BARELY FAIR is pleased to present the SPOTLIGHT program, an extension of our on-going mission to bring awareness to Artist Run Project Spaces, emerging galleries, and the artists they work with.
The SPOTLIGHT program highlights individual spaces and the artists they bring to BARELY FAIR. The program updates this page with new spaces and artists regularly between now and the fair's Vernissage on April 8th. Follow us on instagram to be notified of program updates.
BARELY FAIR is operated by Julius Caesar, an artist-run project space in Chicago. Established in 2008, the non-profit project space has an ever-evolving group of artists as co-directors. They are Josh Dihle, Tony Lewis, Roland Miller, and Kate Sierzputowski at present.
Founded in 2004 by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey, Corbett vs. Dempsey is an art gallery with an associated record label, book imprint, and historical archive, specializing in contemporary art, art in Chicago, and improvised and experimental music.
Diane Simpson, born 1935, is a Chicago-based artist who for the past forty years has created sculptures and preparatory drawings that evolve from a diverse range of sources, including clothing, utilitarian objects, and architecture. The structures of clothing forms has continuously informed her work, serving as a vehicle for exploring their visually formal qualities, while also revealing their connections to the design and architecture of various cultures and periods in history. Her wide selection of materials (wood, perforated metals, linoleum, fabrics) reflect her interest in the coexistence of the industrial/architectonic and domestic worlds. She has exhibited widely in the US and abroad; most recently in the 2019 Whitney Biennial. In 2010, a thirty-year retrospective was held at the Chicago Cultural Center, and she has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. In 2019 Simpson was one of the ten recipients of the "Anonymous Was a Woman" award. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Art Institute of Chicago; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL; Perez Museum, Miami, FL; and the Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco and Paris, FR. She received a BFA in 1971 and an MFA in 1978 from the Art Institute of Chicago. Simpson is represented by Corbett vs Dempsey, Chicago; JTT, NY; and Herald St, London.
Diane Simpson’s Three Windows (NYC), 2020, MDF, aluminium, crayon, colored pencil, canvas, webbing, 40 x 40 x 10 inches, image courtesy of the artist, JTT, New York, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and Herald St, London, 📸 Aron Gent
Brittany is an Art Space in Vallejo, CA and Riverside, IL.
Reniel Del Rosario
Reniel Del Rosario lives and works in Vallejo, CA
Emily Prince De La Cruz
Emily Prince De La Cruz lives and works in West Marin, CA
Jonathan Runcio lives and works in San Francisco, CA
Micah Wood lives and works in Los Angeles, CA
Patel Brown highlights alternative perspectives and encourages experimentation alongside innovation in both its programming and operations. Identifying gaps in representation and opportunities guided by collaboration and community, the gallery’s program looks to traditions in culture and identity, and how they are increasingly challenged by the globalized world.
Michael Dumontier and Neil Faber
The works presented at Barely Fair are part of their Library series. The brightly colored hardboard with simple handwritten fonts form part of an ongoing series Dumontier and Faber started in 2009. Dumontier and Farber’s Library series offers surprising and astute observations, all in the duo’s characteristic deadpan style. The simplicity of the shapes and text evokes an immediate but lasting profundity, with each piece causing one to wonder about the thoughts that roam their consciousness, and the books that take up residence on their—and our—shelves.
Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber are founding members of The Royal Art Lodge, and have continued a collaborative practice since the collective disbanded in 2008. Their work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. They were shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award in 2014. Dumontier and Farber’s work is included in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery and Winnipeg Art Gallery as well as Takashi Murakami, Tokyo, Japan; La Maison Rouge, Paris, France; Centro De Arte Caja de Burgos, Burgos, Spain.
Michael Dumontier and Neil Faber, image courtesy Patel Brown
Founded in Milan in 1987, MASSIMODECARLO played a fundamental role in introducing Italian artists to international audiences, as well as bringing the most interesting voices of the art world to the Italian scene, promoting the establishment of a vital dialogue between artists and national and international institutions. Over the years, the gallery’s artists have all gained international recognition and an outstanding place into important public and private collections. The gallery has now locations in Milan, London, Hong Kong, Paris, an office in Beijing, as well as a virtual online space named VSpace.
Pandas may be rare in the wild, but they are ubiquitous in popular culture. Pruitt was eight years old when two giants pandas were gifted to the United States, after Richard Nixon’s ice-breaking visit to China. Pruitt, fascinated with the animal, quickly included the Panda as one of the central subjects within his oeuvre. Pandas can be related to many topics that the artist deems important; his relationship with his father, environmentalism and the fragility of the planet and last but not least peace, so actual in this very moment.
