Studio Visit: Chad States

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I first came across Chad States’ work during Philadelphia’s first Friday of February this year at NAPOLEON space and immediately asked him to be featured here. Surrounded by a crowd of visitors to the building, which has a few gallery spaces on various floors, Chad’s installation titled Night Sweats which took the entirety of the NAPOLEON space and was the most memorable thing I saw that night.

Chad agreed to do a studio visit with me early this April, located in his home in the Old Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. We headed upstairs to his third floor studio and went straight into talking about his process, influences and how he balances his practice as it has shifted from traditional photography to more immersive installations.

One of the biggest challenges in this shift in mediums is the relative easiness in storing images, whether digitally or as prints, and planning shows around them, opposed to his newer installations which due to space restrictions in his studio, which results in seeking out very specific spaces for showing and concentrating more heavily on proposals and prototypes. His previous process involved shooting controlled and staged portraits then showing the printed and framed photographs on the typical white wall gallery space. His practice now involves planning out the details of the entire space, whether it involves painting all the walls black or creating a more controlled entrance to the space by building extra walls. There are parallels to his practice then and now, while it has expanded outside of the usual routine of exhibiting traditional photography.

In recent years, Chad has been drawing from not just his personal experiences but larger shared histories of the LGBTQ community in the 80s to now intersecting with the punk scene of the 90s. He mines the topics of the sexual revolution in the 70s leading up to the AIDs crisis to straight edge clubs in the punk scene and exploring bodies and male aggression through mosh pits. For example, a work in progress in his studio space combines the printed imagery of Henry Rollins with the tension created by the actual parts of a sex swing, which is often associated with BDSM culture.

On his studio walls, Chad has a few print outs, all in black and white, of imagery and mock-ups for things that he is thinking about. This includes a photograph of the Titanic pined up on its side so that the ship is vertical, another photo of Henry Rollins, and some text for a future neon project that he plans to work out. Around the studio you find framed prints from his older series of portraits made with color film, a couple of disco balls, and a work table that is neatly organized. He is often working on multiple projects at the same time whether it’s working out an installation, planning for another photographic series or researching more about his various influences.

When he is not at his studio he teaches photography at various higher-education institutions. Before settling here in Philadelphia, Chad lived in various other cities while heavily involved in the music scene. He mentions that he was living in Olympia, WA during the height of the grunge and riot grrl scenes in the 90s, and ended up touring around the country often during the early 2000s. I can definitely see how his creative energies once directed towards music have influenced and ended up in his current studio practice.

From our studio visit I could definitely see a sense of humor and playfulness in dealing with such political topics within Chad’s work. The way he titles his works often adds another layer of complexity. I felt drawn to the way that Chad welcomes and includes ambiguity in his work to allow for a less didactic point of view while dealing with these political histories.

You can see Chad’s work in person, this upcoming first Friday, May 2nd in Philadelphia at Fjord Gallery as part of an exhibition called To Labor With Love.

Spaces: Springsteen Gallery

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James Bouche at Springsteen Gallery

“Is this what heaven feels like?” I said to Amelia and Hunter as I walked into Springsteen Gallery during the middle of the day, the sun brightly shining in through the gallery windows making the entire space aglow. Apparently, I was not the first person to have made that joke.

Located in the Copycat building on 1511 Guilford Avenue, a well known warehouse-like space in Baltimore City that has housed many co-ops, galleries, and other projects in the past, Springsteen Gallery has pristine white walls, tall ceilings, light grey floors, and presents itself as a professional artist-run space to show both local and nationally known artists. Springsteen Gallery started in April 2013, making this month their one year anniversary. Amelia Szpiech and Hunter Bradley, who are both recent graduates of Maryland Institute College of Art decided when they moved into their living space that they also wanted to start a gallery space in the front. Gracious and very well informed about the community that they are a part of, Hunter and Amelia spent a long afternoon with me a couple of weeks ago.

Milton Melvin at Springsteen Gallery

Milton Melvin at Springsteen Gallery

As a Baltimore native myself, who has spent the past six years away from the city, it was nice to get re-acquainted and to see a glimpse of what has changed since I moved in 2008. Without even my asking, after visiting their space, Amelia and Hunter drove us to visit a nearby store-front gallery space called sophiajacob (which unfortunately seems to be closing after the end of a good run), and Rock512Devil, an artist book store wrapped in a gallery and performance space, located right next door. While driving to these spaces, the two spoke knowledgeably about not just the arts community but of Baltimore City neighborhoods and the larger issues and possible opportunities surrounding them in general.

For as long as I’ve known, Baltimore’s art scene has always been very self-initiated, experimental, and supportive of each other. However, I often get wary of artist-run spaces that only seem to show their friends or classmates because it can seem exclusive to outsiders. Springsteen Gallery seems to alleviate that concern by concentrating on showing a mix of Baltimore based artists with other artists that they come across either online or through word of mouth, which eventually creates a dialogue between what happens locally and how it interacts with others outside of the community. On their curating process, the two co-directors express that they always want to go beyond formal connections, which is always an easy fallback. Instead they look to see how the content, process and influences of the work of the artists that they choose to show together, can change depending on who they’re hung next to.

