Daily Archives: April 13, 2014

A Studio Visit with Stevie Hanley


In anticipation of our upcoming show at FLAT Space Chicago, I conducted a studio visit with Stevie Hanley, a second year MFA candidate in SAIC’s Painting and Drawing department, who will be featured in Perverted Living: A Summer Social.

I was aware of Stevie’s practice before we met. A discussion had arisen between friends surrounding his interest in the perversion of “sacred space”, such as the bedroom or the kitchen. As someone who is extremely interested in transgressed boundaries, I was intrigued to see his take on things; I was pleasantly surprised.

It takes a bit of time to become oriented when in Stevie’s studio. Like most artists, he is working on many different projects at the moment, but it seemed that Hanley had his mind on vastly different things. Tacked to the wall are numerous “chemical studies” on Mylar, interspersed with incredibly detailed drawings of spiders, and placed next to soaring gelatinous wooden sculptures.


Also hanging in his studio are his 2D mattress studies opposite both found and sculpted mattress shells. When I had heard that Hanley worked with mattresses, I was concerned that the mattress had been “done”. From Rauschenberg to Whiteread, the motif is not new, but I was stuck by Hanley’s deconstruction and the raw beauty in his use of wax and found fibers. When asked to describe these works, Hanley credits a curiosity with skin, textures, and sensations that led to a fascination with dirt, the base, and most importantly shame. Using shame as a force of energy to explore the role of dirt, Hanley states: “dirt is nothing more than matter out of place.” Dirt is associated with the floor, the unwelcome; the unwanted bits that cling long after you think they’re gone. Interested in the elevation of these perversions, Hanley physically lifts his deconstructed, manipulated, and dirty mattresses from the floor displaying them erect, reveling in their revolt.


We then discussed his newest fascination: the broom. Obviously in sync with the dirt motif and elevating the base, Hanley is currently playing with the casting of brooms, using different types and colors of wax, incorporating them into his existing installation-based works. However, what I found to be the most interesting was the mold itself. From his mattresses to the brooms, to the gelatinous sculptures, Hanley continuously seeks and manipulates the mold. In discussing this, he admitted to not seeing this connection before but will explore it further.

Stevie Hanley has a lot going on, but he has managed to unite all of these works under the studio heading “Pervert Kitchen”.  His fascination with the base, the dirty, and the unwanted convenes in his space where he takes “permission and pleasure in a practice that aims to harness the experiences of shame as an energy of revolt.” This energy is palpably present and I couldn’t be more excited to see his works installed this may.

To find out more about Stevie’s practice join us May 2nd at FLAT Space Chicago from 7:00-10:00 pm for the opening of Perverted Living: A Summer Social.  Also featuring the work of Jacob Raeder, a first year MFA candidate in SAIC’s Ceramics department,  Perverted Living is an exhibition that plays with the notions of baseness, sensuality and subjugated senses within the framework of contemporary lifestyle choices. For more information on the conceptualization, artists, and work included, check out our press release below!

Press Release


Review: Rocio Boliver performs “Balancing of the Edge/Age” at Defibrillator

Rocio Boliver’s performance “Balancing of the Edge/Age” was the last in the Majesty of the Flesh series curated at Defibrillator.  Boliver, also known as La Congeleda de Uva, is a Mexican performance artist, who gained prominence in the body art scene.   Boliver explores themes surrounding beauty, femininity and the aging body in her performance with the help of Begoña Grande, a Spanish artist.

The performance opens with the two women, naked, strutting the stage, covered in photographs of the female body.  Reminiscent of a catwalk, the bodies of the female artists force images of the ideal female body to be seen as that, pure image and imagination.  Hidden under the photographs, the lines of translucent fishing line only become apparent as the artists strip themselves of the photographs.   The placement of the hooks throughout the artists’ bodies took 6 hours to attach before the performance began.

Soon Boliver and Grande begin unwinding the fishing line that hangs from the hooks placed throughout their bodies, and the feeling of danger sinks in.  The artists entangle themselves in a beautifully haunting ballet of flesh.  Attached by way of the fishing lines, the artists, in a seemingly choreographed dance, pull at one another’s eyebrows, faces, breasts, labias, and thighs.  The heat of the gallery, the sound of the artists’ pain and struggle, and the smell of bodily fluids amplify the senses and the anxiety.

Boliver and Grande grasp at the lines connecting them, and pull at each other’s skin, switching places atop a balancing board.  The tension of this flesh discord heightens as the first drops of blood seep from the hooks on Grande breasts.  This is quickly followed by more rivets of blood from both artists.

As the strain of the flesh caught in the fishing lines becomes almost unbearable to watch, a flame is taken to the taut and rigid lines, setting the artists free.  The release is tangible and unmistakable.

After their disentanglement, Boliver and Grande each adorn a mirror around their face and step off stage into the audience.  Staring straight into the faces of audience members, the reflection of their own image around the face of the artists became an intense moment of clarity.  Boliver and Grande then passed them packaged razor blades, and stepped back on stage.

