How We Work: An Interview with Kate Ruggeri

May 9, 2014 · Print This Article

Guest post by A.Martinez

Kate Ruggeri is a Chicago-based artist, DJ, and curator who has shown at Roots & Culture (Chicago), Green Gallery East (Milwaukee), Western Exhibitions (Chicago), and Important Projects (Oakland). She is one of those people who exudes a humble cool, yet is enthusiastic about all she’s committed to, and excited about life and the people and things in it. After a handful of years of staying in touch from afar, I wanted to connect more closely to ask Kate some questions about her life and her work before she moves to New Haven in July to pursue her MFA at Yale.

A.Martinez: Were art and making art important to you from a young age?

Kate Ruggeri: Oh, yeah. Totally. My parents were always really encouraging. In elementary school I started taking drawing classes outside of school. I won a few poster contests. I used to do this thing every year called The Olympics of The Visual Arts, which is a New York State program. Pretty much you assemble a team, work on a year long project, and then compete against other teams. When I got a little older I got really into dark room photography. You know, carrying a camera around all the time and developing film in your bathroom. My mom and I took figure drawing classes together. A lot of colleges have art classes for kids during the summer, so I was always doing that too.

Kate in her studio

Kate in her studio

Martinez: How long have you kept a journal? And what does this practice of journaling do for you and your art practice?

Ruggeri: Since elementary school. I think my first one has a little lock on it. I never really stopped. It’s actually super important, to clear your head, to drain it. I try to write every day. I feel very scattered if I don’t. For art making, it’s good for me to work through ideas and to understand impulses I have. Often I make something and I’m not sure why I made that decision or was drawn to that form. Writing brings everything to the surface. It brings clarity. Studio work is one way of thinking and writing is how I detangle everything. Not just artwise, but life wise. It’s all the same, of course.

Martinez: How long have you had your own studio space? What does it look like?

Ruggeri: After school I had a tiny studio in a building across from Moonshine on Division. It’s been torn down since. I’ve been in the spot I’m at now for a little over a year. It’s a co-op at Damen and Fulton. I moved in there after my old spot on Elston burned down. We have an entire floor that is divided amongst us. My studio’s a mess. I see other people’s studios sometimes, and they have a turntable and little plants and it’s very cozy. My place is like a construction zone. I like that better. It lets me focus on the work.

Martinez: What is a typical day in the studio like for you?

Ruggeri: Nights are better. I like working when no one is around. You can play music loud. I believe in a witching hour. It really depends, though. I usually am working on one sculpture and 4-5 paintings at the same time. If I just finished something big or just installed a show, I draw and watch movies at home. I don’t really have a routine. Ben Medansky once described his ceramic studio as being around a million crying babies. That’s how I feel in there. I work a lot in series, so I just treat 6 pieces at the same time, and then have some experiments going. Right now I have some exercise balls I’ve been sort of doodling on. Then I’ll carve on these wood paintings until my hand hurts. Then I’ll cut some wood shapes out to paint. Or dump plaster on something. It’s a mix of working on very planned pieces and experiments. Everything always changes though.

"Tree Gremlin" 2012

“Tree Gremlin” 2012

Martinez: How do you begin a painting?

Ruggeri: Putting something down, anything! I break it in. I try not to think about it too much and just get the ball rolling. Usually it’s a good color.

Martinez: You work in both 2D and 3D- how does a piece become one or the other?

Ruggeri: When I was in school I used to trip myself up with that question. I can say now that they’re all paintings. I’m a painter that has sculptural impulses. I try to feed both ways of making. I try to be democratic about it. The larger sculptures can be exhausting to make, so there is often a down period of just painting and drawing before starting one again. Material, color, and mark making can drive a piece to be 3D or 2D. Finding a good object. Seeing a particularly inspiring show of painting or sculpture.

"They Have To Cut Out Part Of My Heart And Rebuild It With New Valves And Shit" 2014

“They Have To Cut Out Part Of My Heart And Rebuild It With New Valves And Shit” 2014

Martinez: What artists inspire you?

Ruggeri: Philip Guston, Mike Kelley, Matisse, Picasso, Claes Oldenberg, Cy Twombly, Franz West, Rauschenberg, Joan Miro, Giacometti, Sterling Ruby, William J. O’Brien, Jonathan Meese,  Mary Heilmann, Huma Bhabha, Gerhard Richter, Howard Fonda

Martinez: You have a pretty extensive record collection and DJ monthly at Danny’s. Do you feel there’s a connection between your music endeavors and your art-making?

