franklin Blvd. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.
Work by Kiam Junio, Chelsey Sprengeler, Natalia Nicholson, Joshua Roginsky and Collin Pressler.
Anatomy/Gift/Association is located at 1619 W. 16th St. Reception Saturday, 7-9pm.
Work by Lilli Carre and Alexander Stewart.
Roots and Culture is located at 1034 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Mark Aguhar, Claire Arctander, Nina Barnett, Jeremy Bolen, Elijah Burgher, Edie Fake, Pamela Fraser, Tiffany Funk, R. E. H. Gordon, Steve Hnilicka, Kasia Houlihan, Mark Kent, Young Joon Kwak, Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Marianna Milhorat, Tim Nickodemus, Aay Preston-Myint, Juana Peralta, Macon Reed, Colin Self, Michael Sirianni, Nathan Thomas, Neal Vandenbergh, Xina Xurner and Isaac Fosl-Van Wyke, Allison Yasukawa, Gwendolyn Zabicki, and Latham Zearfoss.
Gallery 400 is located at 400 S. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Curated by Shannon Stratton, with work by Laura Davis, Carson Fisk-Vittori and Julia Klein.
Threewalls is located at 119 N. Peoria St. #2C. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Mike Kloss and Kirsten Stoltmann.
New Capital is located at 3114 W. Carroll St. Reception Saturday, 7-10pm.
Work by Juyeon Kim.
Prak Sis Gallery is located at 1917 W. Irving Park Rd. Reception Saturday, 5-8pm.
Work by Brandon Anschultz, Daniel Baird, Benjamin Funke, Sarah Mosk, Eileen Mueller, Aay Preston-Myint, and Min Song.
Andrew Rafacz Gallery is located at 835 W. Washington Blvd. Reception Saturday, 4-7pm.
Work by Samantha Bittman, Todd Chilton, Steven Husby, and Melissa Oresky.
65GRAND is located at 1369 W Grand Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.
Work by Aay Preston-Myint.
Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space is located at 1254 N Noble St. Reception is Saturday from 6-10pm.
Work by work by Corydon Cowansage, Aaron Delehanty, Brent Houston, Charles MaHaffee, MaryKate Maher, and Ryan Richey.
Hinge Gallery is located at 1955 W Chicago Ave. Reception is Saturday from 6-9pm.
Work by Susan Giles, Jeroen Nelemans, and David Salkin.
The Mission Projects is located at 1431 W Chicago Ave. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.
Work by Laura Mackin.
Threewalls is located at 119 N Peoria St. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.
The first time I met Aay, he was was giving a presentation at Version Fest in 2007. Aay, Ilana Percher and Rebecca Grady had just returned from Art Shanty Projects on Medicine Lake, where they installed a soft shanty/sculpture called The Soft Shop. They reinstalled this portable, cloth shanty in the Version’s basement, (where all the other art booths stood) and talked about their residency, hosting some of the same fiber workshops they had hosted in its original location in Minnesota. Since that first encounter I have benefited from Aay’s collaborative work in multiple ways. I have been to Chances to dance-dance-dance, a short story of mine was published in an on-line magazine he organizes called Monsters & Dust. I went to No Coast and convinced Aay to make some covers for the Green Lantern Press. I point this out because his work has impacted a wide audience of which I am a part. He creates public, collaborative platforms while producing a concise, independent body of work. Despite having appreciated his work for so long, I have never taken the opportunity to ask him about how these projects relate to one another, and even how he thinks about his own practice. To me, this interview is suited to the beginning of summer. It’s hot outside, the Critical Fierceness Grant is open again (until June 30th) for grant proposals, many artists and faculty alike are facing a new open schedule, and it’s good to remember the alchemical mixture in aesthetics, politics, the body and imagination.
Caroline Picard: You’ve been in Chicago for a number of years and have continued to work with different organizations—I was thinking as far back as Diamonds/Texas Ballroom for instance, No Coast of course and many others—I was wondering if you could talk about your participation in those different organizations; how your role has varied? Do you feel like your participation in different communal structures has impacted your visual work?
Aay Preston-Myint: Well, Diamonds and Texas were two iterations/sections of the same artists collective in warehouse space in Bridgeport, back in the day. We all did our share of programming and running events, mostly art shows and music, and let’s not forget parties. No Coast was a similar collective/consensus structure but centered around the concept and physical space of a bookstore, shared studio space, in addition to an open community workshop. When I look at these and other organizations I’ve been involved with (the online curatorial project Monsters and Dust, the experimental cultural center Mess Hall, and the microgrant/queer dance party called Chances), the difference is not so much in work or ‘roles,’ but the content of each project itself. These are ventures that have all been run by consensus to serve a specific audience or community. As such, roles can shift depending on interest, ability, and the needs of our contingents. I think the impact on my own work has been that I have a desire to engage, entertain, and encourage dialogue through my practice. I enjoy using color, a richness in materials, humor, mystery/seduction, and participation to engage the viewer. Creating a gravitational pull, drawing people into an active space — that’s what all the organizations I work with have done.