Steven Riddle at Springsteen Gallery

Steven Riddle at Springsteen Gallery

Something that came up again and again, and comes up not just in Baltimore’s art community is the issue of funding a space, whether it’s a gallery run out of a living space, project driven without a collection, functions as a commercial gallery, or in this case a mix of the three. These days because of the lack of government funding for the arts, those who run spaces have to look for as many solutions as possible. Springsteen Gallery is first and foremost interested in putting up critical and thoughtful shows, but also have looked into selling work as a means of sustaining the space. Both Amelia and Hunter, like most of our peers who start a space, have additional full time jobs and fund openings, maintenance, and mostly everything else on their own. This May, Springsteen Gallery will have a booth at NADA NYC. Their hopes in participating in an art fair, is to bring exposure to their artists they are showing, and hopefully gain some funding, for both the gallery and the artists so they can continue to concentrate on curating shows that are not driven solely by the goal of sales.

The next day, Springsteen Gallery facilitated with The Contemporary as part of an ongoing program called CoHost, Jon Rafman’s artist talk at the Baltimore School of the Arts. This event was open to the public and followed by a series of studio visits with Rafman and local Baltimore artists. As a smaller city often overshadowed on the east coast by New York (well which city isn’t, really) and Washington DC, programming such as this can help bridge the various conversations about contemporary and emerging art in different cities. It’s easy to say that the internet has changed the way that we discover and receive art, as well as just information in general, but facilitating these events can really effect the growth of a community, especially with the enthusiasm and collaborative nature found in Baltimore. It was really great to meet fellow peers in Baltimore who are dedicated to running a space who feel open enough to ask questions and share answers on how to figure it all out as we go.

Seth Adelsberger at Springsteen Gallery

Please be sure to check out Springsteen Gallery if you’re in Baltimore! Their open hours are Saturdays from 1-4pm, and viewing by appointment is also possible. And if you’re in New York during May 9-11, give the gallery’s booth a visit at NADA NYC where they will be showing the work of Alex Ebstein, Ben Horns, Sofia Leiby, and Seth Adelsberger.

Other Investigations: Roxana Azar

www.roxanaazar.com / / post-cocktail.tumblr.com

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Philadelphia based Roxana Azar, who was featured on Make Space last January, shares some thoughts on her work and process. She received a BFA in photography from Tyler School of Art in 2012. Her work has been featured online and in print publications such as Mossless Magazine, Of the Afternoon, Ain’t Bad Magazine, Beautiful/Decay, and Waterfall. Check out her work and enjoy the rad playlist she made for Make Space.

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The photographs in “Through A Gilded Stomach,” at least from what I have seen through a screen, focus on very subtle moments in the everyday. Yet the color, composition, patterns, and/or textures in these images are striking and somewhat defiant. What is the narrative within this series? 

Through A Gilded Stomach included a mix of arranged still lives, text, found images, and portraits. A lot of my work had dealt with my connection to domestic spaces but I started focusing on the objects and images within that space. Some of the objects are cultural, others are more symbolic. I was thinking a lot about my relationship to the women in my family, particularly the matriarchs — my mother and grandmother, as well as my older sister and the cultural gap between each of us, and how that culture and its expectations have affected us differently. I wanted the images and text to act as a puzzle with some of the larger pieces missing. The artist statement itself is ambiguous and acts the same way as the images. Most of the images are arranged, but some are not. I printed the image of the bodice of a dress on fabric, hoping it would fray and unravel over time. The bodice is part of an incomplete dress with frayed edges, and the fabric it’s printed on is similarly lustrous and soft. I liked the incompleteness of the image mixed with fragility of the fabric. One of the other objects was the curled, double-sided photograph. On one side, there is an image of a torn page from an origami book of a vase with paper flowers, resting on a vase with flowers, but you only see the stems. On the inside of the curl, there is an image an old, framed illustration of a woman with her mouth covered. I was thinking that these two images could have similar meanings and are pieces that complement each other.

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The pieces in the digital series “Fluid/Foliage” contain manipulated textures and patterns that create excessive, painterly gestures. Can you expand on the process and concept of this series?

Fluid/Foliage begins as a photograph of flowers and other plants that is then layered with scans of objects that have been completely abstracted by moving the object while scanning. The fluid gestures are collaged and layered with the image and manipulated, liquified, and painted on in Photoshop. I was playing with the layering of the fluid scans and still images to create a unique composition by manipulating a raw image, turning something organic into something very digital and removed from what it originally was. The composition is then recreated over and over in different color variations. The images are only available online as low-res jpgs and are perfect for viewing on a computer or iPhone screen. A photograph can be used in so many different ways especially since creating an image is a very accessible thing now. It’s very exciting.

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Do you consider collecting an important part of your practice and does this influence your practice? What kinds of things do you research or examine as part of your practice?

Images on the internet come and go, but I like a good object or book. I have a lot of old National Geographic magazines and Life collections that I use for collage or just look at. The color casts in these older magazines make the photographs seem so unreal and dense, even though the colors are pretty muted. The most important and influential things I read are poems. Maggie Nelson’s Bluets is a book of deeply personal and intimate prose and it revolves around the color blue. I also love it when I read something and think to myself, “I wish this was a photograph.” Like William Carlos’ Williams “The Red Wheelbarrow” — it should be a photograph! I can see it every time think about it. As far as artists go, right now I’m looking at the work Molly Matalon, Vivian Fu, and Hobbes Ginsburg. I also highly recommend these books: Ruth Van Beek’s “The Arrangement” and Aidan Koch’s “The Blonde Woman.” I also love the color palette in Godard’s Une Femme Est Une Femme and the composition of many of the shots in that film.

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What is your work process like?

It’s hard to say. Every project I’ve worked on has started out as a completely different idea. Anything I’ve considered successful has been the product of an initial failure, I suppose. Mostly, I start working with a couple different ideas at one time and go with whatever seems to be working at the time.

