This years edition of SAIC’s annual behemoth was as sprawling as ever. Each person’s account sounds like a completely different exhibition than others, but I think we can all agree that SAIC is “on trend.” If we covered every piece in the fair MFA show this column would never end. Within the leviathan there were a few clear winners, and who wants to hear about losers anyway?
If you missed Andrew Holmquist‘s video you need to return to go and start over. Immediately on your left as you walk into the Sullivan Galleries, Holmquist’s video is reminiscent of video work by Alex Hubbard, flattening the world of objects into the two-dimensional register of his paintings (and maybe a little bit of the reverse).
In a similar shorter video piece, Shining Shimmering Splendid, shown recently at LVL3, Holmquist can be seen positioning the objects in a pair of black high heels and a sheer aquamarine raincoat. In Painting Space and Time at the MFA show objects (mostly) appear to be propelled by an unseen force, leading me to imagine the Rube Goldberg contraption of Fischli and Weiss’s The Way Things Go in Technicolor. Despite the conjuring of a million references, the color, light and sound are distinctly Andrew’s own, bringing his painting practice into time and space in a imaginative and captivating way.
Naama Arad‘s Bahad 1 was another personal favorite. Made simply from perforated xerox prints and tape the work was more impactful than a robot or any number of gigantic fabricated tongues. The hanging shifted subtlety as the sun set downtown, and mingled effortlessly with the throngs of visitors to the exhibition.
The title of the piece, Bahad 1, takes it’s name from the training bases of the Israeli Defense Force, the first of which is a well known school for training officers (according to Wikipedia). Rather than a geometric abstraction, the large scale print is an image of the old synagogue at Bahad 1, designed by Zvi Hacker with Alfred and Naomi Nueman in the late 1960s. Who knew the Bauhaus was so prominent in IDF architecture? Is Arad’s lattice something more sinister? We hope this promising artist doesn’t leave Chicago too soon after graduation, we want to see more.
These works and a whole lot of other stuff is on view at the SAIC Sullivan Galleries until May 14th. The shows tumblr-ish website isn’t half bad this year either.
#Scene at the MFA Show & Not
Only Fools Go for the Art
Painting MFA Caleb Yono and friends making a scene at Sullivan.
The crowd through McKenzie Thompson’s installation.
Thompson (right) with SAIC Curatorial Fellow, Alda Tchochiev.
The Weatherman Report
For Chicago IL
Helen Frankenthaler, Vuillard’s Chariot, 2006, Lithograph in 7 colors on Rives BFK paper, 24 3/4 x 30 1/8″.
Chromatic Consortium Vibrant
Curator supplies colorful variation
The Franklin, the sukkah-looking gallery located in Garfield Park, is one of the most thoughtful and innovative exhibition spaces in all of Chicago (it’s also the coldest in the winter). The stylized outdoor exhibition space seems to effortlessly adapt to the demands of it’s exhibitions, ranging from solo shows to large group exhibitions featuring dinners, bonfires, black metal and, of course, Edra Soto’s signature pineapple upside down cake.
Work by Leslie Baum, Radames Juni, Easton Miller and Candace M. Briceño-Connolly.
Closeup of work by Leslie Baum.
Soto, who built the gallery in the back of her home with partner Dan Sullivan, does far more than just bake cakes. The gallery is clearly the result of her love for art and the joy she experiences sharing it with others. Chromatic Consortium, which closed this past Saturday, was a prime example of Soto’s broad range as a curator. Only Edra could (or would) pair paintings by her students at SAIC with work by artists in the Whitney Biennial and make it work.
Works by Ryan Richey, Lisa Alvarado and Iryne Roh.
As Soto toured me through the exhibition it became apparent that what really binds the show is her relationship to the artists and her genuine interest in their process and production. Each artist has some personal connection to Soto, or she admired their work so much she decided to contact them cold. Who could resist Edra’s big smile and warm heart? She discusses a portrait made by a second year student with the same reverence as any #WhiBi artist. The consideration for each work position relative to the small space makes the exhibition click without feeling overcrowded.
Work by Leonardo Kaplan, Maya Hayuk and Mara Baker.
If you missed this show then we’re sad for you, but all is not lost. For the Franklin’s next exhibition Soto is teaming up with the firebrand Sabina Ott (proprietor of her own experimental ourdoor space– Terrain) for SCAPE with work by Alison Ruttan, Alex Tam and Assaf Evron, Joe Jeffers and Ott. The exhibition opens this Saturday, May 3rd at 6pm. Praying for no rain, but as Edra pointed out to me, nothing can dampen The Franklin or the art inside.
