This years edition of SAIC’s annual behemoth was as sprawling as ever. Each person’s account sounds like a completely different exhibition than others, but I think we can all agree that SAIC is “on trend.” If we covered every piece in the fair MFA show this column would never end. Within the leviathan there were a few clear winners, and who wants to hear about losers anyway?
If you missed Andrew Holmquist‘s video you need to return to go and start over. Immediately on your left as you walk into the Sullivan Galleries, Holmquist’s video is reminiscent of video work by Alex Hubbard, flattening the world of objects into the two-dimensional register of his paintings (and maybe a little bit of the reverse).
In a similar shorter video piece, Shining Shimmering Splendid, shown recently at LVL3, Holmquist can be seen positioning the objects in a pair of black high heels and a sheer aquamarine raincoat. In Painting Space and Time at the MFA show objects (mostly) appear to be propelled by an unseen force, leading me to imagine the Rube Goldberg contraption of Fischli and Weiss’s The Way Things Go in Technicolor. Despite the conjuring of a million references, the color, light and sound are distinctly Andrew’s own, bringing his painting practice into time and space in a imaginative and captivating way.
Naama Arad‘s Bahad 1 was another personal favorite. Made simply from perforated xerox prints and tape the work was more impactful than a robot or any number of gigantic fabricated tongues. The hanging shifted subtlety as the sun set downtown, and mingled effortlessly with the throngs of visitors to the exhibition.
The title of the piece, Bahad 1, takes it’s name from the training bases of the Israeli Defense Force, the first of which is a well known school for training officers (according to Wikipedia). Rather than a geometric abstraction, the large scale print is an image of the old synagogue at Bahad 1, designed by Zvi Hacker with Alfred and Naomi Nueman in the late 1960s. Who knew the Bauhaus was so prominent in IDF architecture? Is Arad’s lattice something more sinister? We hope this promising artist doesn’t leave Chicago too soon after graduation, we want to see more.
These works and a whole lot of other stuff is on view at the SAIC Sullivan Galleries until May 14th. The shows tumblr-ish website isn’t half bad this year either.
#Scene at the MFA Show & Not
Only Fools Go for the Art
Painting MFA Caleb Yono and friends making a scene at Sullivan.
The crowd through McKenzie Thompson’s installation.
Thompson (right) with SAIC Curatorial Fellow, Alda Tchochiev.
The Weatherman Report
For Chicago IL
Helen Frankenthaler, Vuillard’s Chariot, 2006, Lithograph in 7 colors on Rives BFK paper, 24 3/4 x 30 1/8″.
Chromatic Consortium Vibrant
Curator supplies colorful variation
The Franklin, the sukkah-looking gallery located in Garfield Park, is one of the most thoughtful and innovative exhibition spaces in all of Chicago (it’s also the coldest in the winter). The stylized outdoor exhibition space seems to effortlessly adapt to the demands of it’s exhibitions, ranging from solo shows to large group exhibitions featuring dinners, bonfires, black metal and, of course, Edra Soto’s signature pineapple upside down cake.
Work by Leslie Baum, Radames Juni, Easton Miller and Candace M. Briceño-Connolly.
Closeup of work by Leslie Baum.
Soto, who built the gallery in the back of her home with partner Dan Sullivan, does far more than just bake cakes. The gallery is clearly the result of her love for art and the joy she experiences sharing it with others. Chromatic Consortium, which closed this past Saturday, was a prime example of Soto’s broad range as a curator. Only Edra could (or would) pair paintings by her students at SAIC with work by artists in the Whitney Biennial and make it work.
Works by Ryan Richey, Lisa Alvarado and Iryne Roh.
As Soto toured me through the exhibition it became apparent that what really binds the show is her relationship to the artists and her genuine interest in their process and production. Each artist has some personal connection to Soto, or she admired their work so much she decided to contact them cold. Who could resist Edra’s big smile and warm heart? She discusses a portrait made by a second year student with the same reverence as any #WhiBi artist. The consideration for each work position relative to the small space makes the exhibition click without feeling overcrowded.
Work by Leonardo Kaplan, Maya Hayuk and Mara Baker.
If you missed this show then we’re sad for you, but all is not lost. For the Franklin’s next exhibition Soto is teaming up with the firebrand Sabina Ott (proprietor of her own experimental ourdoor space– Terrain) for SCAPE with work by Alison Ruttan, Alex Tam and Assaf Evron, Joe Jeffers and Ott. The exhibition opens this Saturday, May 3rd at 6pm. Praying for no rain, but as Edra pointed out to me, nothing can dampen The Franklin or the art inside.
Work by Meg Duguid, Bruce Conkle, Micki Tschur, Paul Mack, Mariano Chavez, Sarah Beth Woods, Marie Walz, Scott Wolniak, Sabina Ott & Michelle Wasson, Catie Olson, Andy Pizz, Eyeball Mansion, Nick Drnaso, Sarah Leitten, Andy Gabrysiak, Scott Anderson, Taylor Hokanson, Paul Somers, Edra Soto, Ryan Standfest, Bert Stabler, Matthew Novak, Kevin Budnik, Jeffrey Boguslawski, Ryan Travis, Christian Lars, Bra Jim Zimpel, Tom Torluemke, Tim Ripley, Eric Lebofsky, Andy Burkholder, Erik Lundquist, Krystal Difronzo, Marieke McClendon, Lyra Hill, Alyssa Herlocher, Joe Tallarico, Chris Cilla, Andy Gabrysiak, Chris Kerr, Keith Herzik, Kevin Budnik, Jason Robert Bell, Abe Lampert, Ryan Travis Christian, Jo Dery, David Alvarado, Ryan Standfest, EC Brown, Grant Reynolds, Max Morris, Otto Splotch and Anonymous.
