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October 1999, Volume 2, Number 3, page 3

Bulka on Everything Else, part 2

Adam Mikos/Next Space at Beret
I'm not even sure how to refer to this show. Adam's Next Sapce gallery is homeless, temporarily taking possesion of other physical spaces. This was a mini-Mikos retrospective-nice, mostly formal, photos; samples of Gravy (our best competition in the Chicago art zine category); and something that could be an interesting cut-and-paste art book, except that it was pinned up in pages on the wall.

Maybe this Columbia multi-disciplinary thing has gotten out of hand, but a little confusion is a fair price for lively activity. Apparently there are a party and another show sheduled for the month of Beret/Next Space overlap. Pay attention and you'll know about it at least as soon I will.

In any case, dispossesed curatorial perspectives occupying willing host spaces is an excellent idea.

Stephen Lapthistophon at TBA
This work is hard to appreciate at just the opening. This is good: too many artists' work has only the appeal of point-of-purchase displays. On the other hand, the drawings of photocopies of the backs of photographs and the pop-culture references of the Xeroxed-covered center wall bear the stench of clever Post-Modernism, at this point academic, and, redundantly, a dead-end.

Betty Rymer: SAIC Faculty Sabbatical Show
In theory, once every seven years, professors get a year off to recharge. Maybe some of these folks need a little longer.

Carolyn Ottmers used the time off for a couple of side-jobs - commissioned whimsical plaza-ploppers. Here is documentation.

Peter Gena's DNA Music - just because something is possible, does that make it worthwhile? His rendering of a representation of the genetic coding of a witch's brew of popular viruses into audible tones leaps over potentially interesting issues of translation, encoding, language to produce pseudo-science and pseudo-music in and abuse, or at least wasteful misuse of both technology and art.

Shawn Decker presented an apology for his version of washtub-bass trio not being able to be heard above conversation-noise. Unless this is some spectacular sound, it seems he is just a loser in a backwards-round-the-barn-Rube-Goldberg competition in making noise some clever way.

I had some rude things to say about the photographs, but it turns out that this is just a badly placed elegiac retrospective for Fred Endsley. The fault is with the organizers, not the dead guy.

Assuming Anders Nereim is still with us, I am comfortable in saying that these crude, non-functional, plywood prototypes of excessively large and useless desk accessories are just pathetic.

Vedanta - Carla Arocha
A new marriage and a move to Europe seem to have calmed Carla down. There are none of the smarty sexual allusions I had come to expect. This work is so sterile that I can't see it.

Fred Camper on Stephen Lapthistophon
Like Michael Bulka, I found Stephen Lapthisophon's show at TBA "hard to appreciate"-and this was in the late-afternoon, gray-skylight silence of the day after the opening. I found myself having a neophyte's reaction: there were lots of provocative images, but what did it all mean? An end-of-modernism theme seemed to be suggested by the presence of a references to Orson Welles's "Mr. Arkadin," a photo of Lever House, and one of the famous since-demolished Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis (whose utter failure caused many to question modernism in architecture), but this is not a new story-and what did it all have to do with Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye," referenced on the same wall? Is he supposed to be "postmodern?" Duh-h-h. Besides that, the amount of knowledge needed to identify such references (you have to have actually seen "Mr. Arkadin" to understand the ways in which it's about failure) is not even available to most art critics. Who was this exhibit for?

The mix of handmade things that looked like photocopies with photocopies that looked like photocopies was also puzzling. Indeed, the whole presentation seemed a bit arch, down to the exhibition's title, "Défense d'Afficher," which the employee at the desk could not provide a translation for-"Don't Display Anything Here," or more colloquially "Post No Bills," would be my guess. I don't mind obscure art that has to be explained, but I wondered if the obscurity here was a sign of hidden depths, or of lack of care on the artist's part as to making his themes visible. Though intriguing, the exhibit was not stunning enough on a visual level to make me want to buy a copy of "A Complete Guide to Decoding the Art of Stephen Lapthisophon," if such were available. It did make me look for an artist's statement, but there was none. Conceptual art that doesn't make its concept clear has a hard time even getting off the ground.

Maybe someone can offer some clarification or defense for publication in our next newsletter?

And a Letter to the Prophet
Denise Dietz as the new flavor of the month! This is preposterous. I think if there's anything good about her work, it is her honesty. In a fashion context the shirts work as contradictory icons of naiveté or rebellious youth angst, but in an art context this is either bad art or bad performance art. To take things even farther, an issue of bad taste should be raised here.

I won't deny that at the Suitable show these "North American retablos" looked good compared to the rest of the work. The designs are good because of logical composition through narrative. There is better and deeper footnotes on psycho-analysis to be found in The Sopranos or Dr. Katz and any trace of surrealism in Denise's case I would identify as a formal magical realism.

I would classify the t-shirts as Chicago stuff. One liners outstripped of any wittiness through comedy. Easy to swallow and ambiguous in the artist's intentions. This is a fact.

About critics : Where the hell are they? Why is it so difficult to talk to Fred Camper? Where is Susan Snodgrass?
Pedro Velez, Chicago