One Year Away From Chicago

August 5, 2014 · Print This Article

It has been one year since I left Chicago for Flagstaff, Arizona, after accepting a position as a full-time lecturer of foundations at Northern Arizona University. Many other Chicago-based artists and educators, some with roots and connections to Chicago’s art scene far deeper and stronger than my own, have made the same choice. Some leave for personal reasons, but for the most part, artists leave Chicago to find work, or, more accurately, they leave as I did, to accept an offer of employment from a college or university located elsewhere.

Most recently, Chicago painter Molly Zuckerman Hartung announced (on Facebook) that she’s leaving Chicago: first to Knoxville, TN, to teach for the fall semester, then to Miami for a residency for the spring, then back to Chicago to teach next summer, and finally, fall of 2015, to New York City for, presumably, all the usual reasons that artists go there. Molly cut her way through everything that stood in her way to get where she is, left an indelible mark on Chicago, and if anybody can pull the rock star Hail Mary of the New York scene, it’s her. I wish her all the luck in the world, not that she needs it.

Earlier this year, Tony Fitzpatrick closed up shop in Chicago to head down to New Orleans, a place that had been dear to his heart for many years. I remember him telling a story once, I hope he doesn’t mind my repeating it, about how he used to fly down to New Orleans all the time, and he used to carry a gun. He’d just mail it to himself. So one time he was walking along the levee in the French Quarter, gun in his shoulder bag, and a couple of teenagers who looked like trouble walked up on him, maybe said something, asked what was in his bag, whatever. Tony put his hand in the bag, on the butt of the gun, and told the kids to walk on. I guess they figured he was serious, because they did as he asked, walked on. But then Tony’s thinking about it, thinking about if they hadn’t, and then Tony’d have shot the kids, and he’d have that on his conscience, all for what, his wallet? Nothing, to Tony’s mind, worth shooting a couple of kids over. So after that he stopped carrying a gun. In my memory, the story ends with him pitching the gun into a canal, but I’m probably mapping that over from another story another guy told me about accidentally flying to Germany with his dad’s forgotten pistol in a pocket of a suitcase he’d borrowed from his dad. Anyway, Tony’s in New Orleans, but Tony can do anything, anywhere, and he surely will.

Adam Benjamin Fung, a painter who shows with Zolla-Lieberman Gallery in River North, left last summer to teach at Texas Christian University. Sweet gig, good for him. Amy Mayfield, another Zolla-Lieberman painter, returned to her home town of San Diego, I think more for family reasons than for a job. This was a couple years ago I think. Photographer Adam Ekberg, who I worked with at Hyde Park Art Center, moved to Florida to teach, along with Noelle Mason, who continues to show with Thomas Robertello. Liz Nielson and Carolina Wheat, artists who formerly ran Swimming Pool Project Space, moved to New York for a job; Stephanie and I adopted Carolina’s son’s ball python, Homestar Runner, whom we immediately renamed Snake. Dayton Castleman moved to Arkansas. And many more.

The reason these artists keep leaving, with one or two exceptions, is almost always employment. Chicago generates an amazing diversity of artists, not just SAIC kids, but Columbia, Northwestern, UIC, and of course the self-taught, the non-academic, and the artists who, like I did, move to Chicago after school and set up a practice. But Chicago can’t keep these artists, because it can’t afford to feed them. Some move to other metropolises, and do very well for themselves as exhibiting artists: Chicago’s loss.

Others move for a teaching job and do well for themselves in that regard, and hopefully (I’m hoping for myself here) can maintain something of a practice. But it’s a challenge, that last bit, one that I’ve been wrestling with for the past year. A lot has happened, I’ve got every excuse in the book, but the fact is, in some ways it’s been a pretty dry year for me, as far as painting goes. The move and the job are part of it, but honestly buying a house and fixing it up was the bigger part. I got some stuff done, did the Walking to Mordor project, that was pretty sweet. Did a few paintings but honestly none that are any good. I’ve got some ideas but they’re slow in getting going.

The gallery thing is rough out here. There’s one gig in town, Beaver Street Gallery, that’s pretty legit. If I play my cards right, make some decent new work, I’ve got a shot at showing there, I’d bet. And I’d love to. But, if you think Chicago lacks collectors, you should check out Flagstaff. The occasional Phoenician rolls through, but they mostly buy plein aire landscapes, or the kind of silver coyote regionalism that’s all over out here. Maybe things are better down in Phoenix. I’ve got some work up in a restaurant called The Bordello of Jerome, in the little town of that name, not far from here. Maynard from Tool has a winery out there; maybe he’ll buy a painting. We have another ball python named (by his previous owner) Maynard, in his honor.

