All posts filed under: Essays + Reviews

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 …

Featured Image: The marquee of The Art Theater in Champaign, Illinois reads “For Sale or Rent.” The Art Theater’s sign is red and retro. The brick building is located on a downtown street, with residential apartments above the theater. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Support for the Arts Supports Us All

Before I moved to Central Illinois, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the ways arts and culture programs affect a community. Living in a mid-sized town/small city/micro-urban area for a little over a decade has changed the way I think about community and what it means to have access to those types of programs. Dynamic arts and culture programming signals that residents are engaged and active, that this is a place people should want to live. It signals that a municipality values its citizens, and is interested in helping create a community where a rich quality of life is revered. An engaged arts community celebrates and challenges its members and residents; it’s more than a collection of people making stuff or putting on performances. These programs indicate there is an infrastructure that supports community connection and potential for conversations about difficult subjects that can advocate for change. Active and critically engaged arts support systems within communities are vital to the growth and progress of small towns like Champaign-Urbana. In a diverse community like C-U, …

Blackness, Images & the Space Between

A conversation with Milwaukee based fine artist Nick Drain and Genesis Gallery owner, artist, and organizer Randy Brown. Nick recently held his first solo exhibition “In Plain Sight” at Genesis and our collective discussion quickly found its way circling around and through larger topics like race, identity, viewership and the politics of the Milwaukee art scene. Over the course of the last few months, I let our conversation sink in and settle where it needed to in order for me to get down to the guts of what the discussion meant for all of us. I have a distinct memory of the moment I stood in front of Picasso’s “Guernica” at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain. It was the summer before college, I was only 18 years old and I didn’t think of myself as an artist then. I think back to that trip reflecting on the enormity and impact of viewing that painting in the flesh, and I realized it was a moment that hit me too early in …

On Hoarding Love Notes, and Other Gifts of Community and Anxiety

Last month I learned that I hoard love notes. Shortly after the shelter-in-place mandate I had a particularly tough day, which concluded with a bout of uncharacteristically convulsive crying and me deciding I could do nothing else that evening but clean. As I organized papers on my desk, I unearthed a handwritten letter my friend Udita gave me at her wedding earlier this year. Its contents were precise but not precious, making me feel known not only for my “positive” qualities but also my flawed and idiosyncratic humanness. Though technically a thank-you card, I don’t know what else to call it but a love note. How lucky for it to turn up right then! I texted Udita to say her note was just what I needed that night. She responded that my message was just what she needed, too. These days “love notes” have been appearing to me in diverse forms, by various paths. Another week, I texted my friend Myrna to check in, writing the words sending an e-hug. When she sent back an …

A Projection Into ‘Paths Between Two Steps’ by Soo Shin

The lymph nodes in my neck are swollen. Poisonous balloons expanding in my throat. I am guilty of my breath, my touch, how they could infect others. I bike to see my partner at Rosehill Cemetery, where we had planned to meet, and I tell him about the wretched mass I sense inside me, surrounding me. So we decide to stay safe, six feet apart, where we will stay for at least a week. We visit his grandparents’ graves, stones placed upon them. He is saying something to me as I draw in and out, in and out wet salty breaths, six feet away. I have never missed a touch so close to me so deeply—I can’t stand it. I go, six feet, then 20, then miles, until I am separated from the one I love. And I am thinking now, as many of us are, what it means to love and to live from a distance.  I am wondering the same thing as I again click through the virtual version of “Paths Between Two …

Image: Installation view of Gordon Hall’s Chicago exhibit USELESSNESS, courtesy Document Gallery.

Slanting Towards Uselessness

“All art is quite useless.”—Oscar Wilde You can’t really step on a slanted step. The Slant Step’s so-called “step” inclines at a 45 degree angle, too steep for a foothold. It is an object that teases utility, like Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined tea-cup, or Marcel Duchamp’s inverted urinal. What is it for? Nobody could figure that out, and that’s the point. It is an inside joke: a found object whose elusive purpose made for a compelling and enduring art mystery. It is an invitation, a riddle, a call for response.  As legend goes, William T. Wiley found the Slant Step in a San Francisco thrift shop for fifty cents in the Sixties and bought it as a gift for his student—the artist Bruce Nauman, who went on to cast molds in homage. With time it became an object of fixation for a funk art movement of Bay Area artists and poets, culminating in a group show, The Slant Step Show, at Berkeley Gallery in 1966. When Richard Serra stole the Slant Step from that show and …

