other [Gravy] issues


Gravy number 5

Adam Mikos, publisher
Darlene Kryza, editor
and design

October 1999

Beret's Summer Show, Philip Kotulski

At one time you could make your own art in minutes at any carnival or street fair. The canvas was mounted on a spinning disk, and you would pour paint from above. It certainly takes Philip Kotulski longer to accomplish the same results, but the look is not much different. Paint is poured on a canvas, and the surface is combed rather than spun.

The instant-art thus created has the look of marbleized paper, a somewhat thickened variation of Belgian end papers. Used in a book, end papers provide a decorative touch to the binding, and are said to clear the mind of the reader as the book is opened.

Kotulski's paintings accomplish the same purpose. They are decorative and clear the mind of the viewer. As I stood before each of the paintings, all titled "Untitled," I couldn't think of anything in terms of artistic goals or a broader context except that they were pretty.

What then, are these all about? This is the most disappointing show I have ever seen at Beret International, which prides itself on cutting-edge art, and where I always enter with trepidation, expecting to be amazed and baffled. I just hope this is not an indication of the demise of Beret, now the last of the Chicago Uncomfortable Spaces.

-- Allegra Secunda


The purpose of the life size painted cows in downtown Chicago this Summer -- some 300 of them -- in to enhance tourism. So says the Department of Public Art, whose spokespersons talk of having tourists stay longer or go home with good feelings about Chicago, cow stories, and photographs to pass around.

The hidden agenda of the DPA, however, is to make as many people happy as possible, the politicians, the citizens, the tourists, the corporations who for three months will receive a million dollars worth of favorable publicity for only $3500, and of course the hired artists and designers who painted the cows.

My hidden agenda will be to write without once resorting to a cow pun.

The painted cow project was initiated in Spring by sending out requests for proposals to some 2000 local artists, some 200 of which responded, and to a good many design firms, designers, and interior architects. A few cows were also handed around to big-name painters, and some were reserved for kids and other marginals.

Anything, said the DPA, could be done, within some bounds of acceptability. Sponsors with pre-bought cows drew up similar guidelines for their hired painters. Columbia College's cow was handed over with the single prohibition that the painter could not suggest cow slaughter.

Although the Chicago Stock Yards are now dispersed to other states, the slaughtering of cows is in fact the only image which resonates with the words "cow" and "Chicago." There are 100 million cows in the USA, all of which are destined to be slaughtered and eaten. But in fact not a single cow has been quartered and hung by its hocks. Not a single cow has been disassembled and displayed as a butcher's inventory.

There are two O'Leary cows (Stephen Rybka and Mark Hayward), but neither is presented as roast beef. The herd consists entirely of pleasantly decorated cows. No reduction to plastic pellets, no disassembled cows, no monochrome white on white cows, and no definitive sculptural practice. Considering the number of artists involved in this project, it is curious how the history of art of this century has vanished.

Singularly absent from the painted cows are any radical turns, or any reflection on issues broader than entertainment. It seems that the artists among the designers and self-represented firms have sold out to commerce. Caught up with goals of self promotion, the possibility of doing something in public spaces, and fantasies of having the best cow among 300, the artists pounced at the opportunity. "Uncurated," the DPA said, but the painted cow proposals are being curated by the community of sponsors, the corporation and restaurants and designer groups.

One piece was refused, a design altered from its original proposal to become a cow covered in graffiti. "It might set an example," DPA objected, "other cows might become defaced."

In addition, a number of artists opted to extend their signature aesthetic to cows, so we have a gum-ball cow (Barbara Koenen), a bottle-cap cow (Mr. Imagination), a spring-cow (Alan Bolle), and a "Fern" cow so titled by Fern Shaffer.

This is as close as it comes to high art, the references to a material of preference, the contemporary significance of gumballs. The remaining painted cows follow the aesthetics of the sponsors, whose design criteria revolve around cheery brightness, inoffensive collage, and who have little interest in the radical or in expressive statements. And none of it seems to have much to do with cows or their intersection with history.

Yet the cow-as-art-object syndrome has been strongly enforced by DPA, who has upped the prices of pained cows by big-name painters. The summer of painted cows is a curious mix of art and democracy. Certainly it will be remembered for years to come. Certainly some of the institutions will codify the whole project as real high art in their future catalogs and histories. And perhaps commercial representation will become the art of the future.

