Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Everyone in Between: Toronto Artist Arowbe on the Borders

It's easy to have good conversations with Toronto-based poet/musician/composer/performer Rob Bolton. But this particular conversation was having a tough time getting off the ground. When we finally got vchat to work on two finicky wireless networks, important business interrupted:

“Hold on one second, I think my coffee is ready,” he said. It was Saturday morning.

Rob writes and performs for the group Broadway Sleep, as well as for the duo Times Neue Roman (which has a new video dropping today for Hands no Hands). He has also written songs for artist Tanika Charles, including Silly Happy Wild, which was nominated for a Stylus Award in the category of Canadian Best R&B Single. He participated in TEDx Toronto as a solo artist and with Broadway Sleep. He writes hip-hop odes to Music and Math; homages to motown; and writes Lacanian lyric poetry. In other words, he's pretty busy these days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Touch the Art...No Really.

I picked up Emma Stein underneath the El tracks at Robert Bills Contemporary--where she spends her days working as Gallery Director--on a sloppy, gray afternoon last week. It's the time of year when even optimistic Chicagoans start to wonder if Spring will ever arrive, and as a native Californian, Emma has had more than her fill of snow and slush.

Weather aside, Emma has thrived in Chicago. Having completed her MA in Art History at the University of Chicago last June, she won high praise from the Tribune for her most recent curated group show: Exploding Faces, Confining Spaces. But she has also been working on her own project proposal for an exhibition that rethinks the senses and sensations associated with the consumption of art in the gallery and museum. Playfully titled Please Touch the Artwork, Emma's project considers how the blind experience what we traditionally call "visual arts." It's a deeply personal issue for her, as two members of her family--including her mom--are affected by a degenerative disease that affects the retinas, often leaving patients legally blind. Emma's idea not only has the potential to raise awareness about the problematic way museums attempt to address accessibility, but also to expand how individuals conceive of their relationship to art.

(Why touching the art matters...after the jump)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

AMIWWL: Zodiac and Targets

[I'm going to categorize most of my future posts on film as: "Analysis of Movies I Watch with Lindsey" (AMIWWL), mainly because I can never say exactly what I think about them until way after. I'm not used to analyzing film. I'm used to reading at my own glacial pace (sometimes I think I read at a fifth grade level). In general, I'm not a very quick writer either, and need to take my time and let thoughts congeal, and then get them down. As you might imagine, this makes me a really awful conversationalist, especially when it comes to film. But since we're all expected to be critics of movies, I'll make some efforts].

[Oh, also, I spoil everything]

This week it was Zodiac and Targets, two films that are roughly 40 years apart and extremely different--but that both try to get at the heart of what might be an obsession-in-transition in the American psyche: the Serial Killer. Peter Bogdanovich's 1968 film Targets, starring Boris Karloff, draws (in many places quite overtly) from the infamous University of Texas bell-tower shootings of 1966. David Fincher's 2007 Zodiac examines the exploits of the Zodiac Killer, who murdered seven people (though he claimed responsibility for almost 40 murders) in the Bay Area during the late Sixties and early Seventies. Unlike Targets, Fincher's film takes up the perspective of the investigators assigned to the case, though it also reconstructs scenes from the perspective of Zodiac's victims.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Covert Urban: Chicago Artist Gwendolyn Zabicki

"Somebody called me the Bruce Springsteen of painting," said Gwen Zabicki. We were eating homemade steak and ale pie, sitting in Ikea recliners in her UIC studio. Gwen is one of only three painters in the most recent crop of the University's MFA students. "And I thought, oh no, so I'm really earnest and hamfisted and there's a honking sax in the background." It seemed like a real concern, especially because Gwen paints subject matter that can be easily associated with the middle or blue-collar urban class. In other words: solidly in Springsteen territory. But after our conversation, it was readily apparent that there is an important difference between earnestness and inquisitiveness. The former is about latching onto an emotion and glorifying it. The latter seems more about asking why we feel a certain way in the world, and whether we might be able to feel differently by changing our perspective.

In thoughtful and measured paintings, it is this territory that Gwen's work inhabits.