Monday, October 29, 2012

Discussion: How do you view art?

East Coasters, stay safe!

Everyone, take advantage of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal suspending their paywalls for Hurricane Sandy / Frankenstorm! (Articles! Free articles! Free articles for all!) No, really.

(Also, everyone, run to the Google search page right now. Right. Now. Happy little clouds.)

The NYT recently ran an article, “Heart-Pounding Art, Seen Solo,” on a study by German cultural scholar Martin Tröndle that researched how people view art, with such findings as:

[...] artists, critics and museum directors often walk into the middle of an exhibition space, scan it and then maybe look at one work before continuing on, while visitors with moderate curiosity and interest tend to move diligently from work to work and read text panels.

I definitely do the former when it comes to most gallery shows and some museum exhibitions (I tend to be more thorough in museums, but that just might be the history nerd / learning nerd in me). But is one way necessarily right or wrong or better than the other?

My last show, I CAN DO THAT, did explore this issue a bit. As I’ve mentioned before in various interviews, most people who attend gallery openings walk in, make a beeline for the free booze, find and chat with the people they know, and then leave, all without so much as even glancing at the art on the walls.

At I CAN DO THAT, not only were people staying and looking at the art, but the art was the focus. Guests were actively viewing, talking about, and interacting with the art (granted, that was the premise of the show, but still). And, most notably, people were staying.

Another finding from Tröndle’s research:

That visitors tended to feel more stimulated by sculptures and installations that impeded their progress through the galleries was also noteworthy.

Ah, yes, I am no stranger to sculptures and installations getting in people’s way. People tend to respond more to immersive environments, to art that engages as many senses as possible, to art that almost asks to be grabbed and touched or kicked over. And, interestingly, if you’ve been following my art travels and documentation of them, you might’ve noticed that I am indeed more drawn to and thus highlight the more sculptural works.

The article concludes:

[...] for an optimal art experience, museums have to be small, they have to be more empty, and they have to be, in the most positive sense, a place of contemplation.”
Of Mr. Tröndle’s suggestion that the more social one’s visit, the less one can remember of it, Mr. Wäspe said, “This means never go with your best friend through an exhibit, because you don’t do them any favors.” 

Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Personally, I do prefer viewing art alone (which is how I prefer doing most things, as you can probably surmise by this whole I-want-to-produce-entire-exhibitions-by-myself venture). I’ve made exceptions, but, even then, that usually translates to my companion and me eventually splitting up and reconvening once we’ve both made the rounds.

What are your own art-viewing habits, tendencies, and preferences? Can the act of viewing art be social and have the same effect as when one is alone?

P.S. Don’t forget to vote for I CAN DO THAT as Best Art Exhibit! You have until Wednesday, October 31!

Also, if you haven’t done so, check out the official statement for the city-wide Dreams of a City project!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mapping the Dreams of a City // Thanks to my new Chicago-related tag I have “Tonight, Tonight” stuck in my head

Two new pages!

1. Voting // If you haven’t done so already, make sure you vote for I CAN DO THAT as the “Best Art Exhibit” in NewCity’s 20th Annual Best of Chicago poll! The deadline is October 31.

2. Dreams of a City // Thanks to everyone who came, created, and partied on Saturday night! Many have asked me: What’s my next step for the city-wide project? Here’s your answer. (Crude sketch of a future exhibition included.) Truly city-wide.

Just... click on the link above. All will be explained. Promise.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Trapper Keepers with Curators

We all know how important it is to exercise our right to vote. Which is why I’m calling on you to complete [at least a small fraction of] NewCity’s 20th Annual Best of Chicago poll, in which you can vote for I CAN DO THAT in the “Best Art Exhibit” category! (Here are photos to refresh your memory.) Just type I CAN DO THAT, in all caps, into the text box. (Note: You need to vote in at least five categories for your ballot to count.) Spread the word!

