Art & Culture in Chicago

The least pretentious pretentious art blog

Dormant Art: an Interview with Rob Ray of Deadtech (3321 W. Fullerton)

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Rob Ray

Rob Ray

Rob Ray was the proprietor and curator of Deadtech, a defunct Logan Square artspace that existed from 1998-2008.  Deadtech was a venue for unconventional, electromechanical art and a community for artists interested in exploring the dichotomy between man and machine.   Ray is currently working on his MFA at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.

Kelly Reaves: What was Deadtech’s mission?

Rob Ray: To be a center for art and technology and an assistant to technology-centric artists in the best way we knew how. This tended to manifest itself in the putting on shows, providing technical assistance, and loaning equipment. We also hosted various regular meetings such as the Chicago Dorkbot and the chicago_pd group.  Our mission changed in the mid 2000s as new-media became a term very similar to “alternative” in that while it might have been new at the time, it became quite common.  So, I had to think about how Deadtech could differentiate itself from more established, better funded, and more highly recognized commercial and institutional places.  It used to be common for somebody to look at you totally sideways when you said you wanted to hang a projector in their space. It is now a common thing to see.  We took a fresh look at our assets and realized the biggest one we had was time.  A commercial space or somewhere like the Cultural Center never has time, and tech-based art is a PAIN to suss-out and painful to install. So we could work with artists that really wanted to do almost a residency-type install, or try something new in the actual space. Read the rest of this entry »

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Renaissance Man: and interview with Billy Helmkamp of The Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee)

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photo courtesy of Time Out Chicago

photo courtesy of Time Out Chicago

On a snowy Wenesday night mid February I had the pleasure of speaking with Billy Helmkamp, co-owner of The Whistler, a new gallery, music venue, and bar in Logan Square.  He made me a Long-Faced Dove, a refreshing, pale pink tequila and ginger beer cocktail, and answered my questions about the new space.

Kelly Reaves: When did you open up here?

Billy Helmkamp:  We opened on September 26, 2008.

KR:  What inspired you to open?

BH:  The other owner, Rob Brenner, bought this building about three and a half years ago.  We initially wanted to make it an all-ages music venue and workspace so we could be a space for our friends who do silk-screening and make t-shirts.  The idea behind it went through some variations.  At first, we wanted to do twenty things with the space and we widdled it down to music and an art gallery and there were some other arts related events thrown in like readings series and theatres coming in.  We had a rough idea of what we wanted to do with the building and figured it out over the course of six months to a year. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Kelly Reaves

March 19, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Short and Sweet and a Little Cheesy- an interview with Malaika Marion of The Brown Sack (3706 W. Armitage)

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photo courtesy of Yelp

photo courtesy of Yelp

This is the first of a series of interviews I’m conducting now about art and culture in the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago.  In February I stopped by my local sandwich shop, the Brown Sack, to speak to the Malaika Marion, co-owner.  I nervously sat and sipped tea while trying to muster up the courage to do my first interview with a stranger.  Well, not quite a stranger, last summer my dog demolished her patio by dragging her picnic table and potted tree onto Armitage Ave. in an attempt to tackle a cute bitch.  So, I kind of hoped she wouldn’t remember me.  She remembered.  But, even despite my mishap, she ended up being one of the nicest people I’ve ever met!  The interview turned out to be extraordinarily enjoyable- a nice introduction to the wonderful world of journalism.  The tape ran on for about an hour before it ran out.  In an effort to make it short and sweet for a school assignment, I’ve cut it down to the first 500 words.  

 

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Written by Kelly Reaves

March 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm

An Intimate Conversation with the Sass Dragons

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photo courtesy of the Sass Dragon's myspace page

photo courtesy of the Sass Dragon's myspace page

The Sass Dragons are a punk rock band from the suburbs of Chicago. The Sass Dragons are Mike Oberland, Jimmy Adamson, and Jason Smith. They recently relocated to the city, and are about to celebrate their fifth anniversary as a band. I sat down with them in the beginning of March to reminisce about their oeuvre. (Warning- the following is lude, crude, and incredibly immature.)

Kelly Reaves: How did the band form?

Jason Smith: On a damp locker room floor. Read the rest of this entry »

Bad Boy Turned Architect

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burden“Today I am going to breathe water,”

explained Chris Burden in his 1974 video, ‘Velvet Water’, “which is the opposite of drowning, because when you breathe water, you believe water to be richer, thicker oxygen capable of sustaining life”. In doing so, he decided not to be bound by conventional wisdom and to mistrust everything except his own experience.  After five minutes he collapsed, choking.

Is there something wrong with Chris Burden?  Is he crazy, or is he just a good artist?  Although his artwork has tamed quite a bit over the years, it is still awe-inspiring.  But the question that his work, especially his early work, elicits in my mind is- is he doing this out of insanity or love?

Burden is best known for his early work.  Beginning with his 1971 MFA show, ‘Five Day Locker Piece’, in which he confined himself in a tiny student locker for five days straight, Burden spent his early career staging performances that explored a potentially fatal merging of art and life. Over a three year period from ’71 to ‘74, he nailed himself to the roof of a Volkswagen Beetle, lay under a tarp on La Cienega Boulevard, lay in a bed in a gallery for 22 days, slithered, nearly naked, through 50 feet of broken glass, and most infamous of all, had himself shot with a rifle. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Kelly Reaves

December 13, 2008 at 9:50 pm

The Loop's Dirty Little Secret

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   cals2There is one last sacred place downtown. 

It is small, smelly, soggy, and guarded by loyal homeless guys.  But they are friendly, and they all know my name.  Everybody knows my name there,
 and they’re always glad I came.  This place is my own personal “Cheers.”  It is called Cal’s Liquors, and it is the last dive bar in the loop. 

At 61 years old, Cal’s is barely hanging on.  The city isn’t too happy about it being in the loop because it is loud and the attached liquor store sells half pints of booze, which attracts the homeless.  The homeless, in turn, scare the condo owners who live next door with their odor and enthusiasm.  There are no beer taps in the bar, and you’re probably better off with a bottle anyway because the “dishwashing system” is questionable.  If you are a female and you need to use the bathroom, empty your pockets first because if anything falls out while you’re dropping your pants you will not want to fish it out of the standing water on the bathroom floor. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Kelly Reaves

December 13, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Posted in feature, music

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Vacant Beauty

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standishviagraRobert Standish’s paintings are beautiful.   

They make painters happy, not only because they’re well rendered but also because their commercial success is a sign that painting is not dead.Not even close.

Standish currently has a solo show of his new large-scale photorealistic paintings at Carrie Secrist gallery. Although the subjects vary, an urban theme is pervasive.

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Written by Kelly Reaves

November 15, 2008 at 6:25 am