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The Flying Trapeze: Michelle Reid, Photographer and Dancer

Photographer Robert Frank is credited with saying, “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” Photographer and dancer, Michelle Reid manages to capture the humanity of dance and circus in her exquisite photography. Reid discovered photography in her senior year as a dance major at The Ohio State University. She had “the urge to find a new way to express myself.” Reid took the “Dance for Camera” class at Ohio State which was the first time she held a camera. She ended up buying herself a camera and going around Columbus, OH, taking pictures of people and buildings. When Reid graduated, she came to Chicago with the hopes of finding work as a dancer. Unfortunately, she found it hard to find dance jobs that paid well. She hadn’t thought about photography as a source of income but it was a skill that she could use to support herself. She began to look up photography jobs and found her first job photographing newborns at the hospital. It was commissioned based and …

Doomscrolling with Cats: A Review of Andreas Fischer’s And apologies for bringing this up

Late in her essay on the painter David Salle, Janet Malcolm records his thoughts on Francis Bacon, for whom she sees a comparison in the “dire cast” of their figures on canvas. Salle’s women (“degrading, depersonalized, fetishistic images,” per one review), and Bacon’s men (troubling, car-smashed meat sacks, per my own recent Google search), do share a quality of doom. Yet Salle is quick to deflect an affinity. “Bacon is actually not an artist I’m interested in,” he says, “but lately I’ve been thinking about him a lot in attempting to defend myself against certain criticisms.” He continues: “If you turned these criticisms around and leveled them against Bacon, it would be absurd. And it’s purely because his work is homosexual and mine is heterosexual. The same attitudes transposed are incorrect.” “Why [asks Malcolm] are dire images done by a homosexual more correct than those done by a heterosexual?” “Because in art politics, to be homosexual is, a priori, more correct than to be heterosexual. Because to be an artist is to be an outsider, …

Review: Caesar’s Palace at LVL3

“He just can’t get enough of you and literally drools in your presence,” reads a Cosmopolitan article from 2016 titled “15 Signs You Need a Dog Way More Than a Boyfriend.” In any other context, this descriptor would be troubling, to say the least. But from dogs, those domesticated carnivores whose fetid excrement we lovingly pick up with our own hands, obsessive adoration is expected. In Caesar’s Palace, the two-person show at LVL3 featuring work by Caroline Jacobson and Taylor Marie Prendergast, that deification goes both ways. Jacobson’s “Monument” sculptures turn our canine companions into stone bust idols worthy of worship, adorning them with towering wigs that rival those worn by 18th-century French royalty. In addition to the squishy-faced, tall-haired “Monument” dogs, Jacobson and Prendergast’s pieces depict bunny rabbits, pigs, gargoyles, and hybridized creatures that defy any categorization beyond “uncanny.”  The uncanny is a unifying feature in Jacobson and Prendergast’s work, which encompasses found object figures outfitted in wigs (Jacobson), painted bridal portraits with melting skin and sharpened teeth (Prendergast), silicone faces with pig snouts …

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Beyond the Page: Quenna Lené Barrett

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Quenna Lené Barrett — actor, educator, writer, director, activist, scholar, and lifelong Chicagoan. We spoke in late November about her ongoing project, “Re-Writing the Declaration,” and its recent production; how her many forms of work inform each other; and using applied theater as a tool for civic participation and Black liberation.  Follow Barrett @quennalene (Twitter, Instagram) and @quenna.lene (Facebook). This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: After getting to experience aspects of Re-Writing the Declaration as a project over the last few years, it was extra exciting to see the production of it earlier this month. Now that a few weeks have passed, how are you feeling about it? Quenna Lené Barrett: Still feeling really good! I was directing two shows at once — Re-Writing the Declaration and another one, in this virtual format — and then had other projects come up. …

