Somewhere In Time : Wool & McPhee at Corbett vs Dempsey

November 24, 2010 · Print This Article

There is nothing I enjoy more than the intersection of musical performance and visual work. At Sound on Sound, a Christopher Wool exhibit at Corbett vs. Dempsey, I watched Joe McPhee activate that intersection. As stated in the CvD press release, “the title of [Wool’s] show comes from a 1968 recording of [McPhee’s] that has never been issued,” a gesture that echoes in Wool’s wall-length abstractions which play with what is, is not and what was there. With those paintings as a backdrop, McPhee ‘s performance created a touchstone of literal, temporal experience–a positive reminder that history is not simply a spectral projection.

Wool’s larger abstracts pay homage to modernist painting just as they undermine that homage. The focus is on surface rather than paint. The paintings are flat and slick. The action of the paint appears to have taken place behind the surface–an implied, impossible-to-reach space. A space the viewer can never touch. These paintings ask you grasp for an idea–to strain through the mark-making, and parse their accumulated gestures. While the more obvious marks are high contrast–blocks of white paint that seem applied with a paint roller, or finer snaking black lines that seem straight from a can of spray paint–the meat of the work is behind those singular pronouncements. The meat of the work is the background wash, variant erasure-marks where singular phrases might have existed before. It is about what Wool erased–a project of deduction for any viewer bordering on a Rorschach print: while some of those deductions are accurate, any number of personal associations come into play, disguising the process. Looking at Wool’s work is like shadow boxing–what becomes a metaphor for his project of painting abstracts at all.

The contemporary abstract painter must account for The History of Painting. Wool seems to suggest, via these spectral works, that history is impossible to grasp, elusive in it’s Truth, unstable, even, as it is reliant on a present’s interpretation. History becomes more an image of one’s self than any real vision of what was. The viewer parses Wool’s process, (or the history of each specific painting) just as Wool is reflecting and parsing the history of painting. In either case the result is subjective and, even, maudlin. It will never be requited. There is no true history.

Larry Clark, by Christopher Wool

Images of Wool: The giant bare room with countless paintings lined up along the walls. The boxing bag hanging on the periphery of a studio shot. Photographs of broken-down cars. Artist in a El Paso tank top with a breathing mask and paint gun. Wool is a painter’s painter; in a frieze article his nose is discussed at length as an ideal, “A seriously tremendous nose, something a rock climber would gaze at in awe, especially if it were on the scale of Mount Rushmore. How would one begin to climb it?” All of these images, both self-created and perpetuated by others amount to a decidedly male tradition; it echoes of Pollack and yet, as one of many in a patriarchal succession: how to fill the shoes of a predecessor? How to achieve some recognition? Especially when the death of said predessor boasted a simultaneous “death of painting.” A death no one really believes in, but nevertheless enjoys to bat around. (An article I read years ago, I wish I could remember suggested that every ten years we exume the body of painting to see if, indeed it is dead, before reburying it). Wool is not asking if painting is dead or alive, instead he presents ghost-paintings: after-images created out of smoke. He admits the smoke-and-mirrors archetype, while nevertheless being married to its tradition.

Last Saturday, McPhee served as a kind of in-between orator, one who played directly with the Wool’s themes while creating a connection between Wools contemporary-image-of-the-past and the present moment. There was something grounding about McPhee’s presence–a positive gesture on this side of the paintings. McPhee is real. He is not a ghost. His relationship to history, while profound (he came on the scene in the 60s and 70s and boasts a significant reputation as one who integrated emotional content with experimental improvisation), is nevertheless active, contemporary, literal. At the same, his work with recording equipment–particularly this devise of “sound on sound”–speaks directly to Wool’s process, wherein an improvised (and emotional) recording of gesture is layered on top of other temporal gestures to create unpredictable layers.

