By Lee Ann Norman
A Group Exhibition featuring: Sebastian Alvarez, Theaster Gates, Samantha Hill, Yashua Klos, Faheem Majeed, Patrick Rivers, Tony Smith, travis, Dan S. Wang, Ni'Ja Whitson.
Although the word demise conjures associations with things like "end" "ruinous" "downfall" or "failure," that's not exactly what artist, curator, and Acting Executive Director Faheem Majeed had in mind for this exhibition, even though there is plenty of that to be found on view.
In preparation, he gathered a group of artists with significant experiences relating to the SSCAC in order to think about how to approach an exhibition that could "take an honest yet loving look at these organizations" and provide some critical insights. Ideas around construction and deconstruction; death and rebirth are sprinkled with thoughts of legacies, traditions, historical memory, generational change, and innovation.
Installation is used effectively to push boundaries and question long-held practices. Majeed's "Self Portrait" consists of a photo of featured Center artists through the years (including Majeed), a suit, and an email from a SSCAC board member chastising him for not wearing a suit to the opening of an exhibition, reminding him "clothes make the man." Through this piece, questions about the legitimacy of outmoded and traditional institutional practices that are sometimes in conflict with the needs of artists are raised. Sebastian Alvarez's piece uses earth, potatoes, bone, art books, furniture, and liquor bottles to reference issues like institutional and artistic growth, cultivation, and stagnation, and is particularly affecting.
The Center's lower level is over taken by Samantha Hill's installation that includes an audio diary of former Artistic Director and current board member Doug Williams who describes what the Center was like in the early days when he was living in the basement. Rather than simply glorify SSCAC's storied past and impact on Chicago's art scene, or disparage its precarious future or present, featured artists have created work that successfully honors the institution, while cleverly challenging notions around standard or acceptable practice in cultural institutions and the artists that are the heart and soul of them.