Month: May 2018

Review: Out of Easy Reach

In December 2017, Tempestt Hazel, a founding editor of Sixty Inches From Center, wrote an essay titled “A Case, Cosign, and Roll Call for Women of Color in the Arts.” Rooted in weariness but ending with practical strategies for the inclusion of Women of Color (WoC) in the arts, the article uses the appointment of Julie Rodrigues Widholm as Director and Chief Curator at the DePaul Art Museum as an example of “stealthily building women into the fabric without writing it on the wall, and as if it was the mission all along.” It then goes on to call out the then-upcoming exhibition Out of Easy Reach curated by Allison M. Glenn, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, as another example that promotes this particular method of inclusivity. Glenn’s exhibition combines the forces of arts practitioners and administrators (including Rodrigues Widholm) working primarily across the city of Chicago to present 24 female-identifying Black and Latinx artists who use abstraction “as a tool to explore histories both personal and universal, with a focus in mapping, …

Searching for Our Ancestors: Mexican Artists at Arte Diseño Xicágo

Arte Diseño Xicágo, which is on display through August 19th at the National Museum of Mexican Art, traces our community’s art history in Chicago back to the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893) and up to the Civil Rights Movement. At a moment where we are being scapegoated nationally, targeted by white supremacist politicians, and pushed out by gentrification, this exhibition flexes a beautiful reminder that we have BEEN here. It can give solace to look back at the past and see our antepasados, those who have come before us, creating and dreaming of making the world a better place for those who come after, a sentiment we can draw strength from to do the same. I toured the exhibition with two artists from Mexican backgrounds, curious about what connections we would all see. In addition to feeling inspired by our history, we also all found ourselves questioning the role that the distinction between art and design has played historically in the marginalization of our art.  Those of us from marginalized communities find ourselves and our history in …

Snapshot: Gather Series at Comfort Station

Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. We sent questions to Allen Moore, Nick Meryhew, and Rebecca Himelstein, the curatorial team behind the Gather series at Comfort Station. Gather is an experimental music series bringing musicians and performers from different scenes, backgrounds, practices, disciplines, and communities together for connection and artistic exchange. For information on their upcoming events, as well as past performances, visit them here.  Sixty Inches From Center: To start broadly, what were you envisioning when you started Gather? Can you give us some context for the title? GATHER: We wanted to represent Chicago’s highly active experimental music and performance community by creating a series that highlighted some different approaches to the artists’ chosen medium. For each bill we attempt to bring together artists who might not otherwise be presented side-by-side. We see this as a way of facilitating new audience and artist interactions …

‘Body As Image’ Exhibition at Chicago Artists Coalition

The ‘Body As Image’ exhibition featuring the work of Kioto Aoki, Colleen Keihm, and Darryl DeAngelo Terrell creates a space in which black identity and body politics are simultaneously explored within a historical context through the literal lens of photography, while also repositioning itself outside of these narratives by using alternative modes of image-making such as cyanotypes and photograms. This exhibition, presented by Chicago Artist Coalition, features HATCH Project artists-in-residence and was curated by Chicago-based Sabrina Greig, who is the current curator-in-residence. The exhibition is on view from April 27th – May 17th. Walking into the Body as Image exhibition at Chicago Artist Coalition’s gallery, I immediately noticed that each piece, as well as the gallery itself, is completely absent of color. However, that is not to say it is lacking variance in tone. The stark white of the walls of the gallery provide a dramatic contrast that allowed me to take notice of the subtle variations in tone in the many shades of blacks and browns present within the work. Not only do the darker …

Hidden Gems in the Paul V. Galvin Library of the Illinois Institute of Technology

Last summer on a research visit with a colleague, I entered the Special Collections Archive of the Paul V. Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). In this space, I was looking through visual materials produced by students in the Design School made from the 1960s to the 1980s. This gallery holds works by many artists who are not seen in the public sphere today. This essay aims to provide crucial biographical information on several of artists and the contexts from which they produce their work. I begin by exploring the works made by Jose Williams who is responding to his experiences as a Black man in Chicago’s Bronzeville context. I then turn to the work of an undernoted woman represented the archive named Valeerat Burapavong. I hope to provide contextual insights and visual analysis on the works produced by these artists. I argue that the works produced in this period (1960s-1980s) challenge notions of race, ethnicity, and gender. Jose Williams: Constructing a Black Chicago in Serigraphy Featured in this archive are works …

