Apartment Galleries #3: CONCLUSION?

December 24, 2008

Okay, so the last bit I’ll post from my essay–I try to add some drama to the critical claims of my rather creative essay by problematizing apartment galleries, informed by my participation in the local art community.  I am cognizant of the potential pitfalls of my engagement with the very artworld I feel at odds with at times…still, exploring such issues are important to me, insofar as I’m a marginally socially engaged artist.

green-lantern-gallery-2008-23

Though in some instances apartment galleries seem to accelerate their own demise, others can achieve sustainability.  Through continued positive reception of art exhibitions by an art-viewing public, an apartment gallery’s profile may rise, and through the expansion of its audience and exposure to art administrators (who wield the power of gatekeepers of the art world), an apartment gallery that was previously perceived as “alternative” can exchange that label for that of the “avant-garde,” thereby taking a legitimized place in the art world.  An example of an apartment gallery that has risen to a position of greater visibility and power in Chicago’s art world is Green Lantern Gallery & Press.
Green Lantern Gallery & Press started out as an apartment gallery and is now a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in the Wicker park neighborhood of Chicago.  It is divided in half; the street-side front is the exhibition space, and the back end was originally the living space of Caroline Picard, who started the apartment gallery in 2005.   Green Lantern went from hosting monthly art exhibitions to publishing literature and incorporating music and performance events.  In 2007 it started a monthly literary reading series, broadcast on the Internet as a widely available podcast.  As a result of the growth of the organization, Picard moved out of the space in the summer of 2008; during that time the space was renovated:  the gallery walls were pushed farther back, and the apartment portion was hidden more effectively.  The former apartment portion of the space now functions as a common area and office space.
Green Lantern was able to evade the common fate of apartment galleries’ demise in the face of gentrification by undergoing a rebirth as a non-profit organization and receiving state grants.  Though it initially presented itself as an alternative to established institutions, it has now gained a position of power within the local art world, through engaging a large and diverse audience via various mediums.  This raises the question: once an alternative art space like Green Lantern becomes a “legitimate” venue in the art world, does it become complicit in perpetuating the same issues of socioeconomic inequality in the art world, wherein artistic experience (education and exposure) is deemed necessary for the viewing of art–and adjudicates quality and success?  This tension is crystallized in Green Lantern’s recent release of the second annual national directory of alternative art spaces, PHONEBOOK.   In addition to providing a guide of alternative art spaces and potentially opening insular alternative art communities, PHONEBOOK can also be seen as a means of positioning alternative art spaces for cooption into the mainstream art world.
Perhaps this is an indication of the blurring distinctions between “alternative” culture and the “mainstream” art world.  So-called “alternative” art spaces have the potential to bridge communities and influence shifts in institutional hierarchies within the art world, which brings contention to the perceived distinction of apartment galleries as “alternative.”  The history of alternative discourses of dissention suggests that these discourses will continue to reinvent themselves concurrent with the cyclical reforms of institutional powers.  Thus, this process of reinvention belies the ideological flaws of an individual alternative art space at a particular moment.
Alternative or mainstream, non-commercial or commercial, the display of art remains a social and economic practice rooted in capitalist society.  Isolationist practices that reject the spectator and commerce also reject art’s social agency.  Apartment galleries play a role in the development of new art markets and socio-political-cultural markets alike.  Apartment galleries contribute to the greater art world, insofar as they exist within the same economic systems of the display, patronage, and commodification of art.

–Young Joon

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2 Responses to “Apartment Galleries #3: CONCLUSION?”

  1. nells fasty Says:

    great work young joon,

    in new york city, there were some important shows/groups associated with alternative spaces.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colab
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_No_Rio
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squat_Theatre

    i’ve lived in many art spaces, as i do
    right now. some are gone but the fact is,
    any space based art that has been allowed to exist by the public for 20-30+ years is
    really a museum! the sad fact is, people
    are too obsessed with their wallets than
    preserving culture.

  2. urbesque Says:

    Thanks Nells!
    –Young Joon


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