Since the early 1990s, Rob Pruitt’s risk-taking investigations into American popular culture have taken many forms. From his notorious Cocaine Buffet (1998) and glitter portraits of Pandas or the significant Suicide Paintings’ series, Pruitt’s works are a surreal and extravagant interpretation of the pop world, a kaleidoscopic look towards mass culture by exploring the multiples aspects and the paradoxes of our present time. Throughout his career Rob Pruitt has fine-tuned his ability to express nuanced ideas about culture and society through re-interpretation of common objects and materials, all filtered through a sense of humor and irony. With his Mask series the artist continues his pursuit of depicting the complexities of personality and emotions. The facial gestures indeed, are cut into the canvas with a razor - destructive and creative at the same time, these gestures are married to an accumulation of gradients, patterns, and prints to create a character. Rob Pruitt was born in Washington D.C. in 1964, and studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington D.C. and Parsons School of Design in New York. He lives and works in New York.
Rob Pruitt, Exquisite Self-Portrait: The Naturalist, 2010, Silkscreen on canvas, 85 3/4 x 63 1/2 in., image courtesy the artist and MASSIMODECARLO
Prairie is an independent exhibition space for contemporary art in Chicago, IL. Working in the long-tradition of artist-run spaces in the city, Prairie was established in 2017 by artists Jack Schneider and Tim Mann with the aim of creating a venue for emerging art and a platform for critical discourse.
I am interested in the way things are packaged. The sculptures seem familiar, but their attempts at disguise enter some errant orbit that is both strange and unassuming. What lingers in the periphery is brought into focus: the dishwasher’s labor, the restaurant placemat, the casual exoticism of cooking wine. The physical connections prompt the viewer to acclimate rather than interpret, to attempt what scholar Lauren Berlant has once described, in the world of object-relation, as “seeing dramas in their ordinariness...nudging it to a new place the way a border collie would.”
Peggy Chiang (b. 1989, San Francisco, CA) is a New Jersey-based artist who approaches representations of marginal histories through a lens of surrealism and object fetishism. She received her BFA in 2011 from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and is currently completing her MFA in Visual Arts at Rutgers University.
Goldfinch is a commercial gallery that seeks to provide compelling physical, conceptual, and discursive frameworks for artists and contemporary visual practices. Our exhibitions include artists’ talks, informal salon discussions, and publications. Located in East Garfield Park, Goldfinch is surrounded by dozens of artists’ studios. In keeping with this context, we strive to bring an experimental, studio-like sense of curiosity and play to our exhibition program.
My miniature figurative sculptures and glazed tile drawings present theatrical and sensual scenes of interdependence. I weave directly onto delicate porcelain structures with cotton and silk thread to create patterned costumes or coverings. The sculptures are often assembled from separate or broken ceramic limbs which are bound together by the woven components, while the tiles are embedded like precious relics into hardwood frames. Recurring motifs include the hybrid body and the bedridden body, wherein figures intertwine in gestures both erotic and assistive, knitted to each other and their furniture supports. These vignettes celebrate a support system that in my life has been both social (care providers, animals, family, friends, lovers) and designed (furniture, mobility aids, architectural features). The miniature scale is a nod to votive objects that were historically placed on altars by the devout as pleas for relief from pain, illness, or deformity; here, however, by referencing familiar moments of physical fragility and mutual support, I’m hoping to revise problematic stereotypes about the disability community—chiefly that we are pitiable, passive, or cursed—and illuminate instead what makes each of us desirable, funny, and powerful.
Em Kettner sitting in her studio in front of a quilt by her dad, image courtesy of the artist.
"The Supplicant" cotton woven around glazed porcelain, 12 x 3 x 3 in, 2020, image courtesy the artist.
Em Kettner (b. 1988, Philadelphia, PA) is an artist and writer based in Richmond, CA. Recent solo exhibitions include “Slow Poke” at François Ghebaly Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), “Play the Fool” at Goldfinch (Chicago, IL), and “The Eternal Worm” at Harpy (Rutherford, NJ). Her second solo exhibition with François Ghebaly LA opens April 2nd and runs through May 7th.
Em’s work has been reviewed and published in ArtForum, Art in America, Contemporary Art Review LA (CARLA), HyperAllergic, and Sixty Inches From Center. She has been the recipient of the Wynn Newhouse Award, the MIUSA Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability, an SAIC Teaching Fellowship, and the 2019-2020 AAC Diversity + Leadership Fellowship. Em earned her BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is represented by Goldfinch in Chicago and François Ghebaly Gallery in Los Angeles & New York.