What are some of the concepts or themes you are exploring within your practice at the moment?

Beauty mixed with subtle chaos and ambiguity. I think that’s mostly the general feeling I want to convey. I am not great with words.

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What upcoming projects are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on still lives using objects and textiles from my home, fruits, and family heirlooms, and hoping to see where that takes me. Last summer I started taking photographs outside of the house (in the garden) and I will be taking more photographs outside when the weather picks up and the flowers start blooming. I’m going to California in May to visit my other family members and will be focusing on the objects in those spaces as well. Also, once a month, I try to come up with a new cocktail and image for Post-Cocktail.

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What do you listen to while making work?

I listen to a lot of Pavement and Patsy Cline. Electric Wizard is quite good when I’m editing photos. I made you a mix.

Other Investigations: Ginevra Shay

www.ginevrashay.com

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Ginevra Shay is an artist and independent curator based in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the Program Manager of The Contemporary, a nomadic museum and the founder of the Current Space Community Darkroom. Ginevra’s work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally. She participated in recent exhibitions at The Finnish Museum of Photography (Finland), Notre Dame University (Maryland), John Hansard Gallery (United Kingdom), Galleri Vasli Souza (Sweden) and Artisphere (Virginia). Her publications are in the libraries of The International Center for Photography, Indie Photobook Library, Houston Center for Photography, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Also, check out Ginevra’s Make Space playlist HERE.

1. Sinking Whale (SnakeFoot Remix) – Wren and Mary
2. Rosalina – Nose Bleed Island
3. Lola – The Raincoats
4. Invisible Man – The Breeders
5. Bloody Mouth – ALLIGATOR
6. Before the Bridge – Future Islands
7. She’s A Bitch – Missy Elliott
8. Not Anymore – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
9. I Was Divided – Outer Spaces
10. Skewed – Chester Endersby Gwazda
11. Tonight You Belong To Me – Steve Martin and Brenadette Peters

Do you consider collecting an important part of your practice and does this influence any part of your practice?

I used to spend a lot of time collecting physical visual ephemera: magazines, free books, 35mm snapshots, discarded materials found on the street. The collecting became so synonymous with people’s perception of me that friends started giving me the strange photos or silly pieces of paper they found. My friendship with Dina Kelberman began when I was visiting Baltimore from Vermont and went to a regional hotdog party/clothing swap at her house and saw a sheet of wallet-sized baby photos of her that were laying out. I thought to myself “we have some common ground here, a basis for friendship!” My childhood pictures are full of me making ridiculous faces and poses! We decided to mail copies of our baby photos to one another and since then I’ve curated her artwork into two exhibitions.

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Left: Dina Kelberman, Right: Ginevra Shay

Years ago I collected materials for a project with Trevor Powers. We used to travel together to make photographs but we never lived in the same city. We started a journal that we mailed back and forth as a way to stay connected after our travels were over. It’s strange how attached we got to the journal; it was like entering another world where we could express ourselves freely without the slightest bit of hesitation. Within the confines of that book we could have a visual conversation in ways that weren’t possible to do in words, sometimes about really complex or sad things. We ended up journaling together for 5 years. Eventually we turned it into a publication titled, Too Many Places and Times to Remember.

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Shared journal with Ginevra Shay and Trevor Powers

I’m still invested in communication via the USPS but I’m not currently working on any art projects that revolve around the mail. Now I focus most of my collecting energy on zines and artwork. Those things don’t really make it into my practice but are beautiful objects to reflect on and constant sources of inspiration.

What kinds of things do you research or examine as part of your practice? What are you reading at the moment? What artists are you looking at?

I usually do a lot of research for the exhibitions I curate, which is mostly reading philosophy and critical writings about culture. I think about Jorge Luis Borges’ writings a lot and have been invested in short fiction writers for some time. I’m a big fan of Deleuze and post-structuralism. The main thing I’m reading for my personal practice and for fun is Moby Dick. It’s my first time reading it and I’m enjoying how deliberate Melville’s writing and word choices are. I’m trying to be really straightforward in my art practice and reading this book has come at the right time. I’m always looking at different artists’ work. What inspires my practice the most is my friend’s art and work ethic. I’m in the collective Family Family Tree, those folks are endlessly inspiring and hilarious. Also – my husband, Ryan Syrell who is my favorite artist and person, is making work non-stop and constantly inspiring me to amp up my game. Some friends who I think are really killing it right now are Elle Perez, James Bouché, Kyle Tata, Molly Collen O’Connell, Hermonie Only, and Alex Ebstein, but this list could go on forever.

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What is your relationship with photography, as a medium or a material? How does technology and/or the internet affect your work?

This is a complex question to answer as an artist, curator, community darkroom founder, and someone who’s done photo archival work. I’ll be honest, I have a complicated relationship with photography, I feel simultaneously attached to and estranged from the medium. When I’m printing in a darkroom, I’m happy and at ease, I feel like I’m in my place. I understand photography better than any other art form; I focused on photo history in college and worked in the photo archives of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and The Afro-American Newspaper. I’m very invested in the preservation of analog processes and the archiving of photographic data.

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Current Space Community Darkroom

You know, it’s tough, I think the majority of people who use cameras in the everyday, non-art related sense are still looking to the next technological advancement in photo and aren’t necessarily thinking about the ramifications of that mentality or the shift away from longevity. The impacts of photography on culture are so complicated, as is the history of the process as an art medium and a tool in the arts. Photography is consistently going through these technological innovations, the medium and the message are always subject to change – and that’s an interesting dilemma, through this constant flux photography challenges us and keeps us on our toes. Now, artists are pushing photography as a material in art making, particularly in sculpture and installation, and that’s really exciting to me. The estrangement that I sometimes feel from photography as an art form is in the literal interaction one has when viewing an image. To make that experience more physical, to me, is a step in the right direction for the medium.

