New City Chicago   

Eye Exam

Back to School

Michael Workman

It's a hot night and the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" blares out through the open windows of my car as I make it a Pilsen night once again. It's the right tune for what's clearly becoming more and more a scene--people are out in significant numbers. First to Parts Unknown Gallery for "The Funky Four Plus One Show"--definitely a funky show, as in not all that good. Nice text pieces by Matt Granstrom, though: an acrylic on found-wood signage that spells the word "Youth" in black and orange letters and one of cut aluminum that spells the word "Solitary" in gothic script. Simple, ritual melodrama for its own sake; they're the best pieces here. Next, across the block to the Perry Ehlen and Mo Jacques show at the new Three Vue space for some okay work.

A quick peek into Vespine Gallery's bland new photo show "No Brakes, No Steering, Have A Great Day," yields an equally apathetic response in me to round the room once then back out the door. As does FourArt's traumatic show, "The Collection"--few of the works from which should end up in any. It starts getting depressing until I hit the CAD/XO space, a poorly thought-out acronym for the Chicago Arts District Exhibition Space, now showing San Diego artist Richard Keely's "Sift."

Although Keely's assemblages simply can't contend with all the open space here, no matter how orderly they're hung, curator Sallie Douglas Gordon from Columbia College has managed this as well as she could. But they're simply too tiny. They're also clever transmutations of common castoffs, such as rubber gloves and serving platters, into décor of some insectoid planet's royal palace. His useless, beautiful objects include "Untitled," a fibrous balloon-shaped gourd emerging from twine that grips the outer membrane, tipped at one end with an elaborate metalworked frontice and at the other with a silver serving platter that acts as wall mount. Its posture of ennobled junk in the grip of a blood struggle against outright absurdity has the effect of charming the viewer with the very antiquity of such notions. They all succeed, as hopefully will this new art space. A project of the Chicago Arts District program, the space is available as a rental for "visiting curators and exhibitions." If there's one thing in short supply, it's sufficient spaces for artists to do their thing free of constraint and the CAD/XO should help close that gap a little, as does the next and final stop in tonight's tour: the Chicago Art Department.

It's hopping at the new space for the art school started by Mike Nourse, Nathan Peck and Nat Soti. Ten-foot posters advertise classes in "Live Visuals" to learn the art of VJing (video jockeying), "Movement Studies" on the subject of dance, as well as basic video editing and production. They're videotaping interviews with artists showing work, moving to the courtyard out back for the cigarette-safe zone. A few students lounge on couches in the rear. TV monitors are everywhere, in the kitchen above the microwave. Everywhere, there are laptops, wire, cameras. How is CAD the future of Pilsen art? Check back next week for the answer.

Celebrate Good Times

As art spaces permanently shutter their doors and others newly open, a few are celebrating anniversaries. It's nice to know that for some, life just keeps on keepin' on. This Saturday, Wicker Park's Heaven Gallery celebrates its fifth year and a new liberation after the amputation of Buddy Gallery, which shared the back roof space and overshadowed the rudimentary art program that was always at the core of Director David Dobie's vision for the space. They've done well for themselves, and for the occasion, Dobie's bringing out the gallery's own private collection. Among the works on display will be an old-time fire extinguisher graffitied with the name Duchamp (after the urinal the artist used to kick off the whole found-object debacle) by the successful and highly visible artist Dzine, now at Monique Meloche, who years back was spending time at Beret International, Heaven's predecessor in the space. One imagines Dobie visiting Beret and thinking it was just that: heaven. If so, he's responded to his initial elation by reproducing it over and over again. Who hasn't spent time at Heaven? How many have gotten their start there? Have a look at the endless parade of poster art, flyers, handbills and photographs that will be up as part of the exhibition this weekend. And please, Dave, don't ever change.

Next on the anniversary party bill is Mess Hall, the Rogers Park outpost founded by a brain trust that includes individual artists such as Dan Wang, and art group Temporary Services. It's also the opening reception for "Unhoused," a show by In the Field (more info at that takes the global housing crisis as its premise. There's a video screening scheduled, co-organized with Daniel Tucker, that includes the Chicago premiere of George McCollough's "All for the Taking: 21st Century Urban