Of course one hopes to leave Chicago with some connections intact, and I’ve been back and done a few group shows in the past year. The big deal of course is still the idea of having gallery representation in the city. I’d bet most of the artists I named above held on to their Chicago gallery connections. I think I pretty much shit the bed on that one. I had a solo show at Linda Warren Projects back in May of 2012, and was stoked to do another one. I had some good work going in the studio in Chicago. I made it back a few times, worked on the paintings a little. We kept trying to schedule a studio visit to line up the next show, shit kept coming up, it never happened. Why? Well, it’s tough when I’m only in town once a month or so. So I just picked up the last of my work from the gallery, packed up the studio, and drove it all down here in a Uhaul. I’m still hoping to do another show with Linda in the future, of course, but again, it’s tough to do, long-distance like this. It’s not all bad, of course. The job is decent, full time at least, though not tenure track. I’ve got a pretty sweet house I bought, nice yard, garden, bird feeder, all that. I’ve got a good studio space in what used to be the garage, all finished now, carpet and a wood stove and all. Of course it’s pretty full of stuff from the move, got to get it cleared out a bit, so I can maybe make some damned work again. So we’ll see.

And that’s what happens. That’s what’s waiting for you, on the other end of all those teaching job applications you fill out. Maybe. Depends where you end up, I guess, and your attitude, and your work ethic. But a new job and a move like that can really knock the wind out of you. A year without making a decent painting really does a number on your pride. So you get up, you get back on the horse, and hope for the best.




EDITION #25

March 3, 2014 · Print This Article

Behind the scenes photos from Pedro Vélez‘s Instagram.

City Vacant as Artists Depart for Chicago Edition of Whitney Biennal

Did some big movie thingy happen last night? Whatever. The real thing we’ve been waiting for is finally here: The Whitney Biennial plus Armory double punch. Chicago is about to be quieter than a John Cage performance and emptier than Detriot as the Midwesterners gear up for their big moment at the WB this week. Nevermind this list of 21 art events in March, the action’s happening in NYC.

In the tradition of William Siertua’s 2012 Whitney Houston Biennial at Murdertown in Logan Square, another posthumous tribute biennial is set to take place at Julius Caesar in Chicago. Painter and pedagog, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung is the only artist to appear in both the 2014 Whitney and 2012 Whitney Houston Biennials, but MZH and co-2014 “participant” Diego Leclery are absent from the 2014 WHB at the space they formerly ran together. Opening March 16th, the Julius Caesar edition of the Whitney Houston Biennial features those artists who assist and collaborate with Whitney Biennial artists.

Not to be one-uped by Chicago, NYC is countering with their own “everywoman” Whitney Houston Biennial in Dumbo, and raises with the last ever Brucennial, which we hear is also a ladies only exhibition. Looks like women, or at least nods to them, are big in the forecast in 2014.

At least those of us back home in Chicago can take some solace in the fact that the VIP opening is shaping up to be the equivalent of a really good Ren opening. No shade though, WTT? couldn’t be more stoked for the 17 or so Chiagoans in the Biennal. We’re especially curious to see what cool dad Diego Leclery cooks up, and who doesn’t love a good Elijah Burgher occult dropcloth? Oh and did we mention that you should also totes go gawk at B@S’s own Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland doing interviews at Volta?

We’ll be here waiting on the couch until y’all get back.

Sassy Fleischauer takes on Hollywood Sign Meme

Hollywood Sign Gif

“Here’s how to use that hollywood sign generator,” asserted Fleischauer last week on Facebook.

NY artists bring “Borough” to Chicago

The West Loop felt anything but “regional” at Deanna Lawson’s and Derrick Adams’ opening at RHG last Friday night. Hour d’erves were passed and the galleries were filled with well suited-up New York banker looking cats. Posh attendees, including artist Mickalene Thomas (both artists first appeared at Hoffman’s in Thomas’ exhibition tête-à-tête in 2012) and Bomb Mag editor, Betsy Sussler, (who both flew in for the affair) swirled around the charasmatic and stylish Lawson and Adams, who were just as striking as the work. Blurring the lines between the two, Adams showed up to the exhibition in a herringbone suit and camoflague print button-up that matched the patterns in the trees of his large scale collage works.

Photo by Deanna Lawson

Bad Mickey!

The main gallery was devoted to Deanna Lawson’s nothing if not sumptuous large format photographs. The most arresting piece in the show is arguably Mickey & Friends <3, 2013, a commanding horizontal photograph of unclad women embracing in front of a Mickey Mouse mural. Mickey licentiously glances over at them. The three nude ladies posing in unison in front of a red velvet curtain was a close second. Lawson even manages to make a simple pink blanket on a red bench look steamy.

