July 18, 2016

2016: June 3: Gallery Openings @ Chicago Art World

An informal, first-person account of eight successive visits to six different gallery openings in Chicago, IL, on the evening of June 3, 2016. Times listed are approximated with the mutual aid of an incorrectly set automobile clock and decade-old camera. At some future moment I hope to create a page--including additional material--for each event described below. For now, I apologize for errors and omissions. As always, feel free to append a relevant comment at the end of the story.

2:40 PM

Once upon a time I booked a haircut at The Belmont Barbershop, very near to the five-way intersection of Western, Belmont, and Clybourn, knowing full well that Western Avenue was torn apart. And my barber--Peter Vitale--expects to see me from 2:40-3:00 PM today. I'm running late. Vehicular traffic moved slowly through the area before the road work began; now it's not moving at all. Frustrated, I park the Honda on Clybourn, grab my camera bag, and jog the remaining two blocks to 2328 W. Belmont.

Mixed in with the shop's manly memorabilia, selling for $15, is a t-shirt designed by local tattooist Mario Desa--whose name I remember from a 2012 art show at Tony Fitzpatrick and Stan Klein's Firecat Projects. The haircut's up to $26, but still worth it. So, while the Cubs beat the Diamondbacks on the flat screen television directly opposite Peter's chair, my de facto mullet meets its demise.

3:30 PM

A U-turn on Clybourn directs me inbound to Ashland, where a soft right turn takes me south to Chicago Avenue, at which point I turn left. Turning right again, I exit Chicago and find free, legal parking on Armour Street. I'm just one block and a quick little walk from Defibrillator Gallery, where programming for the Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival is scheduled to run from 2:00-11:00 PM. Crossing the threshold of 1463 W. Chicago, I find myself confronted by a flurry of festival volunteers and staff. Fitting for the discipline, bodies are in motion here: cleaning, painting, cooking, etc. Defibrillator veteran Autumn Hays recognizes me, and helpfully provides an orientation. I'm told that it's thirty minutes till the next event.

4:00 PM

Without fanfare, Nabeela Vega begins her performance in the vestibule between Defibrillator's main room and the Chicago Avenue sidewalk on which the venue sits. I find myself caught inside the gallery, facing outward, viewing the artist from the rear. She's draped in a gold metallic cloth, even as the building's entrance has been draped. Hearing what sounds like a public radio interview, I'm alerted to the fact that there's an audio component to her work. And it provides me with some insight regarding the subject being addressed: the confluence of homosexual life and Islamic culture in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's impossible for me to know, at the moment, the timeliness of the piece.

Above: Nabeela Vega in Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 at Defibrillator Gallery, 1463 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL.
Above: Nabeela Vega in Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 at Defibrillator Gallery, 1463 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL.
4:01 PM

While Vega occupies the vestibule, Regin Igloria and Amy Sinclair prepare to work in Defibrillator's large storefront window. Nevertheless, they're good enough to pose for an impromptu portrait in the space between the thin white and heavy black curtains which partition the gallery today. 

Above: Regin Igloria and Amy Sinclair in Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 at Defibrillator Gallery, 1463 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL.
4:18 PM

A Rapid Pulse volunteer named Fiona (sp?) walks me through the building, and then around the block, in order to view the ongoing performances from outside Defibrillator's confines: the perspective a typical passersby will enjoy.

Above: Regin Igloria and Amy Sinclair in Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 at Defibrillator Gallery, 1463 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL.
4:20 PM

Outside Defibrillator, a fourth artists begins a third performance on the Chicago Avenue sidewalk: Esther Neff watches and selectively engages spectators, while herself being observed by them. Judging by the vehicular and pedestrian traffic, the curiosity of the neighborhood is piqued.

Above: Esther Neff in Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 at Defibrillator Gallery, 1463 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL.
Above: Esther Neff in Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 at Defibrillator Gallery, 1463 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL.
4:25 PM

Back in the car, eastbound on Chicago Avenue, I travel towards the River North neighborhood in anticipation of another series of performances which are scheduled to run from 5:00-8:00 at Weinberg/Newton Gallery.

5:01 PM

Near the intersection of Hill and Orleans, I find free, legal parking on the street. Checking the clock, I see that it's taken me 46 minutes to do so--even though Defibrillator is only 2 miles distant from the spot in which I've just put the car. Walking half a mile south-southeast, I find myself on Franklin, one block south of Chicago Avenue. Turning the corner, climbing the staircase at 300 W. Superior, I catch Weinberg/Newton in transition from regular gallery hours to performance space. And after a few polite words it seems best to exit and return. (This is a complaint about traffic and parking in Chicago; this isn't a complaint about Weinberg/Newton. Don't make it out to be something that it isn't. Thanks.)

