Western Exhibitions, June 12-August 1: Dutes Miller, The Ecstasyist

June 14, 2009

Dutes Miller

Dutes Miller’s installation The Ecstasyist is filled with penises – and other images related to the male body and its accoutrements – but mostly just penises. Sculptures of condoms, hanging and drooping in an Eva Hesse-style, hover mid-air while messy collages and drawings, sometimes framed, sometimes not, fill the walls. Although not cluttered, the word “full” is probably the most apt way to describe the use of space where every corner of the gallery has been used to exhibit a different aspect of Miller’s working practice in a different exhibition style, from the presentation of his untitled series of amorphic bodies in a never-ending circle, to the rigorous seriality of his framed untitled collages of cut-up nude male models.

I am reminded of a quotation, one loosely rememberd, by the blogger/curator of I Heart Photograph, that there were times when she would post images to her website that she really liked, but once she saw them in person at an exhibition, her reaction completely changed – a problem of online curating once you reach out to the challenges of “real” life spaces.  Miller’s work seems more DIY in person than online, but the Ecstasyist, whomever he is, cannot make up his mind. His influences are numerous, from dabbling in Surrealist collage to Mapplethorpe’s renditions of the male body (however, Miller’s are rendered far less classic and glamorous than the late artist). The Ecstasyist is schizophrenic about the treatment of his images – should he let the original text of the his cut up magazines show through in his collages and let dried glue ripple the paper, should he frame his works?

This frenzy of sources and styles confused and dissatisfied my friend who attended the opening with me, however I don’t care whether or not an artist is original. The works in this exhibition that contained the most prescient understanding of the installation as a whole are those small, circular collages of bodies that, without eyes or faces, still contain the source of desire, the sexual organs and the soft skin that contains it, yet the shape of desire is difficult to define, existing in various intensities without a constant goal. Unfulfilled desire is what drives the Ecstasyist, but the source of Miller’s uneven treatment of desire, materials, and source, was not identified in the exhibition, left dubious and unfulfilled, like the exhibition’s imagined creator.


Post-Art Art Fair

May 5, 2009
Bucky, a Dymaxion car, and a geodesic dome

Bucky, a Dymaxion car, and a geodesic dome

There’s no way to describe in any succinct fashion Art Chicago, NEXT, Converge, and all of the events associated with this week’s fair, so here’s a few highlights:

  • Goffo and Jelly Wrestling
  • Finding out that Max Protech sells Buckminster Fuller works
  • Awkward exchanges between Midwestern curators and one from the Whitney
  • Recession hit the bar: the black VIP card would only get you free water on the Art Chicago level.
  • However, at NEXT, the Grolsch cart served free beer all day and night!
    Art Fair tourists, like those who came to take photos of art and those who told me that my booth’s flower arrangement was the “best-looking thing” they had seen all day. Really, not the art?


April 24, 2009

Recently, I saw the lovely person behind i heart photograph speak at SAIC. She was brought by the graduate Photography department’s programming committee. Although everyone was remarkably positive about her various projects (and I, too, love them and am jealous of her prescient eye), I am still weary of calling a blog a curatorial project. Sure, a blog consisting of your fave photos of the moment is a curated project in the way that a mix-tape is, but it’s also not the same thing as Hans Ulrich-Obrist’s Do It.

the print-version of the project

Do It consists in many forms, but the online manual of this commissioned project announces a thematic for the works included. Maybe this is what I don’t see happening on the lovely i heart photograph site – other than the blogger’s taste, nothing else unites the images, however interesting they might be.

Pulitzer Prize for Criticism

April 22, 2009

The winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Criticism went to an art critic. Hooray for that, however, even though an art critic is not a common choice for this prize, the winner was the hardly obscure Holland Cotter of The New York Times. Known for publicizing Ryan Trecartin and contemporary Chinese artists, I always assumed he was a bit younger. But you know, it could just be a bad photo. Young at heart.

Paging Mr. Cotter

Paging Mr. Cotter


Slumdog Millionaire

April 21, 2009

Artists and those involved in the arts have notoriously bad taste in music and film. I’m going to blame this on the motif of appropriation because many artists and artsy types have interpreted this to mean that they can like “everything.” In my pursuit of everything, I rented Slumdog Millionaire at my local video store (no Netflix). I had wanted to rent Twilight, but it was sold out. Even though I never watch the Oscars, I decided that I would be doing my job by watching their best movie of 2008.

I was wrong because this film is so cheeseball. I like melodramas, but this one tries to incorporate some artsy camera shots. The film is just choppily cut, uses a variety of filters, and has some slo-mo frames. It’s more like a music video made by someone who wants to show off all of the techniques they recently learned at film school. Oh, and MIA’s music appears ahistorically throughout the film.

Here’s the moral of the film: don’t let money rule your life and you will be destined to inherit money. It’s a love story, but not one that I would want to happen to me. I don’t want to be destined to be rescued from a drug ring by some gawky, unattractive dude I met when I was a child. This is probably why Latika’s dialogue with our protagonist consists of nothing more than, “Thanks!” or, “Get out of here!”

However, the film was entertaining enough to watch on my laptop before going to sleep, but I should have rented Twilight.

