Paint Paste Sticker: Chicago Street Art
Image courtesy of the Chicago Cultural Center.
When it comes to street art, opinions differ. Is it an eye sore, or a treat for the eyes? Regardless of the ongoing debate around this genre’s aesthetic value, street art maintains a basic purpose: to enhance whichever landscape it befalls. It keeps growing, in both complexity and popularity, yet it still has to steadily navigate the grounds of legality, professionalism and space. In an impressive display of artists’ mediations on these realities, the Chicago Cultural Center is currently hosting Paint Paste Sticker: Chicago Street Art, running now through January 12. If opening night this past October was any indication, the show is embracing a diverse crowd of street artists and aficionados.
The works spring out of the mind, onto the walls, into the world, inside the gallery and back again. Before entering the exhibit, just after a bombed-out bus shelter, sits a larger-than-life replica of a sticker that helped to inspire this all: it simply says, “You Are Beautiful.” Its ten-year journey has brought it from humble beginnings as nothing more than an inspirational message printed on adhesive backing to a full-on phenomenon. The project, originally initiated by Matthew Hoffman, has grown to include larger collaborative undertakings by artists and policy makers in the form of public installations, block murals and more.
Once inside, visitors are greeted by a large inflated object that must have been tagged to no end by a giant, given its size. From there on, spanning left to right, are offerings of all kinds ranging across sculpture, canvas, installation and more. Art runs around the exhibition hall, up the walls like a crazed spider. The show is painstakingly balanced given the dizzying array of artwork. Some of the works punctuate the art form itself, while others push at its boundaries with indomitable force.
A diptych by Francisco “The Champ” Radah. Photo by the author.
Just past a somewhat odd installation replete with a sleeping body hangs a diptych by Francisco “The Champ” Radah. It’s a collage of Sunday newspaper comics imposed upon by the eyes, nose and mouth of a much larger face in black bold paint. By way of scale and simplicity, it’s a mild but effective blackout piece. At opposite, on the back wall, is a lesson in diligence by William “UneeK” Weyna: two pieces of framed acrylic showcase the art of tagging through an assortment of scribing tools in varying color. It’s a hectic, tags-gone-wild adventure of sorts. A densely-layered presentation of signatures with flowing zigs and zags controls the larger of the two pieces while the other gives way to broader nibs with additional thinner scrawls underneath.
An untitled piece by Nice One. Photo by the author.
Further down the wall there’s a seemingly effortless yet magical untitled piece by Nice One. Splatters of white, orange, and pink, soft and dripping at the edges, advance and recede through a beaded curtain of cascading pink ellipsis. This piece, on canvas and accentuated by faint brush work, has all of the elements familiar in his work: warm hues, soft edges and piercing points, the awe-inspiring effect invoked by his masked mascot and the overall sense of movement. It’s appeasing and modest.
Standing at the center of the exhibition, it’s easy to notice two exemplary pieces sitting high at opposing ends of the gallery walls: Rahmaan Statik’s “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” (2013) and Brooks Blair Golden’s “Nesting II” (2013). These works consider the implications of the space along with the attributes and idiosyncrasies of their medium. The effect is that they engage with the viewer in a different manner. The relationship between the gallery space itself, the surface material, and the medium, work in partnership towards rerouting the notion of an object placed into a space to that of an object relating with the space. This doesn’t affect the merit of other pieces: they endeavor in their own right.
The former, Statik’s “Incredulity,” is as it proclaims: an all-but-faithful reproduction of the Caravaggio masterpiece of the same name. But, at 13-by-10 feet and completely executed in spray paint on canvas, it serves not only as a nod but also a challenge, and ultimately, a proclamation of legitimacy. It’s an act of homage to both art history and the medium itself.
The Fall 2013 Undergraduate Exhibition
It’s difficult to make any definitive claims about survey exhibitions — whether they revolve around a specific artist, group or movement — due to their sheer breadth and scope. Case in point: the SAIC Fall Undergraduate Exhibition. Although I missed the opening event on November 1st, I visited the exhibition not once, not twice, but three times in the past week.
I continually entered the galleries hoping to leave with an all-encompassing umbrella statement that would tie together my viewing experience, yet this was continually defied by the fact that I would see a new and confounding work each time I entered. The umbrella statement that I’m looking for, then, becomes simply that there is a whole lot of shit going on here at SAIC.
I frequently find myself sequestered in my own little department, tirelessly toiling over my books and essays, forgetting not only that there is a big museum with wonderful art right across the street, but also that I share a building with living and breathing artists creating interesting and innovative work. The Fall Undergraduate Exhibition served as a nice reminder of why I and so many others decided to come SAIC: to be exposed to new ideas and methods in art and art making.
I can’t sum up everything I encountered in the exhibition, as it is too varied and vast. Some works weren’t my taste and the meaning of others eluded me entirely. Yet I found it refreshing to be presented with such a wide array of art works, objects and techniques, even if I didn’t know what to make of all of them. Here are some of the works that kept me lingering:
Photographs by Ben Macri.
Caitlin Ivrey, 1,619 Days, 2013. Two channel video.
I’ll be honest, I almost walked past this two-channel video installation. I saw the same girl on both screens talking in what looked like a serious, introspective way and I didn’t want to deal with it. The piece seemed like one of those things that I had seen before, and something that would take too much time to get into. But something made me put those headphones on and listen to her describe her feelings over what I assumed to be a break-up or some other kind of emotional loss.
I stood unimpressed for a minute or two, thinking that I should make a vlog of my next break-up since I would look way more of a mess than this chick. However, as she stared at the camera and told me she “didn’t even care enough to say ‘fuck you’” to me, I started to feel like she was really talking to me. I had assumed the role of the heartbreaker. I felt at once felt belittled and empowered — as heartbreakers always do. It was then that I decided I actually really liked this work because it turned out not to be about the girl pouring her heart as I had assumed. Instead it was more concerned with implicating the viewer.
Jacy Nordmeyer, Various Llama-wear (author’s designation), 2013. Ceramic.
Llama bodies with no heads to hold my beverages and/or fresh flowers? Sign me up. I want at least one of these in my apartment right now, and then I’m buying one for each of my friends for Christmas. Please tell me these will be available for purchase in the Holiday Art Sale later this month.
Patrick Krawczykowski, Untitled (Toulouse-Lautrec), Untitled (El Greco), Untitled (Twombly), 2013. Video
Comprising separate video works displayed together for the purposes of this exhibition, these untitled pieces are delightful in their slight subversiveness and institutional critique. The artist simply filmed himself for about thirty seconds in front of some of the great masterpieces of the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection. In Untitled (Toulouse-Lautrec), Krawczykowski stands with his back to At the Moulin Rouge and stares blankly outward (just like the ghastly woman in the bottom right-hand corner of the painting) as an innocent museum-goer shies away awkwardly. In in Untitled (Cy Twombly), the artist reverentially performs salat in front of Cy Twombly’s Untitled, New York. Walking up to El Greco’s Assumption of the Virgin in Untitled (El Greco), Krawczykowski begins clapping loudly until a security guard comes over and asks him to stop. Is he clapping for the Virgin’s assumption into heaven or the dynamic representational capability of El Greco? I have no idea. Either way, I laughed, and in my book, it’s good when art makes you laugh.
Beatriz Kaye Aquino-Sison, Kim Kardashian:Superstar, 2011-2013. Mixed Media.
This mixed media installation is fantastic as a study of the cult of celebrity. Featuring an entrancing video montage displaying ephemeral images of the one and only Kim K., the work also boasts a whole shrine dedicated to her notorious ass (reconstructed life size on a three-dimensional sculpture in the installation). This work is simultaneously an unabashed homage to Kanye’s baby mama — indicated by the sonogram plastered on the figure’s stomach — and a tribute to the inevitable demise of her career.
Youjin Lee, Sophisticated Adventure, 2013. Garments.
These fantastically structured garments do indeed evoke a sense of adventure in me. Simply put, I want to wear them and go on an adventure, preferably one akin to the plotline of Dark Crystal, a movie that the undergrad who made these wonderful pieces of clothing has probably never heard of due to the fact that it came out nearly a decade before the designer was born. Honestly, I’m probably too old to wear these garments if I’m referencing Dark Crystal, but I still think they’re beautiful.
View more photos and video coverage from the Fall 2013 BFA show in our slideshow.
Mark Fell is a UK based artist and electronic musician interested in playing with our perception through the intersections of light, sound, and architecture. Often his works include using multiple speaker arrays to create imaginary sound fields. Saturday November 2 he performed in Chicago for the first time as a solo composer as part of the Lampo series of experimental music. These events, mainly held at the Graham Foundation, are always free and involve diverse and accomplished musicians from around the globe. Fell debuted a new work he developed during a residency at Elektronmusikstudion Stockholm, in which he used 32 samples from an old synthesizer. By layering them over and over, in a circular pattern around the quadrophonic speaker array, he created a transition of physical understandings of scales of space, from the very small to the overwhelmingly large, and from the infinitesimally distant to the inter-permeably present.
