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Gravy [] number 3

Adam Mikos, publisher
Darlene Kryza, editor
Matt Taylor, design

February 1999
Vol 1, No 3

Faculty Sabbatical Exhibition

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Against my better judgment, I'm changing the way this review will be written. Initially, I had planned to go piece by piece, discussing the numerous flaws and weak points in each. I am now going to do the reverse. I am going to write about the one piece I did enjoy, Vanalyne Green's "Saddle Sores: A Blue Western," while spending as little time as possible on the rest.

Vanalyne Green made a twenty-minute video about her Herpes. She got the Herp from a quick you-know-what, with a cowboy (hence the title) named Bob. Luckily, for some psychological reason, she would like us to know all about it.

The story rounds out in a number of different directions; her narration, added to by interviews with friends who were either there when "it" happened or were privy to the facts.

In addition there are clips of John Wayne westerns and an old U.S. Army movie, which talks about the dangers of STD's. Within this odd story are a number of interesting and funny touches. She films herself burning cigarette holes in the Marlboro Man, has a Q&A with a tight lipped Herpes, and describes the diagnoses of Herpes as the "money shot" (like a cum shot in porn) of viruses.

Green effectively shines the light on herself while spreading the beam out far enough that it can be understood by almost anyone. You can tell she's pissed, and she knows that when her audience puts themselves in her place, they will be too. I like this video because I have often wondered two things: Did I pick something up from that last fling, and if I did, how in the hell would I deal with it. I could not handle any messing around down there. No way, no how. Vanalyne Green does a great job with this piece, whatever her motivation. Something tells me this isn't the first time she has told this story.


True Value

Good first show. Keep it moving.

Storefront galleries don't have to look like storefront galleries. Just look a few doors down.


Solid show with loads of heavy hitters put together by Nathan Mason.

A killer piece in a back room where we got to shoot liquid (I Can't Believe It's Not Butter) out of a Super Soaker (covered in blobbed Silly Putty), shooting at two pictures on the wall. The pics were laminated, unfortunately. A one-off, or will this continue?

Afterward: I revisited the show a week later (to pick up AMG's very well-costed birthday butter Nixon) and the air war rich with many buttery qualities.

Body Builder and Sportsman Gallery

As my mom has often said on Christmas morning, "that's nice." It's cute and funny but is it really about "bio-engineering?" Is it just something fun to play with like Ken's head on Barbie or the weird creations in Toy Story?

Maybe I'm taking this too seriously. Laughter is grand. We should laugh more. There, the piece succeeded. The fun went all ten yards, the grass, and the flowers. United, the environment as a whole stood together. This is a problem that tends to plague a lot of installation art -- too many loose ends within the piece. However, concepts often fall short too...

As for the gallery, they are flexing even more versatility in what shows they choose to mount (not the dirty kind of mount). This is a good change up.

Marc Alan Jacobs, Hymietown,

Beret international Gallery

The jury has been tainted by reading too many of the reviews for this show. Here is a middle-of-the-road description. There appeared to be religious elements involved, you may or may not have been able to touch the art, the "chosen brew" was being served. Direct all inquiries to Marc himself: www.jewboy.com

Warning, River North

Sherry Karver, Warning, Gwenda Jay Gallery

Finally, the days have arrived where pieces incorporating digital photography do not look like on experiment in high-tech crap.

Sherry Karver pieces together her black and white images in PhotoShop -- large scale prints made on paper which she then works over with colored oil glazes. That is where the magic happens. At first these images appear straightforward, while the glazes slowly odd a mysterious depth. Her hands create nuances with each element.

In addition to the treatment of the surfaces, there is a strong image foundation. The surface she begins from, with images taken from a camera in Grand Central Station, are inviting. They have the quiet alone space similar to what Harry Callahan would capture. In her statement the artist writes that light and the figure are her two main themes.

With subtleties up her sleeve, Sherry Karver skillfully blends and separates the two, opening the physical space between her viewer and her audience.

A Letter From The Editor

Quandary, beauty's role in photography at the end of the century, part 2.

{illustration} "Father with Daughter" Anonymous 3 3/4 x 4 1/4" Daguerreotype circa 1842

"A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer. It dies by the same token. It is therefore a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world. How often it must be permanently impaired by the eyes of the vulgar and the cruelty of the impotent who would extend their affliction universally!" Mark Rothko, December 1947, Tiger's Eye, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 44.

Employed to record the horrors of war, memorialize death, make statements both social and political, chronicle the ever changing landscape, assist in scientific discovery, and sell a product, photography's short life has remained rich. In contributions of less than 200 years to the artworld, photography paved roads through the many disparate movements which graced the 19th and 20th century, finding niches to call its own along the way. Continually tested, photography's beginnings of simple glass plates and daguerreotypes, made swift its adaptations to the emerging technologies of computer manipulation programs and digital cameras.

