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Sixty’s Top Picks of 2012

As Sixty continues to explore all facets of visual art in Chicago, we asked some of our contributors to reflect back on this past year and discuss the most memorable encounters of 2012.

Time Zone – Toby zur Loye

Of the Chicago art events that I attended in 2012, a summer exhibition in the Fulton Market District has left the most lasting impression.  Time Zone was on display from June 8-28 in the Chicago Artists’ Coalition gallery, as part of the organization’s Hatch Projects exhibition programming.  The two-person show, curated by Thea Liberty Nichols, featured Barbara Blacharczyk’s mixed media drawings and the sculptural installations of Renee Prisble.  While each artist’s work is visually and materially distinct, the organic pairing succeeds through a shared investigation of natural forms and processes.

Barbara Blacharczyk. Morphology I, 2012

By utilizing drawing and collage techniques, Barbara Blacharczyk creates large-scale assemblages on both paper and Dura-Lar.  Her semi-abstraction takes the form of ancient and primordial hybrids; a seething fusion of vertebral, barnacled organisms that blend together the skeletal and vegetal.  The flat paper works from the Morphology series, which incorporate subtle traces of metallic, copper tones, complement Blacharczyk’s other body of work on display.  The Formation and Flux series makes use of the Dura-Lar’s translucency to create dimensional layering, calling to mind a mythic collision of deep-sea flora and fauna.

Renee Prisble. Cultivating Thunder Cells, 2012

Renee Prisble’s plaster and bronze sculptures, arranged in clusters as separate floor and wall installations, marry natural and historical themes.  The groups of amoebic, bowl-shaped pieces that meander across horizontal and vertical planes display Pueblo and Pre-Columbian pottery motifs.  Referencing stages of cellular reproduction, Prisble’s Thunder Cells series creates a synthesis of cultural temporality and timeless biological processes.

Time Zone offered viewers a glimpse of fragility: the crystalline moment of fossilization, the transitory stages between cellular union and division.  Together, both artists engage concepts of metamorphosis, illuminating the tenuous balance of forms suspended in the midst of their transformations.

Barbara Blacharczyk’s upcoming solo exhibition will run from February 21 to March 21 at the Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL.  Renee Prisble currently has work in ArtWork6 at SAIC’s Sullivan Galleries, open from January 18 to February 1.


MDW Fair – Lydia Shepard

One of the most memorable art events for me in 2012 was the MDW Fair in November.  The fair, which took place at Mana Contemporary Chicago in Pilsen, hosted over 30 galleries and artists groups from Chicagoland and surrounding areas, including ACRE, Peanut Gallery, Roxaboxen Exhibitions, Columbia College Chicago Photography Department, among many others.  The initiative was formed in Spring 2011 as a collaborative project aimed at coordinating and presenting artist-run activities.  Along with its gallery booths, the fair also showcased several publications and performances throughout the weekend-long event.

Of course, there are many arts fairs that take place in Chicago throughout the year, and they are all busting at the seams with talented artists and creativity.  What struck me about MDW was the featuring of smaller spaces that are slightly off the beaten path; the innovative, experimental vibe of the event in total.  Friday night, the opening night of the fair, felt like a party.  The following days were more laid back, but the fair was still full of creative energy and continued to offer chances to experience amazing performances and visual art… not to    mention sausage samples from Schlong’s booth and free craft beer!

The MDW Fair gave viewers the opportunity to engage a broad range of vibrant Chicago art in one weekend and one space.  If you are new to Chicago, interested in learning about new spaces in the area, or are just looking for a good time, be sure to check out the MDW fair in the future.


Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival  – Kate Korroch

Remnants of Sallie Smith’s performance at Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival 2012. (Photo credit: Kate Korroch)

Out of the vast array of arts happenings in Chicago I find myself predominately attending three types of events: opening and closing receptions, performances, and artist talks and lectures. The first is an opportunity to meet and greet those embedded in the art scene; but rarely an opportunity to truly look at the art; the second is (dare I use the word typically?) an art event with some sort of viewing structure, a set time for observation and contemplation; and the third is a time for stretching, flexing, and feeding the mind.