-- Allegra Secunda

cow comments from afield

-- I kind of like them because they're whimsical, fun, and bring art down to a real level for a lot of people. I haven't seen anywhere near all of them. (If I was making a cow, I'd make a holy cow. Very Chicago, may have been done.) Of course, the fun and whimsical only counts if you don't think about the fact that Chicago became a big city because it SLAUGHTERED so many cows and built itself up on the meat packing plants.

-- I'm sure it was meant to be a homage to Chicago's beginning, but if you really think about it, it's sort of sick and twisted. ("We're going to glorify the cow because we killed so many of them to become the city that we are today. Here, decorate this and give us lots of money to do it.")

-- W

-- Near the trib building, they have a cow painted to look like a bull (a Chicago Bull, that is... same colors). Perhaps a message about sexual identity in professional sports?

-- C

-- Well, since they're all female, it's the Man keeping females down, objectifying them, painting them, gluing shit all over them, putting them on a pedestal, just to auction them off when the cold weather comes.

-- They don't bug me. I'd actually like 'em to stay, be permanent, ya know. They be colorful. They're not great or anything. But then I'm sure the city reserved the right to not display a cow, like if someone made a dildo cow or something. So, so what? I want cutting-edge art, I'm not gonna look at the concrete dividers on Michigan Avenue. I think they fill their purpose as Chicago intended.

-- AB

-- I think the cows SUCK. NO ONE did anything interesting with them. All anyone did was paint them, and everyone did boring stuff. They all look like you could buy one at Linens N' Things, and put your toothbrush in 'em. I've seen more interesting things done with end tables, and a life-size of the cows I've seen has risen to that media.

-- KD

Voices of Cabrini
produced and directed by Ronit Bezalel

This film will be broadcast on channel 11 twice in the coming weeks.
You shouldn't miss it.

September 30th at 7:30 pm and October 1st at 11:00 pm.

This is a recent documentary film by a Columbia College grad student. Voices of Cabrini intends to show the crumbling, both physically and socially, of Chicago's Cabrini Green Public Housing Project.

The focus of the documentary looks at the residents of Cabrini Green who are being booted out of their homes to make way for the downtown commercial expansion. The conflict of the situation is how they (the residents) are dealing with what has already happened; their eviction, and the ethical/judicial aspect of the city being able to do it.

The film shows that both sides have made strong cases for themselves. The residents feel that they are not being treated fairly as their lives are being reshuffled without their consent or consideration. The city doesn't seem to be listening to them when the two groups come together, which is shown a number of times during the film. Meanwhile the city sees the buildings falling apart and knows the dangers that exist inside these particular housing projects. Not to mention seeing dollar $ign$. This film was shot to tell, and sides with, the story of the residents of Cabrini Green.

Unfortunately, a few pieces of the film often worked against each other. For example, the narrator/guide of the movie is/was a resident of Cabrini Green. He and his family were interviewed in their apartment, and were a great example of how public housing was helping families. Then in another segment, the same narrator describes at length ducking bullets on the playground, in the hallways, and while sitting by windows.

Later, the film shows a photograph of a spotless Cabrini Green when it opened, then interviews today's residents who describe what a shit hole it is. At many times the full blame is put on the city for the conditions in Cabrini Green, but never solidly makes the case. Intuitively we know, but the facts are not plainly shown; I felt that the film maker was trying to win the battle with this film rather than shown what things helped her decide for herself.

In one particular interview, three women residents are posed the question, "do you want to be relocated?" They all say no, and explain how at Cabrini they have a great view of the city and the lake is close by. They have a grocery store close to them and a hospital right down the street. All that I could think about was me having to ride my bike to Jewel, stuff everything into a backpack, with what didn't fit balancing off my handle bars for the ride through traffic home. This was not a voice from Cabrini that I wanted to hear.

The director somehow (out of over a hundred hours of film) edited together thirty plus minutes that neither inspired me to join their fight nor clearly see the injustice of City Hall.

-- Adam Mikos

Art Expo

Ignorance is bliss at this place. Just the art please, but this time I couldn't get past the ass. Is it all about bragging?

What I did like: The solitary Nicky Hoberman painting, the one Antony Gormley figure (I would love to see a full show of his stuff in Chicago, ..somebody), Rhona Hoffman's placement of a Jenny Holzer LED, seeing Arnold Neumans photograph of Stravinsky selling for $3,500, Alan Feltus, Gallery Camargo ... The French got the nastiest ... hot-dogs and pretzels and beer were available.

