Like many other people, late last week I received an email from Chicago gallerist Rowley Kennerk announcing that he would be closing his gallery on December 20, 2010. In typical fashion for this gallery, the email was concise without being cold. The email provided few other details other than to say that there would be a closing exhibition lasting four days from December 15 – December 20th and to provide a link to this video:

I was personally saddened by this news. And not just for the typical, ‘another Chicago gallery bites the dust’ reasons (actually, I’ve found Chicago galleries to be rather hardy when it comes to their own longevity). Rowley’s gallery tended to feature the type of art that hits at my weak spots — I’ve always thought of it  as a place for super-refined conceptual work that, in turn, made the viewer “work for it” — i.e. work for meaning in the absence of easy satisfaction.  The whole space felt kind of withholding to me – the lack of information provided for each show being one example of this (though Rowley was always more than happy to talk me through any aspect of an artist’s work when I asked questions). I’m not sure Rowley himself would agree with my assessment of his program, mind you – that’s just my take. There was a certain unyielding quality to the way the gallery’s shows were presented – each exhibition demanded that you spend time with the work on view, and think and re-think that body repeatedly. Rowley did not show one-glance-and-you’ll get it art. For all of these reasons I have the utmost respect for him as a programmer and a gallerist, even if his shows did not provide me with the easy viewing pleasures that I sometimes crave. Especially because of this.  I do not always feel like putting in the effort that art often requires, yet as last week’s Smithsonian debacle has shown, this type of laziness can can have deadening, deadly effects.  Rowley’s shows invariably demanded the utmost of my intellectual and perceptual skills, and I quickly learned that it was never a smart idea to try and breeze through the space quickly. The works on Rowley’s walls required time to absorb. There isn’t another gallery quite like Rowley Kennerk in Chicago right now, and I know I’m not the only one who will really miss this space. I don’t know what Mr. Kennerk’s future plans are, but I hope they involve Chicago, and more tough-minded presentations of art that this exceptionally friendly gallerist has excelled at for the past several years.

Now, mark your calenders for Rowley Kennerk’s last show:

Gallery Hours During Exhibition:
Wednesday, Dec.15, 12-5pm
Friday, Dec. 17, 12-5pm
Saturday, Dec. 18, 12-5pm
Monday, Dec. 20, 12-5pm

Claudine Isé