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DIY/Zine Art Show at Johalla Projects

by Shannon Schmidt

Whiting, Indiana, Chloe Kenning

This last weekend the Chicago Zine Fest landed in Wicker Park and other outlying satellites.  For those of you not familiar with the Chicago Zine Fest, it “is an independent event creating an outlet for small press and independent publishers to showcase their work.”  Their goal is to also “make DIY zine-making accessible, highlight the talents of self-published artists, and give independent artists a chance to interact, and swap skills through tabling, lectures, and workshops” (www.chicagozinefest.org).

Quimby’s Bookstore was packed for the 7 o’clock Zine Reading on Friday night and many people were huddled together in the back just to catch a couple words from the readers.  Down the street at Johalla Projects, at the DIY/ZINE ART SHOW, Zine enthusiasts could peruse drawings, photographs, collages and other printed matter that were on display.

A relatively new space, Johalla Projects curated the DIY/ZINE ART SHOW with a number of fairly well known zine artists in their upstairs gallery.  As a precursor to the next show, opening this Friday, March 19, titled: 50 Aldermen/50 Artists, Nick Adams presented a printed and collaged piece made out of bright red, blue and green advertisements for Cook County politicians.  On top of the political ephemera, the artist printed the alphabet.  The title, “Rare Form,” suggests the use of form in the letters of the alphabet as well as the individual candidates’ performances during elections.

Rare Form, Nick Adams

The application of the alphabet, perhaps, indicates an A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 approach to how we select candidates or elect politicians: an informed and uninformed process where voters pick based on order or name.  An oblique critique of politicians or the political system might also be implied by the simplicity of learning one’s A, B, C’s and thinking of form as systematic.  Either way, the bold piece with its interesting use of found and printed material stands out among the work in the gallery.

Another piece called the “Wall of Zines” by the curators, speaks to the heart of Zine Fest.  With a number of drawings, photocopies, and typed covers or pages, the “Wall of Zines” gives credit to various Zines and acts as an installation on one of the far walls in the gallery.  Another artist, Chelsea Dirck, used this approach with her small installation, “Various Artworks,” consisting of notes, drawings and images tacked up on a wall, reminiscent of Yoshitomo Nara’s approach to installing works on paper.

A number of photographs augment the quirky sense of humor in the show, scattered with a touch of the absurd.  Chloe Kenning’s “Whiting, Indiana” and Eric Bartholomew’s “Office Junk Drawer” were located in the smaller back room of the gallery.  “Whiting Indiana” hung on one of the exposed brick walls, picturing a small sort of shed with a one-way sign posted to it and two symmetrical sea gulls posed in profile on the roof.  The shed rests in the middle of a vacant lot, creating an odd presence in the photograph; the dark green and cranberry décor add a kitschy element to the structure, simultaneously implying a Midwest sensibility.

Office Junk Drawer, Eric Bartholomew

“Office Junk Drawer,” documented an assortment of toys, photographs, paperclips, rubber bands and other aestheticized objects within the confines of the drawer.  This possible randomness or orchestrated index within art has become a definition of time, place, people and a society of collections.  Although humorous, “Office Junk Drawer” appears to fit within this practice of using the accumulation of the found as art.  The angle of the photograph (peering into the drawer) was a nice selection, allowing the viewer to experience the physicality of opening a file cabinet to fish for a paperclip only to be distracted by a rubber monkey head.

Overall the exhibition at Johalla Projects successfully promoted Zine Fest artists, while providing an opportunity to view works that expand the typical definition of Zine Art.  The selection demonstrated an interesting and thoughtful range of artistic projects, integrated well within the space.

DIY/ZINE ART SHOW March 12- 13, 2010 at Johalla Projects , 1561 N. Milwaukee Ave.