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Our old buddy Liz Armstrong posted about Yony's show on the Vice blog. I, myself thought it was a great opening. Congratulations Yony! Success!
Here is the link to the blog (http://vice.typepad.com/vice_magazine/2008/11/chicago---daily.html).
And just in case you don't feel like clicking, I'll post the article here.
CHICAGO - DAILY LIFE SUCKS
Yony Leyser spent a couple years documenting places most people would consider total scumholes: Ida, a utopian vegan transgender commune in Tennessee; Christiana, an anarchist village formed in 1969 in Copenhagen; and Kopi, Europe's largest squat. Yeah, yeah, you've seen tons of photos of punks and most of 'em feel overly nostalgic for safety pins, or square and clueless and borderline judgemental, or like some kind of dirt-ass jock gangbang full of total nonfunny fucking idiots. But we talked to Yony about his photos (click below for that) all he's doing is showing contemporary crusties at their finest. (Yes, that girl above is smoking weed out of a noodle.) His show opens at Heaven Gallery in Chicago tonight at 7 PM. Grant Hart from Hüsker Dü is appearing out of the ether to perform, as is 4AD's Anni Rossi.
Vice: Sometimes I see this stuff and feel like, "Thank god that's not me," and sometimes I see it and I'm like, "FUCK YEAH!!!" Do these photos make you sad or make you feel more punk or what?
Yony Leyser: I think each photo sparks a different emotion in me. Mostly, they just remind me that there are a lot of people under the radar, most of them hiding out in Europe. I got to meet everyone from an aging punk who demanded to be naked and claimed she had the first pet rat. The rat had babies and she gave them to the Sex Pistols and other punk bands, sparking the trend; to nine-year-old runaway anarchist kids. The name of the show came from the tattoo you see in the photo above. There was a punk who was passed out on a rock at 3 PM in Christiana. He had a big red Mohawk and the words "Daily Life Sucks" on his head. Yeah, in a way it can be depressing. But when I ask myself why it is depressing, I'm not sure. I think it has to do with the rigid square goggles that we are all trained to wear that lead us towards success, straight life, and to offices on the tops of skyscrapers. So I really don't know who I feel worse for, sexually frustrated business people stuck in traffic in their SUVs or passed-out punks. The show is more for those business people who have no idea any world exists out of suburbia or their yuppie bars, or the office Christmas party. We need to diversify our surroundings.
Did you know your subjects?
I heard you're a fancy reporter sometimes.
Heaven Gallery has been busy lately: TOC contributor Jonathan Kinkley was impressed by its previous show, “Means to an End,” which closed this week. Jonathan writes that the photography-heavy show, curated by Brad Troemel, revolved “around the theme of nature as both an end and a means” and “featured worthwhile works by some big local names, like Melanie Schiff and Jason Lazarus, as well as 17 other American, Dutch and German artists.”
“Schiff’s photograph," Jonathan continues, “juxtaposed a mall with a graveyard at sunset, commenting on consumerism and mortality with her signature stylized, waning golden light. Troemel inserted one of his own works into the show [Mountain, pictured], which perhaps best illustrated the exhibition’s curatorial intent. He Photoshopped numerous parking lot snowdrifts (means) to create an illusion of a mountain (ends).” Jonathan also reports that Heaven was concurrently showing “Rerun,” a group show of “Boston-area artists who create their own wallpaper.” Although the artists’ “media and the dimensions [of their work]” were the same, the show “spotlighted a rich, diverse range of talents and styles quoting greater visual culture,” Jonathan concludes.
It sounds so awesome, I could almost forgive Heaven for not sending me a press release.
Link to full article here -->
Kind of weird to blog my own press on here, but I guess somebody's got to do it.
By Gretchen Kalwinski
If you traverse Chicago’s North and Northwest Sides with an eagle eye, you’ll soon start seeing art where it doesn’t belong. On mailboxes, parking signs, abandoned buildings and windows, art ranging from a painting in the shape of a kiwi to a sticker proclaiming YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL to a paste-up of a swooping bird brightens the urban landscape.
The artists installing this “guerilla” art (mostly in the warmer months and the dark of night) call themselves street artists and often hide their identities from cops by using nicknames. Most have jobs as designers, art directors or production artists and don’t consider their art vandalism because it’s usually not on private property; they favor surfaces they believe belong to all of us—signs, newspaper boxes, lampposts and construction sites. But don’t confuse their work with gang graffiti or tagging: It’s illegal, but there’s an altruistic mission to their madness.
Beyond coming from different demographics (most gang taggers are teenagers; the artists we talked to are between 28 and 38), street artists aren’t claiming territory—they’re just trying to beautify the city. One anonymous source bristles at the idea of being mistaken for a gangbanger.
“I’ve never met a street artist in a gang,” he says. “Just because you put up art in the streets doesn’t mean you’re a gang member.”