Breaking the Surface at Heaven Gallery with Erin Hayden and Max Guy

“An image is an image, and sincerity is in the shuffle”  —Erin Hayden in conversation with Max Guy Erin Hayden and Max Guy’s exhibition Cups Swords and Eyes may be at Heaven Gallery, but its concerns are altogether earthly. The techniques are playful and quick, the style ranging and unpretentious, the materials scrappy, the ideas “elementary”—to quote the artist—creating a show that is quite sincere. Here there is no desire to transcend into the heavenly realm, but rather an insistence on sitting in all of one’s detritus and obsession. There is real comfort in the simplicity of the show’s ideas and in its commitment to making process visible. Hayden and Guy couldn’t have found a better home than with Heaven Gallery’s warm and casual atmosphere filled with gently pulsing dance music, champagne light, and a gorgeous selection of vintage clothing. The rarified environment of art is blissfully far from mind, and visitors are welcome to meet the art on its own terms. Dominating the main room at Heaven Gallery is a massive salon hang of …

January 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.   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.  Featured image: Abstract, organic shapes of blue, green yellow, red, and orange. Image created by Ryan Edmund Thiel. This is a growing list, so check back often for new additions. Through January 31, 2021Audible: The Roedelius CellsExperimental Sound Studio: 5925 N Ravenswood AveFree Mon, January 4, 6pmThe Quarantine ConcertsExperimental Sound Studio: OnlineFree Tues, January 5, 12-12:30pmVirtual Studio Visit: Joanna FurnansMuseum of Contemporary Art Chicago: OnlineFree Tues, January 5, 7pmWe Series: FoodElastic Arts: Online$10 …

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: * * * …

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, …

“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 …

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 …

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 …

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: 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 …

Image: Installation view of Out of Time at Aspect/Ratio. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo by Nick Albertson.

Out of Time by Cass Davis at Aspect/Ratio Gallery

The exhibition Out of Time by Cass Davis is an investigation of personal history, collective history, and gendered violence. The work oscillates between soft/tactile, and ghostly/alarming. Rooted in imagery that is (for better or for worse) deeply Midwestern, the work shown is aesthetically punctured by three-parts: textile works that hold faded images of religious revivals, assemblages of childhood objects embedded in earth and flowers, and photographs and moving images with lighting and tones that simultaneously haunt and render hyper-real. They are crisp as a recent memory yet as nebulous as a dream. Together, the works embody a deeply personal and real vision of the American Midwest—and when I say “real,” I don’t just mean the artist’s actual experience of it, which is also undeniably present, but also real in the sense that the images and text incorporated into Davis’s works are directly from historical documents located in their hometown. Davis grew up in Pekin, IL in an evangelical Christian community where speaking in tongues at revivals was commonplace. Much of the imagery uncovered and brought …

Review: Liz McCarthy at 062

I meet Liz McCarthy at her exhibition, Comprised Of, on the first day of October. Gusts of wind slap against me as I walk from one end of the parking lot to the other, where Liz is waiting to lead me inside. I awoke congested, my head and body heavy with pollen, stress, or both. Behind my mask, I feel my nose beginning to drip from the cold air, my eyes already streaming. Liz tells me she also feels congested—heavy with stress—as we walk against the wind and into the arts building.   Inside the gallery, I am met with a show that builds on McCarthy’s exploration of ceramic whistles and the vulnerability of bodily forms through the medium of clay. Perhaps, it’s more fitting to say the show disassembles this exploration into multiple inquiries. The ceramic works on view are humanoid forms, standing, drooping, sprawled, and, in many cases, pulled apart. As we walk through the space, McCarthy’s reflects on her job at an auction house and its influence on her thoughts about objects and …

Image: "Suicide Squad," Arroyo Seco, Pasadena, CA, 1936/2019 by Barbara Diener.

Works Cited: ‘The Rocket’s Red Glare’ by Barbara Diener

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. For this edition, I spoke with artist Barbara Diener about her most recent project The Rocket’s Red …

Image: Kristoffer McAfee stands outside the School of the Art Institute Columbus building, where the painting students spend most of their time. He says his experience at SAIC “gave me confidence in my work and direction.” Photo by Kristie Kahns.