Weekend pick: I’m so glad I got a chance to catch the opening of Exquisite Corpse artist Robin Rios’ Bustes en Rose: Art + Fashion Against Breast Cancer show at the Zhou B Art Center last night. Here’s her own piece in the exhibition:

No photograph, however, can capture how awesome it is. Chicagoans, I urge you to see it—along with works by over 35 other artists and fashion designers—in person today or tomorrow during the Bridgeport Art Walk, an official Chicago Artists Month event.

And I just have to share this photo of Robin from last night. One of my life mentors, ladies and gentlemen. Like a futhermucking boss. Or pimp*. (Giving some poor soul her epic side-eye.)

*I do recall, years ago as one of her summer interns, her bestowing upon us younglings the following advice regarding behavior at gallery openings: “You gotta work it like two-bit hookers.” …It all makes sense now.

Light reading: My second article about Expo Chicago has been picked up by the international art fair’s official blog, The Seen. If you haven’t read it yet, do it now! (Or whenever. It’s the weekend. Take your time. Make some coffee. Stomp through some crunchy-looking leaves.) It’s a follow-up interview with Tony Karman, Expo’s Founder and Director, as well as a look into the inaugural fair’s aftermath and future.

Art travel news: I’ll be in LA in the beginning of February and have been compiling a long list of art-related things to see and do there (which I’ll of course be documenting). Get excited. But before that: I’ve been invited to the Art Basel Miami Beach VIP Vernissage, which is in the beginning of December. I will be there. Thus enabling my rapidly escalating international art fair addiction. (Hong Kong and Switzerland, what have you done?)

And: Tonight, from 6-9pm, is the continuation of my project’s Chicago launch at Tocco (1266 N. Milwaukee Ave.), part of Art Depth’s Chicago Artists Month exhibition. See you there!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

EXPO CHICAGO // An Interview with Tony Karman, Part II

Vernissage, Expo Chicago. Image courtesy of Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations, 2012.

Last month, about a week before Expo Chicago: The International Exposition of Modern/Contemporary Art & Design opened, I sat down with Tony Karman, Expo’s President and Director, for a preview of the inaugural fair. It might have been easy for some to dismiss those early superlatives as simply hype, but once the exposition launched and Festival Hall opened its doors, it became clear that the praise was warranted.

The cavernous setting at Navy Pier; the innovative interior environment designed by Studio Gang Architects, under the leadership of MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang; the presentation of leading international galleries; and the wide-ranging roster of special programming all contributed to a most impressive undertaking.

But just how did the fair… fare? A week after its conclusion, I caught up with Karman to find out.

This is a post-fair follow-up to “Expo Chicago // An Interview with Tony Karman.”

Expo Chicago. Image courtesy of Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations, 2012.

Jenny Lam: Expo Chicago was quite an accomplishment. The Vernissage was stunning.

Tony Karman: Yeah, I think we’re very proud that the vision was realized in a way that reflected our intent and reflected what we had hoped for. The vessel has to present the work in a way that’s respectful, and I think we did. It was a transformative space, and the fair was presented in a way that any major international fair should be. So for that I think we’re very proud of the first year.

JL: So you would say it was a success?

TK: Surely. I think that it’s an incredible foundation to build upon. No fair is “right” the first year—some fairs aren’t right for several years—and I think that that’s a natural maturation process, but I think a lot of things fell into place in an extraordinary way. The civic support, the institutional support, the collector support, the finish, and the work with Jeanne Gang which we will do again… all of those things give us an extraordinary foundation to continue to tell the world that their calendars should be marked every September.

JL: How were the sales?

TK: Sales were very good. There were several large-scale pieces that were announced, there were a lot of solid sales on the weekend, and there was a lot of work that was sold, at a varied range of prices. I think that we’re pleased. There are a lot of factors that can affect success: the sheer, where we are in the economy, or election cycle, who comes, but I think that the sales were strong. Like any fair, some dealers will do very well, some will do OK, and some won’t do well at all, even in boom times. That’s the way it breaks down. I’d be a lot happier if everyone sold out their booth, but that never is going to happen in any fair at any time.

