Pop-Up Art Loop: Vacant Lot to Vibrant Art

From “Best of Chicago Art Magazine”, Nov. 2009

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Carley Demchuk

Recently, an organization called the Chicago Loop Alliance began exhibiting art in the loop’s abandoned storefronts. Of the three current exhibition venues, there is no real overarching theme connecting one artist’s work to another’s, other than the general goal of space utilization, for something more productive, more creative, more appealing than a dark, vacant venue. In a time of economic depression, this notion of turning a dead space into an artistically vibrant pseudo-gallery, could not be more appropriate. And, the best part of all: it’s free!

I started this public art frenzy at 29 E. Madison, where the Chicago Photography Collective exhibits a group show of sorts. Temporary carpet lines the ground, walls are stark white, and photos are eloquently lit, making this space appear most gallery-like of the three venues. Exhibition-wise, there’s no preference in style or situation, placing all of these photos on the same artistic level. Different photographers’ photos hang next to each other, creating an impromptu compare-contrast of image, idea, and artfulness, making this particular pop-up art venue rather approachable. (Photographs can be purchased at the displayed prices. See ChicagoPhotographyCollective.com for more information.)

Martin Jon and Bill Boyce

A few blocks south, at the Sullivan Center (E. Monroe between State and Wabash), the work of Martin Jon and Bill Boyce adorn the Center’s windows. Jon’s painting, Manyon was most intriguing for me. He states, “The experience of looking into a painting creates another experience all together.” As I gazed at this painting while standing in the frigid Chicago wind and snow, I couldn’t help but envy this Manyon and his warm room with a view. The juxtaposition of the snowy sidewalk behind me, and this temperate scene in front of me, linked me to this two-dimensional timber of a man. By looking into the window to view the image, I in turn gaze out of his window and become the man. The real windowpane in front of me becomes the physical canyon between this image and myself, completing the manyon circle (though perhaps not the exact one that Jon was hoping achieve).

A few blocks more south, at 220 South Wabash, I anticipated Sara Schnadt’s phenomenological work, Network. This work reminds me of Lawrence Fishburne’s claim that “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” However, in this case, you have to see and experience the work for yourself.

Spanning the entire space, Network takes on a mind of its own. It twists, stops, and changes directions, much how one might imagine an invisible, virtual network to move (though, if nothing else, it’s especially fun to crawl beneath the network and pop up in the openings, intertwining you with the work). Schnadt, who’s previously exhibited work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, is “inspired by the idea that we simultaneously live in a real and virtual world, and that the virtual is infinitely expansive…” She utilizes the reflective property of mirrors, to not only make the space appear larger than it is, but to also make the yellow twine appear as though it is escaping into the wall and beyond, where I, the viewer, cannot follow. In this sense, the line between real and virtual is clearly drawn.

Sara Schnadt, Network

These three spaces will only exhibit these artworks through December 31st, so get a peak at them while you still can! For more information on Pop-Up Art Loop, visit http://http://www.popupartloop.com/index2.php.