Year: 2017

Exaltations: Ricardo Gamboa, Storyfront, and Theater as a Living Archive

There is a certain way that we are often expected to approach Mexicanidad in our practices – whatever our field—one that centers the white gaze, commodifies our pain, exotifies us, and overall, attempts to deviate us from our original visions to a didactic one, namely, one burdened with the mandate to teach others about ourselves. I remember picking up a book in my elementary school’s library called The Mexicans, expecting to read about my family’s homeland, wanting a connection.  Reading the first sentence, which said “The Mexicans are a proud people” under unrecognizable caricatures, I narrowed my eyes and put it down, realizing that it wasn’t written for an actual Mexican like me. This disappointment has become familiar over time. Is this show actually for someone like me or is it for the type of people The Mexicans was meant for? I narrow my eyes. It’s hard to tell beforehand since criticism tends to have little representation of diverse voices who can evaluate work through different perspectives. But one of the artists in Chicago whose …

Lynne Warren on the Contemporary Art World, Chicago, and the MCA

Lynne Warren, Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), is a true pioneer in the field of contemporary art. Her innovative and thoughtful approach to her work is demonstrated in the major shows she’s spearheaded for the museum, such as Dan Peterman: Plastic Economies in 2004; Alexander Calder: Form, Balance, and Joy in 2010, and Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes in 2013, just to name a few, as well as the numerous essays and books she’s published. As Lynne transitions to adjunct status at the MCA, we caught up with her to delve deeper into her expansive achievements and unique path in the art world. Emily Breidenbach: Thank you so much for meeting with me. Let’s start out with a little bit about your background—where you grew up and things of that nature. Lynne Warren: Yes, my background, which is very much in the background at this point in my life, is a kind of interesting one. I was actually born on the East coast but my father moved the whole family, and I’m …

Walking Through Change with Deep Time Chicago

It’s an unseasonably warm December morning and I’m driving cautiously through a Chicago warehouse district, south on Ashland Avenue past an overpass of the Stevenson expressway. The slice of the interstate makes this patch of the city feel like a peninsula, jutting timidly into a convergence of two stretches of the Chicago River. My directions lead me down a small road innocuously named Marketplace Access, past the slick corporate bulk of the QTS Data Center campus, and I’ve arrived. I join a group of about forty light-jacketed companions at Canal Origins Park for a walk through the city’s history of timber extraction with Deep Time Chicago, a collective of ecology-minded artists who want to retrain our awareness to our surroundings, and the artists Sara Black and Raewyn Martyn, whose joint installation Edward Hines National Forest is on view at the Hyde Park Art Center. The park commemorates the point where the Illinois & Michigan Canal once connected the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River drainage basin. It’s an impressive sounding spot, but if I’ve ever …

Interpreting Faye Driscoll’s “Play”: The Art of Audio Description and ASL Interpretation

None of the typical rules of a play apply here. Then again, when you come to a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, you aren’t really expecting typical, are you? Play is the second performance in a series called Thank You For Coming, created by Bessie Award–winning director and choreographer, Faye Driscoll. This performance “uses the ritual of storytelling to explore our reliance on stories to relate to one another and form identities as individuals and citizens.” What begins as a communal audience-participation on stage quickly delves into a parody of an absurd theater act. Employing multiple meanings of the term “play,” the cast performs a drama but an allowance for improvisation leaves room for the actors to engage in the more fanciful version of “play” as well. Play is also atypical in its breaking of the fourth wall. Not only does a sound engineer remain on stage, occasionally being called into the action, but Driscoll herself joins the cast. At times she is grabbing props or directing the actors, as if it were a rehearsal …

Five Highlights from the Chicago Art Book Fair 2017

The first Chicago Art Book Fair, running from November 16-19, provided a platform for new initiatives and varied paths within the world of arts publishing. The fair took place in multiple rooms of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, but also encompassed offsite programming and after-parties. One of the most unique things about the Chicago Art Book Fair was the range of vendors. The public fair featured an international group of over 100 arts publishers, small presses, printmakers, comics artists, book artists, and zinemakers. Five Chicago Art Book Fair Highlights: 1. Meekling Press Meekling Press is a Chicago-based press that specializes in collaborating with authors through the entire design process, from conception to production. This approach to publishing is significantly more intimate than other methods. Their projects range from producing publishing-related events, postcards, and mini-novels, all the way to e-books and short stories. 2. Mystery Spot Books  Mystery Spot Books is a Minneapolis-based press that creates short-run artist books and zines. Named after the tourist trap attractions that prevail on road trip landscapes, this press focuses on books that …

