Part of “Best of Chicago Art Magazine,” originally posted February 18, 2011.
Vincent Uribe is the Director of LVL3 Gallery—a live-work space he is reluctant to call an apartment galley—in the former location of Scott Projects in Wicker Park. According to the gallery’s website, “LVL3 is dedicated in supporting collaborative work and group shows to foster connections between emerging and established artists.” I’ve gotten to know Vincent over the past year primarily as a visitor to LVL3. My wife Stephanie Burke was one of the guest curators who worked with Vincent and LVL3 to put on the fourth iteration of the Quarterly Site series: Registers. Vincent and I also played basketball together for the exhibition Ron Artist: MVP (Malleability Vs. Preservation) at Noble and Superior Projects. I recently emailed Vincent to ask him some questions about his thoughts on curating, on his experience at LVL3, and about the Chicago art scene.
Vincent calls himself a “creative entrepreneur,” and is currently in his third year at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, pursuing a BFA and a BA in Visual Critical Studies. He is originally from Los Angeles, and although quite young for a gallery director, his interest in art goes all the way back to his early childhood in LA. His passion for art didn’t come accompanied by a technical proficiency for drawing:
Vincent: Although I seemed to love art I don’t think I was ever any good, I always envied the girl who could draw well. Technically I guess I have always been pretty bad at painting/drawing, which was kind of discouraging. Everything I made usually had too much glitter or too many colors.
Not discouraged by this, Vincent found other outlets for his creative energy, hand painting stenciled designs on T-shirts which he and a friend sold at farmer’s markets and local concerts, and starting a school club with some friends, all of whom would come to school, once a month, dressed in cardboard robot costumes. Near the end of high school, Vincent’s interest in art began to solidify into an ambition to attend art school:
Vincent: The summer before my senior year I got accepted into the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA), which was held at the CalArts campus in Valencia CA. My film and video skills improved immensely and let me experience a brief taste of what college would be like. I loved it, just as I loved high school. When CSSA ended I started taking free film classes at the Echo Park Film Center. By this time I had come to know the art teacher at my high school fairly well and she agreed to let me into Advanced Placement Painting/Drawing, still without really knowing how to paint or draw. We had a fair amount of college representative come into our art class to try and recruit students. SAIC had always been of interest, but I wanted a film school and figured CalArts seemed like my best bet because they were one of the few schools that did not require SAT or ACT scores. I am not book smart.
My parents concern was money; they agreed to go with me on a school tour of CalArts, which I became extremely embarrassed about, as my parents though the entire place was a joke. Art Center College was another option only about 5 minutes from my house and I had taken a video class there but did not want to get tied down into a single medium by having to choose a major. After meeting and creating relationships with multiple reps from SAIC I was encouraged to apply. After being accepted I flew to Chicago alone to check out the school. I stayed with a friend who had recently graduated and took a tour, which went very well.
One of the main reasons I choose SAIC was for its interdisciplinary system of not having to choose a major. I liked the idea of having freedom to explore multiple disciples although film/video was essentially going to be my focus. I now have been taking classes in the fibers department, visual communications, photo, video, art admin, and visual critical studies. Next semester I am excited to take my first painting class with Adam Scott.
I’ve really enjoyed the fibers department and playing around manipulating different material. I want to have fun with my work and try to let others get enjoyment through it as well. Collecting found items, materials from dollar stores, party stores, and hardware stores to use non-specific art supplies in new ways. I’ve recently been playing the with the idea in my artist statement calling myself a “Con-Artist” as I feel like I’ve always both personally and creatively can be manipulative in a playful manner.
The decision to also get a BA in Visual critical studies has been a recent one that I’m still trying to work out the logistics with a counselor about. I decided to get both degrees realizing my reading and writing skill have not improved much since high school. Becoming more and more interested in curatorial and art administration I have admitted to myself I need to challenge myself in the visual critical studies department so I can be better versed in my work decisions.
Although I love making work and will always continue to do so, I do it for myself. I’m not banking on trying to make my entire living selling my work even though that sounds really pleasing. I enjoy business and working with others in a creative manner. I’m a workaholic much like my dad. I want to be able to work for myself and help out other artists whom I really enjoy.
After moving to Chicago, Vincent ended up moving into Brad Troemel’s space, called Scott Projects. When that project closed, Vincent took over the space, and it became LVL3. Vincent is reluctant to call LVL3 an apartment gallery, although it is a live-work exhibition space, because of the associations of the term, and because (not unlike ebersmoore) the living space is distinctly separated from the exhibition space.
Vincent: The apartment gallery scene was quite new to me moving from LA to Chicago. In LA I was really into museums and galleries but there were a lot more music show I was going to that were in “alt spaces” as opposed to gallery shows. I liked the idea of apartment galleries in Chicago but I thought there were also problems that were maybe downgrading artist/work if shows were put too casually. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this subject and talking with others. The apartment gallery scene is always changing, and good and bad spaces open and close constantly. I see Chicago as a place that has a lot of potential for growth and experimentation.
I had done a bit of gallery work before and thought it was quite boring, handing and installing work, dealing with unprofessional/immature attitudes I had never really though it would be my thing. I was asked to move into the space while it was Scott Projects. Things were great for a while, I had all my best friends around and I wish it could have been perfect but living in a place with 5 other people is not easy no matter how much space you have. Through a series or build up of unfortunate events I lost 2 great friends.
Scott projects closed and not wanting the space go to waste the gallery ended up in my hands. From then on things stated moving quickly… I had thought about having “gallery shows” in my previous apartment but it never happened. Basically uneducated and pretty clueless on how to run a space, talking with some friends led me to realize its potential and that I should take it more seriously then I had originally intended.
I spent about 2 months renovating the gallery, deciding on a name, getting a website together, and beginning to promote. All my Christmas money and every paycheck I got went to slowly buying all new track lighting, and purchasing paint. The space had never been painted completely with a solid coat of white, the ceiling had never been touched and holes were scattered all over. It was not an easy or quick undertaking to say the least. People I didn’t even know very well were offering to help with the dirty work, i.e. painting: we quickly went through 12 gallons.
I had the grand opening Feb 2011 and was amazingly pleased on how well it went. I think I was on a happy high, I was told I couldn’t stop smiling. The place was full, we went though 25 bottles of champagne and a couple boxes of wine. I think I kept it open an hour past the closing time then finally kicked everyone out around 11 so I could go out and celebrate.
In part two of this article, Vincent talks about his thoughts on curating, working with interns and an Assistant Director, the relationship between his curatorial practice and his personal artmaking practice, working on the Quarterly Site project, and his plans for the future.
Jeriah is an artist, educator, writer, and snack enthusiast. You can see his work at www.jeriahhildwine.com, and read his columns at Art Talk Chicago and Chicago Art Magazine. Jeriah lives and works in Chicago, with his wife Stephanie Burke.