-- Adam Mikos

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Vic Muniz

I didn't like it, but Matt and Mark both did.

-- Adam Mikos


Craftsmanship takes on the Cheeky One Liner

Was anyone as disappointed in the recent Charles Ray show at the MCA as I was? I truly wanted to see the show; my interest peaked by an article in the November, 1998, issue of Art in America.

I was ready: through the front doors, around the corner, past the front desk and before you know it, I'm halfway through the exhibit and cannot escape the feeling of "where is it?" I put on the brakes; going too fast, I must have missed something. I'll go through again, maybe twice. I viewed it twice more, once after perusing the upstairs galleries in an attempt to clear my head. Upon returning a second time, the problem materialized in the work itself, not in my perception of it.

A few gems, but by and large the most interesting objects were the older works like "All My Clothes," 1973. I was left just wanting, in the end. No revelations; just a number of one liner, often cheeky works. A few objects were somewhat insulting, either in their simplicity of word/conceptual play, or in their utter refusal to yield any clues about context. What was that piece of red lacquered metal laying on the floor, besides uninteresting sculpture? This show went beyond the "I didn't get it " response commonly heard in modern art galleries. I could find no appropriate context, or, when I did, would catch myself saying, "Is that all?" (Oh, I get it, the bottom of the cube is lower than the floor, clever). The experience was, in the end, quite depressing.

In reading the current issue of the Utne Reader, July-August, 1999, the author draws a parallel between the current state of our instantly gratified, entertainment/consumer based, global society and the drug, Soma, in Alduous Huxleys' novel Brave New World. Soma induced a state of fulfillment and/or happiness in its users. Distributed to the mass populace to keep everyone in line, distracting them from recognizing their true state of being. If you don't see a problem with the way things are, you won't try to change them. The author postulates that mass media coupled with consumer culture effectively produces the same result as the drug Soma; blinding all contained within this reality to their true state of existence.

As I'm reading this article, a light goes on. Absolutely, this is why I feel guilty when I watch too much TV or play computer games! This is why I react so angrily to the incessant nature of advertising! There are different states of living; those existing and being entertained and those consisting of living, doing, being, creating. This is why the process of making art is so important; more than existing to turn the mighty wheels of production and consumption in this society, making art is investing a part of yourself in society. It means something, it counts!

This is why the cheeky, one liner, "I'm so clever" work we've been inundated with throughout the last 10 to 15 years is unnerving. Art making that ceases to have value; counting no more than a blockbuster movie or a day at the amusement park. This type of work serves only to avert our attention momentarily from our true state of being and in the end we are all diminished as well.

In the May issue of Chicago Art Critics Association newsletter there is a short column by Fred Camper entitled "Artists and Art Viewing." Camper describes a "feeling of renewal" after spending time in Europe and viewing many Old Master works. Upon returning to Chicago and the local scene, that "renewal" appears to change to a sense of some thing missing. Camper writes "I would just like to feel that the artist is aspiring to create the complexity of experience found in works by Rembrandt, Cezanne, Duchamp, Smithson, Bourgeois, Tuttle, or Richter". AMEN

In the same newsletter, Clair Wolf Krantz, recounts for us how traveling in Indonesia and India has forced a bit of "recontextualizing" of "her ideas about art." She wonders why "after spending several months with works that aspire to complexity of meaning, visual beauty ... and technical virtuosity ... we continue to equate spontaneity and a logo-like shallowness with significance."

When lecturing about art from Chicago, she states that the Indonesian and Indian artists work, rooted in "centuries old development of techniques in what we would call craft, installation, performance, music, dance and pictorial traditions," all but rendered "our acceptance of shoddy craftsmanship and shallow ideas simply incomprehensible." This acceptance of mediocrity is by no means limited to Chicago artists.

I have seen works by internationally recognized artists installed in the contemporary galleries of the Art Institute that would be hard pressed to hold up in a graduate school critique, let alone merit installation in a major U.S. art museum.

Speaking of mediocrity elevated to the level of "fine art," I may as well weigh in on Cows on Parade. My biggest problem with the whole idea is the hypocrisy surrounding this supposed public art event. Essentially a huge Chicago public relations ploy presented to the public, on one hand as an art installation and on the other, a way to bring more tourists' dollars to the city.

