Chicago Art in Pictures: Summer of 2013

August 20, 2013 · Print This Article

A graphic, editorial overview of art, artists, and visual art events, found in and around Chicago over the course of the preceding months. All artwork copyright original artists; all photography copyright Paul Germanos.

CourtneyBlades
Mickey Pomfrey & Blake Cameron Harris @ CourtneyBlades
Above: CourtneyBlades’ partners, Mickey Pomfrey, left, and Blake Cameron Harris, right, in the gallery for the opening reception of “Definitely Living, Likely Cognitive,” on August 9, 2013.

Ria Roberts & Matthew Richardson @ CourtneyBlades
Above: “Medium Cool” art book fair organizer Ria Roberts, right, with Matthew Richardson, left, in CourtneyBlades.

Definitely Living, Likely Cognitive @ CourtneyBlades

Mickey Pomfrey is one of a relatively small number of people I encounter on a regular basis at gallery openings in Chicago. In spite of that fact, I’d never before brought a camera to the space (CourtneyBlades) which he runs with Blake Cameron Harris. And it was only because I happened to take photographs there on August 9, 2013, that Ria Roberts noticed me, and reminded me to attend Medium Cool: a new art book fair with which she’s involved.

Bea Fremderman, Brian Khek, and Micah Schippa
“Definitely Living, Likely Cognitive”
August 9 – September 1, 2013
CourtneyBlades
1324 W. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642
http://courtneyblades.com/

Medium Cool
Tom Burtonwood @ Medium Cool
Above: Tom Burtonwood shares his 3-d printed book–which itself “prints” by means of being folded upon some plastic material.

Yuri Stone / Renaissance Society @ Medium Cool
Above: Yuri Stone for The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago.

Scott Speh / Western Exhibitions @ Medium Cool
Above: Scott Speh of Western Exhibitions.

Ed Panar & Melissa Catanese / Spaces Corners @ Medium Cool
Above: Ed Panar & Melissa Catanese of Spaces Corners.

Vincent Uribe / LVL3 @ Medium Cool
Above: Vincent Uribe feigns interest in my shenanigans while the ladies of LVL3 ignore me. In truth, everyone smiled for the first picture; this was the fifth picture.

Medium Cool
(art book fair)
12:00 — 8:00 PM
August 11, 2013
Prairie Production
1314 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL
http://medium-cool.net/

LVL3
Chelsea Culp & Katy Cowan @ LVL3
Above: Chelsea Culp and Katy Cowan.

Matt Nichols & Josue Pellot @ LVL3
Above: Matt Nichols and Josue Pellot.

Whether called collaboration, the pairing of artists or galleries is now at least as common as food trucks outside, or bars within, our local venues.

“2 of a kind”
June 29 – July 21, 2013
LVL3
1542 N. Milwaukee Ave, 3rd Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60622
http://lvl3gallery.com/

The Mission
Yhelena Hall @ The Mission
Above: Yhelena Hall’s upper-gallery installation joining a helium-supported wooden craft with wall-mounted video.

Joshua Albers @ The Mission
Above: Joshua Albers’ lower-gallery (Sub-Mission) projected video installation.

Yhelena Hall’s da Vinci-like creation is built from fabric stretched over a frame, which method of construction reminds a Chicago resident of Linda Warren’s artist Juan Angel Chavez. But, maybe, within Warren’s stable the better comparison is to Conrad Freiburg–for as helium escapes its imperfect balloon, Hall’s wooden machine has a self-destructive potential.

Joshua Albers and Yhelena Hall
PARALLELS / A Collaboration with ACRE Residency, Part 2
August 2 – 24, 2013
The Mission
1431 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
http://themissionprojects.com/

Linda Warren Projects
Conrad Freiburg @ Linda Warren Projects
Above: The framing device “Undecagon Tripod,” 2013, at the center of Freiburg’s kinetic, wood installation.

