Other Investigations: Boyang Hou

Boyang Hou is a Chicago-based artist, originally from the East Coast. He graduated with an MFA from the Painting and Drawing department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. Boyang and his collaborators have been working on fernwey, a storefront contemporary art gallery that opened in early Fall 2014.

We did a studio visit with Boyang at ACRE in the Chalet, where we chatted about the processes and concepts he’s been grappling with. We decided to expand our introductory feature for the ACRE artists we conducted studio visits with and ask additional questions about what they are working on, their process, and their experience at ACRE. You can read about our visit here – Part 1 & Part 2

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What projects are you currently working on? What processes and concepts are you exploring in your current body of work?

“In terms of my personal practice, there is a lot in transition still. Earlier this summer myself and 5 other recent graduates of SAIC (Kate Conlon, Richard Blackwell, Ilan Gutin, Anne Kielman and Erik Beehn) found a big studio space in Little Village and began building it out – dividing up the spaces, framing and putting up some walls. For now, we are still in the middle of finishing these studios, so much of my daily painting practice is confined to my house. I am working much smaller than what I’m used to, working on small canvases and drawing more as well. It allows me to create more and develop ideas with more experimentation and speed.

Some of the work included (in this post) began at ACRE, where I screen-printed some canvas, and a few other pieces include new ideas developed from an older motif – the sports jersey drawings. I have been revolving around the relationship [between] spectator and participant for some time now, as both a bridge and metaphor between sports culture and art culture. The new Jersey drawings are observations of a culturally specific object [that] can occupy so many positions (uniform, fashion, sacred object, banner. etc). I am interested in the Jersey’s conceptual duality, but also enjoy very much the image and aesthetics of the drawing itself. The idea with this body of work is to take it to a larger scale – hopefully, they will get there by winter.

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As for the gallery, this has been a project in the works for over half a year now. Ilan Gutin, Kate Conlon, Richard Blackwell and myself run it. [Fernway] is a storefront contemporary art gallery in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago, located on Damen near Iowa ­– 916 N Damen. The idea with the gallery is to not only provide a great venue for artists we support but also to be able to work with them and create new content and work through the gallery itself. With the four of us being still very much practicing artists and makers, it was important to us that the gallery provides as many opportunities as possible to work with the artist on a creative level. One new aspect is Fernwey Editions, a project in which the gallery collaborates with the featured artist to create a brand new set of editioned works. With Nick’s show, my co-director and fellow ACRE-er Kate Conlon, collaborated and printed his first set of lithographs (the entire set is on the website.) Also, with each exhibition, we have been working with writers as well for written content, which we can include and feature as well.”

What was your experience at ACRE like?

“My experience at ACRE was excellent, a lot of the work I had done there either expanded to newer ideas or in themselves felt complete. The programming was great. I had some really great studio conversations with everybody there. It was also very refreshing to be in a stress-free positive environment where I could make. Meeting people at the residency might have been the best thing though, it’s always nice to see and learn more about art and the artists who make it.”