In its 172 years of existence, photography has developed qualities to acerbate and delight simultaneously, making almost impossible the quandary of defining beauty within the medium. The complexity of this makes it difficult to discuss the innuendoes and confrontations of beauty's role as this century comes to an end. We must turn to modernity to decipher how and if beauty plays a role in photography, beginning no earlier than the first photograph by Niepce in 1827, advancing onward to the millennium.

The success of Niepce's first photograph in France in 1827 quickly led to his partner Daguerre's persistent experimentation in the medium. By the 1830's, Daguerre, after Niepce's death, announced the discovery of his daguerreotype in France, with news quickly spreading throughout Europe.

At the same time in England, William Henry Fox Talbot, with the help of Herschel, created the first paper image. This "light writing" was changed from the term photogenic drawing to photography with urging from Herschel.

Back in France, without near the same success as Daguerre, Hippolyte Bayard discovered the first direct paper process. Marketed in the US by Morse, a painter and inventor of the telegraph, photography's potential quickly spread.

In an emerging industrialized nation, Daguerre appeared mostly interested in the visual information his images could record. William Henry Fox Talbot, on the other hand, whose work might be compared to 17th century Dutch genre painting, was interested predominately in the art of the everyday; beauty captured in the most mundane of subjects. This, however, did not make Daguerre's images any less beautiful. On the contrary, his daguerreotypes, with their shimmering metal plated fronts and decorative casings, became individualized icons, looked upon with the same seriousness as Thoreau's Walden or Manet's Luncheon in the Grass.

By the mid 1850's many of photography's technical difficulties were beginning to work themselves out, leaving room for expansion. In 1851 Queen Victoria made public the stereograph and stereoscope, producing an overnight success worldwide. Used in many of the same ways television is today, this invention, wherein two identical images are positioned side by side and viewed through a binocular type device producing a 3-D effect, entertained and educated. While doing both, the stereograph made accessible the beauty of worlds formerly unknown. Visions of faraway lands and culture's previously only read about, this tool was multi-layered.

Back in the United States the daguerreotype, stereo-view card, and silver plate were used for a variety of purposes. Most intriguing was their treatment of postmortem photography from photography's beginnings throughout the 20th century. In the monograph Sleeping Beauty, Memorial Photography in America, this obsession of memorializing the dead is clearly illustrated through Dr. Stanley B. Burns research.

Almost all anonymously photographed; these immortal images have preserved those who died quietly and by violent death, famous villains and Americans of varying social classes alike. Each time I sift through the pages with their accompanying stories, I am continually surprised, horrified, and in constant question of my reactions. Why would anyone record these private and painful moments? Why am I fascinated and engrossed by each image and story? The answers to these questions are not simple, just like the images themselves.

Almost all of the early daguerreotypes were displayed with elaborate gold leaf and velvet cases, making the memorialization of the people found within them heightened. The stereo-view cards had quite a different feel to them, voyeuristic and inquisitive in nature. The much late silver plates were more documentary, seeming to record an event instead of capture the essence of the once living. Although at times all of these images are difficult to look at, the common thread that connects them and keeps the viewer coming back for another glimpse, appears less to do with the subject matter and more to do with the beauty surrounding the images themselves and the emotions that this beauty brings forth.

Some images graphically illustrate the pain associated with an individual's passing, whether for the deceased themselves or the one's left behind. Some are morbid; exhibiting corpses kept in the home for more that seven days. Eerie was others, at first glance mistaken as still among the living. In addition there are images which seem too fantastic to be real, an entire family killed and brought back to their bed to lay together once more.

Whatever the driving force, the beauty behind postmortem photography, within this book's pages or in carefully archived private collections, cannot be mistaken for anything less than beautiful. No matter how painful, these photographs allowed the audience of the day the first step in their grieving process while having an everlasting remembrance of their beloved.

Next month: Stereographs and early silver prints, the variety of artistic movement's photography began to associate with and their influences on beauty.

Stay tuned.

-- Darlene Kryra

Vincent Darmody's "Evil Show".

Law Office -1837 W. Evergreen #3 - Chicago - 773.276.4681 an apartment show featuring : mark booth, eric combeli, derek fonsler, willie gregory, charles irvin, rebekah levine, matt lingenfelter, rick mallette, kirstin stoltman, rob weingart

Ethically, there is no way I should be writing about this show. First, I'm in it. I'm invested. In my defense, I seem to be the the only person willing to take up the pen and give this good exhibition its due. Events like this one are a force of positivity and a great declaration of existence and autonomy in the Chicago art world and they need to be recognized. Anyway apartment shows are all about tooting one's own horn when no one will do it for you. Asserting one's own validity to exist. So here I am honking, HONK.