Ruggeri: Yes. It feels very connected.

Martinez: What musicians inspire you?

Ruggeri: Parliament/Funkadelic, Dead Moon, Congos, Minutemen, Bad Brains, Robert Wyatt, Brian Eno, Miles Davis, Captain Beefheart, Sparks, Beach Boys, Lee Scratch Perry, Roxy Music, De La Soul, Neil Young, Patrick Cowley, Big Star

"Ghost Curtain Call" 2013

“Ghost Curtain Call” 2013

Martinez: What do you typically listen to while in the studio working?

Ruggeri: It’s different every time, chosen for the day and mood. But Nas “Illmatic” gets played a lot. J.Dilla, Shuggie Otis, Pastor T.L. Barrett, Skip Spence, Velvet Underground. Mixes from friends. Jorge Ben, Milton Nascimento, Witch, Amanaz are all good…

Martinez: Do you do collaborations with other artists?

Ruggeri: Sure, I’ve done it a few times. Right now I’m working on a collaboration with Alex Valentine. He gave me these plates to draw on, and then we’ll print them together on newsprint, and then use them to paper mache a sculpture. It’s great because Alex is primarily a printmaker and I know barely anything about the process. I love the idea of making a sculpture made out of drawing. A perfect hybrid.

Martinez: In 2012, you co-curated a show, “Quarterly Site 11: Line-of-Site“,  at Western Exhibitions. How did you land this opportunity? What was the experience like for you? And do you think you’ll curate more shows in the future?

Ruggeri: Jamilee Polson Lacy asked me to do it. She’s been doing these curatorial series for a while now, asking artists to curate a show at a different gallery. It was great. I got to work with Alicia Chester and Karolina Gnatowski. It’s fun to be on the other side of things, and it gave me an opportunity to create a show entirely different from my practice. I really wanted to see a show of top notch performance work. Curating is a lot of work, but I would love to do it again. I think the trick is when you start to think, “Why isn’t ___ kind of work being shown? Why hasn’t someone curated a show about ____?” is when you should get on curating a show. I’m starting to feel that, but I would need the right time and space.

Martinez: You and I actually met while undergrads at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. What is something that has stuck with you from your education and experience there about being a painter, artist, or person?

Ruggeri: Something that always stuck with me is remembering how I felt there: supported, invigorated, and that changing the world was definitely possible. It’s good to protect that enthusiasm, even when you’re working 9 to 5 and feel too tired to go to the studio.

"Dollar Sign" 2012

“Dollar Sign” 2012

Martinez: How has your experience at Ox-Bow School of Art as student and then again as a fellow affect your art? How long were you there total?

Ruggeri: Ox-Bow. Oh, man. I first went in 2007 as a student, and pretty much tried to take as many classes there as I could. If you got work study, you just had to pay for the credits, which I needed anyway. I went three consecutive Summers and one Winter. The Summer of 2010 was great, I took a class with Jose Lerma called “Expanded Painting, Expanded Sculpture.” Not hard to see it was a big influence on me. I was really lucky to receive a Joan Mitchell Fellowship this past Fall and I was an artist-in-residence for 5 weeks. As a student, classes meet everyday. I also had to wake up every morning to clean toilets for work study. This time, as a resident, it was like being at a beautiful retreat. There were only other residents, I had my own studio, and I got to structure my own day. It was incredible.

Martinez: Congratulations on your acceptance to the MFA Painting program at Yale!  What are you most excited about in starting this program in the fall?

Ruggeri: Thanks! I’m most excited about a fresh start. And making better art.

Martinez: What do you think are some interesting things happening around the city of Chicago art-wise?

Ruggeri: Ryan Travis Christian has a show up at Western Exhibitions that I need to get over to. William J. O’Brien at the MCA. Isa Genzken at the MCA. Alexander Valentine has a show at 3433 coming up.

Martinez: What are you currently working on?

Ruggeri: I’m finishing up a re-make of a sculpture I lost in the fire. It’s a harp. I just wrapped up these brooches I made for the Three Walls Gala coming up in June. Starting some new paintings. I keep thinking I need to stop because I’m moving, but I have some projects I want to do before I leave. I have an ongoing series of fake album covers, and I have a photo shoot coming up for the next installment.

