On view currently at Chicago’s Thomas Robertello Gallery are 15 pen, ink, and gouache drawings on paper by local artist, illustrator, and author of the Gaylord Phoenix volume of comics, Edie Fake. Titled ‘Memory Palaces,’ the exhibition is a stunning showcase of Fake’s exceptional, and exceptionally idiosyncratic, formal skills in composition, pattern-design, and color, as well as a moving meditation on loss. Specifically, Fake pays tribute to the passing of five friends, colleagues, activists, and artists (Mark Aguhar, Nick Djandji, Dara Greenwald, Flo McGarrell, and Dylan Williams) in a series of drawings titled Gateway, and to ten real or imagined spaces of queer congregation no longer, or never, existent.
Put simply: depicted are places Fake, or the rest of us, may never go. They are hopeful spaces vividly imagined by those living in a contemporary urban environment largely ravaged and rid of countercultural nightlife by neoliberal vice and zoning laws, class-targeted antidrug policies, and corporate gentrification efforts throughout the late 20th century. As such, the collection of building facades Fake depicts – described as a neighborhood – can only be psychically located between utopian fantasy and interpretive research. Doing so foregrounds how the imagination and it’s shadow, desire, propels individual or collective searches for heritage, lineage, and belonging. What might be made possible for someone whose very personhood and politics teeters on the brink of unviability by the realization that, yes, La Mere Vipere (a burned down gay/punk venue in the now-gentrified Boystown), Killer Dyke (a radical lesbian periodical), and JANE (a clandestine feminist-led abortion service) did, indeed, exist here in the 1970s? Comprehension of these disappeared, criminalized spaces and services entails not simply an intellectual recognition, but something much more sensorial and perhaps even spiritual when translated through the prismatic hallucinations offered by Fake.
The flatness of the paper Fake has drawn upon is only a format, as his palette of offbeat hyper-colors and remarkable geometric drawing skills translates a deeper, pulsating dimensionality, like the embedded optic phenomena of a Magic Eye poster and a horror vacui painting. A handful of the places recreated here include dance venues, sex-clubs, and art spaces, all of which Fake has foregone a faithful architectural re-approximation of in favor of getting at something much more enigmatic – the mind-altering life practices they facilitated. Representing nightlife from psychedelia through disco and punk, up to rave, Fake renders his spaces with the fluorescent sensibilities and colors of escape developed via dance-floors and acid-trips. Neon hues that should clash, but somehow don’t, cohere in vibrant mosaic facades Fake has lent to 80s voguing-hub Club LaRay and former host of 70s gay anarchy nights The Snake Pit. Seeming inspired by the hypnotic, transportive potential of repetition and detail in geometric art, Fake’s designs are infused with a mystical content in the style of Islamic tile work or Huichol yarn and bead art.
The evocation of non-Western, nondenominational, and anti-representational spiritual aesthetics acquires political significance upon realization of for whom Fake has drawn a Gateway. Fake has imagined entryways into the hereafter markedly more colorful, robust, lavish, and peculiar than the pearly ivory luster of Judeo-Christian concepts of the afterlife. Those mourned are imagined as entering a kaleidoscopic, palatial elsewhere, rightly undoing inherited notions of heaven too tidy, too conservatively patriarchal, for housing the spirit of trans-queer-feminist artist of color Mark Aguhar, the anti-racist feminist dance parties of Dara Greenwald, or the critically outsider sensibilities of punk/metal-comic pioneer Dylan Williams.
It is here where Fake’s project best comes into full relief; it is only through the physical manifestation of improbable psychic longing that another world becomes possible, knowable, inhabitable. After hours, off the books, and after life; Fake honors such phenomena, and those residing there, with an informed, aspirational intensity apparent in the meticulous, strange, gorgeous labor of his drawing.
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.
Neil Brideau: I think over the past few generations comics have really come into their own. They’re being accepted more by the larger cultural world, and I think that helps cartoonists break out of their shells a little bit. Most of CAKE’s exhibitors are in their late twenties and early thirties, and I feel like this generation is a lot more social than their immediate predecessors. There’s this stereotype of the alternative comics artist toiling away in their studio not getting any financial or critical compensation for what they love, and feeling sorry for themselves. But I see our peers really celebrating their creative process and the creative process of others. Not that there aren’t a lot of nights spent alone in a room inking pages of comics very few people will read. I think Chicago too, in general is really welcoming of DIY and small-run creativity. Whether it’s the Night Market, or the CIMM Fest, or the Chicago Zine Fest, or Printers Ball, or house shows that DIYCHI is putting together, Chicago seems to be an incubator for lo-fi production and celebration of that production. I think cartoonists in Chicago react to that energy, and are more social and community-oriented animals.
Work by The Alliance of Pentaphilic Curators (Jason Dunda and Teena McClelland), John Arndt, Conrad Bakker, Dexter Sinister, Christa Donner, Kota Ezawa, Edie Fake, Eric Fleischauer, Stephen Lapthisophon, Jason Lazarus, Dani Leventhal, Aspen Mays, Mary Patten, Jenny Perlin, Public Collectors, Jason Salavon, Paul Lloyd Sargent, Cauleen Smith, Edra Soto, Stephanie Syjuco, Sergio Vega, and Philip von Zweck.
Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria St. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by Tom Burtonwood, Holly Holmes, and James Jankowiak.
SideCar, 411 Huehn St, Hammond, IN. Reception Saturday, 5-10pm.
Work by Larry Lee
Kirk’s Apartment, 3710 N Marshfield. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Liz McCarthy.
ACRE Projects, 1913 W 17th St. Reception Sunday, 4-8pm.
Reading by Mike Edison.
The Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis Ave, Cobb Hall Room 307. Reading begins at 2pm.