Meghan Borah’s paintings evoke the faded surfaces of vintage fabrics and decorative textiles. Her expressionless, female-presenting figures occupy dreamlike scenarios that may not be tranquil as they first appear. Their faces appear aloof and almost impatient, suggesting the presence of some type of negotiation between the public, outward facade and private inner longings. In this way Borah’s paintings are an ongoing examination of how we see and present ourselves, and how we may sometimes ache to become something else.
Meghan Borah's Hammock Girls, 2019, distemper, oil, and glass beads on linen, 24 x 20 in, image courtesy the artist.
Meghan Borah (b. 1990, Evanston, IL) lives and works in Chicago, IL. Borah is represented by Galleri Urbane (Dallas) and Goldfinch Gallery (Chicago) Her work has been featured in Patron Magazine, Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, New American Paintings and ArtSlant. Borah earned her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, and was a resident at The Vermont Studio Center in October 2018.
Extase started as an apartment gallery in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago in 2018 and operated in that location for 3.5 years. The building has since sold, but Extase remains committed to working with and supporting predominantly local artists by exhibiting their art in varying formats. Extase is managed by Julia Birka-White, Director of Rhona Hoffman Gallery and graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Art History Masters program.
Bredar’s practice employs conceptual figuration, writing, ceramics, and collaboration to generate multiple counterpoints within his network of production. Trained as a representational oil painter, Bredar’s ever-expanding diversity of methods and approaches seeks to subvert his own center or centers of gravity, to displace hierarchic values with metonymic contingency, and to destabilize meaning itself. In each set of exhibited relations, an encrypted language implies a “minor literature” that fuses connectivity and detachment via productive contradiction. Bredar’s ongoing sequence of Delft Tiles embed contemporary content into a traditional ceramic format, conveying how his experimentation works within structures and habits of culture to reformat their interiors. Innovative doubt becomes key to forge resistance to the monopolization of behavior.
Danny Bredar was born in 1992 in Denver, Colorado and currently lives and works in Chicago. He received his MFA from SAIC in 2019, his BA from Harvard University in 2014, and he worked as a studio assistant for the artist Matt Saunders. Solo and two-person exhibitions have been held at The Arts Club of Chicago, Soccer Club Club, Extase, Sandbox Industries venture capital firm, and Taqueria Los Alamos. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the Elmhurst Art Museum, The Arts Club of Chicago, the Armory Show 2020, Taos Center for the Visual Arts, Sullivan Galleries, and with the fictional gallery Currency in Münster and Zurich. Upcoming group exhibitions will take place at David Lewis Gallery (NYC) and Rhona Hoffman Gallery (Chicago). Bredar also collaborates with Leah Ke Yi Zheng, with whom he is a 2019-22 Fellow at the Arts Club of Chicago. Bredar and Zheng are invested in the collaborative concept Currency, a fictional gallery run by fictional director Wenzel Beckenbauer.
Installation shot of Danny Bredar's Lavender Vanitas exhibition, The Tiles, 2018, majolica ceramic tiles, image courtesy Extase.
AMFM is an (art)ist organization for the people. We support and feature emerging and established artists through our website, which includes content with local artists and creatives from all over the globe, and through our curated events, exhibitions, partnerships, and activations. Through programming, AMFM combines the arts to cultivate community, diversity, inclusivity, intergenerational engagement and of course, good vibes with a purpose, mission, or cause.
My work seeks to recontextualize Pre-Colombian art by painting these images into mythologies, such as the structure of the universe, shamans, warriors, eternal youth, and death. These mythological legends lend themselves as source material to a plethora of ideas. Inspired by the awe of these cultures and feeling an ancestral connection with them rooted in my experience as a LatinX artist in Chicago. I work this imagery into new narratives, commingling expressionist energy with the detailedness of the Pre-Columbian visual language. Through researching, I tap into that time and bring it to the forefront of today by creating new histories.
In 2008 Marcelo enrolled at the Academy of Art University’s Painting and Drawing BFA program in San Francisco, CA. After two years he discontinued this pursuit to explore an independent direction. After moving back to Chicago, in 2011 Marcelo has focused on exhibiting locally, and building a studio practice. In 2016 he furthered his education by participating in the Hyde Park’s Center Program and attending the Visual Art Certificate Program at the University of Chicago’s Graham School.