Yasaman Moussavi at the Beverly Art Center

Space is a longtime preoccupation with the Iranian artist Yasaman Moussavi, whose recent show, Intervals was on display at the Beverly Art Center from Jan 3 to Feb 2, 2020. In Moussavi’s Intervals, space is mediated through two parallel operations of marking and organizing. By marking I mean a primeval enactment of space through play and its subsequent punctuation through psychic and cultural investment. Organizing, on the other hand, is less about compartmentalization than about space as the locus of social cooperation. Intervals consists of three parts: suspended large handmade papers installed along a zig-zag path, a bird’s eye view upon an urban landscape created by molded papers, and a collection of tiny cubicle paper modules carefully selected and framed in a fashion reminiscent of butterfly specimens. Hanged by thin transparent wires, the papers with the bulky, rough surfaces manifest a thrust, a longing for defying gravity. However, such an urge for the heavens does not manifest a perfect balance but a fragile union of materiality and spirituality. Likewise, the framed paper modules—despite all their …

In Case of Emergency: Artist Resources For You, For Us

All of us at Sixty can’t help but to think about the strain that is being put on our arts community in Chicago and across the Midwest. Exhibitions, performances, and fundraisers are being canceled or postponed indefinitely, contract opportunities are halting, schools and cultural institutions are being shut down, side-gigs at and income from bars, restaurants, and retail stores are dwindling. We are also seeing incredible examples of community organizing in and beyond the arts that are providing quick support locally, regionally, and nationally. And if you’re like us, you’re looking for ways to support those efforts or even start your own initiatives to help others who are in need. Knowledge is power, so in an effort to share information, we’ve compiled a growing list of suggestions, resources, and things you can do, models you can adapt, and small actions you can take now to do your part. And though we are sharing these resources with the best of intentions, we encourage you to also do your own research into the organizations, initiatives, and efforts …

Hardware & Soft Bodies: What I’m Learning From Agnes Denes

I have been programming computers as part of my art practice for a number of years. This pursuit feels increasingly queer the longer I do it: at one time I felt I was adding my queerness to a straight-set of tools, but these days it’s more like pulling forth something that was already there. Lately, I have enjoyed imagining that tech has always been a queer project. The irony here is that most technologists are straight cismen, so they pursue this queer project unwittingly. Tech practitioners try to reproduce themselves as computers: gender-flexible bodies with many modes of union (pins, ports, invisible blue teeth). They succeed and fail to recreate themselves in their own repressed queer image. All electronics achieve a kind of fleshliness via scatology, burning fossil fuel and producing noxious waste, which is cleverly closeted away in power plants. At the same time, most computers remain too smooth and hard to feel alive. Practitioners remain oblivious that their faltering aim is the sexless production of excreting bodies—instead, they think they are working toward …

Recipes for a post-colonial kitchen: maize / Recetas para una cocina poscolonial: el maíz

I remember the days before smartphones when my parents would load me and my brothers up into our white, blue velvet interior, 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado to make the 2-day trip down south to visit our grandparents. It was always a hot summer, a 24 hour drive to the border, 12 hours to Durango, and a few extra hours here and there so my dad could sleep. This was usually somewhere just outside of Tulsa, and after getting through Border Patrol in Nuevo Laredo. I knew the path in my heart. No matter how far away we were, I felt the magnetic pull that snapped us from our house in Aurora, Illinois to the fig trees growing in the yard behind my grandmother’s kitchen in Durango. Mexico was my summer camp. As the in-car map reader, it was my job to make sure we took I-55 South through St. Louis so we could drive over that spectacular bridge that crossed the Mississippi River. My father, a former truck driver who is very familiar with this route, …

The Last Cruze: LaToya Ruby Frazier at the Renaissance Society

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, stated at the October 2018 CityLab Detroit Leaders Conference that she hoped to shift public perception of GM from that of an automobile manufacturer to a technology company before her retirement. Barra’s comment hinted at a desire to not only change the driving ethos of GM production but to also transform the configuration of GM’s workforce: imagine a future akin to Tesla’s automated assembly line, their factories quiet save for the AI programmed to build their “tech.” The wish to associate GM with an encroaching technocratic future reflects how labor, capital, and the management of these two components of late capitalism have shifted within the neoliberal paradigm. The dialogue of labor is rapidly changing. Rather than centering the conversation on workers, the question is now how production is managed, diffused and parceled out: human lives become human capital. This message casts a long shadow over the recent United Autoworkers Union deal with GM, ratified on Nov 4th, 2019. UAW members were on strike for six weeks, the longest …

Image: Image: The cover for T. Fleischmann's book Time is the thing a body moves through, designed by Stevie Hanley.

“Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through”: A Review

The book begins in transit. Literally moving from the get-go, a bus trip. “I leave Buffalo when the moon is still out, and on the long bus ride south I find myself unable to read.” By coincidence, I crack open my book on a bus ride, too, albeit a shorter commute, and I, unlike T. “Clutch” Fleischmann, am able to read on transit.  This is to say: the book begins in transit because the body is in transit; in conversation with itself and itinerant others.  The title holds all of these moving parts: Time Is The Thing A Body Moves Through. This is one of those gorgeous book titles that gets me all worked up knowing I didn’t come up with the line myself. So beautiful it sounds immediately true and resonant, even if I can’t put my finger on exactly what it means. It resonates with a moment in Clutch’s last book, Syzygy, Beauty, which proposed, “Choreography is one way to articulate time, your body moving forward.” But the new phrasing is less linear, …

Image: Installation view of "Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times" by Folayemi Wilson. Catwalk with rotating NASA videos of the sun and moon. Photo by Michael Sullivan.

Space is a Place: Folayemi Wilson at the Hyde Park Art Center

There’s this thing that happens sometimes when I close my eyes and focus on nothing. It’s not like the after-image that you often get when looking at an object for a long time, but something else entirely. I see daubs of light, tiny flecks of indiscernible colors that move and dance in the darkness. And frequently, there is an actual place, a room that has no apparent walls, but feels like I’m somewhere else than where I really am–an astral projection of a space for safety and reflection. This place, I believe, was made manifest when I entered the main gallery this summer at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) to view Folayemi Wilson’s latest work Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times. I met Fo late last year during my stint in the Teaching Artist’s studio of HPAC. I had worked there since September 2016, and was encouraged to apply to be a resident. A couple months later, I was sharing the space with another teaching artist. Now, mind …

Image: Ida Cuttler, wearing a red blazer over pink pajamas, sits with her hands on her knees center. On the ground around her, are red and blue balloons and red-white-and-blue beachballs. The beachballs have stars on the blue stripes. Photo courtesy of Brave Lux, Inc.

A Story – “Comfortable Shoes” at The Neo-Futurist Theater

Here: a story. When I was younger, as a chronic fidgeter, holes and gaps would creep into my clothes, always looking like a moth had found a cozy meal. Because of this, I became familiar with the fraying yarn, a piece of a piece of clothing that could not be separated, nor could it be its own item. I tugged at these threads, always wondering whether or not I could find the scarf’s spine or its guts or its nerve endings. We do, after all, understand where my skeleton is and where your skeleton is and if we had been inside the meat, then surely science must have been inside the sweater and understood those blueprints. Though, I never got too far: I stopped, knowing that I would have wound up shirtless midway through the day. Here: another. Ida Cuttler contributed to the infamous (and not at all that famous) Hot Blog Dogs, one of my favorite mid-2010s artifacts. I found the website inspiring; as a misanthropic, anxious bibliophile who wanted to be fun and …

7 Reflections & Suggested Sounds: ALL WE WANT IS TO SEE OURSELVES at FLXST Contemporary

The following are reflections and suggested sounds for pieces by seven artists that were included in the exhibition ALL WE WANT IS TO SEE OURSELVES at FLXST Contemporary. The exhibition ran from August 3 – September 1, 2019 and was curated by Jan Christian Bernabe Paolo Arao, Greater Than (Diptych), 2018 Greater Than (Diptych) splits into two canvases hung like diamonds, each one broken down by the same primary colors: blue, red, yellow, and beige cotton. On the left canvas, the corners each have a perfect triangle of either blue, red, or yellow while in the center lies a perfect beige square. On the right, the same color pattern is inverted: four beige corners and a square divided into four slices of elementary colors. Once you know the title, it all falls into place and the geometry, the hidden mathematics of artifice, begin to open themselves up. An elementary school teacher taught me that the greater-than sign could be remembered because the alligator (> or <) eats the bigger number (the better number?) and here, …

You Are Here: Mark Joshua Epstein

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. by Mark Joshua Epstein I usually live on …

You Are Here: Nick Wylie / Elmer Ellsworth

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. Summer Love in Springfield by Nick Wylie / …

You Are Here: Stephanie Graham

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. by Stephanie Graham Hello. My name is Stephanie …