Collector’s Corner: Dana Mees-Athuring

“Collector’s Corner” looks at the artistic, curatorial, and cultural forces behind the act of collecting. We visit the homes, businesses, garages, desks, and closets of artists and cultural producers who thrive from this occasionally unruly practice. For this installment, we talk to Dana Mees-Athuring at her residence in Logan Square about her collection of 1930s memorabilia, Chicago history, and the politics of femininity and design. Dana Mees-Athuring is a woman who communicates through many means: plants, bread recipes, garage sales. She is one of the first neighbors that I befriended after I moved to Chicago two years ago. Throughout the time I have known her, her stories and interests have become an inextricable element to my conception of what this city invites and celebrates. A Chicago native, Dana has had every kind of job that is near or distant to art throughout the city’s dynamic history. Her house is a galleria of vintage and rare treasures from the many eras that she celebrates and honors through her collections of art, books, household items, ephemera, and more. …

Adrienne Ciskey: Invisible Illnesses and the Power of Play

If you suffer with a chronic illness, specifically one that others cannot see, the anxiety of  whether or not others take your pain seriously, on top of the endless physical battle with your own body, is very real. There is a hierarchy of illness in our culture based on assumptions of “seriousness” that is rarely acknowledged or discussed. A social judgment of validity is made about an illness, and if you are a woman suffering from an illness that is not only invisible but also widely unknown then the legitimacy of your pain dissipates quicker than the “no” you hear from the doctor when you ask if there is any known cure for your pain. Living with hypoglycemia and hyperthyroidism, I am no stranger to the slight eye rolls when I vocalize my symptoms and  I often find myself suppressing my needs, emotional and otherwise,  for the sake of avoiding skeptical responses from others. The question I ask myself time and time again is: How can others recognize something like an invisible illness? This question …

Build, Break, Repeat: An Interview with HOGG

To experience a live HOGG set is mesmerizing and terrifying. Over bass lines that pulsate, H and E* growl, howl, crawl, laugh, scream, and slam their bodies onto unsuspecting instruments. And then they stand still—so still, for so long. These movements are methodical and choreographed as they swap instruments that include bass, guitar, a floor tom, electronic samplers and drum machines. When I think of HOGG I think of my best friend. Around the time when we first saw HOGG play, we were also making music together, and we cared deeply about ecstatic, physical performances. It was moving then, and almost a relief, to see another pair of musicians dedicating their whole selves and bodies to that end. HOGG has three studio records to date (“Solar Phallic Lion,” Scrapes, 2016; “Carnal Lust & Carnivorous Eating,” Rotted Tooth Recordings, 2016; “Bury the Dog Deeper,” Nihilist Records, 2015), with a fourth album set to be released this spring. Like the live performances, their lyrics evoke embodiment, horror, sensuality, and psychology. HOGG occasionally collaborates with other artists, such as the dancer Eryka Dellenbach and …

Without, Within the World: The Dojo

Call them DIY, alternative, radical, or safe, Chicago’s independent art spaces create a world without money and borders within a world defined by both. They function as community hubs and communal living spaces, providing free and affordable entertainment, hosting activism workshops and food drives, and building connections among young, emerging, and marginalized artists. “Without, Within the World” is a series of interviews that asks curators and administrators about building utopia while maintaining viable spaces.      The first to be profiled is the Dojo, an underground performance venue and gallery in Pilsen. Though the Dojo has its roots in the DIY music scene, their curation constantly skirts the boundaries between genres and communities. Established in 2015 by Alex Palma, Mykele Deville, and Daniel Kyri (DK), who all lived in Pilsen at the time, the Dojo is now run by Palma and Calie Ramone, who work with a variety of outside curators and “Dojo Homies,” who put together diverse music and art shows two or three times a week. When I meet Palma at his Pilsen apartment (he …

First Nations Film and Video Festival

For over 15 years the First Nations Film and Video Festival has provided Native American film and video makers of all skill levels a platform to show works that break racial stereotypes and promote awareness of contemporary Native American issues and society. This year, the festival presented over 30 films across  the span of ten days at 11 different venues including the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, the Beverly Arts Center, and the American Indian Center. The final event was a special screening of three films hand-picked by festival director Ernest M. Whiteman III (Northern Arapaho) at Comfort Station in Logan Square. The first film, Advent, directed by Jonah T. Begay (Navajo Nation), was a short story about two young children, one human and one alien. The film, mostly silent sans a few well placed Foley sounds and a musical score, begins by following the human boy as he cares for an elderly woman with low vision, bringing her breakfast and guiding her on walks through the city and the woods over …