Andi Crist was raised in Birmingham, Alabama and earned her BFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2011. She is the founder of Autotelic, a nonprofit arts organization that served artists on the northwest side of Chicago by creating affordable, alternative workspaces and exhibitions from 2010 until 2017. Crist’s creative practice is primarily sculptural, complemented by a career as a gallery preparator and fabricator. Her work touches on subjects of appropriation, practicality, and the assessment of value, frequently commenting on the industry of exhibition-making and unseen labor.
Installation shot of Cowboy Wisdom, 2021, ceramic, spray paint, copper paint, custom steel hardware, image courtesy the artist
Jory Drew (He/They) is an artist, educator, and cultural organizer. Their work explores the social constructions of race, gender, and love and the effect these structures have on our lives. Using painting, sculpture, and photography Drew demarcates the formations, patterns, and systems that have caused them and others social, political, and economic insecurity. Over the last ten years in Chicago, IL, they have worked to shape spaces and communities that promote personal accountability, empathy, and radical intimacy for the purpose of Black liberation.
Most recently, Jory Drew has exhibited locally at The Hyde Park Art Center, Goldfinch Gallery, Mana Contemporary, and Roots and Culture. As an educator, Drew is currently a co-lead artist for the Teen Creative Agency at the MCA Chicago. You may also recognize them as a member of 3rd-Language, the queer arts collective and publication, a co-founder of F4F, a domestic venue in Little Village (Chicago), and a co-organizer of Beauty Breaks, an intergenerational beauty and wellness workshop series for Black people along the spectrum of femininity. Drew, is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has participated in the Black Arts Consortium x Hyde Park Art Center Artist Residency (Chicago,IL), the Open Kitchen Residency (Milwaukee, WI), ACRE (Steuben, WI/Chicago), and Hot Box Residency (Austin, TX). He is a proud recipient of a 3Arts’ Make a Wave Grant (2021), a Chicago Artists Coalition SPARK Grant (2021), and a DCASE IAP Grant (2020). They are also a co-curator of An Epithet, a multimedia exhibition featuring artists who use playful strategies of resistance to create sacred monuments and excavate structures of domination, exhibited at Co-Prosperity (Chicago,IL) in 2021.
HG was founded in 2019 by Peter Anastos. It is an artist-run space based out of the old Drag City office and recording studio. HG prioritizes working with emerging artists and artists with ties to the midwest.
I’m in pursuit of clarity as temporary resolve to a creative urge powered by curiosity, experimentation, and expression. This clarity exists only as a momentary flash, a high, which in turn perpetuates the chase. Over time, I’ve developed a sculptural language around representation, poetic use of ordinary subjects, trompe l’oeil techniques, and exhibition as site for the imagination. My studio is a creative laboratory equipped with select tools and materials with which I explore and expand this language. I aim to use this language to encourage my audience to suspend disbelief and reconsider their perceived clarity in this world.
Chris Bradley, born 1982, is an artist based in Chicago. He has recently presented his work in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Shane Campbell Gallery, Roberto Paradise, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Raleigh, and has been included in group shows at The Renaissance Society, Atlanta Contemporary, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the NRW-Forum, and the Elmhurst Art Museum. He received his MFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. In 2017, he was the recipient of the Meier Achievement Award. In addition to his studio practice, he is an instructor of sculpture at both SAIC and the University of Chicago.
Chris Bradley's assistant, Roz, hard at work in the studio, image courtesy the artist
Good Weather is a contemporary art gallery from North Little Rock, Arkansas founded in 2011. The gallery formed through an innate familial approach and from a desire to seed contemporary art discourse in and to Arkansas. Following thirty-eight solo shows and a dozen offsite and hosted exhibitions, the gallery’s primary location transformed in December 2017 into a long-term and perpetually changing fresco by artist Mariel Capanna. Between 2018–2020, Good Weather undertook a singularly itinerant program: curating exhibitions that were hosted by colleagues and organized through various other invitations, collaborations, and self-initiated projects. Since 2016, Good Weather has participated in national and international art fairs and presented exhibitions and focused programming operating as a commercial gallery with locations in Chicago, Illinois and at various offsite locations in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
Spaysky’s artworks possess a homespun temperament. Shaped by personal history, Spaysky attempts to reconcile off-the-shelf consumer product as talisman or personal artifact. He pulls material from thrift stores that trade in the excesses of comfortable suburban lifestyles, and as such, his work encourages a dual conversation about abandonment and endurance.
