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May 2008, The Artist Project

The Artist Project, Independent Artist Exhibition + Sale
April 24th, opening preview by invitation 6-9 p.m.
April 25th-28th, 2008

Dedicated to the independent artist, The Artist Project is a collection of works from a juried selection of around 300 artists who are currently unaffiliated within the gallery community. This second annual exhibition shares the 8th floor of Chicago’s massive Merchandise Mart with The Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art and The Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair. The majority of these selected artists reside in and around the Chicago area, with some exceptions. As I walked around the space opening night and then again on Sunday afternoon, one word that comes to my mind was mediocre. Overall it felt clustered and quite crammed, with works that were just not as exciting or innovative as the other shows, NEXT and Art Chicago. Rumor has it that The Artist Project may not return next year?! As I meandered through the crowds of people, I kept thinking about the contemporary art experience as a human desire to connect with another person or another world in some way through creative expression. I want to be moved, feel a connection to an artist by his or her works that have a lasting impact, to experience art created with emotion, impulse, and impression. Instead, I felt as though the show had become a ground for art as commercial commodity and was largely about making a sell. It definitely was the place to see and be seen, to grab some snacks at an Argo Tea booth nearby. We are bombarded with so much information throughout our daily lives and I suppose I was looking for some sort of respite from the endless consumerism all around us. There was more marketing material, business cards, and brochures at each artist booth than I could carry in my oversized purse. The show was unimaginative, commercial, and very repetitive, with some nice decorative pieces to hang on wall. I know that an artist must make a living, but I am an idealist and I believe that art should be about more than money. I like to experience art free from the monetary value associated with it and appreciate works where the artist’s hand and processes are evident in the creation. Respectfully, the selection process was a great first step for many new artists and undoubtedly a learning experience. That said, there were a number of works that stood out to me as aesthetically wonderful, soulfully charged, and imaginatively original.

  Joachim Knill, Bedbugs, Polaroid photograh, 20" x30"
 
Swiss born Joachim Knill’s works consist of 20” x 30” Polaroid photographs which he creates with a portable instant film camera that he designed and built himself. The process is fascinating and I was amazed at the range of colours achieved. The camera took him three years to build and produces one of-a-kind pictures with wonderfully detailed resolution. The exposure time allows him to alter a scene during the shooting phase. Beginning primarily as a painter, he describes the lengthy and multifaceted process as ‘painting with light’. He illuminates complex compositions using handheld lights filtered through coloured gels during extended exposures. He layers these compositions with carefully selected materials, discarded items, and recognizable icons in order to inspire a dialogue with the viewer. For me, it conjures up the saying, ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’. What distinguishes something of value from ordinary rubbish is not always clear and Knill heightens this concept by constructing richly coloured environments with such props. The finished works become surreal landscapes and almost other-worldly, though at closer inspection they contain simply mundane and natural found objects. His latest works deal with ‘the current state of our society as it relates to materialism, science, power and our disconnection with nature’. His works also include small black and white panoramas created by assembling several various viewpoints next to each other.


 Aristeo Jaure, Requiem for an American Soldier, Oil
 painting, 30” x 24”

Aristeo Juare was born in Wyoming and has lived in Chicago for eight years. His interest in observing people from all types of backgrounds started from a young age. His paintings confront the viewer and as I approached each painting I immediately was drawn to the intensity built up in his brush strokes. His portraits radiate energy and conjure up stereotypical tendencies and thoughts within each of us; he says his paintings ‘dig down and pull back the veil of ignorance and sometimes attack hypocrisies within our culture.’ His works open up a dialogue about the broken state of humanity, war, and the complexity of the human heart. She’s the Bomb, oil painting, 72” x 38”, depicts a Middle Eastern woman wrapped tightly in a veil and Hungry Too, oil painting, 22” x 26” is of an overweight white boy eating a donut. Collectively, Aristeo’s paintings are not accurate representations of particular people; rather they are a means of exploring the physical differences yet deeper similarities between persons of various ‘groups’. He told me he incorporates different parts, much like building blocks, from different people in his life or from those he has met. His works are exaggerated, zealous, and uncomfortable, forcing the viewer to engage and respond beyond predilection. There is a video on his website which shows his painting process.