Jamal and Latika don't have much to say to each other.

Jamal and Latika don't have much to say to each other.

Case-by-Case Basis at the Lloyd Dobler Gallery, March 6 – April 11, 2009

April 6, 2009

The Southern Graphics Council Conference was held in Chicago last weekend. The culture of printmaking is one filled with extremes of application, from those that embrace the specifics of the medium or if its one based on the cultural implications of printmaking as a easily and instantaneously produced medium for circulation within the populace. Bad at Sports recorded a podcast in conjunction with the conference which, thanks especially to Mark Pascale’s contribution, helps to illuminate the discrepancies between what is printmaking in terms of an art practice in general.

This all-print show at Lloyd Dobler features carefully crafted, gorgeous works with a hint of mystery to them. Literally, something is missing, a ghostlike trace across the print in Alex Chitty’s works that distinguishes the present-day work from being mistaken for a 19th century print. This spectre points to the haunting of printmaking by its past, a fear still so real and tangible.

DDR/DDR screening at Conversations at the Edge, Gene Siskel Center

March 1, 2009

Amie Siegel’s 2008 film DDR/DDR weaves together strange tales of individuals living in East Germany after the fall of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR).  Not strictly a film about the people living in the DDR, the networks explored in this film consists of the technologies – in particular, the types of camera and recording technology used – architectural spaces, and even the fate of psychoanalysis during these years. Siegel positions hereself as an artist performing as psychoanalyst, mining the archives of  the Stasi’s films – a tremendous feat – and the spaces occupied by them. What has survived the approximately 20 years since die Wende has been shaped by the films of the DDR – a technophile’s dream!  Scenes of present-day German “Indian Hobbyists” discussing the East German films based on the American Western genre, filled with cowboys and “Indians,” are novel and disturbing to my Chicagoan eyes, but if I wasn’t so affected, then this film would be just another type of effort at multi-culturalism.

Andrea Fraser Speaks!

February 26, 2009

As part of the School of the Art Institute’s Right to Believe Series, Andrea Fraser lectured as the first voice. Bordering on a straightforward artist’s slide jam – which, unfortunately, is the type of lecture many artists perform, believing that it might be unbiased or distance themselves from the work, however boring the lecture in itself tends to be – and characterization of herself where Fraser slides in and out of the museum guide that she plays in “Museum Highlights.” This balance between real and unreal, subconscious and conscious states, became rifted during the question and answer series when Fraser started crying.

A performance? Probably. However, this is what to expect from an artist who controls her reception to a demanding degree.

Christa Donner, Re:Production. On view at Three Walls, through Feb. 14, 2009

January 16, 2009

Christa Donner with her work

Christa Donner draws and draws, on walls and in zines – even her animations are cut and pasted drawings.  Her intricate, obsessive, and simple graphic style animates the flat walls at Three Walls (116 N. Peoria St.). In case some of the works look familiar, versions of some of the drawings at Three Walls have appeared elsewhere, in New York City, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Yes, she draws vaginas and pregnant women, but this isn’t first-wave feminism. Donner researched the various ways he animal kingdom gives birth. An example of her research seen in this exhibition: a certain type of mite gives birth through their stomach, their offspring bursting through the stomach lining and out into the world. Gross, right?

From here, Donner anthropomorphizes the various ways animals give birth by drawing humans going through the same process, i.e. babies bursting out of fleshy stomachs.  Donner’s process of finding obscure information about reproduction and then substituting, say mites for humans, serves to demystify the pregnancy process.

Stereotypes still abound about pregnancy, from the idea that  it should be an entirely joyful process during month one through nine, to the idea that every woman will at some point want to be pregnant.  Showing how pregnancy really works in the rest of the world is one step to forging a dialogue about the still misunderstood topic of pregnancy.

When you go to Three Walls, remember to pick up a free mini-comic/zine by this creative documentarian.  In the comic, Donner illustrates her interviews with women about their reproductive organs. Just don’t expect anything typical.

Tank Traps and Hijackings, Old Gold, Jan. 9-Feb. 8, 2009

January 12, 2009

The best part about Old Gold is the bar permanently installed in this basement apartment. Seriously, the home brew beer at this exhibition, the “Viking brew” according to one of the Scandanavian-esque bartenders, was some of the best beer that I’ve had in a while.  Art openings are parties, therefore, I have every right and in fact, I have an obligation to discuss the type of beer they serve.

As an exhibition, the content of Shackleford’s sculptures and prints was dependent on place, dependent on the architecture of Old Gold and the people in it. By 9pm, Old Gold was crowded and the three sculptures became obstructions to people moving around, whether to look at the works, find the bathroom, or pet an adorable pug named Ruby who belongs to Kathryn, one of the co-0wners of Old Gold.  Throughout the night, people did end up walking into these wobbly, wooden sculptures. The experience invoked by these sculptures on this crowded night at Old Gold was vague. It was like listening to an inexperienced meteorologist who just tells you to “Watch out!” for bad weather, but not telling you what type of weather to expect.   I don’t want didactic art, but these gorgeous geometric sculptures merely told me to “Watch out!” for them while I wandered around to socialize,  an essential part of going to art openings.