Once on stage, the artists each slice their own hands with a razor blade.  Boliver and Grande smear their blood on to each other’s faces, using it as makeup, highlighting the same irony that began the performance.  A violent, insistent, bodily consuming kiss between Boliver and Grande ends the performance.

“Balancing of the Edge/Age” is a fitting end to the Majesty of Flesh series.  Placing the aged female body on view and distorting our expectations. 


Sorry there are no photographs to accompany this post.  No photographs were permitted during the performance.

Review: Tropical Depression @ LVL3

Laura Hart Newlon and Kate O'Neill, Tropical Depression (50s Barkcloth Tropical Jungle Palms Vintage Exotic), 2014

Laura Hart Newlon and Kate O’Neill, Tropical Depression (50s Barkcloth Tropical Jungle Palms Vintage Exotic), 2014

Tropical Depression is a collaborative work by Laura Hart Newlon and Kate O’Neill. It is also the title of the group exhibition at LVL3 that features their work, and the work of Kate Ruggeri and Nicholas Rummler. With such an enticing show title, I was excited to read the curatorial statement. Though disappointed by the generic text on the press release, I was not disappointed by the show.*

Newlon and O’Neill’s works anchor the exhibition with their multi-media exploration of leisure, filtered through a thorough examination of rattan furniture. They produced a publication that cleverly poses as an early twentieth century furniture catalogue – it relays the romance of the tropics, and the promise of rattan to transport its buyers to the “Far East”. Flipping through the catalogue, images of furniture are interspersed with tropical plant patterns, advertisements, photographs of rattan harvesting and furniture production in Malaysia, and a few process shots from Newlon and O’Neill’s furniture production. Rattan stands in as a symbol of leisure for the two artists, and their works in the show, and its title, capture its various associations, and reveal the darker side of rattan as a symbol of imperialism and the unfulfilled promise of leisure.

The two artists primarily conduct their investigation through the Papasan chair – a ubiquitous (and comically cumbersome) dorm room centerpiece. They present it in its romantic glory, superimposed on a tropical print upholstery backdrop, and translate it into the materials of contemporary beach culture – neon rubber. For the show, Newlon and O’Neill made a bright orange, languid, rubber cast of a Papasan chair that slumps in the corner of the gallery.

Rummler and Ruggeri’s works were integrated in the space with the tropical explorations, and though tangentially tied to the collaborative works, do find some material and thematic overlaps. Ruggeri’s works, Basket Painting (Orange), 2013 and Shield, 2013, are both made from discarded and painted wicker, have a nice material dialogue with the rattan pieces. Rummler’s Earthquake, 2014, similarly drew me in with its textured foam board surface painted in a silvery grey. A small window cutout in the frame reveals a glimpse of a found black and white photograph that, influenced by the work’s title, depicts an abstracted view of some sort of ruin. In the context of the show, it evokes the tropical storms that afflict coastal tourist destinations.

The work in the exhibition is strong and well balanced, and its installation uncovers formally complementary ties between the pieces. However, its introductory text, the statement on the press release, not only under-emphasized the work in the show, but was incongruous with its title and left me, at least, wanting to know more about it.

Laura Hart Newlon and Kate O'Neill, Tropical Depression (Catalogue), 2014

Laura Hart Newlon and Kate O’Neill, Tropical Depression (Catalogue), 2014

Laura Hart Newlon and Kate O'Neill, Tropical Depression (Catalogue), 2014

Laura Hart Newlon and Kate O’Neill, Tropical Depression (Catalogue), 2014

Kate Ruggeri, Shield, 2013

Kate Ruggeri, Shield, 2013

Nicholas Rummler, Earthquake, 2014 (detail)

Nicholas Rummler, Earthquake, 2014 (detail)

*The press release states: Tropical Depression comes together as a result of our partnership with the ACRE residency program. This group show features artists Kate Ruggieri, Nicholas Rummler, and a collaboration between Laura Hart Newlon and Kate O’Neill. Tropical Depression encompasses both the calm and cluttered aspects of these artists’ approaches to creating while tackling new artistic exploration.

Review : Compagnie Käfig, Agwa and Correira

Growing up in the south of France, I have very vivid memories of evening strolls on the port, where dancers and buskers performed for tourists and locals in order to make a living. Every summer, a group of Brazilian dancers would return to dance capoeira and perform body percussion, drumming their hands on their stomachs. I was not surprised to hear that French dance troupe Compagnie Käfig‘s double bill performance Correria and Agwa at Columbia College Dance Center had emerged from a fortuitous encounter between French choreographer Mourad Merzouki and a group of Rio de Janeiro dancers.

Merzouki studied martial and circus arts from a very young age before he discovered hip-hop culture and started dancing. His style emerges from this diverse intertwinement of inspirations. With a career spanning 16 years, Merzouki is both prolific and established as a choreographer in both France and internationally. He has directed the Centre Choréographique National de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne(National Choreographic Center of Créteil et Val de Marne) since 2009.

