Hello again, my lovelies. So, as I was sayin’ on my gallery crawl blog, I was a little worried Monday when I started putting the listing together. At that point it was looking a little bleak. Thankfully that situation has remedied itself. It’s always nice when the weekend picks are relatively easy, and this weekend there is so much good stuff that picking was easy, it was whittling down that was hard. Here are a few places that still look awesome, but didn’t make it to the Top 5: Visions from a Foxhole at Pritzker Military Library, Rune at Ben Russell (dude, get a website, please! or if you have one, tell me where it is), We Are the World at Roots and Culture, and Ethan Greenbaum and Katrin Sigurdardottir at The Suburban. This is seriously the Alt. Space Weekend! As an odd testament, not one opening (that I could find) in River North. So go out, support your local project spaces, alternative spaces, apartment galleries, garage galleries, corners-of-living-rooms-with-art-badly-hung-in-them places, and enjoy the (inevitable and awesome) cheap beer. SALLY FOURTH!
1. ChicagoLand at PeregrineProgram
So I saw Daniel Lavitt out in the streets last weekend and asked him about the show. I’d seen the announcement card around (you’ve probably seen it too, him staring Godzilla-style through a tiny window), but wasn’t sure exactly what the hell was going on. Well, my friends, this stuff looks like a whole pile of awesome! I love miniaturized work, it’s always a bit creepy and awkward. For this work, Lavitt is not only miniaturizing Chicago, he’s doing it to culturally and personally significant places AND wiring them along an economic gradient. I’ve never been to this space, so I’m super stoked on seeing a new venue and Lavitt’s new work.
PeregrineProgram is located at 500 W Cermak Rd, #727. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm. Read more
In 1999 artists Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam co-founded The Suburban, a domestic art space in Oak Park, Illinois that in its decade of existence has become one of the Chicago area’s most highly regarded alternative galleries. This coming weekend will mark a new chapter in The Suburban’s history with Grabner and Killam’s launch of The Poor Farm and Poor Farm Press.
Located in Waupaca County in central Wisconsin, The Poor Farm (aka the Waupaca County Home) was built in 1876 as part of the American Poor Farm system. Now, this 2.7 acre compound will function as a larger offshoot of The Suburban, its “rural cousin,” as Grabner and Killam put it. They’ll be mounting yearlong exhibitions in the Farm’s over 8,000 square feet, which includes 2500 square feet of dormitory space for artists and writers to live at the Farm for extended residencies. Poor Farm Press will produce catalogues and other printed matter that normally fall outside the purview of larger publishing houses. In short, a place that once represented the end of the line for the region’s poor–an institutional space of despair, destitution and servitude–will now be an open-ended space of transformative possibility and creative intervention.
Although the Poor Farm itself is still under renovation, Grabner and Killam are ready to kick off their newest venture by welcoming everyone who wants to join them for a weekend-long camp-out/inaugural exhibition opening this weekend, August 7, 8 and 9. On view will be numerous works of performance, painting, sculpture, and installation by artists such as Lesley Vance, David Robbins, Shane Aslan Selzer, Olivier Mosset, Philip Vanderhyden, Brad Kahlhamer, Shane Huffman, Sabina Ott, Pedro Velez, Guillaume Lebion, Nicholas Frank, Joe Pflieger and many others that engage the The Poor Farm’s history as well as its many idiosyncratic spaces, which include a jail in the basement and a cemetery in the back cornfield. If you go, you can camp out on the grounds or stay at a nearby hotel, if camping’s not your thing, and dive into a range of super family-friendly activities like river tube floating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. And, of course, there’ll be cookouts galore.
About the upcoming Poor Farm ventures, Grabner and Killam note,
Like the Suburban, The Poor Farm will be dedicated to artists. In a recent interview we stated that “we believe in artists and we believe in the imagination.” We also happen to delight in and value our mid western, middle class, middle-age life with a mortgage and three kids. Voila: The Suburban, The Poor Farm and Poor Farm Press. Now, we can further negotiate our beliefs, share resources, and widen a space for artists and other curious minds.
What a beautiful way to spend a weekend. If you’re interested, you can download more information on The Poor Farm/Poor Farm Press and the opening weekend “jamboree” by clicking below.
