EDITION #26

March 19, 2014 · Print This Article

March Goes in Like a Lion and Out Like a 501(c)3

Nothing says Spring like “Gala,” WTT? couldn’t be more excited to see the ice finally THAW. Speaking of, have you bought tickets for the Links Halls annual spring fling? It’s on April 4th, and really more like a three-storey drunk performance art odyssey than a party. Last year I got an sickening sparkly free mani from Aiden Simon at the Girl Don’t be Dumb salon, went inside of a space photo booth, saw Hope Esser ice skate on soap and watched more burlesque than I’d like to admit. For performance art, it’s not too weird, it’s really fun and it’s not that expensive for how open the bar is, what more could you ask from a Thursday night? And the inclusion of DJ CQQCHIFruit and La Spacer this year? Too much.

Enough gushing. Clearly, this benefit season is going to be huge, but don’t worry, WTT?s got you. Here are some notes on the best auctions and charity bashes around, in my not-so humble opinion. Can not wait to see what everyone looks like without a coat on!

Spotted: Todd King getting his feet did at THAW in 2013. Andrew Mausert-Mooney does his best Jesus in the front.

THAW

You already know the scoop, tickets can be purchased through their website.

hArts for Art 5 : LVL3

LVL3’s annual benefit auction is known to bring great names at reasonable prices with all works starting at $30. Past years auctions have featured Jon Rafman and Israel Lund amongst others. This years is no exception. We also love the LVL3 auction because the raffle prizes are copious and always awesome and it doesn’t hurt that each year the event benefits local non-profit, Arts of Life. Learn more about the auction and the organization here on the LVL3 website. Full disclosure: I take no prisoners on the auction floor. The event takes place on March 29th from 6 to 10PM at 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave. Last bid is accepted at 9:30PM so be on time!

Summer Forum : Hosted by TUSK

Sandwiched comfortably in-between the LVL3 and R&C auction is the Summer Forum fundraiser and art auction at everyones favorite bite-sized boutique, TUSK. There are quite a few repeats from both LVL3 and the R&C auction, though it doesn’t look like anyone got the hat trick. E-Dogz will be on hand, serving some serious benefit crossover and unlimited food with the purchase of a ticket ($25 presale or $35 ATD). Advance online bidding begins March 31, and the IRL event starts at 7pm on Saturday, April 5th at TUSK, 3205 W. Armitage Ave.

Roots & Culture 8th Annual Spring Gala

You don’t have to be Hamza Walker to know that Roots & Culture’s Eric May throws some of the best events in Chicago. Did someone say sangria and tapas? The lineup for the auction is pretty impressive too. Britton Bertran wasn’t kidding when he called the night’s auction list an Who’s Who. The List features some of my favorite Chicago art luminaries and at least one Whitney Biennial-er.

I’d tell you who I’m excited about seeing at the auction, but I want the art all for myself! Find out yourself, the auction takes place May 3, from 7-11PM at 1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Threewalls

Spring benefit season is bookended by major heavy hitters with Threewalls rounding out the season. Another reliably good time, this year’s gala is being held in the spacious digs down south at Mana Contemporary. The full lineup hasn’t been revealed but, I’m jazzed on the news that DJ Earl (who you might have read about in the last edition of the T) will be there. The details might still be a little fuzzy but you can already buy tickets on their site. Looking forward to finding out what a Gunnatowski “wearable” looks like.

FLASHBACK! Trending artist Jesse Malmed (right) with Trunk Show co-director, Raven Munsell (left) and artist Jason Lazarus (center) at Salvage One last year for Threewalls Spring Gala.

The Weatherman Report

Charles Ephraim Burchfield, Early Spring, 1917, Watercolor and graphite on paper, 21 × 28 1/4 inches. James Goodman Gallery.

Bad at Sports finally trending.

What’s the TRENDING?

Pillows: After being relegated to cameos in the backgrounds of painting and photographic portraits for centuries, pillows are finally stepping out on their own. Last week during the Whitney Biennial/ New Yawk City hullabaloo the internet was plastered with images of the biennial and various fairs, but nothing stood out more than the freaky pillows of Bjarne Melgaard at the #WhiBi. With the help of NY based artist and collaborator Amanda Browder, Bad at Spots finally reached the cutting edge with their Volta bed-in installation and recording booth. As if the original Richard and Duncan aren’t creepy enough on their own, Browder created life-size pillow versions for the Volta booth. Good work, team!