These artists aren’t busting out gang tags, but that doesn’t protect them from the law; they risk arrest if the police catch them in the act, and Graffiti Blasters or thieves often remove their work. So why risk it?
For some, it’s activism. “It’s a social/political act first and foremost,” says Chris Silva , who was part of “Tragic Beauty,” a 2005 AV-aerie street-art show (in which art made from scraps of furniture and signs was installed, then reassembled around town postshow). “I have used my street work to promote the concept of love. Even if that message is cryptic in a particular piece, there is love in sharing my work with the public.”
Matt Smith isn’t feeling the love. As spokesman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation (which runs Graffiti Blasters), he’s proud to say the city’s removed 66,568 graffiti tags from January 1 through the end of May 2008. He includes street art in this category. “Vandalism is vandalism…. If you leave your permanent mark of expression on the public way, you are committing a crime,” he says. “If you create art someone can look at, [a viewer] might want to put it in their house. But if you put it on their house, we will remove it.”
Some artists say it’s not so cut-and-dried. “A lot of [my art] is put up with screws, tied to fences or leaned against walls,” says “Sighn,” who specializes in paintings and text-based wood-cut installations in Wicker Park/Bucktown. “If removed, it leaves almost no damage.”
Others don’t think getting busted would be a big deal. “I read through the Chicago municipal code about vandalism,” says “the Grocer,” a producecentric artist who creates stickers and acrylic paintings that he affixes to surfaces with matte medium. “[According to the code,] my work is technically ‘postering,’ not ‘graffiti,’ because I’m not painting something on a wall. There’s a fine, but [it’s] nothing like what graffiti [incurs]—only, like, max $200 an incident.”
The beef these and other covert creators have with laws against their art is that advertisers can plaster the city with messages, but artists can’t employ that medium. “I do [street art] because I don’t want to be another person who allows our world to be filled with what advertisers dictate,” explains a female street artist who goes by “Pooper”.
“We’ve done a lot of wheat-pasting [gluing art on paper onto another surface] on top of other ‘fly posters’ [posters installed illegally by advertisers],” an anonymous artist says. “Going over those doesn’t seem like a bad thing.”
Justin B Williams’ strange image landscapes are at once familiar and foreign, nostalgic and alien, like a well-worn recurrent dream or a new favorite quilt at the thrift store. Populated with unknowable situations, projected desires and the like, they seemingly unearth subconscious thoughts, deja-vu sentiments or unknown anxieties. Justin’s works function like maps, organizing and reorganizing his own inner tangential philosophies, experiences, fever dream thoughts or esoteric rants. His work calls to mind the representational work of Philip Guston, infusing cartoonish imaginative interpretations of personal narratives with a sincere sense of wonder and a mild sense of irony. On a purely formalist level, Justin has an impeccable sense of color and composition—if Matisse were alive today and knew about rock n’ roll, Freudian theories, cartoons and Raymond Pettibon, this might be what his paintings look like.
To read the Interview, go to Anthology
"More thought-provoking work was found at Twenty Twenty, a scrappy gallery that opened near vacant lots where prostitutes and drug dealers ply their trade. It was started by Scott Murray, a 27-year-old with tousled hair and a sunburn who was wearing skinny jeans when he greeted me outside. Inside, scattered on the floor, was a piece called “How to Become A Millionaire in 100 Days.” The artist, a 24-year-old named Jen Stark, spent 100 days tearing a million scraps of colored paper — a not-so subtle statement about the hyper-commercialized art market.
Hoping to see more, I accidentally pushed through a white curtain and ended up in Mr. Murray’s tiny bedroom."
Read full article here -->
Critic's Choice Smile
The art world has forbidden touching for so long that the idea of interactivity, however tainted by the icky proselytizers of techno-topia, can seem like a door opening from a cold, stifling box onto a golden playground. Aay Preston-Myint has merged his work in fiber and printmaking to create the installation Smile, a gleeful array of ornate masks and interchangeable backdrops that lets visitors enter elaborate fantasy vignettes. You can try on a crocheted green beard with teeth made of miniature arms harvested from soccer trophies, an “inside-out face” made of yarn and shellac, or a giant knitted headpiece reminiscent of McDonaldland’s psychedelic purple Grimace. The silk-screened fabric backdrops include one with missiles shooting through the night, another featuring eyes and hairy nipples, and one showing condos built on cute but suspicious brown clouds. Preston-Myint’s installation is a fully realized, approachable example of young Chicago artists’ fusion of fashion, craft, and participatory performance. Photographer Jennifer Brandel documented last Friday’s opening; the closing event will include a slide show of those images and a mask-making workshop. If you drop by before then, bring a friend and a camera. Through 1/19, Sat 1-5 PM and by appointment, closing event 6-10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 312-208-9228. —Bert Stabler