Alan Artner, in the June 24th Tempo section of the Tribune comes closest to correctly identifying this show, when he pointed out how many of the objects have wound up as cow shaped bill boards for area businesses who sponsored some of the works.

The greater disservice to the Chicago arts community is that this project not only siphons off funds and energy designated for the support of art in this city, but gives the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs the chance to claim they are supporting art on a grand scale. In reality their contribution is minimal, safe, and self-serving.

This stance would be easier to accept if the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs brought back The Chicago Vicinity Show on an annual basis and stood behind the exhibition, come hell or high water. The kind of local arts support this city could use, an event with potential for fostering community spirit, or, at the very least, stirring up some dialogue. Instead, we have the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs patting itself on the back, and, in the words of Alan Artner, "This time, to the delight of the audience, comfort counted for more than challenge and entertainment came before anything else."

-- Michael Kaysen

The Dishwasher, a short fiction

there is no greater solitude than a life as a dishwasher

Before soiling my apron with blood, which was becoming a daily ritual, I filled the sink with cold water, (as instructed by my boss), grabbed a head of lettuce from the bucket, cut about 2 to 3 inches from the bottom, and dunked it in the water like a new born baby. It bubbled but offered little resistance. I held it under, gently, but with a firm grip, careful not to crush the spines, which would turn the leaves black, and as I was told on my first day of work, "Nobody likes black lettuce." But then, with sweat dripping from my chin, I imagined that it wasn't a head of lettuce in my hands, but the tender throat of a child. I tightened my grip to prevent its escape, impressed by the veins popping from my arms. I had grown incredibly strong during my time as a dishwasher and could kill, effortlessly, and without contrition, any member of the vegetable kingdom: onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, you name it.

I had cut myself so many times that my boss, the man with the mustache, refused to give me any more band-aids and locked the first-aid kit in his office. He rationed the bandages; five, three, and then one a week until my supply had been siphoned off completely and I was allowed to bleed with impunity, my blood landing where it may, on the floor, in the food, on my apron, and whoever happened to be standing near me. It wasn't frugality or managerial rancor that caused my boss to cut off my supply of band-aids, (though he frequently demonstrated his penchant for both), but a Nazi-pragmatism he usually reserved for the selection of his wardrobe, which consisted of shark skin suits, wing-tips, and gold chains.

I was chopping lettuce with a knife that had just been sharpened. My boss walked into the kitchen with more drag in his step than usual. He pat me on the back and said, "How are you doing my friend? How are you doing?" That greeting, from the mouth of someone who begrudgingly pays you minimum wage, can only be construed as suspect.

He loomed over my shoulder like a starving vampire, licking his lips, greedily anticipating the day's first blood. He watched my battered hands with an indefatigable interest he usually reserved for the observation of the waitresses' asses, like a hawk that eyes its prey. He paid particular attention to the band-aid that was wrapped loosely around my finger like an ill-fitting wedding ring, blood, dirt, and lint clinging to its fibers. The same band-aid that had been strapped to my finger for nearly two days, so far the longest period of time I had gone without injuring myself in the kitchen. It was to be one of the last band-aids I would wear as a dishwasher.

I kept chopping, determined not to cut myself, at least not while he was standing there, smiling and tugging at his chest hair. I lowered my head and concentrated. My pace had slowed to a near standstill as my concentration increased with each successive pass of the knife. Then, disgusted with my performance, my boss took the knife from my hand and said,

"What are you doing? What the hell is that?"

"That's cutting lettuce," I said.

"It looks more like you're cutting shit. You hold the thing like you're afraid of it. Like you're cutting a piece of shit. Do we serve shit at this restaurant?"

"On a good day, maybe."

"What was that? Don't get smart with me. There are plenty of people who would kill to have this job."

I said, "No, we don't serve shit," as I pictured all the unfortunate souls vying for my position: the disabled, the medicated, the terminally ill, former prison guards, ex-cons, and substitute teachers. Yes, I was grateful to be working.

He grabbed a fresh head of lettuce and plopped it on the cutting board. He jabbed the tip of the knife at me and said, "This is last time I'm gonna show you, so watch closely. Are you watching?"

"I'm watching, I'm watching."