Detail of Norwegian American artist Bjarne Melgaard’s cracked out living room installation. Image by Hyperallergic.

Browder with pillows only a mother could love.

Jesse Malmed: Usually it’s difficult for individual artists to be in enough places at once to qualify as a trend, by that’s no problem for trending artist, Malmed. The co-director of Trunk Show and UIC grad student must not sleep. This past weekend Malmed did double duty at the MCA, as one of The Nightingale programmers on Friday night and then again on Saturday for his own presentation of selections from The Body Electronic: What Television Taught Me about Art, a live televisual lecture performance. Trunk Show also hosted an opening/ 5-act play by artist Brandon Alvendia outside the Multiples fair on Sunday and whatever HALLWALLS2 is had an opening on Monday afternoon. And that’s just over four consecutive days. If you’re interested in getting in on the Malmed Madness, and you clearly should be, the artists’ MFA show at UIC is opening on April 18th. If you feel like waking with the sun tomorrow, he’s also hosting a dawn equinox performance, more info here.

Eric Fleischauer’s official Alvendia for Trunk Show Vine. More official documentation can be found on Fleischauer’s “vine box”.

I’ll take all of it! Images from Drapes by Ashley Scott.

Drapes: Thank god standing out and looking good are finally back in style. The Ashley Scott designed brand has already been getting some much deserved exposure for her tremendous style, but the recently released images for the Chicago designers ‘Drapes of Wrath’ Collection, styled by Mister Wallace and shot by Foto by Mateo, are to die for. Not only are the boys beautiful, the accessories are killer (see what I did there?) and SO MANY TASSELS. The collection debuts April 1st, check out the rest of the images and prepare for the wrath on the the Drapes website.

Foto by Mateo gets Draped.

Chicago CD Showcase Back for 2nd Edition at The Mutiny

What? Did you really think we’d spend out St. Patty’s day anywhere else? Sorry Charlemagne Palestine. If you missed last year’s showcase, here’s a little refresher. Don’t do it again!

Despite reports that Thorne Brandt would never play, he softened a tough crowd with his flashing lights and “worst samples ever.”

After last year’s majorly lazery blow out, Free the Universe was resurrected as Apocalypse Forever. Their “children of the corn” performance was a seriously trippy affair.

The love child of Chicago CD Showcase.

This years showcase saw the merger of two of last years performers. Pajama band made their jammy debut featuring members of Fish, Phish, Ghosts and My Bad at The Mutiny on Monday night.




An Interview with Gabriel Craig, Ethical Metalsmith and Pro Bono Jeweler

August 16, 2012 · Print This Article

There’s a certain amount of romanticism in the idea of mining your own gold, mused metalsmith Gabriel Craig on his recent adventure through the Black Hills of South Dakota. Romantic, indeed. Compound the gold mining expedition with two soon-to-be newlyweds who have commissioned locally sourced, handcrafted wedding bands, and you have the makings of a Hollywood epic. Before you cast Craig as a roguish Matthew McConaughey, reconfigure his character to resemble more Michael Heizer with a touch of Henry David Thoreau. Beyond their mutual love of Stetsons, (see Craig pictured above on the far left), both Heizer and Craig have expressed their ecological concern through the displacement and destruction of landscape. The mining of precious metals is, in essence, an ecological disaster involving deforestation, mile-long trenches, and terrifying amounts of cyanide. As a jeweler and metalsmith, Craig has sought to bring attention to ethical craft practices, citing that his process begins with the harvesting of materials—the formation of deposits in the earth—long before they are cultivated by the human hand.

