Month: November 2020

“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 to contribute to our archives through traditional and experimental arts writing around ideas, topics, and practices that are relevant to Chicago and the wider Midwest’s cultural landscapes and as that culture resonates and manifests in other parts of the country and world. This opens up the possibility for writing that forefronts culture in the Midwest region, beyond and related to Chicago, and/or situates it within and alongside global contexts. 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. Priority will also be given to those who pitch a column idea or a series of articles that dig into a particular topic. We publish writing, photography, art, video, and conversations that are thoughtful, generative, relatable to a variety of readers, and seeks to place Chicago culture within other related contexts, historical narratives, or experiences. We publish articles in the following forms (word counts are flexible): Written reviews of …

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 …

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 …

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 …