Author: Emily Breidenbach

Arranging, Abstracting, and Transforming at Experimental Sound Studio

Entering Without Within at Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) in Ravenswood, you encounter a variety of sculptural objects comprised of glazed ceramic, cuts of wood, and metal panels made by multidisciplinary artist Mie Kongo. The pieces, an amalgamation of these natural materials, are combined so carefully and intentionally as they emanate a calm confidence. One piece features an amoeba-like, white structure that exists on top of a tree log that’s been cleanly chopped on top and bottom. Two rectangle tiles grow out of the amoeba and a small metal panel cleanly sits atop all of this chaos.  Surrounding this visual experience is the subtle influx of sound that oscillates between somewhat recognizable and minimal industrial sounds to more complex abstractions, created by sound artist Norman Long. This sort of arranging, abstracting, and transforming lies at the heart of the exhibition, curated by Ruth Hodgkins, the current Bentson Archivist and Assistant Curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Throughout the exhibition, both artists take inspiration from the world around them but choose to adjust, amend, and …

Illustration by Tesh Silver.

Magic and Art: Celebrating the New Moon in Taurus

After a careful shuffle and posing a question out loud, the first card I pull is the Eight of Swords, showing sharp, dark purple criss-crossed sabers with the word “Interference” ominously written across the bottom. The second card I pull is the Prince of Swords, on it, a green tyrannical figure rides a chariot while holding the reins of three smaller figures, who are seemingly prisoners and propel the chariot forward. The Knight of Wands is next, featuring a figure in chainmail armor on a rearing horse in front of a glaring pyramid of flames. Upon first glance as a tarot novice, none of this is making me feel at ease. My card reader goes on to explain in depth what each card and its orientation in the spread could potentially mean for me, and I begin to understand that the iconography of each card may not be a literal representation of what’s going on in my life (much to my relief, as I was definitely concerned about the pyramid of flames in that last …

Art Against the Flow and a Semantic Ecotone

As I walk into the gallery space, I’m greeted by vibrant and seemingly disparate groups of artworks. On one wall, there are bold, schematic line drawings of Chicago architecture. To my right are totem-like sculptures with intricate embellishments. Across the way is a collection of flat landscapes with skewed perspectives. This is Chicago Calling: Art Against the Flow, an exhibition on view at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art as part of Art Design Chicago. Throughout the show, it seems that the curators Kenneth Burkhart and Lisa Stone refrain from hand-holding me through a chronological, step-by-step development of an artist or artistic movement. As I trace my way through the space, pausing at each work, I soon realize that the absence of a consistent, linear narrative may be the point. Intuit’s mission is to celebrate the power of outsider art, which they define on their website as “the works of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world and who instead are motivated by their unique personal visions.” With this in …

Heart & Bone Signs, Electro Pepper Gallery, and Labor-Based Artwork

Kelsey Dalton McClellan and Andrew James Welch McClellan have owned and operated Heart & Bone, Gold Gilded and Hand Painted Signs for the past six years, specializing in gold leaf and hand-painted signs throughout Chicago and nation-wide. The duo has now expanded their repertoire as they open their new gallery, Electro Pepper, in the Uptown neighborhood. Their aim is to use this endeavor as a flexible space to promote learned trades and labor-based artworks. Sixty Inches from Center sat down with Kelsey and Andrew to learn more about their path as sign painters, artists, and now, gallery owners. Emily Breidenbach: We’re sitting in your new gallery space, Electro Pepper. What can you tell me about it? Kelsey Dalton McClellan: The space we are in is multi-use. The front is a flexible gallery space and the back is our sign painting studio. Eventually, we’d like to have workshops and other events outside of art openings. At the moment, we’re kind of testing it out and receiving community response through monthly art openings. The majority of the time, we’re working in the back in our workspace, so …

Lakshmi Ramgopal’s “A Half-Light Chorus”

As I’m nestled between the drapes of lush green fronds in the Fern Room at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, I become aware of the ambient sounds. I hear the steady trickle of nearby water and the bird calls that fill the space. As I wait for the afternoon performance to start, the bird calls begin to demand a bit more of my attention. I hear what sounds like a whistle and then what sounds like a human call. Then, clicking, brief pauses, more clicking, and suddenly a layer of bird calls that begin to sound more and more human as the moments pass, all followed by what I’m sure is a human sound. Click. Pause. Bird call? Chirp. No, definitely a human call. Wail. Human call. Pause. As I become more aware of the presence of the piece, Lakshmi Ramgopal and her ensemble, clad in all white, take their places for the final performance for this installation. This environmental soundscape, which feels simultaneously personal and celestial, is Lakshmi Ramgopal’s installation “A Half Light Chorus” at the Lincoln Park Conservatory as part of …

Envisioning an Abolitionist Future

What would the world be like if we eliminated prisons, surveillance, and policing? What types of alternative methods can we seek to pursue justice? What systems can we set in place to encourage people to come clean about their wrongdoings? These questions are at the center of the prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition movement, which aims to dismantle violent systems founded on oppression and inequality, including imprisonment, surveillance, and policing. These questions are also ever-relevant in Chicago, a city with a long history of racist police violence. Do Not Resist? 100 Years of Chicago Police Violence, a recent community-based, artist-led multi-site exhibition that took place across Chicago at the Hairpin Arts Center, Roman Susan Gallery, Uri-Eichen Gallery, and Art In These Times, presented artworks that dealt with Chicago’s history of police violence. The artworks focused on specific victims and incidents of police violence, shifting the dialogue to question the PIC more universally. The final event of the exhibition-related programming, “The Aesthetics of Abolition in the 21st Century,” brought together Mariame Kaba and Sarah Ross to discuss the …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …