All posts filed under: Design

The Southwest Nest / El Nido Suroeste: An Interview with Alina Estrada (English & Español)

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park are neighborhoods on the Southwest Side of Chicago that are bundled together so often that they are given a similar reputation and narrative by the media. It isn’t always a good one. Today these neighborhoods still face violence, poverty, and more recently, gentrification. I would like to challenge the idea that violence is the only thing these neighborhoods have to offer by shining a light on the creative minds that enrich them. In this series, “The Southwest Nest,” I hope to celebrate and recognize these artists and share with you their perspectives of the neighborhoods they either work in or call home. Crafting has always been part of the fabric of the Southwest Side. Even as Crafts by Claudia, a neighborhood store that has been running for almost 40 years in Back of the Yards, prepares to close its doors, artist Alina Estrada is working on expanding her own crafty business, Party Mama Crafts. This Latina-owned business hosts painting and piñata-crafting workshops and classes. I had the …

Inga: Spacemaking Through and Around Books

Bookshops have often functioned as meeting points for peer discussion, an opportunity to find added resources, and a place to showcase newly discovered titles and remarkable projects in print and publishing. They frequently rely on the collective strength of their supporters, near and far. In August, the new bookshop Inga joined the Pilsen storefront space of the popular cine-club filmfront, already well-known for building community around its film screenings and events. Co-founders Malia Haines-Stewart and Alan Medina — along with their long-time friend and Chicago-based graphic designer Jacob Lindgren — opened Inga to expand upon their ongoing collaborations as an imprint and distribute self-published and independent titles. Throughout their years directing and programming events and screenings for filmfront, Haines-Stewart and Medina have developed an active and reciprocal connection across art and film communities in Chicago, building a reputation that has required a sincere effort in time and dedication. With the new addition of Inga and having Lindgren as a founding member, there is great momentum to broaden an already active community of supporters and enthusiasts …

What’s Your Logo, Virgil Abloh?

Virgil Abloh, street-forward renegade of high fashion and luxury art, speaks the trickster tongue of logos. Logos are his language, the figures of speech invoked in the title of his survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. If we are to understand logos as figures of speech, then we must trace their messaging on our bodies. We are subjected to logos more or less 24/7, but are we the subject of logos? Do logos express our subjectivity? Is there space for authenticity within logo culture? Abloh remixes and samples revered logos from Nike Air to Vuitton, unmaking in order to expose their conceptual significations and limitations, especially in relation to race.  “I want to read an existential essay on logo and art,” Abloh declared at the press preview Q & A.  +++ Logos ( λόγος) has a long history in philosophy and theory of rhetoric. In a discussion of speech versus writing, Plato contrasted logos, or what is said, with lexis (λέξις), or how it is being said, creating a binary of content and …

The Southwest Nest / El Nido Suroeste: An Interview with Rolando Santoyo (English & Español)

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park are neighborhoods on the Southwest Side of Chicago that are bundled together so often that they are given a similar reputation and narrative by the media. It isn’t always a good one. Today these neighborhoods still face violence, poverty, and more recently, gentrification. I would like to challenge the idea that violence is the only thing these neighborhoods have to offer by shining a light on the creative minds that enrich them. In this series, “The Southwest Nest,” I hope to celebrate and recognize these artists and share with you their perspectives of the neighborhoods they either work in or call home. Back of the Yards is one neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago that is often mentioned by the media in connection to violence. Many people forget that this same neighborhood inspired the muckraker Upton Sinclair to write his stomach-turning 1906 novel, “The Jungle.” Now, in 2019, a brilliant artist by the name of Rolando Santoyo has made his own tribute to the book …

When Art Meets Design: An Overview of the All-City High School Visual Arts Exhibition

