Interview on art21blog
June 9, 2010
posted by Caroline Picard
I was lucky enough to get interviewed by Meg Onli over vacation and the interview posted! So. I thought I’d post the beginnings of it below. You can read the whole thing in its entirety by going here.
During the golden age of comic books, All-American Comics debuted Alan Scott as the Green Lantern in 1940. At the time, Scott was a railroad engineer who, when in possession of a ring had multiple powers. In Chicago, The Green Lantern is a gallery and press that exhibits and publishes emerging artists and writers. Although Founding Director Caroline Picard lacks the ability to walk through walls and read minds, she has acquired the ability to balance artmaking, running a gallery space and press, writing, and co-producing a podcast about literature.
Meg Onli: The Green Lantern operates both as a gallery and as a publisher. Did you initially see yourself having an exhibition space that also published books or did it begin as one idea that sort of grew into a larger project? Do the two projects ever cross?
Caroline Picard: Yes, actually. I’d been thinking about running a print project for years before The Green Lantern took shape in Chicago. I’d also been exposed to different gallery environments — as an undergrad, I happened into a Baltimore warehouse that had been converted into a gallery where a bunch of artists lived. And then, of course, I worked at threewalls and frequented unusal exhibition spaces here. My impression of those spaces conspired so that when I happened into the loft at 1511 N. Milwaukee Avenue, the idea of opening a gallery/press hit me all at once. The space, the press, and the gallery became a single idea at the same instant, despite being vague notions before. Having said that, my interests in writing and visual work stem from the same place. Because I’m interested in how ideas and mediums influence one another, I like drawing connections between those mediums. It’s the same with public programming. I hosted live music events, performances, screenings, lectures. I started thinking of the space as a gateway for independent and emerging art practice — practices that were not often accessed outside of more traditional, specialized venues.
MO: In the past year, The Green Lantern closed its exhibition space. There has been some discussion about the sustainability of apartment galleries if the city of Chicago continues to regulate how they are operated. What are your future plans for The Green Lantern’s gallery presence?
CP: I love this subject. I find it incredibly interesting that there is an inherent, legal conflict between the apartment gallery and the city. While the conflict seems unnecessary (and silly), it points to the way in which apartment galleries defy traditional models of business classification. The city’s laws are accidentally prohibitive of apartment spaces. The city prosecutes them because it needs money and some dude walking around wants to make his ticket quota to keep his job. To change the laws would mean navigating a bureaucratic mess of red tape. While I think it would benefit everyone to create legal avenues for idiosyncratic, non-commercial exhibition practices, I nevertheless appreciate the way that this relatively self-sustaining community defies civil categories. There is a mix of domestic and public space in which the public party becomes an intimate one. There is very little (if any) money earned from these ventures and as such, the apartment gallery illicits confusion and disbelief. When I talked to people at City Hall it was sort of like, “If it quacks like a gallery and looks like a gallery, what do you mean it’s not a gallery?” or, “You don’t sell artwork? But in these pictures, there is art on the wall. What do you mean there isn’t any revenue?” What I find most interesting, however, is that the community that attends those spaces understands how to relate to them.