Work by work by Anthony Lewellen, Beth Pearlman, Chris Silva, Doug Fogelson, Eric Mecum, Jourdon Gullett, Justus Roe, Kim Frieders Tibbetts, Lauren Feece, Liza Berkoff, Matthew Hoffman, Renee Robbins, Robert Stevenson, Ruben Aguirre, and Tom Torluemke
Believe Inn is located at 2043 N Winchester Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.
Work by Brian Hubble
Autumn Space is located at 1700 W Irving Park Rd. Reception is Saturday from 6-9pm.
Work by Edra Soto, Jon Bollo, Liz Nielsen, Erik Wenzel, Catie Olson, and EC Brown
Floor Length and Tux is located at 2332 W. Augusta #3. Reception is Saturday from 7-10pm.
Work by Stephen Collier
Manifest Exhibitions is located at 2950 N Allen Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.
Work by Bruce Nauman
Donald Young Gallery is located at 224 S. Michigan Ave., suite 266. Reception is Friday from 5-7pm.
Curated by Jessica Cochran and Mia Ruyter, with work by Joseph Grigely, Mark Booth, Alex Valentine, Karen Reimer, Jason Pickleman, Stephanie Brooks, Steven Miglio, Robert Ransick, Rachel Foster and Rebecca Foster.
What It Is is located at 1155 Lyman, Oak Park. Reception is Sunday from 3-8pm.
Work by Matt Austin, Justyna Badach, Jeremy Bolen, Dan Bradica, Troy Flinn, Lenny Gilmore, Wm. Bradley Johnson, Nate Mathews, Bill O’Donnell, TJ Proechel, Charlie Simokaitis and Shane Welch.
Catherine Edelman Gallery is located at 300 W. Superior St. Reception is Friday from 5-8pm.
Work by Marius Aleksa, Theresa Ganz, Sara Garth, David Giordano, Jacqueline Hendrickson, Samantha Jones, Stacee Kalmanovsky, Melanie Kassel, Jessie Mott, Jasmine Neal, Elle Opitz, Hannah Pae, Valentina Solano, Cassandra Troyan, Jan Verwoert, Erik Wenzel and May Yeung.
DOVA Temporary Gallery is located at 5228 S. Harper Ave. Reception is Friday from 5-7:30pm.
Work by Petra Cortright, Thomson Dryjanski, Derek Frech and Bob Myaing, Aaron Graham, and Mac Katter.
HungryMan Gallery is located at 2135 N Rockwell St. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.
Work by Roe Ethridge, Margarete Jakschik and Jonas Wood.
Shane Campbell Gallery (Chicago) is located at 673 N Milwaukee Ave. Reception is Saturday 6-8pm.
Work by Simon Ingram and Doug Melini.
The Suburban is located at 125 N. Harvey Ave. Reception is Sunday from 2-4pm.
Guest post by Thea Liberty Nichols
Email interview conducted with Steve Ruiz
Steve Ruiz is an artist and writer from Chicago. He is the Managing Editor of Chicago Art Review (.com) and has contributed to a number of publications including Jettison Quarterly, NewCity Magazine, and Proximity Magazine. Information on his artwork can be seen at steveruizart.com.
TLN: Can you start by telling us a little bit about Chicago Art Review? I’m especially interested (as a former participant) in the audio component you have on there, which, as far as I’m aware, is unique to your site as a listings format.
SR: I started Chicago Art Review in April 2009, right around the time I was graduating from college. The blog started as a joke (I’d told my former professor, Geoffrey Todd Smith, that I would write a gonzo review of his show) but I quickly realized the project’s potential as a way of engaging with the Chicago art community, which I was pretty unfamiliar with after spending five years studying elsewhere. Chicago Art Review became a reason to get out to shows, meet artists, and know about their work. My idea was to learn in a public way and I think people appreciated the effort, especially as I didn’t really know anything or anyone and was writing from the hip on first impressions.