Dylan Spaysky (b. 1981 Pontiac, Michigan) is an artist who often repurposes common materials and turns them into idiosyncratic and strangely familiar forms. In his newest series of work, Spaysky composes bone sculptures using sanitized fragments from livestock animals and accents these with color nail polish purchased from an estate sale. The artist earned his BFA from the College for Creative Studies in 2007, and currently live and works in Detroit. Spaysky has had solo and two-person exhibitions at Good Weather (North Little Rock), What Pipeline (Detroit), CUE Art Foundation (New York), Andrew Kreps (New York) (with Mary Ann Aitken), Clifton Benevento (New York), Popps Packing (Detroit), and Cleopatra’s (Brooklyn). He has participated in group exhibitions at Hannah Hoffman (Los Angeles), AWHRHWAR (Los Angeles), Center Galleries (Detroit), What Pipeline (Detroit), Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, NGBK (Berlin), Susanne Hilberry Gallery (Ferndale, Michigan), and with Good Weather at NADA Miami, among others. He has red hair. He was co-director of Cave (Detroit) from 2010 to 2016 and is owner/director at Spaysky Fine Art Gallery LLC (Detroit).
Half Circle Bone Sculpture, 2022, Bone, Nail Polish, 4.5 × 4 × 2 in. Image courtesy Good Weather
Flyweight is a 1:12 scale exhibition space run by Clare Torina and Jesse Cesario (Brooklyn, NY)
Our goal was/is to make a space with one major restriction (scale) so that artists can be rid of so many other obstacles. Make it tiny — but perceive it big — without rent, without high transport/shipping/insurance costs, with mobility, while producing very little waste. It’s continued to surprise us that there’s not more discussion around how much trash (often toxic trash…) is produced in making and exhibiting, especially by art fairs. That’s a big thing, but primarily, flyweight exists to allow flexibility for artists to test ideas that would be risky to take on otherwise, and to be able to say yes to major space alterations.
Exterior shot of Marco Scozzaro's The Big Flat Now inside Flyweight's 28” wide, 24” deep, 19” tall exhibition space, image courtesy Flyweight
Kevin Frances's exhibition Symbiogenesis @ Flyweight, 2019, image courtesy Flyweight
Rachel Grobstein creates miniature paintings and sculptures, employing a radical scale shift and handmade detail to invite close scrutiny of often-overlooked parts of daily life, exploring memory, routine, and identity. She is the recipient of awards and residencies including a Museum of Arts and Design Artist Studios residency, a Roswell Artist-in-Residence Fellowship, a Jentel Foundation fellowship, a Hammersley Foundation Grant, a Studios of Key West residency, and a Vermont Studio Center Full Fellowship and Residency supported by the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Solo exhibitions include Galleri Urbane (Dallas, TX 2020), Andrew Rafacz Gallery (Chicago, IL 2018), Next to Nothing Gallery (New York, NY, 2018), and the Roswell Museum and Art Center (Roswell, NM, 2017). Grobstein received her MFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and her BA in Philosophy and Visual Arts from Bowdoin College. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
A preview of Rachel Grobstein's work coming to Barely Fair, from the Dashboards series, image courtesy Flyweight
Spaysky Fine Art Gallery LLC is an artist-run space in Southwest Detroit with a temporary annex space in Chicago's Midland Warehouses. SFAGLLC has specialized in producing shows that highlight the works of emerging and underrepresented artist peers through several iterations and locations.
So much of my sensibility has to do with specificity and living in the age of melon ballers.
I focus on objects that serve as representations of the utilitarian objects that are part of our everyday routine. Drawing inspiration from existing objects, I make alternative objects that hope to disrupt the comforts of the everyday. They are outlines of the proposed objects negating original function, redefining their design, and putting the focus on the form.
Sara Nishikawa was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and currently lives and works in Detroit, MI. She has a BA magna cum laude in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA 2012), a MA in Visual Arts from CSUN (Northridge, CA 2015, and an MFA in Ceramics from Cranbrook Academy of Arts (Bloomfield Hills, MI 2017). She has exhibited work at the Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale (South Korea), Simone DeSousa Gallery (Detroit, MI), 1301 Broadway (Detroit, MI), Ann Arbor Art Center (Ann Arbor, MI), Paint Creek Center for the Arts (Rochester, MI) Tessellate Gallery (Pontiac, MI), Reyes Projects (Birmingham, MI), Trinosophes (Detroit, MI), Forum Gallery (Bloomfield Hills, MI), and Mana Contemporary (Chicago, IL) among others. In addition to her studio practice, she has also worked on various projects such as Bulk Space (Exhibition and Project Coordinator), Reyes|Finn (gallery administrator), Mostly Butter residency (director), and Tessellate Residency and Gallery (co-director).
