EDITION #17

September 9, 2013 · Print This Article

Fall already freaking jam packed with openings

It’s official, Chicago artists are back from their residencies and vision quests and it is time for the fall gallery season. Inaugurated this weekend with about a million openings from River North to the ‘burbs and back again, we’re still reeling. Here are some photos while we iron out our thoughts:

Oh, this brave new art world! We didn’t know QR codes could actually do something but this interactive curiosity greets you at the entrance to Technoromanticism, a strictly new media show curated by Alfredo Salazar-Caro at Jean Albano Gallery on Friday night.

Performance finally showed some skin at the second iteration of THIS IS NOW A MAGAZINE: Dwyer/Fraccaro/Wylie in Logan Square last week. Things were anything but comfortable at the Comfort Station during a performance using CAM4 and something having to do with Buffalo Bill that we wish we could erase.

This pink combo stole our heart at LVL’s opening for Quandry on Saturday night.

Volume Gallery debuted their completely amazing and beautiful renovated space on Friday night with a show by Jonathan Muecke. Despite all the new space (or maybe because of it) the gallery was totally packed. This photo is from SightUnseen


Tyson Reeder’s opening at Peregrine Program celebrated some of Club Nutz greatest hits, and reminded us that we need to hit the beach one last time before fall!

Sterling Lawrence was super conceptual and all, but we thought these Alain Biltereyst pieces at Devening Projects + Editions were cute in a good way and would fit way better in my studio apartment.

Also, this?!

Reading is Fundamental

  • Cave of Lascaux blows everyones mind:
    Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at the Field Museum closed this weekend and if you didn’t make it we are truly sorry. This show had more new media than the SAIC BFA exhibition and we swear those cave paintings could be hanging in Shane Campbell and no one would bat an eye. We would go into greater detail, but fortunately for you, dear reader, Daniel Baird’s already wrote a piece on the exhibition and it is awesome. Who knew that ancient cave paintings were so totally superficial? Totes recommend you read it, we’ve been using Dan’s ideas to sound smart at openings all weekend.
  • Woman makes strong case for ladies:
    In case you couldn’t tell, WTT? loves the ladies, and we couldn’t be more excited to see the rest of the art world catching on. One lady show opened up this weekend with two to follow next week at Heaven and at the Frogman Gallery. “Lady Painters” curator, Gwendolyn Zabicki, sent us a hot tip on some required reading by participating artist, Sarah Weber. “Had I written a critical essay for Lady Painters, I would have liked to have written the very excellent one by Sarah Weber for Being a Woman in an All Woman Show.” WTT? couldn’t agree more. You can prep for both of these openings next weekend by reading Weber’s statement now.
  • Art Newspaper on artists in newspapers:
    Writer, Martin Bailey, covers the seriously late breaking news of Van Gogh’s ear incident after re-discovering an article from the Parisian paper Le Petite Journal published shortly after the incident on December 26, 1888. While doing research for his book on the artist, Bailey discovered the clipping, shedding new light on possibly the best artist gossip of all time. Making news in Paris all the way from Arles? Van Gogh is just lucky that the Impressionists didn’t have Facebook.
  • Extra, Extra: Art group travels to space, reports in NewCity?
    Speaking of newspapers, we almost forgot that people print those things anymore (oh wait, did we mention the newspaper we’re printing during EXPO?). Thankfully, we were reminded this week by the totally out of this world spread by Sarah Belknap, Marissa Lee Benedict and Joseph Belknap in NewCity. The photos are completely gorgeous and worth seeing in IRL.
  • Stop by LVL3′s MRKT and pick up a FREE copy of San Fransisco Arts Quarterly featuring an interview with the gallery’s director, Vincent Uribe, and artist, Josh Reames.

Reed’s drumkit.

Artists confused, think they are musicians

Last Thursday night WTT? made our first outing to Constellation. The venue’s unassuming brick facade under the overpass on Belmont and Western betrays the clean yet cozy interior of the bar. Intent on seeing live music on a Thursday night, Constellation was a great option. That is to say, the show was free. This art reporter was intrigued by the line-up: two reasonably well known visual artists (1/2 of Sonnenzimmer, Nick Bucher, and recent Hatch resident, Jordan Martins) performing with Constellation’s purveyor, Mike Reed, on drums.

Not to be mistaken for real musicians, the artists turnt virtuosos played an assortment of objects that would have made any dadaist proud.

Martins started the set playing guitar, but soon switched over to two broken guitar necks on a table which he “played” by jamming screwdrivers between the strings while strumming with chopsticks. Butcher wasn’t any more conventional “playing” a record player and what looked like a jumble of assorted cables that we’re not even sure were plugged in.

Even real musician, Mike Reed, got into the readymade spirit. It was weird enough that he played the drums with a tiny rake, but what was next to the drums was a regular Duchamp. Was it a rice cooker on a styrofoam cooler? Some instrument we’ve never seen before? We’re still not sure.

Despite using what appeared to be broken instrument pieces and household bric-a-brac, the trio was other wordly, playing a set that meandered through melodic ups and downs, punctuated by Butcher’s off beat electronics. Super chill for a Thursday night, I just wish they had better cocktails. (The Pimm’s cup was alright.)

Constellation is located at 3111 N Western Ave.

Header image is a photograph from inside Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at the Field Museum.

Got any T? email me!
(or get @ me on twitter)





Making Yourself at Home – Laura Shaeffer

June 20, 2013 · Print This Article

Over the past ten plus years, Laura Shaeffer has been the entrepreneur and custodian behind a number of projects housed within a handful of unconventional— and often under utilized— spaces on the Southside of Chicago, including Home Gallery, The Op Shop and Southside Hub of Production (SHoP). Her approach is a combination of activism and common sense; community building and home-making. She honors domestic spaces as sites of radical, informal pedagogy, and this manifests itself in an important through line that runs across her projects; they act as platforms for kids to express their creativity and imagination, and indulge their curiosity. Alongside immersing them in art and cultural production, an important byproduct of this is kids’ engagement with other kids, families, neighbors and neighborhoods.

By remaining open, nurturing organic expansion and leveraging intuition, Shaeffer stewards growth rather then shoehorning artists into rigid themes or mapping them onto discrete timelines. She recounts the combination of circumstance and serendipity that led to the recent closing of SHoP and subsequent re-opening of Home Gallery for us, and outlines her influences, collaborators and thoughts on sustainability and longevity below.

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When John Preus, Mike Phillips, founder of South Side Projection, and I first started thinking about SHoP as a community cultural hub, we talked a lot about a need we all saw for a more un-programmed life, where idle time can be productive and where relationships have time and space to develop, between people, artists and generations. I love the idea of stewarding growth, looking after, caring for and managing an exhibit as a way of curating through encouraging artists to be more present and participate in the exhibit after the opening in ways that could make their work more accessible to others and in return inspire further thought and exploration on what it means to be an artist in our current culture, especially a more publicly or socially engaged artist. I tend to work intuitively and gravitate toward others who do as well. Working on shows with John and Alberto Aguilar was incredibly inspiring, they are both extremely challenging and creative thinkers. I found that a very good sense of humor and irony is most important in this kind of work and we were able to make each other laugh at the most crucial times.

