Gallery Reviews - Weekend of 7/3-7/5

This past weekend was light on art, but we covered what was there, and we covered it well.

The Friday Night Army sallied fourth to bring you:

This is 606 at Architrouve

Hear Here at Julius Caesar

RUSE at Ben Russell Gallery

Jen & Ira & You at the MCA Meet Buckminster Fuller Meeting the Hippies in Golden Gate Park: A Re-Performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art


This is 606 at Architrouve
by: Niki Grangruth


detail view

Ray Pride has been creating a visual documentation of Chicago, which can be found at The corresponding exhibition, confidently titled this is 606 is currently on show at Architrouve. As a precursor to viewing the show, I perused Pride's blog, which functions as a daily visual diary of Chicago, generally focusing on the West Town area. The work on the blog functions as a "picture-a-day" exercise in seeing. The exhibition was an edited version of the blog, a sort of "best of" compilation.



Pride, most well known as a local film critic, takes a pseudo-documentary approach to photography - some images functioning purely as a formal document and others are more abstract views of the street scenes and alleyways. The snapshot aesthetic and cinematic approach are at first reminiscent of Lee Friedlander's black and white street photographs that depict the social landscape of the urban environment. However, Pride's photographs do not have the quirky humor, precise composition, or the process of discovery that Friedlander's work demands. Pride's photographs, taken mostly at night, show evidence of the digital medium - pixilation and digital "noise" in the prints. The locations are recognizable to a resident of the Ukrainian Village / East Village area, such as myself. However, the daunting, gritty and somewhat dangerous feel of the images does not reflect the reality of the locations, which are not terribly scary in person. For example, "Arsonland" is a photograph of the southwest corner of Damen and Chicago. In the image, a police car is rounding the corner as a woman walks behind a bus stop vestibule. The police car, the eerie light and the damp ground give the image a sense of precariousness. Pride has created a setting, much in the same way a scene is created for film. One the other hand, "Tendril" shows a vine wrapped around the rusted spokes of a bicycle. This is the only image in the show obviously taken during the day. Pride alludes to the sense of urban decay and abandonment, but there is a sense of romanticism absent in the other images. 



In other images, this sense of constructed tableaux falls short. In "Beauty," Pride has carefully constructed the image to include the end of a building with a neon sign stating BEAUTY, most likely a Walgreens or other well-known chain. The parking lot, alleyway and garages, which fill up most of the image, are anything but beautiful. The sarcasm and referral to the questionable definition of beauty is well-traveled territory. Similarly, "Redeye" is a shot of a crumpled daily Redeye lying on a damp sidewalk. The cover image depicts a woman smoking and the newspaper lies amidst strewn cigarette butts. Although I can appreciate the coincidences in these images, there is something to be said for being too expected.



Architrouve is located at 1433 W Chicago Ave. More info can be found at

Hear Here at Julius Caesar
by: Niki Grangruth

As an artist, collaboration is often perceived as a frightening word. This is not the case in the current exhibition of work by Jerome Acks and Kaylee Rae Wyant at Julius Caesar, titled Hear Here. These two artists collaborated on four works for this exhibition. The works are grounded in painting, yet Acks and Wyant combine painting with sculpture and craft. Wyant reveals in her essay that this type of collaboration is new to the duo. They were both involved in every piece, building it together from scratch. However, each artist's personal style is evident - Wyant's layering of paint, removal of paint and abstract approach couples well with Acks' use of fabric to construct patchwork designs with intentional use of color, texture and pattern.


Wyant explains in an essay about the work that their inspiration comes from the recent nostalgia related to the 1968 student riots in Paris. She and Acks recognized parallels between the political turmoil of the late sixties in France and the drastic transformation of the United States during the Obama campaign. In each era, youth movements were at the heart of change in government. Similarities between the eras can be found in the work - minimalist form meets a postmodern collage of ideas, materials and technique.

The centerpiece for the exhibition, titled Libertas Standing (2009) is constructed from two large canvases, balanced precariously against one another. On one canvas is an image of a public plaza, which could be anywhere, except for the French writing on the base of the pedestal. On the adjacent canvas is an image of what appears to be the Statue of Liberty turned on her side. However, the statue is Libertas, the Roman female personification of liberty and freedom, after which the Statue of Liberty was fashioned. On the back of each canvas are large blocks of red, white, blue and gray fabric, stitched together. The raw edges of the fabric and loose strings are left visible, alluding to the fact that history is an unfinished collage. One thing is for sure...this work requires the viewer to think, analyze and make connections.


Something should also be said about the space. Julius Caesar is a compact space, roughly 10x10 feet located in an industrial area of Humboldt Park. It is run by five alumni of The School of the Art Institute and has had sixteen consecutive shows, each opening on the first Sunday of the month. Although the space is nontraditional and away from the well-traveled paths of the well-known arts districts, it is uniquely perfect.