Like Yhelena Hall at The Mission, Conrad Freiburg chose to present freestanding, three-dimensional objects made largely of wood, in the company of smaller, wall-mounted graphic works, which in this case are still images rather than video. Unlike Hall, around the perimeter of gallery interior Freiburg set a race, which in turn carries bearings or marbles as such activity is initiated by visitors. Four years ago, in June of 2009, Monica Herrera arranged a similar work at 65GRAND, there observed with an additional audio component: falling marbles “played” upon successive wooden elements with each drop in elevation.

Conrad Freiburg
“Before the Grave and Constant”
June 7 – August 10, 2013
Linda Warren Projects
327 N. Aberdeen (151)
Chicago, IL 60607
http://lindawarrenprojects.com/

Monica Herrera
Monica Herrera @ 65Grand
Above: A visitor interacts with Monica Herrera’s installation in 2009.

Eliza Fernand, Jodie Mack, Monica Herrera
“post-scarcity”
Curated by Thea Liberty Nichols
65GRAND
June 19 – July 25, 2009
1378 W. Grand Ave. (old location)
Chicago IL 60622-6450

Chicago Artists’ Coalition
Jake Myers @ Chicago Artists’ Coalition
Above: Audience members interact with Jake Myers at his cardboard sports bar.

Mothergirl @ Chicago Artists’ Coalition
Above: Attendees model the available Mothergirl costumes.

Jessica Harvey - Kera MacKenzie - Jenny Buffington @ Chicago Artists’ Coalition
Above, left-to-right: Jessica Harvey, Kera MacKenzie, and Jenny Buffington at the “pARTicipatory” opening on August 9, 2013.

When I hold a camera to my face and look through the viewfinder I’m blind to the room around me, so that it’s especially surprising to be struck at that moment. I write here with authority as I’ve suffered the aforementioned indignity on multiple occasions. On August 9, 2013, for the second time at one of Myers’ openings, someone threw something at me while I was taking a picture. If the games, and food, and liquor, all now frequently available at gallery openings, have served to draw in a certain sort of person then, maybe, they’ve done so only at the cost of another sort of person. After six years of work on this photographic project, my patience has been exhausted.

“pARTicipatory”
HATCH Projects Residents: Chaz Evans, Amber Ginsburg, Mothergirl, Jake Myers, Hoyun Son, and Latham Zearfoss
HATCH Curatorial Residents: Meredith Weber and Anna Trier, a/k/a the Happy Collaborationists
August 9 – August 29, 2013
Chicago Artists’ Coalition
217 N. Carpenter St.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://chicagoartistscoalition.org/

Sonnenzimmer
Sonnenzimmer

Josh Berman @ Sonnenzimmer
Above: Acclaimed coronet player Josh Berman, foreground, nagged by my mother, background. It’s better him than me.

Nick Butcher @ Sonnenzimmer
Above: Nick Butcher, right, gave my mother, left, a Tecate, and she seemed concerned.

Sonnenzimmer print and design studio is Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher. On July 14, 2013, Nick and Nadine held a sort-of art benefit / garage sale, during which Michael Bingaman (electronics), Josh Berman (cornet), Anton Hatwich (double bass), and Matt Schneider (guitar) played music. There, I bought a big Taschen contemporary art compendium for three dollars, and got a Design Bureau magazine for free. Everyone was cool! And John Corbett was there–because he’s really good about attending these things. Even my mother was happy.

“On the patio at Sonnenzimmer”
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
July 14, 2013
Sonnenzimmer
3605 N. Damen Ave., Rear
Chicago, IL 60618
http://www.sonnenzimmer.com/

Columbia College Chicago: Portfolio Center – Industry Events
Nick Albertson @ Columbia College Industry Events Photography Review
Above: Nick Albertson

Ryan Bringas @ Columbia College Industry Events Photography Review
Above: Ryan Bringas

Meg Noe @ Columbia College Industry Events Photography Review
Above: Meg Noe

Tim M. Johnson @ Columbia College Industry Events Photography Review
Above: Tim M. Johnson

Rikki Levine @ Columbia College Industry Events Photography Review
Above: Rikki Levine

The scale of the event was overwhelming. The quality of almost all of the work was very high. I spent most of my time with those presenters who seemed to have a fine arts orientation. Rikki Levine, above, was something of an exception as she seemed (?) most interested in travel and documentary work. But, her book (portfolio) looked too good to ignore. Whether they knew it, not a few graduates produced material recalling John Opera or Jessica Labatte. And I should have been yet more forceful in my exhortation to go out and look at what’s being made here and now.

