Chicago Gallery Practice in Retrospect
December 14, 2009
posted by Caroline Picard
This came out in last week’s NewCity. It’s a great article talking about the DIY practice here in Chicago, what it’s been up to these last weeks and all of that. In any case, it’s worth checking out, I think–
Go here to read the whole thing….
By Jason Foumberg
Art is long, but institutional memory is short. In many ways, Chicago’s art history is written as it occurs, in situ, by the people who produce it. Artists toil in their studios, heads-down. Apartment galleries open and close as briskly as the seasons change. We consume one-night-only events by the half-dozen, like so many bottles of free Grolsch beer. Even as new art blogs proliferate, with more scenes being represented than ever before, the snapshot commentary and weekly content often feels dated by week’s end. And yet, paintings aren’t bubblegum summer jams; they’re codified slabs of culture, philosophy and style. We seek dialogue, inspiration and long-term change. In short, we seek longevity, with lasting importance for our work and our peers’—but who has time to write contemporary history while we’re in the midst of making it?
That said, Chicago loves its art history. Outsiders, Imagists, Modernists and firebrands—memorize their precepts and you’re halfway to an MFA degree (however, please don’t leave Chicago once you earn the other half). Our traditions always feel in danger of becoming tinder for the next great fire, so we hand-cobble our history and share the stories orally like a rite of passage. This is to our strength and our detriment. History is our bind. We don’t trash Paschke or cold-shoulder Mies because we’ve worked so hard to carry their legacies. In many global art centers, successive generations of artists break with the past like rebellious teenagers, but Chicagoans do not. Here, innovation comes from influence and education. Doing otherwise, it would feel as if the whole thing could unravel.
As we approach the end of the century’s first decade, it’s time to take census of our situation. Sure, it’s an arbitrary range of numbered years, but such evocative images transpire when we speak of eras, like the twenties or the sixties, and although it’s undecided how we’ll finally refer to this special decade (the naughts? the zeroes? the twenty-first century’s toilet-training years?), the task of reflection is at hand. Somehow we survived the Y2K catastrophe (perhaps belatedly realized on 9/11), and thankfully computer art didn’t take hold in the ways that it threatened (my avatar didn’t sell a single pixilated painting in his Second Life apartment gallery) so where are we now? Ten years older, who are we? Are we struggling with a new -ism? Does a collective yearning animate our desires?