5:54 PM

Out of Weinberg/Newton Gallery, I walk a block, eastward, to Ann Nathan Gallery at 212 W. Superior. There, Art Shay has an opening in progress. And, to my surprise, Shay's in attendance. He's now a 94-year-old man, having been born in the Bronx, NYC, NY, in 1922. Physically, the past half-decade appears to have taken a toll on his vigor; mentally, he's sharp: easily recalling the stories connected to the photographs on display. His face lights up when women pay him attention; he's less excited to see me, who he doesn't know from Adam. But, he consents to be photographed. Sadly, the light's quite poor; and several other people with cameras and/or cellular phones are dancing around the aged veteran. It is what it is. Using a Speedlite and pushing a wide angle lens in his face seems likely to produce a harsh picture. So I mount the longest lens in my bag and stand away from the crowd. I find myself less worried about "getting a shot" than preserving his dignity, and absentmindedly mutter something about never becoming a photojournalist.

Above: Art Shay, 94, at the opening reception for "Art Shay: The Man With The Golden Lens" at Ann Nathan Gallery, 212 W. Superior Street, Chicago, IL.
I suppose I'm struck by the fact that Shay's prints don't seem old. Like his memory, the images which he produced haven't faded with the passage of time. In my mind, the subjects he's covered, and the manner in which he's covered them, feel relevant to the present moment. At least in Chicago, politically charged social realism is still vogue--whether there are more apolitical still life photographers working in the city.

Above: Art Shay, 94, at the opening reception for "Art Shay: The Man With The Golden Lens" at Ann Nathan Gallery, 212 W. Superior Street, Chicago, IL.
Above: Art Shay, 94, at the opening reception for "Art Shay: The Man With The Golden Lens" at Ann Nathan Gallery, 212 W. Superior Street, Chicago, IL.
6:19 PM

Out of Ann Nathan Gallery, I walk westward, across Franklin, back up the staircase at 300 W. Superior, returning to Weinberg/Newton Gallery. Therein I chat briefly with two people: purple-robed Jessica Taylor Caponigro, who's in the evening's program "HEX" as a part of W.I.T.C.H.; and, black-clad Meg Noe, who's employed as the gallery's Programming Director.

6:58 PM

Janet Lin and Jon Cates are the first artists to perform. Fairly quickly, their electronic noise improvisation draws a noise complaint from some building occupant near to the gallery. The staff and performers handle it well. But, I'm sorry that the show's been thusly truncated. I've seen Cates once before within the context of the Chicago art world: just over two years ago, when he was in the company of Jason Soliday and Fujui Wang, at Antena Gallery, on April 26, 2014. It was a good show.

Whether I should think of the shows as "good" or "bad" is another matter altogether. Theater critics don't seem to stumble when they approach works on stage; are performances so different when encountered within a gallery?

Above: Janet Lin and Jon Cates as Jackson in "HEX," a Tracers performance event at Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 300 W. Superior Street, Suite 203, Chicago, IL.
Above: Janet Lin and Jon Cates as Jackson (background, left) and Paula Pinho Martins Nacif with Ariel Zetina and IMP QUEEN of WITCH HAZEL (foreground, right) in "HEX," a Tracers performance event at Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 300 W. Superior Street, Suite 203, Chicago, IL.
Above: Paula Pinho Martins Nacif with Ariel Zetina and IMP QUEEN (of WITCH HAZEL) in "HEX," a Tracers performance event at Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 300 W. Superior Street, Suite 203, Chicago, IL.
7:26 PM

I take the unanticipated break in the action at Weinberg/Newton to plan a trip to Aspect/Ratio Gallery, where Nick Albertson has an opening which is scheduled to run till 8:00 PM. Knowing that I'll never: (a) make it back to the car at Hill and Orleans; (b) drive to the Fulton-Randolph Market District; (c) find parking; and (d) reach Aspect/Ratio before its proprietor Jefferson Godard whisks the whole crew away for dinner; I decide that my best bet is to walk the 1.5 miles to get to Albertson's show. And off I go...