Columbia College Chicago
Portfolio Center – Industry Events
“Photography Review”
May 16, 2013
Studio East
1006 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605

Allan Sekula
Allan Sekula @ The Renaissance Society
Above: A visitor at the entry to “Polonia and Other Fables” seen engaged with one of Sekula’s photographs during the opening reception in 2009.

Allan Sekula died on August 10, 2013 after a long struggle with cancer.

Allan Sekula
“Polonia and Other Fables”
September 20 – December 13, 2009
The Renaissance Society
5811 S. Ellis Avenue
Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall 418
Chicago, Illinois 60637
http://renaissancesociety.org/site/

Chicago Art Department
Meg Noe @ Chicago Art Department
Above: “Mr. Grief” by Meg Noe.

“&again&again”
Jeffery Austin, Marne Provost, Kimberly Kim, Meg T. Noe, Jonathan Pivovar, John Brookes Turner
Curated by Jonathan Pivovar
Supported by Columbia College Chicago’s Photography Department
July 12 – 14, 2013
Chicago Art Department
1932 South Halsted #100
Chicago, IL 60608
http://www.chicagoartdepartment.org/

MCA Chicago
Amanda Ross-Ho @ MCA Chicago

The timing of this exhibition is either fortuitous or tragic depending upon one’s knowledge of the not dissimilar installation on Michigan Avenue, and sense of humor.

Amanda Ross-Ho
“THE CHARACTER AND SHAPE OF ILLUMINATED THINGS”
Organized by MCA Curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm.
July – November, 2013
MCA Chicago Plaza Project
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago
220 E. Chicago Ave. (MVDR Drive)
Chicago IL 60611
http://www.mcachicago.org/

Frogman Gallery / Pop-Up Art Loop
Gwendolyn Zabicki @ Frogman Gallery / Pop-Up Art Loop
Above: Dmitry Samarov (painting) at left, curator Gwendolyn Zabicki at center, and Noah Vaughn (photo print) at right, in “Never a lovely so real,” opening night.

The Chicago Loop Alliance deserves credit for the good work it’s done in offering such opportunities to people like Gwendolyn Zabicki.

“Never a lovely so real”
Clarissa Bonet, Dmitry Samarov and Noah Vaughn
Curated by Gwendolyn Zabicki
Pop-Up Art Loop from the Chicago Loop Alliance
Sponsored in part by Columbia College Chicago
July 11, 2013
Frogman Gallery
108 N. State St. (Block Thirty Seven, First Floor)
Chicago, IL 60603
http://gwendolynzabicki.com/home.html

Chicago Artists Coalition
Jordan Martins @ Chicago Artists Coalition
Above: Jordan Martins in his projection, opening night.

Nick Butcher, Jennifer Salim, E. Aaron Ross, Aaron Delehanty @ Chicago Artists Coalition
Above, left-to-right: Nick Butcher (half of Sonnenzimmer), Jennifer Salim, E. Aaron Ross, and Aaron Delehanty standing in a projection by Theodore Darst at the Chicago Artists Coalition’s “Natural Fallacy” opening.

“Natural Fallacy”
Noelle Allen, Theodore Darst, Brent Fogt, Jordan Martins, Nicholas Sagan, and Matthew Schlagbaum
Curated by MK Meador
July 12 – August 1, 2013
Chicago Artists Coalition
217 N. Carpenter St.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://jordanmartins.com/

threewalls
Brenna Murphy & Birch Cooper @ threewalls
Above: MSHR a/k/a Brenna Murphy & Birch Cooper performing an electronic audio work in their installation.

