Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Neon Heart Eyes

Thank you thank you thank you. To the guests for attending Friday’s opening reception of LEXICON and to the artists for being in the show. You helped make it a great success! After all, this exhibition is all about the art and audience participation, so it’d be nothing without you!

Photo by Sergio Gomez.

I can say with confidence that LEXICON is the best exhibit I’ve curated so far. Which is saying a lot since I’ve always been proud of each of my projects (and still am proud of them—otherwise, I wouldn’t be referencing I CAN DO THAT years later!). You should always continue to improve and grow and surpass the high bar you’ve previously set for yourself. Together we’ll clear the stratosphere.

It makes me so happy that everyone more than embraced the concept of the show. Visitors told me how wonderful it was because normally they’d be too shy to voice their thoughts about art, but the anonymity of the Post-its (like my Dreams of a City postcards) allowed them to do so. Artists told me how wonderful it was because they could now see what people actually thought of their art, and sometimes it was exactly what they had in mind, sometimes it was completely out there, and other times it made them think about their art in a new way, giving them fresh insight into their own work; one artist told me they might even change their artist statement.

People also praised the diversity of the artwork and artists. You can see for yourself how this applies to more apparent elements like race/ethnicity and gender (as an artist who’s a young woman of color, I always try to ensure that artists who don’t usually get the shine they deserve, well, do) and in the art itself, but people also referred to age and experience. (You know the piece I’ve been using for all promo materials? In the artist announcement, on the Facebook event’s header, on the postcard, etc. LEXICON was artist Arturo Mazon’s first show ever.)

Photo by Sergio Gomez.

The most common descriptor for the show was “fun.” I also got “brilliant” and “compelling” often and had viewers tell me that “everyone is raving” about the interactive theme. People thanked me for inspiring them, thanked me for my passion.

Friends kept remarking on the amazing turnout, saying that the parking lot was filled and they had to park blocks away, and that pretty much everyone wandering around on other floors was asking where my event was (sorry, other floors).

Unexpected and hilarious happenings included participating artist Allen Vandever writing “D-” on a Post-it for his own piece to see if he could skew the results. It worked; his painting got some of the most notes and they were extremely positive (strategy: get people to feel sorry for you).

Photo by Sergio Gomez.

I accomplished my mission. Visitors were actually looking at the art, thinking about it, actively engaging with it. (If you attend enough art openings, you’ll know that this is practically unheard of.)

Scott P. Wheeler, husband of participating artist Emily Thornton Calvo, worded it perfectly on the show’s Facebook page:

“Awesome event. Fantastic works, excellent variety. Wonderful training and exercise in the world of art appreciation. This event helped visitors hone their art appreciation skills. Visitors had the unusual opportunity to explore their own interests and gain a better understanding of the kind of art they enjoy and why. It is not easy to assemble a show like this. Congratulations, Jenny Lam!”

You get it.

Some other comments I’m partial to:
“Jenny is a petite powerhouse!” –Renee LaVerne Rose, guest
“Jenny Lam [is a] creative and fearless curator.” –Peggy Shearn, participating artist
“[Jenny’s a] talented badass.” –Cristy Corso, participating artist
“Both [your dad] and I think that some of the artwork are as good as those at Art Basel, if not better.” –my mom in an email (the only opinion that matters, really)

My parents are the best. Photo by Sergio Gomez.

In addition to all the artists and guests, thanks to:
  • Sergio Gomez, who invited me to guest curate a show at the Zhou B Art Center in the first place. (And for doing things like literally putting my name on the wall.)
  • Michael Zhou for the opportunity as well.
  • Those working behind-the-scenes at Zhou B like Carl Virgo and Ronnie, who’s a lifesaver and does everything from running the freight elevator to turning the air conditioning on for me even when he’s not supposed to. Carl installed almost all the pieces—there are nearly 60, mind you—all within a few hours. (Normally, I’m the one who installs most of the art at the shows I curate. And let it be known: Hanging artwork is the one part of the curatorial process that I despise. Imagine my elation when I found out that one man does pretty much all the hanging for the center’s second floor space.)
  • My dear friend and mentor Robin Rios—whose studio is on the fourth floor of the building—for her support and impeccable timing and for referring to me as the Riker to her Picard.

Photo by Sergio Gomez.

All of the artwork can be viewed here. Most are available for purchase. If you have any questions about any piece, feel free to ask me!

Some photos from the reception are here, courtesy of Sergio Gomez.

If you took photos, email them to me! And/or share them on social media and tag them with #LEXICONchicago. Videos too!

Some of you have been asking me about what will happen with the Post-Its: On the last day of the exhibition’s run, I’ll record (whether via photos or typing everything up verbatim) what they all say, give them to the artists, and share the writings online! (I’m thinking of revealing the artists’ original statements as well!)

The exhibition is on view until July 9. Keep checking back to see how it evolves, and stay tuned for news of additional programming like artist talks and demos!

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