Back in the USSA: Zach Cahill’s final frontier

August 30, 2013 · Print This Article

Two years after the first iteration of his epic USSA 2012 project opened at threewalls in 2011 in the form of the hyper-conceptual “orphanage project” (after a controversial Bad at Sports podcast about an orphanage the artist had allegedly proposed on the South Side drew confused ire), Zachary Cahill brings the third and final installment of his world to the Smart Museum. USSA has grown up and outward over the years, its hallmark institutions morphing from orphanage to gift shop (the People’s Palace Gift Shop at the Cultural Center last summer) and now a riff on a mountain sanatorium. Each iteration has also gotten even more ephemeral, diffuse, and challenging: the Smart Museum show, entitled USSA 2012: Wellness Center: Idyllic—affair of the heart, consists of a banner declaring “A Sea of Wellness,” a number of watercolor paintings scattered in offices around the museum, and both analog and digital postcards from the Wellness Center. (There’s also some heart-wrenching confessional poetry and estranging emoji, among other digital objects, on the show’s website.) For Smart Curator Sarah Mendelsohn, the challenging evasiveness of the show, and Cahill’s world, is part of the pleasure: “The difficulty of locating the USSA is part of what makes the conversation around this work so enjoyable,” she reasons.

This kind of logic is certainly in line with Cahill’s larger themes. USSA 2012 has taken on vast aesthetic, political, and increasingly personal topics for the artist over the years, and this latest iteration is no exception, with references to different kinds of modernisms within the history of painting, Thomas Mann, and the relationship between wellness and art, within his ever-present wide-ranging institutional and cultural critiques. I spoke with Cahill over email after the show’s soft opening last week. (nb all strikethrough text is intentional)

banner

 

Idyllic—affair of the heart banner

MW: Can you write an introduction to an imaginary travel guide for USSA? The culture, the people, the flags, the scenery depicted in the postcards, the social institutions, the art, the vibe… Is it an Olympic village? Cosmopolitan (as I imagine sanatoriums to be, as the art world is?)

ZC: ok here goes:

Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad
2013 – The Year of the Museum
USSA 2012:Wellness Center
The fourth year of the Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad USSA 2012:Wellness Center is devoted to museums. As always, the organizers of the first Winter Games in the history of Russia USSA will present the public with hundreds of the best cultural events. They include dozens of exhibitions, shows, competitions, festivals, and special exhibitions, as well as forums, workshops and educational programs that will be held throughout the country.

The Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad Wellness Center is a unique project by the organizers of the USSA 2012, offering the best cultural events in the country. In 2014, visitors to the Olympic host city will not only be able to evaluate the sporting competitions, but also Russia’s the USSA’s cultural diversity at dozens of performance venues located in Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana. Therefore, since 2010, the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, along with dozens of regions throughout the country, has been carefully selecting the best of Russian USSA culture. Between 2010 and 2014, thousands of diverse cultural events have and will be taking place throughout the entire country. Each year, the Cultural Olympiad is dedicated to a different art form: 2010 was the Year of the Cinema, 2011 the Year of the Theater The Orphanage Project, 2012 the Year of Music The People’s Palace’s Gift Shop, and 2013 is the Year of the Museum/Wellness Center 2014.

The national scale of the project will make it possible to involve every resident of the country in this grand celebration of music wellness, maintaining and increasing the cultural riches of our country. All of the events of the Cultural Olympiad can be followed on www.culture.sochi2014.com ,

http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/exhibitions/zachary-cahill-ussa-2012-wellness-center/

That’s kind of what I imagine it would sound like, but maybe written in the style of Thomas Mann (who is something of a spiritual grandfather to the wellness center-his book The Magic Mountain is especially important)…The artist Susan Hiller I think once said about her project From the Freud Museum…something like, “I think we all live inside the Freud Museum, metaphorically.”..not meaning (obviously) that we live inside her installation but i think something along the lines that today we all are are living in and through the influence of Sigmund Freud and the life of the unconscious…possibly the Wellness Center is a bit like that…it’s not something I made exactly…it’s just something we all are living in…wellness as a perfume-y like presence that can’t be nailed down to any one specific location…

Wellness Center Watercolor_13

Wellness Center watercolor 13

MW: What do you think of USSA as a kind of “worlding”? What is its ontological status?

ZC: I am sure that is probably right but I feel like maybe the USSA isn’t so much a form of “worlding” but rather marks the condition of being world-ed…moving in and by forces that are in many respects beyond our control…maybe the difference is negligible … I guess I’d say for me that the project…the totality of the USSA 2012 is really ontologically unstable and that’s kind of the point…it’s not that I am looking to create fiction….or create an alternate universe or what have you… it flickers…my understanding is that these alternate universes are what we all create and inhabit everyday…we can’t stop doing it…even the most so-called unimaginative person is a hardcore world-builder and imagineer…they maybe even the best at it… seeing as it’s their boring hum-drum world that we (for lack of a more credible option) seem to buy into and slog through most often….I guess everyone is worlding…so many worlds colliding…

MW: The project has reached the end of its lifespan– the orphanage story, childhood to adulthood, and now (after) the end. It’s also getting arguably more conceptually challenging as well as seemingly more personal. Is it getting more permeable with the real world for you? Where do you leave the world?