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One common interest John and I shared with others who helped found this project, as parents and artists, was to create spaces for exhibitions, learning and socializing where children and older folks alike would come and be in an environment that was heterogeneous and allowed for spontaneous interactions. We talked a lot about the Piazza, the Town Square, the Adventure Playground movement, public places where everyone gathered, young and old to have a drink, converse, play freely, or make things… and to linger into the evenings. We also wanted a cultural space where we could bring our kids and they’d have their own environment in which to create together so we set up what we called the Autonomous Making Space (silly name we know) for them to explore their own ideas, and make up their own activities, structures, and games. SHoP drew much of its inspiration from the Junk/Adventure Playground movement begun in the 30′s in Europe by C. Th. Sørensen, a Danish landscape architect. These playgrounds become centers, accessible to the entire community, a place to gather and play freely and to develop intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Like the Adventure Playground, we wanted our Hub space to encourage children and adults to interact with and learn from each other. Ultimately, we wanted to create a space for people to feel ownership and take responsibility for the space itself because it exists as a result of their own efforts and brings the larger community together.

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In terms of spaces that have provided a source of inspiration, there are so many. Several are in Finland; Hirvitalo, a Contemporary Art Center, founded in 2006 as a cultural space in Pispala, Finland, a deeply kindred spirit; Pixelache, a transdisciplinary platform for experimental art, design, research and activism co-created by artist Andrew Paterson whom I had the good fortune to meet in 2007 at the Pedagogical Factory by Jim Duignan, founder of Stockyard Institute, who is a very significant inspiration for SHoP. Places like Experimental Station, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Mess Hall, Comfort Station and North Branch have provided guidance and inspiration as well. There are too many individual artists, projects and people to mention, who have been collaborators and co-producers over the years. Collaborations like Material Exchange, Kultivator and WochenKlausur have also been very influential.

After the Fenn house was supposedly sold (it is now back on the market!), we were charged with the daunting task of reducing the accumulated contents of a 16 room mansion to fill a 20 foot sea container, to be driven away and parked on the Resource Center’s land (thanks to the generous help and support of both Ken Dunn and Ken Schug and some wonderful volunteers). We had all grieved the loss of that beautiful space before we moved, but the lightness of being I personally experienced shortly thereafter made it clear that it is not the space itself, but the people who make the space meaningful through their care, their energy and their creativity. That location, while at once magical and wonderful, and which provided so much space for learning for us all, was also much more demanding than any Op Shop or Home Gallery exhibit and we really needed time to reflect, regroup and re-organize ourselves if we were to become a sustainable center for the community.

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I suppose the decision to open up Home Gallery again was a combination of circumstance and intention. We invited some of the artists that played a large role in SHoP as well a few new ones to our private home to intervene with our “private lives” in ways that would alter or disrupt our routines and as well, help us ease the transition back home and frankly, tend to the spaces that had been neglected while running a 16 room grass roots community arts center for almost 2 years. Our tiny home became the focus for the continuation of concepts and ideas we had been working with on a larger scale at Fenn House, allowing us to explore the more domestic and private side of these ideas.

The question of how we will continue to nurture and grow our projects outside of the traditional constraints of traditional organizational structures and frameworks is a very good one. We are discussing and further questioning this all the time. What might we gain by adopting a more organized structure and what might we stand to lose? As an art project, The Op Shop had a sense of freedom and extreme fluidity, SHoP for the 15 months of it’s existence at Fenn continued to enjoy that fluid, flexible and organic quality… but how long can that be sustained? Eventually a project has to grapple with these questions, I admire projects like Mess Hall who knew from the get go that they would not opt to become a non -profit and had a very clear vision for their mission in this sense. I feel we are still questioning the whole issue of becoming a non-profit and what that implies and how it impacts the project itself. In some ways we will not know before hand but one suspects that there might be a loss of this sense of intuitive process, fluid practice and to be honest, we may get away with much less. On the other hand, money is an issue and funding is needed if we are to continue in any long term way. I am and we are obviously conflicted about this issue!