TLN: On that note, since several of the folks you just mentioned also have blogs or websites of their own, or contribute to other publications online or in print, can you tell us a little bit about how you expanded your network to include them? And do you feel like more an editor (vs. a writer) because of it?
SR: I My approach to involving other writers with Chicago Art Review is pretty casual. I don’t have any regular contributors, but I try to involve other people when I think they have an interest in writing something that I’d like to read but wouldn’t otherwise have a place to read it. The loose format on the site allows me to publish writing that wouldn’t fit elsewhere for whatever reason, and sometimes the appeal of “do whatever you want” is enough to get contributors on board. But no, I don’t think I work hard enough to feel like a Managing Editor.
TLN: It sounds like Chicago Art Review takes a very experimental approach to things and is happy to evolve by recognizing what works best for it– knowing what you know now, do you ever wish you could go back and take a different tact? Like do you feel the internet is written in stone or invisible ink? And where do you see Chicago Art Review going next– anything interesting in the hopper?
SR: No, I don’t think I’d change anything I’ve done, but I’d like to have done more of it. But its early, we’ve got time.
If anything, I’m happy to have established a sort of authoritative sounding brand based on formal experimentation and stubborn amateurism. Not to flatter the context here, but a lot of my ideas about art criticism were informed by seeing how the Bad at Sports podcast could deliver rich critical content in form based on the unlikely combination of a lack of claimed authority, persistant volunteerism, over-education, topical expertise, conversational tones, and alcohol. That relationship with criticism feels much more appropriate for this city’s community. I’m interested in finding a written form and style that reflects the culture here, and that serves our needs and demands for writing, which are very different than in other cities. Some things are valued less, some more, and I feel like that should be taken into consideration.
As for going forward, a few months ago I started – but do not claim any ownership of – a Facebook group called #chiart for art writers and artists to talk to each-other about art in Chicago. The name comes from a slightly problematic twitter hashtag I’d got going, but which was hard to use for bigger conversations. The Facebook group has worked much better, and I’ve been amazed at the quality of conversation there and at the ability for a certain number of engaged individuals to generate high-value critical dialog while essentially slacking off at work. Its easily my primary resource for almost all the tasks I’d previously have gone to didactic journalism for, making it harder to justify writing that kind of thing. I’m fascinated by the idea of body surfing legitimate critical discourse on crowds of distracted experts, and am looking for ways to turn that kind of conversation-based model into something that can produce discrete pieces of writing for us to print for binders and to cite on our CVs. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Thea Liberty Nichols is an arts administrator, independent curator and freelance writer. To listen to an excerpt from the “Form and Content of Writing” panel she moderated as part of Stockyard Institute‘s exhibition at DePaul University entitled Nomadic Studio, please click here. (Featuring commentary from Patrice Connolly, Claudine Ise, Abraham Ritchie and Bert Stabler)
Guest post by Thea Liberty Nichols
Email interview conducted with Erik Wenzel
Erik Wenzel deals with interdisciplinary art making, writing and exhibition organizing. He co-edited and contributed to Internal Necessity: a reader tracing the inner logics of the contemporary art field published by Sternberg Press in 2010, and has contributed a piece to the forthcoming Shifter17: Re___ing. Recent solo exhibitions include Live A Little, Live Ennui at the President’s Gallery at Harold Washington College, New ‘N’ Lonelier Laze and Warm For Your Formalism at DOVA temporary and Belief in Doubt in Painting at 65GRAND. Wenzel is a Senior Staff Writer for ArtSlant and has run Art or Idiocy? since 2004.
TLN: I remember around the opening of your solo show at DOVA you mentioned a listing in a local serial publication that described you using your “least favorite” descriptors strung together, i.e. Local Artist and Critic. Care to elaborate?