ZC: I always hoped that the USSA 2012 project would have something like a life span that could be mapped onto the different iterations…youth (the orphanage project)…middle age (the gift shop) and old age (wellness center)…and maybe..who knows …an afterlife?

Yes, it is getting more overtly personal in a sense… and these different life phases are meant to reflect a kind of growth through time…

MW: Re: getting personal: is the painting genre as personal a genre for you here as the confessional poetry? What kinds of approaches do you take to both?

ZC: I think so…in each instance [painting and writing] for the Wellness Center Project I try to be as honest and forthcoming as I can…Still, the confessional poetry piece is difficult for me to talk about…I wrote it…It’s out in the world and that’s about all I can manage to comment on at this times….

IridescentMann
Iridescent Mann

Some of the paintings work this way too…but I suppose different modes of working are put to use for different parts of the project…so for example, with some paintings I try to imagine what the wellness center patients would make…what kind of paintings they would do as guests at an early 20th century European sanatorium…Of course, the imaginary is pretty close to the real in these efforts…I think the choice
of color gets at the personal for me…especially the use of fluorescent…I think if Munch were alive today…he’d probably use a lot of fluorescent paint…is that a way of answering the question?

MW: You have talked about the difference between internal and external experience, which also comes up in the curatorial writing for the show. Those experiences seem to map onto the painterly influences here: the small human figure in an overpowering landscape (Friedrich), the hugeness of subjectivity and interiority in expressionism. I guess this isn’t really a question. Here’s my question: is this hunch right? How is it more complicated than I suggested?

ZC: The blurring of the internal mind scape and the outside world is definitely an interest…In fact, I am teaching a class on the subject next year [Cahill is a Lecturer & Open Practice Committee Coordinator in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago]. I have been pretty influenced of late by a book a friend of mine recommended, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition, by the art historian Robert Rosenblum, where he describes the psychic economy of painters like Van Gogh, Munch, and many others while tracing a Romantic lineage back to Caspar David Friedrich…It is a fantastic book of art history!…Illuminating sections abound. For instance,I had always wondered what is the opposite of the notorious commonplace “art for art sake”…Rosenblum points out that Van Gogh was interested in art for life’s sake…I never heard it formulated so simply and that is something that interests me…

For the banner at the Smart Museum I was thinking about CDF…it is “after him” as they say, or some sort of perversion of his Monk by the Sea painting… which has always held a special place in my artistic heart because it so vividly merges an inscape with the landscape…I am sure you’ve experienced that feeling when…it’s raining and somehow it just suits your mood perfectly and some kind of equilibrium is reached between your mood and your surroundings…that was what one of things I was going for in that painting…and how the psychic landscape might attach itself to the “real world” of human activity too.

USSA Dreamers

USSA Dreamers

MW: Past iterations of the USSA seemed more explicitly political than this one. How cynical or sincere are you politically in this show? Aesthetically?

ZC: Well I am sincere but I am not sure that matters much…my sense it is of little consequence to viewers whether I am sincere or not…they don’t need me to be…that said the politics are there… in other projects of mine the political element has been pretty foregrounded and some might say strident…like nails on a chalk board (or so I hoped)… but this project for me has to do with psychology… a turning inward and trying to a concoct propaganda of the self…like what if your unconscious started to make banners and agitate… a revolution of the psyche…could that be political?

MW: What’s with the flowers you’ve been posting on Facebook?

ZC: Slow to the party…I recently began to grasp the significance of flowers after talking about them with a couple of friends…and I started taking photos and looking closely at them over the summer around my neighborhood and discovered…shocker…flowers are amazing…they do all sorts of crazy things to light to get the colors they do…natural fluorescence…

I started thinking about bees and pollination…and how people use flowers in front of their homes, at weddings, funerals, …rituals…and I concluded that flowers must perform some apotropaic function….like a teddy bear or church gargoyle… they are meant to keep the bad vibes away…

and then I starting thinking of flowers in relation to propagation and propaganda..etymologically tied…and realized flowers are supremely political…so with all the NSA data collection going on I thought…well, if they want to know something about me…let them know that I love flowers..so the flowers on Facebook were a kind of protest but also a kind of advent calendar before the project at the Smart Museum opened.

flowers for BaS

Flowers for Bad at Sports

MW: Art and mourning: these are the two huge driving themes for the show. What is art mourning? You’ve talked regarding previous USSA projects about economic depression, the way we’re all “waiting for recovery,” and healing from the trauma of the Bush era. Can art help us mourn? What is mourning?

ZC: I suppose I can only answer for myself here…But speaking in generalities (knowing I am going to say this all wrong and embarrass myself) …I think art is a very fundamental human thing… By that I mean art is a lot like one of the [5] senses…it’s a way of apprehending the world around us…now Art clearly gets caught up in all other types of associations like the art market and folks tend to get hung up on that stuff but I think art is just something we do as people…market or not…

Therefore, I guess I’d say art can be an outlet for mourning …or that grief can pour out into your art …just
like it can pour out into any other aspect of your life…art might be a healthy outlet and also a way of sharing the experience…commiserating…when you suffer a major loss in your life you look for ways to cope …perhaps if you’re an athlete your pour that energy into competition, or if you’re a writer you write, but sometimes the grief can be so overwhelming that none of the things that once made you strong and “together” can fend off the sorrow…so if art fails it’s a bit like having another part of your body cave in…but hopefully you find the resources to just hang in there…friends and family are important here and…well… so is therapy.

