MSB brainstorming

24 January 2014

Chicago in the Big Artworld, a Roundtable on Bad at Sports

First published May 31, 2008

Chicago T-Shirt.jpg

I want to post ---as a blog --- a comment I put up over on Bad at Sports. I know most, yet not ALL of our two publics overlap. I was very enthused by the roundtable discussion Duncan MacKenzie and Lori Waxman had with Kathryn Hixson and James Yood.

They brought up some very important points, as did several commenters including Pedro Velez and our own Shark. ...

Also, in case the discussion discontinues there, due to the next podcast going up late tomorrow, I hope that we either continue it here, or encourage people to continue it on that podcast at BaS.

I want to commend Duncan on this podcast! Do MORE like this! I think this format is a great idea. I listened to it twice.

Lori is really a fabulous addition to their team! (Well, "our" team, but I have not been so productive as a BaSer -- but Lamis and I will be doing Basel Kunstmesse Tuesday). Highlander was stupid anyway.

It was great to hear Jim again. We worked together when he edited and I wrote for the New Art Examiner back in the Jurassic Age. He is truly intriguing. Kathryn too, although I never really got to know her, having "on her Watch" long abandoned NAE for Art in America and elsewhere and Chicago for Europe. (So I am one of the nasty "abandoners" I guess -- not having enough sense of identity through place. Sorry Jim! I think you are RIGHT. I just don't seem to feel it. But I have a special soft place in my heart --and probably in my head too -- for Chicago).

I found both their conceptions of Chicago's position in the artworld well thought out and articulated. I had heard good things about Kathryn (from Wesley ! and others) even though I am an opponent of a chunk of the art she apparently championed. (I saw it as copyist work and felt the clique behind it actually killed, not widened, the horizon of a then burgeoning Chicago scene. Under that Neo-Con stuff, Chicago was firmly provincialized into a receptor fiefdom under a small oligarchy, soon proven fact when LA vastly overtook it. Believe me. I was there, showing at Lockett, who actually told me about the whole "arrangement" going on.)

While I appreciate Pedro's comment, (I think he wanted more specifics), I think art, and Chi-art, in a broader albeit not particular sense, was very well discussed.

A few important points struck me, though.

First, being a professor doesn't advance your ART (necessarily), it advances your CAREER in the artworld. This is a fine, yet important, distinction; one that I feel was elided. Also, not all artists besides Tony and Wesley are or even were teachers. I never taught till I got to Europe, -- as Switzerland is even MORE expensive, and as I was re-building my career, in effect, I needed some additional support at first. I continue now because I like it, especially proving that art history isn't boring and setting young artists on the path of questioning the Consensus version (and even my version and others) of art history. I hope I am placing interesting time bombs in the future. But back to my point -- when I was in Chicago, I, Mike Paha, Jeff Wrona, Jeff Hoke, Raoul Deal and several other artists, all promising and selling and winning grants etc., were working at the Field Museum building dioramas and such stuff. Now THAT really advanced my art, I believe, but not my career, better than most teaching could.

I really agree with the Shark that BaS and Sharkforum (with some other websites, blogs and some periodicals) have, as a group, replaced the NAE. And as their quality increases this will be even more evident.

That brings up another point. Chicago as a scene generally suffers from something no one mentioned, something London had (it is fading a bit, I go there frequently), Berlin has and LA has: Reciprocity. A healthy over-valuing of themselves. An ability to work together even when and while arguing. That is, for a real "presence" in the artworld at large, locations don't really need an NAE -- in fact that may brand it, like Arts Southwest or whatever, as regional.

You need:

1. Great artists (you've got them)
2. Curators of important institutions who SHOW them (and not only Top o' the Pops, get-the-curator-a-better-job-and-or-fame international Consensus artists) (international-consensus curators are actively a negative influence)
3. Critics who write A LOT about local artists, especially in "big" international publications
4. And NOT only descriptively or supportively (artists don't like that, I know)
5. Collectors who buy the art from local artists, especially out of local galleries (it is even as much fun as doing it in NYC or Basel!)
6. Local galleries who show the artists and artists from elsewhere. (You have these, but they are kept carefully segregated from the "real" galleries, who are good, but followers, often).

Chicago has a few of these things I listed, but is woefully absent in others. Local artists don't get shown much in important shows, if not a member of a small clique of copyists; galleries are not supported enough by big shot collectors, unless they are showing mostly already-long-approved blue-chip stuff or Consensus Hits. The "larger" art scene is never trumped up to visiting "heavies" (only preferred students), which is also typically provincial. And the big glossies don't do you ANY favors. I'll bet Jim has talked to Artforum, I sure have talked to Art in America and several others about getting more coverage for Chicago. But I'm not there. And due to editorial disinterest (often itself due to the lack of their feeling of a scene existing in Chicago because of the cliquey provincial fiefdom I described), and some frankly rather lackadaisical writing, you don't get any more coverage than, say, Houston. You've got the great artists and the great range. You need the rest. I despair though, hence my abandonment of my hometown, as it always seem to fade away as it starts to appear, mostly because of backstabbing.

And now Chicago curators, critics, gallerists, academics and artists are all probably pissed at me, but then maybe that proves my point ...

Anyway, I LOVED the show!
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Comments (2)

some nice points here - chicago definately needs to 'talk itself up' a bit - there is a midwestern modesty, almost to a fault, with creative types here. anybody who raises their voice to make a point , or just to point, (wesley is a pretty good example) are usually not taken well by the larger chicago art community.

artist friend after friend leave this city out of frustration and the lack of a supportive infrastructure. there are maybe maybe two pages in the chicago reader about art every week. maybe maybe one article in the sun times. while i agree that the web forum is the future, i think maybe the art collecting public isnt quite all there yet, and still needs that newsprint recommendation.

i do mourn the loss of NAE surely, and it would be nice to see a decent print substitute. yes, the coasts wont be doing us any favours - what for? chicago needs to take the DIY mentality to the next level.

I agree James. Especially after a big discussion I had with a major NYC mag. I do NOT know what can be done about critics or curation or collectors. Maybe you need a really in-your-face anti-academic (non-Neo-Con) "Senasation" show --- but then again it would ahve to be covered in the press and be sold out to really get the attention. Who knows.

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