Tempus Projects is an exhibition and event space on Florida Avenue. Run by Tracy Midulla Reller, it has been in operation almost two years, with a very good track record of innovative exhibits. I ran into the current exhibit being set up while on the "Arts and Antiques" bike ride last Saturday.
"I can't go on, I must go on" is a group project by artists who were in the graduate program in Chicago's School of the Art Institute and are now, seven years later, scattered. There's work by Justin Cooper, Benjamin Bellas, Stuart Keeler, Clinton King, Noelle Mason and Margaret Wong, and I can't help but think that at one time there were others. Part of the exhibit is about their wanting to stay connected as the entropy of life disperses them. This is a theme common to most of us today. People move, follow different paths, take jobs elsewhere, get married, have children, etc. How many of our childhood friends are we still in touch with? College friends? Ex co-workers? Family? The feeling of community and tribal unity humans once had is gone. As with many displaced peoples, it has become conceptual. Everyone is a transient, a wanderer. It is also a popular theme in the culture, with movies like "The Big Chill", and songs like "Wish you were here". What holds us together are things like e-mail, phone calls/text, FB, and rituals -- like this show. How elastic are the ties that bind?
The curator, Noelle Mason, has a multi-disciplinary background, including performance/theater who has a significant footprint in the Chicago art scene, and other shows and installations nationally and internationally. She told me the group has a varied background but focused on performance sculpture. Most of the members of this group dispense with the idea of preciousness of materials in the work shown. A good example lies below...
Four disposable lighters in a row as art? Even your kid could do this, or a crack addict after a binge, lining them up in a stupor. Look closer.
Note how the tops are misaligned with the bodies of the lighters.
Some of these works have parallel texts. This one has a long accompanying poem by Bellas about personal honesty, and the haunting thought that at some point in an artist's career they will peak or make a work they will never surpass or equal in their lives. The truth is that this will happen to all of us on many planes. An excerpt of that poem:
"one of these times
it'll be the best I can do
and I'll never even know it
I'll never again approach it
perhaps it's already done
but I'll never know that
so I'll just keep going until...
I know my moment has passed
....but I'll never know that...
this is a monument to
the sound after the moment has passed
the silence after your moment has passed"
The lighters were lit and held continuously until they melted. How long will each of us hold on?
Another work by Bellas was this sheet from a yellow pad pinned to the wall. It is puzzling until you realize that there's the imprint of cursive text on the paper, like from writing forcefully on the sheet above. It makes you want to use a pencil on its side to go over the imprint. This is like a photographic negative, or a memory, a trace of something that happened.
This also has an accompanying text.
|Magdalen Wong, "I think I missed you"|
From Magdalen Wong, sticky notes with words written on them in tiny writing. When a note is taken by a gallery goer, the sentence they form is sometimes altered.
|Magdalen Wong, "Chains"|
This one is easy to miss. It looks so natural until you realize the fragility of the necklaces that take the place of the usual sturdy chain.
|Justin Cooper, "Happy Hour" and "Studio Visit"|
Justin Cooper's "Happy Hour" consists of a palm tree weighted down with binder clips. A bit of plant abuse, the plant looks so sad drooping under its load.
"Studio Visit", a performace video playing on that monitor was a great illutration of the feeling of struggle regarding a creative endeavor.
It sounded like it was narrated by Cartman on meth.
|Noelle Mason, "Ground Control"|
In the show, this is on the floor, in the center of the space. I've turned this picture vertical for a better visual idea of the work. Technically, this is a hand-woven Gobelin tapestry, which was originally a French method used for very fine works destined for royals and nobles. It was woven by Mexican artists Jose Antonio Flores and Jonathan Samaniego. Noelle used an ASTER (Advanced Saceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) image taken by NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS and US/Japan ASTER Science Team. The image is of the border area between Mexico and the US.
The colors are artificially assigned by the ASTER process, with the reds signifying cultivated agricultural areas, which are seen mostly on the US side. The green is assigned to arid un-farmed areas. This is a precious art object, elegant and beautiful, and about a conflicted area and line of demarcation between the haves and have nots. I had the pleasure of speaking with Noelle at length about this piece. It is rich with ironies, politically subversive and decoratively so as well. The viewer wrestles with all of these issues as they sink in. Ms. Mason ordered the tapestry of whatever size could be made for the amount it would cost to bring in the weavers and their families illegally across the border. The border had to be drawn in, of course. It's not visible.
Congratulations to the artists in the show, to Noelle Mason for putting it together, and to Tracy Midulla Reller and Tempus Projects for hosting this unusual show.
This show can be seen on request by calling 813.340.9056. It will have a closing reception on November 4th, from 8 - 10:30 PM. I can strongly recommend this one.