Initially I was unsure what to expect from the performance. There was a crowd, so it was standing room only or sitting on the floor. I sat on the well-polished wooden floor, in a spot that allowed me to lean against a door. The program was introduced. Fell sat at his computer, and the lights went off.
Quiet low static around 60Hz begins. I want it to be rhythmically interrupted by phasing. High overtones begin to build at about 4,000Hz with something in the low 200s and then the 2,000s, followed by a twitter coming in at 15,000Hz. Perhaps. I never think about sounds in terms of numbers, well not never, but this ceaseless buzzing is making me feel like I am deeply associated with household electronics and must start to think like a machine. From a loose socket, to a kettle, to a hair dryer humming in a tiled bathroom, a vacuum cleaner floating in space, to motors on a runway a mile distant.
Then the sub-bass kicks in and the speakers are making breeze. A refined tectonic shifting, the pre-tremors that can be mistaken for a passing mosquito, swiftly compounds into a harmonious swarm of insect wings blending with an angelic choir. We’re still in the subtle realm here, a gentle emergence of aurora borealis. The sounds open up and shift like the filter of a mouth and cheeks, exhaling “ahhh, aw, ah”.
From the back of the room a sound emerges like a truck, distant revving motors that are too constant to be passing, hovering at the back of the room, filling the space more and more with each rotation of the cylinder. Then, a coffee machine, an HVAC. And the shuffling shoes on the wood floor and crumpling of discarded winter jackets of the late arrivals as the infrequent light of passing vehicles in the street reflects on the ceiling.
Now comes the electronic bumble bees, dragonflies, the singing electric wires. As the sounds become more layered, I’m less interested by identifying frequencies and more associative about the harmony of physical objects that emit sound from interacting with each other.
There’s no return, only a movement forward, despite the reuse of material, we are heading towards somewhere we cannot come back from. The only rhythm comes from phase differentials and as they shift, the tonal shift becomes noticeable.
From sine waves, we get our first square waves, then triangles and then a million strangely shaped geometrical mouths filtering a water pump, by the power of a hesitant solar wind, beneath a summer fan dangling near an open window by a precarious wire. The sounds are warming. An overheated Jacuzzi, ventilation over a frying pan, white noise, a whine, crickets, hissing, buzzing, the sound of an engine on an airplane wing from the inside; the sound you hear when you lean your ear against the double insulated glass of the plane’s window.
The sounds are ascending. Sitting on the floor, I can feel my innards shaking. A train pulling into a station never sounded so good, while still bordering on bearable. Screaming brakes are waking me up after my android-al dream of electric sheep. Raw elements are coalescing. I fear permanent dismantlement of my DNA.
And then he shuts the power off just before boiling seas engulf the world in apocalypse.
The audience applauds and we go drink complimentary wine thankful not to have had heart attacks.
The Circulation and Trade of Your Personal Data
Animation by Magdalena Wistuba.
How many things are you doing right now?
If you are like the rest of the Millennial generation, you are probably not just reading this article. I bet you’re: 1. reading this, 2. In the middle of multiple text conversations, 3. Writing an important email to a professor 4. Listening to your Spotify account, and 5. Have at least three tabs currently open on your browser window (one of them being your Facebook). I challenge you to put down your cellphone, log out of your Facebook, take those headphones off or out of your ears and, for a few minutes, literally unplug.
What happens when banner ads on email accounts begin suggesting purchases based on private conversations, when Netflix rates a movie yet to be seen by its account holder, or when Twitter makes recommendations of strangers one might like to follow? You’ve heard this story before, but it’s worse than you think. This isn’t just an issue about technology developing faster than we can keep up with; it’s about companies taking information that is so readily supplied and using it to manipulate the consumer. Based on circulating data, the internet creates a narrative for the way you live your life. It already knows what you probably want, how you’ll probably like it, and what friends you don’t already have but should probably have. If we don’t take control of the technologies that we deem necessary and begin to limit what we divulge about ourselves on the internet, we will become old models, so predictable and lifeless that the internet will, in turn, control us.
According to the Washington Post, since 2007, Apple has sold 85 million iPhones in the US alone and 34 million iPads since 2010. As of 2012, Facebook became a member of the 1 billion users club. Twitter is catching up at 500+ million, LinkedIn has 225+ million, Tumblr is climbing high at 110+million users and, prior to it’s recent purchase by Facebook, Instagram was over 100 million users. These social media outlets provide great tools for keeping in touch, getting real time news updates, digging for gossip, and procrastinating. However, their goals reach beyond communication and entertainment. In “ Managing Information Strategically” (1993), James McGee and Laurence Prusak outlined the idea of the information marketplace and argued that information is an instrument of power, that can be traded, and sold. The information shared via cell phone and online is used for marketing material, documentation for third party spammers, it is subject to surveillance out of your control and falls under government jurisdiction.