At the heart of Craig’s multifaceted practice, which includes metalsmithing, writing, urban farming, and performance, is a desire for transparency. His performative works in particular—the public demonstrations, participatory constructed situations, and documented expeditions—are conceived as a way to unveil narratives of production from material source to mercantile object. Craig is perhaps best known for Pro Bono Jeweler, a craft-performance that brings metalsmithing to the street via mobile jeweler’s bench. In essence, the piece functions as a public forum for dialogue inspired by the visible production and free distribution of metalwork. More recently, Craig has refocused his tactics towards hands-on participation. Raising Awareness brings spectators into the fold by soliciting gallery-goers to experience the process of “raising” a vessel from a flat sheet of metal. Ultimately, both Pro Bono Jeweler and Raising Awareness fulfill one of the crucial tenants of craft: to humanize the production of objects—all objects—whether manufactured or handcrafted. Further, like many of Craig’s projects, these performances tend to unpack propositions rather than polemics. Criticality emerges through opening-up systems, providing a venue for public discourse, and posing the question: how can craft—as a process and product, legacy and ideology—inspire shifts in human behavior that improve the world around us?

I spoke to Gabriel Craig in his new studio and production facility, Smith Shop, based out of Ponyride, a cooperative space for creative entrepreneurship in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

Sarah Margolis-Pineo: I first encountered your practice in Hand+Made at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2010), an exhibition that featured the work of Theaster Gates, Ann Wilson, and other artists who, likewise, have interwoven craft practice and public performance. I’m curious: as a studio-based crafts person, how did performance began to eke its way into your practice?

Gabriel Craig: My first performance—that I would actually call a performance—was in graduate school, and more than anything, the piece came out of expressing frustration rather than any sort of intentional performative impulse. At the time—as an angsty twenty-three-year-old—I perceived a very insular conversation happening in jewelry. I thought that a way to engage a general audience, or an audience outside of that insular conversation, was to go and make jewelry on the street. I began by performing the Collegiate Jeweler (2007), which ended up turning into the Pro Bono Jeweler (2008, ongoing). During this same time, I was also doing working on a piece where I wrote a series of monologues about being a jeweler and performed them in a theater context, Narcissist: Eight Confessions of an Academic Jeweler (2008). Early in my career, I think I had a lot to say that I felt compelled to share with people in a more direct way than by making objects. For me, performance has always been a way to engage people and directly give them my opinion rather than mediating it through an object. I think that’s the same reason that I started writing, because I had the same burning desire to tell people what I thought.

SMP: Can you speak a bit more to the process by which you went from the impulse of disseminating your frustrations with academia to really crafting a performance?

GC: I was certainly aware of performance practices before then but, after I started doing performance, I started being more conscious of the framework that I fit into and how I wanted to situate my own practice. I always wanted my interactions with the general public to be honest and authentic. It really seemed to me that going out, making jewelry, and sharing that with people was the ultimate goal; essentially, sharing what I do because I love it. The system that I set up—giving away rings as I was making them—emerged from this very altruistic sensibility, but giving away rings really wasn’t the most important part. For me, the most important aspect was interacting with people and having an opportunity to talk to them about using their hands.

GC: There are a whole set of issues that surround handwork including supply chain, manufacturing, consumption, etc. Depending on the individual participant and where they’re at—the context of place—there a whole number of directions that the conversation could go. So many of the conversations I’ve had are about seeing something being made and, all of a sudden, having a window into where things come from. In a way, I’m demystifying manufacturing, but also, I think that showing someone even just one thing being made is an opportunity to start that conversation about how all things are made and get at that disconnect between production and consumption. It was from these genuine, meaningful interactions with people that the performance really developed.

When I was still in school, I got a lot of criticism for not using the traditional performance art language—my performances are essentially demonstrations—but that misses the point. Craft performance is different than art performance. Yes, my performances have the language of a demonstration, but my performances never sell anything. My goal is to share craft with people, and performing craft has different standards than performance art, but that’s my own opinion.

SMP: I find it interesting that you entered into a field that, because of the individuality of the Studio Craft movement, is not viewed as the most social of art forms. I’m thinking of the idea of the monastic craftsperson throwing a pot in a barn or crafting metal broach. Yet, out of this tradition, you were able to develop a social practice…

GC: Really?! Historically, I think of craft as having a really social bent to it in a vernacular sense. You’re thinking of making as in objects that are made in a very monastic way; however, the objects themselves are made to enter into a cultural vernacular of social use. If a potter makes a jug, the making process might be solitary, but the using process is always about some sort of social interaction or utilitarian function. I think that there is that dichotomy in craft—this balance of opposites—which I really enjoy.