EW: The exact phrase from Time Out Chicago was: “Wenzel, a local artist and critic who’s a U. of Chicago alum, conjures a show from a deliberately sparse ‘collection of things’: a new video and some objects.” Which is basically a great description. I guess thinking about it now it’s not that big of a deal, but it bothered me because “a local artist and critic” seems so diminutive. “Local” sounds so small town and shut off from the rest of the world. Like a little newspaper for a little suburb that writes only to the interests and concerns of “locals”. It bothered me because it ties into a bigger problem with art in Chicago in general: the local is monumentalized. It’s privileged to the point of becoming a kind of provincial isolationism. This is a big international city, there’s no reason to have such an insular mentality.
As far as “critic” I kind of bristle at that term because I never have identified myself through that role. To me the word has negative connotations, people use it as a put down, like you aren’t even a writer, you’re just a critic. Or a critic is a failed artist, failed writer, failed musician etc. Sure it’s just semantics to a certain extent. But you do constantly ask yourself, “are you an artist who writes or a writer that makes art? Or maybe you should give up making art and just write about it.” It was actually during the installation of that exhibition, “New ‘N’ Lonelier Laze”, that I finally arrived at a definitive answer to that question. It is one of those things that you might know intellectually, but have to internalize over time before you truly believe it. It is clear to me that I am an artist first and foremost, everything else stems from that.
TLN: So if I’m understanding you right, can you tell us how you’ve absorbed writing into art practice? I’ve certainly seen some work by you that’s text based, or more conceptually driven— is that related at all to the other writing you do for say ARTslant or your blog?
EW: I guess I’ll give a little history here. While I’ve drawn and made stuff as long as I can remember, it was in high school when I began to develop my art making along side my writing. I was fortunate to go to a really amazing public school (Homewood Flossmoor HS, in the South suburbs) that had a pretty extensive art program. We basically had to write research papers that pertained to the projects we were working on, both of which only got more rigorous over the four years.
So the writing has always sort of been there. Things have been compartmentalized though; I think of writing about art was separate from making it. Which again goes back to what I was saying about understanding something versus actually feeling it. In theory it would make sense to say that this is all my art practice, but for me there is a distinction. Especially the writing for ArtSlant, which is pretty much straight up criticism. I look at it in a bit of a schizophrenic way because at various times–quite often within one review–I feel like I am coming from the position of a maker, an historian/critic or as someone making meaning. I consider them, the best ones anyway, to be primary sources. Ideally they will be of historical value beyond just a line for the CV and a clipping for the press book. I am interested in participating in the history–as someone writing about contemporary art, not just making it. Especially with “emerging” artist’s who don’t yet have a discourse surrounding them, you can sort of start that conversation. And in that way I hope they are of use to future curators, artists and thesis writers–anyone doing research, to use that popular term.
I guess the criticism could be looked at aesthetically. It is controlling and assigning meaning. I think the way information moves around is one of the most important concerns for art because this is really what contemporary life is about right now, economically, politically, culturally and socially. And art is the one thing that allows us to look at any thing in any way and ask any question of it. So that would be where a piece like the Bullet Point’s About Art comes in, it’s a set of memes that attempt to define some edges of the art field. It can take the form of vinyl lettering on a museum wall or as a sound piece. Bullet points can be added, deleted, re-written and so-on. It’s not just about the content of each statement, it’s about trying to present ideas as material. And addressing the fact that ideas change as they go through the world and move through time.
At this moment I look at my practice, to use another popular term, as a constellation of activities that include art and the things around art.
TLN: To that end, can we close with having you tell us a little bit about a project you completed last summer, Internal Necessity? Also, what’s next on your horizon?
EW: I feel like this is the late night talk show portion of the interview. Please welcome to the program Erik Wenzel, his new book is out now from Sternberg Press.
The book Internal Necessity came out of the Sommerakademie residency I was a part of at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland in 2009. Each year a different curator is invited to put together the program. The year I did it Tirdad Zolghadr was the curator.
The tenor was very conversation-oriented with numerous guests leading discussions as well as us fellows presenting our work and projects. As it progressed we (the fellows in the residency) felt that these conversations–which carried over to dinner or riding on the bus the next morning–were valuable, especially since certain things kept coming up.
