Month: August 2020

Image: Artists Run Chicago 2.0 installation view of artwork by Thomas Kong curated by 062 Gallery. Photography courtesy of S.Y. Lim

September 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 …

Image: Installation view of Cameron Spratley's exhibition "730" at M. LeBlanc

Harnessing the Helter Skelter: An Interview with Cameron Spratley

Cameron Spratley’s abrasive artworks wield mechanisms of prejudice against themselves. Famous and invented protagonists populate his canvases, enmeshed in morbid tags, raunchy ads, and biting lyrics. From Michael Jackson to Dale Earnhardt Sr., Spratley selects celebrity subjects engulfed in tragedy and controversy not to lament, but rather to evoke monocultural moments. His work compresses time like the walls of subway stations, with layered declarations of shared simulacra and common turf. Spratley tags, tattoos, sprays, stains, and fissures the surface of his work in a disruptive mark-making that renders ephemeral techniques with permanence.  While at first they may come off as irreverent, Spratley’s artworks are effigies to the anxiety, vitality, and complexity of being young and Black in the United States. As objects, his paintings serve as vessels for distress in a moment when a nation plagued with systemic racism confronts complicity and reckons for justice. Spratley’s work is challenging. He asks viewers to untangle visuals and text, like “NO AIRBAGS / WE DIE LIKE MEN” and “LIFE SENTENCE”, a forced investment that requires deliberate deciphering …

Heaven Gallery: Relic, Ritual, and Remedy

Wading through the sea of people in Wicker Park—masks-off—wasn’t the most relaxing Sunday. Patio seating, pop music blaring, horns honking, and shops bustling all appeared to be so much louder since the last time I was in the neighborhood (prior to the pandemic). Ah, but then, there it is—Heaven.  Heaven Gallery, that is. The gallery space and its current show, “Relic, Ritual, and Remedy,” is a sanctuary amongst the bustle of the streets below.  Objects and archives are exhibited alongside textiles in the exhibition as artists explore history, ephemera, every-day objects, and texture.  This group show, curated by Lauren Iacoponi, features 11 artists, including Allen Moore, Rebecca Griffith, Judith Brotman, Naomi Elson, Nick Van Zanten, Anne Yafi, Elyse Sawka, José Santiago Pérez, Betsy Odom, Millicent Kennedy, and Ryan Burn, who work significantly with craft materials: weaving, quilting, sculpture, and every-day objects. Rebecca Griffith’s bold black VHS tape quilts blend memories from her childhood when her mother ran a video store. When Griffith was six years old, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—the video store …

MCAccountable’s Demands

White supremacy, exploitative labor, capitalism, and abusive hierarchies are rampant within art and cultural institutions. And the MCA is no exception. On July 16th, staff from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago demanded action to protect the safety of workers and towards uprooting white supremacy and racial injustice within the museum. They wrote a list of demands addressed to the Pritzker Director of the MCA, Madeleine Grynsztejn.  Full-time and part-time staff, artists, volunteers, and the public joined MCAccountable to bring to the light the performative allyship and pandering that the museum has presented to the city. With 50 percent of MCA staff saying they felt uncomfortable returning to work, and 13 percent saying they felt uncertain, leadership dismissed the Human Resource Re-Entry Survey and opened it’s doors on July 24th. The collective stated that reopening is “dangerous, irresponsible, ableist, and racist” in the wake of a pandemic with cases only rising every day. To date, 956 people have signed on in support of MCAccountable’s collective statement and demands. What do Black lives look like for the …

The Flying Trapeze: Camille Swift, the Monstress Madame Mantis

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. Circus artist Camille Swift came to the world of circus through an unexpected avenue: Meishi-ha Mugai Ryu Iaihyodo or a form of Japanese sword fighting. In her mid-20s, Swift had gotten into anime and decided to buy herself a sword. But when she realized it was “lame not to know how to use it,” she started taking sword fighting lessons. Swift took classes but stumbled upon the circus when her sensei told her about an underground circus show, known as Circo Cheapo (since moving into Aloft’s permanent location …

Louise LeBourgeois: Life on the Great Lake

I first met Louise LeBourgeois on the rocks. I’ve called myself a “rock person” for a few years, ever since I first landed in Hyde Park and my skin was warmed by the large formations that line the shore of Lake Michigan on the Southside. I’ve formed friendships with fellow rock people throughout the years, but it was only recently that I decided to finally meet up with the Point swimmers, a group of open water swimmers who meet in the early morning (some even swim year-round). I’m more of an afternoon swimmer myself, but there’s something exhilarating about seeing folks kicking in the waves of Lake Michigan while the sun rises—the sun rearing its pretty head and reflecting on their pink and yellow swim caps. After grabbing coffee with the swimmers, we went our separate ways. But before I departed, Louise LeBourgeois handed me her card. LeBourgeois’ large panel paintings confront you with their vastness; a neverending-type-of-feeling. You want to sit inside of them. Do you dare to touch it? Do you find yourself …

Image: “Chicago Spring,” curated by Lauren Iacoponi featuring various artists. Six small windows have works of several artists hanging. In the top left window, Sarah Genematas, colored pencil drawing and David Stonehouse, mixed media drawing. Bottom left window exhibits MyLinh Mac, canvas painting, Ata Berkol, hand marbled fabric, Marcy Thomas-Burns and Amy Shelton collaboration, sculpture by Thomas-Burns, and print by Shelton, The top middle window exhibits a fine art photo print on cotton paper by Darryll Schiff. Bottom middle window exhibits an exhibition poster by Gordon Hall, a polyhedron wooden sculpture by John Heinze, and a plastic primary colored house by Shistine Peterson. The top right window has work by Tabor Shiles, which is a screenprint on silk, and a screenprint on paper by Trashformal (Charlotte Gasparetti Ribar and Spiros Loukopoulos). The bottom right window exhibits botany illustrations by S. Curtis Glazenwood Essex and Millicent Kennedy’s colored pencil and ink drawing. Photo by Amy Shelton.

August (Virtual) 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 …

Featured image: Selva Aparicio, Entre Nosotros (Among Us) Detail, 2020. Concrete tiles cast from human cadavers. The images show a close up of the piece, showing details of a grid of square, concrete blocks. Each block has different folds, and one shows a nipple, all cast from human parts. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman. Image courtesy of the artist.

Works Cited: Selva Aparicio on Life, Death, and Breaking Taboo

It goes without saying that so much of the labor in an artist’s practice goes unseen, ranging from the countless hours of trial and error experimenting with a medium before getting it right, to the often mind-numbing planning and prep work when starting a new piece. However, there is yet another layer below the surface of this complex production that is inherent to the creative process: research. There is a collection of information, images, and archives that happens even before any pen is put to paper, feeding and informing an artist’s body of work. Works Cited asks artists to uncover this part of their practice with us, sharing research materials such as essays, playlists, online archives, and tips on how to navigate them. In the spirit of open access, this column also serves as a resource in and of itself, as each interview includes access to these materials in the form of either reading lists or sharable links. In this edition, I spoke with Selva Aparicio, whose interdisciplinary work examines life, death, and mourning through the use …