Walking into the CPS All-City High School Visual Arts Exhibition, guests are greeted with an electrifying blue color on parallel zigzag walls, playful typography, and an array of artwork by high schoolers throughout Chicago. With every turn, there’s an attention-grabbing piece of art or something to interact with. The team at the Design Museum of Chicago has built its reputation around creating memorable and rewarding experiences, with this exhibition inviting the city’s young artists to reap the benefits of its thoughtful execution. DCASE has brought together the CPS Department of Visual Arts and the Design Museum of Chicago to organize two exhibitions: the All-City High School Visual Arts Exhibition and the All-City Elementary School Visual Arts Exhibition. The collaboration has sparked an overwhelming excitement over the possibilities within both organizations. “Everyone was so excited, it was like the roof was going to blow off the building,” exclaimed Tanner Woodford, Founder and Executive Director of the Design Museum. Having a show that was inclusive and representative of as many types of students as possible was at …

Locating Your Practice in ‘African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race,’ with D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

A century’s legacy of Black designers working at the nexus of the quotidian, politics, history, and market capitalism is brought into focus through African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race, on view at the Chicago Cultural Center until March 3, 2019. The show’s objects and design content show generations of Black designers fusing a shared past and visions of the future within their historical contexts. This chronicle highlights designers and artists producing in many mediums including Charles Dawson, Charles White, Jay Jackson, Zelda “Jackie” Ormes, Charles Harrison, LeRoy Winbush, William McBride, Sylvia (Laini) Abernathy, and Emmett McBain. Particular emphasis is given to how 20th century Black designers and artists in Chicago reframed the conception of the Black consumer within the market economy. By the same token, the concerns, aesthetics, pressures, and values of Chicago’s dynamic Black communities are embedded in each object. Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs expressed this responsiveness when discussing the origins of the South Side Community Arts Center, quoted in the exhibition materials: “As young black artists, we looked …

The Right to Heal: An Interview with Artist & Activist bria royal

bria royal is a 24-year-old multidisciplinary artist from the West side of Chicago. bria’s work often deals with Black and Indigenous mythologies, ecofeminism and futurist possibilities. In 2017, she released a graphic novel titled Black Girl Mania which fuses science fiction and personal narrative to follow a protagonist navigating mental illness in a post-climate change world’s last habitable land mass. Most recently, she illustrated Missing Daddy, a children’s book written by one of Chicago’s most prominent organizers and prison abolitionists, Mariame Kaba. Kaba has had a hand in developing many of Chicago’s radical organizing projects, including Project NIA, Chicago Freedom School, Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women, Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander, and We Charge Genocide. At Northwestern University, where she studied Communications, Film, and Psychology, bria helped form Unshackle NU, a political action group that pressured the school to divest from private prison corporations and companies that profit from the prison-industrial complex. As part of Unshackle NU, bria created an animated short called Prison-Industrial Complex 101. There she met Kaba, …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 1: Nicole Marroquin

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of reorienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted in ethics as much as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. Yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: who is art’s “community,” and what exactly do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores the influence that Addams …

Riding Interstellar Waves: A Performance Essay on Afro-Futurism and Time Travel from D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

This essay exists as a record, a performance document and collaged concept map linking threads in an interstellar web charting the content of my lectures and presentations culled from over 25 years of study, teaching, sculpting, and performing, each coded element an entry point like portals to the vast arkestry of Afrofuturist future visioning. Highlights include references to performance ritual as the High Priestess of the Intergalactic Federation, Special Envoy to Mars, for the September 27, 2018 Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary symposium convened by NASA/Blumberg Chair of Astrobiology Lucianne Walkowicz at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, and content from performance-lecture-poetics for “Afro-Futurism and Time Travel” at the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Art and Inquiry and from The Ramm Riff featuring Black Light Primal Nun ‘A’ at Red Bull Arts NY for No Guts, No Galaxy slide show series as part of programming for the exhibition Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder. This is an experimental collage, ideas and poetics intertwined, a performance-lecture-poetic in multiple stanzas, a Time Travel Riff from the outposts of Afro-Futurist vision …

