A graphic, editorial overview of art, artists, and visual art events, found in and around Chicago over the course of the preceding month. All artwork copyright original artists; all photography copyright Paul Germanos.
Mothergirl @ Happy Collaborationists / ACRE Residency
Above: Mothergirl, a performance art duo featuring Sophia Hamilton, foreground, and Katy Albert, background, working within wooden boxes.
Above: The Happy Collaborationists, Meredith Weber, left, and Anna Trier, right, hosting Mothergirl’s “Two Women Do Three Things,” on February 9, 2013.
“Two Women Do Three Things”
February 9, 2013
Happy Collaborationists, in partnership with ACRE Residency
1254 N. Noble
Chicago, IL 60642
Martin Creed @ MCA Chicago
Above: A 10 second exposure, hand-held, indicating the kinetic potential of Martin Creed’s popular piece “MOTHERS.”
Above: Visible in the museum lobby, background, are the geometric architectural paintings Work No. 798 (2007) and Work No. 1349 (2012).
Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS)
Museum of Contemporary Art
MVDR Plaza – till May
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Chris Smith @ The Franklin
Above: Chris Smith’s “Visitation Rites” art burn in progress on Februrary 9, 2013.
Above: Chelsea Culp and Ben Foch view Chris Smith’s “The Visitor’s Hours” within The Franklin, opening night.
Above: A gallery patron embraced by a neighborhood resident during the opening reception.
“The Visitor’s Hours” and “Visitation Rites”
February 9 – 24, 2013
3522 W. Franklin Blvd
Drawer’s Drawing @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM
Above: Leslie Baum’s “In the Forest,” 2012, full work and detail.
February 3 – March 3, 2013
Julius Caesar and Peregrine Program
3311 W. Carroll Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624
Curated by Carrie Gundersdorf and Eric Lebofsky
Artwork by Leslie Baum, Avantika Bawa, Elijah Burgher, Lilli Carré, Chris Edwards, Anthony Elms, Richard Rezac, and Paul Schuette
Peculiar Poetics @ Design Cloud
Above: Kayl Parker’s 60″ x 75″ photographic print on vinyl
Above: “Peculiar Poetics” curator Alysia Alex, opening night.
February 1 – 23, 2013
118 N. Peoria, Suite 2N
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by Alysia Alex
Artwork by Kayl Parker, Brea Souders, Stephanie Gonot, Bridget Collins, Mate Moro, Aron Filkey, Marthe Elise Stramrud, Sasha Kurmaz, and Sol Hashemi
Plant Life @ Western Exhibitions
Above: Front to back, artwork by Heidi Norton, Scott Wolniak, and Tyson Reeder.
Above: “Plant Life” curator Geoffrey Todd Smith, opening night.
February 1 – March 9, 2013
845 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by Geoffrey Todd Smith
Artwork by Chinatsu Ikeda, Eric Wert, Heidi Norton, Jonathan Gardener, Mindy Rose Schwartz, Scott Wolniak, and Tyson Reeder
Shit is Real @ devening projects + editions
Above: “You Can’t Win Them All” by Cody Hudson.
Above: Artwork by Aron Gent, as photographed during the opening reception at devening projects + editions, on February 3, 2013.
Above: Aron Gent at his own gallery, Document, photographed on February 1, 2013.
“Shit is Real”
February 3 – March 9, 2013
devening projects + editions
3039 W. Carroll,
Chicago, IL 60612
Artwork by Aron Gent, Carrie Gundersdorf, Cody Hudson, Sofia Leiby, Josh Reames and Cody Tumblin
Judith Geichman @ Carrie Secrist
Above: Gallery patrons view Judith Geichman’s installation during the opening reception.
Above: Chicago writer and artist Erik Wenzel, bon vivant in the shadow of existential doubt, at Judith Geichman’s opening reception on February 9, 2013.
“New Paintings and Works on Paper”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Carrie Secrist Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Color Bind @ MCA
Above: Rudolf Stingel’s oil painting “Untitled (after Sam),” 2006.
