Year: 2020

Most Read Articles of 2020

Each year, our most read articles list hints to the ideas, cultural work, and practices that have loomed large in the collective consciousness of our readers and communities. This year’s list is no different, with the most read articles focusing on ways to uplift the cultural and community organizing that continues to happen, especially within and for Black and Indigenous communities and artists. This list suggests things that many of us already know: exactly how intertwined we are—in our demands and the depth of our fight—and how important it is that we record our stories, successes, perspectives, and the relentless injustices we face in all parts of our lives. Brought to you by writers Andrea Carlson (with Teshika Silver), Black Faculty at SAIC, Tempestt Hazel (with Ireashia Bennett and Kiki Lechuga-Dupont), The Blackivists, and Kirin Wachter Grene, along with the Teens Reimagining Art, Community, and Environment (TRACE) and Alt_ artists and interns Catherine Arroyo, Preleah Campbell, Danelise Comas, Paris Dority, and Darius Hazen, here are our 10 most-read articles in no particular order: * * * …

Imagen de portada: CeaseDays lleva un gorro negro, una chaqueta negra con una sudadera con capucha negra debajo y jeans negros. Tiene las manos metidas en los bolsillos del jean. Está frente de un mural de graffiti con el color del base negro y letras de color morado y amarillo.

El Nido Suroeste: Una entrevista con CeaseDays

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards (o el Barrio de las Empacadoras), y McKinley Park son vecindarios en el lado Suroeste de Chicago que están agrupados con tanta frecuencia que la prensa les ha dado una reputación y narrativa similar. No siempre es buena. Hoy estos vecindarios todavía enfrentan la violencia, la pobreza, y más recientemente, la gentrificación. Con llamar la atención a las mentes creativas que enriquecen a estas comunidades, me gustaría desafiar la idea que la violencia es la única cosa que tienen que ofrecer. En esta serie, “El Nido Suroeste,” espero celebrar y reconocer a estos artistas y compartir con ustedes sus perspectivos sobre los barrios donde trabajan o viven. Esta entrevista cubre el lapso de un año. La parte 1 de esta entrevista se completó en octubre de 2019, cuando me reuní con el artista CeaseDays (Cesar Diaz) en Simone’s, uno de los muchos lugares donde trabaja y toca como DJ. CeaseDays, puede ser un nombre familiar si fuiste a UIC, cuando era estudiante, dirigió el programa de radio, “Thumpin’ Thursday.” …

Featured Image: CeaseDays is wearing a black beanie, a black windbreaker with a black hoodie underneath, and black jeans. He has his hands tucked in his jean pockets. He is standing in front of a graffiti mural with a black background and purple and yellow letters.

The Southwest Nest: An Interview with CeaseDays

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. This interview covers the span of a year. For Part 1 of this interview, which took place in October of 2019, I met up with artist CeaseDays (Cesar Diaz) at Simone’s, one of the many places where he performs and DJs. CeaseDays may sound like a familiar name if you went to UIC. As a student he ran the radio show, “Thumpin’ Thursdays.” You …

Mine: Poems by Carrie Kaufman

Body (January 2020)To carry meTo lift and transfer Use your core not your armsI always say.Take the weight of my body As if it was yours‘Cause I cannot hold it, Help carry it please. I was told that it’s helpfulTo visualize that you are pregnant with me.Hold me close to your middle But move us as one How exhausting are these exchanges of weight.I’m holding what’s held in your body as wellWhen we touch,When you help,It’s a transfer. A lesson (November 2020)I need to be more than a lessonYou learned. More than Magical sex A window to see possibility thruA reminder to be thoughtful  Visibly deviant Emotionally convenientI am not what you thought:Easy to leave behindToo hard to take care ofI do not haveThe most resilient heart. You mistook me for a fantasy butInhaling in syncWe were as real As the candlelight warming the room Which one of us did you soothe When you said i was strong? What did you get out of holding me? Somatics (September 2020)My body floats in a limboI hover awkwardly above ground in my dreams Never knowing “comfortable” in waking lifeI …

The Flying Trapeze: Strongman Tulga

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. “Tulga, you are a remarkable show of what a human can do.” These were just a few things the judges of Australia’s Got Talent told Strongman Tulga in 2019. He had just spun a telephone pole with two people sitting in swings attached at either end. Before that, he swung a different telephone pole that was on fire on both ends. The pole is 16 feet and weighs 100 pounds, not including the weight of other people. In other acts, he’s juggled 12 lb. bowling balls or tires …

