Big and Bold

May 30, 2013 · Print This Article

Some big things worth mentioning — maybe…

Anna Berndtson COURTESY OF ANNA BERNDTSON

Anna Berndtson
COURTESY OF ANNA BERNDTSON

1. RAPID PULSE, an international performance festival, is taking place this weekend and next week. The Chicago Reader just wrote a great something something, with the evocative sub-header “Wafaa Bilal wants Twitter’s help to inflate a giant head, and other oddities, at Defibrillator Gallery’s second annual Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival.” Find out more info about that here, or if you want, download the schedule of events via this link: RP13_poster-brochure.

According to The Reader:

Pure voodoo at its best, performance art traffics in psychic violence, provoking questions that viewers, by virtue of their emotional disturbance, feel compelled to answer. Defibrillator Gallery’s Rapid Pulse, now in its second year, is designed to make the genre more talkative: the festival, which includes window shows, public spectacle, and video screenings, coordinates performances with discussions, spread over ten days and four venues (Defibrillator, 1136 N. Milwaukee; Electrodes, the gallery’s front windows; Hub, 1535 N. Milwaukee; Nightingale, 1084 N. Milwaukee). Come for the bad vibes, stay for the nauseating hypersonic jolt. ()

2. EAT WHAT ARTISTS EAT:

Our friends at ACRE launched a Kickstarter Campaign for their unique Residency Kitchen Program. There (among other things) you can get a copy of the ACRE cookbook, and support a good program that feeds creative acts/minds all summer long. In their words:

We believe meals equal community and the ACRE kitchen strives to foster a place where residents, visiting artists and local farmers can cross-pollinate.

Funds raised through kickstarter will go towards supporting locally grown and produced agriculture and conscientious businesses, purchasing equipment that will make the kitchen more efficient and sustainable, our yearly cookbook KADABRA, a collection of recipes from each year’s residency, and will give us the support we need to keep creating a diverse selection of considered, artistic, and nutritious menus for our residents.

KADABRA VOL 3, Annual Cook Book

Cook Book cover and selection of pages
cover designed by Edie Fake & Daniel Luedtke
artwork and recipe contributions by the ACRE Kitchen Staff & Resident Alumni
3. THE FLOOD THAT NEVER CAME:
mekkelson_postCard
I often overhear and/or participate in conversations about cultural amnesia in the arts — shows and spaces come and go with out a trace. Despite material evidence, however, I believe finite works continue to exercise their impression well into the future. With that in mind, I responded to a recent call on Art21’s blog asking for articles about hindsight. I responded by writing a review of Heather Mekkelson’s show, Limited Entry, at a long-gone apartment gallery, Old Gold:

It was the summer of 2008. It was hot. And humid. Everything was green and/or sweating. People who didn’t sweat stood out. Their reserve both enviable and mysterious—a contrast from everything else. Refuge from the heat was similarly impressive and constantly sought. Most apartment galleries were barely tolerable for their heat. At cooler exhibition sites, visitors inevitably took considerable time examining the works of art on display. That August, Heather Mekkelson had a solo show at an apartment gallery—or what maybe we should call a basement gallery—half a flight downstairs in Logan Square called Old Gold. With its dark 1970s style wood paneling, built-in bar and enough floor space for a pool table, Old Gold looked like an old rumpus room. It was anything but  neutral and its unapologetic, undeniable character forced artists to continually incorporate the space into their exhibitions. Mekkelson’s project was no different. Limited Entry was based entirely on the unique environment. And at that particular time, it was significantly cooler than anything outdoors.

oldgoldchicagologo

In order to access the stairs down to the gallery, one walked through a front gate and around the side of an apartment building. According to rumor, the landlord and upstairs resident did not know Old Gold existed. Being an unpredictable fellow, gallery directors Kathryn Scanlan and Caleb Lyons preferred to keep the professional aspect of their curatorial project discreet. They didn’t advertise much and the only label on the door was composed from Home Depot stickers, appearing more like the absent-minded work of a teenager than anything formally significant. This place was easy to miss. (read more)

4. Longtime Chicago champions Elijah Burger and Deb Sokolow are featured in VITAMIN D2 (video courtesy of Western Exhibitions):

 


 

 

 




Top 5 Weekend Picks! (8/20 & 8/21)

August 19, 2010 · Print This Article

Another round of weekend picks, brought to you by…well…me. Enjoy!

1. Caras de Mexico at 33 Collective Gallery

Work by photographer Joe Compean.

33 Collective Gallery is located at 1029 W. 35th St. Reception is Friday, from 7-10pm.

2. Corazón Grafico/Corazón Urbano at Co-Prosperity Sphere

New mixed media works by Gabriel Villa.

Co-Prosperity Sphere is located at 3219 S Morgan St. Reception is Friday, from 7-11pm.

3. Love Letters to Antarctica at Swimming Pool Project Space

Works by Annie Heckman and Lorien Jordan.