Above: Looking down from the Halsted Street overpass, as I walk southward to Aspect/Ration Gallery.
7:56 PM

Superior to Kingsbury to Grand to Halsted to Fulton to Peoria: Up the stairs, on the third floor of 119 N. Peroria, I catch Nick Albertson at Aspect/Ratio. I first met him slightly over three years ago at Columbia College's Industry Event on May 16, 2013. At the time, Albertson had just completed his MFA. And, coincidentally, he occupied a presentation table alongside Weinberg/Newton's Meg Noe, who had just completed her BFA. Then, as now, it was easy to formally connect Albertson to Barbara Kasten and Jessica LaBatte. That said, while Albertson's own interest in pattern, and kinship with abstract painters, both seem to have remained constant, his new kaleidoscopic frames take me by surprise. He's gotten very colorful. And I like it. In spite of which fact I can't help but feel somewhat suspicious of the small, standardized scale of the works on display. Did larger prints reveal too much for the creator's illusion to be maintained? or, did saleability drive the choice?

Above: Nick Albertson attending the opening reception for his show "Unrolled" at Aspect/Ratio, 119 N. Peoria Street, 3D, Chicago, IL.
8:03 PM

I exit Aspect/Ratio: down the stairs from the third floor, past the ghost of threewalls on the second floor, out the doors of 119 N. Peoria Street, northward across Randolph.

Above: Looking down from Green Street, as I walk northward to Weinberg/Newton Gallery.
8:38 PM

Peoria to Fulton to Green to Grand to Kingsbury to Superior: I return on foot to Weinberg/Newton Gallery, where I'm greeted by the slowly swaying form of  Lyra Hill. Her eyes are cast down. She's very quiet. Attendees heed her little; most are chasing drinks. I'm made to remember that when the Happy Collaborationists' gallery was operational at 1254 N. Noble its proprietors Anna Trier and Meredith Weber had once asked for my assistance with two people who they wished to stop serving alcohol--because those same two people are here now: going after Weinberg/Newton's alcohol. It occurs to me that Ann Nathan had kept the wine behind the counter.

The room dims. Hill employs a projection on a screen and various light effects upon herself. A narrative unfolds. She labors towards a crescendo. No one can look away. Then it's over. And there's applause.

Above: Lyra Hill in "HEX," a Tracers performance event at Weinberg/Newton Gallery, 300 W. Superior Street, Suite 203, Chicago, IL.
9:48 PM

I realize that I might yet catch someone at ACRE Projects, where Nadav Assor, C. Matthew Luther, Joshua Rains, and Yaloo are scheduled to have an opening for their group show. So I hustle the half a mile back to the car, drive down Orleans, to Ontario, to the ramp for the Dan Ryan Expressway, exiting five miles later in neighborhood of Pilsen. Circling, I find free, legal parking near the intersection of Throop and 22nd Street. So, it's a three block jog to the event. Inside 1345 W. 19th Street, I see Danielle Campbell moving rapidly about the place while preparing for some sort of Chicago Underground Film Festival afterparty. And I'm sorry that I'm late. Appearing out of the darkness, ACRE's Kate Bowen and Emily Green quickly connect me with Yaloo, who's the last remaining artist at the location. Yaloo's site-specific projection is restarted; and, whether happy with the photograph, she's kind enough to try to pose.

Above: Yaloo with her projection in "Don’t Want Your Future" at Acre, 1345 W. 19th Street, Chicago, IL.
10:31 PM

Out of ACRE, back to Throop, I enter my vehicle and turn right onto 22nd. I take 22nd to Western, and again turn right, heading northward. Five miles down the road, I park at the first free, legal space I pass--on Hirsch Street--and walk a block and a half to AdventureLand Gallery, where Mario Desa has an opening for his show. Entering 1513 N. Western, I note the absence of Perry Casalino and Tony Fitzpatrick: the two people behind the business. But the young guy behind the desk looks enough like Fitzpatrick that I've got to ask if he's his son Max. And he tells me that he is. I remembered picking up the two of them on Western, near Elston, over a decade ago, in the years when I drove a taxi. The younger Fitzpatrick introduces me to Mario Desa. And he agrees to a quick photograph.

Above: Mario Desa attending the opening reception for his show "The Sad Music Of Chance" at AdventureLand, 1513 N. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL.
11:09 PM

Hirsch to Western to Chicago to Armour: I make the decision to return to Defibrillator Gallery, and there find available the same parking space which I left nearly seven hours ago. Walking to the rear of the building I stumble upon the gallery's proprietor, Joseph Ravens, and we chat. Rapid Pulse closes the evening, as every evening of the festival, with a community meal for volunteers, staff, performers. I decline the generous invitation to sit for soup, grab a few pictures, and make my exit.

