Photographic Memory: Art Reviews - Oh!No!Doom! - A Walk Through the Dark

Steven Fiche: Silkscreen   The Oh!No!Doom! Gallery on 1800 N Milwaukee Ave in Chicago was seemingly made for a Friday the 13th themed art show. It was little surprise then, that A Walk Through The Dark was such a smashing success. Incorporating art by Jonathan Bergeron, Stephanie Brown, Ego, Steven Fiche, Ben Lyon, Scarecrowoven and Scott Shellhamer, A Walk Through The Dark focused on the dark and the macbre.

   Stephanie Brown's trio ("i" "ii" and "iii") embodied the raw passions and stately beauty that make up the more sinister elements of life - suceeding spectacularly with "ii" where a ghostly maiden succumbs to red guache daggers in a dramatic fall. Brown's handeling between the soft, cold tones of the figure to the harsh flat finish of the guache elements is wonderful to behold, striking a strongly felt figure-ground push-and-pull.

   In Oh!No!Doom!'s back room, a tryptich of Steven Fiche's silk-screens lorded down and Ben Lyon's surreal paintings added a a touch of psychodelia to the proceedings. Informed by his many years of making zines and concert posters, Lyon's paintings are a wonderful ramshackle of all kinds of modern madnesses, incorporating collage, cartoon, and some of the most creative painting practices around. Each painting provides endless moments with hypnotizing effects.

   Artists Scott Shellhamer and Scarecrowover also have some richly fulfilling dark works up as well, perfectly demonic. Ego and Jonathan Bergeron fill out the space with some skillfully imagined paintings. Ego paints smaller affairs of characters well realized and aptly executed. Bergeron's worlds are a well connected narrative of symbols and strange situations. Each greatly enjoyable in their complexity.  Stephanie Brown: "ii"

   The Friday the 13th opening was a bash (dare I say, a Monster Mash?) with DJ Paisley Babylon spinning some righteously creepy tunes. Lowdive, part of the Chaos Brewing Club, was there (although I wasn't able to try any of there wares) and the bar was also serving 3 Floyds Zombie Dust, a personal favorite. Even if you missed the Friday the 13th festivities, there's a lot of great work to be seen at Oh!No!Doom! A Walk Through The Dark will be on display until May 10, so make sure to drop on in to their gallery and get your freak on.

Ben Lyon: "Bad Breath Mardi Gras."

The Three Graces At The Art Institute of Chicago

From the collection of Peter J. Cohen; Unknown photographer.   What makes women so special, gives them their je ne c'est quoi? What does it mean to be a woman? What does womanhood mean to women and what does that mean to how they interact with their men? Did you stumble upon a gender studies course? Well, no, but such considerations are near to the heart of human existence and thoroughly explored photographically in The Art Institute of Chicago's show The Three Graces on display until January 22, 2012.

   Using New York collector Peter J. Cohen's archive of snapshots - procured from flea-markets, second-hand stores, other galleries and collectors - the Art Institute has assembled a touching portrait of the Western woman. Comprising 538 unattributed photographs, The Three Graces gives us sly sophistication, pulp sexuality, and sisterhood. Beginning with the 1900s and advancements which led to photography being available to the common person, we are entreated by snapshots of our three graces played by the proverbial girls next door. And because our cast of characters, our photographers, subjects, settings are all anonymous - and therefore somehow more honest - a light glows threw the room. The things portrayed therein happened for the sake of the thing and not for the portrayal itself.

   Art has a problem because it is always aware of itself. You become an artist as soon as you decide to do an action for art's sake and by then you are aware you are doing it. These pictures were never intended to be hung in a gallery and thus more intimate than the images we normally encounter. Granted, many of the erotic pictures (and there are quite a few) were paid sessions usually sold or sent out to small 'clubs.' Yet, even these "amateur" photographs were never intended for mass viewing. They're intimate in a more raw, 'dirty' sense, although highly revealing. Some of the more blatently suggestive pictures will make you blush to see in public, but the reaction they cause is highly rewarding as well. From very young boys snickering in bewilderment to a small group of female "don't call me 'senior' citezens" laughing like disobedient young school girls, people responded to the show. Responded, in part, to the Family Album-like arrangement of salon style photographs, responded, in part, to the sheer vibrancy of intimate reality: this existed, and was important, and then was discarded. This becomes especially interesting when contemplating a more sexually charged photograph, so charged, but how exchanged.The Three Graces: Gallery view.

   While the show is not displayed chronologically, it does seem to be approximately so, enough that most will assume that it is the case. When viewed this way, one interesting trend is exceedingly apparent. The sexuality of the photographs increase signifigantly. While there are many nudes from the earliest pictures in the exhibit, their demeanor is much more artistic. One picture in particular presents three nude women each holding onto the same long chain. There exists a certain sexuality, edging on fetish, but the women are calm and confident. They posess a stoic power. As the years roll by, the pictures become more sexually charged. This is to say, they are not so much more sexual as they are more charged. A series of images present us three women offering us their best, the center figure relishing the chance to own her sexuality almost to the extent where it's pornographic, almost to the edge of absurd. To consider how some of these images align with the feminist movement (and the much earlier photographs to women's sufferage), it's amazing to see how much women have been able to embrace their sexuality but also still be indentured to it.

A few of the 538 amateur photographs.   For the most part, though, the pictures in The Three Graces are particular to their own time and place. They are illuminating, captivating, nostaligic. The prints range from shabby to exquisite, but you'll never notice the difference. You can just imagine an elder relative explaining the signifigance and story behind each and every picture. There is a computer terminal and several copies of the catalog (published by Yale with hundreds of pictures reproduced from the show) in the small gallery after the show that try and piece together the story, inferred at like anthropologists by the few clues included with the photographs or their discovery. The catalog is quite good and somewhat reasonably priced, but the terminal is full of supplimental information and provides links for a comments section and discussion. The program can be viewed online as well, here. Conscise, seductive, alluring, and fun aren't things we always get to find at the art museum, but here we are: The Three Graces - grace, charm, beauty.

Underground Art Market - Dec 11!











    I want to cordially invite y'all to our Underground Art Market at TransAmoeba Studios on Dec 11! As well as many talented artists and entrepreneurs, my good friend and co-op Edible Alchemy, I'll have a table there where I'll be selling Christmas cards, original artwork, and photographs. It will be the ultimate underground art bonanza, and just in time for the holidays.

   You can check out some of my Dada pieces - which I'll be selling - here. I'll also be featuring many of the photographs that have appeared on this website. Check out the link for the facebook page and all other pertinent information. The event starts at 2:00 and will go to 10:00. Expect there to be some good snacks, wonderful music, and an overabundance of inspired art by wonderful people. Come check us out!