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Eulogy for Jeriah Hildwine

I don’t remember the name of the coffee shop. I just remember that the floor was made of wood and I recognized Stephanie Burke from her picture – a shaved head except for bangs — and it all began there in 2009. The running joke was that people were always very surprised at two things about her: the fact that she was married to a man, and that she was NOT a vegetarian. But – maybe I’m only thinking this now, years later – but I also didn’t  peg her as someone who would marry young, Stephanie was in her early 20’s and had been married longer than I.

As we built the site, built the map, built the magazine, her husband Jeriah was one of the first writers to come aboard. He was upwards of 6.5 feet and looked like a highlander in his industrial skirts and strawberry blond hair. In their full regalia, they were the most reluctantly adorable couple around (in a bohemian zombie apocalypse way) They were devoted to the Chicago art scene; particularly to the the smallest of apartment gallery spaces. They must have gone to over a thousand gallery exhibits (not to mention the huge number of events they tracked and wrote about in <scr=”http://www.chicagonow.com/art-talk-chicago/”>Art Talk Chicago. When you saw them together, you knew you were in the right place and the art world felt slightly magical.

Jeriah Hildwine with 'Machete' and 'Keg'

Jeriah Hildwine with ‘Machete’ and ‘Keg’ Photo by Stephanie Burke.

Jeriah didn’t give a flying fuck that Chicago Art Magazine wasn’t the cool magazine to write for. His mind was on core issues about critique and practice. Could you be both an artist and critic? Could you be a painter and be conceptual? We wanted to try personal, conversational articles not just about artwork, but about being a working artist, curator, apartment gallery owner. He never stopped being curious about how the system worked, and they were all tremendously insightful pieces. He was strategic about the system without falling for its bullshit.  He was smart, funny, a pleasure to work with and had tons of great ideas for articles and pieces. We would have 3-hour editorial meetings and he kept the discussions energized with both an academic and grassroots view of all things.

Everything he wrote was good, and by the end, our editorial notes would read (I am not exaggerating) “X should cover this, Y can write about Z, and Jeriah should write whatever he wants.” He was that kind of talent to us. Since I’ve heard about the news of his passing, I went through all his articles again; there were so many, and they were so funny and smart (and his last piece in 2012 was the last one we posted to the site before closing – he was with us the whole way).

From 2010, here, before he did the Linda Warren show, he wrote

[Gallery representation] is like a great big warm hug from the entire world, gently stroking the back of your head and telling you that you’ve made it, that you’re good, and you’re worthy.  It warms the very cockles of one’s heart, and there is no better feeling in the world.

Actually, I wouldn’t know.  In the three and a half years since I earned my MFA from MICA, I’ve been living and working in Chicago, trying to work my way into the art scene in this city, with the goal of securing gallery representation for myself.  It remains, in corporate parlance, an “unrealized achievement,” at least for the time being.  I’m there, in the trenches, with you.  I’m fighting the same fight you are.

Jeriah Hildwine will be mourned and my love goes out to Stephanie and those who survive him.

— Kathryn Born

 

Jeriah Hildwine was amongst the first non-SAIC people I met as I exited graduate school. Always in attendance at as many gallery openings as was humanly possible, he and Stephanie showed me by example how welcoming and accessible this city’s art community can be. I certainly cannot count myself as one of Jeriah’s close friends, but the way he could compliment your most recent show and comment on your latest article, all while picking you up off your feet in a big bear hug made lots of people, like me, feel as though we really mattered.

From “The Komodo Dragon: Gallery Representation the Slow Way” Hildwine’s “Zombie Hunter Stephanie,” acrylic on canvas, 2012

Having worked with Jeriah as an artist and a writer, I was always astounded by the respect and commitment he had for this field –for our local arts microcosm, really. Jeriah knew art history inside and out, but readily shirked its traditions and elitisms, and bent its conventions to his will. Jeriah would masterfully expound upon the renaissance tableaus in his paintings of zombie babes. Jeriah was the kind of artist who would wear a kilt to wrestle a fellow artist in one of the biggest contemporary art museums on the country.

While he happily undermined many established MOs of the art world, there were specific things he held in high regard. He wanted that certain kind of validation one can only get from gallery representation; he wanted to be a part of art academia, with a sustainable, living wage position in higher education. Jeriah left our city two years ago when he was finally offered the latter.
I’m witnessing the news of Jeriah’s passing reverberating throughout our community, amongst groups and individuals I never even realized knew him. There is no question in my mind that Jeriah was uniquely important to the art world in Chicago. I truly hope he knew that, too.

— Robin Dluzen

Photos previously appeared in Gallery Representation:  Case Study, Michael Rea June, 2011 photo by Stephanie Burke

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Chicago Art Magazine: The Archive and the People Who Saved It

The Two-year Fund to Fortress the Archive

Chicago Art Magazine closed down in April of 2012. The site, built on WordPress and a template that was created in 2008 has aged badly and become vulnerable to malware. The site went down twice and at one point the database (in which the articles are stored) was totally destroyed. It took time, effort and money, but the site was restored.

On October 30, we launched a crowdfunding campaign (see it here), and quickly reached and exceeded its funding goal.

On behalf of the writers, editors and artists whose work is housed on these webpages, we cannot begin to express our gratitude for this show of support. Below are some of the people who stepped forward to help.

 

Golden Patrons

Mario G Alberico – Artist, Advocate, Advisor. Mario is also the President & Executive Director of Gallery 119
www.gallery119.com/foundation119.html

Robin Dluzen – Dluzen gets patron level status because she will be part of the post-crowdfunding content and enhancements. She is a nationally-recognized art critic and artist based in Chicago.

Sergio Gomez – Owner/Director of 33 Contemporary Gallery and Curator/Director of Exhibitions at the Zhou B Art Center. He is patron, advisor and technical partner in the design of the future software system.

C-Level Patron Supporters

Mary Antonakos

Linda Dorman

Anonymous

Paul Klein

Barbara Koenen

Annie Morse

The Rescue Team

Joe Born

Carl Brown

Mia Capodilupo –  sculptor and installation artist, and an arts/archives administrator

Nelson Carvajal

Victor Cassidy – Art Critic

Marla Chandrika

Kate Drane

Brad Farwell

Ellen S Holtzblatt

Jeff Huebner

John Link

Ann Logue – a Chicagoan who likes art.

Ellen Soffer – Artist

Andrew Volk –  Michigan born, Chicago living, lover of Detroit sports. Internet entrepreneur specializing in web development and eCommerce. Interested in art, mental health and trying to be an all around decent human.

Jennifer Walters

Kathleen Waterloo – Artist

Tom Zulfurth – Zulfurth is always on my thank you list because he had the archive of the early New Art Examiner issues.

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The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

Mali Anderson

The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

The water wall at Evanston Hospital fills the health facility entrance with sight, sound and the tangible touch of moisture. It creates a healing ambiance and a focal point for people using the building.

Designed and detailed by Chicago-based Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, the 1,800-square-foot water wall is three stories high with “water cascading in waves over a rough textured blue green slate, the color of which mimics nearby Lake Michigan’s water. The waves then disappear behind a border of shaped stone which is, in essence, a replica of the coastline of Evanston,” says Walt Eckenhoff, the design principal for the hospital project.

The stone and brick design serves a utilitarian purpose as well. When the remodel of Evanston Hospital began in 1999, a multi-story lobby was conceived to function as the crossroads of the hospital. People enter the space from several levels of the parking garage, the main entrance and from floors of the hospital itself. Yet the west wall of the lobby was unable to be windowed. Why? Because behind it is the hospital’s main surgical and intensive care unit. A massive airshaft is needed along the wall to provide filtered, purified air to those areas of intense healing.

The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

Water provides the perfect solution. By activating the wall with water, and having the design suggest the natural shoreline less than a mile away, the mechanics of the hospital are masked by an aesthetic enhancement. It also provides a soothing sound, reflects light, and anchors the hospital as a location where healing and hope are nourished.

“The challenge of being an architect is creating a balance between the pragmatic and artistic. The goal is to create a building that is highly functional while also providing a unique sense of place that enhances the lives of everybody who works or visits it,” continues Eckenhoff.

The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

The water wall achieves this goal, in part, because it is not created as an artwork separate from the space it exists in. The relationship between the structure and the artwork is fluid. The water over the stone masks the airshafts and in turn the lobby is designed to enhance the water. It is the reason the skylights were added and additional lighting was installed.

Projects like the water wall are only possible when the institutions funding them are willing to make the financial commitment. In the case of the water wall, this means not only the cost of building the structure but the expense of servicing two water systems. The water that flows along the wall and the pool below are separate. Each requires regular cleanings as well as electrical and filtration upkeep to function. The aesthetic qualities come at a price, but the cost is rewarded as large-scale artistic enhancements elevate the expectations and reputation of the institution.