In terms of a larger geo-political situation that you mention…I do think art can have a similar function, it can help society recover, but it can no more make the world a better place than breathing…or sleeping… basic things humans do…true, when put to good practice things like breathing and sleeping and even art can make an enormous impact on the state of the body politic…that’s encouraging and why I am big fan of political art and art that may or may not realize its political efficacy.

MW: People are going to be really confused about this show. At least I still find it ineffable and often difficult to parse symbolically, like a warren of rabbit holes. At lunch the other day you talked about an artist (I forget his name) who loved Apollinaire because his criticism was always wrong. You’re interested in misinterpretation. Are you interested in critics getting this show wrong? Is this why so much of this project is oblique: to allow room for misinterpretation? What do you think about calling this show an inhibition instead of an exhibition?

ZC: The quote, if i remember right, was from Georges Braque, whose work I adore…and it’s not so much that I am interested in people getting my work wrong or baffling the critics…it’s just in some sense people will always get it right …even if I have no idea what they get out of it … my take on the project is simply one view among others…which is to say I am a tad mistrustful of artist’s intentions (not that i unreservedly accept other interpretations)…It’s just I think we often tell ourselves what the work is about for a whole host of reasons but there is (I think) always this weird secret cause behind the work…maybe it’s not always secret exactly, but maybe some artists (myself included) have to look past that secret thing in order to create the work…it’s a blind-spot that helps animate the work…this is a good thing…do people instinctually connect with that blind- spot…my guess is that they do…they don’t know how or why they feel that blind-spot but when it gets to them if stuff is working right…maybe the rabbit hole analogy is a good one…I guess my work is made for the diggers…people who like to get down into things….and I hope that I create enough spaces for them to tunnel into….because I have that interest….I like being onto something too…

I mean I very much like the direct experience of being in front of an art work, but I enjoy being haunted by art works too…a visceral quality that occurs with the work of some of my favorite artists…they infect me and I can’t stop thinking about it…Ideally, I’d like my work to do both: give off an affecting sensation for the viewer and to haunt them after they walk away from it… my work wants to have its cake and eat to….

To your last question…I am very much interested in what I think of as in-hibition, as a kind of balance to the idea of exhibition…perhaps stemming from a sense that we share a fatigue of living in public constantly…and wanting to create work for specific people that might not get seen by the “viewer”…this is why I made works to be displayed in the offices at the Smart…they are on view but just for the people that work there, not the generally audience…it’s for the people that live and work at that institution everyday…or: the material posted to the Smart Museum’s website, the post cards in the gift shop, the Smart phone performances… in each case I am looking for another type of connection to the viewer that play off one another….

So while i do think the traditional the exhibition setting of the gallery is great and the most efficient format for art— having potential to form something like a commons…which is how I hope the banner functions….I am interested in other ways people might encounter the wellness center too …live with it and in some sense make it their own… in-hibition and exhibition…perhaps it’s a type of swinging door

Various exhibition and performance elements of the “USSA 2012: Wellness Center: Idyllic—affair of the heart”  show will take place between now and August of 2014 at the Smart Museum of Art. More information is available on the museum’s website. 




Chicago Art in Pictures: Best of 2012 – Year in Review

July 15, 2013 · Print This Article

A historical piece which points towards exceptional moments observed directly by the writer, in Chicago, over the course of the previous calendar year. Alternative, NFP, and commercial galleries, as well as art centers, museums, and public spaces, were visited more-or-less regularly, according to the nature of their programming. All artwork copyright original artists; all photography copyright Paul Germanos.


Per convention, “best of” lists and “year in review” articles are released late in December. And critics have tended to follow in lockstep. Yet such a schedule might be a cause for concern when one considers how little time in reflection is afforded the author of any such piece.

That said, it’s the original scope of the critic’s experience, and not the amount of time spent in reflection upon that experience, which is the greater issue in most cases. Readers have good reason to wonder about art writers: How much did he or she see in the first place? And what does it mean to be placed in a “top ten” list by a person who might have attended only ten events?

Of course, with regard to the utility of press, the writing itself counts for little; it’s a publication’s masthead and associated social connectivity which are really crucial. For whether the subject is artwork or the publicity related to it, heavily invested dealers, artists, directors, et al, labor to get the right bits in the right places, till the overall picture looks good–much like jigsaw puzzle work. The gaming of interpersonal relationships is, after all, the chief modality of the art world.

Let’s try something different!

(1) Best Artist’s Talk: “Andre Butzer @ Cochrane-Woods Art Center”
André Butzer @ Cochrane-Woods Art Center

Forgoing the pretense of a rational narrative, German painter Butzer dryly delivered pre-Socratic fragments–first in his native language and then in English–alongside projections of his artwork. The audio and visual elements in combination, amounting to a performance, were, in fact, stronger than his show which followed at Rhona Hoffman Gallery.

Butzer became moderately excited when, after the lecture, I presented him with a question about Nietzsche.