We also wanted to make something tangible and lasting of the experience since Tirdad had forgone the usual exhibition that is a part of the Sommerakadamie. This decision was what ultimately allowed these exchanges to take place. I think we were a lot more open to each other’s ideas and practices without the pressure of making some kind of exhibition out of it. Tirdad described his take on the notion of Internal Necessity, which is the “conceptual jingle” he came up with for his Sommerakademie, as being a productive break from the cycle of externally motivated art activities, such as exhibition making, fairs and biennials, where practitioners are expected to present product, not work in progress. The residency provided a time that could be used for contemplation rather than to display a polished surface. An intensive academy provides a special isolated situation ideal for being used as a sounding board to get input and feedback.
So a little ironically we, came up with the idea of a book. Not as a memory book, or a catalogue, but something that would be a forum to continue the thoughts that had been developing organically. We got together one night in the dining room of a gasthoff on the side of a mountain in Appenzell and hashed things out. There seemed to be four main themes that kept cropping up: Withdrawal/Refusal, Free time/Work time, Im/material Labor and Specificity. Originally we were going to organize the book into sections, but everything kept bleeding into everything else. To expand the discourse we all had the option of inviting people from outside the residency to participate. Some contributed separate pieces, others collaborated with their guests.
The whole experience furthered a profound shift in my approach to art—art making, “art” as a whole and my identity as someone who is in “art”. For a while I have been noticing that social interaction–I guess verbal interpersonal communication–is really important to me. It is almost a studio practice. When I am participating in a really good conversation I feel like I am making art. This can be a casual thing, such as when you are at a party and a few people end up talking for a long time about something everyone is interested in. Or it can be more formalized such as with the Sommerakademie. It’s a kind of immaterial production and is connected into my interest in information, content and value, all of which are things today that are completely dematerialized at the same time behaving very much like a physical material. Or can at least be conceptualized in sculptural raw material way. It’s something I’m working through and thinking about, so I can’t really give you a definitive statement. Right now I am trying to sort out a way where it makes sense for there to be these specific immaterial things going on at the same time art objects are getting made.
To that end, I organized a series of talks called Evening Academies as part of my exhibition at the Harold Washington College. The idea was to have a slightly formal, slightly casual situation where invited guests could present a topic for conversation. It was extremely important to me that it be productive and not an aestheticization of social interaction. Equally it was important that it was not oriented toward achieving a specific goal or again, presenting a complete package. I am interested in situations where useful things take place but are not immediately relevant or are only tangentially relevant. This is how things grow, evolve and move. This goes back to what I was saying before about information and how it moves through the world.
Thea Liberty Nichols is an arts administrator, independent curator and freelance writer.
December 9, 2009 · Print This Article
Editors’ Note: All this week we’re running some of the essays written for Floor Length and Tux’s “Untitled Circus” event this past weekend. A number of essays on Chicago’s thriving domestic/apartment gallery art space scene were solicited from local writers/artists/curators involved in the running of such spaces, and we’re posting some of them here on Bad at Sports as a way to extend the discussion. Please feel free to email us with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you’d like to contact the folks at FLAT directly, you can email Erik at erik@ floorlengthandtux.com.
Guest Post by Erik Wenzel
For his contribution to FLAT 4, Erik Wenzel answered a series of questions on Chicago’s apartment gallery scene provided by FLAT’s co-director EC Brown. They are reprinted, below.
Do these spaces have real cultural or regional impact?
That is a big question, since it first makes me ask, “What is real culture?” Assuming culture in this sense means something that is a worthwhile activity that promotes things like community, dialogue and experience, then yes, definitely. I would say they do have regional impact simply by the fact that Chicago is known as a hub for this kind of activity. Show’s like Artists Run Chicago indicate that a more “real cultural” impact is taking place, at least at the edges of the institutional level.
Does anyone really care if Chicago has 2.3 trillion small project spaces?
People should care that these spaces exist because without them there would be almost nothing going on in the city. As it is there are only a handful of galleries with worthwhile programs. There are plenty of irrelevant or stagnant things going on. These small project spaces provide a lot of flavor and character.
