December 21, 2015 · Print This Article
By Kevin Blake
The front tire wobbles as the weight of the planking jerks the fork of the bicycle from side to side. It will take rhythm to get anywhere. It will require a centering–a perfect distribution of the unbalanced load. The salvaged wood scrap stretches across the handlebars, bending under its own heft as it distances from the bicycle on both ends. There are bricks in the back basket–a milk crate strapped with rope to the frame. It rubs the back tire like an out-of-place brake pad…the every-other-rotation kind of rub. The tires have the pancaked look of low air where the rubber meets the road. Conditions are ripe for an array of potentials.
This is a moment in a story. It is not necessarily the beginning, the climax, or the end. It is a picture of a picture–the recollection of an unclear memory, that morphs into clairvoyance only as it is repeated and deployed situationally. It is the word made flesh, and the flesh made word. It is the construction of one’s identity from available material–material that is both tangible and ethereal.
As I walked through Kati Heck’s inaugural exhibition, “Ins Büro!” at Corbett vs Dempsey, I found myself thinking about my own life as a scavenger–hoarding all the potential I could carry. I was seeing similar moments described in Heck’s images–potentials picked out of the mundane, or the recently discarded, and harvested to distribute into complex riddles with seemingly endless possibility. On the canvases, I could see the dialogue between the painter and the thinker. Between the subject and the object. Between the story and the fragmented reality in which it exists.
These concurrent and perpetual dialogues in Heck’s work are best understood through their relationships with the paint itself. For example, in the faces of central figures, there appears to be a deeply personal connection–not just to the sitter–but also to the technical precision by which she chooses to treat the face. Where there are sections of amplified care–smaller brushwork, attention to detail, and range in palette–there also seems to be amplified metaphor, or keys to following the artist’s inner dialogue.
“Alles-Mehr,” which google translated for me as “everything-more,” exemplifies this notion. In “Alles-Mehr,” one can follow the hierarchy of paint distribution–from the face, down to the jar of pickles, to the fabric, to the wood of the chair, to the skin, and to the wall. To me, the smaller marks represent larger roles in the image’s story. The larger marks are painting maneuvers. Small is big. Big is small. All are equally important to its existence as a painting–or as an aesthetically considered object of contemplation.
Here, a man appears to be in a pickle–as they say–four fingers deep. This idiom becomes the bedrock of the painting and it places the character in an air of mischief with an assuming look of low-cunning. The disappearing arm holds the glowing decoy–the legerdemain of the common wizard. Admittedly, this is merely one possible thread in a heap of narrative grist, but my guess is as good as the next viewer, and it doesn’t matter much if anyone gets it “right.”
In the painting, “Der süssliche Erinnerungsmehrwert,” Heck introduces a sculptural element to the painting by sewing canvas to the bottom of the frame where it becomes an extension of the painted fabric–it literally flows off of the rectangle and spills onto the floor. This move is indicative of Heck’s unflinching intuition–uninterrupted by any hesitation from exterior pressures. She doesn’t make decisions based on how it will be received, (see the velvet frame around the bad girl, “Petit Pity,” in the corner of the show)she responds directly to the impulse. Directly to the vision. Anything that is susceptible to transformation, is transformed. There is no shelter for this nomad–and although her work pulsates with influences from the establishment, she cannot be pinned down. She emerges with a triumph, or at least the execution and invention of something that could not be made by anyone else.
In an interview for the exhibition catalog, Heck tells gallerists John Corbett and Jim Dempsey, that the title of the show, “Ins Büro,” means “go to the office” and for her, the office is the bed she keeps in her studio. It is a factory of dreams from which she extracts and deploys content, stamping them with her industrious logo before they leave the warehouse. In a fractal universe fragmented further by processes of the human mind, it is no wonder that Heck turns to her dreams as a means of deciphering any truth from the ether. The result may be a world without language. A visual world. A world seen and understood simultaneously.
The compulsion to realize this utopia is undeniable. It wants to be seen. It wants to be described. It is on the tip of your tongue too–the cusp of your visual field as you lay in the darkness and attempt to solve the world’s puzzles in the most quiet of spaces–the safest of landscapes–your dreams. However, it never quite satisfies. It never quite gives you the tools to see that place and how it works. It appears partial. As disconnected. As unimportant. It appears as meaningless potential–a moment frozen until it is thawed and put to work. Kati Heck in her Antwerp studio, attempts to bring that flight of fancy out of the castle in the sky and into her own reality. Whatever is constructed there–out of whatever material is available to revolutionize–may not be true, but for the maker, it is true enough.
