June 3, 2014

2014: Autumn Elizabeth Clark @ Winkelman-Milling Projects

Above: Autumn Elizabeth Clark, candid, standing before her video installation at Winkelman-Milling Projects on May 30, 2014.
Autumn Elizabeth Clark
"I haven’t come yet"
May 30 - June 20, 2014
Winkelman-Milling Projects
960 W. Cullerton Street
Chicago, IL



Note: At the time of the writing of the review (below) the author found no press release from the gallery, nor published statement from the artist, with regard to the exhibition in question.  No prior contact with Autumn Elizabeth Clark or her artwork informs the following text.

Above: Street signs at the intersection, Cullerton and Sangamon, nearest to Winkelman-Milling Projects in the neighborhood of Pilsen.
8:45 PM, Friday, May 30, 2014: Free, legal, parking on Chicago's streets is increasingly difficult to find.  As a result, some patrons of the arts now avoid whole neighborhoods: ignoring the venues therein.  Subject to gentrification, Pilsen too is changing; in fact, Pilsen has already changed.  But, this evening, Winkelman-Milling Projects, at 960 W. Cullerton Street, proves accessible.

Above: The entrance of Winkelman-Milling Projects, as seen from the second floor landing on May 30, 2014.
Winkelman-Milling Projects, currently located on the second floor of a residential building, is probably best described as a species of apartment gallery.  And, Autumn Elizabeth Clark's "I haven’t come yet" is the site's inaugural show.  Clark herself is still a graduate student at the University of Chicago, anticipating the receipt of her MFA degree in 2015.[1]

Above: Tish Noel, back to camera; Autumn Elizabeth Clark, center, facing camera; Bill Gross, right.[2]
A young artist, and especially one found in a young space, practically guarantees some unresolved technical issue in presentation.  Here, the issue is illumination.[3]  The only sources of light within the exhibition space are: (a) Clark's video installation; and, (b) a series of holy candles placed, by the proprietors, around the perimeter of the gallery.

Above: A holy candle, bearing Most Sacred Heart of Jesus iconography, at Winkelman-Milling Projects on May 30, 2014.
Whether Winkelman-Milling's west-facing windows might have allowed the setting sun to supplement the scene is a moot point past 8:30 PM.  And it takes some time for visitors to identify the artist's fiber works and photography, four pieces of which are mounted on the gallery walls.  Having done so, a striking contrast to the aforementioned candles is revealed in the form of a goat-headed entity embroidered upon what is said to be a mask.

Above: "I haven't come yet (I)," 2014, 21 x 23 inches, embroidery, by Autumn Elizabeth Clark.
Located on the east side of room's south wall, the object depicted above is seen to reappear, worn by a male figure, in a photograph placed (nearby) on the west side of that same south wall.  Other fiber work, more obviously intended to be worn as a sort concealment, is found on the opposite side of the same room.

Above: "Untitled," 2014, 19 x 24 inches, embroidery, by Autumn Elizabeth Clark.
Conceptually, Clark seems focused upon a series of oppositional relationships or, maybe, binary systems, e.g., bare-concealed, male-female, public-private, master-slave.  And that suggestion is reinforced by the split-screen form, as well as the content, of her centerpiece video work.

Above: "Homevideos," 2014, dimensions variable, digital video, by Autumn Elizabeth Clark.
In sum, the venue, artist, artwork, and audience give some hint of where Chicago's "counterculture" is and has been, philosophically, for the past fifty years--so that it's tempting to wonder about the Marxist and Feminist tropes which have (predominantly if not exclusively) shaped such intellectual dialogue as exists within the city's "arts community."

It can be a very difficult time and place in which to ask questions.  For example: If we consider that gender roles might be socially constructed, and "not natural," should we also consider that the movement to deconstruct gender roles might originate in an equally human, and consequently "unnatural," social phenomenon?

Shown above, Clark's "Homevideos," 2014, featuring both a male figure to who makeup is applied, and also Clark herself, wholly unadorned and voluptuous, suggests the great confusion of our time.[4]  And it would be interesting to hear, from the artist, why such a work would not have fit in "State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970" which was hosted by the University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art from October 3, 2013 to January 12, 2014.

Above: University of Chicago BFA candidate Nicole Cherry, right, at Winkelman-Milling Projects on May 30, 2014.
It's tempting to interpret the show as a very personal effort to reconcile the contradictory demands being made upon artists emergent in an era defined by the collapse of the institutions against which their teachers were taught to rebel.  Whether such reconciliation is possible remains to be seen.


[1] Autumn Elizabeth Clark is the graduate assistant for Laura Letinsky.

[2] Autumn Elizabeth Clark was an intern at Bill Gross' 65GRAND gallery 2012-2013.

[3] The scene of the exhibition was so dark that the presentation of photographs which were "true" would also have meant the presentation of useless, nearly black frames.

[4] The artist and hosts were courteous. And it's a reminder that such little civilization as we are left to enjoy depends more on our mutual behavior than it does on our intellectual consensus.

Images (1, 5, 6, 7, 8) May 30, 2014, shoe-mounted, on-camera flash used;
Images (2, 3, 4, 9) May 30, 2014, available light, large aperture, slow shutter, and high ISO, only;
Copyright Paul E. Germanos.

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