The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

The Water Wall at Evanston Hospital

As the integration between art and life continues to meld, people have come to expect, promote and support participatory artwork. Constructions that can be heard, touched and admired have grown in popularity. They allow everyone, regardless of age or education, to experience art. A stunning museum sculpture serves a cerebral purpose; it can take viewers into themselves to question how they see. A creation like the water wall fulfills an external purpose. The splendor of the wall allows a viewer to enjoy where they are standing: in a place of healing, along the Lake Michigan coastline, surrounded by cascading shimmering light.

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Goodbye, Chicago Art Magazine (final editorial)

I always like to end at the beginning, so at the bottom of this is Martin Jon’s interview from 2009 when I was starting at the Chicago Tribune-owned blog network, doing a blog we named Art Talk Chicago. The interview lays out the core, but haphazard ideas I started with, and I’m still amazed at how big the whole thing got.  I remember meeting Stephanie Burke at the coffee shop where we would have our meetings and saying, “I got the URL ‘Chicagoartmagazine.com’ – it was available. I grabbed it for $12, and maybe that’s what we should call this thing.”  We got a $49/year hosting plan from Go Daddy and a WordPress template, and our site was built.

Three years later, we close the magazine with some sadness, but no bitterness. I feel like we changed the art dialogue in Chicago by broadening the scope of what we felt was worthy of inclusion in an art magazine. As a result, we showcased a massive pool of unrecognized and unappreciated local artists, who had received little or no press. We proved a point – that a large local audience can only be earned by offering diversity, variety and multiple perspectives.

(Chicago Art Magazine Staff, from left to right, Jen Nalbantyan, MK Meador, Stephanie Burke, Jerian Hildwine, Robin Dluzen and Kathryn Born (badly Photoshopped in)

Robin once wisely said that we did the best we could with the resources we had. And within that caveat, I’ll say I’m incredibly proud of the stories we did, and am still amazed how far we trudged with one hand tied behind our back. We cut the budget 80% in 2011 and still almost tripled our traffic the same year.  I say this to illustrate that even if my spine hadn’t crumbled, Chicago Art Magazine would have changed; it was already changing and was adaptable by design. I’ve always viewed the Chicago art scene as a member of the artist community, not a critic looking down from above, but my artist sensibility doesn’t allow me to build the same thing over and over. I create, finish, and go onto the next piece.

If we wouldn’t have had this interruption, I would have been dabbling with BuddyPress, doing more with the Chicago Artist Database, and new software systems. I would have tried working with technology investors and creating new algorithms for art discovery that are completely different than the ones currently used on art sites today.

Chicago Art Magazine was an exercise in infrastructure, publishing, mentoring, and testing the boundaries of our local art industry. The goal was to figure out how to make a sustainable, functioning online magazine with a staff of paid writers and editors. In that respect, I don’t know how many answers I have for the next person who wants to  make a fiscally solvent magazine. Chicago’s art industry is in a tough spot and it creates a difficult ecosystem for any art-related business. So I will continue publishing (hopefully with Robin!) when I recover in 2013, but probably not here in the arts –instead grow TINC Magazine, which is positioned in the middle of the financially vibrant tech sector.

But I digress, I didn’t write this to complain. The point is, Chicago Art Magazine was never meant to go on forever, our goal was “10/10/2010” (see the “Transparency Pages“).  And during that time, we went on a wild adventure: we had good fights, made tons of friememies, got scoops and gossip, flashed business cards, got in free, and dove head first into controversy. The writers became friends and did projects together outside of the magazine. We had a red carpet debacle, turned the magazine into a school, and did 20 articles celebrating artists over 40 as a way for me to cope with my mid-life crisis. We defriended people on Facebook, bought a “Twitter machine”, almost got sued, and helped Rachel Hewitt burn bridges to many future employment opportunities with her investigative journalism assignments. We had adventures, I often got us lost, the site would crash, and we had wacky editorial meetings in a rent-by-the-hour conference room (people thought we had an office; never realizing the tiny conference room was the sum total of our physical presence). And I remember once hobbling into a meeting and couldn’t bend over to plug in my laptop — and MK Meador quietly took the cord and plugged it into the floor outlet for me.

Unequivocally, the most awesome part was watching the writers grow, like the day Robin and I had a “cord-cutting” ceremony when we disconnected the editor’s inbox so it no longer forwarded the emails to me, and she was flying on her own — a tremendous mentor in her own right.

For three years, we felt like a tiny army, forging through a recession in a publishing post-apocalypse.

I am left with amazing memories, and I know these stories will have a way of appearing in the next novel. Chicago artists will keep making art, new publications will come, and all of us will move on to the next “thing”. All the while, the articles will stay on this site, as a testament to what we did.

We were here for a good time, not a long time.

 

Farewell,
Kathryn Born

 

https://www.facebook.com/kathryn.born (account is full, but you can hit “subscribe”)
http://twitter.com/ChiArtMachine
http://diamondlifecafe.com

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Editor-in-Chief Robin Dluzen’s Closing Remarks

Robin Dluzen

Many people, from both inside and outside of our city, have told me that Chicago is broken. I’ve sat through panel after panel, and have read article after article complaining about art writing in Chicago and pointing fingers at one another as to who’s to blame. I’m not interested in joining those ranks of naysayers here. I do not want to hear any more about how internet writing is deemed less important than print, and I don’t want to hear any more about how the decades-old model for arts criticism has disappeared.

You want to know what happened to arts criticism? It changed. Just like how art has changed. Oh, and now it’s on the internet.

Web writer and editor Erin Kissane explains in a recent book that, in the midst of the vast, democratic space of the internet, “the fact that anyone reads anything at all online is a demonstration of an extraordinary hunger for content.” Applied to the art world, I’d like to take this as proof that the outmoded, disappearing model of print publishing has turned our arts community to the internet to find the information that they can rely on. Art moves fast these days, and internet publishing has been poised to be the best medium through which it can be documented, expounded upon and distributed to those hungry for information.

At Chicago Art Magazine, we not only had to shoulder the weight of running our business and maintaining the quality of our publishing, but we also had to shoulder the weight of explaining the value and relevance of all internet publishing in general to an old guard of potential advertisers who have forever before been convinced of the authority of print media. Many galleries, institutions and individuals stepped up to the plate, offering support in a variety of ways, including supporting our revenue model that was heavily based upon advertising, and for that I thank you dearly.

I want to thank our dedicated Chicago readership for perusing, commenting, liking, sharing, tweeting, +1-ing and otherwise caring about our content. We dedicated our whole business to you, Chicago, and we always felt the love from our city’s artists, art-workers, gallerists, dealers and enthusiasts.

I would also like to acknowledge the woman who has made this all possible: our beloved founder and publisher, Kathryn Born. Besides being fearless, independent and exceptionally competent, Kathryn has never let her responsibility for the business’ bottom line compromise her belief in the value of artists. She is an unparalleled advocate for artists and art writers as a valuable workforce, and I absolutely cannot imagine where I would be without her mentorship.

But as Editor-in-Chief, the group I’d like to thank most is my beautiful team of loyal and talented art writers. Some of you came from Chicago, writing for decades about Chicago art and kindly adapted your skill set for the web. Others, like me, came out of art school woefully unprepared for the realities of a life as an artist, and found a voice and a platform for your ideas that I hope were assets to your careers. Others came from arts communities in other cities and other states, and still others from outside of the art world completely, courageously diving into this intimidating and incestuous world that we call the art scene.

My writers, we couldn’t pay you anywhere near as much as you deserved, but someday you will be, and you’ll have your archive of fine work here at Chicago Art Magazine.

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The Komodo Dragon: Gallery Representation the Slow Way

Jeriah Hildwine

If I had a spirit animal, it would be the Komodo dragon:  the master of the slow kill.  The Komodo dragon takes game much larger than itself by a rather unique method.  The Komodo dragon isn’t venomous. However, the Komodo dragon has rather poor oral hygiene.  It feeds on meat, especially carrion, and this gets stuck between the lizard’s teeth, festering and rotting, creating a mouth that is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.  It is this bacteria which kills the Komodo’s prey:  it rushes a deer or other prey item, bites it, and then lets it go. The Komodo dragon follows.  Slowly, after days or even weeks, the wound becomes infected, and the deer grows ill.  One day, sick and exhausted, the deer lays down to rest. The Komodo dragon, which had been following it, unseen, all this time begins to feed while the deer, still alive, is too weak to resist.

The Komodo dragon approach has worked for me in a lot of ways.  Take graduate school, for example.  I first applied to a handful of schools in 2002. I was actually accepted to one of these schools, but by the time I got the news, I had decided that I needed to go to a real “art school,” so I declined the invitation.  The following year, I applied to 19 of the best art programs in the country, and was waitlisted at two of them…but not ultimately accepted to any of them.  This was a disappointing setback, but I immediately began a new body of work, far better than anything I’d done before, applied again the following year, and was accepted to several excellent programs. I ended up attending the Hoffberger School of Painting, at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

After graduating with my MFA in 2007, I moved to Chicago, as my wife, Stephanie Burke, had been accepted into SAIC’s MFA program in photography.  So we moved here, she started school, and I started looking for work. Within two weeks I’d been hired as a sales associate at an Ace Hardware location just a few minutes walk from my house. In the meantime, though, I was working on finding a teaching job, maintaining my studio practice, and securing gallery representation.  By Spring of 2008 I had picked up a few classes at LillStreet Art Center and Hyde Park Art Center, and the following fall I started as an adjunct instructor at Wilbur Wright Community College.