Work by Derrick Adams in “Borough”

Karthik Pandian and Derrick Adams

Dapper Dudes: Karthik Pandian and Derrick Adams in front of Adams’ work.

Gallery girls and Rakowitz

Gallery Girls: Claire Flannery, Anastasia Karpova Tinari and Cara Lewis with The Breakup artist Michael Rakowitz.

In the front two rooms of RGH, Derrick Adams’ large collages merged the architectural with the psychological. Adams constructed his own “Borough” of homes from elementary school fence decorations, Restoration Hardware catalog furniture, and camoflague pattern trees. Figures are incorporated into the doll houses through fashion mag cutouts, sewing patterns and art historical fragments. Further underscording the metaphorical dimension of the homes are the miniature versions of portraits from Adams’ Deconstruction Worker series hanging on the walls of his own doll houses. The exhibiton is capped by an actual doll house in the front gallery window construced from silhouettes in Adams’ distinctive style.

Adams' dollhouse

Adams’ doll head house.

Rhona’s been killing it on the freshness tip lately. The Lawson and Adams exhibitions are on view until April 5th.

Rhona Hoffman Gallery is located at 118 N Peoria St #1A.

Who wore it better? Mexican Andrew or Chicago Andrew? Did you hear there’s a California Andrew version as well? Rafacz just went public with a gallery he’s opening in L.A. called Loudhailer.

Cultural Center Legitmately Cultural

DJ Earl

Lunch party time with Deejay Earl.

If you work anywhere near the Cultural Center you owe it to yourself to visit for Wired Fridays. We caught footwork master Deejay Earl two Fridays ago and it was pretty much life changing. The “study room” area on the first floor turns into a club with most eclectic midday crowd you’ve ever seen. Best people watching ever, old ladies, footworkers, tourists, you name it. Earl took the bizarre scene in stride and his set was on point.

Every first and third Friday of the month at the Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Square, 1st Floor North. 78 E. Washington St.

Reading is Fundamental

Case of the Vase. Art never makes the headlines unless it’s something bogus like that whole Ai Wei Wei fiasco at the Perez Art Museum in Miami. Be still my Facebook stream. At least this one thoughtful meditation by Ben Mauk on the medias overblown reaction to the case almost makes up for it. Mauk’s mention of Damien Hirst’s hundred million dollar monstrosity also reminds us of Rachel Cohen’s fascinating piece for Believer Magazine on the relationship between bankers and artists throughout the ages. Overlap much?

Really though? If you do happen to find yourself in big ol’ New York City trying to fit in at Whitney Biennial Fashion Week, you might want to stock up on ADIDAS pants and slip on sandals with socks. Just remember one thing: no one out-normals Chicago. We’re not even really gonna get into it but this article pretty much sums up our feelings on the norm-non-matter.

[Social] Practice makes perfect at CAA. Obvi must read Jason Foumberg’s Scene + Herd for Artforum. That Dieter Roelstraete photo is beyond.

#Your an idiot. Can’t help it, I really feel that “really annoying—while at the same time making you kind of half smile every time you read it” thing.




Top 5 Weekend Picks (2/17-2/19)

February 17, 2012 · Print This Article

1. Living By Example at Northeastern Illinois University Fine Arts Center

Work by Jeroen Nelemans, Ryan Richey, Ryan Travis Christian, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, Deborah Boardman, Dana Carter, Kirsten Leenaars, Zachary Cahill, Ann Toebbe, Melissa Oresky, Alberto Alguilar, Corinne Halbert, Meg Duguid, Heidi Norton, Paul Nudd, Maria Gaspar, Mindy Rose-Schwartz, Eric Brown, Catie Olsen, and Michael Rea.

Northeastern Illinois University Fine Arts Center is located at 5500 N St. Louis. Reception Friday from 6-9pm.

2. the big stink moves like a moth towards the light at HungryMan Gallery

Work by Ethan Cook, McKeever Donovan, Michael Hunter, Andrew Laumann, Mallory Anita Lawson, Sofia Leiby, John Roebas, Letha Wilson, and Eric Veit.

HungryMan Gallery is located at 2135 N. Rockwell St. Reception Saturday from 7-10pm.

3. The Warmest Guest at Autumn Space Gallery

Work by Magalie Guérin.

Autumn Space Gallery is located at 1700 Irving Park #207. Reception Saturday from 6-9pm.

4. Honk If You Love Painting at Terrain

Work by Anna Kunz.

