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Art Letter (10/13/06)

I think the operative word is initiative.  Right now, I’m seeing a lot of art, artists, cultural entrepreneurs and a few galleries making innovative strides to present good art, or creative thematic exhibits, in some exciting new or different venues.

October is
Chicago Artists Month and there’s a lot of good art in a lot of places. Some usual and some unusual.

There’s a great show in a one-use space presented by the entirely new
Chicago City Arts with the wordy title: Structural Elements: Selected Chicago New Media Artists. With something like 20 artists in the show working with computers, projectors, light and sound there’s all kinds of things that can go wrong, and so far it looks like everything is going right.  Curated by Matt McDermott with a little help from a lot of friends this show draws from established new media artists and those who are freshly out of school, or will be soon.  There’s powerful stimulation here, plus a fair amount of interactive art, meaning you touch it and it responds, or you move and it changes, or you make choices and it participates. This is the kind of show where you’ll want to ask questions and Matt will be on hand to explain. At the tonight’s opening, just to make sure you have stimuli overload there’ll even be live music.

Polvo has a particularly smart show that functions as a how-to guide for contemporary artists.  Titled Propagation, the show explores the dual mission of artists who invent art dispersal systems because their art just doesn’t fit into conventional galleries. Clearly, there is a crossover between their message and their means. It is an informative exhibit that shows artists taking responsibility for how their art gets out into the world. Curated by Sabrina Raaf, the show includes Chicago favorites Industry of the Ordinary and Michael Workman, along with Patrick Lichty, Andrea Polli, subRosa and Amy Youngs.  Polvo is an exceptional gallery on the City’s south side.  Low budget, they succeed by tons of hard work, travel, enthusiasm and diversity.

In one of the most dynamic art spaces anywhere (I can think of one better one in London) 30 to 40 Chicago sculptors are hosting a one-night presentation tonight at 1544 N. Sedgwick from 8 PM to midnight. This space is is wonderful - I think it used to be used to repair L cars, and the artists are solid, long time, art supported contributors to culture in town and around the nation like
John Adduci, Ted Garner and Tom Scarff. This is a rare opportunity to see where macho metal gets turned into civic art.

I love all these vibrant, creative, stimulating, original endeavors. Artists taking responsibility for not only making art, but getting it out into the world is wise and appropriate. Others get inspired, follow suit and present art it unexpected locations. Under the guidance of
Nixon Art Associates there’s a bank presenting quality art because it resonates with its clientele. Metropolitan Capital Bank is presenting work by John Phillips, a strong Chicago painter whose art is informed by his huge collection of early Blues.

Up in Evanston, opening Saturday is a the
Open House Project, curated by Jodie Jacobi with work by Remy Barnes, David Coyle, Dana De Ano, Howard Fonda, Catherine Forster, Jodie Jacobi, Anna Joelsdottir, Darrell Roberts, Shannon Stratton and LiveBox.  This is an entire functioning home turned over to a exuberant art presentation.

A lot of good things are happening on the south side of Chicago, in Pilsen, Bridgeport and elsewhere. In conjunction with Chicago Artists Month the
Chicago Artists’ Coalition presents the Chicago Art Open.  When they say “Open” they mean it; 300 artists, unjuried unfettered, unrestrained. It could be subtitled The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  You get to go see what resonates for you and examine a very broad sampling of the art that gets made here. There is also a much smaller juried section where you can contrast the presumed quality here with the Open presentation. A good opportunity to learn something about the machinations of the artworld just by looking.

To top it all off, the tireless impresario Edmar and his cohorts are presenting the
5th Select Media Festival. Raw, vibrant and frequently quite good this is a great opportunity to look and to get involved.

I really like
Cody Hudson’s work and he and Zakee Shariff are creating an installation in Hejfina, an upscale lifestyle boutique, to be unveiled next Thursday evening.  It promises to be fun, playful, and of course slightly irreverent.

Lastly, in the almost conventional
Walsh Gallery space the unconventional Von Kommanivanh, a Chicago artist born in Laos with a history of graffiti and tattoos delivers an absorbing, challenging sculpture around which the gallery has created a thematic group show titled Grounded, which examines the concept of immobility across mediums, which is kind of funny because Kommanivanh has mostly worked in two dimensions and is quite strong in in his first public foray into the third.

This is a really good weekend for finding fun art in fun new places. Chicago is alive.  I’ll see you out there.

Thank you,
Paul Klein