As soon as we’d landed in Chicago, Stephanie and I committed ourselves to familiarizing ourselves with Chicago’s gallery scene.  Each week, while I was working in the hardware store, Stephanie found time to come up with a list of what galleries were having openings that Friday.  I avoided working closing shifts on Fridays whenever possible, and we’d go out to the openings. After a while we started writing reviews for our blog, and between that and the fact that we showed up to pretty much all of their openings, the galleries got to know us.

I sent slides to a number of galleries –a select handful who seemed like good venues for my work:  Ann Nathan, Zg, Aron Packer, and Linda Warren. Of these, Zg and Nathan sent me polite rejection letters (Ann’s was handwritten!), and Packer invited me to bring some work by the gallery to show him.  I did so, and although it was pretty clear he wasn’t interested in showing it, he did provide me with some useful feedback.

Hildwine's "Zombie Hunter Stephanie," acrylic on canvas, 2012

Here’s where the Komodo dragon comes in.  I’d made my bite, introduced myself.  What I did NOT do was take these initial rejections personally, nor as the end of the discussion.  I still showed up to all the openings, even at galleries where I was pretty sure I’d never show my work.  For fun, I started blogging about the food and beverage offerings at the gallery openings:  the Snack Report, started on The Gallery Crawl blog and run, until late last year, on Art Talk Chicago. We tried some other blogging projects as well:  Monday Morning Quarterback, which were quick reviews of all the work we’d seen the weekend before, and the Red Dot Report, which were our notes on work that had sold. All the while, I was applying to group shows, and did some exhibitions in apartment galleries and alternative spaces.

My studio practice continued to develop as well, and was greatly informed by my teaching practice. Prior to teaching, I just sort of “messed with it ‘til it looked right,” a method (or non-method) that is common, and pretty effective, among a lot of very skilled and realistic painters whom I know. When I started teaching, I needed a method that I could easily explain.  I remembered a book I’d seen while I was in undergrad:  Joseph Sheppard’s How To Paint Like The Old Masters. I ordered a copy, and set about adapting Sheppard’s techniques to acrylics.  My interpretations of Sheppard’s interpretations of the Old Masters became the basis not only of my teaching of figure painting, but also of my studio practice.

All this allowed me to finally start making the paintings I wanted to make, the way I wanted to make them. As these pieces came together, I began to exhibit this work in group shows. All this time, I kept attending the gallery openings, and got to know some of the gallerists pretty well.  I very specifically did NOT harangue them about showing my work.  In fact, after I sent them the initial contact, I didn’t bring it up at all.

Eventually one of these gallerists, Linda Warren, asked me what was up with my own studio work, and wanted to come visit my studio.  This didn’t come out of nowhere:  I’d been attending nearly every one of her gallery openings for over three years, written about many of them, hung out, been cool, and most importantly, I was respectful of her time.  I didn’t talk business at her openings, and I didn’t press her to show, or even come look at, my work:  I sent her a link, a remained a part of the community, and eventually, she asked me.

Having a gallerist come visit your studio can be an intense experience; for a young artist especially, it’s easy to see it as the make-it-or-break-it career opportunity.  I just told myself to relax, and made sure the bathroom was reasonably clean and put a couple of beers in the fridge.  On the advice of a friend, I found an excuse to leave Linda alone with the work for a minute, so she could look at it without me looking over her shoulder.

She talked about some local collectors who might be into this kind of work, but when she asked about whether I was interested in selling the work, I mentioned that I’d rather show it as a complete body first. She told me that the main exhibition space was booked two years in advance, but that she could show some of the work in the project space, concurrent with Tom Torluemke’s show in the main space.  This was, in fact, exactly what I’d been hoping for. Gallery X (the smaller of the two rooms in her new space) is just large enough to accommodate the entire Living Dead Girls series, and the timing was just right for me to be able to finish the work to fill it.

Jeriah Hildwine, Living Dead Girls, opens at Linda Warren Projects (327 N. Aberdeen Suite 151) on Friday, April 27th, 2012.  Also on view will be Tom Torluemke, Ring Around The Rosie.

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Chicago’s Twelve: 12 Artists Mobilizing the Earth. Curated by Sergio Gomez

-Sponsored Post-

The Zhou B Art Center presents Chicago’s Twelve, an exhibition celebrating World Earth Day. Curator Sergio Gomez has selected twelve Chicago artists currently turning their attention to Mobilizing the Earth, the focus of this year’s World Earth Day. Through interaction with environmental issues, the re-purposing of found objects, and utilization of non-traditional material, these artists call into question not only our present relationship with our world, but also the possibility of its sustainable future. Works in the exhibition will include installations, sculpture and mixed media.  Artists in the exhibition include Jason Brammer, Mary Croteau, Victoria Fuller, Sharon Gilmore, Kim Guare, Salvador Jimenez Flores, Dana Major Kanovitz, N. Masani Muhammad, Yva Neal, Connie Noyes, Alfonso Piloto-Nieves, and Vivian Visser.

The Zhou B Art Center will also be celebrating the earth at Earth Fest on Friday, May 18th, 2012 from 7-10 PM.

About The Zhou B Art Center
The Zhou B Art Center is recognized as the premier venue for internationally recognized art events in Chicago. Founded in 2004 by world-renowned contemporary artists, the Zhou Brothers, the Center facilitates cultural dialogue by organizing contemporary art exhibitions, concerts, and functions in its 87,000 square foot gallery.

www.zbcenter.org

Exhibitions Dates:  April 20 to June 9, 2012

Opening Date/Reception: Friday, April 20, 2012, 7 pm to 10 pm

Zhou B Art Center is located at 1029 W. 35th St, 1st Floor, Chicago. Gallery Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 1 pm and Fridays 10 am to 7 pm.

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Interview with Chicago Gallerist Linda Warren of Linda Warren Projects

Stephen Knudsen

Linda Warren's Los Angeles house gallery

SK: Linda, I think some may be surprised to know that Chicago’s Linda Warren Projects actually started as Linda Warren Gallery in 1997 in your home in Los Angeles while you were still working in the film industry. I am picturing the gallery, a swimming pool, film stars, producers, and a house on the hill. Would you fill in some of those details without crushing my romantic notions too much?

LW: For me, it was extremely romantic.  But not in the manner you describe. It was a house on a hill, in Silver Lake, without a pool, but a view all the way to the ocean.  It was a multi-level art deco’y fixer-upper that I bought at the lowest point in the market (1994) from an 85 year old woman artist, whose husband, also an artist, had just passed away (Lolli and Oscar Van Young).  I was very into painting myself during those years, and the house, full of hundreds and hundreds of their paintings, was so enchanting…. I fell in love.  I had looked at over 100 homes at that point.  But I knew when I first saw it, that this was it. I slowly spent every penny I had to turn it from a terrible fixer-up to a very mediocre and funky but functioning and awesome home for me.  When I sold it in 2000, the value of the house had doubled. But I know the new owners thought it was still a fixer-upper.  And it was.

I had no idea that I would ever turn it into a gallery.  I was in the film business, working in production (ultimately becoming an Associate Producer on the last few big-budget films I worked on), and that was how I made my living.  It was a sort of brutal experience – almost every film was a ringer doozy pain in the ass – and it was just not my passion at all.  So in 1997, when a good artist sculptor friend, Dale Edwards, was evicted from his studio and needed a place to store 100 or so pieces of work, I agreed to place them all over my house. I was trying to help him out. But the next thing you know – my film friends started coming by and buying his work.  And then another couple artists thought – well, if you’re selling Dale’s work, you can maybe sell mine.  And they brought it over to my house, and in fact I did sell their work… again, just to friends stopping by.   I knew I could be a good conduit to this sort of thing… but never did I believe I could do this for a living.  So I slowly, without leaving the film industry for good (they were to be my clients, of course, and also my real income), converted that house into a very meandering, well-lit gallery, displaying over 100 pieces at a time and rotating and opening new shows all year round of artists from around LA and well beyond.

Linda Warren Projects Artist: Carson Fox, Cold Comfort (installation), 2010

Yes, some film stars and producers and agents made it up there – but also big collectors – like Peter Norton.  And finally, I was successful enough at selling art that I really didn’t need to work anymore in the industry.

SK: So, shortly after this you moved to Chicago and now, with 8 1/2 years as a gallerist here, you have proven that this city is a place to have a growing, successful gallery. Many people have the perception that the major Chicago collectors only buy in New York, but you have found a way to sell emerging art here, and with admirable success. Does your business model include collectors based both in and outside Chicago?

