Pop-Up Art Loop: Vacant Lot to Vibrant Art


Pop-Up Art Loop: Vacant Lot to Vibrant Art

By Chicago Art Magazine on Dec 29, 2009, in Featured, Reviews Alternative Spaces

Chicago-Photography-Collective by Carley Demchuk

Recently, the Chicago Loop Alliance began exhibiting art in the loop’s abandoned storefronts. Of the three current exhibition venues, there is no real overarching theme connecting one artist’s work to another’s other than the general goal of space utilization for something more productive, more creative, and more appealing than a dark, vacant venue. In a time of economic depression, this notion of turning a dead space into an artistically vibrant pseudo-gallery could not be more appropriate. And, the best part of all: it’s free!

I started this public art frenzy at 29 E. Madison, where the Chicago Photography Collective exhibits a group show. Temporary carpet lines the ground, the walls are stark white, and the photos are eloquently lit, making this space appear the most gallery-like of the three venues. Exhibition-wise, there’s no preference in style or situation, placing all of these photos on the same artistic level. Different photographers’ photos hang next, creating an impromptu compare-contrast of image, idea, and artfulness, making this particular pop-up art venue rather approachable. (Photographs can be purchased at the displayed prices. See ChicagoPhotographyCollective.com for more information.)

Martin Jon and Bill Boyce

A few blocks south, at the Sullivan Center (E. Monroe between State and Wabash), Martin Jon and Bill Boyce's work adorns the Center’s windows. Jon’s painting, Manyon, was most intriguing to me. He states, “The experience of looking into a painting creates another experience altogether.” As I gazed at this painting while standing in the frigid Chicago wind and snow, I couldn’t help but envy this Manyon and his warm room with a view. The juxtaposition of the snowy sidewalk behind me, and this temperate scene in front of me, linked me to this two-dimensional timber of a man. By looking into the window to view the image, I gaze out of his window and become the man. The real windowpane in front of me becomes the physical canyon between this image and myself, completing the many-on-a-circle (though perhaps not the exact one that Jon was hoping to achieve).

A few blocks more south, at 220 South Wabash, I anticipated Sara Schnadt’s phenomenological work, Network. This work reminds me of Lawrence Fishburne’s claim that “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” However, in this case, you must see and experience the work yourself.

Spanning the entire space, Network takes on a mind of its own. It twists, stops, and changes directions, much how one might imagine an invisible, virtual network to move (though, if nothing else, it’s especially fun to crawl beneath the network and pop up in the openings, intertwining you with the work). Schnadt, who’s previously exhibited work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, is “inspired by the idea that we simultaneously live in a real and virtual world, and that the virtual is infinitely expansive….” She utilizes the reflective property of mirrors to make the space appear larger than it is and make the yellow twine appear as though it is escaping into the wall and beyond, where I, the viewer, cannot follow. In this sense, the line between real and virtual is clearly drawn.

Sara Schnadt, Network
These three spaces will only exhibit these artworks through December 31st, so get a peak at them while you still can! For more information on Pop-Up Art Loop, visit 

Phantom Gallery Presents "Revisionist"

2827 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL  October 16th Opening

Curator: Gabriel Patti
Phantom Gallery proudly presents works of Chicago-based artists who want to rewrite history…for the better! Whether derived from myth or history, dreams or memory, fact or fiction, these paintings, drawings and quilts await your “vision” and collection.

Opening: Friday October 16, 5-10pm
Saturday 17th: gallery, open 1-10pm
Sunday 18th: gallery, open 1-8pm

Featured Artists: Alpha Bruton, Melanie Brown, Janina Ciezadlo, Phillip Michael Cotton, Brandon Hill, Chris Pappan, Gabriel Patti, Janet Sampson, Tamara Wasserman, Everett William.

Chicago Artists Month 2.0 Virtual Studios

Phantom Gallery projects are not common only to Chicago but are in various Cities from east to west coast, as well as internationally. Each of these galleries functions exceedingly well in encapsulating their philosophy, promoting projects through a variety of traditionally commercial tools for reaching mass audiences.

Phantom Gallery Chicago attempts to prompt responses from people who might not enter a gallery or museum. Artists/curators are challenged to mirror more commercial methods of distribution that are the acceptable or normalized activities of the internet, blogging, to give its virtual audience a glimpses of possibilities as to what art should be doing-an interdisciplinary process that seeks to connect all parts of our cultural existence.

Each artist as curator stages an art openings in alternative locations, storefront spaces by bringing art events, open houses, and art tours to various venues, we can take a broader view in helping make the art happen.