Installation View: Up is Down at the Block Museum

This fall, Art Design Chicago is illuminating the legacy of art and design that’s embedded in Chicago’s history and culture through a full calendar of exhibitions, events, and other programs across the city. As editorial partners in this effort, we’re working with them to to elevate the stories of Chicago’s lesser-known artists, designers, and creators, past and present, through comics, essays, interviews, podcasts, and videos. For the videos we’ve teamed up with On The Real Film to present short profiles that highlight the exhibitions, projects, and people who are showcasing these legacies in various ways. The third video in this series, “Installation View: Up is Down” takes a behind-the-scenes look at the installation process for The Block Museum’s exhibition Up is Down: Mid-century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio. Co-curators Amy Beste and Corinne Granof discuss the legacy and impact of the Goldsholl Studio on design and advertising, and provide insight into the curating process for a multimedia show that includes a wide variety of mediums and formats. The Block Museum’s Dan Silverstein elaborates …

City Visions: Urban Space, Daily Life, and the Camera

Treated with fumes and mercury vapor, the silver-polished metal plate is exposed to the light of a sunny Parisian day and reveals a latent image on its mirror-like surface: the curve of a cobblestone street leads the eye down rows of various-sized structures, toward a far-off vanishing point in the cityscape. Legible in the foreground, out in front of what appears to be a residential building, we see two figures miniaturized within the sweeping panorama. Captured by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the eponymous daguerreotype technique, this 1838 photograph, titled Boulevard du Temple, is believed to be the first picture ever created of city space and daily urban life. With its elevated perspective looking down and across this vista, Daguerre’s photo situates the viewer as an observer who is simultaneously in the city but also looking at it from some remove, as if through a window. The wide angle and sense of distance allow the viewer to consider the scene aesthetically: the contrast and quality of light, the atmosphere, the architectural forms. At the same time, …

Color it Clean: An Interview with Jeffrey Michael Austin

I first met Jeffrey Michael Austin through an exhibition we were a part of at the Chicago Artist Coalition in 2015, during which he was a resident in their HATCH program.  He then had successive projects in the St. Louis vicinity where I was living, and I maintained an ongoing admiration for the cleverness, humor, and versatility of his practice (he is also an accomplished musician, one-third of the trio Growing Concerns).  He is an artist that is responsive to his environment, locating the wonders of natural elements, as well as wonder-ing about the state of human nature. His re-staging of common objects and occurrences straddle the playful and the political. As the latter becomes more and more urgent, he engages in critique that arises out of a call for empathy.  Over a very long email correspondence, we reflected on some recent bodies of work, as he prepared to open his solo exhibition ‘Outstanding Balance’ at Heaven Gallery.     Lyndon Barrois Jr: It is notable that there are a lot of stars in the recent …

The Thrival Geographies of Shani Crowe, Andres L. Hernandez, and Amanda Williams

Of the 2,240 licensed Black architects working in the United States, only 440 of them identify as Black women. While this number might increase slightly by adding those who have a degree in architecture and aren’t licensed, or who work primarily in teaching, this number becomes even more sobering when you consider the fact that there are about 109,748+ licensed architects in the entire country. My mention of these numbers isn’t simply a commentary on representation. Since architecture is a major influence on how we live and move through our daily lives, be it the spaces of home, work, school, play or otherwise, it’s unsettling to think that an overwhelming amount of spaces are likely conceived of and designed without someone like me in the room, on the team, or even in mind as the possible end user. After learning those numbers, it’s hard for me not to feel the significance of any time spent in conversation with two people who operate within that rare group. Andres L. Hernandez and Amanda Williams are architects and …

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 …

Life and Design Style: An Interview with Margot Harrington

Margot Harrington is a designer, but even as I write that statement it seems inadequate. While she has worked on and led projects centered around shaping websites, creating brands, dreaming up site-specific installations, and composing publications, the way she speaks of her work makes it clear that her design practice isn’t simply an occupation–it’s a lifestyle. Starting from her days growing up in a word and image-loving family in Minnesota, to now being a freelance designer with her company Pitch Union Design, an art director for Bitch Media, and a multidisciplinary artist, Margot’s design style has been developing and evolving in quiet and significant ways since before she was even exploring the question of what her lifework would be. Given the fact that she is an artist with a wide practice that collides with a mix of experiences and influences, our conversation touched on a range of topics. We discussed everything from the ways we stumble magnificently in order to discover what does and doesn’t work for our lives, to the importance of eastern medicine and self-preservation …