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Maybe artists and others who are attracted to unconventional spaces to view and think about art, like the mansion, the small townhome, the porch, the back yard gallery, the storefront, the park, and various unexpected public spaces, are more likely to want to examine their role in social change, themes of modern urban life in spaces that are themselves a challenge. There are artists who have certainly been repelled. I like the story of one artist who had proposed a project for an exhibit at SHoP, was invited to participate, and showed up on a typical day for us, where kids were hammering pieces of wood together on the front steps, students were running a yard sale in the front yard, some seniors were playing bridge inside, the house was buzzing with activity preparing for the installation of the next show. I saw a looming figure outside the house and then I saw him disappear, I asked a friend if they knew why this artist left the scene without coming in to meet us (I knew him from his resume and photos) She said that he ‘didn’t want to show his work in a house run by unprofessional hippies.’ This artist never responded to us again. I could see his point, but I love general (orchestrated) chaos, so I guess that’s my fate.

As told to Thea Liberty Nichols via email, June 2013.

All images courtesy of Home Gallery and SHoP.




EDITION #6

April 1, 2013 · Print This Article

Dubya takes to painting

Many of history’s greats are known to have painted a sun-dappled landscape or two in their day. Everyone from Winston Churchill to Dwight D. Eisenhower, and even Adolph Hitler have handled a palette. Just like Van Gogh and Gaugain’s portrait exchange, Eisenhower even painted a portrait of his venerable ally, Churchill.

Surprisingly, 43rd President George W. Bush has finally managed to join their ranks, not in political savvy, but through his newfound pastime of “makin’ paintin’s.” By now the entire internet is aware that George W. Bush is a prolific artist, having painted at least 50 dog portraits as well as some landscapes and even a couple n00dz. For once, What’s the T? couldn’t be more proud of our former Commander in Chiefing, and we have created a special hypothetical art collection based on his oeuvre.

The Jogging’s oddly clairvoyant portrait of G.W. from July 2012.

In other news, everyone’s a critic.

Reading is Fundamental

#best.gif

Progress, 2013
by James T. Green

“T” around Town

The stars must be aligning on April 6th since damn near every gallery in the city is having an opening. It’s ridic. In Logan Square, it’s finally Spring and the Comfort Station is reopening with an exhibition by Isak Applin and Adam Ekberg. Chicago’s fav Italian artist living in Vienna, Helmut Heiss, has also triumphantly returned for his upcoming ACRE show at Slow in Pilsen. Happy sources report that Heiss’s contribution is large and shiny.

Furthermore, Anthony Romero and Jesse Butcher have an opening at Happy Collaborationists that we heard is inspired by hippies and mud. Word is that Haseeb Ahmed and Daniel G. Baird’s opening at Roots and Culture will dramatically change the gallery space, incorporating a fountain and maybe even fish (but don’t quote us).

Super secret sneak peak of someone’s work. @meredithandanna

Auctions have been trending, so it’s no surprise that LVL3′s 4th Annual HArts for Art is also this Saturday. Guilt free, a portion of the proceeds will benefit local not-for-profit Better Boys Foundation, but the work is going fast. Almost a week out and work by Israel Lund has already been claimed. We heard that the raffle is going to be bangin’ too.

At least the SAIC MFA show isn’t this weekend. Good luck.

The Weatherman Report

Max Pechstein, Schneeschmelze (Melting Snow), 1922 Oil on canvas (30 3/10 × 38 3/5 in), 1970

Grand Marquee on Irving Park Rd.

SMALLTIME ARCHIPHILE:

The Patio Theater

Smalltime Archiphile centers on architecture’s place – sometimes event-based, sometimes aesthetic– in usually small, marginal and forgotten incarnations around Chicagoland.

The Patio Theatre is arguably the most magnificent movie house in all of Chicago. With awesome programming by the Chicago Cinema Society, a revamped 1920′s Baroquesque interior and streamlined Deco marquee, Patio uses the vehicle of space, time and, more specifically color, to heighten its graphic grandeur.