Above: Joel Shapiro, Untitled, 1971, foreground; Glenn Lingon “White #11,” 1994, and Imi Knoebel, “Untitled (Black Painting),” 1990, background.
“Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White,”
Organized by MCA Curator Naomi Beckwith
November 10, 2012 – April 28, 2013
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago, IL 60611
Mary Patten @ threewalls
Above: Mary Patten’s “Schizo-Culture” performance live, February 9, 2013
Above: Dr. Darrell Moore as Michel Foucault in “Schizo-Culture” at threewalls.
Mary Patten: “PANEL”
January 11 – February 23, 2013
119 N. Peoria #2c
Chicago, IL 60607
Sarah Hicks @ Thomas Robertello
Above: Ceramic artist Sarah Hicks greeting a guest at her opening reception on Friday, February 22, 2013.
February 22 – April 6, 2013
Thomas Robertello Gallery
27 N. Morgan St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Goshka Macuga @ MCA Chicago
Above: Goshka Macuga’s “The Nature of the Beast” booked for a meeting, social dimension evident, on February 12, 2013.
Above: “Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not,” (panel 1).
“Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A”
December 15, 2012 – April 7, 2013
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Luc Dratwa @ Kasia Kay
Above: Exterior window, looking in gallery from sidewalk, at night.
February 22 – March 30
Kasia Kay Projects
215 N. Aberdeen St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Tom Costa and Christina McClelland @ Roxaboxen / ACRE Projects
Above: Christina McClelland, foreground, and Tom Costa, background.
Above: Christina McClelland at the opening reception on February, 10, 2013.
Tom Costa & Christina McClelland
“After the After Party”
February 10, 2013
Roxaboxen Exhibitions in partnership with ACRE Projects
2130 W. 21st St.
Gabriel Vormstein @ moniquemeloche
“Tempus fungit – amor mannet”
February 1 – March 30, 2013
2154 W Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
Johanna Billing @ Kavi Gupta
“I’m gonna live anyhow until I die”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Kavi Gupta Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
Robert Burnier @ Andrew Rafacz
Above: Robert Burnier at his opening reception on February 9, 2013.
“The Horseless Carriage”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Andrew Rafacz Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus @ ACRE Projects
Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus
February 10 – 25, 2013
1913 W. 17th St.
Chicago, IL 60608
Xavier Cha @ Aspect Ratio
February 9 – March 8, 2013
119 N. Peoria St., Unit 3D
Chicago IL 60607
Paul Germanos: Born November 30, 1967, Cook County, Illinois. Immigrant grandparents, NYC. High school cross country numerals and track letter. Certified by the State of Illinois as a peace officer. Licensed by the City of Chicago as a taxi driver. Attended the School of the Art Institute 1987-1989. Studied the history of political philosophy with the students of Leo Strauss from 2000-2005. Phi Theta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Motorcyclist.
Last month, I compiled a collection of interviews with a curatorial projects operating in the city of Chicago. In it, Happy Collaborationists, LVL3, New Capital, slow, Roxaboxen, Plaines Project, and Johalla Projects all answer the same four questions, discussing their respective curatorial agendas. I always love to hear the back room story behind spaces, the way administration and practical impasses influence day to day decisions. I would love to post all of them here, but as it is, I’m only going to wet your whistle on this Internet-machine. After all, the interviews were intended to go together. While the resulting zine, “AD HOC,” was available for free in the Bad at Sports booth of the Chicago EXPO, you can download the entire booklet via the following link: EXPO_Bas_pamphlet_for_web. Below I have included an interview from that collection with co-director Paul Hopkin from slow gallery — a wonderful space that straddles the line between apartment space and storefront gallery. At present, slow is exhibiting Benjamin Bellas, Represent the sound outside these spaces wherein”Benjamin performs herculean tasks and shows what is produced by his efforts.” That exhibit is open to the public until November 10th. For information about what they’re up to, the show they have installed in Clutch Gallery (a portable exhibition site in founder Meg Dugid’s purse). Hopkin’s co-director, Jeffrey Grauel is carrying it around at present, and even brought it to Washington DC for its official opening. Visit their website here and don’t forget, the following interview is just the tip of the ice berg. Each of those seven spaces has a interesting and varied way of thinking about their curatorial work.