6:30 PM, January 25, 2012
Cochrane-Woods Art Center, Room 157
(adjacent to the The Smart Museum)
University of Chicago
5540 S. Greenwood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637

Runner-up: Karsten Lund’s performance piece in Peregrine Program.

(2) Best Gallery Opening: “Short Court: Tropical Aesthletics @ ANTENA”
Short Court: Tropical Aesthletics @ ANTENA
Above: Jake Myers at left, in glasses, on the court in ANTENA.
Short Court: Tropical Aesthletics @ ANTENA

Curated by Jake Myers and Chris Smith, a/k/a “Tag Team,” and featuring 19 artists (Adam Farcus, Adam Grossi, Alberto Aguilar, Alex Bradley Cohen, Angeline Evans, Brian Wadford, Caroline Carlsmith, Cory Glick, Edra Soto, EC Brown, Irene Perez, Jeriah Hildwine, Jim Papadopoulos, Kevin Jennings, Nicole Northway, Pamela Fraser, Philip von Zweck, Thad Kellstadt, and Vincent Dermody) “Short Court: Tropical Aesthletics” was dominated by Jake Myers’ own performance in the center of the gallery.

There, Myers and company (including two professional players) offered to “take on all comers” in a high-spirited volleyball match. The boisterous physical competition which ensued was entirely contrary to the quiet struggle for rank which is usually present, if unseen, at such affairs. This was good. It’s yet unclear to what degree Myers’ work is ironic.

February 10 – March 10, 2012
ANTENA
1765 S. Laflin St.
Chicago IL 60608

(3) Best Art Writing: “Hamza Walker for The Renaissance Society”
Hamza Walker Gallery Walk-Through for Matt Saunders @ The Renaissance Society

With regard to the consistency and volume of his production, Hamza Walker has been exemplary: Every exhibition at The Renaissance Society is accompanied by a broadsheet containing one of Walker’s companion essays. Curiously, these essays usually go nowhere. Are they not read? not understood? not thought to be of any value? Sunday attendance at The Ren is too often like unto church: orderly, solemn, performed for fear of damnation, and forgotten on Monday.

(Ongoing)
The Renaissance Society
Bergman Gallery
Cobb Hall, Room 418
University of Chicago
5811 S. Ellis Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637

Runner-up: Jason Foumberg, skyrocketing in 2013.

(4) Greatest Spectacle and Drama: “NON GRATA ‘Force Majeure’ @ New Capital”
NON GRATA "Force Majeure" Chicago
NON GRATA "Force Majeure" Chicago

The Estonian performance collective NON GRATA staged the destruction of an American-made sedan on the grounds of New Capital: outdoors, late-winter, encouraging audience participation in the act. No fig leaf of sport covered the aggression here; this was a naked, public display of violence hitherto latent in the community. And it was possible to read the event as a sort of response to the call made by Butzer a little over one month earlier.

7:00 PM, March 4, 2012
Hosted by:
Defibrillator Gallery
1136 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL
Co-hosted by:
New Capital
3114 W. Carroll
Chicago, IL 60612

Runner-up: Unsolicited letters from Wesley Kimler.

(5) Most Noteworthy Young or “Emerging” Artists: Sarah and Joseph Belknap, Tyler Blackwell, Robert Chase Heishman, Sofia Leiby, Jake Myers, Meg Noe, Danielle Rosen, Joseph Rynkiewicz, Etta Sandry, Vincent Uribe, and Nikki Werner.

Over the course of the previous year, some memorable artwork, conversation, or public engagement was initiated by each the people listed above. Further, as a result of the good attendance at gallery openings and other events which most displayed, their names were easy to learn and remember.

(6) Best Museum Show: “The Language of Less (Then and Now) @ MCA Chicago”
Dan Flavin in John McCracken @ MCA
Above: Dan Flavin: Untitled (for you, Leo, in long respect and affection) 3, 1978; John McCracken: Untitled, 1967.
Carl Andre & Donald Judd @ MCA
Above: Carl Andre: Zinc-Lead Plain, 1969; Donald Judd: Untitled, 1970.

Curated by Michael Darling, the “Dimensions of Space” gallery within “The Language of Less (Then and Now)” exhibition wasn’t novel, or exciting, in the conventional sense. Rather, the thing had the appearance of being the logical conclusion of a long meditation upon the fundamental unit, or building block, of the works included, viz., the square. And this formal vocabulary hasn’t disappeared. For example, in “Binary Lore,” the most recent show local NFP threewalls, Edie Fake recalled Carl Andre.

Closed on April 15 , 2012
MCA Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago IL 60611

(7) Best Museum Opening: “Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art”
Enemy Kitchen in Feast @ Smart Museum
Above: Michael Rakowitz’ Enemy Kitchen, opening night.
Sonja Alhäuser in Feast @ Smart Museum
Above: Sonja Alhäuser’s butter buffet billy goat, opening night.

The Smart has made an effort to push its programming outward: into its lobby and courtyard. That physical movement runs parallel to the community engagement which has been a major thematic concern of several recent exhibitions. “Feast” wasn’t solely a remembrance of the past by means of a presentation of artifacts; rather, “Feast” was a new sort of moment, available to be experienced via the socialization which was possible at its opening reception.