Lately, living in suburban Michigan and in the bubble of Covid, my work has turned domestic. The kitchen counter and a desk I set up to do paperwork are my most generative spots. I’ve been stacking egg shells after breakfast, collecting gum wrappers, finishing childhood notebooks, chopping up paper, that kind of stuff. Leftovers from other parts of life into which I insert intentionality and a little TLC. I go through phases influenced by the shape of my life and the things that end up around me. The parameters of what I do are pretty fluid. However, within those, found objects (or really the idea of found objects) is a constant. Over the years I’ve noticed that either intentionally or unintentionally I’ll build in a distancing or chance element into what I’m making that relinquishes a degree of control. It’s as if I’m fabricating a found object or discovering a new aspect of something I’ve had for a long time.
Nick Kramer is an artist, curator and occasional writer living and working in the metro Detroit area. Born in New York City, he attended Bard College and received his MFA from USC's Roski School of Art. He has exhibited in venues such as M+B, Los Angeles; Anthony Greaney, Boston; CANADA, New York; Hillary Crisp, London; Laurel Gitlen, New York, The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, LAXART and The Pit, Los Angeles. He founded AWHRHWAR, an artists' gallery formerly of Los Angeles, now where needed.
Murmurs is an art space located in DTLA focused on championing experimental and emerging art practices. Murmurs exists to challenge what is expected of an art gallery by providing a new model of a multifaceted platform for modalities of expression that have the power to transform reality.
Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya
Nahuales are mythological beings, witches/shamans that use ancient Aztec abilities of therianthropy to convert to animals. They exist and live alongside me and my family's cosmology. They've settled and share the same plane of existence of living in a small migrant community that's adjacent to the Rio Grande River and to the Camino Real Landfill. Nahuales too share my awe for the desert but have also inhaled the lethal landfill fumes that caused the premature death of my sister inside my mother’s womb.
What if the insidious fumes of landfill waste were to distort the genetic composition of Nahuales? Their shapeshifting from human to animal becomes arrested, leaving them at a liminal in-between space of human and animal. Because of this aberration, a new transfiguration occurs, born of abject queer fecundity. One in which internal organs become visible and curdled, giving these monsters a hypersensitivity to better feel their environment. Horns become claws, or antennae, or split tongues to pick up subtle movements in the air. Eventually, a new type of alchemy is made, evolved and better equipped to deal with hazardous environments.
This curse also causes the Nahuales magical energy to gnarl in on itself, constricting its own body to the point of implosion. What saves and diverts its pressurized abilities is the convergence of reanimated desert refuse; like sunwashed circuit boards that gravitate and latch on to this mutation, a new fantastic becoming stabilized in its own body. Nahuales in turn are a premonition of what a divergent body will look like as our world becomes more and more toxic, a rasquache mythological construction grounded in its new identification and of this time.
They become beings of a future that is already here, but also creatures of a time when desert used to be ocean and our hands were not hands but a thick foot of a muscle leaving behind slime over an already ancient rock.
Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya standing inside his Ex Situ Canis Latrans installation at Murmurs, image courtesy Murmurs
These creatures then become Chupacabras, monsters born from the collective fears of Latinx communities. A mythological genesis from toxicity, but also a result of assimilation and neo-liberal agendas that led to NAFTA; forced migration, land exploitation, poverty, and gendered violence. The Chupacabras wanders the cities along the border by following old turquoise trading routes replaced by the commerce of NAFTA. Living in the hills next to the house of my uncle Arturo by the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico. A creature with bad posture, dry skin, skinny legs, and gray teeth from drinking man-made lagoon water mixed with laundry detergent is welcomed here, because of its acquired taste for ICE agents.
These Nahualitic creatures appeared on the night my dad crossed the Mexico/U.S. border with my cousin (the one I don't even like) by using a borrowed passport. Standing by, waiting for our turn to talk to the immigration agent’s interrogation, I thought of what it would've been like to cross the border, not on land or water: but on my grandmother's broom, under a battalion of stars and the sweet smell of sacred datura. No documents or fear, just the breeze below our feet. Instead that night, crossing the bridge, we became Coyotes; of both myth and reality.
Born 1989 in Parral, MX, Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya’s lil monsters are a fantastic becoming that center around anthologies and social issues concerning border culture, abjection, and mestizaje. Aided by magical realism, nahualismo, Sci-Fi, and the labor of his family, his work hybridizes and creates parallels between land, the human, and the animal as a way to investigate the process in which violence eradicates, erases, and erodes communities of color.
