Monday, September 27, 2010

Music: Thao & Mirah // Vetiver

Thao & Mirah "How Dare You" from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Found at Yours Truly, a San Francisco-based project that has a lot of beautiful videos of contemporary musicians performing in intimate, relaxed settings. Apparently, the mission of Yours Truly is to "discover and document, celebrate and interrogate, capture and catapult the singers, screamers, writers, and rhymers whose craft without question demands our affection." That sounds like a mission I can get on board with. The two lovely ladies singing are Thao and Mirah.

Aww, what the heck, here's another good one. Vetiver covering Bobby Charles' I Must Be In A Good Place Now. The Vetiver album Tight Knit is one of my favorites from 2009.

Vetiver & Fruit Bats from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lit: Gary Shteyngart / "Super Sad True Love Story"

This is hilarious. James Franco, why are you everywhere, causin' a ruckus?

While I've yet to read Super Sad True Love Story, I'm intrigued because the book cover is awesome.

It was designed by Rodrigo Corral for Random House. You can see a smattering of his other book cover work here at one of my favorite online collections, the Book Cover Archive. Corral designed the most recent Chuck Palahniuk books and James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, as well as last year's ubiquitous cover for Junot Diaz' The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. (It may not surprise you that he studied under Chip Kidd and Barbara deWilde at the School of Visual Arts in New York).

Reviews of the novel can be found at Salon and The New York Times. Shteyngart is reading in Chicago at Lincoln Square's Book Cellar Wednesday evening (9/22) at 7pm. I'm reserving judgment on the narrative thus far, but I'll go for the entertainment.

In lieu of a dust jacket blurb, here's a little cartoon for a recap, created by Gary Clement for the National Post:

Image found at the National Post, here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Music: Peter Stampfel

Saturday afternoon I had the delight of seeing Peter Stampfel perform with his daughter Zoe at the gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey (where I've been interning for about a month now). He's a hilarious performer to listen to, and the way he holds himself is fun to watch: very theatrical and goofy at the same time. You can get a sense of his energy in some of these photos from the gallery:

Peter Stampfel and Zoe Stampfel, performing in front of new paintings by Phil Hanson (Sept. 2010).
Both photographs from the Corbett vs. Dempsey Facebook page.

Peter Stampfel, a founding member of the Holy Modal Rounders, was also part of the first Fugs recording session in April 1965, and has had a hand in a lot of American music throughout the last fifty years. I found an interview with him, which you can check out here; totally worth a read, full of music history from the 1950s through the 1970s and other various American cultural goodies. (Fun fact: he's friends with playwright Sam Shepard). You can also listen to more of his current music here (and he's got an album coming out soon!).

Here's a video of some of his recent banjo experimentations:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Music: Those Darlins

Those Darlins "Snaggletooth Mama" from Lake Fever Sessions on Vimeo.

I got this album (self-titled Those Darlins) a few months ago, and I'm happy to say I still like listening to the whole darn thing. It's a fun blend of pop, rock, country, and some Appalachian twang. They look like gals I'd wanna be pals with.

Website here, and a March 2010 SXSW interview from They're playing in Chicago on Wednesday, Sept. 22nd at Lincoln Hall, and I'm already there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Feature: Les Brown Memorial Farm

This last Sunday I took my brain outta the city and into the green. Some old friends and new acquaintances drove about 70 miles southwest of Chicago to participate in the Growing Home Harvest Festival. (I was introduced to the festival by the talented Katy Collier, pictured to the right, who works for Growing Home in Chicago doing grant writing).

The festival was held at the Les Brown Memorial Farm, on the site of an old weather station, which was acquired by Growing Home, Inc. in 1992 from the government; the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 allows federal surplus money (and, apparently, land) to be used to provide services to homeless individuals. Since 2002, Growing Home, Inc. has offered a job training program, hiring people to live and work on the organic farm (a similar mission to Cafe Too, a great little restaurant in Uptown in Chicago that provides food service job training to people who are homeless and in poverty). Growing Home offers transitional employment and a social enterprise organic agriculture business (in the form of a Chicago CSA), encouraging the employees to be invested in the land, and in a healthy, connected way of living. They also run Wood Street Urban Farm in Englewood (Ashland and 58th) and the Su Casa Catholic Worker House (51st and Laflin), and sell at the Green City Summer Market.

Photos from the sunny afternoon follow! (Click to enlarge).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Poster Feature: Sonnenzimmer's Insound "10 for 10"

One of my favorite screen printing duos in Chicago, Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher of Sonnenzimmer, have just released an incredible screen printed poster series for Insound (an online indie music/ merch shop). They've been working on this for months, and what a treat!

10 posters for 10 bands that had a big impact on music in 2010 (picked by Insound), that also come together to form this larger poster, below:

Yowza! Nick and Nadine designed each poster individually, dividing up the bands between the two of them, and then fine-tuned the larger image. Here is a fun, short segment on the process:

Sonnenzimmer Insound 10 for 10 Process from Sonnenzimmer on Vimeo.

Sonnenzimmer has been working on this series for most of 2010, so it's also neat to see how it relates to the fine art work that they also create; in August Nadine and Nick participated in Public Works, an annual art/design exhibition and lecture series held at Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago (organized by Chris Eichenseer and Annika Welander at SomeOddPilot). Both Nadine and Nick showed paintings that reference landscape and space in subtle ways, revealing experiments with saturation and flatness (similar thought processes are visible in the 10 for 10 series).

Channel Approximation, Nick Butcher, 2010.  
Oil on canvas (with screenprint?) One of eight 12x12" panels in a series.
Shown at Public Works, Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago, Illinois, August 2010. Image found here.

