I am about halfway through a two-week period of guest blogging on the Art21 site. It’s been fantastic. Suddenly I had an opportunity to engage 11 artists in conversation, asking them questions I’ve always wondered about. I began to see the possibility of an arc in the interviews. On the one hand each interview is independent, on the other there is a thread of interest that flows through each post. I thought I could think through the progression here.
For the last couple years I’ve had a growing interest in celebrity culture. Not simply for its own sake, but rather as a particular reflection of the social structure in which we live, (i.e. post-industrial, capitalist America). Within that culture, celebrity provides a kind of apex or pinnacle of success. At one point, Young Joon Kwak equated them with the Greek Gods—as though Marylyn Monroe serves a parallel, cultural purpose in America as Hera did in Greece. At the very least celebrity provides a model for success and recognition, a model that translates into other fields, particularly in the arts, where tokens of legitimacy are rather slippery to grasp. As people working in a field with no direct use-value, the translated monetary/cultural value of a given object is highly subjective—something steeped in the momentum of the contemporary art dialectic. One way, then, to attain a sense of success is to become the famous Picasso, to be inducted into the Western Art canon. Or, the more immediate rock star artist option like, say, a Dash Snow type. Or, the shorter-lived 5 minutes of fame…”Even if you’re a flash-in-the-pan artist,” I remember a professor telling a class, “even if you just get famous for 5 seconds, at least you were famous. At least that one [painting] mattered. It’s better than nothing.” It’s the “nothing” that I’m interested in: the undefined, highly personal (and maybe less legitimate?) way of recognizing value in one’s work. Because I can’t define that “nothing” alternative, I’ve spent some time thinking through it’s dominant reflection: this whole Famous thing.
In lieu of those thoughts, I asked a series of artists to talk to me about their practices. I began with photographers Melanie Schiff and Jason Lazarus, asking about the gaze of the camera and how photographs memorialize events, or create opportunities to personalize mainstream culture. I then spoke to Young Joon Kwak, about his strategies of assemblage as a means to avoid commodification (oddly enough, he was also a finalist in the infamous SJP artist-reality-TV show), and Irina Botea about reenactment, revolution and film. That first segment of my guest-blogging was about the camera, in some way, or about our relationship to the camera.
My subsequent conversation with Anne Elizabeth Moore functions like a bridge—her interest in branding, for instance, crosses various mediums, even resisting the traditional “artist” label. She is a publisher, she is an educator and she also happens to make objects. All of her work is about self-empowerment in a context where that empowerment is difficult (if not, some might argue, impossible). Following Anne, I spoke with Brandon Alvendia who, like Moore, investigates self-publishing strategies. That is only one arm of his practice, however and working in different mediums, he locates “the art” primarily in himself. With Deb Sokolow, I asked about the characteristic second person pronoun throughout her work—here I feel like the interview-gaze shifts from Alvendia’s “I” to Sokolow’s, perhaps more aggressive “You.” (Agressive in so far as the audience becomes complicit with her work by reading/engaging in it.) At this point, the interviews start to shift towards an investigation of structure. Tsherin Sherpa talks about his relationship to the history and rigor of Tibetan religious painting, and what it means to step outside of that. He offers interesting reflection on the self, how he negotiates it. Here too, in some way I was surprised that the conversation became about the “self.” That theme is predominant in these interviews, and though I hadn’t anticipated it, it makes sense. After speaking to him, I interviewed Hiro Sakaguchi, Nadine Nakanishi and Ellen Rothenberg—artists working in very different ways, I was nonetheless especially interested in talking to them about the structure of their work and the places they work within. Hiro works in a museum, paints and teaches, occupying many different scales at once. Nadine boast a pragmatic optimism, running a print shop, participating in a printer’s guild and making her own work. Ellen takes advantage of overlooked portions of structure, in order to co-opt them for her own use. In all instances, the structure is both advantageous (in so far as it creates a context within which to work) and somewhat overbearing, insofar as it establishes standards and taboos. Ultimately I realized my thoughts about celebrity are really questions about structure.
Celebrity is a standard that reflects a structure, or style of thinking. The nothing, is the uncharted wilderness around that structure. Yet, that uncharted “wilderness” is actually more real and more vibrant. It is a more familiar context, and in taking time to better consider it, I realize that the fairy tale “fame” is actually the curious mistake. Because this whole gamut isn’t really about fame, it’s actually about doing good work, and thinking about the world with critical openness.