Swimming Pool Project Space is located at 2858 W. Montrose Ave. Reception is Saturday, from 7-10pm.

4. Practice Makes Purpose at Monument 2 Gallery

New works by Justin Thomas Schaefer.

Monument 2 Gallery is located at 2007 N. Point St. Reception is Saturday, from 6-10pm.

5. Yard Salad at Old Gold

Two days of art auctions to clear out Old Gold before its peeps move out to LA.

Old Gold is located at 3102 W Palmer Blvd. Auction Saturday and Sunday, from 11am-5pm.




Interview with Caleb Lyons: Piracy and ‘Abstraction in the 21st Century’

July 27, 2010 · Print This Article

Chicago artist Caleb Lyons, who was interviewed way back when on Episode 95 of our podcast, recently had a solo exhibition at the MCA Chicago as part of the Museum’s 12 x 12 series. Lyons and his partner in life and crime Kathryn Scanlan are the forces behind Old Gold — the latter now continuing operations with new presentations at Heaven Gallery in Wicker Park. Caleb also co-directed the late great artLedge with Brandon Alvendia, and is involved in so many ongoing projects that I could never list them all in full here. The following interview focuses solely on his own, recent artworks, which include paintings, a video (of the nude artist, surrounded by potted plants, offering himself up as a readymade artist’s model), and a mixed media installation of various cactii potted in handcrafted pipe-pots (or, um, pot-pipes? ANYWAY). It was a smart and provocative show, but unfortunately I was only able to catch it the last week it was on view, hence the un-timeliness of the following interview. Lucky for all of us, Lyons’ paintings are now on view at  Golden’s new auxilliary space, located at 3319 N. Broadway Ave, Chicago. (I also found some excellent pictures of Caleb’s work in situ at Golden on Strange Closets blog, so go check it out the excellent photographs on that blog and then head on over to Golden and see the actual works of art in person!).

The wall text for Lyons’ MCA show described him as a kind of Jack of All Trades, an artist whose practice “encompasses a diverse range of activities–gardening, DJing, and working collaboratively with other artists–reflecting his interest in the idea that ‘everyone is an artist’ and that everything can constitute an artwork.” Yet Lyons’ MCA show was called, somewhat ironically (and then again, somewhat not), “Abstraction in the 21st Century,” a title that was clearly designed to provoke a certain amount of bemusement and even incredulity on the part of viewers, given the relatively short history of 21st century painting in general. This provocative title was the first thing I asked Caleb about during our written exchange about his show, which was conducted several weeks ago while Lyons was on residency at The Philadelphia Art Hotel (Bad at Sports’ SF correspondent Patricia Maloney also happens to be on residency there this summer). I’m tremendously grateful to him for taking time out of his very busy schedule to answer my questions with such thoughtfulness and care.

Installation view of Caleb J. Lyons' exhibition at the MCA Chicago.

Claudine Ise: “Abstraction in the 21st Century” is a ballsy title for an exhibition – at least for an exhibition by an individual artist at a major contemporary art museum. I really like the way this title appropriates the language of the encyclopedic museum (more specifically, the language that this type of museum would use to introduce its gallery exemplifying Abstraction in art), but here it’s used to frame a solo show by an emerging artist. I am also intrigued by the fact that such a title implies the promise of a representative sampling of artists – which of course it doesn’t. So can you tell me a bit about why you chose this title for your MCA solo exhibition?

Caleb Lyons: Well I do have balls, or a pair of testicles–they were on exhibit in my nude video: The Artist Is The Model: Do It Yourself, Still Life, Amateur Hour, Idiot Box, which was riffing on the ego and vulnerability of the artist, as well as the idea that through our immediate technologies everyone has become a producer, the “artist” has become the “model citizen” for exploitation.

I am interested in the way museums and other institutions feel the need to categorize and define genres for the public. It becomes generic. I use the generic as a catalyst in my own work –– as in, ‘this is what an American abstract painting is supposed to look like’. I wonder why we feel like we need themes so badly. Will we really find it that hard to make connections otherwise? If museums didn’t try so hard to define things, would the public be confused or would the public figure it out for themselves?

The presumptuous title also suggests that the work will be heroic in scale and intention, and I find it funny that the work is very modest, handcrafted and is both abstract and representational. There is no abstraction without representation and no representation without abstraction.

Caleb Lyons. Untitled document, from "Real Pirates."