Ornamentation and Chandelier on Ceiling

Color envelopes you in ways only rococo could – through ornamentation, stucco, mirrors, chandeliers, vaults – in variations of gold leaf, reds, blues, yellows and greens. The Patio Theater’s procession starts with its stark yellow and red sans-serif Deco marquee. Once inside, you encounter a nearly 20ft high chromatic ceiling ticketing foyer, followed by a minimally modern concession stand, and finally culminating in the most mindfucking auditorium punctuated by a starry night twice the size of the Music Box Theatre’s. It’s a series of effects that contemporary architects can’t even fathom approaching i.e. using color to form, shape, line and syncopate a procession, not as appliqué.

Patio’s use of color is palpable and interactive. The culmination of this comes in the auditorium’s screen covering that employs classic vaulting effects with an abundance of color to achieve simulacrum by easily inhabiting both traditional building technique (without traditional necessity) and pushing nuanced ornateness in graphic (without being kitsch).

Auditorium – Starry night, Chateau Window Walls and monumental vault screen enclosure

Sitting there watching a Samurai classic like Shogun Assassin on a Saturday night in Portage Park, not Lakeview, Logan Square, Southport or any other “hot spot” is an added bonus to this prismatic gem. Architecture ‘looks’ all the time and the colorful Patio Theater trumps most classic Chicago movie houses in terms of how comfortable it is in its own skin – inside and out.

The Patio Theater is located at 6008 W. Irving Park Rd, Chicago, Illinois 60634.

TRENDING: Music

Fish, the band, at The Chicago Music CD showcase at The Mutiny on Thursday Night Photo courtesy of Chicago Music CD Record Label.

Cla$$’s 3ft triangle stole the show. Photo courtesy of Chicago Music CD Record Label.

My Bad’s Scott Reeder takes a selfie with adoring fans. Photo courtesy of Chicago Music CD Record Label.

TRENDING: Music

#FREETHEUNIVERSE takes over The Mutiny Thursday night. Photo courtesy of Chicago Music CD Record Label.

Now you can stop dreaming about it. Nick Cave(s) sighting courtesy of Caroline Picard.

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.

Respect the crown: Kim Gordon with White/Light at the MCA last Tuesday night.




EDITION #5

March 18, 2013 · Print This Article

MCA programming edgier than a basement party in Pilsen

In her recent AFC review, Robin Deluzen wrote that the MCA is “on a roll” and What’s the T? couldn’t agree more.

This Tuesday will mark the opening of Jason Lazurus’ much anticipated and hotly discussed 12×12 BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works Exhibition. The exhibition appears to actually be three in one and has more programming than Michigan Avenue has drunk people on St. Patricks Day. The schedule includes (but is not limited to) signs for strolling, piano performances, a gif film screening (April 18th at Gene Siskel Film Center/ Conversations the Edge), and sign-making tutorials. The exhibition(s) and performances will be on view through June 18th.

Next Tuesday, March 26th, Chicago’s White/Light will be performing with [freaking] Kim Gordon. The only thing more exciting would be a Sonic Youth secret reunion show, but WTT? isn’t complaining. Tickets are free (!), but space is limited. Get our your camping gear out, this will be one for the ages.

As if all that and a bag of chips wasn’t enough, Oak Park natives, Tavi Gevinson and Jonah Ansell will be at the museum on April 23rd to discuss their work on the animated short, Cadaver. No offense Jonah Ansell, but OMG TAVI! The event includes a screening of the short and a discussion with Gevinson and Ansell moderated by Heidi Reitmaier, the MCA’s Beatrice C. Mayer Director of Education.

Oak Park Suburbanites, Gevinson and Ansell

Reading is Fundamental

Local band Fish proves e-cigs still trending. Image courtesy of The Foundation for Jiggles.

Local bands play music at bar

If you’ve ever walked by The Mutiny, you’ve probably noticed the “Bands Wanted” notice prominently displayed in their front window. If you’ve ever actually been inside the Fullerton Ave bar, you probably know why.

