Like many other people, late last week I received an email from Chicago gallerist Rowley Kennerk announcing that he would be closing his gallery on December 20, 2010. In typical fashion for this gallery, the email was concise without being cold. The email provided few other details other than to say that there would be a closing exhibition lasting four days from December 15 – December 20th and to provide a link to this video:
I was personally saddened by this news. And not just for the typical, ‘another Chicago gallery bites the dust’ reasons (actually, I’ve found Chicago galleries to be rather hardy when it comes to their own longevity). Rowley’s gallery tended to feature the type of art that hits at my weak spots — I’ve always thought of it as a place for super-refined conceptual work that, in turn, made the viewer “work for it” — i.e. work for meaning in the absence of easy satisfaction. The whole space felt kind of withholding to me – the lack of information provided for each show being one example of this (though Rowley was always more than happy to talk me through any aspect of an artist’s work when I asked questions). I’m not sure Rowley himself would agree with my assessment of his program, mind you – that’s just my take. There was a certain unyielding quality to the way the gallery’s shows were presented – each exhibition demanded that you spend time with the work on view, and think and re-think that body repeatedly. Rowley did not show one-glance-and-you’ll get it art. For all of these reasons I have the utmost respect for him as a programmer and a gallerist, even if his shows did not provide me with the easy viewing pleasures that I sometimes crave. Especially because of this. I do not always feel like putting in the effort that art often requires, yet as last week’s Smithsonian debacle has shown, this type of laziness can can have deadening, deadly effects. Rowley’s shows invariably demanded the utmost of my intellectual and perceptual skills, and I quickly learned that it was never a smart idea to try and breeze through the space quickly. The works on Rowley’s walls required time to absorb. There isn’t another gallery quite like Rowley Kennerk in Chicago right now, and I know I’m not the only one who will really miss this space. I don’t know what Mr. Kennerk’s future plans are, but I hope they involve Chicago, and more tough-minded presentations of art that this exceptionally friendly gallerist has excelled at for the past several years.
Now, mark your calenders for Rowley Kennerk’s last show:
Gallery Hours During Exhibition:
Wednesday, Dec.15, 12-5pm
Friday, Dec. 17, 12-5pm
Saturday, Dec. 18, 12-5pm
Monday, Dec. 20, 12-5pm
File under: Huge Bummer. Via an email from Richard Holland titled “Another One Bites the Dust,” I just got word that as of March 11, 2011, David Weinberg Gallery will close its doors.
Farewell to this stellar contemporary art gallery, which has had a four-year run of top-notch programming. No word yet on why the space is closing (though one always assumes that the economic climate must be a major factor), or what the future holds for its talented staff.
The press release announcing the gallery’s forthcoming closure follows. Go out and show your love for this space by attending the opening for David Burdeny’s show (which looks frakkin’ amazing) this Friday evening!
As of March 1, 2011, the David Weinberg Gallery will cease operations as a contemporary art gallery and transition to a business office and showroom space focusing on the fine art photographic works of David Weinberg. Until that time the gallery will continue with its scheduled shows, including: a solo show featuring the photographic works of David Burdeny from September 10 – October 30, 2010; a concurrent group show featuring nine young artists from the 2010 MFA photography program at the Yale University School of Art; a show featuring the paintings of Jordan Eagles and the photographic works of Dylan Vitone from November 5 – December 30, 2010 in conjunction with the Chicago Humanities Festival; and finally, a group show featuring selected works from our acclaimed stable of artists from January 7 – February 26, 2011.
The past four years have offered opportunities to work with a talented group of artists, the reward of which is impossible to describe. We have been honored to host 30 exhibitions featuring five Guggenheim winners and two MacAurthur Fellows alongside our distinguished group of emerging artists from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. We have been privileged to collaborate with such prestigious institutions as the Field Museum, the School of the Art Institute, the Yale University School of Art, the Chicago Humanities Festival and Marwen, to name just a few. Each of our artists offered their unique creative efforts to help make the David Weinberg Gallery a trusted and honored destination within the contemporary art scene in Chicago.
The David Weinberg Gallery has also been a pioneering force for arts education with our unique approach towards free and regular educational programming within our gallery setting. Dedicated to serving as an exceptional learning environment for elementary through college level students, the Gallery has offered opportunities to allow and foster access and understanding of the larger arts community in Chicago. In addition, we have partnered with collegiate and community institutions, including many not-for-profits, to collaborate on programs that have included lectures, workshops, professional development, and collection management. The gallery will continue to offer free education programming until the transition occurs in 2011. In addition, David Weinberg will continue his commitment to education privately through his involvement with the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) and the Marwen Foundation.
