Joseph Grigley: Beauty Is Difficult

October 25, 2014
/   Profiles

The artist lectures as part of SAIC's Low-Residency Masters Program, discussing conversational exchange as a creative process, how fishing is related to conceptual art, and more.

The Student Groups of SAIC

October 24, 2014
/   School

F Newsmgazine videographer Emeka Awa talks with SAIC Assistant Director of Campus Life, Roy Rodriguez, about the wealth of activities and opportunities available through SAIC’s student groups.

It’s Taylor Swift’s Party

October 21, 2014
/   Music

One of the difficulties of art is that the public eye makes little effort to separate artists from the brands they cultivate. Taylor Swift is the latest artist to...

Above Snakes and Angel Lust

October 20, 2014
/   Art Review

Performance artist Jaime McMurry’s work aims to raise questions about materiality, and when successful, it offers a response to the demands of daily life. Angel Lust, a recent performance...

From Doors and Authors to Porn and Smudges

October 16, 2014
/   Profiles

In a society where the ghosts of slavery and racism still haunt our politics and our interactions, conceptual artist Glenn Ligon tackles these issues by appropriating African American history...

Franco in the Rye

/   Book Review

Sometimes the least likely of combinations brings the best results; the pairing of James Franco with a blooming literary career, despite the celebrity's fearless mediocrity, does not.

The New Ism

October 14, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

Experience-based art gets redefined in light of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Sullivan Galleries exhibit A Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action.

EXPO Chicago 2014

October 13, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

This year's EXPO Chicago art fair could be seen as an art world bore or chore... or an opportunity for the next generation of artists and arts professionals to...

A Kubrick Odyssey

October 12, 2014
/   Art Review

The Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the National Museum in Krakow marries art and entertainment in a retrospective of the filmmaker's career, creative process, and private life.

Social Fiber at the Garland Gallery

/   Art Review

Monika Neuland, the current Artist-in-Residence at the Chicago Cultural Center's Garland Gallery, constructed an ambitious social space within which the public may directly engage with the artist and her...

Brief But Influential

/   Art Review

A look beyond Miami's Art Basel madness to two Miami photography galleries showing work by emerging artists and students.

The Anti-Design Exhibition

October 10, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

The current show at the Museu do Design e da Moda in Lisbon is simultaneously understated and wildly bold; its aim is not to showcase fine artistry nor craftsmanship,...

Twelve Movies Disguised As One

October 7, 2014
/   Film Review

“How do you plan a twelve-year production?” “You don’t,” said Richard Linklater, in an interview with The Guardian. “There’s always a life metaphor. How do we plan for our...

Startups Versus Astronauts

October 5, 2014
/   Technology

“I think that’s the positive part of the privatization of space exploration,” Walczak explains. “You get rich people to do it first because they have the ability and then...

Leave Frida Alone!

/   Art Review

It’s been 60 years since Frida Kahlo died, and her fame has grown tremendously among arts connoisseurs and the greater public alike. Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo at...

Chicago Sign Painters

October 4, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

A (nearly) lost art is finding new forms through the city's veteran practitioners and budding typographic artists alike.

Exploring “Europe’s Most Expensive Chapel”

August 24, 2014
/   Arts & Culture

Lisbon’s Igreja de São Roque (Church of Saint Roch) sports a deceptively plain white facade, but the interior of the 17th-century building is home to some of the most prized (and allegedly expensive) Catholic art and architecture in all of Europe.

Pzzzt – The Buzz from Albania

July 29, 2014
/   Art Review

The narrow mouth of a communist-era air-raid shelter beneath an apartment building is the home to Tirana’s independent artist-run gallery space.

Compasses Not Maps

September 11, 2014
/   Technology

Speculative Design shies away from design for mass consumption, which relies on generalizing about groups of people to create one profitable solution. Charlesworth explained her past jobs in design consulting and service design as something she found “ethically difficult.”

Alternative Art Spaces in Chicago

August 5, 2013
/   Feature Stories

Where They Began and Where They Are Now

With identities as diverse as the neighborhoods they occupy, alternative art spaces operate on the same basic premise: to share contemporary art not exhibited in Chicago’s established art institutions.

Reading Lampo

December 26, 2013
/   Art Review

A review of Eli Keszler and Lampo’s print series at the Post Family Gallery.

Attention Crash

July 15, 2014
/   Art Review

The Barbican Center’s Digital Revolution exemplifies the most frustrating aspects of a life fully infiltrated by technology.

