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December 1999, Volume 2, Number 3, page 2

Bulka on Everything Else, part 1

Vedanta 2 - Matt Gray
I want to like this, but I can't. I would have loved to have seen any of the photo-subjects at a Halloween party - they would have just made the cut with people who were willing to make an effort of a one-night toss-off. We've got pictures too, but we don't think it's a big art gesture. I can't help but think of Nan Goldin and Larry Clark and these snaps seem theatrical and trivial and bear the faint stench of trite classist trailer-ridicule.

Standard:I admit to a prejudice for youthful energy over tenured, funded complacency. Standard is new, in a storefront in Dogpatch. No stated theme, but includes some of Donald Stahlke's Wildman/Bigfoot project I first saw at 312 this summer; some Mark Murphy food packaging collages that I think was represented at a hotel show last May, and some variously interesting other bits.

The Hat Factory is a very clean rehabbed loft that, from what I've heard, for a week every two months, turns into a gallery featuring students and recent grads. Another good effort.

As much as I anticipate the convenience of Manilow's art mall, I worry about what it will do to the viability of apartment shows and improvised storefront galleries.

And, not that you've seen any of his work yet, I should have mentioned that while I've done a couple of very depressing crit panels at the Art Institute, one Friday Maria Jose and I got lucky and had some good student studio visits. Lemis Mufti doesn't quite have it together yet, but if she can resist idiot faculty influences to literalise her influences, the paint smears could be very rich. Once Jason Dunda relaxes and lets his cynicism and sentimentality control his artful hand we could see some interesting painting. And Catcha Thandee is ready to go, except that her Zen scribbles are better as foils for spiritual conversation than for over-the-couch decoration.

Chicago Art Open
So, how is this CAC show different from that other un-juried 300+ show the gallery does every year at thesis time (other than these folks didn't pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to participate)?

Everything I saw here (I came late and was chased out without seeing everything) is very finished, nicely framed. Lots of bright colors. Very optimistic work. No clever gestures, personal revelations or predictable politics trying to pass as art. Generally a level of technical competence not seen in the schools or galleries.

It is almost all painting, and very literal, representational, illustrative painting at that. These seem to be people who choose to ignore the winds blowing through the art mags in favor of a passively-received, unexamined idea of tradition, much as most people live without questioning received institutions of economics, politics, education.

And the thumbnail-illustrated catalog is a very nice souvenir.

"This Way to Egress" at Butcher Shop
Very fun, but horrible traffic-pattern planning. Some easily accessible memory aid would be good, so that I would know who did any of the work I'm talking about would be a good idea, too.

The static work (which included an amusing wall of cartoon paintings with buttons to produce silly computer noises and another wall-installation with annoying little curtains that could be moved to reveal a plastic toy collection ruined by a coat of white paint) was largely overshadowed by what some school would call Time Arts.

A very entertaining live-projected crude puppet show of matchbox vignettes against the backdrop of a roll of the artist's tube-top-constrained belly fat would have probably been better if I could have heard the audio. Although, judging from the jokes I was able to hear, the enthusiastic audience did seem to be easily suggestible.

Claustrophobia made me leave after only the first few film & video shorts, though the taste was enough to make me want to see them in a more conducive setting. Except for the Law Office attic back in May I've never had a good experience viewing video at an art opening.

Denise Dietz showed up in platinum drag, with a mini-me pull-toy, before the band began. I may have missed the real show, but then, I'm twice as old as most of these folks. Rock on, chillun.

But it is good to have a juggler/mime near the keg.

Ten by Ten magazine
Annette Ferrara used to do something at the Examiner and now thinks she can do better on her own. I wish her the best luck - there are never enough voices. Unlike Cakewalk, which is trying to cover music and art and general pop culture, at least Ten by Ten has no CD reviews, and at least in the pilot issue, no ads. The fancy full-color printing, though, makes me suspicious, and articles on the Chapman brothers and Hernandez de Luna's stamps make it look even more like the deluxe version of that Camel ad that falls out of the Reader every few weeks. I'll read it sometime soon, hoping that content is up to the production values.

Libby Wadsworth at Zolla/Lieberman
The pieces in the entryway I first took to be some sort of personal code that I couldn't be bothered to translate, then recognized them as typographical manipulation that, while unworthy of Kay Rosen, were at least not as annoying as when graphic designers think they are artists. Didn't I see the same sentence diagram paintings about ten years ago at her thesis show? My favorite quote "The most revealing (work) is when she says 'I'm repeating myself.'"

And there were some of those smart things that Buzz makes. Hang one on your wall and your friends will think you are smart, too.

The Girl Ghetto
Artemisia: Didn't Laura Mosquera just show at CPR? No, that was some fashionably foreign person. Same paintings, though flat urban-scapes with alienated doll-figures. Pat my monkey.
ARC: A Queer Little Show Why can't people just make the art they make, without setting up the straw dogs? I'm glad to have missed the performance of a nervous transvestite trying on various items of drag.

In the static arts, the fabric pods spewing various mirrors and seeds and whatnot may have been radical in a fiber's department that was all about weaving, but in the real world have to compete with the holiday decorations from the Pottery Barn.

Amy Butt's plaques are, of course, a down-filtering of Stephanie Brooks, but these are coarse enough to be sold in truck stops. This might be a good thing.

Klein Gallery From Steven Marcus's happy waving figurines to Michael Rooks's rather boring and predictable archive of gallery anouncements, to Dennis Adrian's fetishistic boxes of gloves there are revelationis mad and questions raised about the stuff we surround ourselves with. From relatively structured collection and display, through souveniers of vacations and shopping sprees, to random conglomerations of cool miscellany, we look at the objects, the collection, the display, and the underlying personality quirks that lead to the choices.

The best curatorial/installation decision was the way Ruth Horwich's conventional art bled so seamlessly into Robert Derden's accumulations of road-kill. And I really like the idea of a doctor dragging home some busted up bus benches and crumpled car parts for home decor, not even bothering to call them "assisted found object art".