2858 W. Montrose, Chicago, IL 60618
The Twelve Galleries Project has transformed from last year’s nomadic series of monthly visual art exhibits to the present yearlong “Quaterly Site Series” (QSS). QSS mounts a show every four months for the next three years, shining a spotlight on curators through a somewhat baroque system of the QSS curating the curators themselves.
Shows are still hosted by different galleries throughout the run of the project, with Quaterly Site #3 being held at the indefatigable Swimming Pool Project Space. Loosely organized around the theme, “Stay in your lane!” the plucky, turquoise floored Lincoln Square gallery gets a lot of mileage (forgive the pun) out of their space with this show.
Installation view of "Quarterly Site #3: Stay in your lane!" at the Swimming Pool Project Space. Image by Stephen Lacy.
Temporary walls built especially for the show demarcate each of the three curators “lanes,” but since each curator has interpreted the theme in such dramatically varied ways, the physical boundaries merely enhance the palpable conceptual boundaries.
Lane #1, or The Deep End (maybe because it’s the farthest away from the front door, or maybe because it’s the most faithful to the theme) is curated by Katherine Pill, for whom staying in one’s own lane evokes an almost athletic discipline and drive, exemplified by Matt Nichols’ blackened winner’s podium clumped in one corner. The re-imaging of this sports icon into a homogenous sculptural object empties it of symbol and strips away its function. Similarly, a physical activity is turned on its head by Madeleine Bailey’s two vinyl blindfolds fastened to an aluminum track (seen at left, image by Katherine Pill). Representing a hybrid form of superhero costume and bondage gear, brave viewers may don the masks and grope towards an inevitable, unwavering collision or collusion in the corner where two adjacent walls meet. The fluorescent cut-paper triangles Samantha Bittman has glued to the wall are an imperfect geometry that bare their flaws, such as gaps and overlaps, just as proudly and loudly as their exponentially expanding pattern.
Lane #2, curated by Anthony Elms, is a cerebral monochrome middle ground that muses on the very mandate of what it means to stay in one’s own lane. Shane Huffman’s two series of black and white C-prints depict light traced across an expanse, leaving gleaming ghostly double helix curves and surging waves that make veering in and out and off of track look like freewheeling fun. Philip von Zweck’s Honk If You Love Silence bumper sticker is echoed by Danielle Gustafson-Sundell’s even more sardonic edition of bumper stickers which read like a cross between a fortune cookie and a Chutes and Ladders game card, simply stating; “You will be advanced professionally without any special effort on your part.” A hybridized MDF and mirror piece, the lone work on the West side of the gallery space, simultaneously absorbs and repels the viewers gaze and is rumored to have been constructed by Rennaissance Society curator Hamza Walker under the nom de plume Sonny Venice.
Matt Irie and Dominick Talvacchio. Cord. 2005. 14' altered Extension cord, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the gallery and the artist.
Philip von Zweck returns, this time as curator of Lane #3, a.k.a. The Shallow End. He delegates responsibility to David Roman, Christine Cosio and Stevie Greco, effectively curating additional curators into the show, and this trio incorporates a diverse range of media, including installation, video, sculpture and ink on paper drawings, in their sliver of space at the front end of the gallery. Two humming, back-to-back air conditioners are craftily wedged into cut outs in walls (Erik Peterson), a coiled electrical cord is altered to feature two “male” plugs (Matt Irie and Dominick Talvacchio, work seen above) and old growth wood fastened together with bolts at a forty-five degree angle in an overly secure joist simply sits on the floor (Jason Bryant). The tasks these objects carry out, or at least imply, are a cheeky blend of self-reflexivity and self-defeat.
While the map that the gallery produced for the exhibition is a necessary tool for linking artists to artworks and curators to lanes, your eyes alone can easily guide you through the art and ideas of this well stocked group show. Ultimately, the show’s own inner logic seems to trump the over-determined curatorial conceit of the Quarterly Site Series, which, to their credit, selected a seasoned, clever set of curators. The result is an exhibition that showcases what successful collaborative efforts between artists and curators, curators and curators, and even curators and galleries can look like, where even momentary dissonance is finessed into synchronization in the Swimming Pool.
-Thea Liberty Nichols