Bisa Butler’s Portraits: Representation in and for 2020

Each December, the New York Times (and likely other media outlets) publish “The Year in Pictures.” For reasons both good and bad, images of Black Americans should predominate in 2020. Some pictures will be tragic, like images of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Jacob Blake, while others will be proud, showing Black Lives Matter protests, Kamala Harris, and Stacey Abrams’ Get Out the Vote efforts. Representations of Black people also predominate at the Art Institute of Chicago in the exhibition Bisa Butler: Portraits. Especially timely today, Butler exclusively presents the Black figure, using personal and historic images as the basis for her portrait quilts.     About her focus on Black people and their narratives, she says: “I never want my artwork to show my people in a bad light. We are people who’ve come a long way. We do struggle still. There’s still a lot of social ills that are affecting my people, so I want to address that, but I also don’t want this paternalistic view, like ‘oh poor them.’ I’m not interested in that. …

Review: Julien Creuzet’s cloud cloudy glory doodles at Document

Walking into Julien Creuzet’s exhibition from the onset of winter in Chicago is a transportive experience. The weather in the city has recently shifted into freezing temperatures, knocking the humidity out of the air, leaving us with dry wind, and sharp sun. As a Louisiana native who moved to Chicago in March, I’m unused to the cold, and the radiators have been running nonstop in my house. Despite the bowls of water and Eau de Fleur D’oranger balancing on the radiators, my hands are drier than the concrete stairs leading up to Document gallery, where Creuzet’s show cloudy cloudy glory doodles on the leaves pages, memory slowly the story redness sadness bloody redness on the skin awaits. When first walking into Creuzet’s show, we are taken to a place of bright colors and ocean on all sides. On the wall immediately across from the entrance is a large-scale installation piece made with brightly colored threads and neon plastic; lurid wax wrapped around wire; segments of braided rope and tattered pieces of clothing. Limes are scattered …

Review: Exhibitionisms Virtual Viewing Room A, First Impressions

In a sunny corner at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, I catch streams of light in the virtual viewing room that reflect off the disco balls in Bradley Wester’s work. A small video of his piece Two Princes reveals velvet ropes and disco balls embedded in a soft shag of grey fur and a bronze sculpture from his collection, Gold Satyr. A body chain connects the phallus of the satyr to the ropes of Two Princes. As these objects glisten in the corner, their light reflects upon and off of others in the room. These lights provoke reflection on the history and representation of queer desire in the realm of contemporary art. The history of the two works and how they reflect Wester’s and his partner’s relationship with the art world is key to this object story (related reading by Wester here). In Exhibitionisms, object stories play out, performing the narratives that tie artists to one another and their artist communities. Exhibitionisms lies at the intersection of Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Space & Time, and online at exhibitionisms.club, …

Chicago Archives Dive: Zine Festivals with Oscar Arriola

Oscar Arriola, a collector, curator, and photographer based in Chicago, talks about the power of preservation while also delving into the history of Chicago zine festivals. In particular, he talks about his role as an organizer of ZINEMercado, an annual outdoor festival devoted to zines and other DIY publications that takes place at Comfort Station in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood. This video was created in collaboration with Art Design Chicago and Chicago Collections Consortium, and was produced by Ryan Edmund Thiel. __Featured Image: A compilation of images of posters and promotional images from ZINEmercado. Images courtesy of Oscar Arriola.

Kajahl Huntress In Oasis (Astride A Crocodile), 2020 oil on canvas 66 x 84 in. Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Fantasy of a Fantasy – A Review of Kajahl: “Royal Specter” at Monique Meloche

Monique Meloche’s exhibition Royal Specter, featuring work by the artist Kajahl, is in every aspect a museum-quality exhibition. I am not merely referencing the historically traditional and representational style of Kajahl’s paintings (that is to say, portraying a ‘likeness’ of the subject—and whose likeness is it? More on that later). I am also not just referencing the artist’s unbelievably skilled use of oil paint on canvas—materials that are, again, traditional. As Kajahl’s paint renders abundant silk folds, fine furs, and ornate gold, both the medium and style which together demonstrate a high level of skill, are historically deemed as having high value. However, when I say “museum quality,” it is not because of the undeniable attention to detail and quality of the work itself. Instead, it is because, upon gazing on the works, my mind ultimately and immediately places them within an art historical context. With each piece referencing so many elements of historical portraiture, Kajahl’s works are itching to disrupt the canon, demanding to reimagine the (absent) place of the Black figure in the …

Featured image: A view of the Dr. Margaret S. Burroughs gallery, which will benefit from Raise It Up! (December 5 & 6), a fundraiser driven by the Chicago Printers Guild in support of the South Side Community Art Center. Photo by Jacob Hand for the national trust for historic preservation.

December Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.  If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for Black artists, our …

for you. yes, you. – a response to “for you” by Ayanah Moor

you for this is just blacknessyou for this is just blacknessyou for this is just blackness G.L. – I don’t know that I can write his name here for fear of legal reprisal – haunts billboards from Chicago to Michigan (at least), his chin, the chiseled basin of his brickhead split open by bleached, saliva-polished teeth: sue the bastard who did this to you, we’ll make a buck, you’ll make a buck. On the CTA platform, I close my eyes, inhale and find my center in all the noise of rush hour while wind tunnels and pours dank air through the crowd. I do this for five minutes. I open my eyes. G.L.’s stupid face is waiting for me. I brought this up to my dad once, how unnerved I was by G.L.’s persistence, and he told me that a friend of his once called the number on the billboard, and that the office was not in Chicago but somewhere in Arizona. G.L.’s interstate visibility bothers me. Not because of him (though I harbor some …

“Torrential Hag” at Cleaner Gallery + Projects

For the last five years, Cleaner Gallery + Projects has been part of Humboldt Park as an artist-run gallery and studio space. The gallery changed its name from Night Light Studios and Gallery to Cleaner Gallery + Projects and expanded programming in February of this year, under the direction of Ryan Burns. Due to an official stay-at-home advisory for the city of Chicago issued on November 12th, Cleaner Gallery + Projects had to reevaluate gallery hours to ensure everyone’s safety. I visited the gallery before closing to the public and spoke with Burns about the show. I was unable to meet with artists Mel Cook and Kelly Reaves, but we were able to discuss their two-person exhibition over email.  The decision to exhibit Mel Cook and Kelly Reaves together was made between Reaves and Burns. Reaves’ initial impetus to pair their work together came from a shared formal and visual aesthetic. The show consists of complimentary works on paper, watercolors, and ink drawings hung in small groupings of similar color and gesture. A conceptual through-line …

The Creep by Em Kettner; a six-legged, woven, porcelain figure looks straight ahead

Review: Em Kettner’s Play the Fool, at Goldfinch

“Something is good not because it is achieved but because another kind of truth about the human situation, another experience of what it is to be human, in short, another valid sensibility, is being revealed.” —Sustan Sontag, Notes on ‘Camp’  If you don’t look closely enough, you’ll miss one of the 27 works on display at Goldfinch Gallery in Em Kettner’s solo exhibition “Play the Fool.” If you look too closely, you won’t have enough time with each one. Overthink it and you’ll miss something; rush through, and you’ll miss something else. A performance of misdirection, “Play the Fool” eludes easy description, pointing to precisely what makes it sing.   The porcelain figures could be cradled in the palms of your hands. They are the size of tchotchkes with the intricate detail of a talisman. To make out their facial expressions, you must narrow the distance between you to a few inches. Many of the faces gaze back at you or at their companions like they’re about to spill the T (and you aren’t quite sure …

Sixty Illustration by Kiki Lechuga-Dupont 2

Write for Sixty

Sixty welcomes writers and artists of all experience levels to pitch ideas for traditional and experimental arts writing around topics, and practices that are relevant to the cultural landscapes of the Midwest. Priority will be given to writing by, about, and for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artists, artists with disabilities, and the long list of writing, art-making, and cultural practices that have been neglected in mainstream conversations and canons about art and culture. We publish writing, photography, art, archive materials, video, and conversations that are thoughtful, generative, experimental, and relatable to our variety of readers. Once a pitch is accepted, writers have full and free access to our editors, transcribers, translators, photographers, and illustrators to support the creation, development, and completion of the final piece. Pitches that come to us in finished form, or close to finished form, will still need to be open to feedback from our editors, when necessary. We publish articles in the following forms (word counts are flexible): Archive and collection highlights, curated selection of digitized archive materials, archivists writing about cultural …