The Franklin is an artists-run project space that welcomes artists and curators to engage with the East Garfield Park and Humboldt Park communities through cultural events. The Franklin is located in the backyard of Edra Soto and Dan Sullivan’s home.
Hương Ngô is an interdisciplinary artist born in Hong Kong and currently based in Chicago where she is an assistant professor in Contemporary Practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her research-based practice engages histories of migration and indigeneity through material artifacts that reveal practices of resilience and resistance. Her work traces nuanced paths of struggle that appear in territories of language, the production of knowledge, and narratives of belonging. Both archeological and futuristic, her work operates in layers, continuously making and unmaking an unruly archive.
Ngô's archive-based practice began while a studio fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program in 2012. She was recently awarded the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant in Vietnam (2016) to realize a project, begun at the Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer in France, recently exhibited at DePaul Art Museum (2017), and continued through the Camargo Core Program (2018), that examines the colonial history of surveillance in Vietnam and the anti-colonial strategies of resistance vis-à-vis the activities of female organizers and liaisons. Her work, described as “deftly and defiantly decolonial” by New City and “what intersectional feminist art looks like” by the Chicago Tribune, has exhibited at the MoMA, MCA Chicago, Nhà Sàn Collective, The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, and Para Site, and supported by 3Arts, Chicago Artists Coalition, DCASE, and Sàn Art, among others. She has been included in the 2005 Prague Biennial and Prospect.5 Triennial in New Orleans.
Hương Ngô's We Are Here Because You Were There. Hectograph prints and hand-cut paper with custom typeface, theater lights. Installation at Visual Carlow, Ireland, 2016. Courtesy of the Artist.
Selva Aparicio is an interdisciplinary artist exploring ideas of memory, intimacy, and the temporality of life through installations that celebrate the cyclicity of the natural world. Working with nature’s ephemera, including cicada wings, oyster shells, and human cadavers, her praxis is an extended death ritual which foregrounds a unique reverence for the discarded. Capturing the meanings imbued in these materials and the rituals informing their significance and sentimentality enables both the facilitation of environmental, social, and political activism through art and the creation of outlets for the public navigation of grief and mourning in a world so defined by loss.
Selva Aparicio (b. 1987) is a Catalan artist living and working in Chicago. She holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an MFA in Sculpture from Yale. Her work has been shown internationally in solo and group exhibitions including the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Yale Center for British Art, Can Mario Museum, CRUSH Curatorial, Kyoto International Craft Center, Instituto Cervantes NY, and the Centre de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona. She has received several major awards including a JUNCTURE Fellowship in Art and International Human Rights (2016), the Blair Dickinson Memorial Prize (2017), a MAKER Grant from the Chicago Artists Coalition (2020), and was named one of the 2020 breakout artists in Chicago by NewCity Art.
Selenas Mountain is a contemporary art gallery in Ridgewood, NY. The program presents a diversity of voices and mediums, with a focus on thematic group exhibitions and original solo exhibitions by emerging contemporary artists. The gallery is an artist-run space co-founded by Chicago natives/The School of the Art Institute of Chicago alumni Olivia Swider and Michael Fleming.
I love working with references, I don’t go looking for random things, usually inspired by different exhibition spaces I present my work / installations tend to be site specific. I’m equally attracted to valuable things (Ex. Artifacts in museums, vintage Royal Copenhagen figurines) and things of less value (Industrial / construction materials) Both my sculptural work and two dimensional work share a very similar process in that they are presented under the idea of trompe l’oeil. I find myself removing my hand from my work but there are hints about the process and material everywhere. I love markings, markings on the underside of Royal Copenhagen figurines and markings on industrial materials. I look at working with resin and making a canvas painting the same way. I’m taking raw materials and through fabrication process I’m creating a new form / image that is oftentimes realistic therefore easy to recognize/ identify.
Dabin Ahn creates site-specific installations and artworks that reference art history ranging from Royal Copenhagen antiques to Sol Lewitt to Art Deco Architecture. Utilizing molds and cast resin, Ahn explores tromp l'oeil surfaces while working with art handling materials and construction tools such as tape spools, power drills, and Pink Panther insulation foam as subject matter. Ahn’s work creates a visual dialogue between high brow and low brow and questions the value we place on objects.