Above: Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 closing for the evening with a community meal.
Above: Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 closing for the evening with a community meal.
11:32 PM

Armour to Grand to Ashland to Van Buren to the ramp for I-290, the Eisenhower Expressway.

12:05 AM, June 4, 2016

I'm home, having been gone for eleven hours. Even though I traveled in an automobile, over the course of the evening I walked seven miles saddled with a ten-pound camera bag. I suppose I'm tired. But, more so, I'm depressed by the realization that I recognized only three people who I knew to work as critics, or curators, or artists, or administrators, or gallery owners, or teachers within the Chicago art world. I saw Colleen Plumb and Scott Hunter at Aspect/Ratio Gallery, and I saw Allen Vandever at Ann Nathan Gallery. That's it.

Of course, I saw artists at their own shows, and dealers at their own galleries. Self-interest (as understood by Ayn Rand) is always evident. But, very few people seem very concerned with developing an overview of the city as a whole. It suggests a lack of intellectual curiosity; it proves a lack of engagement.

Granted, much activity has moved out of sight: to private meetings and to private clubs. Too, it's generally well-known who should be flattered, and which opinions should be affirmed, for the sake of institutional acceptance; attendance and avoidance are sometimes only tactical considerations for careerists. All of that said, whether the culture here functions well for particular individuals, or even for small groups of people, it seems safe to pronounce that what's public is broken.

Galleries and Artists in Chronological Order:

[1] Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016
June 1 – 5, 2016
Defibrillator Gallery
1463 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642

Nabeela Vega
Regin Igloria and Amy Sinclair
Esther Neff
4:00 - 5:00 PM
June 3, 2016
Defibrillator Gallery
1463 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642

http://dfbrl8r.org/

http://rapidpulse.org/

[2] Art Shay
"Art Shay: The Man With The Golden Lens"
June 3 - (no closing date listed)
Ann Nathan Gallery
212 W. Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60654

"Art Shay’s life is the stuff of movies. As a WWII vet he flew fifty-three combat missions, serving on the squadron led by famous actor and war hero, Jimmy Stewart. After the war he joined Life Magazine as a staff reporter and would eventually become one of America’s leading photojournalists. His pictures appeared in Life, Time, Look, Ebony Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune among many others. [...] A movie of his life/work is set to release by 2017. A book is in the works to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Democratic Convention featuring protest and peace rally photographs. On June 3, 2016, Ann Nathan Gallery will open an exhibition featuring Art Shay’s photographs including some one-of-a-kind vintage shots gathered from his career, and spanning over 70 years."

Quotation above from: http://www.thevisualist.org/2016/06/art-shay-the-man-with-the-golden-lens/

Read more about Art Shay in a January 29, 2015 article by Aimee Levitt: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/art-shay-20th-century-photographer-my-florence/Content?oid=16321301

http://www.artshay.com/

http://www.annnathangallery.com/

[3] "Your body is a battleground"
April 15 – June 9, 2016
Weinberg/Newton Gallery
300 W. Superior Street, Suite 203
Chicago, IL 60654

"Focusing on the many ways art and artists have moved the pro-choice and feminist movements forward, Your body is a battleground is an exhibition featuring sculpture, photography, painting, drawing, and mixed media works. Exhibition artworks are available for bidding throughout the run of the show via the online auction house Paddle8. A closing reception and live benefit auction event will take place on June 9th. This exhibition and auction support Personal PAC. Marzena Abrahamik, Claire Arctander, Lise Haller Baggesen, Iris Bernblum, Phyllis Bramson, Rashayla Marie Brown, Jon Cates & Ei Jane Lin, Lauren Edwards, Alexandria Eregbu, Hope Esser, Dianna Frid, Beate Geissler & Oliver Sann, Amber Ginsburg, Lyra Hill, Kelly Kaczynski, Julia Klein, Natalie Krick, Kelly Lloyd, Aleksandra Mir, Noël Morical, Jessie Mott, Paula Pinho Martins Nacif, Betsy Odom, Dan Paz, Claire Pentecost, Julie Potratz, Michele Pred, Macon Reed, Jennifer Reeder, and Carrie Schneider. Also including a special selection of works donated to the auction from friends of Personal PAC, Patti Bartelstein, Barbara Bluhm and Don Kaul, Bette Cerf Hill, Susan Messer McBride, and Allison Svoboda."

