Intertwining spectacle and site, John Preus’ The Beast, becomes a new space for cultural inquiry, public dialogue and creative production within the Hyde Park Art Center. Preus will transform the main gallery’s interior with a complex architectural framework inspired by the form of a dead steer emblematic of violence and sacrifice, fabricating the structure from harvested materials including upholstery leather and discarded wood and furniture from recently closed Chicago Public Schools. Existing as a type of community center throughout the span of the exhibition, The Beast will be activated through corresponding performances, discussions and educational offerings programmed by the artist and collaborators. For an updated schedule of programming, visit www.hydeparkart.org/events.
Best known for his work as the lead fabricator for Theaster Gates, and the principal designer and builder of the Dorchester Projects, Archive House, Preus founded Dilettante Studios in 2010, which designs and builds cabinets, furniture, and residential and commercial spaces, relying almost exclusively on second-hand materials. He co-founded SHOP (Southside Hub of Production), a collective of artists, educators, and local civic organizations, and has collaborated with countless others on projects that make up his multifaceted practice. The Beast is the culmination of Preus’ yearlong participation in the Jackman Goldwasser Residency at Hyde Park Art Center, and is his most ambitious solo exhibition to date. The exhibition showcases his skill in adaptive design and architecture as well as his interest in creative placemaking, and draws heavily on new and longstanding collaborators, including Jim Duignan, Iker Gil, Jamie Kalven, and Laura Shaeffer among others.
The large-scale, two-floor intervention designed and built by Preus responds to the Art Center’s experimental architecture by Doug Garofalo, and echoes its mission to engage the community through participation in the arts. The belly of The Beast, which will resemble the skeletal structure of a cathedral interior and will open to the Art Center’s outdoor plaza, will include storytelling, live music, sermons, panel discussions, dinners, and more. The diverse programming schedule will be determined by Preus and collaborators to raise questions about the use and social value of public space, and how collective experience can encourage the development of a better city.