"Rainbo Series" 2013

“Rainbo Series” 2013

Martinez: Your recent show, “Tropical Depression” at LVL3 just closed May 4th. Do you have any other openings coming up?

Ruggeri: No, thankfully! I’m moving to New Haven end of July. I’m trying to tie up loose ends.

Martinez: Is there a piece of advice, art related or not that you think of often?

Ruggeri: Say yes to all opportunities offered to you. Avoid excessive thinking about the past and future.


To find out more about Kate, her artwork and her upcoming shows go to http://kate-ruggeri.com/ 

All photos courtesy of the artist.

 

A.Martinez is a freelance art and music organizer living in Chicago, IL. She is currently working on a performing arts summer festival called The Living Loop, and will release her first book of poetry this summer.

 




Community Supported Art

April 15, 2011 · Print This Article

Over the last few years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has exploded in popularity. When I moved to Chicago in 2000, there were only a handful of CSAs available to Chicagoans. Now there are dozens. CSAs have become so popular that The New York Times frequently runs articles about what to do with your seasonal surpluses. CSAs work in an interesting way—customers “subscribe” or buy “shares” in a farm’s yield. In this way, farmers know in advance their minimum sales and also have money upfront to purchase supplies. For the buyer this means excellent, seasonal produce (or fruit, meat, dairy) that is usually organic and always high quality. But CSAs are about more than just yummy, healthful food. CSAs are a way for non-farmers to support an activity they find valuable, like independent farming.

Three Walls is applying this same idea to art. Their Community Supported Art program offers six artworks by six different artists, all for the reasonable price of $400, or $350 if you act before April 30th.  Various arts groups have done this before. In the 80s, SubPop had their Singles Club whereby each month subscribers received a fresh-off-the-press single right to their mailbox. More recently, I was a subscriber to Featherproof Press’s Paper Egg, a subscription book service. Sadly, Paper Egg didn’t really work out for the folks at Featherproof, but that doesn’t mean it was a failure. People want to support artists. Buying art is hard, though. It’s expensive and often it is hard to know where to spend your hard-earned dollars when you do finally decide to buy an artwork. But this is where the subscription, the food-type CSA model does its best work. Just as we are not exactly sure what each CSA box might yield, neither do we know the contents of a Three Walls CSA box. I mean, anything could be in there. [UPDATE: Okay, so not anything could be in there. There are 12 works in total of which each subscriber will receive 6.]

While not exactly common, Community Supported Art programs are springing up around the country and are a fresh way to explore alternative methods of connecting artists and those who buy art. Do listen to Claudine Ise, Duncan MacKenzie, and Dan Gunn discuss this on the Art:21 Centerfield podcast. The official launch of the 2011 Three Walls CSA is on April 30th from 6 to 9, in conjunction with Art Chicago/NEXT.




NFO XPO Recap

April 29, 2009 · Print This Article

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Saturday Lauren and I went to the Co Prosperity Sphere to check out the NFO XPO. In all honesty I hadn’t been to a Version festival in three years. Three years ago both myself and several friends were stranded in Bridgeport at 2am in the rain and miles from the train (no taxis would come pick us up and the bus had stopped running). So, with that incident behind me, I returned to Version Fest in a car and with a fresh amount of optimism.

The layout of the fair looked liked most art fairs in the sense that each artist/organization/gallery had an individual booth and objects were either being sold/bartered/given away.

Golden Age, manned by the always rad Marco Kane Braunschweiler (pictured right), was one of my favorite booths. They carried work by Robin Camron.  I was really into Camron’s “Mind Maps” and picked up her most recent book also titled “Mind Maps” which maps the artist’s thoughts through extended ven diagrams.