Caroline Picard: What kind of exhibitions excite you generally?
Paul Hopkin: I like an exhibition that gets under my skin. Art is best when I am not sure whether I like it or not, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I always try to get artists to present work in ways they would be less likely to without me, or the kind of space I run. That means pairing people who otherwise would not be paired, encouraging a new direction in the work or taking more risks in its presentation. I have been really lucky to have worked with a lot of really fantastic artists, but I have two favorite shows: one was called the low down and featured the work of Jeffrey Grauel, Caroline Allison, and Danica Favorito. Jeffrey covered all the windows with panels of crocheted video tape. It brought a darkness to the space — clearly because it was a sort of blackout curtain, but it also just pushed its presence into the space generating a kind of tension. Well, the fact that you also walked straight into a slowly spinning baseball bat maybe helped that a little too. I also really loved the play between Caroline’s gorgeously printed and beautifully framed photos with Danica’s that were off her junky inkjet she had at home, wrinkled and hung with obvious pieces of masking tape. I think one of Danica’s photos had a coffee stain on it.
The second show was last spring, titled, it ain’t over. Brent Garbowski and Joe Mault collaborated on this work that was not just designed for the space, but for people who come to it, for me. There was a kind of specificity to the work that was truly remarkable. They cut down a power pole and lay it down on the floor so that it cut through the gallery, through the entrance of my apartment and ran alongside my bed. They fabricated a swing arm with the familiar arch of a streetlight, so that the bulb illuminated my bed, complete with the way-too-bright light of an outdoor fixture. They are in the process of installing parts of that pole in another space and it is becoming a wholly different work. I also love that I got Barbara DeGenevieve to make work that was really light-hearted. I was really excited that she, one of my more established artists, was excited to work with Brent and Joe, two boys still in undergrad.
CP: Do you have a particular story about what the back-end of your space is like? Something perhaps indicative of your administrative process?
PH: I would probably not be running a gallery if there were no separation between my private apartment and the storefront gallery. It is funny to me now, but I thought I wanted to keep people in the public space and keep my home out of the mix. A couple of shows into it I just realized it was ridiculous — it was more comfortable to use my home as the space to hang out in. If I haven’t swept the floor in my apartment and there is an opening, I just let it happen anyway. “Y’all come to see the work and enjoy a beverage. Hell, some of you seem comforted that there are little mounds of my dog’s hair everywhere.”
I made a rule — if I find you difficult to work with, it is not worth it to me. I will also not work with you if I don’t trust you to be alone in my home. I do this because I love it, and it is important for me to continue loving it. I have only had a few conflicts, and I hope I have resolved them well. Most of the artists I have worked with have truly been a pleasure. Not that there is never stress; stress is part of getting something worthwhile to happen. But the artists I have worked with have been helpful, resourceful, and interested in having good shows. I have been thrilled to see it work that way. I have had artists who have shown in my space just jump in and help with practical chores even when it is not their show.
I keep a running list of artists that interest me. Some, I check in with from time to time. I throw ideas around, often in casual conversations with friends. Just keep at things until an idea clicks. Then I approach the artists. Sometimes that doesn’t work out and it means I have to start again. Maybe an artist is unavailable, or sometimes just not into the idea. I usually have three or four studio visits with each artist leading up to a show and I always run my show ideas by Jeffrey Grauel, my co-director.
The biggest practical decision I make is to avoid shipping work. I have done it, and it has worked, but I mostly show Chicago folks. I find the practical matters to be a part of the scene, so working within the resources and space I have is a part of the fun. I don’t choose in a terribly practical fashion. I mean I had a power pole hovering over my bed for two months, and I let a performer live in my space drunk for a week.
I write for every show. It brings clarity about the show and why I put the artists together in the first place, and it helps the artists understand it too. When I get it right, the writing also helps generate some interest in the shows. But I try to avoid describing the work. I want to generate experience with the work on its own terms. I have my ideas, but I don’ t ever want to impose them on the work in a way that overshadows the work itself. I don’t have my writing in the space at all during a show. It resides on the internet on purpose.