We want greater regional collector and institutional outreach, support, and presence, and we want greater national and international collector, curator, and institutional attendance, and I think that that will come with the next few years as the fair continues to present itself in the way that we did this year. Word of mouth is the strongest bit of advertising, and there’s not a collector, curator or art enthusiast that came that didn’t leave that venue with extraordinary respect for the work that was shown and the way it was presented, and I think that bodes well for us.

JL: In terms of attendance, how was the representation of global collectors?

TK: Those metrics aren’t in yet. I think that we will have more information in subsequent weeks and months. We’re posting an attendance figure of 27,000. I think that’s a fair figure. That includes both the opening night as well as the four days. There was strong regional support, but there could be more. We weren’t expecting to draw a massive global audience; no one could in the first year. But I know that we did have a number of collectors and individuals that did come from out of the country, and I think that we’ll have more in the future.

Vernissage, Expo Chicago. Image courtesy of Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations, 2012.

JL: What would you do in the future to draw more global collectors?

TK: We’ll stay the course in quality not quantity, and in exhibitors we’ll stay the course in building greater alliances with our institutions like we did. Having two exhibitions aligned—the Allen Ruppersberg and Jeanne Gang at the Art Institute—was extraordinary, and I would hope we could align more. I know there are discussions with several institutions to see if that could happen. That would be a big help.

Our dealer and collector breakfasts in both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute were extraordinary, and those things will happen again. Collector tours will happen again.

We have a foundation that’s built, and now we can tell the world what we are, and what is happening, whereas we didn’t have ten months to tell the world last year. That’s going to help a lot.

Working closely with the city, Choose Chicago, the bureaus, working more closely with the consulates and their connections, greater outreach to cities and galleries and institutions throughout the world—I’m doing that; I leave for Frieze and FIAC next week.

All of that adds to global participation.

JL: I thought the branding of the fair was interesting because it was very distinctly Chicago; there were even Chicago-style hot dog stands. Is that something you’re going to keep?

TK: On the opening night, that was very much a Vernissage, MCA presentation. There were no hot dog stands those other three days. Not to say I don’t like hot dogs. Yeah, I think that a fair has to be both global as well as local, and I’ll always want to infuse the experience with something that is pure Chicago. I have to. That’s, after all, why we’re here and what we should herald. So yes is the answer.

JL: Do you plan on keeping the same scope, same number of exhibitors?

TK: Yes. It’s my intent to absolutely keep the same size. The layout might change a little bit but not dramatically, that’s the beauty of the second year is you know what worked and what didn’t work, but in so many ways, what we accomplished feels right to all of us, there’s not a lot of wholesale massive changes to make. I’m talking about the floor plan, /Dialogues, or IN/SITU… all of those programs that were nothing last year and were just in our minds. Now they are realized and can be refined.

I’m really excited for the second year of /Dialogues. I think it was an extraordinary group of discussions. It was a very full program of panels with the support of the School of the Art Institute. We expect that relationship to renew and grow, and I think that there will probably some new additions to the speakers. Having Jerry Saltz be the keynote and kick it off in the rousing way that he did was extraordinary. We’ve got to look for next year’s extraordinary.

Now we refine what we are—not create. And I think it’s a great place to be in that regard.

Vernissage, Expo Chicago. Image courtesy of Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations, 2012.

JL: What’s your vision for the future of this fair, both next year and in the long run?

TK: I think that we continue to build a collector base that marks their calendars for September, and deepen our linkage with the institutions. I’d love to see a full-on alignment with both the Art Institute and the MCA with mega exhibitions. I think that there’s a whole host of ways in which we will all benefit when the fair happens.

My vision too is we serve the greater ecosystem of Chicago in a way that there’s even more involvement with those that come to our city and those that go out and see galleries, performing art institutions, all of it. I think that this Expo week of activities generates a wonderful umbrella for a lot of companies, artists, institutions, galleries, etc. to provide programming that makes it a great experience. I know that the CSO Muti concert that took place during the fair—that kind of collaborative effort is a reason for someone from a Lincoln or St. Louis or New York or Kansas City or wherever to come to our city, and I’m hoping that more collaborative programming can be heralded. So it’s a big week for the arts in Chicago. That’s a bigger vision. I think that there’s a lot more that we can do to foster that.

