posted by caroline picard

Last weekend I rode my bike down to Hyde Park to check out Young Joon’s show, “Tears From My Pussy.” It was raining a little bit, not a serious rain, but a spring rain with skies that spit intermittently–just enough to let you know that it has the capacity to pour down at any given moment. Grass was bright and vibrant and when I got there–to the U of C’s Doomsday building–I locked my bike to a tree on a  slope, slipping a little in the mud.

The Doomsday is an inobtrusive brick house full of ramshackled charm. I think someone told me it’s on 57th Street. It’s at the end of the road without any houses, surrounded by grass–as though avoided by developments. It appears like an old grandparent, warm and benign, sitting on the outskirts of the University Campus. Certainly it doesn’t look like a building that belongs to an institution. Nevertheless it was there that Einstein and his cohorts developed the atomic bomb. The University of Chicago was one of the first places to develop a self sustaining nuclear reactor, and the Doomsday Building housed the infamous “End-of-World Clock.”

On December 2, 1942, scientists at the University of Chicago produced the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in a nuclear pile constructed in a squash court beneath the West Stands of Stagg Field, the University’s athletic stadium. This experiment, crucial to the control of nuclear fission, was one of several research projects at sites around the country, each concentrating on some task critical to production of an atomic bomb. All were administered by the U.S. Army under the code name of Manhattan Engineer District, or Manhattan Project.

With all that history it’s an intriguing site for an exhibition.  At the opening students hung around the back steps discussing the regret that college officals admitted in public statements about allocating funds towards the atomic project–in other words the students who have been using the building as a studio for the last year are constantly aware of their context. Given Young’s background in idiosyncratic exhibition venues, (what with The Green Lantern, his help in The Phonebooks and of course the work he’s done at NoCoast (where he’s founded the exhibition program)) choosing such a building to install his final show seemed no small coincidence.

What I loved in particular about the Doomsday building is how it references the domestic home/house/apartment gallery on the one hand, while also functioning as a kind of veteran bruise, emblematic of a science that incurred countless deaths and imaginable terror. Particularly when everyone present in the space was relaxed and casual, comfortable on the site (one which they must frequent often), just as anyone must negotiate an everyday relationship with the past, even incidents of trauma whether personal or historical.

Winding up stairs, getting a little lost, I eventually found myself on the second floor where Young had a series of sculptural installations in three small rooms.  The primary medium was black leather, black hair, spray paint and black dukt tape. The landing, a kind of common space, contained one sculpture, bulbous on the top with a variety of orifaces of different sizes–they reminded me of old-timey Mr. Magoo/Dr. Seuss phones that one might use on a ship between decks–and funneling to a point, where all the weight balanced on the floor. The piece was shiny and dripping with matted black hair. Attached to that common room, a second room contained a variety of sculptural installations including my favorite, a piece that came out of the wall, as though having busted through the dry wall, the wall itself peeled back from the opening, revealing underneath a round leather with straps, masking tape, hair, out which came a very long hairy tail. In a room beside that one, everything was covered in black, a black hole of a room, it smelled sickeningly like paint fumes and focusing my attention on the present. The room, while small, was disorienting with a glory hole of light.  In the room beside that, there was an unstretched stretcher, black hair wrapped around it and a light positioned underneath, casting shadows against the back wall. This last room, I thought, referenced painting, its absense–the painting as a light that cast a shadow (a meta painting) not a physical/traditional canvas.

entering the very very dark room

inside the very very dark room

The work  felt furtive to me, not in its physical form, but in the emotive/psychogeographic space  it created. I experienced a constant low-grade stress in the environment, looking, for instance, at the sculpture that might any moment topple over while also presenting so many black, exploratory caverns. Or the black room in which I’m not sure where I stand. The smell of paint that overwhelms the senses. Or, even, the tail which seems at rest for only a moment before it might suddenly come to life and break down the wall, if not the whole house. The work resonated with the historical significance of the house which, from the outside, looks so passive and quaint. Meantime inside its attic it harbors a brilliant and poised unrest.