My attention drifted from my boss, to the window above the sink, and then the bus stop across the street. There was a woman at the bus stop, waiting for the 10 o'clock bus, reading a book and biting her nails. She was there every day, rain or shine. And every day I watched her, wondering who she was and where she was going, wondering if she ever came into the restaurant to eat, hoping she would return my stare but fearing she would see me. There was something familiar about her, something classy, like a bank teller. And from where I was standing, my view obstructed, though slightly, by the thin layer of grease on the window, I could see that she had tar-black hair, thick, untamed eyebrows, glowing white skin, full red lips, and bright blue eyes.

I pictured us together in some downtown diner drinking coffee and eating pie, cherry, laughing, and having a good time. She wore a skirt.

The bus pulled up and stopped with a hiss. It put a wall of tinted windows and fiberglass between me and my view of the girl. My boss, having demonstrated the finer points of food preparation, shoved the knife in my hand and said, "Now you do it." My eyes never left the girl, and for all the attention I paid him he might as well have been talking to the wall. But I knew what I had to do and grabbed a head of lettuce. I started cutting, slowly at first, and then faster and faster, until I was cutting with complete abandon. I continued to stare out the window, watching, as the girl in black paid the fare and made her way to the back of the bus, which started to creep away, a stream of black smoke shooting from its rear. Then, like so many days before, the bus was gone, and blood, covering all the stains that had come before it, was turning my apron from white to red. I saw my life going down the drain in a cloudy-red swirl. I felt faint, my eyelids fluttered, and I fell to the ground, hitting my head on a drainpipe. Looking up I saw the waitresses, Amy, Margo, and Lilly, and the cook, Jose, returning my vacant stare. One of them was slapping me but my only response was the involuntary rush of blood escaping from my hand. Jose shook me and told me to wake up, though my eyes were wide open and I was very much awake. It was as if I was holding my breath beneath a shallow pool of water, staring up at the wavering images around me, their muffled voices echoing in my ears, wishing that someone would come and scratch my sweaty nuts.

-- Brandon Zamora

Butcher Shop on Lake St

Posters and posters as far as the eye could see. If you could see past the hipsters (and the body odor according to Darlene), that is. This was a great opening with plenty of worthy merchandise to pick through. And refreshingly cold beer.

This was a show of all music posters. Much in the same vein as Frank Kozik, these designers could be considered his brethren. This was something in a continuation in an annual poster show, but the exact facts are hazy because I was too ... ummm ... at the opening to remember. What I do remember, was that I really liked the diversity of the show. Seeing West Coast, Chi-Town, East coast, and everything in-between, design styles side-by-side was great. It looked like a show that took as much in time and effort to put together as it did in thumb tacks. I wonder if you could walk through the gallery and see a bands tour progression across the U.S.?

F.Y.I. Along the same lines, the Harold Washington Library is showing Spanish political posters in the basement.

-- Adam Mikos

the art of the instant as opposed to the art of the epoch


art of an instant: art which happens in the decisive moment, like a Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph; art which exists in the eyes of only one viewer, once.

art of an epoch: a grouping of artists of a particular age whose work is representative of the time in which they lived; artists identified by a particular "ism."

Walking through an effervescent city existence, one can easily get apprehended by the days' pace. Preset activities guiding you forward, unwilling or unable to stray from a calculated path. If, however, eyes are allowed to wander, the possibility of encountering the art of the everyday is inevitable.

People make special trips; their intention specifically guided toward art viewing. A cultural activity incarnated in a Sunday afternoon, possibly following brunch. Spinach frittatta and luncheon in the grass. Instead of this arranged white wall affair, why not attempt indulging and defining ourselves and the world in which we live by extraordinarily unique moments.

Consider the three fireflies hovering in the grass at dusk as you wait curbside in your car, friends thankfully taking longer than expected. These coy insects perform for you, putting on a mini light extravaganza.

Walking by a now abandoned building, the shopworn paint of a once vibrant mural appears, showcased on the brick facade. You encounter it at three in the afternoon; the light, as you walk past, slaps you with its hues of tangerine and delphinium blue, a quick flash of the dress your mother wore to a valentine's day dance in 1989, without your father.

Driving in the car that same evening with friends, you hear a song on a radio that reminds you of a specific moment in an earlier and easier time; lyrics announcing:

thesearedayswewillrememberneverbeforeandneversinceIpromise willthewholeworldbewarmasthisandasyoufeelityouknowit'strue thatyouhavebeentouchedbysomethingthatwillgrowandbloominyou.

As these words replenish the stagnant summer air, you pass a church with a giant crucified Jesus, illuminated by the neon blue light of the convenience store next door.