Another thing that excites me about photography is this resurgence of support for the analog and antique processes. Photography is an umbrella medium filled with many dynamic and beautiful processes.

As an artist I use the medium/material in a very utilitarian way and try not the get hung up on the history of the practice. Right now I’m trying to push the medium in ways I haven’t before in a traditional black and white darkroom. For example, I’m trying to get more physical with the silver gelatin process without changing the surface of the paper. I’m also exploring was to make an image feel more sculptural within the limitations of the process.

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Current Space Community Darkroom

Part of your practice is making zines, books, and publications. How often do you make publications and what is that process like?

I feel like publications are the most intimate things I make. They’re a tactile object that someone can experience privately or share with another person in the location and time of their choosing. Publications are kind of the most comfortable way to get close to art, and that’s a beautiful thing. I think publications are inherently romantic for these reasons.

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Selection of Publications created or curated by Ginevra Shay

For me, the process of creating a publication is different every time. Sometimes the project is initiated by an opportunity to collaborate with another artist on a new idea, such as Shay/Bouché, and sometimes it’s a good way to end a long series, like with Too Many Places and Times to Remember.

SHAY/BOUCHÈ by James Bouché and Ginevra Shay

SHAY/BOUCHÈ by James Bouché

Inbetweenie was my first zine; I had a body of work that I wanted to share in some capacity so I used that work as a launching point to create a series specifically for the zine format. Later I ended up doing There’s Treasure Everywhere and that work was also created with the publication as the ideal viewing format in mind. There’s Treasure Everywhere was also my return to working in black and white photography.

Inbetweenie by Ginevra Shay

Inbetweenie by Ginevra Shay

With the creation of the Current Space Community Darkroom and the completion of an additional smaller gallery space at Current, I helped initiate a solo photography exhibition program to coincide with the workshops and darkroom membership program. The photo exhibitions started while the darkroom was still being built as a way to get the Baltimore arts community involved with and excited about photography.

Good Light catalog, exhibition co-curated by Jules Hamann and Ginevra Shay

Good Light catalog, exhibition co-curated by Jules Hamann and Ginevra Shay

In 2013 I curated three solo photo exhibitions in the new gallery space. I got to work with Elle Perez, Kyle Tata, and John Zimmerman, and for each show we created an exhibition catalog or handout. Catalogs are a good way for a viewer to take the exhibition home with them and continue to revisit the work over time.

Assembly Affect by Kyle Tata curated by Ginevra Shay

Assembly Affect by Kyle Tata curated by Ginevra Shay

What is your work process like? 

I’m usually working on a number of projects at once; my process is a kind of an organized chaos. My recent drawings and photographs are abstract in nature and focus on material and process. The photographs I navigate intuitively and the drawings have set parameters from the beginning so I know where and when I’ll be ending any given piece.

Ginevra Shay’s studio

Ginevra Shay’s studio

Does your geographic or spatial location directly or indirectly impact how and what you make?

Baltimore never ceases to inspire me and keep me going. This city is filled with many talented and hardworking individuals – it’s because of their passion and commitment that I live here. We have a strong arts community, the artists and people who support the arts in Baltimore are very proud, dedicated, and continue to help the arts grow. There’s a lot of collaboration within the arts here and that’s refreshing.

View of East Oliver in Baltimore street looking west

View of East Oliver in Baltimore street looking west

Baltimore is an old port city with diverse architecture woven into a post-industrial landscape. We have an abundance of space and I like to think that space gives people the liberty to take risks in art and exhibition making – I know the amount of space I have access to pushes me to think more creatively.

The Annex

The Annex

I live in a post-industrial neighborhood that is a mix of old factories and row houses. The warehouse I live in, The Annex, has been divided into six, 5,000 sq ft live/work spaces. I live in a unit with my husband Ryan Syrell who is a painter/sculptor, Chester Gwazda a recording engineer/musician, Cara Beth Satalino a musician, Mason Ross a playwright/actor, Rob Dowler a musician, Abe Sanders a photographer/musician, and Brynn Herrick who just moved here from LA. Each of us has a studio space and bedroom. We’ve built out our unit to suit our creative needs – for example Rob has built a sound proof room where he can practice drumming, Chester has a grand piano in his bedroom/studio space, and we have a woodshop so we can build the things we need.

The Annex. Ginevra holding a work by Andrew Liang

The Annex. Ginevra holding a work by Andrew Liang

What are some of the concepts or themes you are exploring within your practice at the moment? 

My grid drawings are about exploring the idea of imperfect systems – attempting to create something very meticulous and precise but being ok with its flaws in order to find an unexpected outcome through the process. The first drawing in this series is on a full sheet of printmaking paper. From far away it looks like a drawing of woven fabric that’s slightly billowing – when you get up close you realize it’s a grid of 17,000 smiley faces. The grid is imperfect because it’s drawn by hand and from the slight shift in line and space there are these convex and concave pockets that create an illusion of woven fabric from far away.

Right now I’m really interested in silliness or humor in minimal art. My vinyl works on paper are in part inspired by films like Mon Oncle by Jaques Tati and the art of Ray Johnson and Eva Hesse.

