It is Sunday all over again and the world is a flutter with mother’s day sensation. The plethora of touching mother/child photographs everyone is posting on facebook, the emails, the phone calls, magazine covers and television advertisements. Even the florist in your grocery store has likely been staffed and stocked to the brim. The week’s content seems to resonate with this day, reflecting as it does on the easily overlooked but essential elements of every day life: community, loss, courage, house plants, children in museums, life on other planets, success stories, and why it might be alright to be a vulture after all.
We lost a dear colleague this month —
“A pioneer in green architecture and sustainable development, Kevin Kurtz Pierce, 55, of Chicago, IL, passed away May, 2, 2013, following a “lengthy argument,” as he drily referred to it, with glioblastoma multiforme. For the past 15 years Pierce specialized in sustainable design. Memorable projects include the Chicago Center for Green Technology, the city’s flagship green building and the first U.S. municipal structure to be certified “Platinum” by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Additional award-winning structures include Bethel Center and the Chicago headquarters of Christy Webber Landscapes.”
Perhaps the only way to answer absence is through bravery and (a perhaps impossible) trust. Anthony Romero happened to post the very next day about courage :
“I don’t know how to be courageous. I don’t think that I am now but I know, at least I feel, that I must be in order to make it through this moment. Recent months have seen us, as Americans, wrestling with the baseline hatred and oppression that we had so naively believed we had moved beyond, a desire we know now to be a desperate fantasy. I believe Cornel West to be true when he tells us that courage will lead us to other virtues, other strengths that might enable us to not only make it through our time but to imagine a real alternative, a utopian dream no farther than our beds. What I mean to describe here is not a kind of free imagination but, as Žižek has described, “a matter of the innermost urgency”, an imagined alternative to a situation whose solution is so far outside the coordinates of the possible that one is forced to imagine an alternative space.”
New post on PLANTS! from our new guest contributor, Faye Kahn:
“The houseplant’s original intention was for the interior decorator, whose profession hinges on the art of arrangement. Houseplants usually function as decoration in the home to soften our transition from nature to domestic space. It freshens the air, appeals to our aesthetic senses, & reminds us of idealized places we aren’t (outside). This relationship to interior decorating is recognized by many plant-wielding artists, including & exemplified by Claire Fontaine in her Interior Design for Bastards show (2009) whose statement immediately admits its awareness of ’[t]he close and ambiguous relationship between art and decoration.’”
Are you interested in more plant convos? Because two more (no doubt of thousands that I am missing) come to mind 1) a great list of indoor houseplant art examples by Corinna Kirsch, and 2) an interview with Claudine Ise and Chicago’s own house plant photographer/sculptor Heidi Norton. Conclusion? Plants Are Trending and Kahn wants to know why.
Jeffrey Songco sends word from California by way of a great interview with S. Christopher Kardambikis:
“There are about nine people in the world who can pull off a Clark Kent outfit – you know, the button-down business shirt that is unbuttoned to reveal a giant S. Christopher Kardambikis is one of those people. The Superman reference can point to a number of things: Christopher’s dashing good looks, his nerd-level interest in comics, and/or his weakness to Kryptonite.”
Eric Asboe talks about the free day at the Walker Art Museum, May Day Parades, and Puppet Theaters in his post “Young At Heart: One View of the Twin Cities”:
Every first Saturday of the month, admission is free to the Walker Art Center with family oriented activities throughout the day. The activities not only make use of multiple areas of the museum, they are inspired by and derive from major exhibitions on view in the galleries. This month’s Free First Saturday, Some Assembly Required, was inspired by Abraham Cruzvillegas’s exhibition The Autoconstrucción Suites, which explores assemblage, local, found materials, and “self-construction,” utilizing “improvised building materials and techniques” when “materials become available and necessity dictates.” Artist Eric Syvertson guided children through making bird’s-eye views of their ideal landscapes, the maps of their ultimately functional worlds. Children were also invited to continue building and adding to the autoconstrucción begun by the Walker Teen Art Council. The changing, expanding structure juxtaposed the teens’ collages with children’s drawings and minimalist inspired tape paintings. In the most living of the autoconstruccións at the Walker, the structure became a new space of creation with the entrance of each child. The works they left behind continued to shape the space into which others entered and altered for their own needs.
And here I am going to circle back around to the beginning of the week — because I want to end on the comic that Jeriah Hildwine included. Last Monday, Hildwine reflected on the meaning of community in the art world, suggesting we might learn something from Vampire bats:
So what, then, does the concept of community really mean within the context of the art world? The answers that spring to mind come in the form of analogies: the art world as ecosystem, the art world as family, the art world as neighborhood. Any of these metaphors can provide insight into the nature and structure of a subculture, but they can also be misleading, as well as potentially offensive and therefore divisive: the vulture is an invaluable part of the ecosystems it inhabits, but few would want to be called the vultures of the art world.