If I were you, I’d go have a peak at her temporary office.
Corbett vs. Dempsey
1120 N. Ashland Avenue 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60622
December 11-January 26, 2016
and by appointment
Curated by Liz Nielsen and Carolina Wheat, with work by Aaron Johnson, Alyse Ronayne, Angelina Gualdoni, Annie Ewaskio, April Childers, Brian Andrew Whiteley, Christian Sampson, Clive Murphy, Jeremy Couillard, Justin Davis Anderson, Livia Corona Benjamin, Liz Nielsen, Mike Schreiber, Monica Lorraine Bernal, Stacie Johnson and Yevgenia S. Bara.
Zolla/Lieberman Gallery is located at 325 W. Huron St. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Curated by Sandy Guttman and Jeroen Nelemans, with work by Einat Amir, Guy Ben-Ner, Rashayla Marie Brown, Glen Fogel and Desirée Holman.
Aspect/Ratio is located at 119 N. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by Cauleen Smith.
Corbett vs. Dempsey is located at 1120 N. Ashland Ave. Reception Saturday, 6-8pm.
Work by Sofia Moreno.
The Learning Machine is located at 3145 S. Morgan St. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Work by Gregory Bae.
The Chicago Urban Art Society is located at 3636 S. Iron St. Reception is Friday, 6:30-9pm.
Curated by John Marks and David Petersen, with work by Luke Aleckson, Allen Brewer, Casey Deming, Kristina Estell, Katelyn Farstad, Isa Gagarin, Peter Happel Christian, Jess Hirsch, Jonathan Kaiser, Tynan Kerr, Andie Mazorol, Ben Moren, Michael Mott, Stefanie Motta, Scott Nedrelow, Natasha Pestich, Andy Sturdevant, and Pamela Valfer.
Chicago Artists Coalition is located at 217 N Carpenter St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Richard Artschwager, Sarah Canright, and Arturo Herrera.
Corbett vs. Dempsey is located at 1120 N. Ashland Ave. 3rd Fl. Reception Saturday, 3-6pm.
Work by Sam Hoolihan and John Marks.
Roman Susan is located at 1224 W. Loyola Ave. Screening Saturday, 10pm-12am.
Performance by Jessica Blinkhorn and Joseph Ravens.
DfbrL8r is located at 1136 N. Milwaukee Ave. Performance Friday, 8-10pm.
Curated by MK Meador, with work by Stacia Yeapanis and Jason Uriah White.
Design Cloud is locate at 118 N Peoria, Suite #2N. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
3rd Language Issue #4: Publication Launch & Group Exhibition, work by Amina Ross, Jory Drew, Ashley McClenon, Camille Laut, Emily Schulert, Hiba Ali, Ale-Ale, Jake Vogds, Joel Mercedes, Margaret Bo-Bo Dancy, Naqeeb Stevens, Oli Rodriguez, Olive Stefanski, Bow-ty, Sarp Kerem Yavuz, Stevie Hanley, and Tavia David.
Defibrillator is located at 1136 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Friday, 6-9pm. $10 suggested donation.
Work by Keiichi Tanaami.
Corbett vs. Dempsey is located at 1120 N. Ashland Ave. 3rd Fl. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by Lucie Fontaine, Brendan Fowler, Gaylen Gerber, and Autumn Ramsey.
Night Club is located at 2017 W. Moffat St. #1. Reception Friday, 7-9pm.
Work by John Wanzel.
D Gallery is located at 623 S. Wabash Ave. Rm. 717D. Reception Friday, 11:45am-12:45pm.
Work by Corinne Halbert.
Peanut Gallery is located at 1000 N. California Ave. Reception Sunday, 5-9pm.
editors note: We have updated the name of the show at Night Club.
September 24, 2013 · Print This Article
Guest Post by Britton Bertran
I was there in 2005 at the beginning of Bad at Sports (Episode 4!) and I hope Iâ€™m not there at the end. Â It was the year I opened my gallery, 40000. It was a good idea at the time. I was fed up with not seeing what I wanted to see and equally mesmerized by controlling my own destiny in a commercial sort of way. There were plenty of other interesting things happening and I figured â€“ why the hell not.