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Screencap of Mon Oncle by Jaques Tati

Screencap of Mon Oncle by Jaques Tati

Untitled (Ray Johnson with Marcel Duchamp) 1974-78/85 by Ray Johnson

Untitled (Ray Johnson with Marcel Duchamp) 1974-78/85 by Ray Johnson

The series of photograms I’m working on aim to explore the minute interactions between materiality and process. The majority of my past photographic work had been landscape or portraiture. I wanted to move away from narrative or perceived narrative – really I wanted to dissolve any sense of referential or concrete associations – so I decided to strip my process down to something straightforward; exploring materials on a surface. I’ve really enjoyed making the photograms because it’s the first time I’ve felt like I have complete control over the photographic medium. There’s no camera dividing me from my subject, it’s literally me using very simple materials: ink, paint, salt, windex, plastic, etc. with glass, paper, light, and chemicals. Each photograph is a unique one-of-a-kind object and they’re either 8×10″ or 11×14″ to be shown alone or in a grid.

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Photograms from the series lesser Chains of Being by Ginevra Shay

Photograms from the series lesser Chains of Being by Ginevra Shay

The series is titled “Lesser Chains of Being” and it refers to “The Great Chain of Being”, this idea that everything in this world could be assigned a value in a hierarchical structure. The title was inspired by a conversation I had with poet RM O’Brien. It’s kind of a joke for myself. Each image is titled “Lesser Chains of Being (and then a number)” the numbers loosely order the images by when they were created but are pretty much irrelevant. I don’t see any image as being better than the others; they are all about exploring a process.

The idea of a lesser chain of being, a hierarchical caste of something really specific like smells, is really funny and absurd. Can you imagine trying to order all of the smells you’ve ever smelled from best to worst? It’s so silly.

As an artist who is also an independent curator, how do you approach your curatorial projects? What kinds of artists do you work with? What are the concepts you like to investigate and explore through your exhibitions? Do you find your curatorial processes similar to your artistic processes?

It’s different every time. For example, Guest Spot approached me to curate an exhibition in their gallery, which is on the first floor of the row home that they live in. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to create an exhibition that works with and also critiques the concept of the “home gallery.” I’ve been obsessed with the idea of hyper-reality since I was a teenager, so I was interested in curating something that revolved around the idea of simulacra. I thought it would be fitting to work with artists who explore facets of domesticity or memory because of the nature of the space.

New History at Guest Spot in Baltimore, MD curated by Ginevra Shay

New History at Guest Spot in Baltimore, MD curated by Ginevra Shay

Regarding Territory at Furthermore in Washington, DC curated by Ginevra Shay

Regarding Territory at Furthermore in Washington, DC curated by Ginevra Shay

Assembly Affect by Kyle Tata curated by Ginevra Shay

Assembly Affect by Kyle Tata curated by Ginevra Shay

NO MATTER by John Zimmerman curated by Ginevra Shay at Current Space in Baltimore, MD

NO MATTER by John Zimmerman curated by Ginevra Shay at Current Space in Baltimore, MD

Into The Woods by Elle Perez curated by Ginevra Shay at Current Space in Baltimore, MD

Into The Woods by Elle Perez curated by Ginevra Shay at Current Space in Baltimore, MD

For a solo exhibition like Elle Perez’s we spent a lot of time talking about what it means to dismantle gender binaries through action, life style, and photographs. We talked about Elle’s experiences making pictures, meeting people, sleeping outside in the country for the first time and how that affected who they are and how they see the world. All those conversations translated into essays, statements, and a cohesive exhibition that told a story about IDA, a safe space in Tennessee, and to some extent a story about Elle.

What I’ve learned is that the role of the independent curator is largely determined by the artists, the work, the exhibition space and the context of the show. A smart curator is flexible, nimble and responsive.

I like to work with artists who have a strong understanding of their medium and are willing to take risks. All of the exhibitions that I’ve curated explore or critique contemporary culture in some capacity. Yeah you know, I do find my curatorial process and artistic process to be similar; they’re both about arranging ideas and objects in space.

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What upcoming art projects, exhibitions, publications, etc. are you working on now?

I recently curated a two-person exhibition of Sophia Belkin’s and Suzanna Zak’s work titled, Find No Two Suns at Current Space. The artists in this exhibition use photography as a launching point to explore the surface qualities of the materials depicted: sap, skin, juice, asphalt, dirt, dust, mud, and wood. Belkin and Zak juxtapose these materials with objects found within the vicinity of Current Space. Through object- making and collaborative installations Belkin and Zak decontextualize these forms and reassign them new meanings – highlighting the complexities of the ‘Spirit of Place.’

I’ll be in an exhibition that Max Guy is curating which opens in June. More info will be announced soon.

Photo of Max Guy via Max Guy

Photo of Max Guy via Max Guy

Studio Visit: Michael Milano

This studio visit is a part of the exhibition ROUNDS featuring new works by Michael Milano, Alyssa Moxley, and Milad Mozari. The exhibition is organized by Make Space in conjunction with ACRE.

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The first time I saw Michael Milano‘s work, something in the repetitive pattern drawings resonated with me. They were like weavings or textiles but without the cloth – just lines drawn in different colored marker on sheets of graph paper. They were clean, quiet, and neatly organized on the page – simple iterations of a single pattern unit shifting across the grid. I was intrigued by the work and wanted to learn more about Michael’s process and his drive to make it.

Michael Milano

I actually met Michael shortly after encountering his work, and I invited him to be featured on Make Space. Then, he ended up as the Teaching Assistant for a class I took at Ox-Bow over the summer and in November, I moved into a studio directly next to his in a building on the corner of Damen and Fulton. With this close proximity, it was fairly easy for us to meet up for a studio visit about his work in December. This took place right before we found out that we would also be working together for Make Space’s first show with ACRE, where Michael was a resident last summer. This past weekend, Jason and I got to go back into Michael’s studio to see what he’s been up to and talk about his work for the show.