The movie theater is packed: seatless. Hundreds of Kubrick fans await the final film of a fanatical director. A buzz about, the previews an unnecessary inconvenience, simplistic black and white headlines finally chisel their way into the most anticipated film of the year. Not knowing what to expect, the opening scene engulfs you while the quality of light and grain illuminate a naked Kidman, fancifully swirling you from bedroom to bathroom.

A weekend of unexpected moments wakes you to the whoo of a barred owl. Early morning in an unfamiliar place; a calm comfort you have not experienced before. Except for the bed, the room has prepared its' old inhabitant to make new memories elsewhere. Daybreak reflects the soft pink, antique fixture above, reminding you of his kiss the night before. A kiss made up of the years it took to get to know you. Specific, deliberate, earnestly yours.

One could argue that these events are the very beginning of the artist's creative process. Memory inspiring the artist of a particular time to represent these twinklings in the visual media of his or her choice. Although true, this fact does not detract from the significance of that original moment. On the contrary, it ranks our recollections pedagogically in addition to emotionally, placing these instances on a pedestal that we alone have the strength to reach.

-- Darlene Kryza

West Town Community Youth and Fine Arts Center "mural walls"

For twelve blocks of Hubbard Street, running between Ogden and DesPlains, there are large, aged murals along the street. The murals have been painted on the concrete embankments used to hold up Amtrak's trains as they roll in and out of town. Like all true city murals, they began falling apart long ago and are now surrounded by more litter than people. I find them to be an interesting example of a City Art Program that I could support.

There are twelve titled sections to the whole thing, with each section having been done at a pace of one per year. Each section is roughly defined as one city block. Minus those that have been painted over, the murals were done between 1971 and 1977 (ignore that the math doesn't add up). At the end of each section there is a panel done as a dedication, who did it, when, sponsors, directors, etc. From these we see that there was once such a thing as the West Town Community Youth and Fine Arts Center, which headed these projects. Also one done by Mayor Daley's (our mayors dad) Summer Youth Program. An early predecessor to Gallery 37?

The painting styles are not great. The topics for the murals are so-so (endangered species, the "Chicago gallery").

My favorite mural is on the corner Hubbard and Aberdeen. It shows the couple from Grant Woods' "American Gothic" in their original setting, but here they are wearing gas masks. It looks hilarious, the couple is as composed as ever. Why are they wearing gas masks? I'll bet the smog downtown would be shocking by comparison to 1974.

Although done years apart, there are other murals scattered around that relate to the city. We have a mural showing the city's silhouetted skyline creeping up a numbered grid. The only info on what it's about is a line just above the top of the Sears tower that is titled "danger level". Its unclear what we are in danger of, but the line doesn't look too far above us.

There are Mexican styles, Native American patterns and totems, "Salsa Rock" with Jose, Alberto, Pablo, and Sergio. Some artists painted flags on their murals; Ecuador, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Spanish and English interchange throughout. I like the panels that deal with how the city was at the time they were painted.

The best part of these murals isn't the classical training of the artists. It isn't all the tourist revenue or the press conferences. These were community projects. There surely was red tape, but these paintings are still here, albeit chipping and peeling.

-- Adam Mikos

No O Spot here


review of Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo

When I was in school, I would constantly get upset when we had to read plays because plays are meant to be performed and watched, not read. The irritation stemmed from not being able to activate the dormant action and to exhaust the possibilities and its purpose. One Big Toe's production of Dario Fo's Orgasmo Adulto, unknowingly renamed as Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo, defies my theory and argument.

The presentation of the play follows suit along the lines of feminist theory, explained in five verbose and exhaustive vignettes:

What the two directors Steve Pink and Sid Feldman have tried to do is to make not only the characters, but some scenic and lighting elements, generic and more accessible to the audience. The outcome is a bad stylistic choice filled with poor production values.

The lighting and stage design (more like set-piece picker and gobo placer) are terrible, reminiscent of a first year theater design student who could not find their way out of the flashlight isle at the Home Depot. There are some potential, yet untapped, possibilities in Orgasmo, none fully realized or seen through. Take the third vignette, for example, where Andrew Meyers (light design) illuminates Francesca Fanti (actor) as if she is telling a ghost story around the campfire. Meyers may as well given her a flashlight of her own and asked her to eulogize the entirely too long scene with it under her face. That might have been more interesting.