Terrain is located at 704 Highland Ave., Oak Park. Reception is Sunday from 2-4pm.

5. Accidents in Gravity at ACRE Projects

Work by Michelle Anne Harris.

ACRE Projects is located at 1913 W 17th St. Reception is Sunday from 4-8pm.




Fielding Practice Episode 12 Now Live on the Art21 Blog

February 16, 2012 · Print This Article

The latest episode of “Fielding Practice,” the Chicago-centric podcast/gabfest featuring Duncan MacKenzie, Dan Gunn and me has just been posted on the Art21 Blog as part of Bad at Sports’ ongoing Centerfield column.  This week, regular panelists Duncan MacKenzie, Dan Gunn and I discuss the demise of Next/Art Chicago–which up until last week had been the US’ longest-running art fair –and the subsequent rise of Expo, a new Chicago-based art fair slated to debut on Navy Pier in September 2012. We also review current exhibitions by Laura Letinsky at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, whose show Negative Joy is on view at Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery, plus we offer some “best bet” picks for the coming month in Chicago. As an added bonus, this week we keep the conversation blissfully short, at a running time of approximately 38 minutes — as always, thank you so much for tuning in!

Click here for Fielding Practice Episode 12 on the Art21 blog.




Top 8 Weekend Picks (4/1-4/3)

April 1, 2011 · Print This Article

There is just too much good stuff this weekend, 5 spots aren’t enough. Here’s what I think everyone should see, in chronological and alphabetical order:

Friday (4/1) -

UIUC MFA Show: Artsplosia at Co-Prosperity Sphere

Work by Will Arnold, Jung Eun Chang, Justin Farkas, Karri Anne Fischer, Motoko Furuhashi, Amy Gilles, Jim Graham, Dan Gratz, Ben Grosser, Ben Hatcher, Dan Krueger, Katie Latona, Erica Leohner, Maria Lux, Nick Mullins, Kerianne Quick, Michael Smith, Paul Shortt, Laura Tanner, Jessica Tolbert, Nicki Werner, Sarah Beth Woods, and Michael Woody.

Co-Prosperity Sphere is located at 3219 S Morgan St. Reception Friday from 6-10pm.

Weaving Healing Waters at Fill in the Blank Gallery

Work by Maria Calderon.

Fill in the Blank Gallery is located at 5038 N. Lincoln Ave. Reception Friday from 7-11pm.

That’s Odd, I Feel So Alive at Packer Schopf Gallery

Work by Casey Riordan Millard

Packer Schopf Gallery is located at 942 W. Lake St. Reception Friday from 5-8pm.

6/6/6: SIX ARTISTS, SIX CITIES, SIX CONNECTIONS at Lloyd Dobler

Work by Jeff Badger, Carl Baratta, Amanda Curreri, Joanne Lefrak, Kathy Leisen, and Dan Schank.

Lloyd Dobler is located at 1545 W. Division, 2nd Fl. Reception Friday from 6-10pm.

When the Cathedrals Were White at Thomas Robertello Gallery

Work by Peter Allen Hoffmann.

NOTE NEW LOCATION: Thomas Robertello Gallery is located at 27 N Morgan St. Reception Friday from 6-8pm.

Saturday (4/2) -

Country Club Presents ‘Abstract Location’ & Anthotypes at Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Abstract Location features work by work by Steven Bankhead, Katarina Burin, Fritz Chesnut, Jacob Dyrenforth, Freeman & Lowe, and Ryan McGinness. Anthotypes features work by John Opera.

Andrew Rafacz Gallery is located at 835 W. Washington. Reception Saturday from 4-7pm.

No Joke at LVL3

Work by Andy Cahill, Alan & Michael Fleming, Yasi Ghanbari, Danny Greene, Joe Grimm, Marissa Perel, Arron David Ross, and Michael Vallera.

LVL3 is located at 1542 N Milwaukee Ave #3. Reception Saturday from 6-10pm.

Sunday (4/3) -

Irritable Abstraction at Julius Cæsar

Work by Joe Baldwin, Timothy Bergstrom, Brian Calvin, Federico Cattaneo, Edmund Chia, Dana DeGiulio, Dan Devening, Cheryl Donegan, Judith Geichman, Andrew Greene, Magalie Guérin, Antonia Gurkovska, Seth Hunter, Michiko Itatani, Eric Lebofsky, Diego Leclery, José Lerma, Jim Lutes, Rebecca Morris, Sabina Ott, Noah Rorem, Erin Washington and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung.

Julius Cæsar is located at 3144 W Carroll Ave, 2G. Reception Sunday from 4-7pm.