JL: What is your next step?

TK: The wrap-up and the ramp-up occur simultaneously. I’ve been working as hard now as I did a few days before the fair and at the fair; it really doesn’t stop. My next step is making sure that we build an extraordinary gallery list again.

I think that my next steps are really looking at greater outreach; we want to make sure the whole team is focused on communicating to the regional museums, curators, directors, and trustees of those museums that they need to mark their calendars for Chicago, and that’s a big initiative for us.

There’s a lot of follow-up on a number of our sponsors. We are very grateful for the collaboration with Northern Trust this year, and we would expect to build upon that, as well as the other sponsorships that we developed this year, like Mercedes-Benz, etc. There’s a lot of follow-up that takes place just because we have to find out who wants back in and who doesn’t.

It’s an exciting time. We formed a civic committee relatively late because it was an initiative that took several months to organize. We expect to organize a civic committee meeting sometime in November and that will also help us do some broader planning. We want to make sure the exposition has a foundation within the civic and business initiatives of our city, and I think that that first meeting will open up some opportunities for us.

But the most important thing is that we’re back. Our dates are September 19-22 next year, and it’s no secret that we’re moving forward and looking forward to next year.

JL: I know people are definitely looking forward to it. The response has been pretty amazing.

TK: Yeah, and I think that that reflects our city. It’s great to have been a part of a big city effort to make sure that a fair in Chicago looks, feels, and is what this city deserves. I’m grateful for the positive response but also not going to rest on any laurels, because everything has to continue to refine and grow. It’s time for this to happen.

For more information about Expo Chicago, visit

This article was originally published in Sixty Inches From Center.

Friday, October 12, 2012

How Art Moves // “When was the last time you went streaking?”

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago Ideas Week “Art: How It Moves” talk, which explored how art can be used “as a medium for good, a method for inspiring change,” and “a symbol of protest.” My kind of talk.

(Thanks to birthday twin Nathan Stanton, former I CAN DO THAT artist, for the ticket! And thanks for being such a fun person to sit next to!) (On top of some hilarious commentary that wasn’t always quite under the breath, he’d cheer for each speaker as if we were at a football game [not that I would know /art nerd], which, really, is how everyone should react to art.)

Petra Bachmaier of Luftwerk, showing off Luminous Field.

I liked what multimedia artist Phil Hansen had to say after tricking the entire audience into tearing apart his work (gasps ensued):

“We can’t create without destroying, and we can’t destroy without creating.”

and what Naomi Natale, Founder of One Million Bones, a project that acts as a “symbol of our human connection, our humanity, that we belong to each other,” had to say about the power of art:

“Leaving an indelible mark on one’s soul [is] what the greatest art does.
[With art, we can] imagine a different reality is possible.

Photographer Carlos Javier Ortiz shifted the focus from global crises back home, back to our backyards, with his stirring “Too Young To Die” project, which brings attention to youth violence in Chicago. Aside from addressing the problem in ways the mainstream media won’t, the project also looks at resilience and strength, and aims to teach young people to communicate through art. Check it out.

Other speakers included Donna Cox, who discussed the intersections between art and science (be still, my heart); multimedia artist Petra Bachmaier of Luftwerk, the folks responsible for the wondrous Luminous Field installation at the Bean; and Carter Cleveland, Founder of, which launched to the public on Monday.

I live-tweeted the event here (scroll down a little). All relevant tweets are tagged with “CIW” and run the gamut from inspirational quotes like the above to things like… thisYep. (The title of this post is also a direct quote from the talk. Well, artists do bare all.)

Chicago Ideas Week runs through the 14th—if you’re in town, I’d strongly encourage going to at least one event. Be inspired!

Another former I CAN DO THAT artist, Chris Barrett, asked me to help him with his new portrait photography endeavor a few days ago, and I was happy to oblige / sit awkwardly and be unsure of what to do with my hands, oblivious to the fact that these were, like, super close-ups. I’m using one of his photos on the “About” page and on my profileI CAN DO THAT Family forever!