Erica Mei Gamble outside Harold Washington Library

Communal Sound Space

Erica Mei Gamble is a musician, storyteller, and children’s librarian at the Chicago Public Library. These roles converge in her ongoing project Communal Sound Space, an ever-expanding collection of video footage of DIY music and performance in Chicago. Since the launch of its online presence in August 2017, the archive makes public hundreds of videos documenting nearly a decade of performances in DIY spaces and small galleries around the city. The project amounts to a deeply personal history of Chicago music. Erica has filmed each performance herself, setting up shop at a good angle. Watching her record has become part of the fabric of going to a certain type of show: intimate, experimental, and for the most part, ephemeral. Thanks to Erica, that last bit is changing. Anyone curious about what goes on after hours in the darkened spaces of Chicago can now experience—or pause, rewind, and relive—a slice of it from anywhere in the world. I caught up with Erica about her project—creating safe spaces for expression, the impulse to document, maintaining an archive …

Snapshot: Pilsen Days by Akito Tsuda

Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers six short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. We sent questions to Japanese artist Akito Tsuda, whose photo exhibit Pilsen Days showcases images of the neighborhood he took in the early 1990s while he was a student at Columbia College. Pilsen Days is currently on view at La Catrina Cafe. The non-profit Cultura in Pilsen fundraised to  organize a limited edition printing of Tsuda’s photos and to cover the travel costs to bring the artist from his home in Osaka, Japan to Chicago for the first time in over 20 years. Tsuda will be in conversation with Sebastian Hidalgo at La Catrina Cafe on November 5, 2017 from 2 – 5 pm for Pilsen Days Artist Talk and Farewell Reception.   Sixty Inches From Center: What got you interested in photographing Pilsen and what was the experience like? Akito Tsuda: I was attracted to the fact that in Pilsen …

Front-woman: A Look at Fran

I first saw Maria Jacobson from Fran play over the summer at The Hideout. Her voice, which I had previously only heard on Bandcamp, was atmospheric. It was natural. Her lyrics, empathetic and encapsulated with raw emotion and narrative, were something I could cry to. In short, I’ve been trying to pencil as many Fran shows into my calendar ever since. I met Maria in Humboldt Park, where we chatted about where she is going and what she is doing since picking up music a year ago. S. Nicole Lane: You studied theater, right? Maria Jacobson: Yeah, so I went to school for acting—for theater—and was pretty set on being an actor when I moved back home [Chicago], and did it for a year. I did musical theater growing up, so I have a strong singing background, and also studied some music in college—sort of broadly. I was the singer in bands—in high school and college—but never had a personal songwriting practice. I was trying to be an actor for a year, and then two year ago I got an …

Intimate Justice: Lauren Steinberg

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to Lauren Steinberg in the grass of Lincoln Park about a queer future, pop culture, and rolling around online.  S. Nicole Lane: We can begin with your background. You’re from New York City.  Lauren Steinberg: Yeah. I grew up in New York City. Manhattan. My dad, he’s 75, he’s an older dad. He grew up there too, and he never left. He refuses to leave. He kind of tried to instill that in me. It worked for a while, I ended up going to undergrad at Pratt in Brooklyn. I think I wanted to punish myself a little bit for being an artist. Not that I didn’t love Pratt, Pratt was amazing, but it was definitely the most rigid school that I got into at the time. I was like, “If I’m really going to do this and suffer, because everyone tells …

Shared Work: Ryn Osbourne on Empathy, Relationship Building, and Transparency

Ryn Osbourne is a visual artist and arts administrator originally from Ohio and based in the Midwest.  Osbourne has worked in direct service as an educator and mentor, facilitating arts-based activities with youth of all ages. As co-manager of MINT Collective (2015–present) in Columbus, OH, Osbourne has helped carry out multiple community programs including “Junk Dada Super Sunday” for the Wexner Center for the Arts.  She has worked with VISIBLE:INVISIBLE, a program which hosts studio art workshops for homeless youth in Columbus, OH, and AXIOM: A Judgment Call for the Arts helping to organize artists to participate in art making workshops with inmates of Merion Correctional Institution in Ohio and providing project direction aligned with ethical community practice. After relocating to Chicago, IL in 2016 to pursue her M.A. in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Osbourne has worked with the Hyde Park Art Center as an education and programming intern assisting with community focus group research, has provided administrative support for Gary Lights Open Works, a social practice project based in …

Snapshot: Them/Here by Lukey Walden

Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers six short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. For our inaugural column, we sent our questions to Lukey Walden, whose show Them/Here: Variations on Trans Visibility at Sustain closes this week. To mark the end of Walden’s first solo exhibition, they will give a talk at Sustain on their work, the themes informing their practice, visibility, emotional labor, public spectacle and the function of images of trans people. The talk will take place October 24th, 2017 from 5:50 to 6:30 pm at Sustain Gallery.  Sixty Inches From Center: What was your inspiration for this show? Lukey Walden: The show began as an investigation into shared experience with other trans people. I had been out publicly for less than a year when I started these paintings, and I didn’t have many close friends who were trans, so it came from a desire to spend time …

Mural of white, blue and pink flowers on a brown wall with a newsletter on a pedestal.

