Economies of resignation

June 19, 2015 · Print This Article

In blockbuster movies over the past five or ten years, corporations have replaced foreigners as the enemy. In Jurassic World, it is the careless desire for profit that drives a bunch of winkingly stereotypical characters to create a giant hybrid dinosaur that they can’t control and that proceeds to kill and eat everybody. Vincent D’Onofrio might as well have cartoon money signs in his eyes as he stumps around, slapping people on the back and making speeches about pride and glory. This suggests that it must be widely accepted amongst worldwide moviegoers that it is just as likely that capitalism will kill all of us as it is that foreigners will kill all of us. Rather, it has produced a sort of resigned quality, the kind of thing that people are talk about when they say things like “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism,” despite the fact that the very thing that often ends the world in such imaginings is capitalism.

Liam Gillick, Heckle, 2014, with chromed projector mount.

Two recent shows in Mexico City, presented in very similar circumstances, share remarkably similar feelings of resignation, at once cheerful and lurid, depressed and bright. At lodos, in the working-class, hip neighborhood of San Rafael, twenty meters from arguably the best tacos in the city, a group show curated by Noah Barker, “International Currency,” with Scott Reeder, Cameron Rowland, and Liam Gillick. Six kilometers away, in upper middle-class, hip Roma Sur, Lulu presents a solo show by Ian Kiaer, “Limp Oak.” Both galleries are very small white boxes installed into non-commercial spaces, rooms that can handle four, maybe ten people at a time.

In lodos, against the wall, facing each other, two pairs of stones, rubble apparently, from Detroit even, one an electric shade of blue, one an equally electric shade of orange. I thought immediately of that line from Queer as Folk, the American version, where Justin—you know, the twinky one—says that orange is the new blue. Somebody else at the gallery, a charming and inquisitive artist from Denver, mentioned that famous Situationist poster of a woman throwing a piece of rubble picked up or culled from the street: “beauty in the street.” I kicked myself for not immediately recalling that reference, in the same way that I sometimes kick myself for not recognizing certain pop stars or famous actors. But then again, these rocks were certainly not for throwing at the gleaming storefronts of capital. They perfectly placed, beautifully painted, resting gently against the wall, framing the viewer or the viewer’s feet. I should have worn white shoes, the reflection might have been gorgeous.

Nearby, leering out of the walls, are a pair of pieces by a local electrician, directed by Cameron Rowland to disconnect an outlet, remove the faceplace, and expose the wires benath. A light in a corner remains off, incapacitated by the lack of power. Copper spills out of the wall, gross and hairy. Filling the room with a vaguely anxious murmur is a video by Liam Gillick, juxtaposing a pair of audio recordings, one of people heckling a particularly cheesy free jazz performance, one of people heckling Occupy Wall Street, with a  Greek beach scene—devoid of tourists, beautiful, the site of the perhaps imminant dissolution of the neoliberal European dream, calming. The pairing of the hilariously bad, gratingly macho free jazz performance and the OWS encampment suggests the current political irrelevance of both forms, both of which at different times seemed so promising. The only thing that seems appealing is the beach.

Scott Reeder, Detroit Rubble (blue), 2015.

Meanwhile, a few kilometers straight south, in a calm and breezy block of Roma Sur, in a similarly small white box installed in a residential, or partially-residential, space, a disconcertingly similar show is up at Lulu. Ian Kiaer has painted the floor a highlighter yellow, a yellow that makes almost too-perfect sense with the orange and blue rubble sitting pretty at lodos. The lurid glow the yellow floor casts up onto the Kiaer’s works on the wall and the floor: a rather unremarkable cardboard-tube piece, a painting that feels out of place, and a show-saving tarpaulin leached through with a whitish emulsion, riddled with lines and shadows brought out by the weird light. The tarpaulin is borrowed from the informal vendors that line nearby intersections, hawking tacos, tortas, cigarrettes, gum—whatever, really. At the end of the night, the vendors roll up the refuse—lettuce, cigarette butts, dirt—in the tarpaulin and dump it. The way the tarpaulin lightly sags is reminiscent of the waves lazily lapping at the shore in Liam Gillick’s video at lodos. I can imagine listening to the soundtrack to Gillick’s video and standing in Lulu, as if it’s coming from another room, and it making sense. Turn it on now, then make this color fill up your computer screen. Maybe put your computer in your bedroom if the bed is unmade. That’s kind of the vibe.

Ian Kiaer, “Paalen, Limp Oak”

That is, it’s not just the sickly bright palette the two shows have in common. There is a distinct feeling, a kind of resigned, sagging quality, that they share. In wrecked cities and towns around the world, copper wire, like the wires that lean out of the walls in Rowland’s piece at lodos, is stripped from abandoned properties and sold for scrap. It is the classic journey of the stereotypical heroin addict, enshrined in characters like Bubbles in the Wire, pushing the shopping cart piled high with scrap to make enough money to get the day’s fix, to nod off in some other wrecked corner of the bled-out city. The chunks of pavement gleaming in lodos rest easy; the video lulls you to a troubled, but only vaguely troubled, sleep; that light won’t even turn on. In Lulu, the only piece that appears to have involve concentrated effort, an acrylic on cotton with tight geometries, beautiful lines, etc, feels excessive, out of place, completely unnecessary—a waste of effort. The yellow glow from the floor makes the pale pink in the top third feel foul.