LW: Yes, I have a strong collector base from all over the United States, as well as a bit abroad. As I generally don’t participate in too many art fairs, I have to assume that the broader success of my business stems mainly from the fact that I show some pretty fantastic artists, as well as from word of mouth, and that my website (while in need of a major overhaul and update) is thorough and direct. It shows as many as ten artworks by each artist, and it lists prices. This uncommon practice of having the prices listed on the site lends both a transparency to the business, as well as an immediate awareness of the viewers as to whether or not they can afford the work.  I also know that my belief in my artists and my passion for what I do plays a part in the success of my business model.  I am confident in the value of the artists I work with, and I think collectors ultimately know how to find the galleries and artists that resonate for them.  They are smart seekers and finders.

Linda Warren Projects’ grand opening of the new space with Emmett Kerrigan's Grand Ave (Installation 2011-Gallery Y)

SK: In November 2011, you inaugurated your new location at 327 North Aberdeen – a much more expansive space – and you brought some innovative nomenclature into this new space. Case in point: the “X” and “Y” names of your two gallery spaces in the Linda Warren Projects.

LW: The “X” and “Y” idea came from multiple ideas. First, my desire to not diminish one exhibition space to the other as superior or inferior, which calling them A and B or 1 and 2 might do.  I also liked that x and y are used in a range of mathematical applications, and thus they, as subtext, suggest the existence of another realm of thought  – coordinates to explore two-dimensional and three-dimensional ideas. If people reflect on space and time in the context of looking at the work while being in the gallery, that is a huge plus.

SK: Would you also address your changing Linda Warren Gallery to Linda Warren Projects with the inauguration of your new Chicago space? 

 

Linda Warren Projects’ grand opening of the new space with Lora Fosberg’s, Fallible Memories and Wayward Fictions, (Installation 2011- Gallery X)

LW: The word “project” better describes the growing scope of my business and vision for its future.  Since its inception, I have seen my business grow to now include the fact that I am an Art Consultant working on some large corporate projects.  Though I never thought this was something I was much interested in, it has turned out to actually be very rewarding both creatively and financially and something I hope to continue doing in the years ahead while still, of course, running the gallery.  I am also trying to launch this year a nonprofit called Higher Art, Conscious Corporate Collecting.  This project will seek to find and cultivate the talent of young artists of all ages (not yet in college) by selling their art to businesses and corporations. The money from the sales of the artwork will go back to the artists’ schools to assist in the support of their art programs. Or the kids who are creating this artwork will hopefully get involved in deciding where this money should go.  Maybe not to their own school but a different school that is in need of the finances.  Validating their talent as young artists and empowering them to realize their own ability to facilitate change and become philanthropic themselves is a part of the vision.  All of this is in the present, but hopefully more projects that push the importance of art and the artists who are creating it will emerge in the future.

SK: What is your philosophy in representing a large roster of artists?

Linda Warren Projects Artist: Matthew Woodward, State Street (installation), 2010, graphite on paper, 100" x 88" each

LW: The term “represents” really doesn’t describe the nature of the relationships that I have with some of the artists who are listed on my website. I have worked with many artists in the past  – some, who had solo shows at the gallery, but are not necessarily going to have one in the near future. However, I can sell and promote these artists’ work in other ways. And there are other artists, who do not appear on my website roster, who will be having shows in future.  But that, too, for me doesn’t mean that I necessarily represent them.  Some artists I work with demand a lot more effort and time than others – they have more shows lined up in other galleries, and we do a lot more to help them to expand and navigate their careers, including large-scale commissions and licensing agreements. I think it feels more accurate with these people to say I do “represent” them when I start participating in other aspects of their career outside of the gallery confines and they have also had shows in the gallery. Not every artist that I work with has the same opportunities as others.   But my dream would be that ultimately everyone becomes tremendously successful.


Linda Warren Projects Artist: Juan Angel Chavez, Dragging the Leash (installation), 2009

SK: Your aesthetic has a wide scope from work of Conrad Freiburg, Emmett Kerrigan, Matt Woodward, Lora Fosberg, Juan Chavez, Alex O’Neal, Chris Cosnowski, Tom Torleumke, Ed Valentine, Nicole Gordon, Brenda Moore, Peter Drake, Carson Fox, Jon Waldo, Joseph Noderer, Paula Henderson just to name some of the artists that you work with. Is there some common essence in the work (and/or artists) that you look for in putting together your roster?

LW: The roster has evolved as a consequence of both my own personal aesthetic as well as my personal and professional relationship with each artist. I like work that is content driven, that is visually compelling and unique on a visceral level, and that has a high concern for craftsmanship and a value in beauty. Some is very quirky and humorous, some very dark and somber. I like a lot of work that is narrative driven.  I love great painting, installation and sculpture.  Basically, I like work that has the ability to immediately engage the viewer with a sense of awe and wonder, and curiosity, respect and concern for what the artists are trying to explore and communicate.  All of the artists you mention, and others that you haven’t who I work with, all do that for me and continue to do it in almost everything they create.

SK: With the remarkable growth of the Fine Arts in Chicago, ironically it seems that quality Chicago-based art criticism is contracting. One can see this in the reputable dailies and the absence of, say, a model like the Atlanta-based Art Papers Magazine or the Miami-based ARTPULSE Magazine. Do we need a writing model that is parallel to your gallery modelsomething Chicago-based that targets both local artistic talent and talent beyond Chicago? What would you say to those critics, editors, and publishers weighing the potential of locating in Chicago?

LW: Yes, 100% absolutely, of course.  The artists and galleries in Chicago are currently experiencing an enormous hole in the world of local art criticism.  It is like driving around a huge metropolis and not finding a single McDonald’s.  Yes, we have a few printed publications that do gallery exhibition reviews: New City, Time Out, and slightly: the Tribune. I have no idea what’s going on with the Sun Times, as I don’t read it nor has anyone been in my gallery for quite some time – so I wouldn’t know. And there are some blogs that are doing a bit of that – like this blog, Bad at Sports, and Paul Klein who really goes out of his way to look at what’s out there and gives things a thumbs up and a bit of encouragement.  But you would hope that after the blogs say,  “You should check this out or that out,” that someone will actually come and check it out…and then write.  But the local options for where writers can place their stories are so narrow.  The writers have to reach out and advocate for this city in more national magazines. Show them what is going on here. Champion the art scene here. Artists have to get reviews to build their resumes and credentials.  Critics need to do that.  They need to give the validation, help put things in context for the viewer, explain why something is good or why it isn’t.

Linda Warren Projects Artist: Joseph Noderer, Likens and Sue; Misters, 2011

Chicago is a huge city with a lot of talented fine artists who deserve to be recognized. The MFA program at the SAIC just got moved in ranking from third best in the nation to 2nd best.  Do we want all these great artists coming out of there to leave? How can artists thrive in this community if there isn’t hardly anyone in the local media paying much attention to them? If we aren’t doing it for ourselves, it is no wonder why it’s so hard to get a national publication to pay much attention.  I think that a model that targets local artistic talent and talent beyond Chicago, in the same publication, seems like the best approach for everyone’s benefit. I’m sure there would be a local readership for this. But I get it – it’s not just subscriptions that are needed; local galleries need to support publications with advertising dollars.  I am willing to do that. I do do that.  And I guess that is one of the biggest issues. So galleries need to invest in this.  And if they do, they will attract more reviewers from national art magazines…and then maybe, hopefully, people will realize that it would be viable to have a more constant presence reviewing the art scene here.  I would say it has to be a community effort to support this – the galleries and the institutions in Chicago and art critics need to come together and raise the awareness further about what is happening locally.

SK: Thank You, Linda.

———

Stephen Knudsen is a Writer/ Critic for ARTPULSE Magazine, New York Arts Magazine, The SECAC Journal, and many other publications. He is a Professor of Painting at Savannah College of Art and Design.

 www.steveknudsen.com

1

Southside Hub of Production: An Open Invitation for Creative Community

Alexandra Kadlec

To experiment with space in the name of art is to stretch our collective definitions of what is private and public, individual and shared, personal and political. At The Fenn House, an 18-room Victorian mansion in Hyde Park and home to Southside Hub of Production, explorations into these and many other concepts are continually occurring.

The aim of Southside Hub of Production is to provide cultural and communal free space as an alternative to the museums, galleries, and universities that largely comprise Chicago’s art scene. SHoP came to fruition in August 2011 through the collective efforts of Laura Shaeffer, John Preus, and a number of other local artists, writers, filmmakers, craftspeople, and educators.

Chicago Art Magazine recently caught up with Laura and John to discuss the ideas and events materializing throughout The Fenn House, as well as SHoP’s communities taking shape and thriving here.

The Psychology of Space

The wheels that set SHoP in motion began turning much earlier than 2011. In 2009, Laura, who is an artist and curator, created The Opportunity Shop, a mobile space for community involvement and artistic exchange.

The Op Shop was conceived as a way to utilize existing resources, share ideas, and provide a sense of wonderment in the everyday. It has been brought to life through exhibitions, events, and programs that take place in empty spaces throughout Chicago. After the Op Shop’s fourth iteration, a public gardening project in Hyde Park, its creators recognized a need for more time and synergy in one space in order to deepen artistic ideas and further develop programming.