McPhee stood between the work and the audience–a man of medium height. He wore a baseball cap and carried a soprano saxophone. The beak of his saxophone was dressed in a little furry hat–a fake animal head with two plastic yellow eyes. I liked imagining the saxophone, animated with this “hat” and McPhee in his basement, staring at the yellow eyes: no doubt they have a deep relationship. He carried the audience through a range of sounds, using the saxophone’s percussive potential with windy toots and bellows; sometimes it sounded like he was blowing through a large metal pipe.

photo by Angeline Evans

At the beginning of the performance, he called the thought of Houdini into the room, mentioning his name and encouraging the audience to close their eyes: he promised to make sounds about illusion and suggested a literal connection between himself and Wool. “We are both interested in illusions,” he said. He played the saxophone and, with my eyes closed, the notes seemed to come from various directions at once despite his standing in one place the whole time. In other instances, McPhee played two songs at once, blowing through the reed just as he hummed simultaneously; eliciting a crying underbelly-sound that followed the upper sax-melody. These discordant melodies struggled to overcome one another other; neither one strong enough to do so. Like Siamese twins sharing a heart, the melodies shared one finite breath. Then this too would break off into a new song with sometimes sharp and shrill passages of music, like a fast forward bird–McPhee activated my inner ear, so that I heard the notes occurring outside of me, while experiencing an interior wiping sensation/sound inside of your head. And suddenly I recognized a passage–he played God Bless The Child, with some trembling, discordant defiance, pleasing in it’s surprise. He took us on abstract tangents only to return in time to rescue any listener from doubt with the refrain. He then read a poem.

Joe McPhee at Corbett vs Dempsey video by Angeline Evans

I think it’s important to remember any abstract improvisation can illicit a insecurity–the viewer/audience can’t know where it is going. It’s a little like going on a hike as a kid and not knowing where you’ll end up, only that you’re supposed to follow and trust the adult ahead of you. Here again there is an image of the Elder, the person showing you the steps, the person you must trust. Whether it’s the history or experimental jazz, or the history of painting, we are walking down a familiar path, trying to contextualize ourselves to that history, to understand where the contemporary “I” fits in it and figure out what the next step is. Part of learning that history is falling in love with that history, just as one must recognize a life in the present, where that history is only a shade. Like Christopher Reeve’s character in Somewhere in Time (1980), one must, in the end, let go old ghosts.

Somewhere in Time




Top 5 Weekend Picks! (6/25 & 6/26)

June 24, 2010 · Print This Article

1. In A Plain Brown Wrapper at Johalla Projects

Not for kids. Literally, you have to be 18 or over to enter. Work by Steven Frost, Elisa Garza, Elise Goldstein, Emerson Granillo, Jesse Hites, Jacob King, Ivan Lozano, Joelle McTigue, Karina Natis, Clare O’Sadnick, Edward Rossa, Joshua Sampson, Talaya Schmid, Kristen Stokes, Jaroslaw Studencki, Bu Tu, Wayama Woo, and Meredith Zielke. Organized by Barbara DeGenevieve.

Johalla Projects is located at 1561 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday from 7-10pm

2. Ox-Bow Centennial Two-fer: Historical Works at Corbett vs. Dempsey and Contemporary Art at Roots and Culture.

Two exhibitions celebrating the Centennial festivities for the Ox-Bow Summer School of Art.

Corbett vs. Dempsey is located at 1120 N Ashland Ave. Reception Saturday from 5-9pm. Roots and Culture is located at 1034 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday from 6-9pm.

3. There, Now It Will Last Forever at The Family Room

Work by Stephen Eichhorn, James Ewert Jr, Ron Ewert, Mike Fortress, Jenny Kendler, Michael Ruggirello, Molly Schafer, Ben Speckmann, Davey Sommers, Scott Thomas and INDO.

The Family Room is located at 1821 W. Hubbard St., #202. Reception Friday from 7pm-12am.

4. Sangre, Sudor y Papeles: Artists examine the immigration issue at Antena

Work by Saul Aguirre, Adriana Baltazar, Miguel Cortez, Salvador Jiménez-Flores, Jaime Mendoza, Jenny Priego, and Elvia Rodriguez-Ochoa.

Antena is located at 1765 S Laflin St. Reception Friday from 6-10pm.

5. No Money No Pancakes at Second Bedroom

Something weird’ll be going on. BYOB but there’s free waffles.

Second Bedroom is located at 3216 S. Morgan St. Reception Saturday from 7-11pm.




Top 5 Weekend Picks! (6/18-6/19)

June 17, 2010 · Print This Article

This week I do have a full Top 5 for you, and this isn’t all there is out there worth seeing this weekend. Golden Gallery is opening a new show, as well as their annex. HungryMan is hosting a solo exhibit curated by Jason Lazaus. NoCoast and Perigrineprogram are both rocking out with new shows over in Pilsen. Revolution Tattoo looks like it’s hosting some fucked-up version of the Muppet show, and the grand ole’ ‘Tute is beginning a fantastic tribute show to Louis Sullivan. And to top it off, you can go see punk-folk at CvsD. And this isn’t even the Top 5 picks yet! It’s squaring up to be a good weekend. No sitting at home drinking beer, get off your ass and go see some art!

1. Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is…A LOVE STORY at Western Exhibitions

The second iteration of a joint show featuring the works of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Daniel Albrigo. Also opening that night at WesEx: The Power of Selection, part 2, curated by Ryan Travis Christian and featuring the work of Evan Gruzis, Denise Kupferschmidt, Keegan McHargue, and Dana Dart-McLean.

Western Exhibitions is located at 119 N. Peoria St., suite 2A. Reception is Friday from 5-8pm.

2. My Funhouse at Eastern Expansion

Oh ICP, you will never cease to inspire amazing things. My Funhouse, a series from Johanna Wawro and Andy Resekis, is a photo and video installation about the Juggalo Family.

Eastern Expansion is located at 244 W 31st St. Reception is Saturday from 7-11pm.

3. Remembering the Future at The Hills Esthetic Center

And I quote, “A conglomeration of new photographs, drawings, sculpture, moving image and sound by the founding members of ACRE, Chicago’s newest Artist Residency (that takes place in the great state of Wisconsin!).” Including the work of Caitlin Arnold, Olivia Ciummo, Scott Cowan, Kyle Cronan, Melissa Damasauskas, Rachel Ettling, Aron Gent, Henry James Glover, John Paul Glover, Emily Green, Brieanne Hauger, Katy Keefe, Jason Lazarus, Greg Stimac and Nicholas Wylie.

The Hills Esthetic Center is located at 128 N Campbell Ave, G. Reception is Friday from 8-11pm.

4. Passionate Holiness at La Llorona

And I quote, “The images depict influential, yet highly overlooked and occasionally controversial Christian figures who, had they lived in the present, might have been a source of inspiration to gays and lesbians.” Work by Robert Lentz, Lewis Williams, William Hart McNichols, and David Lee Csicsko.

La Llorona is located at 1474 W. Webster Ave. Reception is Friday from 6pm-1am.

5. New Directions in Collage “Contemporary Collage” at the NEIU Fine Arts Center Gallery

And I quote, “Contemporary collage inspired work by Juan Angel Chavez, Lydia Diemer, Stephen Eichhorn, Clark Ellithorpe, Chad Kouri, Alexis Mackenzie, Leslie Mutchler, and Neva Sills.”

NEIU Fine Arts Center Gallery is located at 5500 N St Louis Ave. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.




Top 5 Weekend Picks

February 18, 2010 · Print This Article

It’s that time again. This was another week full of many worthy options for viewing. I’ll be going to quite a bit more than just these five, but these looked particularly interesting:

1. You Can Lose Your Balance at 65 Grand

I’ve been a fan of 65Grand for quite a while. I am not terribly familiar with Scott Wolniak, but I took a trot over to his website, and it looked like interesting stuff.  Corbett vs Dempsey or Noble and Superior are both close by, so why not go for a two- or three-for-one? See ya’ll at the top of the stairs.

65Grand is located at 1378 W. Grand Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.

2. Sarah Best: Daily Photos at Antena

There are two shows opening at Antena this Friday, and this is actually the smaller of the two. The premise involves cell phone pictures, a medium that I still find dubious, but which I need to see more of, so as to fully form my opinion. The one image available is beautiful, as you can see.

Antena is located at 1765 S. Laflin St. Reception is Friday from 6-10pm.

3. UnCommon Territories at Heaven Gallery

A group show of (primarily) SAIC sculpture kids, including: Marissa Benedict, Christopher Bradley, Scott Carter, Lauren Carter, Younghwan Choi, Colleen Coleman, Allison Fall, Elise Goldstein, Katya Grokhovsky, Samantha Hill, Holly Holmes, Scott Jarrett, Selena Jones, Maya Mackrandilal, Lisa Nonken, Luis Palacios, Ben Stagl, Stephanie Victa, Andrew Norm Wilson. Come spend an evening in Heaven.

Heaven Gallery is located at 1550 N Milwaukee Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-11pm.

4. Duncan R. Anderson at Kasia Kay Gallery

The best exhibition I ever saw at Kasia’s place was Anderson’s previous exhibition. I’m super excited to see that he’s back, and I can’t wait to see what new craziness he has on display. This dude’s work is friggin’ awesome.