I am so tired. Regardless, here are the picks…
1. Big Sky at 65Grand -
Work by Jerome Acks.
65Grand is located at 1369 W. Grand Ave. Reception is Friday (tonight) from 7-10pm.
Work by Joseph Grigely, Eric Fleischauer, Jason Lazarus, and Anonymous.
Noble and Superior Projects is located at 1418 W Superior St, 2R. Reception is Friday (tonight) from 6-10pm.
Work by Justin Cooper, Robert Davis/Michael Langlois, Jason Middlebrook, Karen Reimer, Joel Ross, and Carrie Schneider.
Monique Meloche Gallery is located at 2154 W. Division St. Reception is Saturday from 4-7pm.
Work by Katya Grokhovsky, Mara Baker and Rafael E. Vera.
What It Is is located at 1155 S Lyman Ave in Oak Park. Reception is Saturday from 5-9pm.
Work by, you guessed it, Ethan Breckenridge and Sean Dack.
The Suburban is located at 125 N Harvey Ave in Oak Park. Reception is Sunday from 2-4pm.
Hello again ya’ll! Hope you had fun last weekend without me. I had a grand old time down in Missouri with the Zombie Squad crew, kicking it in Manbath, going to the range, and floating down and annoying low but none the less relaxing river. Oh yeah, and Motel 6 and Waffle House, the perfect bracket for any camping/road trip. I came back planning on hitting the ground running, only to find most things shuttered for the weekend of patriotic fireworks. Bummer. There are still a few things happening this weekend, but because of the small source pool, this week you get a Top 3, ranter than a Top 5. Next weekend looks like it might be busy, so perhaps I’ll be able to over compensate then. But, until that time, here’s the picks…
1. The Things I Once Owned at Ebersmoore
Photographs of objects formerly owned by the artist, Gregg Evans (or at least that’s how the story goes). Jeroen Nelemans will also be showing work under the title “Pilfer Your Land.”
Ebersmoore is located at 213 N. Morgan, #3C. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.
2. This is Still Life at Monument 2
Contemporary artists working with the still life. The exhibition is curated by Ghazal Hashemi, and includes the work of Wilford Barrington, Amir H. Fallah, Ian Hawk, Bruce Ingram, Sandy Kim, Jason Lazarus, Maximilian Schubert, Dylan Walker, and Harley David Young.
Monument 2 is located at 2007 N. Point St. Reception is Saturday from 2-6pm.
3. Contemplations & …Sorry I Didn’t Have Time to Google You at Julius Caesar
Two shows for the price of one: Gil Rocha’s Contemplations, and …Sorry I Didn’t Have Time to Google You, a group show featuring the work of David Jourdan, Lisa Holzer, Kitty Kraus, Chiara Minchio, and Stefan Schuster. And, and, and, a good place to have a 4th BBQ!
Julius Caesar is located at 3311 W. Carroll Ave. Reception/BBQ Sunday from 4-7pm.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. Whim Jobs at WELIVEINNY$LA
Work by Ellen Nielsen.
WELIVEINNY$LA is located at 1801 S Peoria St. Reception Friday, 7-10pm. Show runs 5/14-6/4.
2. After Eggleston at Black Market
Work by Yvette Marie Dostatni and Alexandra Dietz.
Black Market is located at 1026 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Friday, 6-9pm. Show runs 5/14-5/31.
3. Messing With Jane: Excavating History at Hull-House at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Organized by Professor Rebecca Keller and including the work of Liene Bosque-Muller, Chiara Galimberti, Elise Goldstein, Maral Hashemi, Rebecca Hernandez, Allison Jenetopulos, Sarah Legow, Erin Obradovich, Hannah Merry Shaw and Cori Williams.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is located at 800 S. Halsted St. Reception Friday, 5-7pm. Show runs 5/14-5/21.
4. Live Forever at Concertina Gallery
Work by Marty Burns, Dave Dyment, Elise Goldstein, Megan Hildebrandt,
Jason Lazarus, Tibi Tibi Neuspiel, and Ruben Nusz. The final show at Concertina.
Concertina Gallery is located at 2351 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd fl. Reception Saturday 7-10pm. Show runs 5/15-5/26.
A screening of works by Steve Reinke.
Roots & Culture is located at 1034 N Milwaukee Ave. Screenings run from Saturday at 8pm to Sunday at 10pm.