And one more thing - Ack and Wyant are soon to be married. Any artists who can put on a successful collaborative show and still tie the knot surely have something going for them.

Julius Caesar is located at 3144 W Carroll Ave #2G. More information can be found at

RUSE at Ben Russell Gallery
by: Corinna Kirsch

Walking along Morgan Street in East Pilsen, it's difficult to tell which brownstone might house an art space, but for the opening of RUSE, the second exhibition at Ben Russell Gallery, the eponymous Ben Russell made it easy--sitting on a plastic lawn chair outside his front door, he welcomed visitors while over the course of the evening, his arms held a rotating cast of objects: a dog, a beer, even fireworks.

Russell, an already established filmmaker and curator, alongside co-curator Brandon Alvendia, began putting the front two rooms of his apartment and environs to use as an exhibition space this past May. The premise of each show is predicated upon a set of limitations that includes the following: one artist must produce a wall-mounted work that fills at least three quarters of the 13 x 10 ft. wall of the main exhibition space and another must make a 15-30 minute long performance. The sermon-like list of commandments goes on, but the project of Ben Russell Gallery is meta: it's an apartment gallery, but also a curatorial project that makes transparent the boundaries of putting on exhibitions in an apartment. Why not turn a backyard into a sculpture garden, use the alleyway as a performance space, and a closet--okay, maybe it's a tiny, windowless bedroom--into a screening room instead of disguising its existence?


In the larger of the two indoor rooms, Miguel Cortez's surveillance project Quien esta mirando? consisted of a closed-circuit camera that transmitted its video to a website, I accessed the website, but it wasn't showing a live-feed at the time--maybe this was part of the ruse? Propped up against the wall across from Cortez's installation was Kelly Kaczynski's wooden maquette of a stage, See It Always Falls Around (The Sky). The stage's diminished scale and vertical format severed it from any functional ties and instead showed the structure's quasi-Minimalist, gridded underside. These motifs, of surveillance and multiple points of view, continued into the screening room playing Paul Chan's Re: The_Operation (2002) from his Tin Drum Trilogy. Bruised and wounded cartoon heads of military officials from the Bush-era introduced a montage of footage and audio culled from a variety of sources, mashing up fiction, reality, and half-truths into an endless video loop.

After the sun set, Roxanne Hopper and Julie Rudder began their alleyway performance, No One Alive Today Will Ever See This Again. The performance included a moonlight sonata that left a usually talkative crowd quiet, with the whisper-tone hush of the words Ohhhh! Beautiful! Romantic! as the audience's epilogue that closed the evening. Perhaps RUSE was a misnomer--there was no deceit, just a humorous, playful, and candid approach to the rules of art and exhibition as a game.

Ben Russell Gallery is located at 1716 S Morgan #2F.

Jen & Ira & You at the MCA Meet Buckminster Fuller Meeting the Hippies in Golden Gate Park: A Re-Performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art
by: Monica LaBelle

It was the late 1960s, and throngs of hippies sat patiently around an old but agile man in Golden Gate Park.

These hippies had questions, and the old man had answers--lots of answers. They discussed design, environmental sustainability and even childhood psychology.

The old man was Buckminster Fuller, aged 72, and the hippies listened to him raptly.

All this was captured on film, and on Sunday, local artists Jennifer Karmin and Ira S. Murfin staged a re-enactment of it with the help of gallery goers at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was wordily titled "Jen & Ira & You at the MCA Meet Buckminster Fuller Meeting the Hippies in Golden Gate Park: A Re-Performance."

Its reliance on audience participation made it a bit of a risk.


Karmin and Murfin sat in a circle of six overturned black plastic milk crates, each topped with a copy of the event's transcript. The gallery in which it was staged was well-attended, since it was the last day of the exhaustive exhibition "Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe." The sight of two neatly dressed artists reading aloud to no one in particular quickly drew a crowd.

It also drew participants, and for two hours or so, strangers popped in and out of the circle of script-readers, re-creating this long-ago encounter between counter-culturalists and one of the most futuristic thinkers of the twentieth century. It was successfully executed with hardly any blips or hesitations on the part of the artists or the audience-participants.

Fuller's speeches were not read by a particular person but were shared among readers. In fact, watching a redheaded bespectacled woman read Fuller's thoughts on, say, oxygen use, was easier to understand than watching the same words appear in closed captioning on the nearby video image of Fuller.

Overall, the performance was a fun way to wrap up a dense exhibition about a great innovator--a kind of CliffsNotes. It was also a testament to what a few strangers can spontaneously accomplish given a bit of guidance.


The Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 220 E Chicago Ave. More information can be found at

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