Ian Kiaer, “Paalen, Limp Oak”

Taken together, the two shows point to an economy of resignation, a careful balance of vitality against a near-total lack of hope. They point to the end of the of the long-dying attitude that art is or can be a tool of revolt. In Infinitely Demanding, a resolutely hopeful book written shortly before the Occupy Wall Street movement began and subsequently ended, Simon Critchley points out the outmodedness of the desire to escape the state: “we cannot hope, at this point in history,” he writes unequivocally, “to attain a complete withering away of the state.” Indeed, in states that do appear to be dissolving, such as Syria or the DRC or Mexico, this dissolution can be in no way termed a “withering away”—it is a much more violent, brutal affair. What Critchley suggests instead is to establish “an interstitial distance within the state,” the creation of a sort of gap space wherein politics, agency, etc are possible, within, but at the same time separate from, the state. While Critchley terms this in relentlessly positive, breathless, hopeful terms, I read this space as something lurid: a cyst, a gaping hole. It reminds me a bit of Lee Edelman’s conception of queerness as that which gleefully unravels the future, or the present even, from the inside. If art has lost its political relevance, which it perhaps never had, perhaps it can instead form the neon, shitty lining of the hole in the future.


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


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.


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.


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.


#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.

Top 5 Weekend Picks (12/9-12/11)

December 9, 2011 · Print This Article

1. Stalemate at Roxaboxen Exhibitions

Work by Christopher Meerdo.

Roxaboxen Exhibitions, 2130 W. 21st. Reception Sunday, 7-10pm.

2. Decompositions at Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space

Work by Emily Green.

Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space, 1254 N Noble. Reception Saturday, 6-10pm.

3. FLAT 11 at Floor Length and Tux

Work by Chuck Jones, Danielle Paz, Frank Pollard, Catie Olson, and EC Brown.

Floor Length and Tux, 2332 W. Augusta #3. Reception Saturday, 7-10pm.

4. Handler at Western Exhibitions

Work by Tyson Reeder, Scott Reeder, Jose Lerma, Greg Klassen, Michelle Grabner, Richard Galling, Peter Barrickman, and Nicholas Frank.

Western Exhibitions, 119 N. Peoria St. Reception Friday (today), 5-8pm.

5. Dark Corner at EC Gallery

Work by Justyna Adamcyzk and Aleksandra Urban.

EC Gallery, 215 N. Aberdeen St. Reception Friday (today), 6-8pm.  

Top 5 Weekend Picks! (9/24 & 9/25)

September 23, 2010 · Print This Article

Another week, another round of art. I am busy, busy, busy, but going out and seeing the work is an essential part of it. Time is of the essence. Shows to see, my friends…

1. The Exhibitionist at Co-Prosperity Sphere

Work by Tom Torluemke.

Co-Prosperity Sphere is located at 3219 S. Morgan St. Reception Friday, 6-11pm.

2. Ron Artist: MVP (Malleability vs. Preservation) at Noble & Superior Projects

Work by Lindsay Apatow, Ben Balcom, April Behnke, Luis Miguel Bendaña, Joey Carr, Emilie Crewe, Matt Cummings, Lori Felker, Yasi Ghanbari, Samuel Gove, Jordan Grimes, Jeriah Hildwine, Randy Sterling Hunter, Seth Hunter, Tom McCormack, Ross Meckfessel, Josh Sampson, Kristen Stokes, Vincent Uribe and Corrine Webb.

Noble & Superior Projects is located at 1418 W. Superior St. Reception Friday, 8-11pm.

3. Basement Show at Parking Space

Work by Brandon Warren Alvendia, Caroline Polachek, Daniel Sullivan, Eleni Ann Kelaidis, Justin Thomas Schaefer, Marion Ramos, Michael Thibault, Scott Reeder and Tyson Reeder.

Parking Space is located at 2246 W. 19th St. 3R. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.

4. Girls at The Hills Esthetic Center

Work by Caitlin Arnold.

The Hills Esthetic Center is located at 128 N. Campbell Ave., Unit G. Reception Friday, 8-11pm.

5. Book Release Party at Golden Age

Release party for Can I Come Over to Your House: The First Ten Years of The Suburban.

Golden Age is located at 119 N Peoria St, 2D. Release party Saturday, 6-9pm.

The Biggest Top 5 You’ve Ever Seen!

February 10, 2010 · Print This Article

Ok, so for those of you who don’t know yet, CAA (College Art Association) has dubbed Chicago worthy for it’s pedagogical adventures, and has settled in our fair city for the weekend. As a member of CAA, I’ll be cruising from lecture to lecture the next few days, trying to suck up as much strange knowledge as I can while the circus is in town. But I’m not the only one excited about the CAA crew. As a result of the conference, just about everyone else in town is trotting out something or other, much of which is AWESOME! As a result, I bring you The Biggest Top 5 You’ve Ever Seen! Rather than picking individual galleries for the Top 5, I’ve corralled a Top 5 of places (in no particular order) you should go this weekend. Hope ya’ll enjoy.

1. Pilsen

The self-proclaimed Chicago Arts District is holding it’s monthly 2nd Fridays round of openings. Here’s the places I’d go if I were you:

Chicago Art Department – 1837 S. Halsted. Cultural Excavation, work by Christopher Piatt, Ben Valentine, Wayne Bertola, Virginia Broersma, Allison Rae Butkus, Seth Gershberg, Jennifer Hines, Jennifer Jackson, Sarah Leitten, Amanda Paulson, Aaron Wooten and others. Reception Friday, from 6-10pm.

ROOMS Gallery – 645 W 18th St. ORACLE:CHANNELING, with Marrakesh & Todd Frugia. Performance Friday, from 8-10pm.

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