Antena is located at 1755 S. Laflin St. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Grafting is a horticultural process that involves splicing one plant onto another to jump start growth. The root stock is the base, or anchor, of the operation used for its already mature, well developed root system. The scion is the plant matter that is grafted on; if the process is successful, you end up with a genetic duplication of the scion. Edra Sotoâ€™s current exhibition “Graft” is on view now at Terrain in Oak Park, a project space encompassing artist and principal Sabina Ottâ€™s front yard. Soto uses Ottâ€™s front porch as the root stock to graft her installation, comprised of patterned, bright white screened gates, onto, and although they mimic the aesthetic appeal Â of similar gates in her native Puerto Rico, they function quite differently in the terroir of Oak Park.Â Soto was kind enough to discuss this, along with her inspiration for the project and her own gallery and art collection with me below. “Graft’s” closing reception is this Sunday, April 21 from 1-4pm.
The artist Edra Soto with her piece GRAFT at Terrain, 2013
TLN: I know the patterning and the structure of the screen installed at Terrain is inspired by similar wrought iron fences in Puerto Rico, where you’re from. Can you tell me a little bit about your background, and what inspired you to utilize these fences in your work– was it their design? A certain nostalgia for Puerto Rico? The way they fit within Oak Park?
View from the porch, GRAFT at Terrain, 2013
ES: Yes, this patterning comes from iron fences that still exist in Puerto Rico. Many are in my parentâ€™s neighborhood (where I grew up). The neighborhood was built in the early 60s and in addition to the aesthetic appeal, the screens provided security and ventilation. Itâ€™s easy to find all kinds of information relevant to the problems related to criminality at that time. However, thereâ€™s not much information about the pattern designs of the fences. My interest in these patterns started around 7 years ago. I made some illustrations of them, but didnâ€™t develop the idea further. My frequent visits to Puerto Rico awoke my interest in them again. My husband started using some of these patterns in the furniture he builds and that definitely made me feel I was missing out. Somehow, his admiration of the fences validated my previous interest in them. The last time I went to Puerto Rico with my husband, we went on fieldtrips around my parentsâ€™ neighborhood and adjacent neighborhoods to take pictures of these fences. That was one of the most fun things we have done together. We truly love finding patterns we havenâ€™t seen before. After all that fun activity, the idea of transplanting a Puerto Rican fence in Oak Park came to me. Their beauty allures me but their potential of becoming modern art when taken out of their original context spooks me!
Edra Soto’s GRAFT at Terrain, 2013
TLN: You run a gallery space in your backyard, The Franklin, and Sabina Ott has dedicated her front yard to her exhibition space, Terrain. Do you think The Franklin and Terrain have a lot in common, or do they take two different approaches to a similar format? What are some challenges of having an outdoor exhibition space? Do you find that most of the works are made specifically for the exhibition space?
Alberto Aguilar and family entering Edra Sotoâ€™s GRAFT, 2013
ES: Iâ€™m so glad you ask this question because it hasnâ€™t been asked before. Just now, we have created evidence that documents one small part of the history of domestic artist-run gallery spaces in Chicago. I probably will have a conversation with Sabina soon, since I donâ€™t know the reasons why she chooses to do her projects in her front yard. From my end, I was offered an exhibition at Northeastern Illinois University last year and had almost a year to conceive the project. That time allowed me to partner with my husband on the project, have a lot of conversations about possible projects, and eventually, creating The Franklin became our project. I kept asking myself â€˜what can we offer to the art community that is not available to themâ€™? Having a significant art collection was another motivation, thinking ahead of time that it would be great to open our house during opening nights at The Franklin and extend the life of the artwork we own beyond our own personal enjoyment. The specific structure of the Franklin offers the challenges of interacting somewhat with its design. Being partially outdoors forces the artists to react to the space as well. So far, the most successful projects come from artists that have challenged themselves by creating specific interactions utilizing their work, their aesthetics and their ingenuity. It is a great challenge.
TLN: Because weâ€™ve worked together previously, I know a little bit about your amazing collection of art work and visual culture in your home, which itself is a kind of museum of objects and works that inspire and influence you. I know you said you would often trade works with other artists, or purchase pieces at auction to build your collection, but what made you want to start exhibiting work and start a gallery? Is it related at all to collecting? Seems like there might be a similarly social aspect of owning and displaying work, but it may also be a more private, archival impulse that motivates you.
ES: Collecting art comes from a very honest place. I just happen to love many different kinds of art and also happen to have a lot of talented friends that make it. I am fascinated by materiality and objects, but really avoid being a packrat. Collecting art makes us feel that we are doing something honorable. It is after all someoneâ€™s real connection to art language and represents a little bit of the person that made it. I wouldnâ€™t display my work at my house because I have always thought that it is a little bit tacky. Itâ€™s like putting a big portrait of myself in the middle of the room. Not that I donâ€™t have pictures of me (most of them with my husband) around the house. But I see those as memories reminders.
One of the reasons I felt motivated to open a gallery in our backyard was to give a â€˜second lifeâ€™ to our art collection. Having other artists work at your house, in such a private setting, kind of limits the initial purpose of that art piece. Indeed, every single time we have an opening, I encourage people to look around. Lots of work gets lots of compliments and I get to tell the visitors, and then the artists, how much people like their work. So The Franklin has 3 major components: The exhibitions at the space, the art collection, and an upside down pineapple cake that Iâ€™ve been making since 2009. Derived from my wedding cake, made by my mother, I started this project in an effort to transform sour memories around the original cake. Now itâ€™s one of our traditions at The Franklin. An installation of these cakes will be created for a collaborative project by Alberto Aguilar at the MCA during this summer.