Hear it on Vine: vine.co/v/hamYhHDJJ0d

Abigail Satinsky, Lauren Basing & Shannon Stratton @ threewalls
Above, left-to-right: Abigail Satinsky, Lauren Basing, and Shannon Stratton, a/k/a threewalls, on the occasion of their last opening at 119 N. Peoria Street, Chicago.

Edie Fake @ threewalls
Above: Edie Fake’s installation, with spectators.

Joe Jeffers & Jeremy Tinder @ threewalls
Above: Joe Jeffers, left, and Jeremy Tinder, right, attending the opening.

Thanks to Abigail, Lauren, and Shannon for playing along. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a better shot of you three together. Good luck and best wishes…

“Binary Lore”
Edie Fake and MSHR a/k/a Brenna Murphy & Birch Cooper
June 28, 2013
threewalls
119 N. Peoria, #2C
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.three-walls.org/

Firecat Projects
Gil Leora @ Firecat Projects

Gil Leora
“In Between Drinks”
June 28, 2013
Firecat Projects
2124 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
http://www.firecatprojects.org/

Smart Museum
Gigi Scaria @ Smart Museum

It’s too bad that a piece which suggests many questions related to resource allocation within the context of non-European, urban poverty, here found available for view in the lobby of a free, teaching museum, was ignored in an article entitled “Marginalizing Chicagoans’ Access to Culture” at Newcity.

Gigi Scaria
“City Unclaimed”
Sponsored by BMO Harris Bank
January 19 – December 8, 2013
The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art
5550 S. Greenwood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/

EXPO / Public Chicago
Duncan Mackenzie, Caroline Picard, Richard Holland @ EXPO / Public Chicago
Above, left-to-right: Duncan Mackenzie, Caroline Picard, Richard Holland, a/k/a Bad at Sports.

EXPO Chicago
Gallery Announcement
May 14, 2013
Public Chicago
1301 N. State
Chicago, IL 60610
http://expochicago.com/

Johalla Projects
Jessica Taylor Caponigro @ Johalla Projects
Above: Jessica Taylor Caponigro’s “There in a Darkness,” 2013, coal in cast glycerine soap.

Jessica Taylor Caponigro & Aimee Quinkert @ Johalla Projects
Above: Aimee Quinkert, curator, at left, and Jessica Taylor Caponigro, artist, at right, foreground; “What Was, Was I” and “II” on wall, background.

It’s the third of Jessica Taylor Caponigro’s installations which I’ve seen, each of the three having been abstracted from both architectural and also literary sources. The comparison between works made over time (a span of several years) is interesting, and maybe best reveals her intent.

Jessica Taylor Caponigro
“Black Damp”
Curated by Aimee Quinkert
May 11 – June 2, 2013
Johalla Projects
1821 W. Hubbard St., Suite 209
Chicago, IL
http://www.johallaprojects.com/

Rhona Hoffman
Fred Sandback @ Rhona Hoffman

Fred Sandback: Sculptures
April 26 – June 1, 2013
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
118 N. Peoria St.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.rhoffmangallery.com/

Columbia College Industry Events BFA Open Studios
Columbia College Industry Events BFA Open Studios
Above, left-to-right: Columbia College BFA Seniors Brianna Baurichter, Corinna Cowles, and Nicki Penz with artwork.

Columbia College Industry Events BFA Open Studios
Above: Madeleine Lowery with artwork in studio.

Columbia College
Industry Events
Fine Arts Open Studios
5:00 – 8:00 PM
April 18, 2013
1006 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL

The Storefront
Erik Wenzel @ The Storefront
Above: An overhead view of Erik Wenzel’s Artforum installation “Fernweh,” as seen within Brandon Alvendia’s The Storefront gallery, on the show’s opening night.

Wenzel, like Fake, above, and Andre, in the previous article, has made use of the floor for the purpose of presenting modular units in a grid pattern. Here the invitation to the audience to walk upon the artwork is wanted to be especially cheeky: an institution (magazine) and a commercial appropriation of culture resources (gallery ad) are both trodden upon, which action symbolically mimics Wenzel’s own “progress” through the real and metaphysical worlds of art.