This week the Fashion Institute of Technology held a panel on scale and spectacle called â€œSize Mattersâ€ (apparently unaware that they were in danger of ripping off and thereby angering curator Shaquille Oâ€™Neal, also a basketball player apparently, who curated an exhibition in 2010 by the title of â€œSize DOES Matterâ€). The panelists were Gavin Brown, Roberta Smith, Peter Halley and KAWS, with Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic.com as the moderator. There are a lot of panels all over the world and this one wouldnâ€™t really be notable except that Julia Halperin, editor of Art + Auction, live tweeted it and one particular tweet caught my attention. Following the subject of the panel on scale, Halperin reported that â€œRoberta [Smith] likes Anish Kapoor’s Bean [Cloud Gate] in Chicago because you can have a private experience [with] it.â€
This caught my attention, and the attention of at least two other writers, since it seems the exact opposite of what the actual experience of the artwork isâ€”extremely public. I recalled an essay I had written years ago about the artwork but, wanting to share it with my colleagues, realized that I had never published it since I wanted to be sure to retain copyright over it. I imagine a lot of other writers also accumulate essays and articles never published for one reason or another.
So in the interest of expanding the dialogue around this iconic Chicago work it seems time to publish this essay albeit in slightly modified and updated form.
â€œ[O]ver the past 15 years public sculpture. . . has become one of contemporary artâ€™s more exciting areas of endeavor and certainly its most dramatically improved one,â€ statedNew York Times art critic Roberta Smith, in August of 2008, when she visited Chicagoâ€™s Millennium Park. And by all accounts, Chicagoâ€™s Millennium Park is an extraordinary success, inspiring other communities across the country to take on similar projects. The success of Millennium Park, and public art generally, lies in how the artworks function in relation to the city and the people. The artists have achieved a high degree of success in their respective creations, which directly makes the park successful in its mission: â€œto be a new public space for the people of Chicago.â€
The mission of Millennium Park sounds a bit generic until one considers the difficult challenge behind that goal. Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S. and like all major cities is home to a variety of people and interests. Weâ€™re only drawn together by the fact that we are Americans and that we share certain intangible ideals. Other than that we differ in appearances, faith, language and a myriad of other things. We are alike, yet profoundly different. This has been the strength, and challenge, of American life since our countryâ€™s founding, and this is the strength of the public artwork in Millennium Park, that it allows the viewer to celebrate our differences while creating a tangible sense of community.
Anish Kapoorâ€™s Cloud Gate, nicknamed â€œThe Beanâ€ by Chicagoans, is a large, highly polished stainless steel abstraction that looks like a round cloud pinned down on both ends. The reflective surface lures visitors in close, drawing them from far off as if by magnetic attraction. Cameras emerge and visitors start taking pictures, in groups, individually, up close, or far off. We try to find ourselves in the reflections andÂ simultaneouslyÂ we find ourselves surrounded by the city, and we see ourselves inÂ the city, part of a fabric larger than ourselves. It’s a powerful metaphor that becomes real when we see a young Chicagoan make this connection. Â Strangers inevitably become a part of other people’s pictures, guards are let down and conversations are struck up. The curving reflections of the work dissolve the barriers we put up between ourselves, drawing people into relation, and sometimes conversation, with each other.
The alien form of the abstraction identifies itself immediately as Art but does not alienate, instead it draws people in through their curiosity and the workâ€™s generosity. Kapoorâ€™s contribution accomplishes the mission of Millennium Park, while being wholly successful on its own terms. Rather than an indifferent sculpture, this is public art that lives up to the aspirations of its genre, bringing people together and inspiring them.
*First up, the most significant story of the week (to my mind): Columbia College Journalism professor Dan Sinker — the founder of Punk Planet, no less — was revealed as the @MayorEmanuel Tweeter! Sinker’s fake mayor Twitter persona was the most brilliantly literary use of Twitter I’ve yet seen -Â punk rock to the core. For further background on the @MayorEmanuel saga, check out his (now defunct) Twitter feed, as well as this annotated, archivable version of those same Tweets on Snarkmarket, and listen to WBEZ Radio’s interview with Sinker on Eight Forty-Eight here.
*On to somewhat more relevant news: The Illinois Arts Council has announced its first round of FY2011 grants, awarding 725 grants totaling over $7,567,938. Click here to see the full rundown of awardees county-by-county. The big question is: how long will it take for awardees to receive their funds? See this July, 2010 article in Time Out to learn more about the IAC’s ongoing budget woes due to the state of Illinois’ economic crisis. Key ‘graph from Time Out’s piece:
“While the agencyâ€™s budget has crept back up to $8.5 million for fiscal 2011, [IAC Executive Director] Scrogum warns that Quinn probably will impose a â€œreserveâ€ on grants, freezing recipientsâ€™ access to at least five percent of the money until the stateâ€™s finances improve. Fiscal 2011 applications were due in April; our sourcesâ€™ pessimism about them appears justified. â€œWe donâ€™t know how much will be available to award,â€ Scrogum admits, â€œand even once that is known, [we still wonâ€™t be] able to predict how long itâ€™s going to take for those grants to be paid.â€
*David Alan Robertson, The Ellen Philips Katz Director of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, will step down effective December 31, 2011, as stated in a press release issued by Northwestern University.