This week’s podcast came from the Marin Headlands — a beautiful site just on the California Coast — where Brian Andrews and Patricia Maloney joined Jordan Stein and Daren Wilson to talk (among other things) about Wilson’s “stalker paintings.” Wilson has made a recent practice of copying Morandi’s still lifes — even the distortions that result in the pixellated computer reproductions Wilson works from. You’ll also hear Duncan’s robot voice in the intro, which is good reason to tune in.
It reminds me to recommend going to see Guy Ben-Ner’s new film, “Soundtrack,” presently screening at Aspect Ratio in the West Loop — “Soundtrack” pulls the audio of Spielberg’s 2005 blockbuster, “War of the Worlds,” grafting it to the artist’s kitchen.
THIS JUST IN: Music is, indeed, trending. While I did not see the Cave/s in person I was excited by all the hubub around two caves meeting in person. Maybe most of all, this performance sounds amazing: ”Everything we know about Passover we learned at Bobby Conn‘s final residency performance at the Hideout last Tuesday. His full band including Tim Jones fronted brass section was nothing short of a Pesach miracle.” That and more from WHAT’S THE T? (hooray!)
According to Jeriah Hildwine ”the frost giants [have] finally abdicate[d] their annual reign over Chicago” which is good news in an of itself, though he writes primarily about his experience applying to MFAs, getting enrolled or rejecting, choosing this over that. “Like Maximus said in Gladiator,” Hildwine writes, ”‘The choices we make in life echo in eternity.’” And, it turns out, Chicago is a pretty good place to end up.
Anthony Romero continues his on-going series WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH DANCE? and interviews Rebekah Kowal about her book, How to Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America, exploring the relationship between social activism and dance choreography.“As of late” Romero writes, ”I have been writing a great deal about strategies and modes of resistance. I have been thinking about the usefulness of dance, of the power of embodied action to simultaneously imagine and enact alternatives to dominant schemas of value that exclude what Judith Butler has referred to as the “ungrievables”. Those whose lives are devalued by social conditions and governmental policies to such an extent that if their life were to extinguish it would go unnoticed.”
Chiming in on Hildwine’s reference to transitioning seasons, Jamilee Polson Lacy writes with news from The City of Fountains, connecting a collection of noir short stories, Kansas City Noir, with some exhibiting artists:
“…transitions—seasonal or otherwise—are unruly. Kansas City artists Nicole Mauser and Caleb Taylor make paintings and collages which illuminate the wild, sometimes dark, often whimsical transitions that happen in the studio. Taylor, who currently has a show up at Sherry Leedy Gallery, presents a series of paintings that, like spring’s arrival, struggle to emerge through the dense fog of the artist’s heavy black brush strokes. But with the collages, Taylor is able to clear out the fog where necessary in order to contrast harsh lines and geometries with soft shadows and dazzling light. Indeed, these compositions read like atmospheric interludes designed for scene transitions in Film Noir flicks like Panique and Kiss Me Deadly.”
Kelly Shindler posted about the ghost of Pruitt-Igoe, a large public housing project in St. Louis that still continues to influence contemporary artists today:
“The ghost of Pruitt-Igoe looms large in St. Louis. The 33-building public housing complex, designed by Minoru Yamasaki (who was also the architect of the World Trade Center) and completed in 1954, has long fascinated architectural historians and enthusiasts alike. Designed in accordance with Le Corbusier’s utopian ‘Towers in the Park‘ vision, its demolition began less than twenty years later in 1972 as the site fell prey to dried-up funding, mismanagement, and subsequent decrepitude and crime. According to architectural theorist Charles Jencks writing in 1977, the notorious demise of Pruitt-Igoe, captured on film and televised widely at the time, marked the day that ‘modern architecture died.’”
“What does it mean when a city of almost three million with a thriving art scene has not a single full-time art critic?” Abraham Ritchie asks Chicago Media Publications, pointing out that most publications rely on freelance writers.
“If the Chicago art community wants more, more national and international attention and recognition, more major artists staying in Chicago, more opportunities across the board from sales to exhibitions, it’s time that we demanded our major newspapers and magazines step up and make a commitment. It’s time we had an art critic in our newspapers.”
“[Churchill] loved his landscapes and still lives and painted over an estimated 500 in his lifetime. What drew a man of such political power to something like painting? He saw it as the end-all, be-all of anxiety, which I think says a lot coming from someone who nicknamed his own clinical depression.”