Do these projects propose alternatives to institutional models or do they reinforce them?
It’s funny because my gut instinct says to be more alternative you have to engage certain institutions such as maintaining a website, writing press releases, having set hours, and building a coherent program or aesthetic. The alternative would be to then present work that is very experimental, risky and strange. And not risky or strange for the sake of edginess or shock. All the stuff trying to do that ends up being the most angsty and conventional. But an approach that says, “we are going to get cards printed, have a professional tone, but we want our artists to feel free to do something crazy.”
I notice a lot of spaces are good about putting together websites and announcements. Some are more reliably on top of providing that kind of information than commercial spaces. I think it would be a good goal to beat these professional spaces at their own game. This is possible, not only in terms of administration but in terms of programming.
This is where criticality comes in. I admire anyone that month after month can put together a show and invite strangers into their living space to come see it in addition to everything else in their life. But a lot of times it becomes about filling slots rather than having a program or an overarching aesthetic. An interesting turn that would signal a cultural or broader relevancy would be an alternative space that is run as though it were a kunsthalle. And not an ironic or fake kunsthalle. Strangely that would be pretty radical.
Do these spaces really provide something that institutions or larger galleries can’t?
I think the main asset that alternative spaces have going for them is that there is a lot of freedom and room to experiment. They provide immediacy. An exhibition at an alternative space can come about very rapidly, which is the upswing of needing to have a regular schedule. This is great to try out an idea, or do something very impulsive.
Not being in a commercial space, there is no need to make money, a show can be completely art for art’s sake. Not being at a museum there aren’t the same bureaucratic and legal constraints. This is also the area with the most room for improvement. On the whole no one seems to make the most of this advantage. Most of the time you see two-dimensional work on the walls and maybe a sculpture or a video on a TV. A lot of times this comes, ironically, from an unrealistic desire to make big sales, be discovered, or whatever sort of secret fantasy all aspiring artists and gallerists (myself included) have.
This is different than being professional, if a space is run with a certain degree of structure and regularity there is definitely potential to make sales, develop collectors and garner recognition for the artists who show there. I would say though, that trying to work backwards from that goal results in art that is not very interesting. There is nothing inherently wrong with making work that ends up fitting into these prescribed modes but it seems very cynical and not very useful to let that be the criterion that determines where a work of art or a gallery’s program is headed. For spaces needing to pay the bills, earn grants or increase membership this becomes an issue to navigate, but for alternative spaces, those concerns aren’t automatically present.
I am interested in work that responds to a situation in a more critical way. And the situation of a garage, a basement, a kitchen a living room, a bathroom, that is at once very common, domestic and everyday, is also radically different than a museum or a commercial gallery. So this is an underutilization both in spatial and economic considerations.
Are these projects a manifestation of DIY, or are they rogue businesses? Or vanity projects masquerading as non-profit cultural services?
I think all of the above and then some. There are many models and motivations for running an alternative space. I think it would be helpful to realize there is a lot of variation within the practice. There is also development, these spaces come and go, they grow, they shrink, they move, they turn into commercial spaces–there is dynamism.
Students get together to have a party, show their art, socialize and practice art stuff like installing work and writing a press release. These are essentially vanity projects as they usually start with the idea of a bunch of friends taking turns putting up their work. But this has value because it is a consequence free environment where people can make mistakes and learn things about the mechanics of exhibition making. And it is a way to get your work out there, potentially have a conversation outside the school environment. Even if students are the main audience.
Problems arise when it becomes too insular and incestuous. Which is the general problem in Chicago. Artists going around from project space to project space showing too much, producing too much of the same stuff and not spending enough time thinking. Chicago is so making oriented, there needs to be thinking in there too. This is another cause of the type of work I mentioned before that comes off as very conventional. There needs to be a critical conversation, not general consensus. Everyone knows it’s great to hear that people like what you are doing, but constructive criticism leads to development.