Image: by Kiki Dupont

Three Poems by Josef Selma Olivier

TURN MYSELF INTO COMMODITY just into something a little more interesting like anotherbody poem cannot feel lipson my nipples only my own fingertipspressed down, a kind of pressure I want to get better at smiling and making eye contactdo more than ask how can i help you get what you want fromme  I WATCH THESE DESPERATE MEN Cum into their mirrorsI love it, really love it, love seeing how Controlled they areBy their own pathetic desire. Something about watching a sad cock really grow.I at least imagine they are lonely that They had wedding rings they took off before filmingTo show off and try to connect with the fantasy of some womanThey will never know because they forgot how to be humanand before I finish I tell them, though they cannot hear,I want you to cum all over me, I want to really feel it, that warmthThese men, after they are finished, I imagine, return to themselvessilently Without ever knowing how to be whole. WHEN YOU HATE SOMEONE’S CONFESSIONSDOES THAT MEAN YOU COULD NEVER LIKE THEIR POETRY? I’m too intense …

Riva Lehrer: GOLEM GIRL and Pandemic Portraiture

“All portraits are fragments,” says Riva Lehrer, “it’s representing someone through a single moment in their life; so any portrait is an act of reassembly, you get these clues and you try to reassemble them into some view of the person.” In a way, this is what I was doing as I read Lehrer’s new book GOLEM GIRL: a memoir: scouring her words for insight into what makes her the person she is today.  ‘Author’ is just one of many hyphens in Lehrer’s well-established artistic career. She teaches at Northwestern University and she curates, but she is perhaps best known for her portraits of people “whose physical embodiment, sexuality, or gender identity have long been stigmatized.” As a Disabled artist herself, Lehrer has a unique ability to capture a person’s form in an honest and expressive way through her evocative works. I had the pleasure of speaking with her to discuss her background as well as current projects. Lehrer’s artistic talents are familial.  Courtney Graham: [In your memoir,] you talk about your mother, Carole, being …

Review: “Cito, Longe, Tarde” at Haynes Gallery

In Latin, Cito, Longe, Tarde, translates into “leave quickly, go far away, and come back slowly.” Influential medical figures Hippocrates and Galen first coined this phrase, which later influenced the public during the plague that took over Asia, Europe, and areas of Africa in the mid-1300s. Cited as the most devastating pandemic in history, the plague (also known as the Black Death), killed millions of people worldwide. The plague not only killed half of China’s population and a third of Europe, but it also brought on complete chaos within society. Panic, fear, and confusion led many folks to flee their homes and take on a more nomadic life, traveling from town to town, running from the plague before it devastated their hometown. In fact, this was the only advice medical professionals of the time offered. To flee and to not come back anytime soon. A means of running away was the option.  The eight works in the group show Cito, Longe, Tarde at Haynes, a new project space in Bridgeport, reflect on the current pandemic …

Chicago Archives Dive: Underground Publishing with Julia Arredondo

Did you know Chicago is a mecca of underground publishing? In this video, Julia Arredondo—artist entrepreneur and graduate of Columbia College Chicago—talks about the political influence of Chicago’s zine culture while also sharing more about her zine product lines, including the counterculture entity Vice Versa Press and the more spiritual “Bedroom Botánica” Curandera Press.This video was created in collaboration with Art Design Chicago and Chicago Collections Consortium, and was produced by Ryan Edmund Thiel. ___Featured Image: A compilation of images of covers of zines by Julia Arredondo. Each cover has a different design–one with colorful flowers, illustrated collages, intermixed with text. Images courtesy of Julia Arredondo.

Open Sheds Used for What?: An interview with Cecilia & Marina Resende Santos

Open Sheds Used for What? conjures more questions than answers, which is precisely where its magic comes from—that, and its devotion in spirit and design to collaboration, community, and experimentation. The brainchild of collaborators and twin sisters Cecilia and Marina Resende Santos, Open Sheds is a nomadic project that is itinerant and ephemeral, springing forth from an octagonal metal frame originally built by Jesús Hilario Reyes and Leah Solomon for their performance at the opening of “Shut Up Stone Mountain,” at Co-Prosperity on June 7, 2019. This deceptively simple frame is more than a ‘blank canvas,’ larger and more expansive than a substrate that can be built upon. It is a seed, it is potential, it is what extends from it and out of it, with or without it.  In its simplest terms, Open Sheds is a structure that has been built and deconstructed in three different locations around Chicago, with various artists altering, adding to, and transforming its form through intervention, performance, and other means. At least 15 artists have been involved with the …

Where Are the Native Artists at the MCA?