All this talk of Churchill reminded me about Orson Welles. I remember my own mother seemed to intensely admire both men, and had various anecdotes about both of them. Here is a very strange clip to that end —
Includes 75+ exhibitors, publishers and performers.
Mana Contemporary Art Center is located at 2233 S. Throop. Reception Friday, 7pm–12am.
Work by Jason Smith, Jeriah Hildwine, Jesse Avina, Annie Heckman, Jake Myers, Sam Sieger, Ben Dimock, Olivia Strautmanis, Aaron Straus, Laura Boban, Stephanie Burke and Jesse Loosebrock.
Co-Prosperity Sphere is located at 3219 S Morgan St. Reception Friday, 6pm-2am. (Please note: the author has a piece in this show)
Work by Sabelo Mlangeni.
Iceberg Projects is located at 7714 N Sheridan Rd. Reception Saturday, 6-9pm.
Work by Mike Nudelman.
Thomas Robertello Gallery is located at 27 N. Morgan St. Reception Friday, 6-8pm.
Work by Erika Harrsch.
Kasia Kay Gallery is located at 215 N. Aberdeen St. Reception Friday, 6-8pm.
Work by Adam Farcus, Adam Grossi, Alberto Aguilar, Alex Bradley Cohen, Angeline Evans, Brian Wadford, Caroline Carlsmith, Cory Glick, Edra Soto, EC Brown, Irene Perez, Jeriah Hildwine, Jim Papadopoulos, Kevin Jennings, Nicole Northway, Pamela Fraser, Philip von Zweck, Thad Kellstadt, and Vincent Dermody.
Antena is located at 1765 S. Laflin St. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.
Work by Aron Gent, Nick Ostoff, and Sophia Rauch.
The Hills Esthetic Center is located at 128 N. Campbell Ave. Unit G. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Work by Heidi Norton.
Johalla Projects is located at 1821 W Hubbard St, Suite 110. Reception Friday, 7-10pm.
Work by Fatima Haider and Lourdes Correa-Carlo.
Julius Caesar is located at 3311 W. Carroll Ave. Reception Sunday, 1-3pm.
Printworks is located at 311 W. Superior St., #105. Reception Friday, 5-7pm.
Guest Post by Jeriah Hildwine
Stephanie and I took the Metra to Hammond, Indiana, where Linda Dorman and Tom Torluemke picked us up at the station, and brought us back to their place. We ate pizza around their dining room table and then drank beer around a campfire in their backyard. (Linda drank Coke, Tom O’Doul’s.) Tom had built a perfect teepee fire, abashedly using compressed firestarters (which he called “cheating”) to light the fire.
They took us to Sidecar Gallery to see “Water,” a show of work by Tom Burtonwood, Holly Holmes, and James Jankowiak. Tom Burtonwood created a wallpaper of a computer-generated alphabet consisting of isomorphic perspective renderings of three-dimensional blocks (like Tetris pieces), each rendered in a different, simple pattern of marks. It looked like a 1980s visualization of some kind of data set, but in fact represented an alphabet or code. Apparently it incorporated QR codes which stored a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for a website that would decode the alphabet for you…but, lacking a smartphone, we didn’t try it. Burtonwood also created some small wooden sculptures that mimicked the form of the wallpaper.
James Jankowiak also created a wallpaper of sorts, covering several walls of the gallery with parallel strips of brightly colored plastic tape. But his major works are small, square, incredibly precise paintings of minutely varying shades of color. The works in this exhibition consisted of concentric circles. In one, each circle was a slightly different shade of blue. In another, a green torus vibrates electrically against a red field. In a third, blues, browns, and whites alternate on a beige field. One’s first thought is of course of sectioned Jawbreaker candies but a moment’s thought links them more closely with Josef Albers’ color studies.
Both Jankowiak’s and Burtonwood’s wallpapers served as backdrops for their own, and each other’s, small paintings and sculptures, turning the exhibition into more of a collaboration than a group show. In the front room was one of Holly Holmes’ recent wooden sculptures, in which thin strips of wooden lathe are bent into a complex, looping form, like a diagram of the flight of a bumblebee, or a crazy zero-gravity roller-coaster. I’ve seen a previous work of this type by Holmes, at Chicago Urban Arts Society, as part of Wood Worked, in which the material of the piece was left raw and unfinished. In Water, it was painted in blue and white. In each case the color and surface seemed an homage to the theme of the exhibition.
We had tickets for the 11:10pm South Shore Line Metra train home, but Sidecar was shutting down at 10pm, so instead of waiting around the train station in the cold for an hour after the show, Linda hooked us up with her friend Erik, who agreed to bring us back to Chicago. But, he said, we had to make what he assured us would be a brief stop at a friend’s birthday party. That’s how we ended up at Cisa Studio.