Michael Milano

Michael Milano

It’s been interesting to see Michael’s work change from the images that I first saw about a year ago. He’s still making patterned-based drawings, but now is incorporating other materials like quilt batting, fabric, thread, and stretched canvas. These material choices are not surprising, considering that Michael got his Masters in Fine Arts from the Fiber and Material Studies Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His drawings have strong connections to quilt patterns and weave drafts – grid-based drawings that are used to plan weavings. Michael explained that it was towards the very end of his time at SAIC when he initially started moving away from working with materials and began just making drawings. “I got really sick of playing with materials … I just wanted to concentrate on the structure without the thing,” he explained. Drawing became a way in which he could continue to explore the possibilities of how these patterns could be put together, while eliminating the actual objects. He saw the drawings as studies – they could be final products, objects, or they could just be prototypes. Drawing was also a mode for figuring something out or thinking out loud. He questioned whether an entire practice could be based off of only making studies and never turning them into actual things. He drew a connection to weave drafts which are just steps in the creation of woven cloth but have interesting visual presences in themselves. “I was thinking, maybe it’s more conceptual in some ways if it never becomes the thing, if it’s always the draft.”

Michael Milano

Michael’s more recent work has made a move back to materiality. His newer drawings look more like quilts — or maybe paintings, we weren’t sure. In a process similar to what he uses to create his drawings on paper, Michael is taking different aspects of the quilt-making process and breaking them down to make formal choices in the work. Some of his new works are composed of pieced fabric pinned or stitched onto a stretched canvas. In others, he uses stitched marks to create new patterns following the prints on found pieces of fabric. The stitches not only create a visual pattern but also quilt the fabric onto the batting and stretched canvas to create a texture that further points to the work’s objecthood. Michael explains that his interest in quilts doesn’t lie in their role as functional or socially charged objects but as geometric abstractions, similar to abstract paintings. By incorporating quilt patterns and processes into his practice, Michael can explore the same types of pattern possibility that he investigates in his drawings on paper.

Michael Milano

The word “possibility” is one that came up repeatedly in both visits to Michae’s studio. No matter what form Michael’s work takes – drawing, quilt, painting, object, audio recording – he is continually investigating the possibilities within a certain set of parameters. He has a fascination in the idea of what might be possible within the rules he sets for a project. It’s approached somewhat like a mathematical proof or maybe a game. Often times, he might have an idea or a hypothesis of what might result. Sometimes he even makes tests before he begins. He starts with a simple form or shape and then tries to see how much can be done with that shape through really simple alterations, such as mirroring, rotating, repeating, and tessellating. He tries to find all of the possibilities or combinations that are possible for that shape.

Even when he starts with an idea or plan for his drawing, he will be surprised by what happens throughout the process of making the work, these discoveries within the process carry him to the end of each piece. With the result unknown ahead of time, the work comes together like a poem or a song, piece by piece, line by line. The work becomes like a visual drone – almost entirely the same throughout but consisting of subtle shifts and changes over time that an audience can enter or exit at will.

Michael Milano

Michael Milano

An art practice based around making rules for oneself at first may seem strict, limiting, or boring. For Michael though, it is like playing or perhaps like solving a puzzle or riddle. He sets finite parameters for himself, and then gives himself the challenge of finding all of the possibilities within those bounds. It turns into a game, complete with a “rulebook”, an end goal, and a playing field. The class that Michael co-taught over the summer at Ox-Bow was called Party as Form. In class, we had a lot of discussions about structured play. It often seems to be the case that, when we are in settings in which we know the boundaries and the rules for how to act, we can open up to be more free and playful than in situations that are open-ended or ambiguous. By setting these rules for himself, Michael sets up his art practice as a platform for this same type of play.

Michael Milano

ACRE Projects hosts an opening reception on Sunday, April 6, 2014 from 4-8pm at 1913 West 17th Street, Chicago, IL.

Make Space and ACRE Projects is proud to present ROUNDS // new work by MICHAEL MILANO, ALYSSA MOXLEY and MILAD MOZARI, the next installment in ACRE’s year-long series of solo exhibitions by 2013 ACRE summer residents.

Studio Visit: Alyssa Moxley

This studio visit is a part of the exhibition ROUNDS featuring new works by Michael Milano, Alyssa Moxley, and Milad Mozari. The exhibition is organized by Make Space in conjunction with ACRE.

Alyssa Moxley

Alyssa Moxley is a Masters of Fine Arts student in the Sound department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her studio is on the second floor of the school’s Sharp building. It’s an average-sized studio with three stark white walls and besides the blue tape being used to hang up projects and tickets from the Gene Siskel, there is little color. Yet, despite this somewhat bare visual depiction, when visiting Alyssa’s studio, I felt like a wide-eyed child to whom the mysteries of how the world works were being revealed. Each new project explanation, to me, seemed wondrous, verging on magical, yet Alyssa’s explanations were straightforward, calm, and concise. She had the practical attitude of one deeply integrated with her work, so practiced in it that it is simply a matter of fact.

Alyssa Moxely

Upon entering the studio, the objects that most curiously caught my eye were large sheets of filmy paper that were either taped to the wall or suspended from the ceiling. On the paper is what appears to be a symbol of a spiral, laid onto the paper in thin lines of copper. Alyssa’s simple explanation of what these objects are made me no less curious. She explained that they are speakers. When a magnet is placed at the center of the spiral, the speaker can be connected to a source of sound, like a computer, and can actually play the sound.