We have been profoundly honored to share our passion with you and our local arts community. Thank you.
We hope you will join us this Friday for the opening of our 3rd to last show – David Burdeny.
The Chicago Tribune’s Sunday edition includes a lengthy article by Mark Caro and Lauren Viera on on how Chicago’s art galleries are weathering the recession. According to the Trib, many gallery owners in the River North area are reporting that business took a downturn last summer and has stayed that way so far. Yet a number have also seen enough positive economic activity of late to feel glimmers of hope about the future.
“Compared with New York, where The New York Times reported in June that more than 20 galleries had closed, Chicago’s leading art districts have remained relatively stable. River North, the most established gallery area, has seen some businesses move or otherwise constrict their operations, but the bulk are still standing. The West Loop has suffered a few closings, while empty storefronts dot Pilsen‘s developer-designed art district.”
The article notes that Chicago galleries are using various recessionary strategies to stay in business. David Leonardis offered a buy-one-get-one-free sale earlier this summer, while other galleries have also offered special discounts. Still others, like Zolla/Lieberman, are highlighting more modestly-priced works for collectors feeling gun-shy about spending a lot of money during financially anxious times. And in line with what’s happening nationally, dealers who specialize in high-end artists, like Richard Gray, have found the market to be as strong as its ever been for “really rare, really fine, highly exceptional works of art.”
The arts district in Pilsen has not fared nearly so well, with numerous ‘For Rent’ signs on storefronts. Also highly worrisome news: UIC’s non profit I space Gallery may be in trouble. Its private foundation support “dried up,” and director Mary Antonakos is quoted as saying she’s worried the space will close.
It should be noted that although the Trib’s article includes numerous interviews with Chicago dealers in various media and price-points, it’s noticeably thin on accounts from dealers outside the River North area (the piece does include a quote from Carrie Secrist, whose gallery is located in the West Loop, but none from her neighbors Tony Wight, Kavi Gupta, Monique Meloche or Rhona Hoffman–prominent Chicago dealers all).
In the end, however, a gallerist’s actions probably speak louder than his or her words. The fact that all of the above-mentioned dealers are planning strong new shows to inaugurate the new fall season suggests that everything remains on track, for now anyway. Chicago art dealers appear to be hanging in there–holding their breath, to be sure, but hanging in there. Read the Tribune’s full story here.
Minidutch director Lucia Fabio has always been particularly good at thinking through her gallery’s raison d’etre with every exhibition she presents. Each show at this Chicago-based alternative space not only offers a window into the thinking processes of the artists she features (minidutch tends to focus on works that are in-progress and/or in process, as in last month’s Dusty Bunnyfield vs. Molotovia Cottontail exhibition), but also explores different aspects of alternative exhibition making. As such, minidutch is something of a self-reflexive endeavor, one which provides open-ended exhibition opportunities for artists while at the same time bringing viewers’ focus back to the specific contexts in which that work is being considered. So it seems wholly fitting that Fabio’s current exhibition presents a miniaturized and highly condensed, through-the-rabbit-hole view of Chicago’s alternative gallery scene at the same time that that scene is undergoing a much larger-scale survey at the Hyde Park Art Center with the Britton Bertran and Allison Peters Quinn-curated Artists Run Chicago.
Last Saturday Fabio opened “Mini Fair,” which can be thought of as an eensy weensie, domestically-scaled counterpart to Artists Run Chicago. Fabio was joined by two other Chicago alternative galleries–The Swimming Pool Project Space and Floor Length and Tux (FLAT)–in creating miniature scale-model versions of their own spaces complete with diminutive artworks installed within.
What I find fascinating about the way the miniature is evoked here is how concisely these toy-sized spaces embody all of the qualities for which alternative galleries (in Chicago and elsewhere) are both praised and subtly derided: their smallness of scale; their scrappy, no budget, d.i.y. sensibility; their location within the space of the home and the domestic (and, by extension, ‘the feminine’).
I’m off to Hyde Park Art Center to see Artists Run Chicago. Below, a few images from “Mini Fair.” Look especially closely at the floor material in FLAT’s space — it’s kitty litter!