The birthday boy is this kid Flex, one of the guys who runs Cisa Studio in Hammond Indiana. I call him a kid because he’s full of youthful energy, but in fact this is the eve of his 40th Birthday. The vibe is like a house party or maybe like the office Christmas party for a tattoo parlor. Erik introduces us as we walk in the door, and everybody is so nice, welcoming us with warm handshakes and cold beer. The bathroom is immaculately clean, and the main space is stylishly decorated, with mood lighting and music befitting the occasion. We meet Flex, see some of his work (a portrait, in spraypaint on canvas, very realistically executed), and then he shows us the backyard.
This involves three layers: first, downstairs to an indoor, basement-like space where people gather to smoke around a big plywood table covered in drawings and graffiti writing. A massive digital printer sits against one wall. Signs advertise various services: fine art paintings, signs, and airbrushed images for your motorcycle helmet, gas tank, leather jackets, and cars. There’s a motorcycle helmet with an absolutely flawless airbrushed rendering of the comic book character Venom on it: more of Flex’s work.
From there we moved into the garage, where a classic car sat, grind marks showing bare metal through the primer: a work in progress, speaking of infinite potential. In the back corner, a motorcycle sported a Minigun-type cluster of barrels emerging from its exhaust pipes. I don’t know, but I imagine that they spin and belch fire when the motorcycle is running. I sat there, spinning the barrels by hand, entranced.
The backyard itself hosted a bench that had been airbrushed by some of Flex’s friends as part of a public art commission. I looked around, and admired the facilities: an absolutely gorgeous, spacious workspace. What’s more, Flex told me, their rent is less than what Steph and I pay for our bedroom-and-a-half apartment in Ravenswood! “This is why Indiana is the shit,” Flex explained. It’s hard to argue with that.
We smoked cigarettes, talked to the Cisa crew, and drank more beer. Then we were gathered, slowly and chaotically, into a rough herd, with the purpose of ambling down the alley to the studio’s exhibition space, a separate building a block down, to see Arte Muerte 2011, the 4th annual occurrence of this “Day Of The Dead” themed exhibition. On the way I met the crew’s photographer, the most heavily-tattooed guy there, long-haired, with a rock-and-roll aesthetic that goes some way towards explaining his nickname, “Tommy Lee.” To look at him you’d expect him to be biting the head off a bat or something, and turns out to be an incredibly sweet and super righteous dude.
Arte Muerte consisted of Day of the Dead altars and two-dimensional wall art, all encompassing themes of death, family, ancestry, tradition, ritual, and a Latino or Mexican cultural heritage. The aesthetic of the work ranged from psychedelic and graffiti to Aztec and Maya glyphic writing, Catholic saints, and plenty of skulls. What struck me most immediately about the show was that not a single thing in it felt ironic, exploitative, or appropriated: there weren’t sculptures of altars, they weren’t about altars, they were genuine and sincere embodiments of this tradition.
After checking out the exhibition we made our way back to the studios where some of the guys were breakdancing, and we all did tequila shots in celebration of Flex’s birthday. The Cisa studio crew talked to be about growing up together, and about how they hung out with Keith Haring when he was in Chicago. They showed me a picture of them all, years ago, hanging out with Haring. Erik mentioned working at Genesis Art Supply back in the day, and I asked him if he’d known Wesley Willis. They guys all started telling stories about hanging out with him back in the day, of setting him up in the store to sit there and draw. One of the guys proudly told me that Wesley had given him a drawing, which he still had. Another had Willis’ old Casio keyboard from when he was growing up.
Many hours, many stories, and many beers later, we were all feeling pretty ready to head out. Another couple was catching a ride with us as well. Erik DeBat, our ride, had made sure to moderate his consumption and was quite sober and fit to drive. The rest of us were all pretty sauced, but I was still pretty lucid, and due to my long-leggedness our fellow passengers had afforded me the front seat, so I had much opportunity for conversation with Erik. We talked about his work, and he gave me a copy of the catalog from a recent exhibition he’d had: Risk & Reward, at The Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, in August of 2011. I open it up, and I see this painting of The Hulk, and something looks familiar about it. The catalog essay is by Tony Fitzpatrick and it all falls into place: I’ve seen Erik’s work, and probably Erik himself, at Tony Fitzpatrick’s place. He gave me a card for an upcoming exhibition (Recursion, at 2612 Space) featuring Erik’s work as well as James Jankowiak, Mario Gonzalez Jr., Victor Lopez, and William Weyna. I wasn’t able to make it to that one, but he also told me that he’s got a show coming up at Firecat Projects, in May 2012. I generally make it to all of the openings at Firecat, but I’m looking forward to this one in particular.