My apologies to any artist in this show who I am omitting, or whose work I am misrepresenting. I am, however, "on the clock" so to speak and my memory of the evening's events are a little hazy as they were filtered through cheap champagne, romantic turmoil, and a grant application. I can't address most of the work, but a few of these pieces are like tenacious burrs on the legs, so I'll pick at them and leave it for you, the readers, to discover the rest.

The Evil Show is an apartment exhibition curated by Vince Darmody, a visual artist, primarily known for his work with the performance group Lucky Pierre. It is Darmody's second exhibition -- last year he curated Ten White Male Painters Paint the Same Thing at the Rainbow club. This was an irreverent, humorous, and intriguing exhibition of ten 2' x 2' paintings produced by ten artists in response to a set of uniform open-ended criteria. It was a refreshing and unexpected exhibition, as is Dormody's the Evil Show.

In short, the Evil Show is a nasty, ratty, great exhibition of uncomfortable unpolished work. It's a large exhibition of small means. Vince's apartment mates supported it, put up with it, put out for it monetarily (after all it's their rent), and the public showed up for it. It's an exhibition which is short on pretension and long on talent. If it's worth my time to write about it it's worth your time to look at, because like Linda Evangelista, supermodel, I don't get out of bed for less than ten grand a day.

To begin, the theme of "Evil" as a unifying principle of the exhibition is questionable. Instead, it's a show, plain and simple, of a group of well selected artists exhibiting wonderfully edgy and depraved work.

Granted, like the Ten White Painters exhibition, the art in the Evil Show was chosen by the individual artists selected by Dormody. This theme "thing" is not airtight. It's chancy, and half the excitement for Vince as curator must be selecting artists he trusts and letting them take he ball where they will.

And sometimes the ball falls a bit far from the initial concept. Fundamentally the theme issue is of little consequence. The vaporous and ill-fitting title is a common trap encountered in many "themed" exhibitions in the contemporary exhibition world. After all, a show has got to have a name, and a catchy one is best to hook art viewers. Curiosity being what it is in the age of ambulance chasers, "evil" is what draws them in.

Really the bottom line is that all can be excused because of the element of chance -- that's right, "CHANCE" -- which is so infrequent in the anemic and bleached gallery world. Darmody good-naturely invites chance, demands it, and is willing to take a risk, and fuck up gloriously. The apartment exhibition is the first offensive strategy for the disenfranchised of the art community.

The exhibition system is not, and perhaps cannot, serve all artists. It cannot serve all the hardworking, productive, talented people with ideas and a will to create who are out in the human sea. Nor, for that matter, can it serve the slacker, dilettante, long term professionals, or he greater "majority" for that matter, who want to exhibit their work and have same degree of contact with a world outside themselves.

So, in response, artists are creating their own venues outside the established systems in temporary spaces such as apartments, store fronts, moving trucks, rental storage units, anywhere a work of art con be housed and seen on a shoe-string budget.

Phlegmatic galleries can't take a chance on much new work for fear of not making the rent. And of course the galleries and museums can only show a limited number of artists per year. It's a legitimate limitation of exhibitions. I'm stating he dubious of course, and these issues have all been articulated by sharper minds than my own. In a way it's ridiculous to even discuss it because we all know the score.

Law Office, otherwise know as Vince's apartment for the other 11 months of the year, is on the 3rd floor of a substantial three-flat across from the "fun church", on Evergreen just south of Milwaukee in Wicker Park. Its a big apartment. It can house a lot of art and thankfully a lot of people.

The opening was a gas. Approximately four hundred visitors climbed through snow mounds, dotted by dog feces, traversed the barely shoveled walks, ascended the three flights of stairs, finally passing over the threshold into an apartment filled with generous, funny, unpretentious kick ass work. Worthwhile gleeful inflection.

Got to hand it to Vince -- fantastic party. It was the most heavily attended opening in recent memory at an independent space. He got the people out on a Friday night and drew them away from the usual halls of art with their coveted cheese tables and wine -- and that's nothing to sneeze at.

There are some great works in this show. Talented interesting artists. Not everything exhibited is terrific but it's all worthy of a viewer's attention. Not bad for an apartment show. Not bad at all.