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Green Lantern and Three Walls held it down in usual fashion. Aaron Delehanty had a psychiatric help booth set up which resembled “Peanuts”.  I did not get a chance get Aaron’s advice but I did hear him tell a woman that she needed to “go get a job”.  I was also sort of taken with Daniel Mellis’  Institute for Socioaesthetic Research. According to a pamphlet, “the institute is dedicated to discovering the aesthetic possibilities inherent in the research and observation of social structures.” To be honest I was initially attracted to the stock of paper that their pamphlet and business cards were printed on (I spend all day at work talking about paper) but also became interested in some of the services they offered. “The Fourth Amendment on Paper (Bags) Learn about your constitutional rights while enjoying a refreshing beverage at Maria’s (Kaplan’s Liquors),960 w. 31st street. Every purchase comes with the Fourth Amendment and instructions for use on a paper bag. Remember, bags at a liquor store are no substitute for legal advice.”

My overall feeling when I left was that I liked some portions of Version but wished there were more participants. And being the optimist that I surprisingly am, I think that more participation will come over time.




Is there such a thing as a Chicago artist anymore? on YouTube

March 4, 2009 · Print This Article

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In January I had posted about the Renaissance Society‘s roundtable “Is there such a thing as a Chicago artist anymore?”. I was unable to attend but I just stumbled on The Ren’s Youtube page. They have not only the full panel separated in 12 segments but also a bunch of interviews that they have done over the course of this year. The panel includes: Elizabeth Chodos, Director of Three Walls; Paul Klein, critic; Chuck Thurow, Director of The Hyde Park Art Center; Philip Von Zweck, artist; and Lynne Warren, Curator at The Museum of Contemporary Art. I haven’t had a chance to finish the series but it seems worth checking out.

view video here




Chicago Gallery Review: October 08′

October 29, 2008 · Print This Article

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche; Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren; Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

Artwork copyright the original artists; text and documentation copyright Paul Germanos.

Friday, October 17, 2008, Chicago:

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche

“ognuno vede” — Niccolo Machiavelli:

As I ride east, the sky fades to red behind me.
And according to no particular rhythm, drops of rain infrequently appear on the visor of my helmet.
Bike parked, block walked, I cross the threshold of Monique Meloche Gallery and find the photography of Carrie Schneider.

Schneider’s prints are large — an easy meter on any given side — and in full color.
The subjects are human figures, and products of human artifice, as found in landscapes of great natural beauty.
OK.

Meloche’s exhibition program has seemed at once gutsy and cerebral, demonstrating a sustained interest not only in the sensual human experience of the world, but also favoring a cool, museum-like intellectual framing of contemporary issues.
And so I suppose there’s something here in addition to pretty scenery and clever portraits.
Clue: the consistently idiosyncratic aspect of Schneider’s photography is the focus upon some type of covering.

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche

The human figure in the piece entitled We, and the canoe in Dazzle Camouflage, are draped with a Riley-like, black-and-white canvas.
But “dazzle” is a reference not to Op Art, rather a battlefield technique that disrupts an opponent’s perception through the use of striking, high-contrast patterns wholly unrelated to the object so treated.[1]

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche

Certain of that, conscious of the fact that Carrie Schneider’s work has, for several years, evidenced an artistic strategy concerned with ambiguity,[2]
it seems likely that her first solo show is in large part an exploration of the tactics of camouflage.

Continuing to view the work, continuing to think about camouflage, the self-portrait beneath a mask of juniper boughs in Queen of This Island seems not unlike a ghillie suit:
that covering of organic materials drawn from the environment into which one desires to blend,
most familiar in the form of a rude crown of grass and twigs ringing the helmet of military snipers.[3]

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche

The application of such substances to the human figure is a familiar process in Chicago:
A photograph of one of Nick Cave’s “suits” hung on the same gallery wall a few short months ago;
and while not “wearable,” and more distant (ten to twenty years prior) historically, there is also the example of Tom Czarnopys’ cast figures encased in bark.

Maybe most notable in their exploitation of camouflage have been local artists Tom Burtonwood & Holly Holmes.
In their piece Price War!, as see at the Consuming War exhibition, B & H applied a non-threatening commercial pattern to threatening, military shapes.
Later reversing that figure/ground relationship at artXposium 2.0, B & H applied a threatening military pattern to a non-threatening commercial shape in their piece Urban Camo Santa.

That Burtonwood and Holmes examine the relationship between commerce and war is writ large for all to read.[4]

Coyly, Schneider looks out from her work: young, beautiful and self-satisfied.
She’s not really hiding.
What is Schneider’s interest in camouflage?
In both her projected and also in her printed films, the message, the revelation, is delivered by means of the obscurement.
What is she attempting to communicate?