Monday, October 8, 2012

I got 99 Luftballons but my art ain’t kitsch

Walk into a studio; this ends up happening.

(Hurrah for spontaneous photo shoots / Like Say Anything but with lion heads.)

Thank you to those who came to Saturday’s art party! Missed it? It’s happening again on Saturday, October 20, from 6-9pm at Tocco (1266 N. Milwaukee Ave.).

Photo by Tomasz Niemiec, 2012.

If you’re on Facebook, you can join the event page here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fire Rabbits, Water Dragons

Chicago Artists Month has begun, and Art Depth is today! If you’re in Chicago, be sure to drop by, and don’t miss my balloon launch at 8pm. Besides the art party I’m throwing, there will be much more going on at the event. Here’s the full schedule. It’s a packed one.

In other news:

I’m on the TRANSIT Map as one of the artists! Here’s the full-size version. You can also pick up a physical copy of the map at any of the local businesses listed, found throughout the Logan Square and Avondale neighborhoods. I definitely cheated with the three medium limit / parentheses are my friends.

Yesterday I met up with Expo Chicago Founder / President / Director Tony Karman again for a follow-up to my original interview. Stay tuned for the continuation and learn about the inaugural exposition’s aftermath and future.


When your ideas and creations take on a life of their own, without you, outside of you, transforming into beasts people talk and think about long after their realization, you know you’re on the right track.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall into place // Rocktober

Hope you’re enjoying the fruits of fall! The figurative ones. Because the literal ones are impossible to enjoy given their antecedents. (Blueberries are out of season now? Go away, squash.) I’ve been keeping myself quite busy (my natural state):

Did you get a chance to check out Expo Chicago a couple weeks ago? Unlike the Dark Knight, it was the international contemporary art fair Chicago deserved and needed. My interview with Tony Karman was picked up by The Seen, the exposition’s official blog, and I covered the Vernissage opening night private preview; you can view photos of my highlights on Facebook and Flickr.

Over the weekend, I guested on the O.C. Dweeb nerd podcast. The hosts and I talked art and geekery and kept getting into long tangents about Batman (I’m beginning to sense a trend). We also may or may not have been drinking whiskey out of Styrofoam cups. The podcast will air this Wednesday, October 3, at

Most importantly:

Art Depth. Image courtesy of Cheryl Postrozny, 2012.

This Saturday, October 6, I will be a Featured Artist in Art Depth’s 3rd Annual Interactive Art Party and Black Water Dragon exhibition, both part of Chicago Artists Month. Now, I could’ve used this as a chance to, you know, show my own artwork, as artists tend to do when invited to participate in art shows. But that just wouldn’t be my style, man. So, naturally, I’m throwing my own interactive art party.

You might recall when I mentioned my postcard project, in which I mapped the dreams of a city.

I’m bringing this labor of love to Chicago, and it’ll be even larger in scope this time around. Saturday marks its official launch.

I invite you all to come and share your dreams (anonymously, of course, unless you want to reveal your identity), via image, text, and / or any other method of self-expression. These dreams will not only be displayed throughout the duration of the exhibition, but will also be part of a year-long project, culminating in a large-scale installation, show, and book.

In addition to sharing dreams, guests will be invited to let go of their fears, literally. There will be balloons on which guests can write / draw the things that are holding them back, and towards the end of the night, we’ll release them into the sky.

If you have a Facebook account, invite yourself to the event page.

(The details if you are Facebook-less:
Mautene Court
1264 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Also, I’d like to say that I was just (like, within the past hour as I type) paid a great compliment by composer Renee Baker, who called me “a free spirit” and explained that “It’s encouraging to see that not all creativity and spontaneity is drummed out by a greedy system.” Thank you, Renee. You made my day.

Bonus email exchange excerpt (also within the past hour):

“The idea is to get messy without having to be naked.” –Caitlin Bergh

(Kind of tempted to leave that context-less.)

(Brainstorming possible performances for the party.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...