CP: Do you categorize different aspects of your art practice?
APM: In a way those divisions (solo work, collaborations, and design/commissions) are often a matter of convenience — an easy way of categorizing, but the nature of the work is different too. I think my solo work has more of a clear narrative, using conceptual, material, and stylistic threads that weave in and out of the work. Collaborations of course deal with similar concepts and interests. However that work tends to take on forms, processes, or issues that I don’t always deal with on my own because of the influence of my partners — each collaboration tends to stand apart. The design work, while perhaps more aesthetically my own, is a whole other beast, often because it’s not used in an art context, and also because the content is decided by the client and maybe even pushed to the background. I think each category exhibits a different kind of development over time, and it can be interesting to compare how they are disparate but also influence one another. From the subject matter of my solo work, to the clients I choose to design for: there are connections that become apparent when you zoom out.
CP: Will you talk a little bit about your relationship to materials?
APM: Responding to materials have always been a key part of my work. For a while when I drew it was almost like I had an issue with attention span; I needed something to respond or anchor myself to, a fabric, wallpaper, a photograph — I disliked drawing on a blank surfaces. Now it’s more about responding to the social, historical, or affective associations with an object or material — rope, a flag, hair, light, even scent. I think in a body of work like mine — which is so about embodiment — the choice of materials is really key when interpreting form.
CP: I’m also really curious about your Hybrid Moments Project—can you talk about that a little?
APM: Hmm, yes — as you can tell from the text banner series that I made a couple years ago, I like to use pop songs as titles and content sometimes. After I made the first series of screen prints, Hybrid Moments seemed to be the right phrase to contain my work at the time — I think of the title more as a container than the name of a single “project.” I think it still works for the prints and maybe some of the discrete/smaller sculptures, but not so much for the larger sculptures anymore. But in general, it’s the body of work I’m engaged with now. The works make propositions of what mutating, unpredictable forms that community, identity, and the environment—both built and natural — may take on in an unspecified future moment — all through the lens of a critical queerness.
CP: Do you have a static, projected future point that your work is speaking to? Or does that future-vision shift, depending on what your working on?
APM: The future I depict is definitely mutable and unpredictable, that’s kind of the crux of my whole viewpoint. I think part of the criticality of my work is that our projections of the future never match up to what we imagine — I use mutation as a metaphor or allegory for that unpredictability. As soon as one struggle is overcome, new power relations form in place of old ones. Often abuses and rivalries emerge instead of coalitions. The future I imagine is always out of reach.
CP: It makes me want to ask the same question about your lens. Is your lens of critical queerness also static? Do you apply that lens to the present as well? Or is it solely intended as a future-looking tool?
APM: Going off my last answer, the lens definitely applies to the present. Our current struggles are direct results of what we desire or imagine our future to be. I think the It Gets Worse series points to those connections/disconnections. Is marriage a queer issue? Or are supermax prisons and police states a queer issue? Both? Is one more urgent than the other? Why? The national discourse is really far behind with regard to what’s actually being said, thought, and done in queer communities across class, race, and trans/gender lines. How can we make the definition of queer issues — and following that, queer identity — more fluid and open in order to more successfully meet the challenges of the future?
CP: And your SMILE series too—that struck me, partly, because of the element of performance required. I was thinking about it because in Hybrid Moments you seem to be interested in gestures and the significance of those gestures, but then in that instance (am I right?) the resulting work is divorced from living people….
APM: That’s a great question because I think over time those two projects have influenced each other in ways I hadn’t anticipated and, at least in my mind, they aren’t differentiated anymore. The first iteration of SMILE was, I think, the first iteration of my continuing and relatively “mature” body of work. However at that time it was still lacking a specific goal or agenda in terms of content, despite having established the visual style and material concerns. I started Hybrid Moments soon after this, and through those works I began to lock down the kinds of gestures, characters, and ideas I am interested in. Queerness, futurity, power relations, color theory/theories, toxicity and mutation to name a few. So when I did SMILE a second time (at SFCamerawork in September 2010), it became folded into what had become my practice. Some objects that were previously presented as sculptures became props for SMILE — because all these works now inhabited the same world. I was delighted to see some of the situations in my drawings accidentally re-enacted in performance, and in turn, I’ve used the gestures and actions performed in SMILE to create new drawings (e.g. “Totem Ascending”, which was included in this year’s threewalls CSA). The SMILE performances have also helped me to rethink the concepts of figure, site, and the object/viewer relationship in my sculptural work.