I don’t understand your question about, “engaging a public audience”— I mean, people come; the events are, in some direct way, public. It is a bit of a mystery to me that I engage a consistent crowd of undergraduate artists, and a consistent crowd of adults who have been out of school for a good long while, whereas I don’t draw a ton of graduate students. It is a little frustrating to me, because critical attention has a way of following the interests of those grad students. But I think the shows at slow are better than that. And not that the projects haven’t received attention, because they have. But sometimes I still feel like slow is a secret. I have had a couple of grad students tell me straight up that it doesn’t seem like a place where they can figure how to get in —and if it doesn’t present them with opportunities then they don’t get invested in the space. The funny thing to me is that it can present them with showing opportunities. And then there’s the flip side of the same question: what good does it do for anyone if the venue will show anything that comes along? Editing, some kind of vision and hierarchy, seem to facilitate better things all the way around. I guess I am still figuring out some things, and those artists are too. But I want to maintain a kind of criticality, a kind of rigor, and I don’t mind that there are interesting artists who remain outside my radar.
CP: Do you think non-traditional sites for exhibition are important?
PH: Important is a funny word. Curators that work in canonized venues rely on the rest of us to decide what is worth thinking about, worth seeing. But what burbles to the top is just that; it is the thing that garnered attention. Local food and local art — you know? A lot of the best stuff will remain unknown to most, and that is why we visit the places that produce locally. It isn’t so much that that venues like mine are important, but we do a kind of work that isn’t done by important venues. Not so long ago Hamza Walker spoke very directly about waiting in the wings until a certain few venues have chosen first to pay attention to an artist, or to a new kind of approach. I think it is common for important critics and curators to wait and see what the lesser of us do. If a non-traditional venue bites on a new hook, and the results are well received, it can move through a system and become important. But I want to work from a messier place that is full of risk and opportunity. I love to play with ideas on their own terms. I love the heady space of “why the hell not” and “it’s about time.” That can happen when there is no bureaucracy. I can risk a big failure because nothing so terrible happens when I do fail. The payoff can be so much more satisfying when it comes from that sort of space. It isn’t all just freedom and light, but it is so much closer to the fantasy of how the art world works. I support what strikes me, what feels ignored or absent from the scene, but nevertheless compelling. I hope to bring a critical eye to my part of the art world in a time where criticality is threatened and disappearing.
The television show The Wire changed how I think about storytelling. You get such a deep version of a really compelling story if you see the entire 5 year arch of the show. Artists usually work more like the storytelling in The Wire than in, say, Gilligan’s Island. But we tend to see work that is from the fresh young thing just out of school. Or the work that has become important in the meantime. We see the same details, the same place in the storyline, repeated over and over. It is set up in this way that we think we are seeing a serial, but we’re really seeing one or two pieces of a story set on constant repeat. But there is so much more happening than either of those snippets. And I get to pay some attention to work in a way that has a different piece of the puzzle precisely because I do not aspire to become important as a venue.
Importance is overrated.
CP: What are some administrative influences and how have they colored your own approach to running a space?
PH: Artists need good opportunities to exhibit. I feel privileged to have such a big part of my own creative process that functions through the work other artists have made. I try to make the work and the show the focus of the experience. As much as I have a point of view in this, I want that to support the artist’s work, and not the other way around. I have worked as an administrator in several other capacities, and what everyone seems to want is freedom to choose things that have an importance, and for the things that aren’t valued by the individual to just disappear, to be done by elves. I work to make everything simple, approachable, and pleasant for the artists. If I can’t be the elf, I let them know. But if I can make something easier, I certainly will. My structure, my approach, is built on the philosophy that this will be what I want it to be, and what the artists want it to be, as much as possible. This is the place where you can ask to do anything, and it is a simple conversation. I am very aware that I am not an institution. I am not aspiring to be a lucrative business. I am opinionated, invested in fearless and sometimes transgressive art, I have a sense of humor, I have a sense of style, I am social and chatty, I enjoy a good beverage with friends, and I am intellectually motivated. I try to structure the shows to take advantage of all those qualities.