John’s background as a builder has further informed the conception and realization of SHoP in distinct ways. In this vocation, he often thinks about the rules that govern public space: how it is organized, paid for, and maintained. While it is a direct and pragmatic way to alter one’s environment, John also believes that building “encourages metaphorical and poetic thought about how things fit together, how space affects relationships, how people inhabit space according to the degree that it is proscribed or malleable.”

The on-going construction of new environments at The Fenn House unites these impulses of stability and fluidity, through the people, events, and exhibitions found in this space. Once home to a Unitarian Church and subsequently a meeting place for various groups of interest, SHoP has transformed The Fenn House into a center for artistic practice and production, and eclectic social gatherings.

The Pulse of SHoP

SHoP’s core is made up of like-minded individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences, bound by a desire for community engagement through the arts and the union of aspects of community life that are often kept separate. Because many of the artists involved in SHoP have children, their current lifestyles have forced them to alter their commitment to art-making in practical ways. The Fenn House is a welcome space in this regard, as artists and their families can gather and engage in many forms of creative community—and, by extension—explore issues related to domesticity and family life through the lens of art.

SHoP is also a response to the pressing reality that artists need and want venues for artistic production and interaction outside of traditional institutional spaces; in other words, they are seeking freedom from the impulse to create art in response to other art. While SHoP promotes this kind of creative license, The Fenn House’s physical structure necessarily informs decisions of what can or should take place here. Exhibition proposals are judged critically, but also pragmatically—according to relevance and suitability to the space, as well as its expected, diverse, audience.

Fenn House

Artists often respond to what may otherwise be perceived as constraints with creativity and humor. As part of SHoP’s on-going exhibition, This House is Not a Home, which runs through April 8, Matt Joynt has utilized a 3rd floor closet space for his work. Adam Grossi’s small, intimate paintings wind up the back stairwell of the house, forcing viewers to try and view the art while walking up or down the stairs. For the Hyde Park Kunstveirin, Dan Peterman’s plastic boards have overtaken the mansion’s library, imbuing the room with reflections upon waste and memory. In all these ways, contributors and visitors alike find delight and surprise in the discovery of appropriated environments.

In addition to the many cultural events and exhibitions that have taken place at SHoP to date, subtler communities are kept alive through projects such as the South Side Seed Exchange and the Community Woodshop. It is also in the everyday that deeply poignant moments are shared at The Fenn House. John speaks of the Chinese dance troupe that meets to practice on the third floor of the house. When they leave, he says, “Each person waves goodbye, and the last woman hugs me and beats my back, there is no language between us but we understand each other.” Whether in the midst of a packed exhibition or during the tranquility of a Sunday afternoon potluck, a sense of profound connection is experienced here often.

Finding New Roots

The premise of SHoP may not be novel, but it is nonetheless filling a particular niche in Chicago, one that its creators hope will endure. As SHoP’s 12-month lease on The Fenn House comes to an end this summer, its future is open to speculation and some concern. The house is currently on the market, and the nearby University of Chicago is a likely buyer. With lease renewal a slim prospect, John and Laura are in the process of forming an Artists Union with Jim Duignan, founder and director of DePaul University’s Stockyard Institute. The goal is to develop a solid foundation and network of support for similar endeavors around the city, to keep artistic production alive in new and exciting ways.

The likelihood of SHoP’s physical relocation is fraught with feelings of uncertainty but also possibility, as there are many reasons to believe that its collective spirit will find roots in new and evolving communities throughout Chicago.

7

Closing of Chicago Art Magazine

Founding Managing Editor, Stephanie Burke; Editor-in-Chief, Robin Dluzen; Kathryn Born, Publisher (not pictured)

(originally posted 4/3/12)

Chicago Art Magazine will be closing on April 13, 2012. The primary reason for the close is due to the publisher, Kathryn Born, going on an 8-month medical leave. Robin Dluzen, the Editor-in-Chief, could have solely sustained the editorial and operational aspects of the magazine, but not the financial demands.

Running Chicago Art Magazine has been a wonderful experience; it’s been life-changing for those of us who have dedicated our work-lives to the magazine we built in 2009. In the days to follow, we will post some final editorials and thoughts, and the “transparency pages” will complete its mission to offer some degree of analysis of the publication and lessons learned, in an attempt to help the next endeavor.

Chicago Art Magazine will remain online, in its current form, for the next five years as an archive to the 935 posts and 5,260 images.

Over the past 3 years, we have worked with some of the finest writers, artists, gallerists and organizations in the city, and would like to thank you all for the support and for the amazing art and writing that made our magazine possible.

We leave this magazine in high spirits. We are in a different place as professional artists and writers, and we believe strongly that we helped Chicago’s art world be more prominent on the global map. We have no regrets.

 

(note: we’re doing a “soft close”, so although we have an official end date, some additional content may be posted after the close)

 

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Matthew Woodward: Catalogs of Anonymous Forms

Robin Dluzen

Woodward's "Huron Street" 71"x87" Graphite and coffee on Paper, 2011

The gritty, aggressive, large-scale works of Matthew Woodward are a kind of contemporary art anomaly. Without that self-conscious level of remove that dominates much of contemporary work created by artists with their terminal degrees, Woodward’s practice is centered around an unabashedly emotional drive. Like emotions, his work is not necessarily difficult to understand, but is decidedly difficult to approach intellectually. Though admittedly, getting a viewer to go beyond the personal expression and the drama of the gesture and surface is often a challenge for artists who work in this manner, Woodward’s practice contains content that can be accessed at varying points of entry.

Viewers are inevitably drawn to his remarkably consistent aesthetic: the heavy-handed mark-making enacted upon the artist’s ubiquitous trope of isolated, decorative architectural forms. A violent treatment of his materials, primarily graphite on paper, takes place through erasure marks, scratches, tears, and other traces of glue and grit by whatever means necessary, paralleling the layering of deterioration and buildup indicative of the wear of urban life. These decorative forms of winding, vaguely floral reliefs, lifted from their original context and hand-drawn onto Woodward’s works on paper, are a composite of anonymity and specificity.

The artist’s employment of these architectural details is discernibly more complicated than it may seem at first sight. Through manufacturing, patterning and reproduction, the forms’ uniqueness has been lost, and their original authors unknown. Through time and familiarity, the forms are overlooked and taken for granted, almost un-seeable to those who live amongst them. Woodward uses these architectural forms in every piece with an urgent repetition that, given their homogeny, becomes a kind of catalog of anonymous forms in the urban landscapes.

Detail of Woodward's "Huron Street"

As the forms are moved from the street, to the photograph, to the studio and into the drawings, they are further and farther removed from their original context. In his drawings, Woodward isolates each of these forms, enlarging them, centering them in the composition, and rendering them in a classical technique that is offset by his heavy-handed marks and the tattered surfaces of the abstracted ground. Through scale, dramatic chiaroscuro, and composition, these rather unimportant decorative images are transformed into grand icons, elevating their importance, though without establishing what it is that they have become symbols of.

 

At the end of all this layering, rendering and recontexualizing, after the forms have been moved and removed, cataloged and elevated, their meaning really hasn’t been changed. They are each assigned a title specifying the location in which the artist first encountered them, but that is where the explanations end; their ambiguity has remained intact and perhaps that is the very space left open for viewers to linger long after they have been drawn in by Woodward’s tactile surfaces and expressionistic hand. I suppose these works necessitate the use of your gut to appreciate their emotional content, though I think that a patient viewer will find herself able to spend much more time thoughtfully engaged in Woodward’s open-ended subject matter.

—————-

View From the Birth Daya solo exhibition of new works by Matthew Woodward will be on display at the Chicago Cultural Center, beginning with an opening reception Friday, April 13th from 5:30-7:30pm.

Additional information about Woodward’s work can be found on his website, and through Linda Warren Projects.

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Diane Nelson: Re-imagination of Biology and Art

-Sponsored Post-

"moving forward" by Diane Nelson

Art and biology have been inexorably intertwined since the earliest stages of humanity. Historically, humans have used depictions of the human body to not only tell stories, but also to understand our physiology. From The Woman of Willendorf, to Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp to Thomas Eakins’ The Gross Clinic, the search for understanding of the human body has manifested itself through art making.

Following this tradition is the work of painter Diane Nelson, who has made a practice of re-imagining of the integration of biology, medicine and fine art. Nelson’s previous career as a medical illustrator and art director has imbued her skillset with a mastery of representational imagery, as she illustrated medical textbooks, anatomical charts, and courtroom exhibits, and created original three-dimensional models. Since Nelson’s departure from the world of illustration, she has built upon this unique ability for rendering, pushing her practice to a place that is more complex and also more emotive.

In her newest body of work, Nelson takes a unique, multilayered approach to her media, a process that puts her practice firmly within a contemporary context. Beginning with pencil or charcoal, her works are then digitized and layered with digital imagery. The final stage is a selective application of paint over ink pigment printed on canvas, which bear her distinctive aesthetic that is both carefully detailed, and fantastically imaginative.