Alyssa Moxely

Alyssa Moxely

There’s a little bit more to these objects than this straight-forward description of functionality though. Alyssa explained to me that any kind of coil shape can be used to make a speaker. She had tried out different shapes of coil and had settled on the spiral because it worked more effectively and also felt most appealing to her as a shape.  “I think it’s quite amazing that just by aligning this material in this particular way, it creates an energy field.” Alyssa was not trained in art before coming to SAIC. She studied anthropology and musicology. In her experience with different traditions around the world, she had seen the spiral used as a symbol for energy forces and while researching for her most recent project, she found this to in fact be true. “With this material, it literally is an energy field … I kind of feel like it’s a bit magical.”

Alyssa5

This sense of wonder or magic flows quietly throughout Alyssa’s work, which often includes installations of sound and visual effects – multiple elements harmoniously coming together. She showed me images of a recent installation at 6018North that turned a room into a camera obscura, projecting the street outside onto some of her hand-made paper speakers. She describes her work as visually seductive. She wants to create spaces and environments that encourage people to stop and stand still, allowing them to engage in an experience they would have otherwise missed.

Alyssa Moxley

These experiences are all portrayed through Alyssa’s unique perspective. Currently, she is deeply engrossed in researching the life and work of a U-2 Pilot who was also Alyssa’s Great Uncle. The details of this project and Alyssa’s research were revealed to me bit by bit throughout our conversation. It seems that the research process is similar for Alyssa. As new information is revealed to her, it leads to new ways for her to display her research and make her own technical discoveries. For example, the spiral shape that Alyssa used to create her speakers mimics the shape of a tool that the pilot was operating in his work. The tool was used to filter radiation and search for ancient radiation from the Big Bang. The work branches around one central subject, creating new networks of investigation and data connections. The results of this research will be displayed as Alyssa’s upcoming MFA installation. From what she explained of the different aspects of the installation, the work itself will be as equally branched and circuitous as her process of uncovering the story. It will represent the history to her audience as Alyssa has explored it and learned to understand it herself, with the built up layers of complexity conveyed through sounds, objects, and visual effects.

Alyssa Moxley

Alyssa Moxley

Alyssa’s work consists of a process of in-depth research resulting in the creation of objects and environments that make connections and complete the circuits discovered in her research for an audience. Her environments inject various presences into a space – whether these be historical presences from a place’s past, the sound of crickets in a library, or the presence of a particular person none of us will ever know. In this way, Alyssa is a translator. She translates narratives and technical functions into various platforms that an audience can access.

Harmony and translation are themes present throughout the work of each artist included in ROUNDS. In describing the work created for the show, Alyssa used the term “harmonic relationships.” I asked her to define this term. She explained that the mathematical definition of a harmony is a whole number ratio between tones. In a more poetic way, she described it as unity and wholeness, the beauty and understanding in how the brain works – to experience disparate parts brought together in just the right way. The translations in Alyssa’s work and in the work to be seen in ROUNDS materializes this harmony of translation by bringing patterns of understanding into being across various visual, sonar, and spacial planes.

ACRE Projects hosts an opening reception on Sunday, April 6, 2014 from 4-8pm at 1913 West 17th Street, Chicago, IL.

Make Space and ACRE are proud to present ROUNDS // new work by MICHAEL MILANO, ALYSSA MOXLEY and MILAD MOZARI, the next installment in ACRE’s year-long series of solo exhibitions by 2013 ACRE summer residents.

Studio Visit: Milad Mozari

This studio visit is part of the exhibition ROUNDS featuring new works by Michael Milano, ALyssa Moxley, and Milad Mozari. The exhibition is organized by Make Space in conjunction with ACRE Projects.

I first met Milad Mozari in the food line at the ACRE Residency this last summer while Make Space was conducting visits with the residents throughout a three-day period. Milad is as personable as he is intelligent, talking with a pleasant wit and a dry sense of sarcasm. Milad is an immigrant from Iran who grew up in a mostly Mormon part of Utah, which acts as a foundation for his work that concentrates on language and place or understanding cultural contexts through tradition and memory.

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Milad’s current work is, perhaps, more on the side of cultural context and language. Geometric drawings hang on the walls around his studio, which surround a table sitting on sawhorses. The table is actually Harmonograph that was created with fellow ROUNDS artist, Alyssa Moxley, during the first session of ACRE. The Harmonograph was a collaborative project by the two that will be featured in the upcoming exhibition at the ACRE space that will focus on harmonic patterns and interference.

IMG_3812 IMG_3811

A CNC machine creates the geometric drawings, while the patterns themselves are realized through mathematical equations or operations dissecting songs into notes, then into sections. The number of notes drives the operation—one section may have 200 notes, where the third may have only 70. Milad has worked with loose forms of arithmetic before and his current process is still in-line with translating ideas into materials and forms.

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Milad makes cultural connects in the mathematics, continually finding his aesthetic through geometry and translation. The idea of translation and scale seem to ground the drawings. The drawings are strict but not absolutely uniform due to the nature of a felt maker creating the lines. The idea of ‘absolute’ is an interesting way to approach the work. The math or the file driving the CNC machine may be absolute but the translation is hindered by medium and perception. The felt marker has an inherent thickness—one we are accustomed to drawing with—which creates irregular overlapping patterns on the paper. The overlapping is the threshold of scale—a human scale. The translation cannot be any more defined because of the marker or the marker cannot draw the infinite even if it is told to do so. These inconsistencies questions what a geometrical drawing is and gives a clue into the process.