The June 2012 Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival offered a smorgasbord of the arts experiences explained above. On the evening of June 8, 2012 I had the opportunity to see Sallie Smith’s (Chicago) project, Cycle. Smith, clad in re-appropriated athletic wear, that covered very little of her body, rode a bicycle atop two cinder blocks for a grueling amount of time. Straddling a line of torture and comedy she grunted her way through her “ride” and finished with a climactic, messy, eruptive bang. The performance was sexually charged, strenuous, and explosively shocking. Later that evening Loo Zihan (Singapore) shared his performance, Cane, which is a re-enactment of Josef Ng’s controversial 1993 performance, Brother Cane from 1993. Ng’s Brother Cane sparked a debate in Singapore about obscenity in art. In his stirring version Loo educated the audience about Ng’s original performance by re-enacting and poignantly appropriating the original piece.

The following day I attended the artist talk,  “Body/Absences/Liveness,” with Arthur Elsenaar, Julie Laffin, and Jane Jerardi, moderated by executive director of Defibrillator, Joseph Ravens. Each artist presented his or her artwork, and afterwards a multi-faceted discussion about the categorization of performance art ensued.

Next year’s Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival is scheduled for June 1—12, 2013. Follow the updates on the event here.


 CIMMfest – Brooke Herbert Hayes

When I first received an assignment to photograph a film festival at Logan Theatre in April 2012, I had no idea what the festival was all about, but after spending three days with the festival organizers I couldn’t wait until the 2013 festival.  Every April, film-lovers and filmmakers unite to put  on an amazing few days of indie films, documentaries, concerts, Q&As and more.  Chicago International Movies & Music Festival (CIMMfest) is a unique music and movies festival that is centralized in several venues in Wicker Park and Logan Square, neighborhoods with strong histories of supporting and producing independent musicians and filmmakers. The featured movies and music are not limited to local pieces, however, but come from all over the globe.

Last year, I viewed several documentaries by Les Blank, who is known largely for his films about German filmmaker Wernor Herzog, and had the chance to sit in on a Q&A with him. I also  viewed several new indie films, including a hilarious improvised comedy from director Matt Walsh (VEEP, Party Down).  One of the highlights for me occurred late one evening when several musicians gathered in the street to play some incredible improvised bluegrass.  The scene spoke to the festival’s atmosphere of celebration for music, films, and the independent filmmakers, musicians, and artists who create them.

This year’s festival is coming up soon on April 18-21 and is sure to be just as outstanding as last year’s.  The CIMMfest website will be posting the lineup for the 2013 fest in the coming months. You can thank Josh Chicoine and Ilko Davidov for this one of a kind festival that celebrates the inseparable nature of music and movies — which is, in fact, their tagline.


 Rehema Barber

My pick for Best of 2012 is the Steve McQueen Show, which ran from October 21 through January 6, 2013 at the Art Institute of Chicago. McQueen manages to take the genre of video/film, which is often associated with modernity, and lend the medium an aura of mystery. McQueen’s works are visceral, subversive and somewhat erotic in their undertones. I really enjoyed his percipient ideas about what lies beneath the act of observation. McQueen’s works encourage viewers to dig below the surface of choreographed situations and the ostensibly mundane. The work was at times poignant, even titillating, as was the case in Bear (1993) which portrays two nude men (one of them being McQueen) in the act of grappling with one another.  The constant motion of the bodies and camera angles prevent viewers from ever becoming completely comfortable with the imagery.

Another work, Queen and Country (2007-09), shown by itself in a solitary room, depicts British men and women who died during the Iraq war. Shuffling through the cases of images, one wonders about who these people were and marvels at the loss of life, while also becoming aware that so many of the deceased expired during their prime. It is a compelling reminder of the countless men and women who dedicated their lives, and in many cases their deaths, to the service of country. Other works like Charlotte (2004), which teases the viewer with a finger prodding an eye and the skin that surrounds it, and Static (2009), where the camera pans around a neglected Statue of Liberty, lead viewers to question the act of looking and the meaning of freedom.

The most potent work of the exhibition was Girls, Tricky (2001), a video that shows the musician and producer Tricky recording the song “Girls.” The raw power displayed within the piece reveals a shamanistic quality of the performer. Viewers are entranced as he chants, raps and screeches the songs chorus, “I don’t need no man, I don’t care.” As the reverberating performance unfolds, Tricky’s headiness becomes reminiscent of a heightened state of religious ecstasy—albeit it is a secular state of bliss.

Overall, the show was engaging, complex and well curated. Moreover, since McQueen has the reputation for being highly involved in the exhibition process and in the display of his works, viewers were able to discover the works as the artist intended. Therefore, I left the exhibition pondering the very act of looking and the power that lies in it.

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1 Response to " Sixty’s Top Picks of 2012 "

  1. […] the complete post here. My contribution, highlighting the Rapid Pulse Performance Festival, is below. Remnants of Sallie […]

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