 

Pattern and Inspiration

"across time" by Diane Nelson

Representation in contemporary art can be a burden on many artists, for whom the challenge of creating something new from observation can be daunting. Nelson is in a particularly unique position because of her extensive experience looking at aspects of nature that most people do not. Nelson has harnessed the microscopic world that dictated much of her previous career, drawing from it its curious palettes, lines, shapes and movements.

In works like moving forward, the patterns that compose the painting’s background could be the quite literal interpretation of the actual biological forms. The pattern motif then continues as the bent figure is repeated over itself, and patterns swirl in the hair of the representational figure in the middle ground. In this way, the microscopic is brought to the forefront, infusing the paintings with the beauty of the unseen world.

The Figure

"on many layers" by Diane Nelson

Drawing from a Surrealist influence, Nelson’s compositions often contain the strange, hallmarks of a dreamscape: hazy atmospheres, unusual landscapes and an ambiguous sense of space. In her work, across time, the rather androgynous male figure is situated at the forefront of a fluid, violet background. These elements of this unreal landscape seemingly wash away the horizon line, and are even visible through the transparent areas of the figure.

The figure is almost omnipresent in Nelson’s works, occasionally opaque, but very often transparent, as in across time, and cellular element. Sometimes, the viewer can see through the figure to the background, while in other cases, the transparency is enacted as the ability to view the biological inner workings of the figure. In both instances, this transparency entices Nelson’s viewers to look beyond the composition and delve into the metaphorical possibilities inherent in her content.

Nelson has a unique ability to capture notions of humanity through biological and formal elements, as well as metaphorical ones, using the figure to do so. Figures in Nelson’s works are painted in very specific poses; in on many layers, the male figure kneels, reaching upwards and facing away from the viewer, while in beyond herself, a female figure stretches one arm out from a seated position. In both works, the figures maintain calm facial expressions, while their limbs evoke the agency and progressive motion of the symbolic “power” and “freedom” the artist strives for in her practice.

Analysis and Observation

"deepest layers" by Diane Nelson

Though Nelson has departed from much of the clinical aspects of medical illustration, what still remains from that practice is a distinct sense of analysis, as if the artistic process has become the vehicle for investigating the human condition. A vague awareness of physiological analysis can be detected from her medical experience, though a much more prominent feeling of psychological or emotional analysis occupies these works, perhaps a feature from the impact of her studies of Surrealism.

Most science, analysis and observation come from an objective point of view, though one can’t help but feel a subjective, and introspective approach to the imagery of Nelson’s work. While many of her works broach large subjects of humanity and emotion, a few of her current works seem to delve into the space of the artist’s mind. In pieces like, beneath the page, and deepest layers, the artist has depicted an image of a piece of paper with a biological image painted upon it. These images of the papers rest atop a trompe l’oeil wooden ground. This “image within an image” serves as an undeniably contemporary, self-referential act, indicative of an artist looking within. Here, Nelson seems to be taking a look at her past from a new perspective, still from a distance but with the subjective medium of fine art.

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Weekly Pick: Katherine Desjardins at Kasia Kay Art Projects Gallery

This week, we’re looking forward to Katherine Desjardins’ performance at Kasia Kay. The super-localized, site-specific work involves the gallery, the artist and local meatpackers, all of whom are living and working in the Fulton Market Meatpacking District of the West Loop.

Katherine Desjardins Solo Project: A Provisional Proposition

April 5-10, 2012

Performance/Reception with the artist: Saturday, April 7, 5-7pm.

Desjardins creates a site-specific drawing/performance at the intersection of art, meat, and commerce.

Her Chicago debut/performance/mashup on Saturday April 7th brings together a trio of meat packers and a 100-foot drawing with the intention to delight and confound.

Since arriving in Chicago from Boston in 2007, Katherine Desjardins has trained her eye on the city’s industrial/agricultural complex as a nexus of transitivity rich with possibility as both metaphor for the provisionality of painting  (and its relation to commerce)–as well as an experience of the urban sublime. This recent work is experiential: about transition from one place to another, cultural juxtaposition, and the collision between raw and refined, familiar and unknowable material.

Solo Project: Provisional Proposition at Kasia Kay marks Desjardins’ first solo project in Chicago.

Born in New York City, Katherine Desjardins grew up in Rhode Island and has spent much of her life abroad (Sweden, France, Japan; ten years in Italy). She was recently awarded a fellowship to the Bogliasco Foundation in Genova, Italy, where she will be in residence in the late Spring 2012. National/International exhibitions include: Biagiotti Progetto Arte, Florence Italy; DeCordova Museum, MA; M.Y. Art Prospects, NYC. Awards include: Mass Cultural Council; Berkshire-Taconic ART Award; Visiting Artist, American Academy in Rome. She is currently a full-time Lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. She is represented by the Boston Drawing Project at Carroll and Sons, Boston. Desjardins lives with her husband, composer Lee Hyla, in Chicago’s Fulton Market meat packing district.

Kasia Kay Art Projects Gallery is located at 215 N. Aberdeen St. Chicago. info@kasiakaygallery.com

 

0

A Critical Assessment of the “Twitter Art” Bandwagon

From the archives of when Chicago Art Magazine’s Founder and Publisher Kathryn Born was at the helm of the Chicago Now blog. This post was originally published on September 30th, 2009.

Critical Inquiry performed by Candice Weber

A recent portrait of the former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin brought together images of fluffy clouds, rainbows, cute animals, and a perplexing shot of a Menorah. The artist credited with such a likeness: Portwiture, one of many new Twitter “mash-up” websites creating a portrait of any Twitter-user by mashing up their most frequently tweeted words with images pulled from the popular photo site Flickr. The obnoxiously-named Twyric takes advantage of poets on Twitter to match haiku with Flickr photos. The results are a bit confusing, like seeing a poet “tweet in” beside a bizarre invitation to a two-year-old’s birthday party – the site definitely achieves its goal of creating a contemplative, though not quite meditative, online experience.

These works of so-called Twitter art lack that certain spark of genuine creativity, being computer generated and all – something very puzzling considering Twitter is nothing but the murmurings of a sea of diverse humanity. Portwiture’s (and other Twitter ‘mash-up sites’) reliance on perfectly composed stock photography is overly sentimental and flattens more than it emphasizes the Twitter-er’s individuality. Overall, the ability to pair the keyword “tree” with a picture of a tree isn’t all that impressive.

Twyric

These kinds of projects are at best a kind of novelty art form akin to any Facebook personality quiz. Some, like Twitter Mosaic, quite appropriately offer to broadcast your Twitter friends and followers on your very own mug or t-shirt.

However, Twitter’s and Flickr’s ability to unfailingly bombard you with a stream of random images ranging from the sublime to the utterly inappropriate has some major appeal, and the coolest works of Twitter art have tapped into this feature. TimeTweets follows the simple format of a clock that updates in real-time with a parade of Twitters by-the-numbers: blasts of birthday wishes, concert dates, and other milestones create an experience that can be a bit humbling, until the quiet 9 o’clock hour is interrupted by mandybaby011’s urgent message about just how beautiful the new (two story!) Forever 21 store is at the mall. Twistori is similarly mesmerizing as it constantly scrolls Tweets containing words like love, hate, and wish (things Twitter folk love: According to Jim, pumpkin spice latte, Craigslist, and the blues. Things Twitter folk hate: their life, you, this song, and the Eastern Hills mall).

TimeTweets

I suppose at one point in time many scoffed at the potential of audio sampling and musical mash-ups, a genre becoming more popular all the time. Maybe someday I’ll look back and kick myself for scoffing at the Twitter art bandwagon. So, while the sprawling, collective crying-out from the mundane human experience that is the essence of Twitter is fascinating in and of itself, the day Twitter art becomes the next big thing, I’ll eat my hat.

(Kathryn’s Note: Thank you to Mashable.com for the original Twitter Art roundup.)

Click here to see the comments on the original article.

0

The Spirit of Marwen

Monica Nickolai

“If you are a student in grades 6-12 who lives in Chicago, and you can’t afford to pay for art courses elsewhere, you are invited to take art courses at Marwen for free.”

Although these words may sound like an online scam, they actually appear on the website for Marwen, a dynamic artistic community located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, just a short distance from the downtown Loop.  However, the classes at Marwen are not just ordinary classes for cutting and pasting crafts; Marwen gives students who otherwise might not receive arts instruction the kind of education usually only available to those in upper income brackets:  first-class facilities, instruction from leading Chicago artists, and opportunities to exhibit and learn within a dynamic community that even professional might artists envy.  Relying almost entirely on donations, the students and employees at Marwen have proven how essential art is to them now and to the future of Chicago at large.

Even when just walking into the building, one begins to understand the spirit of Marwen.  The brick building’s small entrance opens up to a large gallery. The Berkowitz Gallery was named for Marwen’s founder, Steven Berkowitz, an entrepreneur and avid art collector who wanted to provide students with the kind of art education his daughters received. With a high ceiling, exposed structural wooden beams, and a structurally independent glass and steel staircase, the gallery was designed by Wheeler Kearns Architects, a highly-awarded firm based out of Chicago, the building was awarded the Excellence in Architecture Award by the American Institute of Architects, Chicago chapter.  Upstairs is an art library for research and inspiration.  The building also includes a college and career center to help students plan for their academic futures.

