Best Art of 2009 (Ed & Rachael’s Picks)
Here is the first installment of our year-end round up of art projects, exhibitions and actions in Chicago which made a difference to us here at Proximity and the Public Media Institute.
There were many notable and exceptional events and projects that we did not see or attend, so please consider our list based on what we experienced. We believe these contributions made our local cultural ecology more vibrant, diverse and healthy and are worthy of praise and accolades. We wish we had cash prizes to give out!
Best Exhibition: Actions at the Graham Foundation
Just thinking about this show made us come up with our “Best of” list. The little known architecture and visual arts foundation has trumped the entire city’s institutional contemporary arts infrastructure by mounting Actions: What You Can Do With the City. Although it debuted at the Canadian Center for Architecture, The Graham Foundation’s version of the show in Chicago put it on the country’s art map. Read a review of the show by Albert Stabler in the new issue of Proximity magazine. And visit the website and the exhibition to discover a fantastic assortment of urban interventions. Better yet you can also submit work to their Call To Actions Challenge and possibly be part of the current show.
It’s up until mid March 2010.
Best New Publication: Art Work
Temporary Services‘ Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor, and Economics, is an important and timely resource for artists of all persuasions working in these times of economic crisis, “recovery” and misery. The paper and website might prove to be a common nexus for us all to consider ways to work better together or at least help us consider our options. It has inspired us to reconsider how we will work in the next few years and we love it so much that we are trying to figure out how to pay for more copies to be printed and distributed to as many people as possible. Download a copy. Spread the word.
Best New Space for Contemporary Art: Concertina Gallery
We enjoyed the fact that Concertina has no furniture in their dark paneled 2 bedroom Logan Square apartment on Milwaukee Ave. Co-Directors Katherine Pill and Francesca Wilmott are making the typical apartment gallery space look more pro and less domestically charming by emphasizing site specific work over the “Where can I fit my piece” display of work in most apartment spaces.
Our runner up is second BEDROOM in Bridgeport where Chris Smith gives artists an entire 7 x 12 ft room to show work. And their Medicine Cabinet exhibits are sweet.
Best Micro Funding Project: The Hornswaggler Bar
It’s rare that we as an art community are able to mix business with pleasure, but two enterprising young men have finagled a way to do just that. By serving up handcrafted cocktails from a mobile bar, Joseph Rynkiewicz and Graham Hogan are not only putting drinks in hands, but also putting money directly into artists’ pockets. They’ve created the Hornswaggler Bar, a nonprofit vehicle of art collection. In exchange for a modest donation, they offer a spirited cocktail with the proceeds going directly toward the purchase of a piece from the show they’re working. So far, the Hornswagglers have had three successful rounds of serving and purchasing hope to have the Hornswaggler Collection ready for exhibition by this time next year. Getting tipsy while supporting the arts has never been so fun and meaningful.
Best Website for Local Arts Coverage: Bad at Sports
Bad at Sports should have received a a grant from the XYZ foundation last year to help them make their art podcast website a real day job. But the powers that be often sleep on what is engaging, innovative and important in favor of the familiar, lame and business as usual. Bad At Sports was our top local art resource of the year. Thank you guys.
Best Art Festival: Version
Yes, we help produce this festival and this is a shameless plug. But Version is an incredible convergence bringing together some of our cities most interesting groups, spaces, artists and ideas into a compressed, energetic and hectic series of exhibitions, actions and events. By mixing local national and international art communities together we think it’s a good way to expand Chicago’s networks outside the loop. A few highlights from last year’s version include Hui-Min Tsen’s Pedway Tour, the Chicago Art Parade, the NFO XPO the WPA Poster Project and Daniel Mellis’ Institute for Socioaesthetic Research. You should join us next year.
Best New Book: Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society
Chicago is lucky to have Brian Holmes living here at least part time. Over the past decade his research, writing and projects have been influential guides giving us denizens of the Art-Activist capital of the US some advanced interpretations of how things work and don’t work.
We like to think of Brian Holmes as a 21st century Sartre or Beaudrillard’s love child. That might sound a little flashy but believe us when we say Brian’s new book, Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society is required reading to help us all understand a history of cultural resistance since The Battle of Seattle. Many of us who are still trying to “outlive the present” will find this book exceptionally useful to understand how we got here and how we can get out of this mess.
You can peep some of Brian’s “geocritiques” at his Continental Drift blog, where many of the ideas within the book first saw public light.
The book will be hitting shelves soon! You can bug the Van Abbe Museum in The Netherlands for a copy, too.
From the site:
The ARC Digest is an archive of the activities of Chicago’s artist-run spaces between 1999-2009. It acts both as a companion to, appraisal of and extension for the initial project and exhibition. Included are essays by Lori Waxman, Mary Jane Jacob, The Pond, John Neff/Scott Speh, Abigail Satinsky, Allison Peters Quinn/Britton Bertan, and the editors, Shannon Stratton and Caroline Picard; a series of interviews between Dan Gunn and the over 30 spaces participating in the exhibition; and a CD with two audio interviews by Bad At Sports with artist-run media groups and Temporary Services.
Best Art Happening Concoction: Industry of the Ordinary’s 39 Verbs
An art star- studded cast of participant artists and curators gathered for one night during Industry of the Ordinary’s 39 Verbs show at Packer Schopf last October. Basically 39 participants re-interpreted 39 of the Chicago-based collective’s projects in a super stimulated environment where work was shown and people performed in a carnival-like atmosphere. It was truly astounding to see artists embrace these one-off interpretations of IOTO’s work. One of our favorites was Jason Lazarus’s Ask, where he “hired” a priest to give people forgiveness via text messages. And Simon Anderson’s destruction of what we think was once a guitar was a delightful accident to walk into.
We are really sad that we missed their recent holiday blitz and we hope the Industry of the Ordinary will keep the madness coming.
- Ed and Rachael Marszewski
More Best Of lists from the editors of Proximity are coming soon.