CHICAGO — It’s impossible to know when love begins. At best, we are mildly aware of its onset — a subtle brush of the hair, a lick of the lips, a quiet nudge of the hip, a gaze that lasts too long or not long enough. What we do know is that love finds us; we cannot search it out. Spanish poet Federico García Lorca wrote of lunar romance: “How the owl is calling. / Ay, it calls in the branches! / Through the sky goes the moon, / gripping a child’s fingers.” His lyrical words wrap themselves around a young, innocent type of love.
CHICAGO — The absence of the body (politic), the presence of a re-negotiated domesticity and a necessary embracing of the fine line between romance and criticality play forward roles in artist Latham Zearfoss’s work, which embodies radical feminism of days past while looking toward the future. Zearfoss’s new work, which is part of the group exhibition How Do I Look? at Roots & Culture Gallery in Chicago, explores the re-envisioning of a queer aesthetic that delicately tiptoes its way into the gallery space, presenting itself in a quiet way like a cat nestled on a window sill basking in the afternoon sunlight.
In a culture that discounts the contributions of teenage girls yet rips them at will, co-opting their keen fashion sense into one that is marketable and desirable, Illuminati Girl Gang (IGG), a print and online journal of girl culture featuring work by kids who are mostly under the age of 25, comes as a welcome contribution to retaining the authenticity of adolescent expression.
I first spotted artist Fred Burkhart’s advertisements for nude female models plastered around local Chicago hippie, vegetarian, artist hangouts. I was 16 years old. The ads said something like: “Nude models needed for figure drawing class at Burkhart Studios. We pay $60 for three hours. Must be 18 years old.” I was ecstatic about the prospect of earning money by just posing nude while a bunch of artists drew interpretations of my body, and so I called up Burkhart and told him that I was available for modeling. I lied about my age. When I showed up 15 minutes before class started, Burkhart didn’t ask me for an ID, but he must have known that I was too young to model.
Artist and writer Kate Durbin is both an internet scavenger and connoisseur. Like a cultural anthropologist, she prowls the immaterial space of Tumblr, discovering user-generated content that describes the semi-anonymous emotional outpourings of masses of women, girls and young people. I first discovered her project “Girls, Online,” through a Facebook post.
Artist and writer Kate Durbin is both a scavenger and connoisseur of the Internet. She prowls the immaterial space, searching for images that express the emotional lives of adolescent girls. It was on Facebook that I first noticed a link to Durbin’s project “Girls, Online,” a collection of anonymous Tumblr posts from teenage girls that she assembled for Chris Higgs’s website Bright Stupid Confetti. Durbin captures the blogs and reblogs of sensitive adolescent teens and tweens, women-born-women, trans bois and gay boys. Her main focus, however, is on adolescent girls who are subject to the male gaze. The teenage girls she sees float about in that in-between space of clinging to girlhood and transforming into women.
CHICAGO — Edie Fake is a radical punk queer feminist activist. He is currently “at large” in Chicago. Before that, he was driving around the country in a yellow school bus doing the gay performance “Fingers.” At the opening of his solo exhibition Memory Palaces at Thomas Robertello, he told me that he grew up somewhere outside of Chicago, and when he left town he thought his relationship with the Windy City was over for good. But much to his surprise, he returned. Chicago is like that. Many born-and-bred Chicagoans swear they’ll leave, and they do — for a time, anyway. Chicago has a way of bringing its queers back to the city for reasons unbeknownst to them. The theme of Fake’s show offers us a clue as to why.
CHICAGO — Let’s get one thing straight, East and West Coasters: Chicago is not just that city of corrupt politicians, huge gusts of wind, lake effect snow, too much beer, deep dish pizza, da Bears, the forever-losing cubs, the Renzo Piano Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, and that stopover between New York City and Los Angeles. Chicago is all of that and so much more.
CHICAGO — Artist Paul Perkins sees the problems created by capitalism. But, instead of providing subtle critique or some perceptive angle or even a conversation starter, he regurgitates what we already know.
KANSAS CITY, MO — If Chairman Mao were actually a monkey with prison tattoos, and if Alphonso Taft didn’t have that bump on the left side of his forehead, artists Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis wouldn’t have had as much fun playing with form in their whimsical two-person exhibition at Red Star Studios at the Belger Art Center. Taft and Mao are politically charged figures, yet the work here prefers to deal with ideas of authenticity, cultural appropriation, and blasting an object from the past into the future.
CHICAGO — The 2014 Whitney Biennial won’t be like every biennial before it. The always anticipated art world event will partly be a response to the Occupy movement’s call to end the Whitney Biennial, which charged that the major exhibition was just another art world commercial interest, and it will also be a swan song to the Whitney’s longtime home in the Marcel Breuer building, but many people may not realize that the event will also be different as it will welcome a Chicago curatorial approach into the mix, and that’s very exciting.
CHICAGO — Irena Knezevic’s exhibition Night of the World: Flatworks, Multiples and Music Programs embodies a heavy-handedness that could only come from the mind of a Serbian artist living in America post-Yugoslav Wars.