Along the gallery’s walls, one finds the work of student artists using video, graphic design software, advanced photography techniques, clay, paint, and other forms of media.  Marwen invites teaching artists in Chicago to submit course proposals each term. Past teaching artists include Angee Lennard of Spudnik Press, Kelly Kaminski of Grip Design, Regin Igloria of Ragdale, filmmaker John Lyons, painter Ann Worthing, sound artist Nick Jaffe, and Academy Award-nominated animator Joe Merideth.  One clearly sees this in the high level of work exhibited in the galleries.

It comes as no surprise, then, that classes are overflowing. This past fall, Marwen had its highest turnout ever, and plans are already being made to meet the needs of the students. Marwen’s programs have received much national attention, including grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, Surdna Foundation, and Wallace Foundation, as well as the Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities. However, Marwen relies almost entirely on donations to sustain its programs, with its current budget at about $2 million.

Marwen’s impact is often felt outside of the gallery walls.  In 2004, Marwen published Fuel: Giving Youth the Power to Succeed with arts educator Philip Yenawine.  Marwen has a close relationship with the city. The Executive Director, Antonia Contro, sits on the mayor’s cultural advisory council, and Marwen has developed strong ties with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.  Students’ work also moves out of the gallery.  For example, students in Marwen (and other organizations) worked with artist Jan Tichy for his Project Cabrini Green last year.  Tichy selected Marwen because of its proximity to the housing project.  Students wrote and performed pieces inspired by Cabrini Green, the housing project that became infamously associated with crime by various media outlets.  After watching documentaries made by Cabrini Green residents and reflecting on their own experiences with themes such as ‘home,’ and ‘memory,’ students wrote and performed their own poetry.  The recorded pieces were transmitted into light signals and installed in the building during demolition.  Their work was featured on the project’s website and in a piece exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The work also attracted attention from media outlets, including The New York Times, The Associated Press and WBEZ and has garnered international attention.

Marwen is a hub for Chicago’s students–students from fifty-four of Chicago’s fifty-seven zip codes attend Marwen.  At Marwen, students from all over the city connect with peers they might not meet otherwise. Although Chicago is rich in historical contributions from ethnic neighborhoods, it has been described by sociologists as “hypersegregated.” According to Brandon Hayes, manager of communications and development, “Marwen students and their families are a huge source of strength.” Mingling students from many neighborhoods enables a variety of voices in student work and raises awareness of issues outside of art and promises a future of deeper understanding among Chicago residents.

Amid growing insecurity and shrinking budgets, people are realizing more and more the importance of the kind of art education offered by Marwen.  With so many dedicated donors, employees, and outside supporters, Marwen should continue to make its mark on Chicago for years to come.

0

Joyce Owens: Do Collectors Owe Profits to Artists?

From the archives of when Chicago Art Magazine’s Founder and Publisher Kathryn Born was at the helm of the Chicago Now blog. This post was originally published on June 20th, 2009.

Joyce Owens

Before you get started with this, let me clarify that I am talking about artists who are still selling work at moderate prices through art galleries. The artists whose work can be resold without them even knowing. And not the Kerry James Marshall type artists. He recently sold a painting through his gallery, Jack Shainman, at the Miami Basel art fair for $350,000.00.  I am not speaking of him or the other art giants that we read about.

I am speaking to most artists who sell their work in the hundreds, maybe up to 10 or 20  thousands of dollars. The auction house artists, such as Mr. Marshall,  are another story. I hope we all get there!

So, you think your work is in a great collection and you even have the name of the collector on your bio. This person donates art works to the Art Institute and has a great reputation for collecting the masters!

But a year or two later the collector is incapacitated because of a stroke and his wife has a sale of his collection at a local gallery. You have NOT been notified. You find out because you run into someone who tells you how thrilled they are to have acquired your work from the prominent collection!

Really?

So here is another way that living artists get the screw. Some people, especially artists, think the creator of the original art work or the vendor (gallery) who sold it should be notified when the work is de-acquisitioned. And secondly, that the artist should receive a percentage of the resale price, especially if it sells for higher than the original price. Artists should also know if their work is going at higher prices. The Europeans have laws to protect their artists. And you may think California is flaky on some issues but they have laws to protect artists when their work is resold, too.The artists should also be given the option of buying back their work before it goes to someone else. (article continues).

Here is an excerpt from a 1995 article:  If art is resold, should the artist profit?

by Edmund H. Mantell

I INTRODUCTION

The title of this essay is taken from the headline of a recent news article appearing in The New York Times.(2) The article described public hearings held in San Francisco. The hearings were conducted by the office of the Policy Planning Advisor for the United States Register of Copyrights, as part of a study on the feasibility of federal legislation to establish mandatory resale royalties applying to works of fine art. The person holding the position of the federal Policy Planning Advisor is reported to have said that the San Francisco hearings carry particular weight because the participants were the people “actually involved” with resale royalties. The pending federal legislation is modeled on a California statute.(3) The California statute was originally enacted in 1976, and was amended in 1982. Subject to certain qualifications,(4) it requires the seller of a work of “fine art” (or his agent) to pay to the artist 5 percent of the amount of the sale price. Important to the functioning of this law is that it specifies that the right of the artist to receive the royalty cannot be waived by the artist unless by a written contract providing for a royalty in excess of 5 percent of the amount of the sale. The evident purpose of the California statute, and its pending federal equivalent, is to increase the income that artists derive from their creations.(5) Struggling artists, so it is argued, should be treated with special solicitude by legislators. The special solicitude should be manifested in a practical way. In view of the propensity of legislative bodies to shun talk of taxing the electorate to provide subsidies to artists…

I think many collectors buy art because they love it and would get a second job before selling off their collections.  But if you find you need to sell, please give the artist the right of first refusal. And give them a 5% cut of your profits which they have earned already by producing the work.

I hope providing a little insight I will encourage all art buyers be sensitive to the artist whose life’s work is in their hands. For legal help check with the Lawyers for the Creative Arts.

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Weekly Pick: “Studio Malick” at DePaul Art Museum

We’re excited to see tonight’s opening of “Studio Malick” at DePaul Art Museum. This is the second exhibition for the museum in its brand new building, and we’re hearing that there will be an interactive photo booth for the show!

The DePaul Art Museum will feature portraits by the internationally celebrated photographer Malick Sidibé, who has documented life in Bamako, Mali, for half a century, as part of “Studio Malick,” an exhibition that opens March 29. Free and open to the public, the exhibition runs through June 3.

An opening reception for the exhibitions will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. March 29 at the museum, located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave., just east of the CTA’s Fullerton “L” stop.

Studio Malick features lively black-and-white photographs by Sidibé, a Malian photographer noted for his carefully posed portraits and images of the exuberant nightlife in Bamako in the 1960s. Sidibé’s photos capture a unique moment in a time of political transition and cultural liberation as a youth culture of music, dancing and fashion exploded in the once-conservative West African nation of Mali as it gained independence from France.

“Sidibé’s photos are simultaneously intimate and evocative of an extraordinary time and place,” said Louise Lincoln, director of the DePaul Art Museum. “His use of props and the way he posed his subjects present them as they wished to be seen, and at the same time his perception of character makes each image distinctive.”

In recent years, Sidibé has been celebrated internationally for the strength and insight of his photographs, and his work has moved from being family keepsakes in middle-class Bamako homes to adorning the walls of museums throughout the world.

With a diversity of photographic objects—original proofs and recent enlargements of studio portraits, along with the vintage prints displayed in hand-painted frames—this exhibition explores both the art and commerce of Studio Malick.

At the same time, “Andy Warhol: Photographs,” an exhibition featuring 25 original Polaroid photographs and gelatin silver prints, will also be on display. Images of the famous and not-so-famous show Warhol’s fascination with celebrity and his practice of making photos that served as sketches for more finished works of art. The works are part of a gift to the DePaul Art Museum from the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program.

The Studio Malick and Andy Warhol exhibits are the second offerings at the DePaul Art Museum’s new $7.8 million home, which opened in September 2011. The museum is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, please call (773) 325-7506 or visit http://museums.depaul.edu.

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New Gallery Spotlight: Courtney Blades Gallery

Tamara Dolyniuk

Photo by Luke Armitstead

Visiting the Courtney Blades Gallery for the first time felt very much like being transplanted into the 1920s era of the speakeasy. The gallery, which only operates on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 5 pm, already limits access to the public. And on this particular Saturday afternoon, getting in meant knowing an insider. While unintentional, the gallery was closed without notice, but next door at the antique store Rethink, owner Marie Barnhart had the key to get in, Mickey Pomfrey and Blake Harris’ phone numbers.