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren

Communication:

There are times when the clarity and simplicity of an artist’s message, amplified by the means of delivery,
overwhelm and even stupify the viewer.

In the past, Barbara Kruger’s bold font has seemed to shout at me;
Jenny Holzer’s animation and projections have quite literally circled menacingly, and towered ominously above me.[5]
I’ve been told that this confrontational mode of delivery was carefully chosen for the purpose of forcing certain issues into the public consciousness.

But, fighting — and the work of Kruger and Holzer alluded to above is combative — with the weapons and armor
of the enemy, they, at times, appear to belong to his camp…to be propagandists.

Exposed to loud noise, I cover my ears; in the presence of a bright light, I shield my eyes.
But when someone whispers, I draw near and listen.
And seeing something delicate and small, I’m inclined to study it with care.

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren

And so it is at 1052 W. Fulton Market: I find myself drawn into Lora Fosberg‘s text-ladden pieces at Linda Warren Gallery.
And I attribute my reaction to her subtle treatment of the material.
Admittedly, I’ve tended to recoil when confronted by large amounts of text in what is nominally visual art.
But Fosberg’s words and phrases are well-integrated with the purely aesthetic elements of her design.

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren

Fosberg shows a deft hand when practicing the craft of draftsmanship.
Clean, sure strokes of brush and pen define figures with what appears to be little effort.
I’m caught unaware by the content, having been more-or-less lulled into a receptive state by the combined effect of the subtle tones of her palette, the easy grace of her execution, and the modest scale of the pieces on display.
Fosberg’s made visible dialogues, dialogues that, in her own words,
“suggest the familiar while maintaining ambiguity.”

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren

As in Schneider’s show, here there are figures active in a landscape.
But Fosberg’s models aren’t literal representations of herself;
and they aren’t looking out of the frame at me — seeking my attention and approval.
No, the subjects of Fosberg’s ink and gouache caricatures are busily about their given work.

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

Internal dialogue:

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

Up the stairs, down the hall, to threewalls I go.
It’s the crazy aunt’s attic in which I’ve found voodoo dolls, horror films, and even whole trees.
Tonight a heavily embroidered curtain hangs between the body of Amy Mayfield‘s installation and the external world of the gallery’s front room.
Passing through that membrane I entered a hot vermillion space.

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

fornus, fornax, fornix

Mayfield has wholly invested herself in the process of transforming the back room of the gallery:
choosing to place some found objects, fabricate other pieces, and treat the environment as well.
The surfaces — from the tiles beneath my feet to the walls on which framed items are hung —
are well-painted, sometimes thickly, sometimes possessing a glossy sheen.

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls

Rising up from the floor are foam concretions that resemble stalagmites,
the floor having been re-tiled with brightly colored geometric units of her own creation.
It’s the contrast between the line quality of those two things that really strikes me.
There’s a wild, almost schizophrenic, swing from style-to-style, piece-to-piece;
the unifying compositional element being the vivid color that she favors.

Mayfield, like Schneider and Fosberg, I think, is involved in a process that is somewhat autobiographical.
Schneider, as a model, quite literally appears in her own work.
Fosberg presents artifacts of thought processes.
Mayfield manifests externally some internal space, viscerally fusing the physical and psychological.

+ + +

It says something good about the scene in Chicago that it’s now possible
to experience, back-to-back, strong shows by three women at different
points in their lives and careers. Go and compare:

Amy Mayfield @ threewalls through Nov 15, 2008

Lora Fosberg @ Linda Warren through Nov 29, 2008

Carrie Schneider @ Monique Meloche through Dec 6, 2008


[1] See: The “dazzle” cars of Patricia van Lubeck, circa the early 90’s.

[2] See: Comments on Schneider’s Derelict Self series, 2006-2007, made by
Aura Seikkula, curator of the Finnish Museum of Photography.

[3] See: False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage by
Roy R. Behrens,
Professor, Art and Design, University of Northern Iowa (noting especially the text’s cover art) for more on the relationship between art and camouflage.

[4] See: Camouflage at London Imperial War Museum, 2007;
“The first major exhibition to explore the impact of camouflage on modern warfare and its adoption into popular culture.”

[5] See: Jenny Holzer: Protect Protect @ MCA through February 1, 2009.

Written by Paul Germanos