 Aristeo Jaure, Here Comes the Bomb, Oil on canvas,
 45”x 33 5/8”


 Gabe Lanza, Accidental Archer, Acrylic,
 gouache, graphite on birch panel,
 37.5” x 48.5”

Gabe Lanza resides and works in East Pilsen, Chicago, a neighborhood quite often described as having a colorful and vibrant populous and ‘art scene’. He was recently part of a group show titled Working Hard at Playing with Yourself at Mad Art Gallery in St. Louis that ran until April 24th, 2008. Gabe creates paintings, constructs robots, 3-D works, installations, and sketches. Most of his works are painted onto wood panels. He uses antique frames and objects, old alphabet blocks for example, juxtaposing a sense of the long-standing, old and tattered with his own new, self-shaped and imaginative universe. The wood panels create a painting surface where on he is able to achieve areas of flat color and sharp, fresh contour lines. His characters are sharply rendered and emotionally charged, each with a sense of personality and wittiness; there is a feeling that each of these figures has a personal story and a history. With an ‘affection for old wallpaper, tin toys, and cartooning’, his work certainly references the lost art of hand illustrated cartoons and commercial designs from the decades of the 1950s and 60s, especially in the muted color palette. I found his works to be retro, refreshingly stylish, and a welcomed break from the contemporary, hyper-realistic computer animation present in today’s world.

Diana McNish live and works is Geneva, IL. Her sculptures begin with the use of pieces of driftwood that have been polished and molded by years spent in water; this becomes the basis and origin of her works. Around this base, she builds upon this with layers of resin, fiberglass, paper-mache, and paint. It is this natural and found object that is the source of inspiration for Diana; from this she builds her own romantic and imaginative world. Each piece of driftwood carries with it its own story and history, partially decomposed and washed ashore, essentially considered as waste. The resulting figures are imbedded with personality and life force; they are rich with various textures, jewelry, fabrics, wrinkles and color. Her work is an exercise in curiosity, whose focus is on the world beyond our own confines; it is inventive, original and is not mainstream. Through it we are reminded that the world around us is beyond interesting and humanity is far too complex to be defined exclusively through one way or culture.


 Kass Copeland, Finch Tidwell, 22” x 15”, Collage,
 mixed media on discarded door

Kass Copeland began studying art with her father, a theatrical prop designer, and has lived and worked in Chicago since 1995. She shows frequently as Las Manos Gallery and does freelance art and design work for Redmoon Theater. The foundation for much of her work is rooted in language and the images that words conjure up; words and found images provide for us multiple associations and can provide alternate views of current realities. Her works provide an imaginative view of the past through the incorporation of fables, songs, found materials, rhymes, and her own childhood memories. She says, ‘humor is frequently an important component in my work because it provides a universal means of communication and can help simplify complex ideas.’ This work, titled Finch Tidwell is from a personal series of portraits based on spam email names. She uses both traditional collage techniques and Photoshop to create her images; by mixing a bit of the past- found in the natural world, patterns and images- with present tense wordage, she is able to contrive and evoke new themes and associations to common contemporary language and subject matter. One of her works, titled Goldigger, is a wonderful and witty example of her imaginative use of past imagery, language association, and found objects. The work is constructed as a type of antique telegram device complete with wires attaching an image of a gentleman with a 1950s-ish pin up girl, the text reads ‘We connect people who WANT $MONEY$ with people who have it!’

Trisha Ellen Kenny


Trisha Kenny is an MA graduate in the History of Art and Connoisseurship from Christie's Education London. Currently residing in Chicago, she is also studying yoga and philosophy. trishkeni@gmail.com

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