Correria and Agwa are not Merzouki’s first experiment with non-French dancers and foreign dance styles. In 2000, he collaborated with South African choreographer Jay Pather for the beautiful Pas à Pas, a marriage of Zulu dance and hip-hop. In 2012, he also teamed up with the National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center (NTCH) for YO GEE TI.

2010’s Correria (Portuguese for “running”) is an athletic piece that left visitors to the Columbia College Dance Center out of breath and myself surprised the dancers weren’t feeling the same. In the cinematic beginning, dancers run in a circle like reels of film, the sound of their feet on the ground backed by a ticking soundtrack. Later the metaphor materializes in the form of a sepia-colored video projected at the back of the stage, echoing the running motion of one dancer.

The show opens with a somewhat cliché nod to the origins of the dancers with them singing Sergio Mendes‘ Magalehna a capella. But when the beat kicked in and the voices grew stronger I got goose bumps. Correria is extremely fresh, full of spontaneity and passionate rhythm. The dancers are honest in their performance; their facial expressions testify both to their intense effort and to their pride and enjoyment. Their movements are punctuated by beautiful imperfections, and they convey a touching singularity in unison. The passages of corps à corps, proper to contemporary dance are peppered with breakdance humor and playful Capoeira.

The 11 dancers are at once endearing and incredibly sexy. They have an outstanding technicality in their movement — one of them bounced on the crown of his head through a forward flip, which took my brain a few seconds to process — and a lightness that would make a ballerina jealous. Choreographically, Merzouki incorporates Hip-hop musicality — hitting beats or sharp sounds and lingering on melodies and longer notes — on all types of music, including classical and opera pieces, and refers to old school elements such as popping, locking and mime style performance.

The second of the two pieces, Agwa (“water” in Portuguese), opens up to a stage filled with towers of plastic cups. Two dancers start moving to the intoxicating sound of a Haitian Chorus. The wind created by their energetic movement make some of the plastic cup towers collapse. Suddenly, the entire company runs across the stage making the remaining towers inevitably fall. While one dancer performs a soft solo of waves in the confinement of a spotlight, the rest traverse an almost unlit stage on hands and knees. Like a repairing sea, they place the fallen plastic cups in perfectly parallel lines.

Merzouki’s background in circus arts truly shows in Agwa. His dancers use the cups as props, balancing piles of them on their hands and making precocious towers undulate to the music. The subject of Agwa is serious — a natural resource that is dwindling worldwide — yet Merzouki incorporates humor into the piece. As the choreography reaches a climax the dancers throw their plastic cup towers in the air while one of them performs a head spin. The cups rain down onto the stage in a spectacular sight, bringing the crowd to cheer and applaud. Under the stage lighting, the plastic sparkles.


Review: Amar Kanwar, The Lighting Testimonies

Amar Kanwar’s video installation The Lighting Testimonies presenting at AIC currently could easily give you an unexpected thrilling experience. Within a small dark room, 8 projections were installed respectively on four sides of the wall, each showing a different documentary story of a woman retelling and re-counting her traumatized memories of sexual violence. A highly involvement space was the first impression this work left on me. However, if you expect a lively theater experience from it, you might be disappointed by the following 30 minutes you continue to spend here.


Cameras were presumably to ensure a sense of reality, which equally considered being the premise of film and photography art. How to deal with such sense of reality becomes many artists’ major concern. At first glimpse, Kenwar’s work looks like a comprehensive narrated documentary (this still remains part of the artist’s intension for creating this piece), however, the more you immerse into these memories of others, the better you see what you are generating and projecting from this interpreted political and historical narration you are perceiving.

image (6)

image (7)

To my understanding, once imagination representing private memories and experiences had been exhibited through a sharable medium, in the meanwhile connotes something significantly to its viewers. Works that clearly articulate the relation between themselves and the reality through a personal stance are not only more open to emotional projection from the audience, but also more likely to provoke fruitful and productive criticism and theorization. Nevertheless, the potential misgiving would then fall into the uncertainty of proper separation between the content/subject conveyed through the screen and its significance to the viewer as an individual, which also defines the fundamental value of the work.




In this dimension, the artist did a good job in mediating the individual and collective experience by connecting the subject and the viewer in a much more complicate way. The incapability of seeing the whole picture, the impulse of communicating, the inevitability of neglecting, and the limitation of “justice” are all showcased and addressed through these still cameras and projections, poetic and disturbingly.

If you’d like to go and check this piece out by yourself, my tips for you as an audience would be give more patience to Mr. Kenwar, slow down your usual pace for grasping videos, pay some attention to what these women were trying to tell, and be ready to encounter with yourself through it.



Sunken Tanker Found

Sunken Tanker Found

For those of you who came to the Booth tour at U of C, I found the sunken ship at Booth’s other building off of Michigan Ave.