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When asked about poetics in the work, Milad said that his relationship with the drawings themselves are ongoing—a process of finding where the poetic may be. The poetics are not in the one-dimensional issue of indeterminacy, rather it may be found in the act of dividing perfection into the idealized and the messy realized. Perhaps the drawings also activate through the audience’s threshold—perfect to the passive and imperfect to the contemplative.

ACRE Projects hosts an opening reception on Sunday, April 6, 2014 from 4-8pm at 1913 West 17th Street, Chicago, IL.

Make Space and ACRE Projects is proud to present ROUNDS // new work by MICHAEL MILANO, ALYSSA MOXLEY and MILAD MOZARI, the next installment in ACRE’s year-long series of solo exhibitions by 2013 ACRE summer residents.

 

Tess Michalik

tessmichalik.com

The Funeral/Mourning 72” x 96” oil on canvas 2013-2014

The Funeral/Mourning
72” x 96”
oil on canvas
2013-2014

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Tess Michalik received her BFA from Herron School of Art & design in 2010. Currently an MFA candidate at Northern Illinois University, she anticipates graduation in May.

Tess Michalik paints emotional topographic landscapes. They range from the handheld to larger than life canvases. Using a floral motif, she tells stories of fear and anxiety.  She illustrates the vulnerable space where one tries to put feelings into words. Her figures sneak in and out of the picture plane nervously revealing and concealing themselves.  A consistent expressionism carries throughout Michalik’s work.

Walk Away 72” x 72” oil on canvas 2013

Walk Away
72” x 72”
oil on canvas
2013

You and Me 72” x 60” oil on canvas 2013

You and Me
72” x 60”
oil on canvas
2013

In Time 72” x 72” oil on canvas 2013

In Time
72” x 72”
oil on canvas
2013

Don’t look at me 60” x 48” oil on canvas 2013

Don’t look at me
60” x 48”
oil on canvas
2013

oil on panel, 12" x 12"

oil on panel, 12″ x 12″

Lauren Taylor

laurentaylor.info / /

Untitled (Live at Wembley Stadium) - ink jet print on paper, metal frame. 9”x 11” (2014)

Untitled (Live at Wembley Stadium) – ink jet print on paper, metal frame. 9”x 11” (2014)

Originally from Nashville, Lauren Taylor currently lives and works in Chicago. She will be receiving her BFA this spring from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also DJs/hosts an internet radio show, Babe Wave. Taylor works with a variety of mediums– examining ideas of masculinity, Rock n’ Roll aesthetics, bootleg culture, absence, and failure. She has exhibited her work at local galley spaces Alcatraz Chicago, Sunday Projects, and with The John Riepenhoff Experience in Milwaukee.

All right buttercup, you have done all that could be expected- You have resisted your natural impulses and run away from me - acrylic paint, fabric stiffener, cotton socks. 3”x 7”x 8.5” (2014)

All right buttercup, you have done all that could be expected- You have resisted your natural impulses and run away from me – acrylic paint, fabric stiffener, cotton socks. 3”x 7”x 8.5” (2014)

 

Stiff - acrylic paint, fabric stiffener, cotton T-shirt. Size small- 13”x 19”x 8” (2014)

Stiff – acrylic paint, fabric stiffener, cotton T-shirt. Size small- 13”x 19”x 8” (2014)

 

Untitled (Covers) - record sleeves deconstructed, reversed, then put back together with glue. 12”x 17”x 12” (2013)

Untitled (Covers) – record sleeves deconstructed, reversed, then put back together with glue. 12”x 17”x 12” (2013)

 

 

Pow!!! - ink, oil pastel, and acrylic on paper. 18x 24” (2014)

Pow!!! – ink, oil pastel, and acrylic on paper. 18x 24” (2014)

 

Tonight Only! - ink on paper, blue tape. 12”x 18” (2014)

Tonight Only! – ink on paper, blue tape. 12”x 18” (2014)

 

 

Jovencio de la Paz

jovenciodelapaz.org

Uncertain Cross

Uncertain Cross

Uncertain Cross

Uncertain Cross

Jovencio de la Paz lives and works in Chicago. His performances, installations and collaborative projects have been shown most recently at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon and the Sculpture Center in Cleveland, Ohio. He is an Instructor in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s department of Fiber and Material Studies, where he teaches both introductory techniques in textile processes as well as current issues in contemporary craft. His installations, performances and sculptures deal with the material embodiments of immaterial phenomena, and his interests are in the ephemeral and mystic qualities in thread and cloth. He received his MFA at the Cranbrook Academy of Art and his BFA from SAIC.

Fragment of a Line

Fragment of a Line

Fragment of a Line

Black Ellipses

Recently, I have been working with thread, which is ever mutable. I am interested in thread’s particular service to other forms of making, to weaving and to other textile processes. As an interstitial material, it is rarely a thing on its own. It is continuously trapped between raw materials and finished materials, between cotton field and denim, between sheep’s wool and sweater. Much of textile technology serves one purpose, and that is to keep thread in order, to keep thread away from its one desire, which is to be in tangles. I am interested in the moment of a tangle, in the psychological tension of loose thread. Beginning at the spinning-wheel, my current projects end in large-scale floor drawings, which are temporary and repetitive. Making these drawings requires that my body moves thread through space, and the image left on the floor is a physical trace of accreted movement.

Wool Meander

Wool Meander

Wool Meander

Wool Meander