Where are the Native artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art?  There is no satisfactory answer for this question.  Every curator working in museums has uttered the phrases, “museums take a long time to change,” “programmatic decisions are made years in advance,” and/or “change doesn’t happen overnight.” Native artists will not dispute these claims. We do not see ourselves reflected in museums, their staff, or the narratives that radiate out of them. Native people, more than any non-Native museum curator, can attest to the long trajectory museums have pursued for the inclusion of Native people. An inner cynic whispers, “perhaps the exclusion of Native people isn’t a matter of a slow-moving institutional behemoth but that the museum never considered artwork by Native people worthy of its space.” Any argument to the contrary can expect to be met with the fact that the year is now 2020, and the MCA, for example, has one object in their collection made by a Native person.  Is that one, solitary, Native-made artwork in the MCA’s collection cherished by the …

The Museum of Contemporary Photography Ponders “What Does Democracy Look Like?”

The question has been answered in many different ways this year. Protests against police violence, presidential debates, controversies over vote by mail.  Democracy means many things and takes on an equal number of guises. In this election year, the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) asked seven Columbia College Chicago faculty members to use works from the collection to visually and conceptually answer this question. The guest curators represent a variety of disciplines—not just art history—and exemplify the current museum trend of including diverse voices in exhibition design. While there are essentially seven exhibitions, each with a unique curatorial premise and position, some commonalities exist. Works are primarily hung salon-style, so viewers can see hundreds of photographs in a single visit. Portraits predominate, which makes sense given the organizing framework. Black and white and color photographs both have strong representation, connoting a sense of the historic, as well as the contemporary. The exhibition opens with E Pluribus Unum, marking the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment and the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth, which gave African …

Chicago’s zine-makers: Liz Mason

For several decades, Chicago has had a rich history of artists making zines; independently published, low budget periodicals. Liz Mason currently manages Quimby’s Bookstore and has been making her own perzines (personal zines) since the early nineties. Her writing, which is often comedic and punchy, recounts personal anecdotes, relationships, and simply things she finds awesome. We interviewed her to learn more about what got her into Zines and some of the zines she has created over the years. This video was created in collaboration with Art Design Chicago and Chicago Collections Consortium, and was produced by Ryan Edmund Thiel. __Featured Image: A compilation of images of covers of Zines by Liz Mason. Each cover has black text printed on yellow paper. Images courtesy of Liz Mason.

Spew, the first queer zine fest

Spew: The Homographic Convergence was the first ever queer zine convention that took place at Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago on May 25, 1991. Spew brought together a vast network of queer artists, editors, and performers across the United States and Canada. This video was created in collaboration with Art Design Chicago and Chicago Collections Consortium, and was produced by Ryan Edmund Thiel. __Featured Image: A compilation of images of posters and promotional images from Spew’s archival materials. Images courtesy of Chicago Collections.

Image: A group of poets in various poses under and on a structure in Humboldt Park.

Touchless Entry: A Socially Distant Art Collective

One of the first buzzwords to emerge from the pandemic was “mutual aid.” Quarantine’s stakes of survival reminded many of us of our fundamental interdependence, and the lack of coordinated leadership called for us to have each other’s backs out of necessity, compelling us to take care of each other in ways that our government refused. Of course, mutual aid is not something new that emerged out of a vacuum. DIY artist communities are one model for collectivity, for an alternative economy of care and co-creation. I couldn’t bear the thought of DIY becoming extinct in the midst of the global pandemic. Pre-pandemic, apartment galleries, basement punk shows, poetry readings, raves, afterparties, and other forms of underground events were vital forms of creative community-making on the margins of the mainstream. These are lifeworlds, and they sustain us. Unfortunately, most of these subterranean activities cannot translate safely into a COVID world. And every Twitch dance party I’ve been to pales next to IRL clubbing.  Months into missing all of this, my roommate and I banded with …

Image: More Than a Melody by Kiki DuPont

November Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.  If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for Black artists, our …

Too Many to Name? – Kathryn Andrews at DePaul Art Museum

Walking east from the Fullerton CTA station on a dreary, damp morning, I only had to take a few steps to reach the DePaul Art Museum and Los Angeles-based, Kathryn Andrews’s, site-specific work. Displayed on the front window are pictures of past Presidents, their faces covered with text. That morning, their visages seemed as grey as the weather. After the past few months, do we need to see more pictures of Presidents? After all, aside from the pandemic, no issue or event has dominated the news, and our lives, like the 2020 elections.  Among this cycle’s notable statistics is the fact that more women sought the nomination for President of the United States than ever before. Yet despite this surge in interest, men still occupy the top position of both major party’s ticket. Coincidentally, 2020 is also the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. Both these occurrences are the inspiration for Andrews’ installation which “acknowledges the history of women in Presidential elections.”   The work lists the …