If it were not for Francesca Fanti, the single performer in Orgasmo, the production would have been a complete bomb. Fanti manages to keep most of your attention in spite of bad direction. You would think that with two directors there might be a possibility of having too many cooks in the kitchen.

What is the message of the play? Why do it? There are plenty of plays that bespeak feminist theory without having to tackle translation, language, and context. How about The Vagina Monologues by Paul Vogel? It is much more interesting, pertinent to its audience in a historical and timeline context, and much more interesting. The only background information the audience gets in regard to context is Fanti spouting out five sentence explanations between scenes about Dario and how poorly women are viewed and treated in society. Tell me something I don't know. And if you do, at least make it worth my time.

Orgasmo Adulto is a great recipe, but not even two cooks can come up with an edible dish if the ingredients are of poor quality.

-- Wilson Anguilar

Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm through Sunday, October 3, 1999, at the Theatre Building, 1225 W Belmont.

Art Institute of Chicago Copyright 1999 All rights reserved

Spirit Stones of China

When he was appointed magistrate in the Wuwei district, Anhui province, in 1105, and entered the official precincts for the first time, he saw a large and bizarre rock set up there. At once he called for his robe and tablet of office, and bowed deeply to the stone. Subsequently he always addressed it as "Shixiong," Elder Brother Stone.

-- pp. 20, 21, exhibition catalog

Several years ago while working as an art schlep, I entered the livingroom of a local collector and saw in the corner an enormous undulating bronze form by Jean Arp, one of two extant castings. I felt as if I were in the presence of the pillar of fire leading the Israelites from captivity. For months after, I spoke about seeing god in the corner of the apartment.

When I first saw a significant collection of Chinese spirit stones, or scholar rocks, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I was moved by the beauty of their odd and essentially natural forms displayed as contemplative devices, as objets d'art. The parallel here is that while the modern sculpture and the ancient rocks were produced through entirely different manufacturing processes with widely divergent aesthetic motivation, the effect on the viewer, this one at least, was fundamentally the same.

The exhibit of the Ian and Susan Wilson collection at the Art Institute is a significant show for illuminating this vein of Chinese art and cultural history. With numerous rocks, root sculptures, scholarly implements, paintings, and an utterly fabulous two to three hundred year old mushroom, it is a rare synoptic presentation of an important facet of the creative process and artistic production in China.

Chinese landscape paintings are based on a three-point perspective system, dealing with Taoist principles and frequently representing imaginary allegorical scenes. This, however, freed my sometimes too-culturally blase'd mind from attempting to fit them into standard western art-historical categories, such as realism, naturalism, abstraction, blah, blah, blah. Looking at these rocks, at these paintings, the continuum of Chinese and philosophic systems became apparent.

While the individual objects were beautifully mounted and well-lit, the collection would have benefited from a larger exhibition area. Some of the rocks and roots were crowded, without enough room to be fully appreciated in their historical context as contemplative objects. The Boston Museum's display of its permanent collection, is housed in context of its Chinese period rooms. In this setting, the stones are seen in niches; on desks arranged in groupings with sufficient breathing space. Unfortunately, the Art Institute did not have this option.

This display, along with a prior Imperial Palace collection exhibition, showed a commitment by the Art Institute to mount major exhibits other than the sure-fire, crowd pleasing, money-making, Impressionist blockbusters. It also illustrates a problem with the viewing public (both general and art community) as well as the press. The Imperial Palace collection exhibition was quite likely the museum's most important show of artistic objects and cultural treasures, in terms of depth and breadth, made available for viewing in this decade. Like these spirit stones, this show received nowhere near the attention of the public or the press it deserved.

The ceaseless regurgitations of Impressionism, however, never fail to enthrall. This myopia is not limited to the 'general' public, but extends into the artistic community as well. Quite often, if we do not see something directly related to our personal explorations, we ignore it. Indulging in this behavior, we rob ourselves opportunities for growth, education, and occasionally, sheer aesthetic enjoyment.

-- Nathan Mason


The D Edinburg Collection
The Dept. of Prints and Drawings A.I.C.