Kasia Kay Gallery is located at 1044 W. Fulton Market. Reception is Friday from 6-8pm.

5. Room-a-Loom at Swimming Pool Project Space

Come see the spectacular culmination of the Room-A-Loom! People have ween donating their blue weaveable material for almost a month now. It is time now to experience what a giant loom and a giant room can make together! It’s gonna be fort-tastic!

Swimming Pool Project Space is located at 2858 W Montrose Ave.Reception is Saturday from 6-10pm.




Top 5: 10/16-10/17

October 16, 2009 · Print This Article

Hey ya’ll. I’m back from my Kentucky adventures, and I’m going back out this weekend. I did manage to make it to Packer Schopf for 39 Verbs on Sunday, and glad I made it (even though I was still a bit muddy and got a touch of the culture shock). I’d never heard of Industry of the Ordinary (the organizers of 39 Verbs) but I’ll be keeping my eye on them in the future. This week I’ve got three relatively traditional (relatively being the operative word) venues, a 2-for-1, and a closing reception (get them while supplies last!). Without further ado, my 5 picks, in chronological/alphabetical order:

1. The Murmur of Pearls at Corbett vs. Dempsey

litherland_2009_thumb

Truthfully, I like this work because it reminds me of the work of a friend of mine, Justin Storms. Now, I know, no one ever wants to be compared to anyone else, because we’re all unique and individual snowflakes, but WTF? I like the work ‘cus I like Storm’s work. Being somewhat obsessed with The Unicorn Tapestries as a kid probably didn’t hurt. Paintings by Gina Litherland, the show opens Friday from 5-9pm.

Corbett vs. Dempsey is located at 1120 N. Ashland, 3rd fl.

2. Cline Ave & Front Porch Disasters and Other Open Secrets at Linda Warren

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I guess this is also a bit of a 2-for-1, though not the one I was referring to in the introduction. I’m generally a fan of Linda’s gallery, and this round is not exception. Cline Ave, a series of paintings by Emmett Kerrigan, may appear benign, but the industrial/living-space rendered a bit cartoonishly is strange, if not instantaneously depressing (in the best possible way). Wow, I’m good at run on sentences. In the back room, AKA the Project Room, Front Porch Disasters and Other Open Secrets, work by Lora Fosberg adorns the walls. The two shows are in one of the best dialogs I’ve seen in a while at Linda’s place, I look forward to seeing it all in person. Reception is Friday, from 6-9pm.

Linda Warren Gallery is located at 1052 W. Fulton Market St.

3. Public Spaces at Stephen Daiter

Barbara_Crane_Private_Views_3055_102

Stephen Daiter is a bit of a hidden gallery. Unlike Edelman, the other major photo gallery in River North, Daiter is hidden upstairs, past an elevator that is incredibly slow and smells a bit of burnt plastic. Dont’ let this deter you, however, because Dater is a place, especially if you’re into photography, that you need to get to. For this round at Datier, Private Views – Public Spaces, work by Barbara Crane is on display. Awkward Polaroids of 70s people? Why not? Crane does a variety of work, so this isn’t the most contemporary, but good none the less. Reception is Friday, from 5-8pm.

Stephen Daiter is located at 311 W. Superior St. #408

4. 2-for-1: ThreeWalls and Western Exhibitions

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Both these venues are having entertaining events on Friday, and since they are literally down the hall from each other, I figure, go to one, go to both. I’d start at Western Exhibitions, which is showing Superfreaks, work by Eric Lebofsky & A Wildness of Edges, work by Melissa Oresky. When you’re done gawking at that, head for ThreeWalls for New Knowledge, a trivia night that is going on as part of In Search of the Mundane, a collaboration with Randall Szott and InCUBATE. Weird-ass paintings and drunken trivia? How could such a thing ever be wrong?

ThreeWalls and Western Exhibitions are both located on the 2nd Floor of 119 N. Peoria St.

5. NOTICE – CLOSED at Heaven Gallery

NO PICTURE AVAILABLE! DON’T BLAME ME!

This is the closing reception I was talking about. Co-sponsored/co-produced by Heaven and Spudnik Press, the show features a bunch of work by Jeremy Lundquist, along side a group exhibition, A Unique Marquee, that was co-curated by Lundquist and Angee Lennard, the Director of Spudnik Press. Again with the run on sentences. A good nightcap if you ask me.Reception is Saturday from 6-9pm.

Heaven Gallery is located at 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd Fl.