“Sacré-Coeur,” made in collaboration with Amy Weiks

SMP: Your work seems indicative of this shift in the field of contemporary craft from the production of products to the processes of making. What’s your relationship to handmade objects versus the practices of handmaking?

GC: I find tremendous enjoyment in using handmade objects, but I find very little engaging intellectual value in them; meaning, the objects themselves don’t have the cultural relevance that the making can have in terms of what the process can mean and cause people to think about.

SMP: Continuing this thread, can you tell me a bit about your most recent project, Raising Awareness (2012, ongoing)?

GC: Raising Awareness takes the process of “raising,” which is taking a flat sheet of metal and forming it into a vessel shape by hammering it with repeated blows over a forming stake. This is a really meditative, highly skilled activity, but it is a process that is really simple when you think about it. All you’re doing is using a lever and fulcrum, essentially, to change the shape of a sheet of metal. It’s really basic—anyone can do it—but not a lot of people are good at it. Also, it’s a really traditional way to make metal objects and most people are totally unaware of this process.

GC: I had always wanted to do a project that was a little more hands-on than the Pro Bono Jeweler. The Pro Bono Jeweler was about showing, and I think there’s an opportunity to make a deeper, more intimate connection than through just conversation. The Pro Bono Jeweler started to get problematic because, often, I was having conversations about making things with an informed, museum-going audience and it stopped being a rich conversation. With Raising Awareness, even if you are already oriented to craft or to metalsmithing, the opportunity to pick something up and start making something—for it to be participatory—means this project facilitates a different level of interaction.

I’m doing a marathon Raising Awareness performance with another metalsmith, David Huang, at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids in September. We’re going to be raising every day for two plus weeks with metalsmith volunteers from around the country for a crowd of 200,000 people over the course of two-and-a-half weeks. That’s going to be something that’s really about sharing widely, and we’ll see how many people we can actually get to do some hands-on work. To contrast that project, I have a show next year at the National Ornamental Metals Museum in Memphis where the project is to work with the public to replicate an object—an accessioned historic metal vessel—that once replicated, will be accessioned by the museum. The idea of recreating a historic masterpiece gives the general public a window into a collection that they couldn’t get any other way. I think that that makes the museum environment such a rich place to execute this project. The intent of both iterations—Art Prize and the Ornamental Metals Museum—is to give the public a stake in making something in an active way and empower them to use their hands.

“Soundforge,” a multimedia collaboration with Michael Remson

SMP: Having read a bit of your writing, I gather you’re insanely knowledgeable about the history of craft practice and I feel as though you imbue quite a bit of your work with an early-twentieth century Arts and Crafts mentality that brings together concepts relating to mastery, skill, education, preservation, etc. I’m wondering if you consider yourself within a certain legacy and do you consider that legacy when conceiving, particularly, of these participatory projects?

GC: I’m glad that you picked up on that because the utopian aspect of craft is something I really geek-out on! I’m shamelessly romantic about it. I wish that craft was this model of production that could be perfect and anyone could make a living from it, but in reality, it’s so deeply flawed. I’m really interested in the Arts and Crafts Movement and the idea that turn of the twentieth century crafters were looking back romantically to the Medieval era and what it was to be a maker during that period. It’s funny because life was horrible for Medieval crafters—they were serfs!—yet the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was completely trying to emulate that lifestyle. I think there’s a certain optimism in the idea of making things and deriving enjoyment from it, but simultaneously, grounding these practices in a social context; meaning, really being aware of where things come from, questioning the status quo and labor practices, and having a respect for the environment. If you go back and you read some of the Arts and Crafts practitioners, they were writing about factories polluting the rivers and destroying the land of the English countryside. All of this is still completely applicable now. Right now, I’m finishing this biography of C.R. Ashbee by Alan Crawford, and Crawford is meticulous—the detail to which he writes about the workmen in theses handcraft studios! Anyway, he describes how Ashbee pulled kids off the streets in the East End of London at the end of the nineteenth century, which at the time was really impoverished, and gives them jobs as jewelers: training them, employing them, watching them grow, and really creating an entire lifestyle and an intentional community. Thinking about that and looking at what I’m doing here, I can’t help but project a parallel pursuit. Even if it’s not exactly the same, there’s a certain amount of intentional social engagement that now exists here—out of necessity! The East End of London was a really tough place and Detroit is a really tough place too. But the idea of recruiting on the streets of Corktown is problematic—imperialism and colonialism weren’t a problem for Ashbee. Here you need to meet people on their own terms; but regardless, craft does have something to offer.