Work by Barron Storey, Elizabeth McGrath, Jeff Gillette, Carlee Fernandez, Laurie Hassold, Jen Heaslip, Shane Guffogg, Sandra Yagi, Clive Barker, Eduardo Villacis, Jessica Curtaz, John U. Abrahamson, and Gabor Ekecs.
Bert Green Fine Art is located at 8 S. Michigan Ave. Open house Saturday, 12-7pm.
Work by ACRE resident Rebecca Beachy.
Roxaboxen is located at 2130 W 21st St. Reception Sunday, 4-8pm.
Work by Nicole Gordon.
Linda Warren is located at 327 N. Aberdeen. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Lauren Anderson, Vincent Como, Antonia Contro, Alex Gartelmann and Jonas Sebura, Angelo Musco, Jamisen Ogg, Javier Pinon, Liliana Porter, Joel Ross, Alette Simmons-Jimenez, Paul Anthony Smith, and Dietrich Wegner.
Carrie Secrist Gallery is located at 835 W. Washington Blvd. Reception Saturday, 5-8pm.
Work by Nicolas Africano, Norman Bluhm, Roy De Forest, Carroll Dunham, Philip Guston, Robert Hudson, Elizabeth Murray, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Elizabeth Peyton, Joel Shapiro, David Smith, William T. Wiley, and Terry Winters.
Russell Bowman Art Advisory is located at 311 W. Superior St. #115. Reception Friday, 5:30-8pm.
I spent a blissful week away from all things Internet last week, and have come back from my mountain vacay with an RSS feed that, thankfully, was not as much of a drag to plow through as I’d feared. In fact, quite a few interesting articles popped up that I thought were worthy of note. And you know me, I like to share.
*Triple Canopy’s latest issue has a first-person piece, Matter of Rothko, written by David Levine about his father’s complicated legal and personal relationship with Mark Rothko that, oddly, manages to be dry and deeply moving at the same time.
*Art administrator, writer, and former B@S guest blogger Thea Liberty Nichols contributed a slew of really good Chicago-themed interviews to Art:21 blog last week. Read Nichols’ conversations with Selina Trepp, Liz McCarthy of Roxaboxen Exhibitions, Jasmine Justice, Lilly Carré, and PictureBox Inc, along with Houston’s Aurora Picture Show.
*Also on Art:21 blog, Francesca Wilmott writes on Theaster Gates’ “creative rehab efforts” in Hyde Park, St. Louis.
*Hennessey Youngman aka Jayson Musson, the dude the art world is currently crushing on (okay okay, that includes me too….), will be part of The Dialogue: The MCA Chicago’s Annual Conversation on Museums, Diversity and Inclusion on September 7th. Jeez, couldn’t they have thought of a better title for this event? It makes it sound so dull and institutionalized….like some kind of corporate “diversity workshop” where your participation is most definitely not optional. Hopefully Youngman’s participation will spice things up a bit, although I am already raising my eyebrows at the fact that Youngman is being brought to the Museum under the rubric of a “diversity” program and not as an artist in his own right. But, I will hold off on my comments until after I see the program. Tickets are $8/members and $10/non-members. Order online here. And if you haven’t listened to it yet, Mr. Youngman was interviewed on Bad at Sports’ Podcast a couple weeks back on Episode 306. Good stuff.
*This is fantastic: Shawnee Barton (who guest blogged over here on B@S awhile back) rejects those who wrongly rejected her. Read the letter she wrote over at Chicago Art magazine, it’s a hilariously polite ‘fuck you’ to the organizers of Art San Diego.
*This is the opposite of fantastic: Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance to be Built Atop a Muslim Graveyard. According to Groundswell’s article, some of Edward Said’s relatives are buried there, along with numerous Muslim saints and scholars, and some of the region’s longest Muslim family lineages. This is the same project that Frank Gehry left in 2010, although that was apparently due to scheduling and financial reasons.
