Posted inArt

A Family Lives Out the Drama of the World

CHICAGO — Typical American movie moments of heightened tension use signal sounds in tandem with the emotions portrayed by the actors on screen. The family dog knocks over a precious antique plate, and an ominous tune rolls in to signify that the pup is about to get in trouble. Dad arrives home only to catch his adolescent daughter in the act — a sharp, shrill note strikes just as he opens the door to her bedroom. In the world of Guy Ben-Ner’s “Soundtrack” (2013), the opposite types of moments occur, representing a shift in the notions of a family “drama.”

Posted inArt

Carrying on a Political Absurdist Legacy

CHICAGO — Cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883–1970) was best known for his depictions of “inventions” that imagined complicated contraptions with far too many moving parts built to solve the simplest of problems. These “Rube Goldberg machines” appeared in his work, and were used as devices to poke fun at the roundabout nature of American bureaucratic and political systems in the post-World War II era. Rube Goldberg’s Ghost, a large group exhibition on view at Columbia College’s small Glass Curtain Gallery (through May 4) features work by more than 20 artists who may very well be Goldberg’s companions in that they, too, enjoy laborious machinations with political undertones.

Posted inArt

Making Art from the End of Love

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.

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Latham Zearfoss Knits Together Materiality, Domestic Politics, and Queer Identity

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.

Posted inBooks

Moments of Female Adolescence, Illuminated Online and in Print

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.

Posted inArt

Derelicts, Drunks, Hippies, and Queers: Fred Burkhart’s Life in Photographs

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.

Posted inArt

Kate Durbin Finds Virtual Moments of Adolescent Vulnerability in “Girls, Online”

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.

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Homage to a City’s Queer History

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.

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Top 5 Chicago Shows of 2012

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.

Posted inArt

Artistic Bootlegging Begins in Cincinnati and Ends in China

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.