Dissenting through Craft with Aram Han Sifuentes

Born out of frustration at the country’s current political state and feeling unsafe to protest, fiber and social practice artist Aram Han Sifuentes began making fabric protest banners the day after the 2016 Presidential election. During her residency at the Chicago Cultural Center, she presented the Protest Banner Lending Library where the public could make, donate and check-out protest banners at no charge. The ongoing library invites people to support movements of dissent through making something with care: dynamic banners on novelty fabric that proudly wear slogans such as “Multi Culti Cuties Unite,” “Too Cute To Be Binary,” and “The Future is Female and Brown.” Hundreds of banners later, it is still a practical resource for organizers and activists who need the assistance and encouragement. Since then, the library has been presented and activated at Alphawood Gallery in Chicago and is currently at the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis, where Sifuentes is an artist in residence this summer. The Protest Banner Lending Library was an act of catharsis and solidarity for the artist, bringing people together …

Inside Gertrude Abercrombie’s Mind – and Work

The dark gray-blue walls of the new exhibition at the Illinois State Museum of Chicago artist Gertrude Abercrombie’s work beckon the viewer to enter into the surreal rooms of her mind. With several standalone installations with painted furniture and a single pedestal with a column, doily, and cup Abercrombie actually used to paint the still life behind it, we are led even further into the depths of her mind. This exhibition not only gives us a look at work by Abercrombie in a variety of media from a variety of decades, but it also gives us a look at the woman behind the work. With pictures of her with friends like Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie, pictures of her in her own home with her cat and surrounded by her work. Gertrude Abercrombie liked to think of herself as the “Queen of Chicago”, and among her circle, she surely was; hosting weekend jam sessions, evenings of revelry, and all night parties as well as being a creative spirit making work that won awards at the …

Review: I want to be pretty until I die at Baby Blue Gallery

The child is grown, and puts away childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies. – Edna St. Vincent Millay And the artists at Baby Blue Gallery, Traci Fowler, Alex Bach, and Carmen Chaparro are immortalizing feelings of youthful desires and fleeting moments in our memory. Baby Blue Gallery is run by Caleb Beck and located in a warehouse space in the Pilsen neighborhood. With early beginnings in his apartment, Beck highlights young emerging artists rather than focusing on a profit-motivated commercial gallery. When Beck first saw Carmen Chaparro’s work, he knew that he wanted to exhibit her work in a show at Baby Blue. Including Alex Bach and Traci Fowler, the exhibition, “I want to be pretty until i die” features the three-person show of  paintings, sculptures, and assemblage pieces that touch on themes of nostalgia, humor, kitsch, and summer. The shows intention opened at the beginning of Chicago’s warm weather, when paintings like Chaparro’s pink pool toys were a soon-to-be reality for many of us who braved another cold winter. Chaparro is originally from …

Double Feature: Intimate Justice: Manal Kara & “Immanentizing the Eschaton” Exhibition Review

“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 Manal Kara about living in the woods, the thousands of sexes in fungi, and BDSM subculture.  SNL: Where are you from originally? What brought you to Chicago? MK: I was born in Pennsylvania but grew up in England and Kansas. My parents are from Morocco and the rest of my family all still live there and I have dual citizenship. I moved to Chicago on a whim 12 years ago. SNL: Can you talk about living in Gary, Indiana? How has your art practice changed since moving there? MK: I live in a big forest on the dunes. My relationship with non-human organisms has deepened considerably, which has had a huge influence on my artwork and my intellectual interests more generally.  SNL: You work in a variety of medium. Can you talk about your craft based work, like your ceramics? MK: …

Unplanned: Timothy Winkelman at Jan Brandt Gallery

I. GROUND CONTROL Timothy Winkelman’s digital video, Unplanned, immediately vexes the viewer with a question:  what, exactly, is unplanned about Unplanned? Due in no small part to its infinitesimal scope – the video doesn’t quite reach a full minute in length, and lingers on visual and musical subjects that could easily be overlooked – one could be forgiven for focusing less on immersing themself in the work’s content and more on the confluence of formal planning that underpins a video production. But upon repeated viewings, Winkelman’s camera lets something else appear: a subtle commentary on the desire to shape a space into a dwelling where one may Be in the World. The video never detaches its gaze from an urban scene: a modern building – perhaps an apartment complex – alongside a city street. We quickly see that this is a very built environment, quite the opposite of an “unplanned” setting. The city, particularly in its American grid form, constitutes perhaps the height of planning. Urbanity is the coordination of intent and execution, subjugation of nature and …