*This is a couple weeks old, but if you’re a fan of our Mantras for Plants series here on the blog, you’ll be into this NYT article: What’s Left Behind, on scientists who are “recasting vacant lots as community assets rather than urban blight” by studying them to discover their ecological benefits.
*Would you be embarrassed to list “Winner of the Donkey Art Prize” on your CV? If not, applications are being accepted through February 2012. €30 per artwork application fee required, natch.
*Miranda July, photogenic artist extraordinaire.
The first time I met Aay, he was was giving a presentation at Version Fest in 2007. Aay, Ilana Percher and Rebecca Grady had just returned from Art Shanty Projects on Medicine Lake, where they installed a soft shanty/sculpture called The Soft Shop. They reinstalled this portable, cloth shanty in the Version’s basement, (where all the other art booths stood) and talked about their residency, hosting some of the same fiber workshops they had hosted in its original location in Minnesota. Since that first encounter I have benefited from Aay’s collaborative work in multiple ways. I have been to Chances to dance-dance-dance, a short story of mine was published in an on-line magazine he organizes called Monsters & Dust. I went to No Coast and convinced Aay to make some covers for the Green Lantern Press. I point this out because his work has impacted a wide audience of which I am a part. He creates public, collaborative platforms while producing a concise, independent body of work. Despite having appreciated his work for so long, I have never taken the opportunity to ask him about how these projects relate to one another, and even how he thinks about his own practice. To me, this interview is suited to the beginning of summer. It’s hot outside, the Critical Fierceness Grant is open again (until June 30th) for grant proposals, many artists and faculty alike are facing a new open schedule, and it’s good to remember the alchemical mixture in aesthetics, politics, the body and imagination.
Caroline Picard: You’ve been in Chicago for a number of years and have continued to work with different organizations—I was thinking as far back as Diamonds/Texas Ballroom for instance, No Coast of course and many others—I was wondering if you could talk about your participation in those different organizations; how your role has varied? Do you feel like your participation in different communal structures has impacted your visual work?
Aay Preston-Myint: Well, Diamonds and Texas were two iterations/sections of the same artists collective in warehouse space in Bridgeport, back in the day. We all did our share of programming and running events, mostly art shows and music, and let’s not forget parties. No Coast was a similar collective/consensus structure but centered around the concept and physical space of a bookstore, shared studio space, in addition to an open community workshop. When I look at these and other organizations I’ve been involved with (the online curatorial project Monsters and Dust, the experimental cultural center Mess Hall, and the microgrant/queer dance party called Chances), the difference is not so much in work or ‘roles,’ but the content of each project itself. These are ventures that have all been run by consensus to serve a specific audience or community. As such, roles can shift depending on interest, ability, and the needs of our contingents. I think the impact on my own work has been that I have a desire to engage, entertain, and encourage dialogue through my practice. I enjoy using color, a richness in materials, humor, mystery/seduction, and participation to engage the viewer. Creating a gravitational pull, drawing people into an active space — that’s what all the organizations I work with have done.
CP: Do you categorize different aspects of your art practice?
APM: In a way those divisions (solo work, collaborations, and design/commissions) are often a matter of convenience — an easy way of categorizing, but the nature of the work is different too. I think my solo work has more of a clear narrative, using conceptual, material, and stylistic threads that weave in and out of the work. Collaborations of course deal with similar concepts and interests. However that work tends to take on forms, processes, or issues that I don’t always deal with on my own because of the influence of my partners — each collaboration tends to stand apart. The design work, while perhaps more aesthetically my own, is a whole other beast, often because it’s not used in an art context, and also because the content is decided by the client and maybe even pushed to the background. I think each category exhibits a different kind of development over time, and it can be interesting to compare how they are disparate but also influence one another. From the subject matter of my solo work, to the clients I choose to design for: there are connections that become apparent when you zoom out.
CP: Will you talk a little bit about your relationship to materials?
APM: Responding to materials have always been a key part of my work. For a while when I drew it was almost like I had an issue with attention span; I needed something to respond or anchor myself to, a fabric, wallpaper, a photograph — I disliked drawing on a blank surfaces. Now it’s more about responding to the social, historical, or affective associations with an object or material — rope, a flag, hair, light, even scent. I think in a body of work like mine — which is so about embodiment — the choice of materials is really key when interpreting form.