Regardless, a consortium of artists from The Hills to The West Pilsen Sculpture Garden have somehow managed to further expand their practices and are now “with the band, man.” The innocuously named “Chicago Music CDs showcase / CD release party” promises to be a glorious happening of music and stuff.

The show will feature “emerging new chicago music and experimental performance talent” such as FREE THE UNIVERSE (members of Fish, New Capital, Auditor), Fish (members of FREE THE UNIVERSE, Auditor), Ghosts (members of My Bad) and My Bad (members of Ghosts), amongst other bands no one has ever heard of because they probably didn’t exist until this show.

At least it’s free.

Thursday, March 28th at 8PM. The Mutiny 2428 N Western Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60647.

Michelle Obama has bangs!

Brandon Alvendia’s Sofa King What?

Show was worth the trek to Bridgeport. His practice invigorates others and that’s what’s important.

Header image is a detail shot of Heather Mekkelson‘s recent installation at +medicine cabinet in Bridgeport, near Sofa King.

‘The Alley’

SMALLTIME ARCHIPHILE:

The Fireside Bowl

‘Over the line’ and ‘Hey motherfucker, we’re that Spic band’ aren’t two expressions you might simultaneously hear unless you like The Big Lebowski and Los Crudos. But you may have heard it at some point in the 1990s while bowling your mediocre 104, eating a pizza and watching an iconic hardcore punk show at Fireside Bowl. Seldom do you get the productive slippage between national slacker pastime and radical teenage angst that would have been a mainstay at Fireside. This modern gem modularly clad in red-and-white metal tile façade, symmetrically planned with bowling on one end and horizontal circulation on the other, activating corner spaces where the action happened – stage left and bar right – looks more like a Firestone than a punk bowling alley.

Los Crudos show, 1999

Beginning with its 40 ft signage that is part pop-advertising, part surrealist call-to-bowl, Fireside’s modernism plays out in typical plan, allowing basic front-to-back bowling to occur next to stage dives, dog piles and circle pits in a circulatory space no wider than 15 ft – folding slow-paced sport and high-energy hardcore into the same form. Sporting seedy bar décor and MS-DOS-like scoring machines, Fireside’s ability to transport you to a time you never experienced is uncanny. Built in the 1940s, no doubt typified by modernist aesthetic leanings, Fireside is a monument to simplicity of a pre-digital era, where you could’ve killed two birds – bowling and slamdancing – with one roll.

Night shot of Fireside facade

Fireside still has shows, although not as iconic or plentiful as this show list from the mid 90s. Take a gander, go to Logan Square and be a shitty bowler, while this building still exists between eras, pastimes and subcultures, easily annihilating any validity to cosmic bowling.

The Fireside is located at 2646 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647.

Alvendia and Sofa King proprietor Christopher Smith speaking with a visotor at the opening.


Comfort Station regains will to comfort

The much-beloved Logan Square Comfort Station is much-missed during the winter months when the tiny art shelter is too cold to host their usually full schedule of exhibitions, screenings and musical performances. As a result of actual community effort, the 1915 structure is embarking on a much needed and environmentally friendly weatherproofing, funded in part by a Kickstarter and in-partnership with Logan Square business, Biofoam, a sustainable insulation company.

Limited Edition Print by Sonnenzimmer available through contribution to LSCS Kickstarter Campaign.

Not only will the Comfort Station get a physical makeover, their programming returns on Saturday, April 6th* with the exhibition “Sounds from the second floor: Isak Applin and Adam Ekberg”. What’s the T? has also heard rumors of a brand new website and more new programs for the Station’s 2013 Season.

Comfort Station Logan Square has impressively reached their Kickstarter goal with over a week to go, but if you donate now you still have a chance to get the most Logan of Squares tote bag possible and your name on a list alongside Chicago art luminaries and trendsetters (this reporter included).

* Which is, thankfully, not in conflict with the April 7th two-hour Mad Men Season 6 premiere.