CP: Can you talk more about how you experienced your practice coalescing? It’s interesting to me, because it sounds so evident to your process — like the way you differentiate a “mature” body of work and then that you talk about figuring out your material/styalistic concerns before realizing the ideas you were honing in on…like, how did you discover queerness, futurity, power relations, color theory/theories, toxicity and mutation as a central series of threads?
APM: For me, this happens in two ways. I think the first was the development of a certain intuition, in conjunction with a recognizable imprint or style. When I work, I start with a specific idea, and I gather the materials I need to make the object real, but at a certain point in the execution it seems almost like alchemy, like spinning a solid substance out of air. The work begins to outpace my thought, which is a good thing. After a while, you make enough things and you can kind of sit back and look at what makes them all tick. Almost everything I was making had some connection with the body or a body-to-be (figure-based drawings, costumes, stages/arenas), and it made sense to go from there. Futurity and mutation — bodies as agents of change, and subject to change. Power relations —‚ how our physical bodies place us in a hierarchy arranged around gender, color, etc. Queerness — an embodiment of difference or otherness. There comes this juncture, this arrival, where you are able to say, this is it, this is what I’m talking about.
The second part has to do with the research elements of my practice — looking, reading, writing. As I was working on my written thesis I was isolating these core concepts (embodiment, utopia, queerness, etc). The commonalities between the different works I make, and the works of others that I am influenced by. I started making lists, thought maps, and diagrams which would explode these concepts and then bring them back together in different configurations. With the encouragement of friends and teachers, these sketches and diagrams eventually became works in their own right.
CP: Do you draw a connection between power relations and color theory? Like how certain colors will dominate others; there is an inborn, albeit relative hierarchy. Is your list of conceptual concerns similarly linked? Or do you see that list as a body of distinct, non-relating concepts?
APM: Oh yes, there is definitely a connection. However, in my research I don’t talk so much about the optical domination of one color over the other, as much as looking at the social constructs and hierarchies around color. I’m interested in how colors carry associations with certain emotions, objects, situations, and even social and political movements and attitudes. I’ve been especially invested in mixed colors, day-glo colors, and pastel colors — my written thesis was titled “Who’s Afraid of Pink, Purple and Brown?” in contrast to Barnett Newman’s “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?” I’ve done an artist talk solely on the color pink. It’s a pretty amazing color, not enough people take it seriously. Transgression, difference, queerness, sex, repulsion, obsession, fantasy….it’s all there in that one color.
APM: I think that grad school has been really invaluable to my process….until now I’ve never been able to totally commit myself to developing an artistic stance or worldview, and turn that into a cohesive body of work over time. I can really reflect on how one piece relates to the next, and engage in intense and productive critique from myself and others at a level previously unreached. As hinted at above, I’ve also been able to take advantage of scale and material in a way I hadn’t had the time or financial backing to do before. I’ve been really fortunate to attend a program (UIC) that fosters community, improvisation, self-critique, and collaboration, due to its size, and in particular, the awesomeness and warmth of my cohort. In that way, it really hasn’t been too much different than my DIY experiences. I think my class in particular has truly been like family.
CP: What are you working on right now?
APM: Interesting that you say that — well, the fact is, I’ve just graduated and am looking forward to a lot of travel this summer, and not really sure what kind of work awaits in the fall (residency? teaching? design? working at a bar? these are all options). This means that for the time being, I’m not going to have the large scale modes of production, storage, and display available to me during graduate school — so I unfortunately might have to put the brakes on the large sculptural work for now. It’s strange how time, place, and life situations can have as much, if not more, impact on the work you do as your own concept/process. That said, I’m focusing on prints, drawings and the web at the moment — things I can do at home and at my shared studio at Roxaboxen in Pilsen. Mostly developing the imagery in the Hybrid Moments prints and the It Gets Worse Series — my long-time No Coast collaborator Alex Valentine and I will be taking these and other print/book projects to the Tokyo Art Book fair in July. Also, I can finally put my nose to the grindstone on Monsters and Dust — which you yourself have also made an awesome contribution to. Our next issue is way overdue. But as soon as I get enough space I think I’d like to start working on a “living vomitorium” idea that has been at the back of my head for a while.
CP: How do you determine if a show with your work is successful?
APM: I guess there are a few ways. Of course people might just like the whole thing, which feels great, but I’m often excited when people respond to the work that I’ve had the most doubts about, or the piece that I almost didn’t include. It reminds me to continue thinking outside of myself and to trust other people’s input. If the work motivates people to ask challenging questions rather than just congratulate, that’s great too. I also think a work is successful when people ask funny questions or give things names – “Is that a gloryhole?” or “I like this hair donut,” or “This one is the great birth mother, right?” or “What’s that smell?”