See the connections, and take a look at the individual posters and shirts on Insound's website here. These are some of my favorites:

All artwork by Sonnenzimmer.

Currently Sonnenzimmer is working on more posters, a record, and (more long-term) a follow-up to Nadine's stunning artist book about the process of design, Formal Additive Programs

If you're in Chicago and want to check out the whole 10 for 10 series in person (and meet Nadine and Nick!), swing by Longman & Eagle in Logan Square on Tuesday, September 14th at 9pm for a reception celebrating the release of the series.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Poem: "Labor Day"

Labor Day

There is a small square
of grass next door,
hopeful, for which a man
buys a lawnmower
no bigger than the square.
It sits neat, pleased in presentation.

On weekends he stands sweaty,
fuzzy eyes swollen from sleep,
rocking the machine
like his drowsy child.
He inches a rhythm, happy
in the motor's burps,
in the prelude to a sneeze.

In the alley beyond,
bulging from belts, men
rumble in dust, trucks
spacious with discards, marking
time by the left behind.

I always wish for the truck
with the blue plastic virgin,
Mary, who could light up
if she wanted, strapped
precariously proud, to the roof.

One day she will cradle
a lawnmower that fit, perfectly,
in a small square of grass.

Possessively whispering lullabies,
with hard hands she will clutch
blade to grass-stained breast,
greedy for the forgotten
currency of production.

                    - JVH

(Revised 9/17/10)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: "Uncrumpling" at the Exhibition Agency

This past week I reviewed the show Uncrumpling This Much Crumpled Thing at the Exhibition Agency for Newcity. The original review is in two paragraphs below (online here), followed by further reflections.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(August 30th, 2010) Under the broad umbrella of falsely representational art, seven artists from Austin, Chicago and New York are situated within the tidy, manicured apartment rooms of The Exhibition Agency. Housed in the same space as the short-lived Concertina Gallery, Corinna Kirsch’s newest curatorial project brings together a pleasant array of sculpture, photography, painting, video and sound, many of which reuse functional materials in slyly unexpected ways.
The show’s title comes from a line in a Wallace Stevens poem, “Le Monocle de Mon Oncle” (1918), and serves as Kirsch’s link between the works. With the title she proposes that representative art is an overused, “crumpled thing,” but that these seven artists in particular have uniquely attempted to grapple with creating new methods of representing reality. The strangest and most compelling revisions of representation in this exhibition can be seen in the work of Anna Krachey and Christopher Bradley. Krachey’s visceral, sexualized photographs, “Bonobo” and “Floral Market,” depict fleshy objects obscured by a crumpled, semi-transparent plastic film. Bradley, with “Stupid #2,” has created an absurd sculpture of precariously placed paint rollers and beer bottles, grounded by a man’s right shoe. A constant stream of water shoots from the center of the piece into a cooler filled with empty beer bottles on the floor. Amidst these functional objects, the shoe enables us to see a human representation, and thus it becomes—crudely—a portrait of a man taking a piss in the middle of the room.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Considering this exhibition further, however, beyond these two works the questionable link of representation falls short. Strangely, for a group show, there is little dialogue between the artists. In fact, the actual art is overshadowed by the curator’s hypothetical vision for what the work (and the space) should be. Rather than primarily being a venue to showcase what is new and contemporary, the Exhibition Agency leaves its visitor with confused and conflicting messages about the art, the curator, and the reasoning behind bringing all of these ideas together.

The Exhibition Agency does not quite function as an apartment gallery—a lived-in space to display and sell works of art. While people do live there, it is too clean, staged as if for a photo shoot, with no indication of the messy, functioning vitality of a home. Nor is it truly an agency, as the name would suggest—an agency being a business that organizes transactions between the artist and the viewer—for the work does not appear to be for sale (and indeed, cannot be for sale, legally. See some of the links below for more information). The only personal items left on display are copies of Artforum, a curious exercise in presentation.

While in his poem Wallace Stevens poses the question, “Shall I uncrumple this much-crumpled thing?”, hesitating at a crossroad, curator Kirsch turns the question into a statement, implying that these artists are above such self-reflection. The exhibition takes it for granted that an oft-revisited subject such as representation in art should necessarily be revived, and that representation is the best reason to bring these works together. Unfortunately, the works in this show suffer as a group from such a vague categorization, and ultimately from the conflicted nature of the space itself.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Note: Writing this review (coming after previous reviews of shows at Home and Golden, two other iterations of apartment galleries) pushed me to read a little more about the history behind apartment galleries in Chicago. Below are some interesting resources for more background information.

- (June 4th, 2009), Medill (Northwestern University) "Chicago apartments: Private space meets public contemporary art venue" by Lauren Hansen. Some background on 2009 apartment gallery spaces.
- (Nov. 6th, 2009), RedEye "Roommates turn Logan Square apartment into art gallery" by Mike Hines. Article on apartment galleries, the publication of which prompted investigations and closings by city officials.
 - (Dec. 10th, 2009), Bad At Sports "On the matter of public space: or, my apartment gallery is an arctic explorer" by Caroline Picard. Insightful essay about living and working in an apartment gallery (the Green Lantern), and what it means for it to be shut down.
- (May 5th, 2010), Newcity Art "Art Break: City Evicts Gallery From Apartment" by Jason Foumberg. Article about recent apartment gallery closings.
- (May 14th, 2010), Chicago Art Magazine "Apartment Gallery Update" by Kathryn Born. Short update detailing legalities regarding apartment galleries.