A Path Turned Inside Out: A Conversation with Kristoffer McAfee

Through his use of bold color palettes, meticulous details, and iconic symbols, artist Kristoffer McAfee displays technical rigor while provoking questions about the allure of consumerism that permeates our lives. Kristoffer is a California-born, Chicago-raised artist and a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, whose practice focuses on confronting political and social issues through intricate paintings and large-scale three-dimensional objects. His artistic voice and the intent of his work has surfaced in a myriad of ways: through life experiences, like growing up with the disparities and segregation within the southside of Chicago; by travelling the world, spending many years in Paris; by channeling the influence of other artists, like Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons; or through rigorous training, which he received at SAIC. But perhaps a less considered factor, and one that has impacted the development of Kristoffer’s path, is timing. He was skeptical of higher education and traditional art school, and only made the decision to enroll at SAIC once in his late twenties – a choice he acknowledges was …

Questions in Time: Looking Back and Ahead, Together

In our current moment, Chicago’s artists and creators find themselves exhaustingly entrenched within the gig economy, where artist-run spaces and projects commonly exist in liminal zones of financial and programmatic instability. Neoliberalism’s acceleration has only illuminated how the endeavor to make and create within the art economy is demarcated by racism, classism, and technological isolation, i.e. the art world’s role in gentrification, the exclusionary cost of many MFA programs, the growing scarcity of funding, and the fleetingness of social capital within the attention economy. Uncertainty and anxiety permeate our current moment; we live in a constant state of reckoning. How can one meaningfully create and work while maintaining a constructive and reparative critique of one’s own complicity within systems of oppression? In a maze of disenfranchisement, how can the art world be a roadmap for advocacy? Is such a change even possible? I do not know the answers to these questions. However, I do believe that there is something––a hint, a clue, a discovery––to be uncovered within an examination of time and how it has …

AMFM and the Lifespan of Chicago Artist-Run Spaces

Chicago’s artist-run spaces are key players in the creative ecosystem. They stretch down all avenues in the city and beyond into the sprawling suburbs. Whether they are found in old storefronts, auto shops, backyards, or basements, some hold their space for decades while others reconstruct or retire.  Succumbing to the rise of rent and the heavy financial responsibilities that come with running an alternative venue can play a large role in the changing of spaces or changing of hands. Artist-run spaces go through fluctuations, especially those who persist for a few years. Some turn into non-profit gallery spaces, while others host a few pop-ups or begin satellite locations. Others simply shutter.  Deciding to close an artist-run space shouldn’t equate to failure. The conditions for closure—or change—are endless. The lifespans of DIY spaces don’t eradicate the work that was done. And often, the spaces simply exist in a new form. For Ciera McKissick of AMFM, that’s exactly what happened.  For over a decade, Ciera’s project—whose original form was a web magazine—has developed and transformed into various …

Artist Residencies, Collaboration, and Alternative Models of Education

In 2018, artists Julia Holter and Olivia Block came together to write and compose a new piece titled Whenever the Breeze, creating immersive sound by combining voice, instruments, bells, and recording of wind and water. The making of this piece culminated in an album recording and a live performance at the May Chapel in Rosehill Cemetery. This dynamic, collaborative piece was created during Experimental Sound Studio’s Outer Ear Residency. Artist residencies offer a place for artistic exploration, a space where artists can work and think collectively, and potentially collaborate with like-minded individuals as well. Although this environment sounds similar to a classroom, residencies often subvert the power dynamics found in traditional academic settings. Without a type of hierarchical knowledge structure, residencies often form an alternative learning space. bell hooks describes this kind of learning community in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, saying, “Since the vast majority of students learn through conservative, traditional educational practices and concern themselves only with the presence of the professor, any radical pedagogy must insist that everyone’s presence is …

Disrupting the system with Emmy Lingscheit

Emmy Lingscheit is a visual artist and Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Lingscheit’s work can broadly be characterized by attention to detail: in formal qualities such as color selection, choice of text, and the intricacies of mark-making, but also in the choice of subject matter. Her work addresses the human condition by looking at the systems we create to govern our lives, calling into question the ways in which social and cultural justices are not compatible with such systems. She interrogates these systems, particularly environmental ones, to understand how the ways we “otherize” the natural world is directly related to the ways we “otherize” people, marking both as exploitable and disposable. One strategy Lingscheit employs is drawing the viewer in with technical savvy and grace; her work is gorgeous. The repetition of marks and imagery hypnotize the viewer so much so that looking at her work is analogous to the ways in which we are swept up in these systems. Though there is a sense of wanting to spend more time …

A black and white photograph titled Stop White People From Killing Us - St. Louis, MO, c. 1966-1967 by Darryl Cowherd

October 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 …