Guest Post by Jeriah Hildwine
Stephanie and I took the Metra to Hammond, Indiana, where Linda Dorman and Tom Torluemke picked us up at the station, and brought us back to their place.Â We ate pizza around their dining room table and then drank beer around a campfire in their backyard. Â (Linda drank Coke, Tom Oâ€™Doulâ€™s.)Â Tom had built a perfect teepee fire, abashedly using compressed firestarters (which he called â€œcheatingâ€) to light the fire.
They took us to Sidecar Gallery to see â€œWater,â€ a show of work by Tom Burtonwood, Holly Holmes, and James Jankowiak.Â Tom Burtonwood created a wallpaper of a computer-generated alphabet consisting of isomorphic perspective renderings of three-dimensional blocks (like Tetris pieces), each rendered in a different, simple pattern of marks.Â It looked like a 1980s visualization of some kind of data set, but in fact represented an alphabet or code.Â Apparently it incorporated QR codes which stored a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for a website that would decode the alphabet for youâ€¦but, lacking a smartphone, we didnâ€™t try it.Â Burtonwood also created some small wooden sculptures that mimicked the form of the wallpaper.
James Jankowiak also created a wallpaper of sorts, covering several walls of the gallery with parallel strips of brightly colored plastic tape.Â But his major works are small, square, incredibly precise paintings of minutely varying shades of color.Â The works in this exhibition consisted of concentric circles.Â In one, each circle was a slightly different shade of blue.Â In another, a green torus vibrates electrically against a red field.Â In a third, blues, browns, and whites alternate on a beige field.Â Oneâ€™s first thought is of course of sectioned Jawbreaker candies but a momentâ€™s thought links them more closely with Josef Albersâ€™ color studies.
Both Jankowiakâ€™s and Burtonwoodâ€™s wallpapers served as backdrops for their own, and each otherâ€™s, small paintings and sculptures, turning the exhibition into more of a collaboration than a group show.Â In the front room was one of Holly Holmesâ€™ recent wooden sculptures, in which thin strips of wooden lathe are bent into a complex, looping form, like a diagram of the flight of a bumblebee, or a crazy zero-gravity roller-coaster.Â Iâ€™ve seen a previous work of this type by Holmes, at Chicago Urban Arts Society, as part of Wood Worked, in which the material of the piece was left raw and unfinished.Â In Water, it was painted in blue and white.Â In each case the color and surface seemed an homage to the theme of the exhibition.
We had tickets for the 11:10pm South Shore Line Metra train home, but Sidecar was shutting down at 10pm, so instead of waiting around the train station in the cold for an hour after the show, Linda hooked us up with her friend Erik, who agreed to bring us back to Chicago.Â But, he said, we had to make what he assured us would be a brief stop at a friendâ€™s birthday party.Â Thatâ€™s how we ended up at Cisa Studio.
The birthday boy is this kid Flex, one of the guys who runs Cisa Studio in Hammond Indiana.Â I call him a kid because heâ€™s full of youthful energy, but in fact this is the eve of his 40th Birthday.Â The vibe is like a house party or maybe like the office Christmas party for a tattoo parlor. Â Erik introduces us as we walk in the door, and everybody is so nice, welcoming us with warm handshakes and cold beer.Â The bathroom is immaculately clean, and the main space is stylishly decorated, with mood lighting and music befitting the occasion.Â We meet Flex, see some of his work (a portrait, in spraypaint on canvas, very realistically executed), and then he shows us the backyard.
This involves three layers:Â first, downstairs to an indoor, basement-like space where people gather to smoke around a big plywood table covered in drawings and graffiti writing. Â A massive digital printer sits against one wall.Â Signs advertise various services:Â fine art paintings, signs, and airbrushed images for your motorcycle helmet, gas tank, leather jackets, and cars.Â Thereâ€™s a motorcycle helmet with an absolutely flawless airbrushed rendering of the comic book character Venom on it:Â more of Flexâ€™s work.
From there we moved into the garage, where a classic car sat, grind marks showing bare metal through the primer:Â a work in progress, speaking of infinite potential.Â In the back corner, a motorcycle sported a Minigun-type cluster of barrels emerging from its exhaust pipes.Â I donâ€™t know, but I imagine that they spin and belch fire when the motorcycle is running.Â I sat there, spinning the barrels by hand, entranced.
The backyard itself hosted a bench that had been airbrushed by some of Flexâ€™s friends as part of a public art commission. Â I looked around, and admired the facilities:Â an absolutely gorgeous, spacious workspace.Â Whatâ€™s more, Flex told me, their rent is less than what Steph and I pay for our bedroom-and-a-half apartment in Ravenswood!Â â€œThis is why Indiana is the shit,â€ Flex explained.Â Itâ€™s hard to argue with that.
