It was at Co-Prosperity School, and I had been drinking a lot of beer,
so I may not have this exactly right, but I believe Paul Klein said, in regard
to his art criticism: "If I write
that I liked something, that means it was okay. If I write that I loved something, that means I liked
it. If I write that I bought it,
that means I loved it." I wish I
could afford to buy every piece of art that I loved, but this weekend,
Stephanie and I can honestly say that we loved at least two pieces we saw this
weekend...because we bought them. We
also saw an engaging artist/curator's talk, went to a pizza party, and said
goodbye to one of our absolutely favorite spaces in Chicago. Read on to hear all about it.
On Friday, we went to Murdertown for "The Warmth I Feel Is So
Cold." Murdertown has either taken
the place of, or temporarily occupied, the location of the Exhibition Agency,
which was formerly home to Concertina.
Such is the way of Chicago's apartment galleries: one roommate moves out, another moves
in, the name changes, but the space remains a gallery. Witness Scott Projects becoming
LVL3. I don't know whether the
Exhibition Agency has become Murdertown, or if the name is a temporary change.
Steph: Yeah, I was kind of confused.
After Murdertown we went to a friend's house for a pizza party, which
was awesome. We watched Beavis and Butt-Head and Godzilla vs. Mothra. After I'd had a couple of whiskey and
cokes out of my drinking horn (hey, Steph was driving!) we headed down to Co-Prosperity Sphere for the "Lumpen 1995 Sex Issue Release Party". The work consisted of drawings,
paintings, and sculptures by Tom Torluemke. The work was all very sexual in nature, many of the male
figures looked quite a lot like Tom.
I liked this work because, unlike a lot of erotic work, these were both
a.) well-executed as works of art, regardless of their subject matter, and b.)
actually hot. A lot of erotic art
is either thinly-veiled porn, or else pursues success via an art world strategy
(humor, politics, emotional drama, narrative) that comes at the expense of the
erotic. Look at an exhibition of
erotica and you'll see what I mean.
You'll see some stuff that looks like porn, although most of it is
disappointingly softcore. Then
you'll see some stuff that's funny, some stuff that's dramatic, some stuff
that's angry political art, feminist art, transgender art, or figure
studies. Almost none of it is
actually sexy, and that which is, usually does little else.
Not so Tom Torluemke's work at Co-Pro. These works have all the draftsmanship,
formal properties, and quirkily-skillful figures of Tom's work, but they're
also hot. Eroticism is by no way
unusual in Torluemke's paintings, but those in this exhibition have it dialed
up to 11. My initial favorite was
a portrait of a woman biting her lower lip in ecstasy. I have to say, this is an expression
that I find particularly titillating in a young woman's face, and even this
simple graphite drawing would probably have produced a raging erection under my
kilt, if not for all the whiskey in my system.
I approached Steph with the idea that we should
buy one of the drawings, seeing that due to their small scale we might actually
be able to afford one, and led her over to the exhibition area. I showed her the girl lip biting drawing,
but Steph made a good case of another drawing. In this one, a couple is seated in the front seat of an old
station wagon: a "woody," I
noticed. The man looks
suspiciously like Tom, and his giant erection (greatly exaggerated, Tom assures
me) is ejaculating into the hand of a woman who looks suspiciously like Tom's
partner Linda. She's cupping it
like she's trying to save the upholstery, but there's too much; her cup runneth
over. Stephanie argued that this
was the drawing we should buy.
"It's more..." she began.
"...Tom," we finished in unison, agreeing. I asked Tom about the price, he consulted with Linda, and
quoted us a figure that was within our meager budget. We happily agreed, posed for a picture together (available
on their Facebook page), and took the work home with us. This was our first real major art
purchase of a singular work as opposed to an edition; "major" is of course a
relative term, but it's significant to us. We've bought some editions before, but never a singular work
like this. And it's a great
drawing. It sits in our apartment
awaiting a frame. So, even by Paul
Klein's definition, it's safe to say we loved it.
Steph: Yup, 'twas awesome.