You can see more of Aay’s work by visiting his website.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED FOR NEXT TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 8TH AT 7PM DUE TO THE IMPENDING BLIZZARD. NOW YOU CAN STAY HOME AND MAKE COCOA INSTEAD!
My second and last, lovingly delivered plug of the day is Chicago-centric: ThreeWalls is presenting the first session of an ongoing series called the @work SALON. Tomorrow night, Tuesday, February 1, at 7:00 pm, they’ll be discussing alternative curatorial practices with Anna Cerniglia (Johalla Projects), Nicholas Frank (Inova), Aay Preston Myint (No Coast) and Kelly Shindler (Art:21). This is an open discussion that depends on audience participation, so if you’re interested in things curatorial, brave the coming blizzard and get your asses in those folding chairs (or on the floor, if you don’t arrive early enough)! The topic, and the speakers, all sound really terrific. Here are all the details, below.
Tuesday, February 1, 7:00 pm
In the first session of the @work SALON series, we explore alternative models of curatorial practice.
In May 2010, e-flux editor Anton Vidokle published “Art Without Artists?” in which he described the dangers and demerits of the rising power of the Superstar Curator. The polemic essay elicited a flurry of equally polemic critical response from curators and artists, thus kindling the flames of a discontent with the increasingly independent role of the curator that have flickered since the 1970s.
In this SALON session, we respond to this discussion by proposing to move beyond it. Instead, we accept the premise of the creative curator, and ask: what are some boundaries-pushing, interdisciplinary curatorial models that fully embrace all the potential inherent in that role? How has the “educational turn” changed the stakes for independent and institutional curators? How are curators (aspiring or established) responding to, profiting from, or perhaps even ignoring, the academicization of their practice? And what are some thoughtful ways in which curatorial practice is responding to different institutional models, as well as reaching beyond the arts institution, to address activism and politics?
Invited guests Anna Cerniglia (Johalla Projects), Nicholas Frank (Inova), Aay Preston Myint (No Coast) and Kelly Shindler (Art:21) will help to lead a discussion that will address these questions and many more.
Anna Cerniglia is a curator, visual artist, and the director of Johalla Projects. She received her BFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2006. Over the past five years, she has worked throughout Chicago to convert unconventional spaces into alternative venues for exhibiting art. Cerniglia founded South Union Arts in 2005 and has since curated for ALLRiSE Gallery, Grolsch, Buchanan Art Project, Lakeview East Art Festival, and Johalla Projects. Outside of the United States, she has worked as an assistant curator as at Berliner-Liste and as a co-curator at La Porta Blu Gallery of Rome. Most recently, she has begun working with the aldermen of Wicker Park and Logan Square (Joe Moreno and Rey Colon, respectively) to foster and promote public displays of art.
Nicholas Frank is curator at the Institute of Visual Arts (Inova) and a co-founder of the Milwaukee International. He ran the Hermetic Gallery in Milwaukee from 1993-2001. His projects and work have been exhibited at the Tate Modern (London); Kölnischer Kunstverein (Cologne); Swiss Institute, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise’s Passerby and Small A Projects (New York); Angstrom Gallery (Los Angeles); Locust Projects (Miami); Hyde Park Art Center, SAIC Sullivan Galleries, and many others. His solo and collective activity have drawn attention from The New York Times, Art Forum, Art in America, Sculpture, ANP Magazine and New City. He has written on art and other subjects for New Art Examiner, Purple, X-tra, Sculpture and Artpapers. A current project is featured at the Poor Farm in Manawa, WI. Frank is represented by Western Exhibitions, and teaches at MIAD.
Aay Preston-Myint is an artist, printmaker, and educator who does collaborative programming with No Coast, Mess Hall, ACRE, and Chances Dances, and edits an online journal called Monsters and Dust. He has exhibited nationally in San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, and has contributed original writing as well as had multiple reviews of work in the Chicago Reader, New City, Proximity, and AREA. He is currently an MFA candidate in Studio Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Kelly Shindler is currently completing a dual Master’s in Art History, Theory, & Criticism and Arts Administration & Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2003, she has worked at Art:21, producer of the Peabody award-winning PBS documentary series, Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century, where she is presently Director of Special Projects and runs Art:21’s blog. She also works with SAIC’s experimental moving image series, Conversations at the Edge. As a curator, Kelly co-founded of the Package Deals film series, whose programs have screened in over thirty cities around the world. She has curated exhibitions and programs for the Australia Cinematheque, Oulu Music Video Festival in Finland, Scandinavia House in NYC, Sequences Festival in Reykjavik, and the Sullivan Galleries in Chicago, among others.