We smoked cigarettes, talked to the Cisa crew, and drank more beer.Â Then we were gathered, slowly and chaotically, into a rough herd, with the purpose of ambling down the alley to the studioâ€™s exhibition space, a separate building a block down, to see Arte Muerte 2011, the 4th annual occurrence of this â€œDay Of The Deadâ€ themed exhibition.Â On the way I met the crewâ€™s photographer, the most heavily-tattooed guy there, long-haired, with a rock-and-roll aesthetic that goes some way towards explaining his nickname, â€œTommy Lee.â€Â To look at him youâ€™d expect him to be biting the head off a bat or something, and turns out to be an incredibly sweet and super righteous dude.
Arte Muerte consisted of Day of the Dead altars and two-dimensional wall art, all encompassing themes of death, family, ancestry, tradition, ritual, and a Latino or Mexican cultural heritage.Â The aesthetic of the work ranged from psychedelic and graffiti to Aztec and Maya glyphic writing, Catholic saints, and plenty of skulls.Â What struck me most immediately about the show was that not a single thing in it felt ironic, exploitative, or appropriated:Â there werenâ€™t sculptures of altars, they werenâ€™t about altars, they were genuine and sincere embodiments of this tradition.
After checking out the exhibition we made our way back to the studios where some of the guys were breakdancing, and we all did tequila shots in celebration of Flexâ€™s birthday.Â The Cisa studio crew talked to be about growing up together, and about how they hung out with Keith Haring when he was in Chicago.Â They showed me a picture of them all, years ago, hanging out with Haring.Â Erik mentioned working at Genesis Art Supply back in the day, and I asked him if heâ€™d known Wesley Willis.Â They guys all started telling stories about hanging out with him back in the day, of setting him up in the store to sit there and draw.Â One of the guys proudly told me that Wesley had given him a drawing, which he still had.Â Another had Willisâ€™ old Casio keyboard from when he was growing up.
Many hours, many stories, and many beers later, we were all feeling pretty ready to head out.Â Another couple was catching a ride with us as well.Â Erik DeBat, our ride, had made sure to moderate his consumption and was quite sober and fit to drive.Â The rest of us were all pretty sauced, but I was still pretty lucid, and due to my long-leggedness our fellow passengers had afforded me the front seat, so I had much opportunity for conversation with Erik.Â We talked about his work, and he gave me a copy of the catalog from a recent exhibition heâ€™d had:Â Risk & Reward, at The Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, in August of 2011.Â I open it up, and I see this painting of The Hulk, and something looks familiar about it.Â The catalog essay is by Tony Fitzpatrick and it all falls into place:Â Iâ€™ve seen Erikâ€™s work, and probably Erik himself, at Tony Fitzpatrickâ€™s place.Â He gave me a card for an upcoming exhibition (Recursion, at 2612 Space) featuring Erikâ€™s work as well as James Jankowiak, Mario Gonzalez Jr., Victor Lopez, and William Weyna.Â I wasnâ€™t able to make it to that one, but he also told me that heâ€™s got a show coming up at Firecat Projects, in May 2012.Â I generally make it to all of the openings at Firecat, but Iâ€™m looking forward to this one in particular.
Work by Jesse Avina, Michael Garcia, Ryan T Dunn, Jim Zimpel, Stephanie Burke, Jeriah Hildewine, David Ayling, Mary Ayling, Jake Myers, John Myers, Jeremiah Myers, Lara Stall, Joe Sepka, Bo Totten, Christa Donner, and Jarard Novacain Nathaniel.
Octagon Gallery is located at 1318 N Milwaukee Ave. Performance is Saturday from 7-11pm
Work by BOLT residents and CAC artists, respectively.
Chicago Artists’ Coalition is located at 217 N. Carpenter St. Reception is Friday (tonight) from 6-9pm.
Work by Max Reinhardt.
Heaven Gallery is located at 1550 North Milwaukee, 2nd Fl. Reception is Friday (tonight) from 7-11pm.
Work by Lauren Levato.
Firecat Projects is located at 2124 N. Damen. Reception is tonight (Friday) from 7-10pm.
A performance by Hermes Santana and Gwenn-AÃ«l LYNN and a workshop with James Kubie, respectively.
Cobalt Studio is located at 1950 W. 21st St. BlackXican pozole requires an RSVP and begins tonight (Friday) at 7pm. Electuary is Saturday from 1-3pm.
Work by Cameron Crawford.
peregrineprogram is located at 500 W. Cermak Rd., #727. Reception is Saturday from 5-8pm.
Performances by Thom Stebbins, Mallow Hazard, Ten Thousand Miles Of Arteries, and White Rose/Lincoln Johns.
Fill in the Blank Gallery is located at 5038 N. Lincoln Ave. Performances begin at 7pm. $3 suggested donation.
Work by Salvador JimÃ©nez Flores.
Antena is located at 1765 S Laflin St. Reception is tonight (Friday) from 6-10pm.
Guest post by Thea Liberty Nichols
Email interview conducted with Steve Ruiz
Steve Ruiz is an artist and writer from Chicago. He is the Managing Editor of Chicago Art Review (.com) and has contributed to a number of publications including Jettison Quarterly, NewCity Magazine, and Proximity Magazine. Information on his artwork can be seen at steveruizart.com.