Recycled gold ready to be melted in an ingot

SMP: I’m interested in the notion of an “ethical jeweler.” Can you elaborate on the ethical considerations within your practice?

GC: I have a real penchant towards talking about material sourcing, and it’s a conversation that I feel often falls on deaf ears. The issue first came to my attention through Ethical Metalsmiths, which is a nonprofit organization that advocates for mining reform and ethical material sourcing for jewelry. Metal mining is such an environmentally devastating industry. If you’re mining metal now, the practice is “open pit mining.” The basic premise of open pit mining is to find a gold rich area, locate a vein, and then dig an enormous hole in the ground, which can be miles wide and miles deep in some cases. Then, you take all the ore that contains the gold, crush it, put it on a huge tarp, and spray it with cyanide, (it’s the cyanide that leaches the gold out of the rock matrix). The gold and cyanide runs off, and the compounds are separated, using electrolytic deposition, and what you’re left with is waste cyanide and all this crushed rock. All the chemicals that are naturally occurring in rock ore – like sulfides and phosphides – begin to leech out through their exposure to air and rain. Even if this is done in a really responsible fashion, there’s no way to avoid destroying a significant portion of landscape in addition to all the other contamination concerns. Containing cyanide and these chemicals in sludge ponds is hugely imperative because even just a small spill can poison a watershed. The regulation of this in the US and Canada is fairly good, but in other parts of the world—countries that aren’t able to enforce mining laws—there’s real potential for disaster there.

Newlyweds to be Jenna Wainwright and Rajiv Jaswa prospecting for gold with metalsmiths Todd Pownell and Gabriel Craig, (left); Craig and Jaswa mid-dig, (center); and Craig examining the dregs of his gold pan, (right).

SMP: And what was it that led you on your gold mining expedition?

GC: The idea was to create a narrative piece that illustrated the difficulty of extracting gold and demonstrated what it actually takes to extract a ubiquitous metal from the earth. I had written a more technical/academic article in 2008, “Seeing Green,” for Metalsmithing Magazine about sustainable jewelry making as it existed at that time, but writing facts and figures on paper is wholly different from constructing a narrative that readers can really relate to. There’s a certain amount of romanticism in the idea of mining your own gold. I thought that putting a personal face on the process would be an interesting approach to advocate for better practices. So, I connected with another jeweler and a couple who wanted to have wedding rings made, and the idea was to go and obtain the gold to create the wedding rings in South Dakota. We prospected on a week-long expedition, and in the end, we didn’t find nearly enough gold for the rings to be made. We did manage to document the pursuit of gold—what we were all experiencing—throughout the process. (View videos of the expedition on Vimeo.) The prospecting took place in the middle of this pristine wilderness in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is such beautiful country, and what did we do? We dug a ten-foot hole in the ground to try to find gold and, in the process, we ruined the landscape—basically trying to avoid knocking over trees and displacing the order of things. Even on the very small scale which we were doing this, we were still really conscious of the fact that we were spoiling the landscape.

The wedding bands inscribed with the Black Hills river bed, in process (left) and finished (right)

GC: I think it’s important to tell stories about material sourcing. We need to expose the narratives of where things come from, not starting from when it arrives as raw material for a craftsperson to use, but starting where the material itself is sourced—things start before a maker even touches them. Even if a maker’s studio is really environmentally conscious and there’s the imperative to make by hand versus through industrial means, if the materials are obtained in a really irresponsible way, I think that taint isn’t erased by making by hand. And so often, that is the case! I had a conversation in Washington, D.C. last week with Daniel Michalik, who is a furniture maker. Almost all of his furniture incorporates cork and he did this wonderful project for Core77 where he went to Portugal and documented the cork harvest. He had hundreds of photos documenting his total immersion in the cork industry from tree to factory. I think that that’s the sort of education that needs to be available for all craft products especially if we’re going to talk about craft as having an ethical imperative. I don’t understand how it’s not a completely holistic conversation!

