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March 29, 2005

Homer of the Transmundane

When destiny calls, you gotta accept the charges:

Marge: So... you want to go on tour with a traveling freak show.
Homer: I don't think I have a choice, Marge.
Marge: Of course you have a choice.
Homer: How do you figure?
Marge: You don't have to join a freak show just because the opportunity came along.
Homer: You know, Marge, in some ways, you and I are very different people.

"Homer of the Transmundane"
Posted by Dan at 05:26 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (13)

March 24, 2005

Call It Initiative

With Banksy's New York museum pranksterism getting serious play all over the place (and to think that I've been totally down with the guy since way back when) I was immediately reminded of an interview with prankster artist Jeffrey Vallance from RE/Search Publications' Pranks! (an excerpt of which can be found here).

Vallance seems like a decent fella.

For a junior college art history assignment he once wrote every U.S. Senator requesting "a drawing or sketch of something you like." He heard back from 33, including Barry Goldwater (who offered a sketch of a cactus in the sun), Strom Thurmond (who drew an American flag) and Alan Cranston (who included a print of a painting he'd previously done of the Washington Monument).

Following this, Vallance sent a necktie to every head of state in the world with a letter proposing a cross-cultural tie exchange.

I got about thirty letters back, with ties. I got Anwar Sadat's tie, one from the head of Poland, and the Pope sent me this little Catholic medal (he doesn't have a tie).

Austria's President Rudolf Kirchlager obliged as well, writing:

In spite of the fact that I am not convinced that the exchange of neckties will really strengthen the links between the American and the Austrian nations or our cultures, I will send you enclosed a necktie I used rather often, to be included in your collection.
I reciprocate your good wishes.

What brought Vallance to mind, though, as Banksy's latest exploits ricocheted around the internets and onto page B1 of the New York Times Arts section (with a photo on A1, below the fold), and as the museums remain totally hush-hush about it all, was the story of a small, unsanctioned show Vallance managed to mount at LACMA back in 1977:

I wanted to have a show at the Los Angeles County Art Museum, so I wrote them dozens of letters, but of course I couldn't get a show. One day I walked around the Museum looking at paintings and noticed that underneath them were all these wall sockets. So I bought a number of wall sockets and painted stupid little scientific scenes on them, like microscopes and dinosaurs and cows and slabs of butter.
I showed up at the Museum in a janitor's outfit, with a nametag and a toolbox, and started replacing the old wall sockets with my new ones. I had friends in the hallway who would whistle everytime a guard came near—then I'd go somewhere else. Sometimes I had to move furniture out of the way, and if ladies would be sitting down I'd have to say, "Can you please move? I have to fix this wall socket."
Nobody caught me. I sent out a bunch of invitations, just like it was a real show, and people came down. I made up some nicely illustrated programs, and sent one to the Museum to tell them about my project.
I thought I'd get some sort of reaction—maybe they'd be pissed off, or maybe they'd think it was really neat—but I never heard from them. Then about a year later, I was talking to some lady who used to work for the Museum and she told me she was the one who had opened my letter, and the reason she didn't answer it was because everybody thought they would get into trouble if people found our you could just walk in and move furniture and install these. So they hushed the whole thing up, and the wall sockets remained there for about two years.
They never got removed, but I think some janitors eventually came and totally repainted the rooms. One day I'd like to retrieve them: take them to an art restorer and have the layer of paint removed, then mount them on some really nice boards. I gave them a clear coat of lacquer, and they probably used latex paint, so it would just peel off . . .

Don't look now, but Vallance has inspired a curatorial copycat.

I hope he did eventually retrieve the socket covers. Based on their mundane subject matter, naive aesthetic and use of unconventional material, I think they could fetch a mint somewhere out in Chelsea or Williamsburg.

[Update, via Fresh Paint: Wooster Collective is coming to Chicago next week, site TBA]

"Call It Initiative"
Posted by Dan at 09:44 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (2)

March 23, 2005

Working Up a Head of Steam

Two and a half weeks ago found me dragging my tanned and peeling ass back to sunny Chicago for what has turned into a minor stint of internet hibernation.

I suppose that, now that every ounce of melanin in me has withered and died, it's about time to shake off the tropical sand. As if by way of help in this regard, the first day of spring, in the wake of a week of snow and rain, brought with it a pair of swollen tonsils alongside a fascinating array of other ear, nose and throat ailments. Yet, even as I sit here swabbing my nostrils and hacking up all sorts of surprising crud, I soldier on... on account of I care so damned much.

In any case, where else to begin but with a belated art fair update (in a post I'd meant to write a week and a half ago)?

With the fairs less than a month and a half off (signaled as it were by a recent post-Armory press release from Art Chicago), it's time to check in again with all the latest developments.

So... into the home stretch...

The Park vs the Pier: the Participants Revealed

For starters, and jumping in where we left off, both Chicago Contemporary & Classic and Art Chicago have finally posted exhibitor lists. While both lists are continually updating, as of Sunday CC&C boasted 58 exhibitors hailing from 31 different cities, eleven countries and three continents (plus the Netherlands Antilles). Eight of these outfits are from Chicago, including antiques dealer Rita Bucheit. Of the seven local art galleries CC&C has lined up, only four—Carrie Secrist, Aldo Castillo, Belloc Lowndes and Marx-Saunders—are devoted primarily or exclusively to contemporary work (with Belloc Lowndes focused on British work, Castillo on Latin American and Marx-Saunders devoted strictly to contemporary glass).