February 16 – June 10, 2012
Smart Museum of Art
University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
Curated by Stephanie Smith
Artists: Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Sonja Alhäuser, Mary Ellen Carroll, Fallen Fruit, Theaster Gates, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, InCUBATE, The Italian Futurists, Mella Jaarsma, Alison Knowles, Suzanne Lacy, Lee Mingwei, Laura Letinsky, Tom Marioni, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mildred’s Lane, Julio César Morales and Max La Rivière-Hedrick, motiroti, National Bitter Melon Council, Ana Prvacki, Sudsiri Pui-Ock, Michael Rakowitz, Ayman Ramadan, Red76, David Robbins, Allen Ruppersberg, Bonnie Sherk, Barbara T. Smith, Daniel Spoerri, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and others.

(8) Best Performance: “Mikey McParlane @ Defibrillator”
Mikey McParlane @ Defibrillator
Mikey McParlane @ Defibrillator

Mikey McParlane’s performance on April 1, 2012, was really something special. Relevant to contemporary gender issues (whether I’m able to tease-out any deeper meaning) McParlane presented ambiguously in the guise of a harlequin. Here, the choreography, costume, makeup, audio and lighting came together perfectly. It was weird and beautiful.

April 1, 2012
“Second Annual Lyp Sinc Show”
Defibrillator
1136 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642
Performances by: Happy Collaborationists, Ben Foch, Sasha Hodges, Mikey McParlane, Sofia Moreno, Jillian Soto, Courtney Macandanz, Rosé Hernandez, Robin Deacon, Taisha Paggett, Jake Myers, Sharon Lanza, Monica Panzarino

Runner-up: Edyta Stepien & Ayako Kato @ Chicago Art Department

(9) Best Installation – “Jacob Hashimoto @ Rhona Hoffman
Jacob Hashimoto @ Rhona Hoffman
Jacob Hashimoto @ Rhona Hoffman

Hashimoto’s work was interesting in its own right. But, too, quite literally depending upon fiber, it recalled gallery artist Anne Wilson’s past treatments of the space, and prefigured Fred Sandback’s recent showing there as well. Politics aside, it’s rare for a dealer (here) to survive long enough for such a formal thread to become evident–running through a succession of shows. Hashimoto was polite and professional, and he didn’t need to be so.

September 14 – October 20, 2012
“Super-elastic collisions (origins, and distant derivations)”
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
118 N. Peoria St.
Chicago, IL 60607

Runner-up: “Lane/Sirianni” @ New Capital

(10) Greatest Wasted Potential: “Color Jam @ Chicago Loop Alliance”
The Deterioration of Color Jam by Jessica Stockholder
The Deterioration of Color Jam by Jessica Stockholder

76,000-square-feet of colored vinyl, with a 500,000 USD budget, whose real cost was the good will of its patrons.

June 5 – September 30, 2012
The Chicago Loop Alliance’s “Color Jam” by Jessica Stockholder
State Street and Adams Street
Chicago, IL

Runner-up: “De-mystifying the Art Critic @ Chicago Artists’ Coalition”

(11) Best Residency: “ACRE Projects”
Kate Bowen @ ACRE Projects
ACRE Block Party @ ACRE Projects

Insofar as a tangible return on investment is concerned, ACRE stands head-and-shoulders above it’s peers. Whether related to the residency, the sheer number of shows produced by ACRE has transformed the landscape of the Chicago art world.

(Ongoing)
ACRE Projects
Home office:
1913 W. 17th Street, 1F
Chicago, IL, 60608
Residency:
Steuben, Wisconsin

(12) Greatest Misses by Chicago’s Critics: “Noelle Mason @ Thomas Robertello Gallery” and “Sheree Hovsepian @ moniquemeloche”
Noelle Mason @ Thomas Robertello Gallery
Above: Artist Noelle Mason explains the process by which the satellite-mapped US/Mexican border city “bird’s eye perspective” textile in the foreground was fabricated; pinhole camera prints documenting her substantial skydiving experience are mounted on the wall in the background.
Sheree Hovsepian @ moniquemeloche
Above: Sheree Hovsepian with her artwork.

We all wonder why some shows receive press while others do not. Mason and Hovsepian “did everything right,” and yet received scant critical attention.

Noelle Mason
“Blue Skies/Black Death”
September 7 – November 3, 2012
Thomas Robertello Gallery
27 N. Morgan
Chicago, IL 60607

Sheree Hovsepian
“Haptic Wonders”
February 4 – March 24, 2012
moniquemeloche gallery
2154 W. Division (@ Leavitt)
Chicago, IL 60622

(13) Best Painting: “Melissa Oresky @ Hyde Park Art Center” and “Davis/Langlois in Re:Chicago @ DePaul Art Museum”
Melissa Oresky @ Hyde Park Art Center
Above: Melissa Oresky
Davis/Langlois in Re:Chicago @ DePaul Art Museum
Above: Robert Davis and Michael Langlois

These two (three) were interesting for the same reason: brush or roller “strokes” were applied directly to the walls of the exhibition site. “Painting,” here, was no longer wholly a commodity but rather also a temporary transformation of the venue itself.