SMP: How has your practice changed since your first exposure to ethical sourcing?

GC: The first time I saw an Ethical Metalsmiths presentation at a conference I was shocked. My first thought was: What do I do now? Do I quit? I think it’s that tension between something that you’re in love with but at the same time is horrible. How do you resolve or else deal with that tension? I don’t think the world will be a better place if I quit making jewelry, but maybe if I work from within the existing system, there’s the potential that I can do my small part to change it. Craft being a force for good is essential to my worldview and how I approach my practice. I think I’m just compelled to do positive things.

Gabriel Craig is a Detroit-based metalsmith, writer and craft activist. His studio and workshop – Smith Shop – is currently being launched from Ponyride, a cooperative space for art, craft, design and education, in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. Craig’s work is included in 40 under 40: Craft Futures, at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum until February 2013. Craig will be speaking at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s symposium, “Nation Building: Craft and Contemporary American Culture,” Nov 8-9, 2012. Craig will perform Raising Awareness daily with David Huang, September 19 through October 7 at the B.O.B. in Grand Rapids, Michigan as part of ArtPrize 2012. For more visit: www.gabrielcraigmetalsmith.com




Friday Clip Show

April 3, 2009 · Print This Article

Are re-blogged links the blogger’s version of the sitcom flashback episode? Uh, maybe, but in any case, here’s a partial and purely subjective roundup of the past week in art, culture, etc. in Chicago and beyond, via a whole mess o’ handy links, of course….

*Artists selected for the 53rd Annual Venice Biennale have been announced; find the list here.

*New City art editor Jason Foumberg has a nice recap along with some thoughtful analysis of last week’s “The Invisible Artist: Creators from Chicago’s Southside” panel discussion at the School of the Art Institute. UPDATE 4/4: There is some very interesting, enlightening, and pretty damn sharp back-and-forth going on in the comments section of this article by panel participants and others who strongly disagree with (or have misunderstood) Foumberg’s assessment of the panel and the issues it addressed.

*The mass firings of adjunct fine art faculty at Parsons The New School for Design: blogger Hrag Vartanian’s coverage has been some of the most thorough thus far. Check out his posts here, here and here as a start.

*Time Out Chicago writer Lauren Weinberg has a piece this week on the ways in which Musuems in Chicago and elsewhere are using social media.

*Big yawn: on the Twitter front, an update on @platea’s Twitter happening I blogged about a few weeks ago. UPDATE 4/4: NewCity reported on what happened during the Twitter Island project discussed in that same blog post, here.

*A huge Pose slideshow available on The World’s Best Ever.

*Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes provides an excellent, two-part summary of a rare Robert Frank public talk this week with National Gallery of Art curator Sarah Greenough; part one and two.

*Via C-Monster: The Architecture of the Drug Trade. A fascinating look at  the landscape of weed and the architecture of the grow house. Especially loved the comparison of the latter to Max’s bedroom in Where the Wild Things Are.

*Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City writes for The L Magazine on why Jenny Holzer is not the patron saint of Twitter in her review of Holzer’s Protect Protect Project, which originated at the MCA and is now at The Whitney.

*Via ArchitectureChicago: iTunes offering free download of the first movement of John Cage’s 4’33”.

* Get your art on at Chicago Artist’s Resource (CAR)’s Creative Chicago Expo tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-4. Workshops and Consult-a-thons galore for individuals and arts organizations.

*And finally, the hermeneutics of “pin diplomacy”: via Artnet Magazine, Madeleine Albright’s pin collection to be shown at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York.  Pins weren’t mere jewelry for Albright, they added a subtle layer to her diplomatic efforts.  She wore a bee pin when talks were getting pointed, a balloon pin when she felt hopeful, and a snake pin after Sadaam Hussein’s people called her a serpent. I’m so there!