This Phantom Gallery Chicago project is supported in part by: Logan Square Chamber of Arts, Crown Liquors Owner of storefront.

Phillip Michael Cotton - Art Talk

Art Talk Guest Contributor on 08.26.09 | no comments |
Feature by Lee Ann Norman


Phil Cotton's latest solo exhibition at the South Side Community Art Center may have confused some who aren't familiar with his work since it was called Vessels of Inquiry. He doesn't typically work with clay or make standard sculptures, but he views paintings as urns, believing they assume a sculptural quality. "I feel like paintings...are not just flat surfaces but that they can be containers for ideas, feelings," he explained. Cotton often thinks of his 2-dimensional painting practice in conjunction with 3-dimensional methods because they allow ideas to dialogue with each other. Knowing Ithe artist (who is also visual art and design teacher for Chicago Public Schools), it isn't surprising to learn that he's always approached art making from the point of the study - experiments with materials, with colors, shapes, lines, textures, forms. Most work begins with organic explorations in mark making - pigments and materials on the page or the canvas - explorations in possibilities and discoveries, all seeking new ways to communicate and express ideas visually.

For as long as he can remember, Cotton has been making art and is interested in art making. He grew up watching his mother create work, and his parents encouraged him to develop his skills, creativity, and talent. This led to studies in art education in his native Buffalo, where he initially maintained a steady exhibitions schedule in school and beyond. Upon arriving in Chicago to study graphic design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, his professional acceptable art practice began to slow. At the time, the IIT program focused on applied arts, so Cotton shifted his focus while pursuing his studies. However, a hand injury put those plans on hold midway through the program, and he had to drop out; yet, those influences from sculpture and design remain central in his work.

Cotton's artwork has consistently explored three concrete themes through abstraction: mind (our thoughts and ideas), myth (stories we tell and create), and reality (reflections upon lived experiences). Early paintings and drawings probed these areas through mark making, leading to organic figurations using shapes, lines, forms, and textures. Cotton's process has continued to focus on evolving explorations, wanderings, and experiments, which lead him to create multidimensional works that force a viewer to see differently. An earlier example of this idea is a sculptural 2-dimensional series called Circle Prime Theory challenged viewers to focus on the periphery of the works through the construction of the artistic elements on the frame and sides of the canvases.

Works in the South Side Community Art Center exhibition represented a retrospective of works created in the last 2 years, showing the natural progression of Cotton's work and how his process manifests 3-dimensional qualities in 2-dimensional artworks. In the Sentinels series, for example, Cotton created abstracts on canvas in combination with carved and painted "headpieces." Each headpiece features two eyes and a third eye, and some have cutouts for mouths, as if the paintings are in conversation with each other or the heavens, while some are silent. Each image uses visual elements Cotton favors, like punchy, bright pigments, often unmixed, textural components like sand or gravel mixed directly on the canvas, geometric and organic shapes, and lines.

Newer works unveiled in this exhibition build on these ideas and show heavy influences of Al Loving and Sam Gilliam, along with other abstract expressionists like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Robert Motherwell. Cotton explains, "I knew I wanted the work to move to a more visceral and tactile place, away from more traditional painting which is somewhat lyrical and flat. These pieces have allowed me to actually construct the painting." Each piece consists of layers of oil pastel drawings, in which Cotton cuts a completed picture into shapes and re-assembles it into a different pattern. He then places it on top of another oil pastel drawing, which serves as a background. He is still interested in how color and shape create visual movement. However, he is considering how this series can continue to evolve and move away from vertical and horizontal directions into more organic progressions. Cotton is also experimenting with this idea on canvas by cutting painted shapes and strips of the material and draping them on another canvas to create visual movement.

For Cotton, it's all about how far he can go with the imagery, how far he can push the envelope through visual elements, and how far the viewer can push themselves. "Successful art should educate and engage...raise questions about the work and through the work," Cotton said. "I don't want the work to be so reliant on (my) explaining...I'd rather have the viewer explore and interpret on their own," he added.

Phantom Gallery in Homburg Germany

Homburg Germany

Empty gallery spaces were popping up everywhere where a gallery once stood, "Phantom Gallery" here in Homberger with a wonderful 2ND level. The gallery was not far from a busy shopping and dining area.
I spotted a few closed gallery spaces, but didn't find the art community. No street fairs or festivals in this area while I was there.

Interesting view leaving the Museum in Ramstein after visiting the Civil Rights Exhibition of black and white photographs.

Angela Davis and her visit to Berlin.