The years 2005 and 2006 were ok years for Chicago Art. It seemed to be an upswing couple of years when apartment galleries and art interest were peaking. (These things come in waves â€“ Iâ€™d put us in a upward motion now after reaching the bottom in 2011.) The MCA was showing interesting work (a Dan Flavin Retrospective, Deb Sokolow and William J. Oâ€™Brien had 12 x 12â€™s), blogs were percolating with critical activity (anyone remember panel-house.com or iconoduel.org?) and this new fandangled thing called a podcast had people sitting with their bulky desktops and REALLY listening.
I took a leap of art faith and quit my job, borrowed some money from my mom and with the help of a couple close friends including a now-deceased bartender from Phyllisâ€™, rocked out a storefront space on Winchester and Augusta. A year and a half later, some guy bought the building and wanted to turn it in to a really small Italian restaurant. I moved the gallery in the summer of 2006 to the bustling 119 N. Peoria building (soon to be home to only one gallery in 2014.)
Like-minded nice folks like Corbett vs. Dempsey, The Green Lantern, 65GRAND, Fraction Workspace, Western Exhibitions, Lisa Boyle Gallery, Duchess and a couple of more spaces, were all blazing fiery paths outside the West Loop in WestTown (does anyone even know where this is now?). We even organized, set up a network, handed out flyer/maps and coordinated openings. It worked for the most part. I think.
There was no social media except for Friendster and then that thing called Myspace. My digital camera had something like 3 megapixels and took incredibly shitty pictures. It took a solid hour to update my clunky website. It was rough out there in a walking up the hill backwards in a snowstorm kind of way. But it was great. Lots of visitors – mostly artists – came, drank and stole beer during openings, I sold art here and there, got a few reviews in national art magazines, was invited to fancy pants museum openings, met not-so-nice individuals who essentially run the art world, shook hands with some artist heroes and even did the occasional art fair in and outside Chicago.
But mostly, having this gallery gave me some pretty solid insight into how artists work, what they think about and what really matters the most to them career-wise. Surprisingly, and thankfully for me, it wasnâ€™t money. 40000 was definitely a failure in that regard and the main reason I closed in 2009. I was also unable, and did not want to, secure a sugar daddy/momma, which I slowly realized was the only way to sustainability. [A little secret â€“ there is less than a handful of galleries in Chicago that donâ€™t have one of these.]
I think itâ€™s pretty telling that almost half of the original West Town Gallery Network is still in effect.Â Corbett vs. Dempsey just got admitted to the Main Fair of Art Basel Miami Beach (a big damn deal). Western Exhibitions is still cranking out shows with aplomb and has incredible dedication to itâ€™s artists. 65GRAND (all caps no gaps, please) is run by one of the smartest and nicest gallerists in Chicago. Only one of these galleries is still in West Town â€“ though itâ€™s stretching it a bit. All of these spaces work so damn hard itâ€™s difficult for me to even comprehend how theyâ€™re possibly doing it. Most of us are still here in Chicago, I think. Whether or not we are running galleries, we are all getting old, raising families, have â€œrealâ€ jobs, etcetera. I hope you wonâ€™t forget us.
The artists I worked with are for the most part pretty successful in their careers. One or two I never hear from, a couple of others I never want to hear from. Nonetheless, it gives me great pleasure to know that I have a place in Chicago art history. Itâ€™s funny though, I seriously often wonder what would have happened if I had at least a 10 megapixel camera back then.
A little addendum here: I was often asked, â€œWhat the hell does 40000 mean?â€Â In fact a couple of months ago a collector emailed me out of the blue and straight up asked.Â So I told him.Â I named the gallery after Joe “40,000” Murphy. Â â€œ40,000â€ was a Chicago outsider artist and events usher in the 1950â€™s who either knew 40,000 famous people, or was renowned for saying â€œaboutâ€¦. 40,000 empty seats!â€ when asked how many people where coming to that dayâ€™s event.Â When people asked me, I made them guess. NobodyÂ got it right.
Britton Bertran ran 40000 from 2005 to 2008. He currently is an Instructor at SAIC in the Arts Administration and Policy department and the Educational Programs Manager at Urban Gateways. An occasional guest-curator, he has organized exhibitions for the Hyde Park Art Center, the Loyola Museum of Art and several galleries. You can find him trying to be less cranky about the art world on twitter @br_tton. Stay tuned for a couple more guest posts where Britton will be discussing his tumblr-famous tumblr â€œInstallatorâ€ and his take on whatâ€™s wrong with the Chicago art world circa 2013 – while thinking out loud about how to fix it.Â