Erik Wenzel
“Fernweh”
April 20 – May 12, 2013
The Storefront
2606 N. California Ave.
Chicago IL 60647

Vertical Gallery
The Economics of Art 2013 @ Vertical Gallery
Above: Work by Dmitry Samarov, center; Steve Seeley, at right.

The Economics of Art 2013 @ Vertical Gallery
Above: Vertical Gallery, exterior.

“The Economics of Art 2013″
Dmitry Samarov, Ian Ferguson, Julie Murphy, Steve Seeley, and Jimmy Bunnyluv, along with Anthony Freda, Dave Pressler, David Cooper, El Gato Chimney, Hernan Paganini, Klub7, Raudiel Sanudo and Ruel Pascual.
August 3 – 31, 2013
Vertical Gallery
1016 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
http://verticalgallery.com/




Top 6 Weekend Picks! (9/16-9/18)

September 15, 2011 · Print This Article

1. UPLIFT at Believe Inn

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.

2. “Just Breathe Normally” at Autumn Space

Work by Brian Hubble

Autumn Space is located at 1700 W Irving Park Rd. Reception is Saturday from 6-9pm.

3. FLAT 10 (FBI 3) at Floor Length and Tux

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.

4. CLUB HELTER SKELTER at Manifest Exhibitions

Work by Stephen Collier

Manifest Exhibitions is located at 2950 N Allen Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.

5. Combinations Described at Donald Young Gallery

Work by Bruce Nauman

Donald Young Gallery is located at 224 S. Michigan Ave., suite 266. Reception is Friday from 5-7pm.

6. Nomadic Text at What It Is

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.




Top 5 Weekend Picks (7/15-7/17)

July 14, 2011 · Print This Article

1. The Chicago Project IV at Catherine Edelman Gallery

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.

2. Animality at DOVA Temporary Gallery

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.

3. Keepin’ it Real at HungryMan Gallery

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.

4. Ethridge, Jakschik, Wood at Shane Campbell Gallery (Chicago)

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.

5. Au Plein Air at The Suburban

Work by Simon Ingram and Doug Melini.

The Suburban is located at 125 N. Harvey Ave. Reception is Sunday from 2-4pm.




Steve Ruiz

March 7, 2011 · Print This Article

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.

Steve Ruiz

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.

Stylistically, I’ve tried to be as professional as is fair to the artists I write about while reserving a lot of the freedom being an independent writer affords me; I can be entertaining, a little partisan, troll with decimal ratings, experiment with content, take two months off and still call myself a writer, put in thirty pictures with a review, edit posts six months later, etc. My studio background is in painting, so I tend to write more about painting and write about everything else as if it were painting. I have tried a lot of things with the site that didn’t work out, such as the Art Phone call-in press releases and a studio visit chain that dropped off after a while, but part of the fun of Chicago Art Review has been making a soft space to fail.
I think some of the best content has come from guests, especially Anthony Elms’ book reviews, Ryan Travis Christian’s Seven Artists of the Week (which I now organize with the help of guest editors), and the opportunities I’ve had for collaborations with others like Pedro Valez, Erik Wenzel, etc. I also depend a lot on the efforts of Karly Wildenhaus and Stephanie Burke for my event listings research. It would be a much less interesting website without these individuals and others.

Chicago Art Review

 

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)




Erik Wenzel

March 1, 2011 · Print This Article

Guest post by Thea Liberty Nichols

Email interview conducted with Erik Wenzel

Erik Wenzel (Photo by Tish Noel)

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.

Erik Wenzel • Rings (detail) • plastic bottle rings hung from nails inserted into holes left from previous exhibitions • in situ at "New 'N' Lonelier Laze" at DOVA temporary • 2010

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.

Erik Wenzel's Bullet Points About Art • 2009 (ongoing) • text (material manifestation variable, adhesive vinyl this instantiation) Installation view: Nomadic Studio curated by the Stockyard Institute, DePaul University Art Museum

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.