Quotation above from: http://www.thevisualist.org/2016/04/your-body-is-a-battleground/

"HEX: Tracers performance event"
Jackson (Jon Cates & Janet Lin)
Paula Pinho Martins Nacif with Ariel Zetina and IMP QUEEN (of WITCH HAZEL)
W.I.T.C.H.
5:00 - 8:00 PM
June 3, 2016
Weinberg/Newton Gallery
300 W. Superior Street, Suite 203
Chicago, IL 60654

"Join us for 'HEX,' a caldron mixture of digital realities, glitching twang, sexual psycho-drama and magickal justice. This performance based event will take place in the River North neighborhood’s First Friday, both on the street and in the gallery. Featuring new actions by W.I.T.C.H (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), live manipulation from Paula Pinho Martins Nacif + Ariel Zetina and IMP QUEEN (of WITCH HAZEL), crunchy crooning tunes from Jon Cates & Janet Lin ('Jackson'), and hair-raising video mediation from Lyra Hill. 'HEX' is hosted in collaboration with TRACERS and is a part of the programming for Your body is a battleground, an exhibition focusing on the many ways art and artists have moved the pro-choice and feminist movements forward."

Quotation above from: http://weinbergnewtongallery.com/events/64-hex-tracers-performance-event/

http://weinbergnewtongallery.com/

[4] Nick Albertson
"Unrolled"
June 3 - July 9, 2016
Aspect/Ratio
119 N. Peoria Street, 3D
Chicago, IL

"Aspect/Ratio is pleased to present Unrolled, the second solo exhibition of new work from gallery artist, Nick Albertson. Unrolled meshes digital processes with the technicality of paintings. Albertson’s intriguing interpretations of mundane conventional objects further develop into the construction of abstracted schematic landscapes. Albertson divorces tape and party streamers from their common associations and usefulness; further, Albertson foregrounds the beauty in its simplistic form. The color, texture, and translucency of these materials deconstructs and meshes the brackets which differentiates photography from painting; the overlapping of this mate- rial is inspired by color field paintings. The striking manipulation of light fuel the illusion of a neatly conditioned landscape embedded and suspended within a sea of material chaos."

Quotation above from: http://www.thevisualist.org/2016/06/unrolled/

http://nickalbertson.com/

http://www.aspectratioprojects.com/

[5] "HEX: Tracers performance event" (as [3] above)
Lyra Hill
8:30 PM
June 3, 2016
Weinberg/Newton Gallery
300 W. Superior Street, Suite 203
Chicago, IL 60654

http://lyrahill.blogspot.com/

Read more about Lyra Hill in an August 6, 2014 article by Alex Thompson: http://gapersblock.com/bookclub/2014/08/06/some_of_the_most_punk_rock_shit_ive_ever_seen_in_my_life/

[6] "Don’t Want Your Future"
Nadav Assor, C. Matthew Luther, Joshua Rains, and Yaloo
June 3 - 25, 2016
ACRE
1345 W. 19th Street
Chicago, IL60608

"ACRE Projects presents 'don’t want your future,' an exhibition that scrutinizes the destructive forces behind digital and industrial technologies on the global ecology. Video, sculpture, animation, and drawings question the ways that our technologically-mediated moment has an effect on social and geopolitical relations, agency, and the precarious state of our environment. From footage of the Global Desert Line in Israel and polluted landscapes in the United States and China, to the confessional space of social media made public and a re-animated tractor, 2015 ACRE Residents Nadav Assor, C. Matthew Luther, Joshua Rains, and Yaloo critique our ongoing reliance upon these technologies and infrastructures as our planet’s climate crisis escalates."

Quotation above from: http://www.thevisualist.org/2016/06/dont-want-your-future-new-works-by-nadav-assor-c-matthew-luther-joshua-rains-and-yaloo/

http://yaloopop.com/

www.acreresidency.org/

[7] Mario Desa
"The Sad Music Of Chance"
June 3 - 25, 2016
AdventureLand
1513 N. Western Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622

https://www.instagram.com/mariodesa/

http://www.adventurelandgallery.com/

[8] Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival 2016 (as [1] above)
Community Meal
11:00 PM
June 3, 2016
Defibrillator Gallery
1463 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642

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Above:
Images (1-20) June 3, 2016;
Copyright Paul E. Germanos