*Interested in the idea of Community Supported Art? Want to know what the hell that even means? Check out two great, affordable examples here and here.
Well the Museum of Science and Industry has announced their winner of the NightÂ “Month at the Museum” contest and it is Kate McGroarty. Kate is a Theater Artist/Customer Service Representative & recent graduate of Northwestern University. Kate starts her tour of duty in the museum on October 20th and leaves on November 18th. Kate seems to be meta aware of the entire point of this exercise and that is reflected in her lonelygirl15’esqueÂ video submission below.
Also here is the video of the winnerÂ announcement which I have to admit whoever came up with the checmical reaction to signify the winner should get a bonus (or season 2 of “The Big Bang Theory” on DVD) since that has been the best move I have seen as of yet with this project. Also whoever missed or decided not to post the video of that announcement on the MSI website and is not capitalizing on the great PR value of that moment should get the reverse (and the season 1 DVD of Cavemen) no one should have to search for that video to find it.
I hope this is a success and will agree that having looked at the applicants that they picked the right person for the position (a arts student whoÂ admittedlyÂ knows little about science but knows PR, is cute and bubbly and gets it with a wink and a nod) Sorry Alex Dainis in a perfect and fair world you would have been the right choice since you have the looks, smarts, personality, background & nonÂ creepyÂ factor but in the end this isn’t about Science it’s about marketing. It is going to be interesting to see how Kate takes theÂ initiativeÂ on this and what she can do with it since the agenda seems pretty open for input. Good luck and no using theÂ taxidermiedÂ animals as teddy bears 🙂
This week New City published an essay by its arts editor Jason Foumberg on the state of art criticism amidst the rise of blogging, online websites, and other forms of interactive media titled The State of the (Visual) Art. I didn’t read this as a piece on the status of art criticism in Chicago per se, as I think some may have, but rather as about the difficulties of defining (much less practicing) this thing called ‘criticism’ at all in online, social-media driven contexts. Foumberg’s essay is part of a larger series of articles at New City that are exploring the state of criticism in the age of Yelp!,Â Amazon book reviews, and other online social feedback devices. The other pieces can be found here, here, and here (this last one is about Yolp!, a Jersey Shore parody of Yelp that’s really funny). The comments that ensue are interesting, but there aren’t a lot of them and there’s not too much back-and-forth…yet. But today Christopher sent me a link to Michael S. Thomas’ blog Stagnant Vowels, in which he’s posted a response, of a sort, to the New City article, which immediately bumped Mr. Foumberg’s piece up to “hot topic” status in my mind. (Thomas’ response might itself almost qualify as a good old-fashioned Rant, and as I’ve said before, I am to rants as a moth is to a flame….Jason, in contrast, doesn’t rant: he muses.).
In his post, Mr. Thomas, who was the director of the well-respected and now defunct Dogmatic Gallery in Chicago, calls us out over here at Bad at Sports for basically being slutty opinion mongers on a par with t.v. talk show pundits. He writes:
“The flux or crisis isn’t with experts or authority per say, its in the distribution of opinion as though it were reasoned discourse. It’s in the ongoing creation of model’s for the dissemination of hyperbole without rational checks or balances. Whether it’s Glenn Beck, or Jon Stewart, or Bad at Sports these models can do much to obfuscate legitimate dialogue if not entirely cripple its formation.”
I have to assume he’s talking about our blog in particular, as the podcast’s one-on-one interview format is pretty much the antithesis of opinion journalism. But I want to know — where is all this ‘legitimate dialogue’ (emphasis on the word ‘legitimate’) that we in particular are guilty of obfuscating? Tell me where it’s happening, and I’ll gladly get the hell out of its way!
In all seriousness, though, I don’t at all disagree with Thomas on his larger point. In fact I think most of his post hits it right on the mark, particularly in his assessment that lack of editorial oversight might be precisely what makes online art criticism so problematic (I’m paraphrasing his argument, but that’s what I took away from it). Thomas finds fault with the recently launched Chicago Art Magazine for precisely these reasons, and although I shall remain neutral on the matter of his specific target, I tend to agree with many of the larger arguments he’s making. Such as this one:
“But I would argue that without editorial oversight or a progressive long term vision for growth, an endeavor such as this one is hopelessly mired. After all criticism and opinion are not the same. Amateur criticism is little more than the ALL-CAPS and bold fonts version of a comment roll, and paying said amateur is in no way a transformation of this reality. So what makes a misinformed critic not, a knowledgeable and, or an opinionated amateur? Time, energy, condensed thoughts, research, an apishly large library surrounded by lovely black and white photographs of water fowl, and other bric-a-brac? No its constancy and persistence in the pursuit of understanding and conveying the qualities that define the arcane and metaphorical reality of objects and their surroundings.”