Melissa Oresky
“Trail”
May 6 – August 19, 2012
Hyde Park Art Center
5020 S. Cornell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60615

Robert Davis and Michael Langlois
“Living the Dream” in “Re: Chicago”
September 16 – March 4, 2012
DePaul Art Museum
935 W. Fullerton
Chicago, IL 60614

(14) Best Photography: “Dawoud Bey @ The Renaissance Society” and “Sade Kahra @ threewalls”
Dawoud Bey @ The Renaissance Society
Above: Dawoud Bey
Sade Kahra @ threewalls
Above: Sade Kahra

Bey was exactly as expected; Kahra was wholly unexpected. Both photographers presented evidence of the human condition, the bodily circumstance, of their subject. Whether relatively conventional or experimental in its execution, the genre of social documentation is alive and well. Sincere, but not maudlin, the work in each case was a relief from the tide of irony here yet to ebb.

Dawoud Bey
“1975 to the present, a career survey”
May 13 – June 24, 2012
The Renaissance Society
5811 S. Ellis Avenue
Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall 418
Chicago, Illinois 60637

Sade Kahra
“UV Portraits”
threewalls’ artist-in-research residency
June 1 – June 30, 2012
threewalls
119 N. Peoria #2d
Chicago, IL 60607

(15) Best Public Sculpture: “Martin Creed ‘MOTHERS’ @ MCA Chicago”
Martin Creed Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS) @ MCA Chicago

After “Color Jam” and “Forever Marilyn” the bar couldn’t have been much lower.

Installed in August of 2012; now closed.
MCA Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago IL 60611

(16) Hottest Chicago Artist Who’s Not Theaster Gates: Heidi Norton
BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Heidi Norton
Above: Heidi Norton at the MCA.
Heidi Norton & Geoffrey Todd Smith @ EXPO Vernissage After Party
Above: Heidi Norton and Geoffrey Todd Smith at EXPO Vernissage after party.

Norton’s schmutzy floral collages incorporate all manner of found objects–cast or bound together with wax and resin. If her additive Ab Ex, Neo-Dada process might recall a male figure such as Rauschenberg, her palette and penchant for translucent materials are more distinctly feminine.

After showing at Johalla Projects and the late Ebersmoore, Norton graced the MCA in 2012. In 2013 she was hired by Northwestern University; and institutional connectivity is, we all know, key to longevity in Chicago.

August 7 – October 23, 2012
Curated by Karsten Lund
MCA Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago IL 60611


POSTSCRIPT

(I) The following errors were identified and corrected in the article above:

– “Sofia Leiby” was originally written as “Sophia Leiby”

– “Vincent Uribe” was originally written as “Vince Uribe”

– “Chris Smith” was not named as Jake Myers’ partner in Tag Team

(II) Image of Jason Lazarus at ACRE Projects removed:

– On March 25, 2012, the author of the article above created a photograph of Jason Lazarus in the act of igniting fireworks in the alley behind ACRE Projects. Uploading said original digital image to Flickr, the author of the article above maintained the nomenclature which he received on-site at the time of said event: ACRE staff referred to said event as Lazarus’ “Fireworks Extravaganza.” Regarding that reference, for 16 months no complaint was made. Jason Lazarus saw said image on Flickr 16 months ago, left a comment on Flickr at said time, and therein made no complaint about the presence of the words “Fireworks Extravaganza” in said image’s Flickr caption. After the publication of the article above a complaint was received by Bad at Sports, from ACRE, with regard to the use of the words “Fireworks Extravaganza” in said image’s caption on Bad at Sports. The offending image and caption have been removed from the article above.

(III) No Endorsement:

– The author of the article above failed to clearly indicate that even as his viewing experience was his own, so too his conclusions were his own. No individual member of Bad at Sports, nor Bad at Sports collectively, ought to be assumed to endorse the article above, in part or in whole. Errors and omissions are the fault of the author of the article above, not Bad at Sports.

Likewise, with the exception of content which he has produced, the author of the article above endorses no content on Bad at Sports, whether said content is found in the blog, podcast, or in any other place.

(IV) Schmutzy:

– In the article above, an image of John McCracken’s “Untitled,” 1967, appears opposite Dan Flavin’s “Untitled (for you, Leo, in long respect and affection) 3,” 1978. Whether appropriate, McCracken has been associated with “finish fetish” artists: meticulous practitioners of craft, whose minimal objects are denominated by clean, smooth surfaces, illustrated by the mirror-like reflectivity of McCracken’s piece in said image, above.

Heidi Norton, while having exhibited geometric figures in the same museum (MCA) in the same year (2012) as McCracken, is in no danger of being confused with him. Norton’s work of late has been hallmarked by blobs, drips (see the image of Norton’s work, above) and other surface irregularities.

The author of the article above chose to employ the word “schmutzy” to describe said formal qualities in Norton’s work. “Schmutz,” literally, means “dirt,” though it’s more broadly used to signify some foreign matter: possibly organic, probably only semi-solid, and definitely capable of making a mess. The primary meaning of the word cannot be overlooked.