Also, and perhaps most of all, this clip (which I’ll post in a few hours along with some additional photos of the show), in which graduating collegues discuss how and when to move to New York while Young puts the final touches on his tail.

posted by caroline picard


Video, Sculpture and Installation by Young Joon Kwak (MAPH DOVA)
& performance by lil eloté

On view April 23, 2010 to May 14, 2010

Opening Reception Friday, April 23, 6-9pm
Performance by lil eloté begins promptly at 7:00

Open Studios Wednesday, May 12 4:30-6pm

Closing Reception Friday, May 14, from 6-9pm

at Doomsday Building
6042 S Kimbark Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

To schedule a viewing, contact

In Conjunction With the Exhibition:
Artist Talk at the Contemporary Art Workshop

Monday, May 10, 2010, 6pm

At Cobb Lecture Hall, Room 202
5811 S Ellis Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

Wigs, thick makeup, heels, patent leather, and sequins—these are materials that I implement in my artwork and are also material identifications tied to my experience performing in drag. Drag symbolizes resistance and defiance to norms of gender, sex, race and class, while it’s also contingent and complicit in bolstering these oftentimes oppressive norms, revealing their instability. These material identifications gain productive force in my newest sculptures, video, installation and performance works, presented in TEARS FROM MY PUSSY (MAPH DOVA creative thesis exhibition). In these works, I imagine the drag queen as being comprised of fragments, an assemblage that is fluid and in a constant state of transformation. I engender form to the spaces in-between the seams of these fragments, wherein affects are produced and transmitted—and where a variety of new and radical interactions and transformations may occur.

Hairy objects and a small-editioned catalog of the exhibition including an essay by Ingrid Haftel will be distributed at the opening.

posted by Caroline Picard

Former Volunteer and super-rad-baddass Artist Young Joon Kwak had a conversation with an on-line literary journal, Monsters&Dust. In addition to developing a performative drag practive, Young Joon was also a finalist in the forthcoming reality TV show about emerging artists. In any case, M&D and YJK have a good chat–well worth checking out, both Young’s conversation and some of the other pieces. Contributors include Cass McCombs, Elijah Burger, Becca Mann and several others.

Young’s interview begins as follows:

“I first met Lil’ Elote on my birthday in April 2009, as she crossed the threshhold of my shabby, dark apartment on 17th Street in a candy-striped dress and shiny white pumps, bearing giant helium balloons shaped like butterflies. She was as remarkable for the ways she differed from the form of her alter-ego, my friend and colleague Young Joon Kwak, as she was for the ways she reflected his spirit – witty, generous, warm, sassy, and sincerely strange. What other queen would enter their first drag competition in a celestial jumpsuit, lipsyncing through cake-white makeup and platinum locks over the blaring synthetic beats of Björk’s “Declare Independence,” while audience members screamed their allegiance to the sparkling black pennant of Elotelandia?

“This summer, as Young began to delve deeper into drag, interweaving it with his artistic practice, he also happened upon an opportunity to audition for a new, as-yet-unnamed reality TV show in which artists vie for New York gallery stardom, in a scenario much like the designers on Project Runway. Young made it to the semi-finals, and while we in Chicago rooted for him all the way, we’re glad he is still here with us. Below is our conversation about this time.”

—Aay Preston-Myint for Monsters and Dust

You can read the rest of the link by going here.

Featuring the art of:

Jerome Acks
Marvin Astorga
Carl Baratta
Youni Chae
Greg Cook
Michelle Grabner
Sam Jaffe
Young Joon Kwak
Angee Lennard
Caleb Lyons
Patrick Mcguan
Brian McNearny
Heather Meckkelson
Samia Mirza
Rachel Niffenegger
Angel Otero
Caroline Picard
Kaylee Rae Wyant
Lily Robert Foley
Esteban Schimpf
Chris Schreck
Deb Sokolow
Matt Tetzloff
Jeremy Tinder
Joe Trupia

Check out images here:

Green Lantern First Annual Fundraiser