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Collection: Brought, Bought and Stolen: Review

The DIY Chicago art scene has recently expanded by one more venue, accepting into its many variegated folds a small space in the West Loop called Spoke

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Photo courtesy of Spoke

by Stephanie Nadeau

The DIY Chicago art scene has recently expanded by one more venue, accepting into its many variegated folds a small space in the West Loop called Spoke. Tucked above ThreeWalls on the 3rd floor of the 119 Peoria Street building, Spoke is remarkably well positioned to offer challenging programming to a mainstream art audience.

Co-founded by recent SAIC MFA graduates Monica Herrera, Rachel Moore, Heather Mullins, and Rana Siegel, Spoke aims to challenge and re-invent the role of the traditional art gallery by providing a platform for a diverse range of creative people, projects, and endeavors of all kinds. Their inaugural show, Collection: Brought, Bought and Stolen, is an exhibit by Canadian artists Sarah Febbraro and Jesse Levine, who, rather than show their own art, exhibit their personal collections.

During the show’s opening reception Levine performed a sample of his music collection, assembling sounds ranging from jazzy-funky-world-beats to hip-hop-rock-Americana and Latin-soul-spy-soundtrack music. He sampled, mixed, and manipulated wildly for an hour, adding effects and responding to the music with improvised keyboards. Sadly, the set wasn’t loud enough to intrude on the somber grey squares hung in Tony Wight gallery on the floor below, but Levine fought fiercely to fill the small space with welcoming energy, and succeeded in setting the exhibition off to a boisterous start. In a very nostalgic gesture he has also created a mixed CD of songs to showcase his collection, available at Spoke throughout the month.

For her part Febbraro offers an installation of fifty-nine works of art acquired as gifts from friends and family, purchased from garage sales, bought on the street or in thrift stores, or rescued from the trash. Comprised of paintings, drawings, collages, a finger puppet, street art and memorabilia, the collection hangs on two walls in the gallery. The objects have been arranged on the walls en masse, without labels or identification, too close to one another to be considered individually.

Her collection champions the novice and the outsider, and is political in the way that an artist’s living room might be. A beautiful hand-drawn poster of Barack Obama hangs near handy-craft Christmas tree ornaments, opposite a colored pencil Spiderman drawn by a street artist on Monroe and pinned up under a large and terrible oil painting of a leering, green baby.

Febbraro relishes an expansive and generous definition of ‘art’ and taste is not the validating context for the work in this exhibition. In fact, the work is not the work in this exhibition. By framing their personal collections within the gallery as a performative gesture they are representing a broader understanding of artistic practice. The exhibition extends the scope of the artists’ creative work to include the quotidian ways in which artists value and accumulate the creative work of others.

More Info:

The exhibition runs at Spoke until December 15th, 2008.
Sarah Febbraro will give guided tours of her collection on Saturday Nov. 29th and Dec. 6th at 2:00pm.

Spoke is located at 119 Peoria Street, 3D
Open Saturday 11-5 or by appointment
[email protected]

Spoke is currently accepting exhibition proposals for 2009. Applications available at

Deadline January 15, 2009.

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