Artists and critics, male and female, gay and straight, in contemporary Chicago, have set precedent for the descriptive usage. For example, the application of such material to a picture plane was the definition of “painting” provided by Vera Klement: “a mark with liquidy [sic] stuff…a recreation of the body in a way, it’s the stuff that’s in your body, sloshing around in there, that kind of feces, primal material,” at 8:42 – 10:05, in the BaS podcast “Episode 214: Constellations: Paintings from the MCA Collection” October 4, 2009.

http://badatsports.com/2009/episode-214-constellations-paintings-from-the-mca-collection/

And prior to said statement by Klement, Jason Foumberg wrote: “paint flows expressively like an ejaculation,” in his June 22, 2009, piece “Portrait of the Artist: Dutes Miller,” in Newcity.

http://art.newcity.com/2009/06/22/portrait-of-the-artist-dutes-miller/

Bodily processes and sexuality might be hinted at by a word such as “schmutz” when used in relation to the appearance of Norton’s work; but, the association is no more necessary than is forcing such a (bodily, sexual) reading of “finish fetish” in relation to McCracken’s work. And it’s wrong to conflate the artist and the artwork: a description of one ought not to taken as a description of the other. In no place has it been written that Norton is schmutzy, or is a schmutz.

Postscript above appended on July 21, 2013, by the author of the article above, subsequent to a letter received from the blog’s editor.




Bad at Sports’ Fall Art Picks

September 11, 2009 · Print This Article

Times are tough, but there’s a lot to look forward to with the coming Fall art season in Chicago. Here’s what Meg and I are most looking forward to seeing over the next three months — and be sure to check out Stephanie’s guide to Friday and Saturday openings below!

Philip Von Zweck

Philip Von Zweck at ThreeWalls

9/11 Philip Von Zweck at ThreeWalls (M, C) The title of this show is “The Fortieth Anniversary of the First Anniversary of May ’68 (in September).” Von Zweck is a significant and much-beloved figure in the Chicago art scene who ran a highly respected apartment gallery for a number of years. This exhibition marks his return to a more traditional solo artist exhibition framework.

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Luis Gispert at Rhona Hoffman Gallery

9/11 Luis Gispert at Rhona Hoffman (C) New large-scale photographic portraits and videos by the Miami-born, Brooklyn-based Gispert that focus on immigrant sectors of the American workforce and the search for expressive outlets outside the realm of labor. A three-channel film focuses on Gispert’s friend Rene, a Cuban immigrant who works in a Miami restaurant supply store.

9/11 Jessica Labatte at Scott Projects (M). Labatte’s exhibition Bright Branches documents found objects collected from Chicago alleys and junk stores.

9/11 Craig Doty: Women at Roots and Culture (M,C). The women in Doty’s new photographic series have been described as appearing “physically exhausted as well as ethically or morally debased,” i.e. a wet and shivering woman looking out past viewers with few narrative clues as to why, etc. Given Choire Sicha’s description of Doty as “a sick little pervert” whose previous body of work was “very John Hughes meets John Waters meets John Lydon,” well, let’s just say we can’t wait to see his approach to the subject for ourselves.

Doug Ischar at Golden Gallery

Doug Ischar at Golden Gallery

9/12 Doug Ischar at Golden (M,C). A body of work from 1985, never before seen in its entirety, is the enticement here. Ischar’s show is titled Marginal Waters and features images taken in Chicago’s now-defunct Belmont Rocks.

9/19 Jonas Wood at Shane Campbell Gallery (C). He’s from L.A. and showed at Black Dragon Society, plus he’s collaborated with painter Mark Grotjahn…for now, that’s all I need to know to want to see Wood’s show.

9/19 Jason Lazarus, Wolfgang Plöger, Zoe Strauss at The Art Institute (M). A show of recent photographic acquisitions of these artists’ works by the Art Institute.

9/20 Allen Sekula, Polonia and Other Fables at The Renaissance Society (C). New photographs by anti-globalization hero Sekula that focus on Chicago’s rich labor history, its Polish working-class population along with The University of Chicago’s famous lineage of economic theorists. Heady yet vital stuff from this woefully under-recognized L.A.-based artist.

9/25 – 9/27 Mikhail Baryshnikov at Harris Theater (M). It’s Baryshnikov dude. ‘Nuff said.

Greely Myatt in Heartland at Smart Museum of Art

Greely Myatt in Heartland at Smart Museum of Art

9/30 Heartland at the Smart Museum (C). Coorganized by the Smart Museum of Art and the Van Abbemuseum, a survey of artists from the Midwest aka the American Heartland. Hopefully it’ll subvert the syrupy connotations of it’s title, or at least be the kind of show that people argue, bitch and moan about rather than simply ignore.

10/2 – 10/4  Western Exhibitions and Golden Age at the NY Art Book Fair (M). The only event to make it to our list that is not in Chicago. If your in New York at the beginning of October check out two Chicagoans holding it down at the Fair.

October, opening date TBA, Carroll Dunham at He Said/She Said (C). Carroll Dunham shows in a suburban apartment gallery: the Oak Park home of Pamela Fraser and Randall Szott. Can’t wait for this.

10/8-21 Chicago International Film Festival (M) In it’s 45th year the film festival the two week festival is the hub for all film fanatics.  This festival might be the only time to catch certain films so be sure to check out their schedule in advance.