TLN: Can you start by telling us a little bit about Chicago Art Review? I’m especially interested (as a former participant) in the audio component you have on there, which, as far as I’m aware, is unique to your site as a listings format.
SR: I started Chicago Art Review in April 2009, right around the time I was graduating from college. The blog started as a joke (I’d told my former professor, Geoffrey Todd Smith, that I would write a gonzo review of his show) but I quickly realized the project’s potential as a way of engaging with the Chicago art community, which I was pretty unfamiliar with after spending five years studying elsewhere. Chicago Art Review became a reason to get out to shows, meet artists, and know about their work. My idea was to learn in a public way and IÂ think people appreciated the effort, especially as I didn’t really know anything or anyone and was writing from the hip on first impressions.
TLN: On that note, since several of the folks you just mentioned also have blogs or websites of their own, or contribute to other publications online or in print, can you tell us a little bit about how you expanded your network to include them? And do you feel like more an editor (vs. a writer) because of it?
SR: I My approach to involving other writers with Chicago Art Review is pretty casual. I don’t have any regular contributors, but I try to involve other people when I think they have an interest in writing something that I’d like to read but wouldn’t otherwise have a place to read it.Â TheÂ loose format on the site allows me to publish writing that wouldn’t fit elsewhere for whatever reason, and sometimes the appeal of “do whatever you want” is enough to get contributors on board. But no, I don’t think I work hard enough to feel like a Managing Editor.
TLN: It sounds like Chicago Art Review takes a very experimental approach to things and is happy to evolve by recognizing what works best for it– knowing what you know now, do you ever wish you could go back and take a different tact? Like do you feel the internet is written in stone or invisible ink? And where do you see Chicago Art Review going next– anything interesting in the hopper?
SR: No, I don’t think I’d change anything I’ve done, but I’d like to have done more of it. But its early, we’ve got time.
If anything, I’m happy to have established a sort of authoritative sounding brand based on formal experimentation and stubborn amateurism.Â Not to flatter the context here, but a lot of myÂ ideas aboutÂ art criticism were informed by seeing how the Bad at Sports podcast could deliver rich critical content in formÂ based on the unlikely combination of a lack of claimed authority, persistant volunteerism, over-education, topical expertise, conversational tones, and alcohol.Â That relationship with criticism feels much more appropriate for this city’s community. I’m interested in finding a written form and style that reflects the culture here, and that serves our needs and demands for writing, which are very different than in other cities. Some things are valued less, some more, and I feel like that should be taken into consideration.
As for going forward, a few months ago I started – but do not claim any ownership of – a Facebook group called #chiart for art writers and artists to talk to each-other about art in Chicago. The name comes from a slightly problematic twitter hashtag I’d got going, but which was hard to use for bigger conversations. The Facebook group has worked much better, andÂ I’ve been amazed at the quality of conversation there and at the ability for a certain number of engaged individuals to generate high-value critical dialog while essentially slacking off at work. Its easily my primary resource for almost all the tasks I’d previously have gone to didactic journalism for, making it harder to justify writing that kind of thing. I’m fascinated by the idea of body surfing legitimate critical discourse on crowds of distracted experts, and am looking for ways to turn that kind of conversation-based model into something that can produce discrete pieces of writing for us to print for binders and to cite on our CVs. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Thea Liberty Nichols is an arts administrator, independent curator and freelance writer. To listen to an excerpt from the “Form and Content of Writing” panel she moderated as part of Stockyard Institute‘s exhibition at DePaul University entitled Nomadic Studio, please click here. (Featuring commentary from Patrice Connolly, Claudine Ise, Abraham Ritchie and Bert Stabler)
Hey again everyone! First off, I need to give a shout out to all my buddies, including Aaron Delehanty, Daniel Lavitt, Duncan Anderson, Helen Maurene Cooper, Robin Dluzen, Takeshi Moro, and so many more, as well as myself, who are involved in the Art Loop Open. The space crawl is tomorrow night from 5-8pm, and voting must be done on site, so come and vote for us to get some moolah.
As for the Top 5, here you go:
Paintings of David Bowie by Carlos Ramos.
Rotofugi Gallery is located at 2780 N. Lincoln Ave. Reception is Friday, from 7-10pm.
Cartoon craziness from the mind and hand of Karl Haendel.
Tony Wight Gallery is located at 845 W. Washington Blvd. Reception is Friday, from 5-8pm.
New work by the dynamic duo of Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger.
Western Exhibitions is located at 119 N. Peoria St., suite 2A. Reception is Friday, from 5-8pm.
New works by Chicago artist Caleb Lyons.
DIG is located at 2003 N Point, #3. Reception is Saturday, from 7-10pm.
Jewel-encrusted madness from Rob Bondgren.
Peregrineprogram is located at 500 W. Cermak Rd., #727. Reception is Sunday, from 2-5pm.