Animation by Magdalena Wistuba.
During the first few months of 2013, Facebook admitted to sharing the personal information of 39,000 individual accounts with 72 national governments. The United States alone submitted 12,000 individual requests to Facebook inquiring about over 21,000 separate accounts. Watchdog.com, a new journalism website focused on promoting a vibrant, well-informed electorate and a more transparent government, also stated that The United States government had the most requests for information, more than all other national governments in the entire world, combined.
In addition to consciously selling your information, websites sometimes simply give it away. And at times, by accident. SocialTimes.com stated that this past summer, 6 million Facebook users’ contact information was “inadvertently downloaded by other Facebook users who had some connection to them.” And, just last month, a new update to iOS7 provided any amateur hacker who is bored, has thumbs and is near an iPhone the opportunity to hijack someone else’s photos, personal emails, and social media applications. This month, Yahoo! News wrote, “Despite the fact that it has only been available to the public since September 18, Apple has already pushed out one update to its latest operating system in record time to address a vulnerability that, if left unchecked, would have given hackers access to a handset’s contents, regardless of whether a passcode had been activated.”
A review of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival with director Kate Dumbleton
A Visit to the 2013 Hyde Park Jazz Festival from F Newsmagazine on Vimeo.
Perhaps the three things the outside world most associates with Chicago are Al Capone, wind, and jazz. Although I enjoy listening to jazz, I know very little about it and therefore settling into Chicago for a few years presents a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about this art form. With this in mind, I headed off to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival on September 28, to expose my untutored ears to the magical music on offer.
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which celebrated its seventh anniversary this year, is run almost exclusively by volunteers. The sole exception to this is director and SAIC faculty member Kate Dumbleton. The show takes place across 13 venues, from traditional outdoor stages to less conventional locations such as the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.
When asked about her priorities as director, Dumbleton highlights a necessity to innovate in order to stay current. “The festival was really starting to repeat itself,” she says, “it was always the same people, the same band, there was a limit to how interesting it could become.”
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival also has the advantage of being free, an essential feature for an event seeking to bring Chicagoans together. “Keeping the festival free of charge has been a priority from the get-go,” explains Dumbleton, “because the whole idea is that culture belongs to everyone and we want to give access to it to everyone, particularly on the South Side.”
However, the festival has to remain sustainable in order to keep happening every year. Donation boxes at the entrance of each venue encouraged festivalgoers to financially support the festival. As Dumbleton explains, “the trick is to create an opportunity for people who can donate to do so, and for those who really can’t to just come and enjoy the music.” This year, the amount of donations made at the gates doubled in comparison with 2012.
Having never been to the South Side of Chicago myself, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival turned out to be instructive about the area. “The idea [was] not only featuring jazz music,” explains Dumbleton, “but also these venues and spaces. There is a dual purpose of animating cultural spaces, community spaces and neighborhood businesses with music in unexpected ways.”
Musician Dana Hall. Photograph by Marc Monaghan.
The first band I had the opportunity to listen to were the Pharez Whitted Sextet, who happened to have only a trio on stage when I sat down. Writing as a jazz neophyte, I would describe them as funky and easy on the ear. They were a perfect soundtrack for the surrounding scene: spectators sipping on their beer as their head bobbed in rhythm, leaves swirling around in the preliminaries of fall and the sun washing people’s shoulders warm. Pharez Whitted went on to play a slightly more experimental style of music, but not one so complicated that it made me feel like I needed a degree in Musicology to properly enjoy it.
I moved on to the Smart Museum of Art to listen to John Wojciechowski, a Hyde Park Jazz Festival habitué it seemed, as he recalled memories from previous years in between pieces. Accompanied by Dana Hall on the drums, Ryan Cohan on the piano, and Clark Sommers on the bass, Wojciechowski delivered an energized performance, which didn’t even wane as a mischievous wind playfully blew all of the musicians’ scores away.
My next experience was James Falzone at the Oriental Institute, a journey all of its own. Packed into the Persian gallery, the spectators were wrapped up in the mellow sound of Falzone’s clarinet from his very first notes. The music was magical and enchanting, forming a harmonious marriage with the collection of Persian artifacts decorating the room. It sounded as if Falzone was telling the story of a lost empire. The narrative quality of his music, technically developed and yet casually performed was truly captivating.