Saturday we headed to the last-ever exhibition at Swimming Pool Project
Space's location on Montrose Ave. in Albany Park. There will be one final exhibition at Liz Nielsen's West
Loop studio space before the couple moves to New York. This exhibition, the one on Saturday,
was called "Breaking Up With Chicago," and was basically a one-day sale of Liz's
photography of the past, well, at least eight years. She's also got a solo show up in Berlin, and both that show
and "Breaking Up With Chicago" are subsumed under the title Liz by Lina, for which Liz had her lover
Carolina Wheat curate her work for her.
Liz had some absolutely amazing photographs in
this exhibition. Stephanie's
favorite was an image of a bright white cloud over a city (Chicago?) at
night. It's difficult to explain
how surreal it looked, with a basically black-and-white image of a cloud
shining very brightly against a black sky, over a full color nocturnal
cityscape. It looks like a
photographer shooting for postcards accidentally captured a strange rift in the
space-time continuum. That
photo was great, absolutely great.
Two other images also caught my eye. One was a very tender photograph of Liz
and Carolina in bed, kissing. I
liked it in part because I'm a dirty old man and like pictures of girls kissing
(which is a little weird, but still present, when they're my good friends). But even more so, I like the
authenticity of it, and also the artificiality. It's not porn; images of girls kissing each other and doing
a whole lot more, to make a few bucks, are readily available all over the
Internet. (Ask me how I
know.) But it's always pretty
clear that the girls performing are actresses, putting on a show for the
prurient, usually male viewer. This
is different. Liz and Carolina are
lovers, and an image of them kissing is a portrait of that love. But, and this is the part that was
really interesting to me, it's a staged photograph. I'd presume it was shot using a timer and a tripod. So when I look at this image I'm not
thinking of some steamy sex scene, to which I am only privileged to see a brief
instant. Rather, I imagine the
awkwardness, of two people doing something they do authentically, but being
compelled by circumstance to do it on command. "Lay there, okay, yeah like that. Now hang on, let me set the timer. Okay...OKAY, NOW!
KISS ME!" I love these
layers of meaning, of authenticity, of artificiality, of eroticism and
tenderness, and of my knowing the people involved. It's a really rich and layered image for me.
Thirdly, and perhaps my favorite of all, is a
large square print of what looks at first like some kind of pastry. It looks like some kind of candied
fruit atop a sugar-dusted mound of sweet dough. It looks like one of Martin Parr's photographs of garish
Mexican foods, which I saw in his recent exhibition at Stephen Daiter
Gallery. It's actually a photograph
of Liz's breast, covered with glitter, with the nipple painted red, and the
background bright red as well. I
like how it looks simultaneously artificial (like a mannequin), like food, and
like a photo of some piece of retro kitsch from a vintage or antique shop. Even more, I liked that Carolina's
daugher was there, and asked her, "What's that?" "That's a boob.
It's Liz's boob, painted."
"I wanna paint your boob!"
"Okay, we'll do that later, okay?
At home." And then her
daughter started chanting, "I want to paint your BOOBS! I want to paint your BOOBS!" It was hilarious.
If we had the funds, I would have wanted to buy
all three of these, particularly the one of Liz's painted breast, and Stephanie
would have fought tooth and nail for the cloud photo. We totally loved them, for real. Sadly, we didn't have the funds for this, but fortunately
there were some smaller works that were quite affordable, even for us having
just bought the Torluemke. Steph
and I agreed on a small (4" x 6") matted photograph called Driving, of a small
toy car, like a lowrider, facing a nectarine. The whole image is warm, red and yellow and brown and
gold. Steph says it reminds her of
Dave Hickey and I totally agree.
So we bought that one.
Steph: I like our new art.
P.S. Steph is currently sick with a massive head and chest cold, and her brain is a bit cloudy, thus her responses. She will be back next week.
Tags: Beavis and Butt-Head, Breaking Up With Chicago, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Concertina, Exhibition Agency, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Jeriah Hildwine, Liz by Lina, Liz Nielsen, Lumpen 1995 Sex Issue Release Party, LVL3, Murdertown, Scott Projects, Stephanie Burke, Swimming Pool Project Space, The Warmth I Feel Is So Cold, Tom Torluemke