This image depicts part of a performance score, bound into a thin book. On the top page, toward its bottom-right corner, it reads “Dear Corey: Unfold (into you)” in black ink on grey paper. Across the binding, on the bottom page—the majority of the image—text, lines, arrows, and shapes appear in black ink against a whitish vellum background. Solid black abstract shapes connect and overlap, creating white space where they overlap. Lines swoop, loop, and change direction, and some end in arrowheads. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book in progress)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the second of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the first interview here and the third here). In late May, I met with Udita to discuss the book’s first mock-up, her aesthetic choices and decision-making process, and the role of intimacy, the body, and language in her work. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, 7 pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: So, you made a book! Udita Upadhyaya: Yeah. This is not what it’s going to look like but this is the first mock-up with real pages of the scores and some of the color and stuff being decided. MSL: Wow. Can I look …

This is a photograph of three copies of the book “Brea,” against a light background. Two lie flat in the left side of the frame, front cover and spine visible, and the third is upright, with only the front cover showing. The front cover image is an ink illustration of a young boy in close-up, straight-on, showing his face, chest, and parts of his arms. He wears a long-sleeved shirt and his hands are flipped upside-down over his eyes to form goggles, of sorts, with each thumb and forefinger. Courtesy of the artist.

Beyond the Page: Carlos Matallana

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. In March, I was honored to interview artist and educator Carlos Matallana about the development of his ongoing Manual of Violence project, the process of creating its fictional comic installment “Brea,” and how games, childhood, dreams, and more shape his work. Follow @tropipunk on Instagram and check out his presentation about “Brea” at the Hyde Park Art Center on Saturday, May 26, 2-4pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and includes some spoilers about the book “Brea.” Marya Spont-Lemus: I guess I’d love to start by just hearing how long you’ve been making work in Chicago and what brought you here. Carlos Matallana: Well, I ended up in Chicago because I have old friends here in the city. But initially I moved from Bogotá to New York. I spent a couple of months, not even four months, in New York. I spent all my savings, and I tried …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Full Interview with D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

This interview took place as part of an initiative of the Chicago Archives + Artists Project. CA+AP serves as a laboratory and pipeline for the community preservation of artist’s archives. We want to find creative ways to care for an ever more accessible, playful, and diverse compendium of artists voices, process and ephemera. We believe in the power of stories in many voices, on many platforms, past, present and future. This interview, conducted by Sabrina Greig, will be contributed to D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem’s file at the Chicago Artist Files at Harold Washington Library. Sabrina Greig: I’m here with Denenge in her home studio in Chicago. It’s summertime and a beautiful warm day overlooking the city and Lake Michigan. So, Denenge, tell us about your work and your space here. D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem: Thank you for being here and welcome to my space! So, to give some background for the work, I was born and raised in rural Nigeria in a small town called Mkar, Benue State, Nigeria, and it was very spare but rich cultural upbringing. …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Interview with D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

This interview took place as part of an initiative occasioned by the first Chicago Archives + Artists Festival, held at the Chicago Cultural Center in May 2017. The festival kicked off a series of in-depth artist interviews, including this one with D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, which will be contributed to the Chicago Artist Files at Harold Washington Library. This series of interviews was conducted with a group of artists, curators, instigators, and organizers who we believe are essential to the history of Chicago art. The interview with Denenge was conducted by Sabrina Greig and is excerpted below. In addition to this smaller group of Sixty-interviewed artists, a call was put out to ALL the city’s artists: #GetArchived! The core of the free festival was a pop-up archive processing center staffed by Sixty Inches From Center and volunteers. Many partners lent their time, resources, and high-res scanners(!) to this endeavor, including LATITUDE, the Visualist, and Read/Write Library. Sixty Inches From Center is excited to be continuing the Chicago Archives + Artists Project with support from the Gaylord and Dorothy …

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 …

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. …

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 …