There is a ton o good stuff to check out in this show. Read and weep, then go see it. Almost every piece looks like it was literally ripped out of the artists sketch book. This is a short list of who I liked in the show: Beckman, two Bonnards, Amed eo Modigliani (did anybody know that was his first name?), Giacometti, J Miro, two by Kandinsky, two by El Lissitzky from his "Proun" series (I love the Constructivists), a cool Mondrian study, four by Braque, four by Picasso (which he would have not liked), Gris, Delaunay, two by Paul Klee and also two by his son Felix, Grosz, Sisley, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, two by Cezanne (that incidentally make me feel much better about my sketch book), Corot, Millet, one by Van Gogh of a woman bending over in a work field that had the greatest quote from Van Gogh: "nothing seems simpler than painting peasants, rag pickers, and laborers of all kinds, but no subjects in painting are so difficult as these commonplace figures", whatever the hell that is supposed to mean, a dark Redon, and two figure studies by Henry Moore.

There are even more artists in the show that were not mentioned above that you would do well to see. I reckon that if you can count three artists that you really like in any one show, you should go. In this case, the gallery should be packed.

-- AM

The Broad Spectrum
Art Institute, Prints and Drawings

Show runs until the end of October

Another endorsement for an AIC Prints and Drawings show. The last one, see above, came down and has been replaced by an equally good show. P&D has again hung a show that gives you a look at how some artists ideas start, are sketched out, or when they are just screwing around with pens/pencils/ whatever. Their line-up won't let you down. Work includes: fake bills by JSG Boggs, Rodney Carswell, Rothko, Motherwell, Gottlieb, Kandinsky, Klee, Gris, Three by Warhol (Marilyns), Pissarro, Vuillard, Van Gogh, Lorrain, Tiepolo, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, two by Redon, Gaugin, two by Degas, Modigliani, Klimt, Picasso, Chagall, Gorky, Pollack, De Kooning, Richter, and Marden. How can you not go see this?

-- AM

It Looks Easy
Gallery 400, through Oct. 2

Taken from a great lead painting, by Walter Andersons, this shows title almost beats a reviewer to the punch line . Whether it was a good idea to challenge the audience of an abstract painting show in such a way is very debatable, because most of this show does look like it was very easy. I did enjoy John Sparaganas "Down" for its pixilated grid, and color combinations. Also, Shona Macdonald labor intensive "180 Envelope Innards"had more possibilities than most of the work.

The hardest part of "It Looks Easy"was reading the four way conversation in the exhibition brochure. This show "is a cross section of painting in Chicago, but it is not Chicago painting".

Be warned, the erotic aspects of painting are glossed over.


Jan Cicero
Group show of gallery's artists

Cool new space. Umm, yeah space was nice. This is a hot spot for artspeak and dealer b.s.

-- AM

Dean Fisher
Byron Roche Gallery, through Oct 16

A rewarding, unexpected stop. Dean Fishers series at Byron Roche looks good as a group, as well as individually. The beautifully muted figures of young girls, jumping antelopes, and a wonderfully simple hoop create complex dialogue. I felt that there must be wonderful myths behind the images in these paintings. In two of the paintings, Fisher gives an electricity to the edges of these hoops that shows both impressive skill and experience.

-- AM

MRI painting projects
Bodybuilder & Sportsman

On the sight line of the entrance is a key work: Perhaps at an art opening, a young woman/subject holds a beverage/Coke can with a current accessory/messenger-backpack as she gazes obliquely at a modern painting/object.

During the opening this situation recurred continually. Having previewed this work at a previous Law Office event, I initially mistook the promotional info from the previous "Girls, Girls, Girls" B & S show as declaration for this assembly of like-sized paintings. The 2 gentlemen collaborating as M.R.I. pair the artifice of gloss-media-femininity with the artifice of contemporary art culture. In a triptych of a unified interior, a single model/female re-appears in various outfits and poses - a spare, planned tableaux and translation of the lifeless drama typical of fanciful layouts. In another pair of paintings, two groups of different model-types are situated in contemporary 'white cubes': In the first room there are no paintings but the participants seem intent on looking at the walls. In the second, a mound swells from the floors center for the interest and interaction of posing attendants. I like the presence of the "idea of looking at painting and sculpture"exercised here as a subject. Chock-full of problems, these paintings are competent and invite further debate.

-- WA


thanks to

jno cook -- marc fischer -- yvette kaiser-smith -- chris kerr -- brigitte kirchgatterer -- anna kunz -- blanca estela lopez -- ann marie mcglade -- christopher ritter -- mark waldman -- ginny woltzen

twilight restuarant
privata restuarant


everyone who bought tickets

everyone who wished they did

everyone who got a piece of work

and all the invisible forces

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