CP: I’m also really curious about your Hybrid Moments Project—can you talk about that a little?
APM: Hmm, yes — as you can tell from the text banner series that I made a couple years ago, I like to use pop songs as titles and content sometimes. After I made the first series of screen prints, Hybrid Moments seemed to be the right phrase to contain my work at the time — I think of the title more as a container than the name of a single “project.” I think it still works for the prints and maybe some of the discrete/smaller sculptures, but not so much for the larger sculptures anymore. But in general, it’s the body of work I’m engaged with now. The works make propositions of what mutating, unpredictable forms that community, identity, and the environment—both built and natural — may take on in an unspecified future moment — all through the lens of a critical queerness.
CP: Do you have a static, projected future point that your work is speaking to? Or does that future-vision shift, depending on what your working on?
APM: The future I depict is definitely mutable and unpredictable, that’s kind of the crux of my whole viewpoint. I think part of the criticality of my work is that our projections of the future never match up to what we imagine — I use mutation as a metaphor or allegory for that unpredictability. As soon as one struggle is overcome, new power relations form in place of old ones. Often abuses and rivalries emerge instead of coalitions. The future I imagine is always out of reach.
CP: It makes me want to ask the same question about your lens. Is your lens of critical queerness also static? Do you apply that lens to the present as well? Or is it solely intended as a future-looking tool?
APM: Going off my last answer, the lens definitely applies to the present. Our current struggles are direct results of what we desire or imagine our future to be. I think the It Gets Worse series points to those connections/disconnections. Is marriage a queer issue? Or are supermax prisons and police states a queer issue? Both? Is one more urgent than the other? Why? The national discourse is really far behind with regard to what’s actually being said, thought, and done in queer communities across class, race, and trans/gender lines. How can we make the definition of queer issues — and following that, queer identity — more fluid and open in order to more successfully meet the challenges of the future?
CP: And your SMILE series too—that struck me, partly, because of the element of performance required. I was thinking about it because in Hybrid Moments you seem to be interested in gestures and the significance of those gestures, but then in that instance (am I right?) the resulting work is divorced from living people….
APM: That’s a great question because I think over time those two projects have influenced each other in ways I hadn’t anticipated and, at least in my mind, they aren’t differentiated anymore. The first iteration of SMILE was, I think, the first iteration of my continuing and relatively “mature” body of work. However at that time it was still lacking a specific goal or agenda in terms of content, despite having established the visual style and material concerns. I started Hybrid Moments soon after this, and through those works I began to lock down the kinds of gestures, characters, and ideas I am interested in. Queerness, futurity, power relations, color theory/theories, toxicity and mutation to name a few. So when I did SMILE a second time (at SFCamerawork in September 2010), it became folded into what had become my practice. Some objects that were previously presented as sculptures became props for SMILE — because all these works now inhabited the same world. I was delighted to see some of the situations in my drawings accidentally re-enacted in performance, and in turn, I’ve used the gestures and actions performed in SMILE to create new drawings (e.g. “Totem Ascending”, which was included in this year’s threewalls CSA). The SMILE performances have also helped me to rethink the concepts of figure, site, and the object/viewer relationship in my sculptural work.
CP: Can you talk more about how you experienced your practice coalescing? It’s interesting to me, because it sounds so evident to your process — like the way you differentiate a “mature” body of work and then that you talk about figuring out your material/styalistic concerns before realizing the ideas you were honing in on…like, how did you discover queerness, futurity, power relations, color theory/theories, toxicity and mutation as a central series of threads?