Grabner and Killam are already well known to this blog’s local readers, but if you’re from outside of Chicago and want to learn more about the incredible history of artists’ projects that The Suburban has presented over the past decade you can start by visiting The Suburban’s website. Then, listen to Grabner discuss how she and her family blend art and everyday life on episodes 12 and 19 of Bad at Sports’ Podcast (Grabner also interviewed artist Gaylen Gerber for Episode 93). And finally, the Highlights conducted a terrific interview with Grabner just last June; you can read it here.
A few months ago on episode 192 of the Podcast, artist and Yale professor Rochelle Feinstein discussed at length a long-term project of hers that at the time had never been shown. Created during the period 2002-2005, this body of work examines (among other things) Michael Jackson as a cultural signifier of failure and redemption.
Feinstein’s project did find a home. It’s been on view in New York at Art Production Fund’s APF Lab space since June 2nd (Jackson died on June 25th) and is titled “I Made a Terrible Mistake,” which comes from the statement Jackson made the day after he infamously dangled his baby Blanket out a hotel window as fans cheered below.
The exhibition explores Michael Jackson’s mistakes as “allegories of contemporary life, in both public and private orbits.” From the APF’s website:
When a mistake is acknowledged, an imperceptible process of transformation and redemption begin. Jackson, and this phrase, is one conceptual muse for this project. The other, Barry White, so emphatically unapologetic and generous in his promise of sensual redemption, died in the summer of 2003, while Feinstein was in the Art Production Fund Residency at Giverny. The conceptual collision of these two icons, sited at Monet’s Garden, led Feinstein to draw upon this uber-synthetic Eden for the creation of “I Made a Terrible Mistake.”
Feinstein’s show is up through July 23rd. Be sure to listen to Duncan’s in-depth discussion with Feinstein about Michael Jackson, celebrity, mirror balls, failure and redemption and other subjects on the podcast.
Sometime over the weekend, as I was pouring coffee beans into a canister, I happened to read on the package that proceeds from the coffee had been used to fund a library. Pretty cool, I thought; but then in my cynical way, I began to speculate about just what kind of structure this library actually was, how big, how many books, and what, exactly, constituted a library in the minds of the coffee bean distributors. Maybe their library was more like a bookmobile, or maybe it was just a partitioned section of a large hut somewhere far away, with a few piles of donated paperbacks stacked haphazardly on a couple of wooden stools. At any rate, when I came across the L.A.-based artist Dave Hullfish Bailey’s images of the Lizard Tree Library in Slab City, California (not far from Imperial City), my first thought was, aha–here’s the kind of library that coffee money might have funded.
Bailey’s installations converge with social historiography and land use studies in their exploration of alternative models of community and urban planning. Slab City, a squatter and R.V. community built over an old U.S. military base, provides a case study that, in his exhibition at The Suburban, Bailey has approached in a more or less documentary fashion. A series of 15 framed photocopied images of the Slab City library have been installed sequentially along the gallery’s four walls. Each image presents a view of the library from a slightly different vantage point that corresponds to the photographer’s path around the perimeter. I didn’t know about Slab City before encountering these images, but a little Internet scouring brought up a few useful websites, particularly this one. Slab City’s inhabitants would probably not describe themselves as “squatters,” though none pay rent. They’ve built the physical structures that house this community from the ground up, along with the social institutions or “clubs” that bring residents together. The library appears to be one of several sacred spaces here that have been constructed entirely by human hands, in this case by a woman named Rosalie who died in 2003. It’s a quiet place where people can borrow books without I.D. cards, read on the patio, or retreat to in the middle of the night when insomnia hits.
Bailey is interested in the ways that idealism shapes space concretely and ideologically, as when, for example, people from very different backgrounds come together in the wake of hurricanes or riots to create ad hoc spaces of refuge and community support. These chaotic moments have the potential to transform utopian impulses into pragmatic solutions. In Slab City, ordinary folks have put their highest aspirations of self and community to the test. Baileys’ trajectory around the Slab City library circumscribes a Utopia twice removed; one that looks and feel a lot more down-to-earth than we, or its residents for that matter, may have previously imagined.