Art Chicago lists 85 exhibitors, including 20 local galleries. Of these, 13 focus primarily or exclusively on contemporary art: Roy Boyd, Lisa Boyle, Bucket Rider, Catherine Edelman, gescheidle, Van Harrison, Marx-Saunders, Ann Nathan, Perimeter, Carrie Secrist, Linda Warren, Western Exhibitions and Zg. On the whole, Art Chicago exhibitors represent 39 cities from ten countries on four continents.

You might notice from just these lists some galleries pulling double duty. In fact, by my count there are ten galleries participating in both fairs, including four of the seven local galleries signed up with CC&C. Robert Henry Adams, Marx-Saunders, Richard Norton, Carrie Secrist, Jerald Melberg, Pan American, Praxis, Russeck Gallery, Galeria Trinta and Walker Fine Art will all split their business between the park and the pier.

In CC&C antiques news (if anyone cares at all)... in her February 18 Chicago Reader column Deanna Isaacs reports the departure of auction czar Leslie Hindman (formerly of AntiquesChicago at Navy Pier) from the pier show fold following their last-minute change of dates, the new dates conflicting with a major west coast antiques show (LA?). For whatever it's worth, CC&C also goes up against the Chicago Antiques Fair at the Merchandise Mart.

The Stray Show is Reborn Lakeside

In her column Isaacs also makes note of the genesis of the NOVA Young Art Fair (and, if I'm not mistaken—though there's a very real possibility that I am—her short blurb comprises the only real press coverage of NOVA to date) and then almost offhandedly mentions that "Thomas Blackman will move the Stray Show of emerging galleries, previously held on Kingsbury, to his Art Chicago tent."

The Stray Show may have never been officially dead but the last we heard anything about it we had TBA's Heather Hubbs (who has since moved on to greener pastures with NADA) seeming to suggest its ultimate demise. Or maybe not... but that's how this Chicago reader read it at the time. As of right now, the Stray Show lives on as the Stray Section at Art Chicago, and participants are currently being selected on an invitational basis.

Stray booths will be more expensive this year than in the past, but participants should now enjoy the benefits of visibility alongside the main fair by virtue of both proximate location and inclusion in the Art Chicago catalogue. How much of a benefit this will offer ultimately depends on how the main fair fares (that's the big question, isn't it?), but the Stray Show, which is from what I'm told considerably cheaper than NOVA, still looks to offer the best deal in town dollar-wise.

NOVA Swallows the West Side

For their part, CC&C has buddied up with NOVA for purposes of cross-promotion and shared marketing and ticket sales. NOVA gets to piggyback on CC&C's bonanza of national advertising and CC&C apparently gets to slap their cattle brand on the West Loop, dubbing it the "after-party destination for Chicago Contemporary & Classic." (TBA was also approached by NOVA organizers looking for some sort of similar sponsorship arrangement, but they never bit.)

While the Stray Show finds some sweet real estate in Grant Park, NOVA seems to be banking on working up a party pitch in the West Loop gallery district. Director Michael Workman's vision for the fair has it being a "community-based art event" and, indeed, the NOVA project looks to overtake the neighborhood.

In what appears to be nothing short of a classic pincers movement, NOVA will flank the district with its commercial fair on Fulton at the north and an "artist friendly" space to the south, where Bridge has leased a 5,000 square foot space above the auto shop across Washington from Kavi Gupta's building. Slated for a fall opening, this space—christened the NOVA (Network of Visual Art) Center—is to eventually offer exhibition and performance spaces as well as room for up to four galleries and at least ten artists' studios. During the NOVA fair, however, the space will serve as site for exhibits from individual artists and non-profits. (The Hyde Park Art Center is apparently already lined up with an installation by Rael Salley.)

Lord help us if they ever get a foothold on Morgan.

... and the Commie Peaceniks Get Down on the South Side

Finally, as far as the "genre-bashing" "community-based art event" business goes, NOVA will find a bit of competition in Version>05, a 10 day art summit for the neo-Situationist set culminating on May Day (which, as it should happen, falls right in the middle of the big art fair weekend).

In the midst of its distributed, hybrid festival, Version will feature an art fair/trade show of its own down in Bridgeport:

The Version NFO ART EXPO is a trade show for experimental artists, info agitators and organizers of cultural interference. Alternative spaces are hubs for encouraging little utopias. Art and cultural places will act as laboratories for collaboration and explorations of emerging cultures. Version>05 will be hosting an NFO ART EXPO and space summit. We extend an invitation to members of artist run spaces, alternative institutions, cultural and social spaces, open universities, and individual artists and activists to present their work and mission within a booth or table at the version expo. A space summit will be organized to share stories, strategies and methods of survival and connectivity. The NFO ART EXPO will take place in a factory within the oldest manufacturing district of Chicago in a neighborhood called Bridgeport. Booth spaces are 15 x 15 feet. NFO tables are 3" x 6".

No word as to how much it will cost artists, spaces and collectives at the NFO EXPO to rage against "the roaring bullshit carnival that has become reality," but it's nice to know someone's on top of it.

"Working Up a Head of Steam"
Posted by Dan at 03:13 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (8)