¡Sí, Se Puede! at the Glass Curtain Gallery

¡Sí, Se Puede! is on view at the Glass Curtain Gallery until November 4, 2017. The show features the work of Victor Alemán, William Estrada, Ian Kerstetter, Nicole Marroquin, Victoria Martinez, Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes, with offsite murals by Hector Duarte and Sam Kirk. Each of the artists took engaging approaches to working with documents from the UFW archives and I caught up with Meg Duguid, curator of the exhibition and Director of Exhibitions at Columbia College, to talk about how this manifested in each of the different pieces. Jennifer Patiño Cervantes: So my first question is what was the inspiration for the show? Meg Duguid: This exhibition actually came about a little organically. We were approached by a partner of our office of Multicultural Affairs, now called the office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, who said that he might have access to the archives of Cesar Chavez and would we be interested in doing an exhibition. Long of it short, we said we would be interested in doing an exhibition, but we are a liberal …

Inside & Outside of the Book: A Look at the Self-Reliance Library and School

In Chicago, as in many cities, a few degrees of separation can make a huge difference.  Ridgeland Avenue, an Oak Park thoroughfare, and Austin Blvd, an entry-way into the Austin neighborhood, are divided by Lake Street, which is lined with shops, Pete’s Fresh Market, and the yellowest building, I would estimate, in a ten-mile radius. I walk towards Compound Yellow, an independent, experimental arts space, and feel like an invited intruder. The mere brightness of the building forces you to engage with it, but as you draw closer, the tenderness of the flags waving above the structure and the suspended cloth circles hanging from the trees indicate a sense of careful living. The three buildings that comprise the compound have been united since 2016, the most noticeable one declaring itself as the Self-Reliance School & Self-Reliance Library, a collaboration between  Compound Yellow and Chicago arts publisher Temporary Services. The Self-Reliance Library is a reading and creating library, an installation consisting of over 80 books, as well as furniture and banners that take influence from ideas …

Designing for a Fertile Future

As a designer who is concerned about the future of the planet, Jessica Gorse thinks sustainability is not a sufficient goal. If humans are to stem ongoing environmental and political crises, according to Gorse, they need to get more imaginative and take up regenerative projects that grow better future worlds. To that end, Gorse—who went back to school at age 28 for a degree in Designed Objects at SAIC—investigates the possible lifespans of materials we use every day. This takes form in her work with Fertile Design, a project she started with fellow SAIC students Erin Delaney and Soniya Khasgiwale. Together, they experiment with making plastics out of food waste that are then embedded with seeds and nutrient-rich natural dyes such that through biodegrading they replenish the soil and germinate. What is so great about Gorses’s work is that it is both idealistic and completely practical. She calls this practice “futurist world-building.” When I met Gorse in her studio at SAIC, we began by watching two of her experimental video projects before digging into Fertile Design. “Fusion Vision” is a lo-fi cartoon music video featuring a guitar-plucking …

Stealing Hearts and Making a Mess: Dominus by Maria Lux at DEMO

When I think of raccoons I think of Milk Duds. At a cabin where I was staying in the woods one summer, I inadvertently left a box of Milk Duds outside and later that night was met by a sticky raccoon at my door. I remember giggling as it ran down the stairs with its caramel and chocolate covered paws- sticky tracks that stayed visible for a couple of weeks. This is to say, somehow I find raccoons a bit charming. Maria Lux’s exhibition Dominus at DEMO Project in Springfield this August (2017) brought both this charm and mischief into the gallery. In the exhibition, Lux pairs humor with earnest text about the history of trying to domesticate raccoons as pets. Three hand-made raccoons sit atop Roomba vacuums, all named properly after pet raccoons, including Rebecca the pet of President Calvin Coolidge. The furry robots scoot around the gallery bumping into walls – not actually cleaning  pushing around empty pastel colored bottles and occasionally, each other. Surrounding the raccoons on the walls are suggestions of Memphis …