April 26, 2007
A quick Chicago art link-around for your afternoon reading.
First, a little where-are-they-now on a couple reformed fromer art bloggers...
If you look over here you'll find Newcity's newest, Jason Foumberg (ex-Houndstooth*), discussing one Rowley Kennerk (ex-Folding Chair, since disappeared from the living internets) and his eponymous West Loop gallery:
Kennerk's gallery is currently passing its six-month mark in existence. As the new kid on the block of Peoria Street, Chicago's real-estate ground-zero for contemporary art galleries, Kennerk must contend with such legendary heavyweights as Rhona Hoffman Gallery and Donald Young Gallery. While Hoffman is celebrating her thirtieth year in Chicago, the legacy of the work that she has supported continues to succeed beyond bounds. In fact, conceptual art is flourishing, tagged with the prefix neo, and is being carried into this century by newcomers such as Kennerk. Currently at Rhona Hoffman, a geometric sculpture by conceptual-art pioneer Sol LeWitt represents the staying power of idea-based art, and as it is composed of building blocks stacked in a gentle upward thrust (reminiscent of the Sears Tower), it reminds us that chronic lust for "the new" often succeeds by pushing off from the shoulders of the giantess.
Kennerk does not own LeWitt's sculpture, but what LeWitt codified exceeds the structure of formal or expressive art; it is a prescription for a moral life. Or, in LeWitt's words, "Ideas can be works of art." Idea art does not become dated in the way that Op art or even Pop art from the same period yellows—conceptualism is the product of an international cosmopolitanism. Rowley Kennerk's programming is turning out to be like this sculpture, or perhaps like a Mies van der Rohe building—it is both assertive and supportive of the new canon of art. If both art and life can be stylized, then Kennerk is International Modernism, which was (and continues to be) such a powerful code for living because it could exist anywhere in the world without appearing out of context, untranslated from one locale to the next.
Neo-conceptualism, drawing from Sol LeWitt's design, and which grew exponentially in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s with such artists as Jeanne Dunning, Gary Justis and Richard Rezac, is not Chicago-bound; it connects a network of worldwide intellectual practices. Similarly, Rowley Kennerk, who was born, raised and educated in the Midwest (from Indiana to Michigan to Chicago), is working independently of the hard-nosed Chicago style. Instead, he seeks to bring new ideas and artists to Chicago viewers. Some art in the gallery's short exhibit history directly references 1960s culture and the breakdown of absolutism, such as works by Richard Prince and Sam Durant. Others, such as David Liekse and Florian Morlat's works (who Kennerk will show later this year), press on the barriers of history in favor of an openness to the universal. By introducing the work of these "significant emerging" artists to Chicago audiences, Kennerk hopes that we will be as challenged as he is, and that our taste for uncertainty, as well as the uncertain future, will be edified.
But how about multi-tasking, fellas? (Like I'm one to talk.)
Chicago talks to me. On my best days, I listen, and put those voices into my work.
I'm not sentimental about the "old" Chicago—wistful maybe, but not sentimental. I do not miss the city that enforced segregation with brutal efficiency, not to mention bricks and bottles. I do not long for the days of mutual distrust among the myriad of ethnicities in this city.
It's not as if those struggles are completely behind us. We are still a segregated city. We are still a city of tribes or, put more gently, a city of neighborhoods. My friend Alex Kotlowitz, the author of the splendid Chicago work, "Never A City So Real," describes Chicago as a city of "messy vitalities" and he is right.
I think my task as an artist is to remember this place. To put some sense and order to it for myself, and then hope that these combinations of drawing and collage have some resonance for others as well.
I believe there is a magical Chicago—one that transcends the rusted, steel-belted old tropes of Sandburg poems. Don't get me wrong. I love the Sandburg poems. They are the seminal text of my work. They are also very old and unforgiving. They also sometimes miss those moments when this city is heart-stoppingly beautiful. Like when I was 7 years old, riding in my father's big shark of an Oldsmobile, in the dead of winter, past Chicago Stadium and seeing a boy, no bigger than I was, walking three enormous costumed elephants through the snow into the back of the old barn. I had never seen anything like it. It was one of those moments where the incongruities meld into a magical reality—elephants on Damen Avenue in the middle of the gray West Side. That was the day that I was hypnotized by Chicago. It is a spell I am still under.
This city has something to do with what I know, and how I know it.
"Wistful maybe, but not sentimental." I like that.
As the kids say, read it all.
"Quick Hits: The Wages of Art Blogging/Chicago Pachydermata"
Posted by Dan at 02:06 PM
Chicago Tribune: I hear Chicago speak—Tony Fitzpatrick (April 15, 2007)
Houndstooth: Selected Works
Internet Archive Wayback Machine: Foldingchair.org
Internet Archive Wayback Machine: Houndstooth
Newcity Chicago: Eye Exam: Rolling Rowley—Jason Foumberg (April 17, 2007)
Rowley Kennerk Gallery