Infusing his artwork with a conceptual rigor, Ahn explores the currency and meaning we ascribe to objects of cultural production. His trompe l’oeil sculptures and installations
Dabin Ahn's Standing Figure, 2021, cast resin and acrylic, 23 x 11 in, image courtesy Selenas Mountain
play with perception by challenging conventions of illusion and materiality. The artist plays with deceptive facades which only reveal their true nature when looking at the list of materials used. In Ahn’s work the surface is usually a red herring which forces the viewer to look closer and to question their own perception. Upon further study the viewer is rewarded with playful and poignant revelations about each piece.
Dabin Ahn's Myth, 2021, cast resin, acrylic, and ink transfer, 1.5 x 4 x 9.5 in, image courtesy Selenas mountain
Dabin Ahn (b. 1988, Seoul, Korea) is a visual artist based in Chicago, IL. Ahn received his BFA and MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has exhibited in various national and international galleries and institutions. Recent solo exhibitions include Liminal Fictions, Selenas Mountain, Ridgewood, NY; Apocrypha, curated by Stephanie Cristello, Chicago Manual Style, Chicago IL; 2 + 3, Andrew Bae Gallery, Chicago, IL; Records of Light, Gallery Imazoo, Seoul, Korea; Me, Myself, and I, Topohaus, Seoul, Korea. Select group exhibitions include: Ground Floor Biennial, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL; The Green Gallery Works, The Green Gallery, Milwaukee, WI; Long Hello, curated by Carter Foster and Evan Gruzis, The Green Gallery, Milwaukee, WI; Four Flags, curated by Stephanie Cristello and Ruslana Lichtzier, Chicago Manual Style, Chicago IL; Appearances to The Contrary, Andrew Bae Gallery, Chicago IL; The 12th Korea International Art Fair, Seoul, Korea; Silence, I discover, is something you can hear, Gallery LVS, Seoul Korea; Asia Contemporary Art Show, Hong Kong. Select press includes: Chicago Magazine, Chicago Gallery News, Tique. Ahn currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
First and foremost, I’m a painter. That is the space where my concerns as an artist originate. Surface. Ground. Color. Composition. Subject. Hand. Scale. Paintings are stupid. I’ve always loved that.
If I could curate my fantasy 2 person exhibition, it would be Giorgio Morandi and On Kawara. I love how they keep making the same painting over and over again.
I’ve been making paintings of Chester Cheetah, the brand mascot for Cheetos. I like him because he is a cartoon with no narrative. I originally came to him because he felt like a classic representation of the Bad Boy.
Did you know that market research showed that consumers liked the feeling of getting the orange Cheeto flavoring on their hands and sucking it off because it made them feel dirty/naughty? This experience has been intentionally amplified in the product.
Corporate branding is interesting to me. Did you know that UPS brown comes from Pullman Brown? Which was the color George Pullman designed to paint his Pullman Sleeper train cars because it was the color that needed to be washed the Least often?
Those sleeper cars are scary paintings. George Pullman created a ‘company town,’ called Pullman on the South Side of Chicago. It was the site of the infamous Pullman Strike of 1894, which was violently suppressed by the military leaving 30 strikers dead.
His train cars were also where Pullman Porter’s came from. He hired only Black men (former slaves), paid only in tips. They’d work 80+ hours a week. 100% exploitation, but also, the birth of a black middle class and the first all-black union in 1925. I made a UPS brown Bandana Painting.
Ben Foch’s studio practice deconstructs branding and familiar pop cultural references from the artist’s childhood. Recognizable animated figures such as Miss Piggy, the Pink Panther, and Chester Cheetah become elevated to icon status in Foch’s paintings through the power of repetition. The artist’s use of Newport cigarette packs, bandanas, and the Oakland Raiders as content conceives a conversation of youthfulness, and how pop culture shapes personal experience.
Ben Foch (b. 1977) is an artist based in Chicago. His studio practice is rooted in a tradition of “painting/non-painting”, employing techniques that can be considered both pop and conceptual, tackling topics from institutional critique to race, class and gender identity politics. Recent solo exhibitions include “Haiku” at Selenas Mountain (Ridgewood, NY) and “Hood Ornament” at M. LeBlanc (Chicago). His work was included in the group exhibition “Tricky Passage” at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, curated by Ben Gill. He is currently working on his first NFT project, Cult of Cheetah (cultofcheetah.io), a randomly generated collection of 10,000 unique cheetahs, created from 140 possible traits. Pre-sale for Cult of Cheetah begins April 1, 2022. A launch party celebrating the public sale and Opensea reveal will be hosted at M. LeBlanc April 8, 2022 from 9pm - Midnight.