The artist lectures at SAIC’s Low-Residency Masters Program

Investigating our surroundings engages us in things other than our art, which for Joseph Grigely provides great potential for developing a creative process. Grigely gave the last lecture hosted by SAIC’s Low-Residency Masters program’s Visiting Artist Series earlier this year. He spoke about reading water, outsider artist James Castle and poet John Keats, among other things. He began after a student’s reading of the poem “Reciprocity” by Wisława Szymborska.

Grigely’s work revolves around the act of conversational exchange, and “ontological investigation is at the center of each piece, the very nature of being” said Low-Residency Program Coordinator Greg Bordowitz. Grigely admitted to the audience that his lecture was not so much about his work but about how he thinks about his work. Exploring “techniques to engage in one’s surroundings,” he said, “is essential to making art because “everything we need as artists lies within the immediacy of our individual lives.” Stepping back from one’s art by involving one’s self with interests seemingly unrelated to their art “gives a sense of place in the world,” this unrelatedness actually having everything to do with one’s art.

Fishermen assess rivers through a conceptual practice by reading currents, gauging depths and judging where fish might be, allowing them to become familiar with a river’s individual characteristics, “its conditions and surprises,” says Grigely. Water often obscures the bottoms of rivers, so you must “feel your way with your feet and map your way with your memory” to negotiate passage and find optimal fishing sites. Perception is a fretwork of complexities for both fishermen and artists alike. Artists must dive into their environments and make sense of it in the same way fishermen map a river.

Rivers change perpetually, with strong currents moving boulders or heavy rains increasing, changing the course of the river. Sometimes the rushing currents make “fishing out of the question, and yet fish survive these currents” by staying close to the river’s bottom. Various phenomena constantly reshape our environment, and just as the natural world adapts to changes, artists must adjust to limitations, hindrances and even the unexpected while observing and understanding change.

A river is more than just a body of water, and one must explore its features, because there is much more beyond what is easily observable. Grigely reflected on an experience of cutting open a fish to see what type of fly it ate, explaining that while examining its insides he realized how orderly everything was, and how fish are beautiful on both the outside and inside.

Artist Joseph Grigely Reads Rivers and Fish Guts. Photograph courtesy of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

A friend once told Grigely that “beauty is difficult, never forget that,” as they sat and considered the implications of a story about a baby who had learned to perfectly imitate the sounds of a refrigerator running and of a car driving over gravel. Grigely called beauty an “expansive concept,” but adding imperfections to it introduces “intrigue to a situation.”

James Castle, says Grigely while focusing on a drawing of a side of a door, “found his place within his perceptions of his surroundings” and created work that focused on the banal, ordinary things in everyday life, like house interiors and the surrounding landscape. Grigely called this ordinariness “rhopography,” the depiction of trivial things that work “against the idea of greatness. The irony of work like this is that it has the effect of taking us to a place which we have never been, yet it’s a place that surrounds us all the time.”

It is not easy to make something as captivating as Castle’s work with such mundane subject matter, but with deep care, Castle “unmade and remade those surroundings into something other than they were.” The beauty of this kind of art might escape us, because “it goes beyond the intention of the author or artist and finds a way to make meaning beyond those intentions,” said Grigely. Castle embraces the uncertainty John Keats called “negative capability,” to accept uncertainty and let go of the need for a specific truth or a particular conceptualization of work, which may very well be the difficulty of beauty in its essence.

Beauty, in its vast expanse and complexity, will never be solved, and we will always be uncertain of its true meaning. We may never know why some people love to sit by the water and observe the fish or why some of us find certain works of art beautiful or are inspired to make art ourselves. We must learn to be comfortable with navigating this mystery, not only in the uncertainty and the vastness of beauty, but in our surroundings as well, because “art occupies a space of human activity that’s about rearranging the physical universe.” The process of learning “when we are perceiving our place in the universe,” is how we begin to understand it, because “for artists and fishermen, that’s all that matters.”

Jessica Barrett Sattell

Design & Tech Writer. Web Editor of F Newsmagazine + Arts Journalism Grad Student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Troy Pieper

A writer and editor based in Chicago, Illinois. I provide fresh, compelling arts and culture content to a variety of publications and write powerful, targeted copy for a range of institutions.

Alyssa Moxley

Alyssa Moxley graduated SAIC with an MFA in Sound. Using multiple voices, microphone techniques, field recording, music, sound design, and speaker placement, she plays with memory as both a personal and shared medium.

Alexia Casanova

Marseille - London - Mexico - Chicago. Arts Editor of F Newsmagazine. Arts Management Grad Student at SAIC.