Mickey Pomfrey and Blake Harris are co-owners of the Courtney Blades Gallery, which ignites the curiosity of who then is Courtney Blades?  Courtney Blades is an alias they created, a parody on today’s art world where the typical commercial gallery is named after its owner if it ever wants to gain esteem. Courtney Blades is not a person but an aberration.

The Courtney Blades Gallery began almost incidentally in October of 2010 with Cocktails: An Artist’s Patio, an event the two organized in what is now the gallery’s backyard. They found it to be well received and rewarding, so soon after, when the property became available, Mickey and Blake decided to open a more permanent experimental space and try their hands at being gallery owners.

Photo by Luke Armitstead

The mission of the Courtney Blades Gallery is to provide a space for young emerging artists to make work without restriction and to offer an alternative mentality as to how a commercial gallery can operate. Mickey and Blake take on a curatorial role in executing their mission but curate the gallery’s artists more so than the actual pieces. Seeing that both are full-time, undergraduate students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), they certainly don’t have a shortage of artists to choose from. They pull work from their existing network in the Chicago art community but also accept proposals. In determining which artists will be granted representation, Mickey and Blake examine the breadth of work in each artist’s oeuvre. Upon selection, they assume a hands-off approach, letting the shows take off on their own.

Photo by Luke Armitstead

Past shows at the Courtney Blades Gallery have been quite conceptual, melding both traditional and graphic aesthetics with Internet technology. There has been no restriction as to the types of mediums represented, as exhibitions at the gallery have included sculpture, painting, performance, video and sound installations. The gallery in a way embodies a new modernism, where conceptual pieces can also reaffirm classic aesthetic qualities and create a dialogue of dual existences.

Mickey and Blake are both artists themselves. They choose not to show their own work for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the gallery’s curatorial practice. For now, they are more interested in creating a space for other people and providing a helpful eye and hand. When asked if they plan to maintain their focus on curatorial practices in the future, they responded, “We will do whatever we want to do. One thing might take precedence for a little while, but ultimately, why can’t we do it all?” Sounds like a triple threat.

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Joyce Owens Reviews ‘The Convert’ and ‘Camino Real’ at the Goodman Theatre

Joyce Owens

While Chilford (LeRoy McClain) tries to calm Uncle (Harold Surratt) and Kuda (Warner Miller), Mai Kuda (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) holds back Jekesai/Ester (Pascale Armand) during an argument in The Convert

It is practically sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll recently at the Goodman Theatre performances of Race, The Convert and Camino Real. These in-your-face, well-directed and acted plays have graced the stage in contemporary style, even as they address historic, fictional and re-envisioned plays. Not one was predictable; not one neglected to alter my thinking and afterwards stimulate excited discussions relating to the meaning of each and current or personal events. The three plays travel between quiet subversion in Race, to lengthy cultural conversion in The Convert, to surrealistic absurdity in Camino Real. I made a contribution on Race (and its run has ended), so I will share a few thoughts about the other two.

A well-earned standing ovation coupled with loud applause marked the culmination of the 3-hour performance of The Convert, and my realization that I stood with tears in my eyes slowly trailing down my cheeks.  I did not feel much like applauding, at first, because I was so sad, living this era through the well-crafted play by Danai Gurira, an Obie award winning actor turned playwright. I recognized the play’s truth and relevance over a century past the original point in history. So, besides applauding, I was tempted to stamp my feet and yell out loud in recognition of the gift that had been bestowed on the audience…

During those hours that, surprisingly, flew by, I experienced a painful reminder of colonial African history –the play is set between 1895-1897. Coinciding with post-Emancipation in America, The Convert presents a small reminder about the strife, distrust, and destruction of lifestyles and wealth that comes with the belief that one culture is inherently superior to another.  Salisbury, now Hare, Zimbabwe in Southern Africa is the locale. After succumbing to the inevitability of colonization , many of its victims were convinced, as the slaves in America sometimes were, that they only had to adapt to the religion, manner of dressing, language and mores to become “civilized” and worthy to mingle with their ”superior” new masters, subjugating the traditions the Africans knew were also valid.

Prudence (Zainab Jah) receives comfort from Chilford (LeRoy McClain) in The Convert

A small cast allows us precious time with each actor, each a snapshot of a type that describes a complicated time. Mai Kuda (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) is our first memorable personality who displays the authentic South African dialects the actors acquired and the play’s sense of humor within its despair.  Then I was briefly shocked as the youthful Jekesai (Pascale Armand) enters, her given name is immediately discarded and replaced by the Biblical name Esther when she arrives to be saved from a forced marriage to Uncle (Harold Surrat). I saw Esther as the essence of purity in her traditional garb, an Eve in the Garden of Eden before the fall. She is offered an education that she embraces fully to become a better missionary than her mentor, Chilford (LeRoy McClain). Her Machiavelli and aspiring Catholic priest Chilford is a true-believer, sincere and naïve, he teaches Esther about Christ.

André De Shields takes center stage at the Fiesta in Calixto Bieito’s reimagined production of Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real

Experiencing Esther’s transformation after escaping from Uncle and living with Mai, she dresses in British clothing and manages to find her strength. I was pleased that three contrasting women are represented, first Mai and Esther and later Prudence (Zainab Jah), who provides another view of black colonial womanhood. This diversity is significant as we celebrate women this month. The male characters, including Prudence’s fiancé The Chancellor (Kevin Mambo) struck me as weaker, bringing to mind Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple. The storyline rings timeless, as Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. You can’t beat the luxury of entertainment combined with a history lesson that opens our eyes to an intimate slice of humanity, unless you can’t sit still for the three hour play that includes two intermissions.

Camino Real

Lord Byron (Mark L. Montgomery) decides to leave the Camino Real

Opening smoky and blue, an eerily Tennessee Williams looking drunk is center stage, sexy until he threw up!  “Old men have no fools except themselves,” he gurgles. Camino Real (1953), by Tennessee Williams and directed by Calixto Bieito who, with March Rosich re-envisioned the play, provided visual stimulation to spare including an industrial strength changing light show that could be part of a Great America ride as easily as an installation in the Museum of Contemporary Art. A set in constant motion, the light show (cliché alert!) was its own character, and a host of vivid, surreal players who might seem familiar, but who you mostly hope don’t show up for Christmas dinner. This play may be absurd, but nearly real fantasies elicit groans and laughter and a freedom to not understand it, just enjoying the experience.  The content is strange, stream-of-conscious, non-linear, avant-garde, postmodern and either reflects a dream state or a drug-induced hallucination with elements of acrobatics a la Cirque Du Soleil, a bit of the good ol’ Chicago Blues, and the purgatory streets you might imagine under a deserted Chicago viaduct. The highlight of an overall amazing experience was a musical rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” by Baron De Charlus (André De Shields) who extends one bold note of his delivery for four measures without a hint he couldn’t hold it longer if he chose to.

To experience all the characters in the play visit goodmantheatre.org

To borrow 1960’s parlance, it was a happening.

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Hackerspace at Pumping Station 1: Will the Arts Go Open Source?

From the archives of when Chicago Art Magazine’s Founder and Publisher Kathryn Born was at the helm of the Chicago Now blog. This post was originally published on September 29th, 2009.

Kathryn Born

Do you want to know how copyright issues will resolve themselves in the future? Then start looking at GNU and the Open Source community. The art world can learn a lot and save itself a lot of wasted time if it just learned the lesson these guys did 30 years ago. Even Microsoft is on board with open source now (a little bit).

Or, you know what? We can hold on like Apple, or make a complete ass of ourselves like Damien Hirst did by trying to sue a teenager and thus launching his new brand “Crotchety Old Man.”

Open Source is the name for what used to be called the Free Software Movement. Their motto was free as in “freedom,” not free as in “beer.” It was a revolution in grassroots collaboration — together, as a team, sharing what they knew and building upon the work of their fellows, they created a computer operating system called Linux. The idea of the GNU license is that you can have it for free, use it, build on it, and even sell it, but you can’t turn around and be all proprietary about it. You, in turn, have to allow your work to be freely built upon.

Doesn’t that sound goddamn beautiful? Why don’t we do that? All art is built upon other people’s art, right? Why don’t we share and have a little faith that what goes around, comes around?

And speaking of working as a group and giving freely, check out Hackerspace. This is a (501c3) group that has locations around the U.S. They just opened a local spot called Pumping Station 1, and it’s a workspace for hackers, artists, and normal people to share ideas and work on projects together. They’ve got Eli making clothes with LED lights, and others are working on a machine that can build a machine just like itself. And when they’re done, and robots can build robots all by themselves, the singularity will be near.

Josh, the guy who let us in and showed us around, said they were working on a full-wall-Tetris video game. I asked, “What are you going to do with it when you’re done?”

He looked at me strangely for a moment and said, “Um … play Tetris on it?”

That’s funny, it the art world, we’d never play it. We would tour it around the art fairs and try to sue the pants off anyone making art with interlocking block shapes.

They meet every Tuesday night at 7 PM, 3354 N. Elston. The meeting is free and open to the public to check out. No sign outside, just ring the doorbell.