Michael Bulka, midnight rant

Number 5


Mon Apr 12 12:24:50 1999

Subject: 4AM Rant #5

I've been advised by a committee of the Chicago Art Critics Association to desist in my occasional aggressive requests for submissions for our moribund CACA Newletter, and I sort of promised I would behave, but there are priorities and there are priorities. So, there's this. Maybe this is worse. CACAs can consider it a unwelcome, aggressive nag to send something to Ann right now. Anyone else can email me at ... and I'll give you the party line, as well as I can, on CACA and the newsletter, or you can read the three old issues and jno cook's report of our history at ...... (Old rants are at [http://spaces.org/rants], thanks to jno). There should be a fourth issue on paper at Navy Pier on Mothers' Day, and if the web page ever does happen, I'll let you know.

The first part of this was obviously an in-house memo that I could have rewritten to replace "you" with "the critic". Or, you could just read this.

There was an interesting batch of openings Friday night and I saw exactly three of my colleagues out and about, including Professor Yood as curator at TBA.

I will assume that those of you who were not at orthodox good friday services were interested enough to show up at the shows, but just not at the same time as me, and not home watching Dawson's Creek.

Unfortunately, I also have to assume that, as professioanls, you can't be bothered to express an opinion until the word-legnth is specified and the contract is signed. This seems very sad.

When I was in college, Lucas Samaras came to visit - in his altered Polaroid days. I remember him saying "I did this in my kitchen with $100 worth of equipment. What can you do?"

In the same vein, this is what I have to say about art I saw yesterday, remembered through an alcoholic haze. I reserve the right to have a different opinion upon reflection, as should you, but in the meantime - you're supposed to be smart folks, you ought to be able to have better observations, or at least be able to argue with mine. Isn't that what this newsletter thing was supposed to be?

Anyway - Four very well-attended openings, four very different crowds. Come to think of it, last week at InsideArt was another whole different bunch of people, too. Reminded me of the number of parrallel art scenes we've got going, and how each one thinks they know what Chicago art is really like.

"Stuff", the annual Contemporary Arts Council show at TBA - This was the A list, at the show where the smart set finally discovers and validates crap. Jump on the bandwagon, boys. Even at another up-scale venue, "The Blunt Object" at Smart last year was fresher, less pretenitous and crappier. Patrick Miceli's pile of take-out drink cups is the dumpster behind the food court, but here it's in a gallery - too cool. We've got Danielle Gustafson-Sundell's yarn pompoms scattered in artful, cleverly obscure locations, and other very arty installations of dust and plastic bags and leaves and tape, not to mention some nice paintings whose claim to edge is sloppy, lumpy paint and a little Great Stuff, and some stupid paint-dipped marshmellows. We are treated to an antique Paul McCarthy video (it must have been included to establish art-historical credibility) that was too long to put up with in entirety ten years ago, and an archived example of one of the five pieces that Joe Scanlan has ever made. And then there was John Kramer's Carrie Yellow - the idea of crap as an art arena is way insufficient to excuse this interminable 4 minute slo-mo of some fat boy in prom drag being slimed. It is very yellow, though.

It is pointless to beat up on Jeanne Dunning anymore, although it is pretty bad form to curate oneself into a show. Talking to a local celebrity later at his regular perch at the Rainbo - "It's amazing where being Suzanne Getz's secretary will get you".

And now some less scurrilous reportage -

Pi - Joe Crosseto Dragomir Djekic. A flock of Serbs venturing into the Wicker Park art scene to support Drago, and Joe's buddies from the wacky Art-o-Rama and Colson Truck Group days. The best buffet I've seen at a gallery in years. I know that Joe knows that the opening crowd can be placated with a plastic glass of cheap wine, but he sees this as an occasion to do something nice for his friends. Maybe it's only sandwiches, but a telling difference in attitude from River North.

Paintings. Joe's are essentially still-lives. I overheard them favorably compared to Frank Trankina's. Similar technique, some similar toys. While Frank stages a psycho-social drama, Joe's read more like self-portraits of a man and his junk. I didn't get a chance to ask his girlfriend about what she thought of the big one with the blow-up doll.

Drago dragged out some old paintings, but so few people have seen them they sort of count as new - beautifully painted poses of his "girlfriend", a dummy made of masking tape and newspapers. And a self-consciously uglier new one that we can blame on NATO.

Tom McDonald at Beret - Post-appocolyptic Road Warrior art. Maybe everyone will be making art like this after all the Pearl stores are radioactive rubble. Lots of adolescent testosterone and improvisational construction. Most of the chicks hated it. There were, though, a few delicate pieces I could imagine coming from the fiber department. I'd like to see a video of Tom in his Tom of Finland sailor shirt and knife-encrusted work boots on the Belmont Rocks with Jan Estep in her new-age-survivalist Gortex pyjamas. That would really be a clash of visions of the future.

My favorite quote: "Too bad this guy got an education."

Oh, and the crowd - The usual Uncomfortable bunch. Lots of young artists, heavy UIC bias, no obvious collectors. These are the folks that the Contemporary Arts Council and the like are waiting for. They'll do the work, and in a few years some of them will be ripe for harvesting.

Aron Packer's Bug Show at Yello - I don't know who these people were. You go to a lot of openings, meet a lot of folks, and you can still turn up with what looks like a random pack of strangers. It's a bigger world than we usually think it is.

Aron's been doing a lot of work lately for a guy who shut his gallery a year ago. Aside from a lot of really ugly ceramic insects, this was a very handsome show. If you were looking to decorate the office or guest room this weekend, this would have been the place to go.

Later, at what still passes for the art bar of Chicago - why is it that Wesley Kimler is the only guy who is willing to engage in an intelligent argument? He doesn't even drink anymore. Go figure.

And - I may be stepping over the line here, but . . .

to those of you registered in Chicago's 1st ward for the runoff election on Tuesday: just a reminder that Jesse Granato is an evil tool of the developers. Maybe you can't fight progress, but it will still be a shame to see our favorite galleries, bars and the last few affordable apartments bulldozed for more yuppie condos. Cynthia Soto. Punch 12.



Oh, and to the new people - repost anything at will and just let me know if you want off the mailing list or have anything esle to say.