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Reflections, Controversy, and Relief: Pepper’s Best of… 2013
by James Pepper Kelly


Best reflections of America

Be the party (please don’t go): Emily Severance & Helmut Heiss at slow, produced in partnership with ACRE and with the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts, and Culture, April 6-26

Slow is what happens when an apartment gallery evolves. The Pilsen-based venue pairs contemporary art with intricate homebrews, and visitors can enjoy straight viewing in the gallery or extended dialogue in the dimly lit back living room and kitchen. When all this coalesces, it’s lovely.

Be the party… was an discomfiting snapshot of America with evocative details highlighted. Austrian artist Helmut Heiss contributed documentation of small drones flying through US city streets, quasi-legal urban interventionism that points a warning finger at our unaware and/or complacent citizenry. Gallery director Paul Hopkin responded to the work with Indian Springs (available in the spring section of slow’s Tumblr here), an essay reflecting on his small town childhood watching Air Force training exercises. Emily Severance covered objects up with faux-organic decorations, a Michael’s-Ann Fabrics fallen into McMart. The beer served was PB&J. The drones loomed. America!

Screenshot of review of Jason Lazarus from BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works at the MCA in Newcity Art


Best quality with controversy & comments:

Jason Lazarus from BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works at the MCA, March 19-June 18; Newcity Art

Runner-up: We Shall: Photographs by Paul D’Amato at DePaul Art Museum, September 12-November 24; Newcity Art, Hyperallergic

Art writers are people desperate to explain their personal feelings while struggling to maintain objectivity (and meet deadlines). Sometimes this means casting about for causes of discomfort, ready to latch onto whatever rises to the mental surface first. This flailing can generate a lot of waves.

The Newcity Art review of Lazarus’s exhibition addressed one project, a third of the total show: Phase 1/Live Archive, in which recreations of protest signs were available for rental and could be carried throughout the museum. The reviewer was, fairly or not, taken to task for (a) barely mentioning that there was more to the exhibition and (b) not thoroughly investigating the project. Comments on the article and Facebook became longer and longer, and suddenly a (mostly) polite organic dialogue was underway between Lazarus, Jason Foumberg, Dawoud Bey, Nick Wylie, and other members of the community. Winner: the reader. (Losers: the other two sections of the show, which I wrote a little about here).

Michael Genovese, It's Never too Late to Mend, Nickel plated mirror polished steel, Dry graphite lube finished steel, Wall rubbing (Dirt, Sweat, Blood, and Leather), 72" x 72"


Best mental & visual relief in the West Loop

Joliet: Michael Genovese at Paris London Hong Kong, September 6-October 19

First Fridays in the West Loop are not for the faint of heart. September’s annual event, marking the beginning of the fall season and the return of students to Chicago, is the biggest opening night of the year, the art community’s equivalent of the north side Red Line after a Cubs-Sox game. Fear & loathing with cheap wine and Trecartin-like synaptic firings.

Joliet, in this environment, soothed. Genovese’s minimal site-specific installations, nickel-plated steel glancing cross the room like quicksilver, approximating cracks and fissures, made for a refreshingly spare gallery. The viewer could ponder the show’s title (Joliet, Il.? Louis Joliet? Possibly Juliet Capulet?), note the fake piping, enjoy the bright shine and bare walls. Chat with the friendly gallerista. Slow down. Paris London Hong Kong is a new space, and despite being founded by respected gallerists Dan Devening, Aron Gent, and Sam Vinz (and despite local maven Shannon Stratton contributing an essay for Joliet), it’s maintained a relatively low profile so far. For this, and for Genovese’s playful interventions, I was profoundly thankful one night in September.


James Pepper Kelly 



(Image on top: Installation view of documentation of Helmut Heiss’s Untitled: Intervention)

Posted by James Pepper Kelly on 1/2/14 | tags: controversy chicago 2013 year in review

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