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Jeremy Deller at The Museum of Contemporary Art

10/10 Jeremy Deller: It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, at the MCA (M) Commissioned by The Three M Project Jeremy Deller will invite numerous participants to discuss their knowledge of the Iraq War. Some guest will include verterans, and scholars.
James Welling at Donald Young (C)

10/10 Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage at The Art Institute (C). I’m a sucker for Victoriana, and this exhibition –the first “to comprehensively examine the little-known phenomenon of Victorian photocollage, presenting work that has rarely—and in many cases never—before been displayed or reproduced” — is probably the one show I’m most looking forward to seeing this fall. A medium mostly practiced by aristocratic women, Victorian photocollage combined human, animal, and botanical forms in all sorts of wacky and whimsical ways, and I’m looking forward to reading the accompanying full-color catalogue to learn more about the ways that female artists of this era approached the form some sixty odd years before Picasso and Braque started playing around with it.

10/13 Alex Halsted and David Moré at Gallery 400 (C). Chicago-based Moré “collaborates” with an elephant nose fish, who emits an electrical pulse as a navigation tool which the artist then amplifies. I love the gallery’s blurb on this show: “This performance duo mixes issues of displacement, communications, commercial sound and inter-species contact in a singularly engaging bio-tech format.” Yep, pretty much says it all.

10/16 In Search of the Mundane at ThreeWalls (M) Organized by Randall Szott and InCUBATE  According to ThreeWalls this series will , “include boozy brunches, a lecture on the art of storytelling, various leisure excursions, and a tour of personal collections.”

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Liam Gillick at the MCA

10/17  Liam Gillick Curates the MCA Collection (M, C). We love the way that the MCA is experimenting with the curation of its permanent collection. The MCA has invited Liam Gillick to select works for its next hanging.

11/TBA James Welling at Donald Young (C).  New work by L.A. photographer Welling, whose ongoing interest in the experimental and abstract possibilities of photography set his work apart from contemporaries like Sherrie Levine and Cindy Sherman as well as today’s younger generation focusing heavily on portraiture. Welling’s last show at Donald Young featured photograms of flowers and “torsos” (the latter actually made out of screens sculpted to resemble human curves) made without the use of a camera; the results were gorgeous, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he delves into next.

12/4 Carrie Schneider at MCA 12×12 (M, C)  Often using herself as her main character, Schneider  melds several genres of art-making including body art, performance, self-portraiture photography and film in images that are haunting, creepy, and hallucinatory in their resonance. If someone ever gave Schneider a huge project budget she could give Matthew Barney a run for his money, but for now we’ll look forward to seeing the new short film Schneider plans to premiere in her first solo museum outing at the MCA. According to the MCA’s website, the film, made in Helsinki, Finland while the artist was there on residency, continues the artists’ ongoing exploration of doubled selves and the uncanny.




Top 5 for 6/12-6/14

June 11, 2009 · Print This Article

1. Green Lantern says it’s the end but we can still be friends…

green lantern

After 4 (or so) years going strong, the Green Lantern is closing it’s doors. Unfortunately The Man clamped down, and now we must say good bye, though hopefully only to the current space. Hopes are high for the Green Lantern re-opening in 2010 in a new locale, but for now we celebrate the end of an era. So head over on Saturday the 13th for It’s Your Turn, and rock out with Caroline and the rest of the crew. BBQ and copious toasts will be had. Afternoon to 2am.

2. ebersb9? WTF is that?

ebersb9

I’m glad you asked. ebersb9 is a (relatively) new apartment gallery in the Noble Square neighborhood. Everyone likes new apartment galleries, right? Well, now you have the chance to check it out and go see some weird looking work by Krista Hoefle. The show is called The girl who stopped being human, and opens Friday night from 6 to 9. And just remember, people live there, don’t barf on the bathroom floor.

3. Jim Nutt (and others) talk dirty too you at the Smart Museum.

smart mus

Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, and Dennis Adrian talk about the work of H. C. “Cliff” Westermann on Sunday at the Smart Museum. Come on, Jim Nutt is awesome, I’m sure the other two are smart, and you’ll probably learn something. What else do you have to do on a Sunday? Come on down for an enlightening afternoon, Sunday the 14th at 2pm.

4. Western Exhibitions presents…PORN!

western exib

Not just porn, but that’s what caught my eye (no surprise there). If you’re ambiling ‘roung the West Loop drop in, there are two shows opening. The afore mentioned porn is part of The Ecstasyis,work by Dutes Miller. Also opening is they will not ruin us through the things that we like, a show curated by Philip von Zweck and featuring the work of Joel Dean, Anthony Elms, Carol Jackson, Andy Moore, Mindy Rose Schwartz, Deb Sokolow, Amy Vogel. Two for one, and in the West Loop. Sweet. See yout here with Grolsch in hand. Opens Friday night, from 5 to 8.

5. The weather is better down where it’s wetter, under the sea (in a window on Armitage).

art on armitage

Art on Armitage is a strange place. It’s a window, rather than a whole gallery, and shows an array of work some good, some…Well, this week we’re going for a trip under the sea. Usually I’m not big into crafty work, but this stuff is just friggin’ cool looking. A whole coral reef made by knitting? How can you hate on that? Drive by, or stop and take a closer look ( and drink some wine) Saturday 2 to 5.