There have been some criticisms of the business end of alternative spaces recently that are frankly ridiculous and stupid. I find most alternative spaces don’t make a lot of sales. No one shows up at an opening with cash in hand wanting to buy the art off the walls. Those that do have that as a goal slowly move to a more professionalized setting. If an apartment gallery is doing any serious business, sooner or later they move to a “legitimate” commercial space. A lot of the established galleries got started this way. This occurs all over, not just in Chicago, and all throughout the history of art dealing.
Art is very different than other commodities, an apartment that has work on view, and is willing to sell it, is in no way the same thing as someone selling illegal cigarettes out of their house to people off the street. Art is unique, it’s not like delivering the same Marlboro for half the price and stealing the corner store’s customers. But that is the argument some seem to make, that selling paintings by your friends is going to put the real hard working commercial spaces out of business.
Do these spaces provide a solution to Brain Drain in Chicago?
I think it is starting to happen a little. But this is only one key element within a greater problem. If alternative spaces started taking more risks in terms of the art they show and the level of rigor, curatorially, conceptually and critically, there would be something. Art in Chicago is too fun and too zany.
People hold barbeques and cook food as almost a safeguard against boring art. The message seems to be the art isn’t all that great or worth seeing, but you should still come because there will be a lot of beer and fun. The elaborate party atmosphere isn’t even done as art. That at least, would be a step up. The social component is key, and openings are about fun. But art isn’t. If you want to have fun, why are you looking at art? Art can be fun, but it doesn’t have to be, and it certainly should not be a guiding principle. That’s the problem of a one-night art event with a bunch of drawings on the wall. No one takes it seriously, no one can come back later and really look at the work, engage it. I’m speaking generally, but oftentimes that ends up being the case. This is where risk would be interesting.
Assuming it is going to be a one-time only party event atmosphere, what is an art-like moment that can be inserted into the social situation? A lot of art at alternative spaces, and in Chicago in general, is very polite and geared towards accommodating the audience. What about art that confronts the audience, makes them uncomfortable, makes them feel stupid, or alienated or confused? What about art that appeals to or requires an intellectual participation? Or art that you aren’t even sure where it begins and ends? These tend to be the types of art that stay with me, and give me meaningful experiences.
Really pushing boundaries, experimenting and taking risks with ambitious projects also has the potential to start building these other things you are asking about, culture, reputation, collectors and patronage. This would be a reason to stay, or a reason for someone to come here and do a project.
Chicago exports artists, it doesn’t import them. Artists feel there is no point in staying because there is nothing interesting going on. You are isolated from the greater art world because of the pervasive mentality repeated by a few loud mouths with chips-on-their-shoulders: a pride in isolationism. If you don’t fit into the only legitimate mould of carrying on the Imagist tradition in the finest SAIC sense, it’s easy to become alienated and overlooked. Exponents of sticking to the tradition dismiss New York, LA and elsewhere as being shallow and fashionable. But how is staying focused on one blip that is moving further and further into the past signal substance, authenticity or dedication? It’s like one day having a really good meatloaf and then deciding you will only eat meatloaf for the rest of your life. In this climate artists feel like there is no way to escape the gravitational pull of the black hole without skipping town.
I think alternative spaces do, and could increase an open exchange with the world outside. Building a network of spaces across the country and internationally would be a very welcome and meaningful development. This occurs somewhat, but to really push that agenda I think would increase the value of staying in Chicago, as well as do some of the other things.
Erik Wenzel is an artist, writer and educator. Recently he was a fellow at the 2009 Sommerakademie at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, curated by Tirdad Zolghadr. He is co-editor of a related book to be published in 2010. Recent exhibitions include “[RE]-VIEW” curated by Maggie Taft and “Warm For Your Formalism” at DOVA Temporary and “Belief in Doubt in Painting” at 65GRAND. In 2010 Wenzel will present “New ‘N’ Lonelier Laze” at DOVA Temporary and “Live A Little, Live Ennui” at The President’s Gallery of Harold Washington College. His website is artoridiocy.blogspot.com.