Hidden in the foyer, behind coats and the front door is Matt Linqenfelter's small chart-like framed computer print "HONOR FOR VLAD." It employs the slick graphic language of a contemporary men's magazines and is the image of a Swedish death-metal musician, Vlad, presumably, with his lyrics downloaded from the web. In Sweden, I've been told, the death-metal kids have been eating flesh and burning towns in the grand old tradition of their forefather's. Vlad is serious

In the living room Rob Weingart exhibited a slick wall sculpture that's fresher than tomorrow. A futuristic white sculpty wedge, a techno-ghost, riddled with a few eye holes and on organic computer keyboard on its side. Its more wedge than ghost, but very curious.

Video artist Kirsten Stoltman showed videos and drawings. The videos are great, in a particular "Self reflecting."

Rick Mollete showed a grid of small scanned biomorphic drawings, printed on adhesive acetate, and affixed to front windows in the living room. His imagery is like some nasty melanoma pulled from Carrol Dunhams back. It's testicular cartoons and more. The kind of decals that Toys-R US should really sell to kids.

Rebekah Levine's puffy satin wall sculpture above the fireplace in the living room is entitled "clammy" and resembles a large abstract sexual organ with antlers or flames. Levine also showed a video collaboration with Darmody, Rob Davis, and Mike Langlois. Darmody and Levine lip-sync the duet "be careful," by Sparkle, featuring R. Kelley in a sort of karaoki music video.

Derek Fansler's "Drinking Beer and Watching Television in my Living Room" (Nothing Spectacular) is a small sculptural tableaux glued to top of the cable box on the living room TV.

In the dining room is a salon style installation of Charles Irvin's seedy ink drawings. Theta work, are drown in a style that is like Raymond Pettibone doodling on crisp white paper with Mike Kelley's spent penis drooling ideas in his ear. "Lucifer Intellect - Thrice Removed" is my favorite as well as a twisted take on the "teletubbies."

Irvin also showed two videos. One fantastic tape, "Feelings," is an appropriated nature documentary over dubbed with with shorts (and other creatures) asserting their sensitivity and "humanity" while critiqueing the evil nature of "superior" humans. Irvin is a demented moralist, pointing a finger at our shortcomings and hypocrisies.

Eric Campbell's Five Sex Paintings (Redneck, Charlie's Angels, Mono, Nerves, Reign), a victory hung across the room from Irvine's. They are a series of chunky odd paintings. Campbell is destined to become Chicago's favorite living decoupage artist. Or mine at least. I am reminded of those libidinous musicians who paste photos of nude women on their musical instruments. (I saw a bass like this ones.) Pot paint enveloper found images of naked body parts. Breasts poke out like sores everywhere.

In the hallway hang two Drawings of Kirsten Stoltmann's - "I Loved All My Friends, April, 11. 1998". It's is a handwritten listing of all of Stoltman's friends rated in numerical order. No need to explain this at all other than it is great. I wish I was on it.

Kirsten's got one video in the living room and another in the kitchen too. Extremely wry and witty work.

Vince Darmady the "evil draftsman" and architect of this exhibition has an overwhelming pile of drawings strewn on the kitchen table which are free to be pawed by the admiring crowds.

My work is on the back porch, out in the cold that's Mark Booth's "Nobel Prize people." I have a sound piece dedicated to the the woolly mammoth and to the extinction of bombastic progressive rock drumming a'la Carl Palmer. It's an installation of two fur covered speakers playing an endless loop of wind and a manipulated children's song about a pachyderm. Its cool. Or cold. There's my plug. Toot.

Willie Gregory exhibited a number of great pieces around the apartment. Of particular interest is "dead cat (Remake of Dead Cat by Welter Paisley as Played by Dick Miller in Rager Corman's 1959 movie A Bucket of Blood)" in the living room. A sculpture of a dead cat. The title explains the rest.

On the kitchen wall is Jeanne, Me, Tony, Judy -- the hilarious and unassuming center piece of the show, perhaps most succinctly embodying the gesture of this exhibition and apartment shows in general. Jeanne, Me, Tony, Judy, a casual framed 8 x 10 copy. It filled me with an "evil" mirth and I had to laugh out loud. It's a photo of established Chicago artists Jeanne Dunning, Tony Tasset, and Judy Ledgerwood appropriated (I think) from an issue of the fascinating (yes fascinating) Chicago Social magazine. It is an image lifted from the magazine's section devoted to photographs of gleaming young socialites at charitable events and swank elite bar openings, prior to the flush of drunken rung climb'N moves.

Vince Darmody's "Evil Show" asserts that we have a scene here, a collective gestalt. Perhaps we Chicagoans don't have a media apparatus erected yet to project our work, our Chicago work, and our Chicago wills into the national collective arts consciousness, but it doesn't mean we can't try. Fade in "Mary Tyler Moors' theme. Roll credits (my apologies to Gregory for making him my ventriloquist's dummy).

-- Mark Booth 2/4/99

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