APM: For me, this happens in two ways. I think the first was the development of a certain intuition, in conjunction with a recognizable imprint or style. When I work, I start with a specific idea, and I gather the materials I need to make the object real, but at a certain point in the execution it seems almost like alchemy, like spinning a solid substance out of air. The work begins to outpace my thought, which is a good thing. After a while, you make enough things and you can kind of sit back and look at what makes them all tick. Almost everything I was making had some connection with the body or a body-to-be (figure-based drawings, costumes, stages/arenas), and it made sense to go from there. Futurity and mutation — bodies as agents of change, and subject to change. Power relations —‚ how our physical bodies place us in a hierarchy arranged around gender, color, etc. Queerness — an embodiment of difference or otherness. There comes this juncture, this arrival, where you are able to say, this is it, this is what I’m talking about.
The second part has to do with the research elements of my practice — looking, reading, writing. As I was working on my written thesis I was isolating these core concepts (embodiment, utopia, queerness, etc). The commonalities between the different works I make, and the works of others that I am influenced by. I started making lists, thought maps, and diagrams which would explode these concepts and then bring them back together in different configurations. With the encouragement of friends and teachers, these sketches and diagrams eventually became works in their own right.
CP: Do you draw a connection between power relations and color theory? Like how certain colors will dominate others; there is an inborn, albeit relative hierarchy. Is your list of conceptual concerns similarly linked? Or do you see that list as a body of distinct, non-relating concepts?
APM: Oh yes, there is definitely a connection. However, in my research I don’t talk so much about the optical domination of one color over the other, as much as looking at the social constructs and hierarchies around color. I’m interested in how colors carry associations with certain emotions, objects, situations, and even social and political movements and attitudes. I’ve been especially invested in mixed colors, day-glo colors, and pastel colors — my written thesis was titled “Who’s Afraid of Pink, Purple and Brown?” in contrast to Barnett Newman’s “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?” I’ve done an artist talk solely on the color pink. It’s a pretty amazing color, not enough people take it seriously. Transgression, difference, queerness, sex, repulsion, obsession, fantasy….it’s all there in that one color.
APM: I think that grad school has been really invaluable to my process….until now I’ve never been able to totally commit myself to developing an artistic stance or worldview, and turn that into a cohesive body of work over time. I can really reflect on how one piece relates to the next, and engage in intense and productive critique from myself and others at a level previously unreached. As hinted at above, I’ve also been able to take advantage of scale and material in a way I hadn’t had the time or financial backing to do before. I’ve been really fortunate to attend a program (UIC) that fosters community, improvisation, self-critique, and collaboration, due to its size, and in particular, the awesomeness and warmth of my cohort. In that way, it really hasn’t been too much different than my DIY experiences. I think my class in particular has truly been like family.
CP: What are you working on right now?
APM: Interesting that you say that — well, the fact is, I’ve just graduated and am looking forward to a lot of travel this summer, and not really sure what kind of work awaits in the fall (residency? teaching? design? working at a bar? these are all options). This means that for the time being, I’m not going to have the large scale modes of production, storage, and display available to me during graduate school — so I unfortunately might have to put the brakes on the large sculptural work for now. It’s strange how time, place, and life situations can have as much, if not more, impact on the work you do as your own concept/process. That said, I’m focusing on prints, drawings and the web at the moment — things I can do at home and at my shared studio at Roxaboxen in Pilsen. Mostly developing the imagery in the Hybrid Moments prints and the It Gets Worse Series — my long-time No Coast collaborator Alex Valentine and I will be taking these and other print/book projects to the Tokyo Art Book fair in July. Also, I can finally put my nose to the grindstone on Monsters and Dust — which you yourself have also made an awesome contribution to. Our next issue is way overdue. But as soon as I get enough space I think I’d like to start working on a “living vomitorium” idea that has been at the back of my head for a while.
CP: How do you determine if a show with your work is successful?
APM: I guess there are a few ways. Of course people might just like the whole thing, which feels great, but I’m often excited when people respond to the work that I’ve had the most doubts about, or the piece that I almost didn’t include. It reminds me to continue thinking outside of myself and to trust other people’s input. If the work motivates people to ask challenging questions rather than just congratulate, that’s great too. I also think a work is successful when people ask funny questions or give things names – “Is that a gloryhole?” or “I like this hair donut,” or “This one is the great birth mother, right?” or “What’s that smell?”
You can see more of Aay’s work by visiting his website.