I think it is a symptom of our time (with best-of lists, and our need to categorize and rate the arts), the idea that abstraction would be surveyed only ten years into the century. The title also attempts to allude to our society’s growing disconnect with reality, and our increasing (as far as I can tell) loss of power and freedom. There is something attractive and deceptive about the anonymity of abstraction. Maybe in such an audacious title for a small solo exhibition some viewers will find the absurdity in genre-defining elsewhere, or maybe they will just think I am a pretentious asshole; either way, I’m happy. Read more




Small Is (Usually) Good

March 2, 2009 · Print This Article

CROSS-FADE, a group show of Chicago-based artists who are romantically involved, gives new meaning to the term relational aesthetics. The chosen lovebirds here are Julia Fish and Richard Rezak, Michelle Bolinger and Todd Simeone, and Kevin Kaempf and Michael Thomas of People Powered and Lucky Pierre, respectively—couples who don’t normally collaborate but, as organizer Stacie Johnson points out on the Swimming Pool Project Space website, “their independent practices have been in dialogue for some time.”

CROSS-FADE, at Swimming Pool Projects

CROSS-FADE, at Swimming Pool Projects

I like how this show explicitly acknowledges the influence of a domestic partnership on artistic practice, via  (one imagines) the kinds of conversations that occur not only in the studio but over coffee at the kitchen table or in bed watching t.v. It’s a small show, with a piece from each artist (Kaempf and Thomas contribute a single collaborative video) and a sculpture of a potted plant credited to Bolinger and Simeone. Johnson treads lightly over her theme, as if she’s afraid that by making too much of the romantic ties that bind she’ll warp our view of what each artist is doing on his/her own.  The works aren’t installed in a manner that encourages side-by-side comparisons, and there’s no accompanying text to provide insight into precisely how these artists’ practices are in dialogue. We’re left to figure that out for ourselves, but I think Johnson’s curatorial premise is good enough to warrant a much larger and more in-depth exploration of the idea.  Maybe she could include some examples of what happens to work when lovers break up. Now that’d make for some juicy encounters at the opening reception.

I think we’ve all had this experience:  you see a show that’s mostly forgettable save for one work so good it makes you re-think everything else in the room. This happened to me while viewing Alison Katz’s exhibition at Kasia Kay Art Projects Gallery, which on the whole struck me as a pretty good example of not-so-interesting painting, the show’s provocative title (“You Talk Greasily”) not withstanding.  I’ll admit it: I went to this show under the vague impression that this was an artist who painted with fat, and I was kind of turned on by that idea, but instead I found paintings in oils and acrylics whose execution was of the fashionably loose and sloppy sort; Katz’s garish palette and flattened perspectives also left me cold.

Allison Katz, Coin, 2008

Allison Katz, Coin, 2008

To use a (now-unfashionable) term from Roland Barthes in an admittedly off-kilter context, there’s no punctum in Katz’s paintings, nothing to latch on to, emotionally or intellectually. Is that what they mean by “greasy”? Katz makes paintings for a post-photography era; she also seems to want to deflate traditional notions of authorship.

Allison Katz, Signature, 2008

Allison Katz, Signature, 2008

As Patrice Connelly points out in her New City review of the show, Katz employs so many varying stylistic devices it’s hard to tell that the work was made by a single artist. Perhaps that’s why the one image that repeatedly drew me back was also the most mundane: a still life of a flower bouquet soaking in a clear glass jelly jar, the cellophane still wrapped around the red and yellow buds.

Oil on Canvas

Allison Katz, Bouquet (Cellophane), 2008

I still can’t quite put my finger on why I liked this particular painting so much. Maybe it’s in its seamless melding of the recognizably “real” with the patently artifical, the way Katz’s rough brushstrokes capture the hurriedness with which the flowers have been plunked into the jar and how the painted materiality of the glass and the cellulose behind it extends the parameters of the still life into something more like a frozen landscape. It was the only painting in the show that worked for me, and I caught myself wishing I could tuck it under my arm and take it home, like a real bouquet of flowers.

What’s that oft-cited quote? “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Variously attributed to Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, Lauri Anderson and a bunch of others, whoever said it, I just lived it a little during a visit to Sebastian Craig’s new installation at Old Gold. With its 70’s era rec room feel, Old Gold looks and feels like a party space; no doubt a few prior generations of kids have gotten stoned down there while their parents drank martinis and watched TV upstairs. Sebastian Craig plays off the grungy conviviality of this basement gallery’s past and present incarnations with a party-themed architectural installation that invites (nay, requires) participation and gives you permission to dance like a dork (yay me!). Craig has taken a lengthy pink cord and angled it across two walls so that it looks like the laser beam security device from spy films like Entrapment.

Sebastian Craig at Old Gold

Sebastian Craig at Old Gold

As you pick your way through it to cross the room,  you’re forced to lift up your limbs in a wonky kind of dance. No doubt the piece reached a certain apotheosis during the opening, when the room was filled with people weaving in and out of the cords in order to view the video on the other side of the room, or more importantly, grab a beer.  But I was there alone, when the room was empty (save for co-director Caleb Lyons and his cutie-pie pug), and I’m glad I was, as I don’t think the work’s remarkably strong architectural elements would have asserted themselves so clearly had I seen it only during the opening festivities.

… Anyone go to Paul Chan’s opening at The Ren yesterday? If you did, what’d ya think?